Cards pitching prospect mo: Spring week 3

Which pitching prospects performed in St. Louis Cardinals major league spring training camp last week?

While our popular St. Louis Cardinals Monthly Prospect Rankings will be back for 2014, its first edition will not come out until real baseball begins – in April. In the meantime, I will provide a weekly look at how the members of The Cardinal Nation's 2014 top 40 prospect list are doing in major league camp.

As camp opened, I went on record with my predictions of which players I thought would make the major league roster out of spring training. I did the same for all four of the full-season minor league clubs. Click here to be taken to the Peoria article, as links to the other four articles are included at the end.

I am using those predictions in the tables below despite the reality that since then, on-going injuries to Jaime Garcia and Oscar Taveras have changed the picture. That is expected, as the roster targets are constantly moving throughout camp. That is why they have it – figure out who best fits where.

The start of real games offers a great opportunity to regularly check in on how the youngsters are doing. Of course, the usual small sample size warnings are relevant. Think of this as a hot-warm-cold look from a seven-day period that could change entirely from one week to next.


The Cardinals had a much-improved 4-2 record this past week to go on top of their 2-5-2 start. After a rough second week (6.62 ERA), the pitching improved somewhat this period, with a 5.83 ERA. Opposing hitters managed .294 average against Cardinals pitching, so there is room for improvement still.

In all fairness, we did see that improvement starting this past Wednesday. After stinkers on Monday and Tuesday, runs allowed were cut substantially for the remainder of the period.

The big picture

The Cardinals opened big-league camp with 60 players invited and had 58 players at the time of last week's report. On Monday, March 10 nine players were cut, including two pitchers, Kurt Heyer and Boone Whiting. Three cuts on Thursday, March 13 included pitcher Eric Fornataro. Right-hander Sam Gaviglio followed the next day.

Of the 45 currently in camp, 34 are on the 40-man roster and 11 are non-roster invitees. They are all vying for one of the 25-man roster spots to open the season.

11 of the 45 are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 for 2014 – six pitchers and five position players. Another seven prospects in total are in camp, either as members of the 40-man or as NRIs, but did not place among our top 40.

This group of is those about whom I will be reporting. Of course, the list of 18 we are now tracking here – eight pitchers and 10 position players - will further decline each week as camp continues and cuts are made.

I rank each player based on his momentum this past week – high/medium/low. I want to be clear that is NOT how I assess their chances of making the team – see the column I call "Prediction" for where I thought the player will start in April as camp opened. Players will remain "medium" unless I see as a clear reason to shift them.

Innings pitched (IP) and earned run average (ERA) are for the spring coming into Sunday, March 16.

The roster

Not surprisingly, the first two cuts were the same two pitchers added to major league camp late – when Jose Almarante was delayed and Jaime Garcia was injured. They were non-roster invitees Heyer and Whiting.

Heyer pitched well in limited duty, inheriting and getting out of a couple of jams, but experience-wise is still at the A-Advanced level. He received his taste of the bigs and can move ahead to minor league camp with a positive experience. Expected to return to the Triple-A rotation, Whiting had one appearance this spring and it was rough. The right-hander yielded five runs, four earned, in one inning.

Fornataro's only scoreless outing this spring was his fourth and final outing, so he left big-league camp on a positive. Gaviglio did not pitch during this period, but pitched credibly in his first camp.

At this point, my favorites to take the back two spots in the major league pen to open the season are Pat Neshek and Sam Freeman. The latter has moved ahead of Keith Butler in my assessment. Jorge Rondon cannot be counted out yet, either, though he has been less dominant than his "perfect" ERA might suggest. Freeman would be the third lefty, at least until Jason Motte is ready, but has a past track record to go along with a good spring to date.

One 40-man spot would need to open for Neshek. My instinct always says to look at the first cuts of the spring. Angel Castro would be my man – unless there was some kind of pre-agreement when he was signed as a free agent over the winter.

The results

Pitchers Top  Ros Prediction IP ERA Mo  
Majors camp 40         Last wk This wk
Tyler Lyons inelig. 40m Memphis 6.2 10.80 High Low
Keith Butler #35 40m Memphis 6.2 6.75 High Low
Carlos Martinez #2 40m St. Louis 10 1.80 High High
Jorge Rondon NR 40m Memphis 5.1 0.00   High
Sam Freeman #17 40m Memphis 5.2 3.18   High
Lee Stoppelman  #18 NRI Memphis 4 11.25 High Low
Tim Cooney #12 NRI Memphis 6 13.50   Low
Zach Petrick #16 NRI Springfield 7.2 5.87   Low
Dropped off T40  Ros Prediction IP ERA Mo  
this week           Last wk This wk
Eric Fornataro #39 40m Memphis 5 7.20 Low  
Kurt Heyer NR NRI Palm Beach 2 0.00 High  
Boone Whiting #30 NRI Memphis 1 36.00 Low  
Sam Gaviglio #26 NRI Springfield 5.1 3.38    

This week, I only gave three prospect pitchers high marks. Carlos Martinez continues to perform very well in his battle for the fifth rotation spot. Rondon only pitched 1 1/3 this period, but kept his scoreless string alive as others were pounded. Freeman spun 2 2/3 run-free frames.

After a strong start to camp, lefty Tyler Lyons hit rough going his last couple of times out, bloating his spring ERA to 10.80. Butler yielded four runs in 2 2/3 this period.

None of the three non-roster pitchers remaining on this list had a week to remember, either. Lee Stoppelman lost his spring momentum as he was spanked for five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. Early standout Tim Cooney yielded nine runs, eight earned, in two innings. Zach Petrick "only" gave up three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Game highlights

Monday, 3/10: It was a dreadful day as the Tigers pounded a succession of Cardinals pitching prospects for 15 of their 17 runs.

Stoppelman relieved Shelby Miller with one out and the bases empty in the top of the third. 30 pitches and two outs later, five runs were in as the lefty's hanging breaking balls were getting hammered - RBI single, two-RBI triple, RBI double, RBI single.

Next was Lyons, who had looked good in his two prior outings. For the second time this spring, Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos took him deep. This one was a three-run shot. Lyons then allowed a single and three straight doubles for three more runs before he was pulled - after having secured just two outs.

Butler relieved Lyons with a runner in scoring position. His first pitch was hammered over the fence by Miguel Cabrera, scoring the seventh run charged to Lyons ahead of him. Butler walked two batters but also fanned two in his 1 1/3 frames.

Fornataro was next in the barrel. He was probably relieved when Cabrera was taken out for a pinch-hitter. After a 1-2-3 sixth, Fornataro ran into trouble in the seventh, however. A hit batter, two singles and a two-run double followed. Fornataro has yet to have a scoreless outing this spring.

Freeman pitched the eighth and gave up a double to the left field wall, the sixth straight Cards hurler to yield an extra-base hit. The lefty worked his way out of trouble, though. He fanned two and became the first St. Louis pitcher of the day to not give up an earned run.

Tuesday, 3/11: For the second day in a row, the young pitching struggled, yielding seven runs.

Cooney took over in the fifth with a four-run cushion. Over 30 pitches, but just two outs later, the visiting Mets had taken the lead. Single, ground rule double, run-scoring ground out, RBI infield single, single, wild pitch, three-run home run, infield single, strikeout on his second wild pitch, then pulled with two out.

Rondon secured the third out of the fifth, but ran into trouble in the sixth. The right-hander yielded two singles and a double, but again avoided giving up a run. Rondon was aided by catcher Audry Perez, who snared his wild pitch and threw out a runner trying to advance.

Petrick contributed a 1-2-3 seventh, including a pair of strikeouts. However, his second frame was rocky. A two-out walk, followed by an RBI double and RBI single, put the Mets back in the lead again.

Wednesday, 3/12: Martinez had his third strong start, relying as much on his slider as fastball. In four innings, the right-hander allowed no runs on two hits and a walk, striking out three. One K was vs. Mets star David Wright on a 95 mph fastball.

Freeman walked the leadoff man in the sixth. After a stolen base, he fanned two to get out of the inning.

In the seventh, Butler took over. His first batter lofted a soft fly that dropped between Pete Kozma and Peter Bourjos for a gift double. A walk, an infield single and two-run single and RBI single followed before he was removed with one out.

Thursday, 3/13: On a day the offense put up double-digit runs, the relievers also improved.

In the sixth, Fornataro walked his first batter on four pitches, but retired the next three in a row for his first scoreless outing in four tries this spring.

For the second straight outing, Lyons was not sharp, but was just good enough. The lefty allowed a double down the left-field line on his first pitch thrown in the seventh, then issued two walks, but kept the shutout alive.

Wearing the nameless number 97, right-hander Scott McGregor was called over from the minor league camp and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. (Update: On Sunday morning, 3/16, McGregor was officially added to MLB camp as an NRI.)

Friday, 3/14: Cooney pitched a 1-2-3 sixth, but could only get one out in the seventh. Four runs came in, three earned. A wild pitch strike three started the mess, which was punctuated by a two-RBI triple and a walk.

Sam Freeman inherited a two-on jam. Both runners scored, but he had little help from his defense. The fourth and final run against Cooney was the result of a two-base error on Stephen Piscotty.

Butler pitched a 1-2-3 eighth after his leadoff single was erased in a double play.

Saturday, 3/15: Versus the Braves at Disney, Petrick relieved Kelly with one on and one out in the sixth and escaped the jam. However, he yielded a run in the seventh on a leadoff single, a walk and an RBI single.

Stoppelman followed in the eighth. He dodged a leadoff double down the third base line and a walk with a strikeout and a 4-6-3.

To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

Prior articles in this series
Cards hitting prospect momentum: Spring week 2
Cards pitching prospect momentum: Spring week 2
Cards prospect momentum: 2014 spring week 1

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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