Cards pitching prospect mo: Spring week 4

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.

Overall

The Cardinals logged a 4-3 record this past week to go on top of their 6-7-2 start. The pitching improved somewhat this period, from a 5.83 ERA to 4.43 over the last seven. Opposing hitters managed just a .238 average against Cardinals pitching, a considerable improvement over the prior week.

Petrick
The big picture

The Cardinals opened big-league camp with 60 players invited and had 44 players at the time of last week's report.

Here are the pitching changes. On Sunday, March 16, right-hander Scott McGregor was added to major league camp, but Zach Petrick was sent down. The next day, Lee Stoppelman and Tim Cooney were reassigned to the minors. Two more lefties were next as Tyler Lyons was optioned out on Wednesday, March 19 and Sam Freeman followed on Sunday, March 23.

Of the 35 currently in camp, 29 are on the 40-man roster and six are non-roster invitees. They are all vying for one of the 25-man roster spots to open the season.

Five of the 35 are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 for 2014 – two pitchers and three position players. Another three 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 eight we are now tracking here – four pitchers and four 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 Monday, March 24.

Freeman
The roster

At this point, the competitors for the last spot in the major league pen to open the season are Keith Butler and Jorge Rondon. Scott McGregor is also still up, but the non-40-man, non-originally camp invitee would be a major long shot. With a week remaining in camp, it was a bit surprising to see Sam Freeman eliminated first. The spot will probably be temporary - until Jason Motte is ready.

Lyons left camp after having yielded 13 earned runs in eight innings. Freeman allowed two runs in 6 1/3 frames. Stoppelman and Cooney joined Lyons with double-digit spring ERAs. Petrick's was "just" 5.87.

As I forecasted last week, Angel Castro was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for NRI Pat Neshek.

The results

Pitchers Top  Ros Prediction IP ERA Mo  
Majors camp 40         Last wk This wk
Keith Butler #35 40m Memphis 8.1 8.64 Low Low
Carlos Martinez #2 40m St. Louis 15.1 1.76 High High
Jorge Rondon NR 40m Memphis 8.1 0.00 High High
               
Added this week T40  Ros Prediction IP ERA Mo  
Scott McGregor NR NRI Memphis       Low
               
Dropped off T40  Ros Prediction IP ERA Mo  
this week           Last wk This wk
Tyler Lyons inelig. 40m Memphis 8 14.63 Low  
Sam Freeman #17 40m Memphis 6.1 2.84 High  
               
Zach Petrick #16 NRI Springfield 7.2 5.87 Low  
Lee Stoppelman  #18 NRI Memphis 4 11.25 Low  
Tim Cooney #12 NRI Memphis 6 13.50 Low  

This week, I gave two of the four prospect pitchers high marks. Rondon threw three more scoreless innings and has yet to be scored upon this spring. The right-hander received praise from coaches for his "simplified approach" on the mound.

Martinez continues to shine, yielding one earned run in 5 1/3 frames this past week. Unfortunately for Martinez, Joe Kelly did not give up his rotation spot this spring, pushing Martinez back into the eighth-inning role – for now, at least.

Butler remains in the relief fight despite having allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings of work this past week and a mark close to nine for the spring. McGregor gave up two earned runs in three frames and has to be delighted just to still be in big league camp.

Butler
Game highlights

Sunday, 3/16: Butler relieved Adam Wainwright, securing the final two outs of the fifth. He run into trouble in the sixth, however, allowing three hits and a walk before being pulled with no out. One run was already in with two more that scored with Randy Choate on the mound.

Rondon pitched the seventh. As usual, it was eventful but successful overall. A single and wild pitch put a runner in scoring position, but all three outs were secured via strikeout.

McGregor's first game as an official NRI was mixed. He scattered a single and hit by pitch in the eighth, with a strikeout for the third out. Like Butler, McGregor encountered turbulence in his second frame. His ninth opened with a double off the centerfield wall and a walk. After Seth Maness entered, both came around to score.

Monday, 3/17: Lyons came in with two out in the fourth and promptly balked in a run charged to Shelby Miller. In his full inning of work, the lefty yielded five runs of his own on a walk and five hits, including a double and home run.

Over from minor league camp, lefty Nick Greenwood surrendered a double and an RBI single before securing his three outs in the sixth.

Tuesday, 3/18: The major league club had the day off.

Wednesday, 3/19: With one run in and one on against Carlos Martinez in the sixth, Freeman was called upon. The lefty walked his first batter, but then buckled down with a strikeout and ground out to escape the jam.

Martinez
Thursday, 3/20: Martinez started and again shined, this time yielding just one run in 5 1/3. He allowed three hits, a walk and fanned four.

In his final St. Louis outing of the spring, Freeman relieved Martinez with one run in and one run on. After a leadoff walk, Freeman collected the final two outs of the sixth.

Friday, 3/21: McGregor took over in the fifth, issuing one walk. In his second frame, however, the Astros scored on a leadoff home run by Marcell Ozuna. McGregor also hit a batter.

Rondon pitched the seventh, a 1-2-3 inning with two ground outs.

Saturday, 3/22: Butler pitched the eighth with a lead. A leadoff single was erased in a double-play en route to a three-batter inning.

Sunday, 3/23: After Kelly no-hit the Astros for five innings, the first two batters in the sixth reached. With one run already in, Rondon inherited the other. He threw a ball-four wild pitch that enabled Kelly's second run to cross home. Rondon collected his third out without further incident.



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 3
Cards pitching prospect momentum: Spring week 3
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 brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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