Here, we will look into the starting rotations of each club and analyze player movement across levels from the end of last season to the start of 2014.
Rotations and role changers
As has been the Cardinals' practice in recent years, the rotations for the Triple-A and Double-A squads will consist of five pitchers. For the first month or so of the season, the Class A-Advanced and Class-A clubs will have a six-man rotation and a pen with seven relievers instead of eight.
In addition, five pitchers who were starters last season have been moved to the bullpen for 2014. Do not look at that as a negative, as three of the five were promoted a level in the process. They are also noted below.
|Castro, Angel||Blair, Seth||Cuda, Joe||Brookshire, C.*|
|Cooney, Tim*||Cornelius, Jonathan*||Gonzales, Marco*||Garcia, Silfredo|
|Lyons, Tyler*||Gaviglio, Sam||Hald, Kyle*||Petree, Nick|
|McGregor, Scott||Heyer, Kurt||Helisek, Kyle*||Reed, Jimmy*|
|Whiting, Boone||Petrick, Zach||Jones, Cory||Reyes, Alex|
|Mayers, Mike||Reyes, Arturo|
|Starter to relief|
|Ferrara, Anthony*||Herget, Kevin|
|Sherriff, Ryan*||McKnight, Blake|
|* left-handed||Perry, Chris|
The Memphis rotation is a mixed bag. There are no 95-plus mph fireballers or sure things, though lefty control artist Tim Cooney may have the most runway. Tyler Lyons is a dependable veteran whose ultimate future may be in relief. Boone Whiting and Scott McGregor will provide innings. Journeyman Angel Castro was moved off the 40-man roster this spring.
Even without injured Tyrell Jenkins, the Palm Beach rotation features three top-21 hurlers in Marco Gonzales, Cory Jones and Mike Mayers. After Gonzales, there are two more left-handers in the "Kyle Hs" – Hald and Helisek. Joe Cuda rounds out the starting six.
Number seven prospect Alex Reyes is up from Johnson City to provide star power to Peoria's rotation. Silfredo Garcia is the only returnee. The final four are up from State College's 2013 starting group – lefties Chase Brookshire and Jimmy Reed and righties Nick Petree and Arturo Reyes.
Among the converted pitchers, Ryan Sherriff started 34 games over the last two seasons. Anthony Ferrara had a head start on his new role, working in relief in the Arizona Fall League. Chris Perry is back with the Chiefs after making a total of 13 starts there and with State College. Blake McKnight and Kevin Herget were in Johnson City's and State College's rotations, respectively.
Note in the following tables that pitchers are grouped on top with position players below.
|Up one level|
|Cooney, Tim*||Billbrough, Logan||Helisek, Kyle*||Brookshire, C.*|
|Wyatt, Heath||Gaviglio, Sam||Jones, Cory||Herget, Kevin|
|Heyer, Kurt||Llorens, Dixon||Petree, Nick|
|Shaban, Ronnie||Mayers, Mike||Reed, Jimmy*|
|Sherriff, Ryan*||Tuivailala, Sam||Reyes, Arturo|
|Grichuk, Randal||Popkins, David#||Martini, Nick*||Bosco, Jimmy*|
|Mateo, Luis||Rodriguez, Jonathan||Valera, Breyvic#||Castillo, Ronald|
|Piscotty, Stephen||Wisdom, Patrick||Vargas, Ildemaro||Katz, Mason|
|Scruggs, Xavier||Washington, David*||Kelly, Carson|
|Up two levels|
|Donofrio, Joe||Loraine, Zach|
|Keener, Jonathan DL||Ramos, Steven||Bean, Steve*|
|Up three levels|
Not surprisingly, the lower one goes in the system, the more promotions there are. Only six members of the 2014 Memphis Redbirds finished last season in Double-A. One, Luis Mateo, actually made his Triple-A debut earlier before dropping back down. Cooney and outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty headline this group.
Among the 10 new to Palm Beach are starters Jones and Mayers plus hard-throwing relievers Dixon Llorens and Sam Tuivailala. Labeled as a two-level jumper, New York-Penn League batting champ Steven Ramos actually started with Peoria last year before being sent back.
Peoria has just six hold-overs from the close of the 2013 Midwest League season, creating opportunity for one-level jumps (from short-season State College) and two-level leaps (from the rookie-level Appalachian League). In one extreme example, a player competing last summer below level, in the Gulf Coast League, is opening with the Class-A Chiefs. That is first baseman Jake Stone.
Perhaps the most interesting prospect on the Chiefs roster is taking the big step from Johnson City. I am referring to right-hander Alex Reyes. The 19-year-old isn't the only prospect passing over State College as catcher Steve Bean and .300-hitting shortstop-turned centerfielder Kenny Peoples-Walls are joining him. Based on past numbers alone, Bean may face the steepest adjustment curve to the Midwest League.
2013 State College hitting leaders Mason Katz and Ronald Castillo are also new Chiefs as is a returnee at a new position. Of course, that is former third baseman and now catcher Carson Kelly, who started 2013 at Peoria, but finished back at State College before undertaking his defensive conversion last fall.
Down one level
With the push of players up through the ranks, several others were required to make what is hoped to be temporary moves back down to a previous level. The reason is less about performance and more about playing time – finding at-bats and innings pitched.
|Down one level|
|Baker, Corey||Barraclough, Kyle|
|Miclat, Greg (TEX)||Rasmus, Casey#|
|O'Neill, Mike*||Rodriguez, Starlin|
Three former S-Cards are now back in Palm Beach, including second baseman-turned outfielder Starlin Rodriguez on his second such cycle and catcher Casey Rasmus. The latter was bumped down by Travis Tartamella's return to Springfield from Memphis. Kyle Barraclough moved down to Peoria from Palm Beach as he works his way back from earlier shoulder problems.
The team rosters here at The Cardinal Nation are as up-to-date as any source currently on the internet. To access them, click on the words "MILB ROSTERS" on the red bar to the right of The Cardinal Nation site logo.
To see the Cardinals' entire system by level and position on one page, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog. It will be updated later in the week, probably on Thursday's opening day for the minor leagues.
Look for the full extended spring training roster at the end of this week. Also ahead, Cardinals international director Moises Rodriguez will take subscribers through the Dominican Summer League players coming to EST this spring.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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