Insight from Cardinals Instructs: 09/24/14

Wednesday news from the St. Louis Cardinals instructional league camp in Jupiter, Florida.

I had carefully planned my annual arrival in St. Louis Cardinals instructional league camp to be late enough that daily games were underway, but not so late that the Arizona Fall League contingent of players had left.

I thought I had it pegged.

Players had arrived on Friday, September 19. Daily 1 p.m. games were to begin today, on the 24th, with the final contests of camp to be played on Tuesday, October 7. (For basic details on camp structure, duration and roster, click here.)

Another consideration this year is that instructs is basically a week shorter than in the past. Yet because only two games will be held against external competition – versus the Mets on September 26 and October 3 – the Cards would be able to get in more instruction in less time.

The fly in the ointment is the Florida weather. Continued rain has kept the players off the main practice field, number one, since the second day of camp. As I pulled into the parking lot, I could see standing water on the field, though it did not rain during the day on Wednesday.

The Cardinals are still working, of course, with more pitching of bullpens, more hitting in the cages and more defensive drills than originally planned. That was the case on Wednesday, with no game played.

There is still plenty of news.

Extra instruction

I mentioned more individual instruction in less time. Here is one way the Cardinals are doing it. With their internal games, the Cards are expanding to every inning of every game a concept they used on a limited basis last year. That is to pre-define a game situation and put every hitter (and the pitcher and defense) in that situation. Two or three innings later, they move to another situation.

Katz following Kelly

Last year at this time, I reported on the conversion of third baseman Carson Kelly to catching. This time, it is second baseman Mason Katz who is donning the tools of ignorance in instructional league. I will be interviewing Katz soon to discuss the particulars of his move.

Between Peoria and Palm Beach, Katz tied for third in the system with 20 home runs and tied for second in RBI with 71. Obviously, the former fourth-rounder from LSU would bring nice power and production to the position if he can handle it defensively.

AFL'ers in the House

I spoke informally with most of the Cardinals Arizona Fall League contingent, but will hold off doing in-depth reviews until I arrive in Arizona in about five weeks. The Cardinals players will leave Florida for Arizona on October 1.

Here are a few snippets.

Jacob Wilson

The second baseman had not faced pitching since before his June 20 surgery. Stepping back into the box for the first time a couple of days ago, Wilson mentioned that 90 mph pitches looked like 100. He is looking forward to some game action in Florida before heading west.

Mitch Harris

The right-handed reliever, who advanced from Palm Beach to Memphis this season, is more excited about refining and getting more strikes from his cutter and changeup than he is with his increased fastball velocity.

There had been questions about how his Navy time would affect his contract years of control by the Cardinals. After a number of questions were posed and researched, the answer is two-fold. Harris will be eligible for this December’s Rule 5 Draft unless added to the 40-man but cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season.

For that reason, even more eyes should be on Harris during his AFL stint.

Coaches

In the initial article on Instructs, I did not name the coaches beyond the Field Coordinator and the hitting, pitching and infield coordinators. Here are the others:

Managers: Mike Shildt, Dann Bilardello, Oliver Marmol
Coaches: Paul Davis, Darwin Marrero, Kleininger Teran, Erick Almonte, Chris Swauger

There is a reason three managers are needed for two teams. Shildt recently arrived after spending time with Mike Matheny and the major league staff. Marmol is now with the big club in Chicago.

In addition, special assistant Willie McGee is in uniform and working with the youngsters. It is always great to see a Cardinals Hall of Famer.

Scouts on hand

Cards scouting chief Dan Kantrovitz and a number of his national crosscheckers are in Jupiter. Among their activities today were to watch infield drills conducted by Shildt and Mark DeJohn and meet with the coaching staff and farm director Gary LaRocque.

Speaking of the latter, LaRocque is moving ahead full speed as always after his recent in-depth discussions with Tony La Russa about the vacant general manager position in Arizona.

The scouts present include the senior scout in the organization, Mike Roberts, Fernando Arango, Roger Smith, Joe Almaraz and the area scout covering Florida, Charlie Gonzalez. That is a lot of knowledge in one place.

There were also a couple of scouts from other organizations around, but they remained outside the fences. With the Cardinals players not wearing numbers on their t-shirts, I can’t imagine from the distance that the scouts could even tell who was who.

Roster additions

There are about a dozen players in rehab here in Jupiter, but the list is shorter by two since the initial roster for instructs was released. The following 24 position players that make up the Red and White teams has grown from the previous total of 19.

Two of the additions are shortstops Aledmys Diaz and Leobaldo Pina.

The former was slowed by a hamstring injury suffered while playing for Palm Beach. There is nothing new on Diaz’ shoulder. I did see him take ground balls at short and make throws, although the latter were not made at full intensity by anyone in the drill.

It is good to see Pina is recovered from the ankle injury that limited him to 12 games with State College. Click here to read our recent scouting report on Pina.

The other three additional position players are the AFL assignees – Wilson, Cody Stanley and Breyvic Valera. Valera is slated to play infield and outfield as a taxi squad player, initially eligible on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.

As first announced here at The Cardinal Nation over the weekend, C.J. McElroy has been added to the AFL contingent to replace injured Charlie Tilson, but was already at instructs.

Red (12) Pos     White (12) Pos  
Bean, Steve C     Kelly, Carson C  
Katz, Mason C     Cruz, Luis C  
O'Keefe, Brian C     DeLeon, Alex 1B  
Stanley, Cody C AFL   Seferina, Darren 2B  
Collymore, Malik 2B      Valera, Breyvic 2B/OF AFL
Wilson, Jacob 2B  AFL   Diaz, Aledmys SS Off rehab
Mercado, Oscar SS     Pina, Leobaldo SS Off rehab
Reyes, Robelys SS     Herrera, Juan SS  
Diekroeger, Danny 3B     Sosa, Edmundo SS  
McElroy, C.J. OF (AFL)   Rivera, Chris 3B  
Sierra, Magneuris OF     Wick, Rowan OF  
Drake, Blake OF     Bryan, Vaughn OF  

Pitching plans

I am not aware of any changes to the pitching staff from the initial roster.

The following is the pitching plan for the next three days, with number of innings/pitches planned for each. On Thursday and Saturday, the Red team will face the White squad.

On Friday, the Cards are scheduled to entertain the Mets. There is some discussion that if the rain continues to make Field 1 unplayable, the two teams may face off in the main Roger Dean Stadium. Stay tuned for more on that.

Pitching schedule          
Thursday          
Baez  3/45     J Perez 3/45
Farinaro 3/45     Mateo 3/45
Parra 2/40        
           
Friday          
Reyes 2/40        
Flaherty 2/40        
Perdomo 2/40        
Santos 2/40        
Polanco 1-2/35        
Barraclough 1-2/35        
back-up          
Williams 2/40        
           
Saturday          
Dobzanski 2/40     Alcantara 2/40
D Perez 2/40     McKinney 2/40
J Fernandez 2/40     D Gonzalez 2/40
Williams?          

What is Next

Look for future daily articles and an extensive series of player and coach interviews coming to you from Cardinals instructional league camp in Jupiter in the upcoming days.

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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