Cardinals Minor League Program Again in STEP

St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Early Program will get underway on February 27th in Jupiter, Florida with 23 hand-picked prospects on hand.

With Wednesday’s announcement by the St. Louis Cardinals of their non-roster invitees to major league spring training camp, the next logical “step” followed on Thursday.

The organization has disclosed the 23 invitees to its Spring Training Early Program or STEP Camp. The fifth consecutive year of the Cardinals’ early camp for selected minor league prospects will get underway on February 27th in Jupiter, Florida.

STEP (23)      
Pitchers (10) 2014 Top 40  Pos
Barraclough, Kyle Peo   RP
Donofrio, Joe Spr   RP
Flaherty, Jack GCL 6 SP
Garcia, Silfredo   PB   SP
Kaminsky, Rob Peo 3 SP
Morales, Andrew PB 35 SP
Nielsen, Trey SC   SP
Perry, Chris PB   RP
Reyes, Alex Peo 2 SP
Weaver, Luke PB 9 SP
       
Catchers (3) 2014 Top 40 Pos
Katz, Mason PB 33 C/2B
O'Keefe, Brian SC    
Cruz, Luis SC    
       
Infielders (5) 2014 Top 40 Pos
Herrera, Juan PB 17 SS
Mercado, Oscar JC 23 SS
Rodriguez, Jonathan Mem   1B
Sosa, Edmundo SC 19 SS
Wisdom, Patrick Spr 27 3B
       
Outfielders (5) 2014 Top 40  
Drake, Blake JC    
Garcia, Anthony PB    
McElroy, C.J. Peo 32  
Sierra, Magneuris GCL 16  
Tilson, Charlie Spr 10  

13 of the 23 STEP campers are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015, including five of the top 10, four of whom are pitchers. They are holdovers Alex Reyes at no. 2 and Rob Kaminsky at three, plus Jack Flaherty at six and Luke Weaver at nine. They are followed by outfielder Charlie Tilson (pictured above), our 10th-ranked Cardinals prospect, back for his fourth consecutive early camp.

Four of the 23 invitees made their professional debuts last summer, including three early draftees in Flaherty, Weaver and Andrew Morales, plus dark horse Trey Nielsen, who was taken in the 30th round of the 2013 draft but made his first professional mound appearance in 2014 due to injury.

Among the 10 pitchers are seven starters and three relievers. Three catchers, five infielders and five outfielders round out the roster.

The infielders include three top 23-ranked shortstops in Juan Herrera, Edmundo Sosa and Oscar Mercado. Mason Katz, who was primarily a second baseman in the past, began catching as well in last fall’s instructional league. Third baseman Patrick Wisdom was in 2014 big league camp.

The organization’s 2014 Player of the Year, Magneuris Sierra, is among the expected names in the outfield. Perhaps the surprise, however, is the inclusion of Blake Drake, who impressed coaches at Johnson City last summer after being the organization’s 18th-rounder last June.

Additional exposure

While these 23 individuals are not invited to major league camp, many of them will end up on the big league fields at some point during spring training. That is all part of the plan.

Many spring mornings, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny informs farm director Gary LaRocque what types of minor league players he needs for that day’s game to augment his roster. These STEP Campers are often the first to be selected.

The major league staff gets a much closer look at a number of youngsters, who will almost certainly never forget their first opportunity to play on a big league field.

The major league club gets its spring schedule underway on Thursday, March 5, a week later than last year. The full schedule, including television and radio coverage plans, is available at The Cardinal Nation blog.

Check back with The Cardinal Nation for more details on regular minor league spring training camp and much more very soon.

Distribution

By looking at the levels at which the 23 STEP Camp players finished last season, one can clearly see a bell curve as well as the peak. 15 invitees finished last summer at the Class-A levels (Palm Beach, Peoria and State College).

Level 2014
Triple-A Memphis 1
Double-A Springfield 3
A+ Palm Beach 7
Class A Peoria 4
SS-A State College 4
Rookie Johnson City 2
Rookie Gulf Coast 2
  23

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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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