Auditing Cards STEP Camp Invite Predictions

Comparing the players invited to St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Early Program with our earlier predictions.

It always bothers me to read all kinds of lofty predictions being made with little to no accountability as to the eventual validity (or invalidity) of the picks. Follow ups are almost never done. You have to wonder why.

Back on January 22nd, I posted an article called, Predicting St. Louis Cardinals NRIs and STEP Camp Invitees. From the title, its focus should be very clear.

Now, I am back to report on how I did.

First, the exceptional. I correctly predicted 17 of the 18 non-roster invitees and noted the 18th would likely be a free agent pitching signee. He turned out to be just that – Carlos Villanueva. (Click on the hot link just above to review that list.)

However, I only did so-so in my STEP Camp guesses overall.

On the position player side, my predictions were very good, as 10 of my 12 names were included. The two I thought would be invited, but were not, are shortstop Alex Mejia, a 2013 invitee, and outfielder Rowan Wick. The latter was a bit of a surprise to me. I guess the slugger’s problems upon reaching Peoria late last season slowed his momentum.

The Cardinals instead included two much younger players in terms of experience in shortstop Edmundo Sosa and outfielder Blake Drake, both of whom played in short-season ball last summer. As a top prospect, number 19 on our top 40, Sosa was not a surprise, but the 18th-rounder Drake is. The organization also invited one more catcher than I expected, Luis Cruz, another short-season competitor in 2014.

2015 actual         2015 predictions      
STEP (23)         STEP (22)      
Catchers (3) 2014 Top 40 Pos   Catchers (2) 2014 Top 40 Pos
Hits         Hits      
Katz, Mason PB 33 C/2B   Katz, Mason PB 33 C/2B
O'Keefe, Brian SC       O'Keefe, Brian SC    
Cruz, Luis SC              
                 
Infielders (5) 2014 Top 40 Pos   Infielders (5) 2014 Top 40 Pos
Hits         Hits      
Herrera, Juan PB 17 SS   Herrera, Juan PB 17 SS
Mercado, Oscar JC 23 SS   Mercado, Oscar JC 23 SS
Rodriguez, Jonathan Mem   1B   Rodriguez, Jonathan Mem   1B
Wisdom, Patrick Spr 27 3B   Wisdom, Patrick Spr 27 3B
                 
Misses         Misses      
Sosa, Edmundo SC 19 SS   Mejia, Alex Spr   SS
                 
Outfielders (5) 2014 Top 40     Outfielders (5) 2014 Top 40  
Hits         Hits      
Garcia, Anthony PB       Garcia, Anthony PB    
McElroy, C.J. Peo 32     McElroy, C.J. Peo 32  
Sierra, Magneuris GCL 16     Sierra, Magneuris GCL 16  
Tilson, Charlie Spr 10     Tilson, Charlie Spr 10  
                 
Misses         Misses      
Drake, Blake JC       Wick, Rowan Peo 28  

On the pitching side, I batted .500, with five hits and five misses. That's ok in baseball, but bad in predictions.

Pitchers (10) 2014 Top 40  Pos   Pitchers (10) 2014 Top 40  Pos
Hits         Hits      
Kaminsky, Rob Peo 3 SP   Kaminsky, Rob Peo 3 SP
Morales, Andrew PB 35 SP   Morales, Andrew PB 35 SP
Perry, Chris PB   RP   Perry, Chris PB   RP
Reyes, Alex Peo 2 SP   Reyes, Alex Peo 2 SP
Weaver, Luke PB 9 SP   Weaver, Luke PB 9 SP
                 
Misses         Misses      
Barraclough, Kyle Peo   RP   Heyer, Kurt Mem   SP
Donofrio, Joe Spr   RP   Llorens, Dixon Spr 37 RP
Flaherty, Jack GCL 6 SP   Petree, Nick Spr 20 SP
Garcia, Silfredo   PB   SP   Waldron, Tyler AAA   RP
Nielsen, Trey SC   SP   Whiting, Boone Mem   SP

I was surprised to see right-handed starting pitchers Kurt Heyer and Boone Whiting not invited to STEP Camp after scoring NRIs to big league camp in 2014 and having pitched for Memphis. Nick Petree is an up-and-comer, ranked 20th in our top 40 and reached Springfield to close the season. Yet there was no room for him, either.

Submarining reliever Dixon Llorens will not be returning to STEP Camp for a second year. Too many walks to go with all the strikeouts, I imagine. The other name I thought might be included was Rule 5 pitcher Tyler Waldron, mostly because I figured the coaches would want a longer look at an unfamiliar arm.

Several of the five coming to camp I whiffed on fit the same profile as the position player misses – short-season competitors last season. It starts with Jack Flaherty, a top 10 prospect in the system. I probably should not have left off despite him pitching entirely in the Gulf Coast League. State College’s Trey Nielsen is a very interesting dark horse arm and the inclusion of Silfredo Garcia is a good reminder that the 23-year-old remains highly thought-of.

Two STEP Camp relievers I did not predict are right-handers Joe Donofrio and Kyle Barraclough. Donofrio was a big success at Springfield, but struggled in a Memphis trial last summer. No reason to believe the problems are serious.

Similar bumps in the road occurred for Barraclough between Peoria and Palm Beach. The fact that he will be 25 in May and was beaten up in high-A in 2014 makes Barraclough the most surprising of the 23 STEP campers to me.

As noted previously, the 23 STEP Campers will report to Jupiter, Florida on February 27th. All of the invitees to regular minor league camp will be in house and ready to work out by March 12th.

As I look ahead to my annual season-opening roster prediction series, remembering who is in STEP Camp and who is not could help break any early ties.

Join the discussion with other Cardinals fans here



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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