Predicting 2015 Springfield Opening Roster

The players Brian Walton sees as having the best chance of making the Cardinals’ Double-A roster to open the regular season and why.

Welcome to the third installment of The Cardinal Nation’s annual pre-camp series to predict the season-opening rosters of the St. Louis Cardinals and their four full-season minor league affiliates. Today’s subject is the Texas League’s Springfield Cardinals.

While the Double-A portion of this annual exercise is traditionally quite challenging, the 2015 version turned out to be far more straightforward than usual – given the assumptions already made for St. Louis, and especially, Memphis.

Based on that, there may be as few as four openings for players who finished last season with A-Advanced Palm Beach for new Springfield manager Dann Bilardello to bring along. One other key member of the Florida State League Cardinals, right-hander Nick Petree, was moved up just prior to the final start of the 2014 season.

By the way, I should mention that in this exercise, players are assumed to be on their season-ending 2014 rosters – unless called out otherwise. To see the full rosters for the entire system on one page, you can also check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog, both in the present and backward for six years.

Springfield Cardinals projected 2015 opening day roster, as of 2/27/15

Springfield (25+3)      
SP RP C 1B
Cornelius (L) C Thomas Ohlman Voit *
Heyer Donofrio (STEP) Rosario (NRI)  
Hald (L) Baker    
Petree  Stoppelman (L)    
S Garcia (STEP *) Sherriff (L)    
  Waldron    
  Perry (STEP *)    
       
Limbo      
Swagerty Blair J Gonzalez  
       
2B SS 3B OF
B Valera (NRI) Mejia Wisdom (STEP) Martini
J Wilson (NRI) M Williams   S Rodriguez
      Tilson (STEP)
      Popkins
      An Garcia (STEP *)

Legend
(X+Y) = Active + Limbo
Limbo = DL/rehab/demote/release candidate
Bold = 40-man roster member
NRI = non-roster invitee to MLB camp
STEP = STEP Camp
* promotion from year-end 2014
(L) = Left-handed pitcher

Roster sourcing

Returnees * 18        
* Incl end of 2014 A+ promos 2 Petree Martini    
New promos from A-Advanced  4 S Garcia Perry An Garcia Voit
Free agent signees  2 J Gonzalez # Rosario    
Rule 5 acquisition 1 Waldron      
Trade acquisition 1 Ohlman      
In limbo 3 Swagerty Blair J Gonzalez #  

As has been the case traditionally, I assume a five-man rotation, seven-man bullpen and 13 position players.

Petree

Rotation: Experience is the word

If Mike Mayers opens the season in Memphis’ rotation, there could be just one open spot among the initial Springfield starting five. Holdovers may include lefties Jonathan Cornelius (for what would be a third season) and Kyle Hald, along with right-hander Kurt Heyer. The aforementioned Petree, The Cardinal Nation’s 20th-ranked prospect, is the fourth.

That would leave an opening for another promotion from Palm Beach. My take is that it will go to STEP camper Silfredo Garcia. The 23-year-old Venezuelan made 17 Florida State League starts after his promotion from Peoria and registered a 3.68 ERA.

Having missed two of the last three seasons, Jordan Swagerty is trying to fight his way back onto an active roster. At this point, I will reserve judgment until he can perform on a regular basis, but his talent is such that I could see him relieving.

Donofrio

Relievers: An experienced pen

If creating rotation space at Springfield becomes an immediate priority, this seems to be the level at which stalled starters become relievers. One such pitcher who made the move last season is Ryan Sherriff. The lefty is one of five projected holdover members of the 2014 bullpen.

Two of the potential seven have experience with Memphis – lefty Lee Stoppelman and righty Joe Donofrio. As I mentioned in the Redbirds’ article, Donofrio would be my first choice to move back up to Triple-A when the opportunity presents itself.

Righty Chris Thomas was an effective Springfield pen member last season. Another right-hander, Corey Baker, was spectacular with Palm Beach, but had a bumpy Double-A intro. He should be back to try again. Added in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft was right-hander Tyler Waldron, who pitched at three levels last season for the Pirates.

My final bullpenner would be the only relief promotion from the FSL. Chris Perry was very strong at both Peoria and Palm Beach before tiring and getting injured in the Arizona Fall League. With the 24-year-old ready to go, he should be on the Springfield roster.

Ohlman

Catchers: Three fresh faces

It seems fortunate that Bilardello is a former MLB catcher and was the system’s minor league catching coordinator, because there could be an adjustment period coming behind the plate. The Cardinals made wholesale changes in the off-season, with all three catchers expected to compete at this level new to the organization. Michael Ohlman was acquired from Baltimore while veteran minor leaguers Jose Gonzalez and Alberto Rosario were signed as free agents.

Ohlman is known more for his hitting, while the other two are defense-first catchers. In my recollection, I have never seen any of the three in live action. My assumption is that Ohlman, who is on the 40-man (and the only projected S-Card with that status), plus one of the other two will be active to open the season. I gave the edge to Rosario, since he received a non-roster invitation and the later-signing Gonzalez did not. Their ages are 24 (Ohlman), 28 (Rosario) and 27 (Gonzalez).

27-year-old Travis Tartamella, a third defensive specialist, who has already spent parts of four seasons in the Texas League, could also come down from Memphis and squeeze the two new glove men out of an active roster spot.

While there are some very interesting names expected at Palm Beach in Carson Kelly, Steve Bean and Mason Katz, I don’t see any of them being ready to catch at the Double-A level. Katz’ bat may be ready, but his defense behind the plate is probably not. More on this in the upcoming Palm Beach installment of this series.

Williams

Infield: Pent up demand

Five of the six projected infielders finished last season at Springfield.

In my view, second basemen Breyvic Valera and Jacob Wilson should probably be in Memphis, but there is no room, as I think Aledmys Diaz is ahead in line for what may be just one infield opening at Triple-A.

The starting left side in third baseman Patrick Wisdom and shortstop Alex Mejia should be back at Double-A as well. Versatile Matt Williams could return to fill in at multiple positions on the infield.

Assuming Jonathan Rodriguez will stick at Memphis, which is not a sure thing, a first baseman would be needed. Palm Beach’s Luke Voit and David Washington would seem to be the primary eligibles. Voit had a stronger 2014 season, so is my choice to move up.

It would be an added bonus for the Cardinals marketing to feature two local Missouri State University products in Voit and Petree along with the University of Central Missouri’s Stoppelman.

Garcia

Outfield: Mix of old and new

Two Palm Beach outfield standouts from last summer have been invited to STEP Camp – Anthony Garcia and Charlie Tilson. The former had an MVP winter ball season in Puerto Rico and latter actually got in 31 Double-A games before his season ended with the first of two injuries. Both should be starters with Springfield.

I expect the third S-Cards outfield starter to come from the group of David Popkins, Starlin Rodriguez and Nick Martini. The first two are holdovers, while Martini also is technically, though in reality, he has just six Double-A games under his belt.

Up next

The Cardinals’ A-Advanced Palm Beach roster will be the focus of part four of this series - coming soon for members of The Cardinal Nation.



Links to related articles:
Predicting the 2015 Cardinals Opening Roster
Predicting the 2015 Memphis Opening roster

Join the Spring Training 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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