On Tuesday morning, the St. Louis Cardinals thinned their Major League camp population to 48 when they sent four players to minor league camp. Two 40-man roster players, left-handed pitcher Tyler Lyons and infielder Greg Garcia, have been optioned to Triple-A Memphis. Catcher Carson Kelly has been assigned to A-Advanced Palm Beach and infielder Breyvic Valera to Memphis. Both were non-roster invitees.
These moves reduce the 40-man roster population in Major League camp to 36 and non-roster invitees to 12.
Despite recent success at Memphis, Lyons had no realistic chance of making the big-league club out of camp as either a starter or reliever. The lefty had a rough spring training, with seven earned runs allowed on nine hits in five innings over three appearances. Lyons struck out four, walked two, served up a home run and threw a wild pitch. Opponents batted a collective .391 against him.
The 27-year-old Texan has made 35 Triple-A starts over the last three seasons and is destined to add to his total in 2015 while waiting for another opportunity to rejoin St. Louis as either a spot starter or long reliever.
One of the final cuts from camp last spring, Garcia is one of the first in 2015. Despite an opening in St. Louis to replace Daniel Descalso as a reserve middle infielder, the 25-year-old seemed the odd man out in the competition from the very start.
With the Cardinals having brought in free agent Dean Anna and acquired Ty Kelly in trade, it seemed to signal the club perhaps wanting more than they believe Garcia could provide at the Major League level.
This spring, the left-handed hitter performed when called upon, with three singles and a double in 13 at-bats for a .308 average. Garcia drove in two, walked twice and struck out four times.
Garcia should be back with Memphis for a third summer. At this point, despite being ranked 21st on The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015, it appears to me that he is on the Tyler Greene-Ryan Jackson career trajectory.
At the start of his second season catching, Kelly was the youngest player in camp. His mission was to soak up as much of the big league environment as he could. With minor league games set to start in two days, now is the time for the 20-year-old to switch camps to get in as much work as possible.
With St. Louis, Kelly appeared in three games, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. The right-handed hitter is ranked 11th on the 2015 TCN top 40 and is expected to be behind the plate at Palm Beach to open the season.
Valera has the potential to soon become what Kelly already is – a decent switch-hitter capable of playing multiple positions as a reserve in the majors. With the logjam of players ahead of him in this camp, however, the Venezuelan native will have to wait a year for a more extensive spring opportunity.
In his first Major League camp, the 23-year-old had five plate appearances in five games. Valera went 0-for-3, but also walked once and had a successful sacrifice, coming around to score both times.
At this point, with so many other middle infielders in the mix, I think it will be difficult for Valera to break camp with Memphis. An initial return to Springfield as the regular second baseman may become a necessity. Valera is TCN’s 15th-ranked Cardinals prospect.
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