Late Sunday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals reduced their Major League camp population to 33 when they optioned three players to Triple-A Memphis. They are catcher Ed Easley, first baseman Xavier Scruggs and shortstop Dean Anna. All are 40-man roster players.
The Cardinals also reassigned one non-roster invitee, second baseman Jacob Wilson, to Triple-A Memphis. He will join the others in Cardinals minor league camp.
These moves reduce the 40-man roster population in Major League camp to 28 and non-roster invitees to five as the team moves closer to its opening day limit of 25.
Coming off a strong Arizona Fall League and ranked number 26 among Cardinals minor leaguers in The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015, Wilson was impressive in his first camp.
In 33 at-bats over 20 Grapefruit League games, the right-handed hitter posted a line of .303/.343/.515/.858. Half of Wilson’s 10 hits went for extra bases – four doubles and a home run. The 24-year-old drove in four, scored seven runs and swiped a base.
Though the Memphis infield situation appears crowded, Wilson’s performance this spring plus his versatility may have opened the door. He can play third base, first base and the outfield in addition to his regular home at second.
Scruggs, 27, was in his first major league camp as a 40-man roster player after making his MLB debut last September. With 20 home runs in each of his last five seasons and 80 RBI in each of his last three, the right-handed hitter is looked upon as a potential power source.
Scruggs had an odd 2015 spring camp at the plate. On one hand, he drew as many walks as he had hits, five each. Unfortunately, he had more strikeouts with six. Appearing in 20 games with 27 at-bats, his line was .185/.333/.222/.556. Scruggs had one double, no home runs, stole a base and drove in one.
Our 30th-ranked Cardinals prospect is expected to return for a second season as Memphis’ regular first baseman, where his 135 games played last season was second on the team. A slimmer Scruggs may also get in some work in the corner outfield positions in 2015.
Anna, 28, was seeing his first action as a member of the Cardinals system after signing as a free agent in November.
The Illinois native opened last season as the New York Yankees starting shortstop, playing for injured Derek Jeter, but was optioned out three weeks later and did not return to the bigs. He was waived in July, claimed by the Pirates, but remained in Triple-A, becoming a free agent last fall.
In Cardinals camp, Anna, a true shortstop, was expected to battle Pete Kozma for the backup spot behind Jhonny Peralta, but Kozma clearly prevailed. Anna, a left-handed batter, had 20 at-bats over 17 games. His line was .200/.308/.250/.558. Anna had four hits, four walks, scored three and plated three. He struck out five times.
In the Memphis middle infield, Anna would apparently join holdover Greg Garcia and Ty Kelly, if the latter does not make St. Louis. Otherwise, Wilson would seem to have a good shot at the Redbirds roster and they could make room for him, either way.
Easley, a native Memphian, was signed as a minor league free agent in November 2013. After a successful 2014 with the Redbirds, the 29-year-old was added to the 40-man roster last fall, securing his 2015 services as well.
Rarely seeing game action this spring, the right-handed batter appeared in 11 games and had 15 at-bats. Easley had three singles to go with no walks, four strikeouts and two RBI. His batting line was a symmetric .200/.200/.200/.400.
I expect Easley to share the Triple-A catching job with prospect Cody Stanley, who should be promoted from Double-A Springfield. Last season’s other Memphis catcher with Easley, Audry Perez, departed as a free agent.
Assuming a normal roster of 12 pitchers and 13 position players, the jobs remaining in major league camp seem to be these three:
If Gonzales loses out, he would probably head up Memphis’ rotation until a starter is needed in St. Louis. If Martinez loses out, he could bump out veteran Carlos Villanueva as the long man in the St. Louis bullpen. My guess remains the former.
Final reserve position player: Will the Cardinals go with a traditional fifth outfielder in Randal Grichuk or an infielder who can also play outfield in Ty Kelly? The former has been acknowledged as the most impressive player in camp this spring and would seem to have the inside track.
Prediction: To get down to 25 players from the current 33, here are my guesses at the remaining moves ahead.
Place on disabled list (1): Jaime Garcia
Option to Memphis (2): Marco Gonzales, Ty Kelly
Option to Memphis or place on disabled list (1): Tommy Pham
Reassign non-roster invitees to Memphis (4): Marcus Hatley, Mitch Harris, Scott Moore, Stephen Piscotty
Purchase contract (adding to 25- and 40-man rosters): Carlos Villanueva
Footnote: If the Cardinals roster decisions play out in the above manner, my pre-camp prediction from mid-February will be correct for 24 of 25 players. The one miss is Saturday’s trade of left-handed reliever Sam Freeman, though it was noted in the article as a definite possibility, depending on the health and effectiveness of Kevin Siegrist.
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