The St. Louis Cardinals continue their spring process of making small quantity of releases of minor leaguers not considered to be competitive at their target levels of participation. So it was on Tuesday when four players were given their unconditional release.
An experienced infielder who can handle multiple positions, including the outfield, Vargas became a free agent following last season. In hindsight, it appears the 23-year-old may have made a mistake re-signing with the Cardinals during the winter, since he is now jobless.
Vargas’ career offensive highlight was in 2012, when the right-handed hitter came in third in the Appalachian League batting race at .322. The Venezuelan native hit just .248 and .236 the last two years, in his first full-season action, primarily at Peoria and Palm Beach.
The star of Billbrough, 25, looked to be on the rise after he logged a 2.12 ERA in 2013 after a 2.81 mark there the year before. In apparent recognition of his potential, the right-hander was invited to Spring Training Early Camp (STEP) in 2014.
The non-drafted free agent who was originally signed in 2011 opened last season with Double-A Springfield, but was returned to Palm Beach in early July. The reliever found Texas League hitters a challenging lot, logging a 7.50 ERA in his first 25 games at the level. Billbrough struck out 28 in 30 innings, but also issued 16 free passes and served up five home run balls.
Helisek, the Cards’ 30th-round pick in 2012, followed a most unusual path last summer. Prior to then, the left-hander seemed on his way, spending all of 2013 with the Peoria Chiefs, where he made 23 starts and posted a 3.13 ERA, seventh-best in the Midwest League.
2014 began well, with Helisek earning a Florida State League All-Star berth, but then something happened. In his final six Palm Beach starts, the 24-year-old was hammered for an aggregate 7.24 ERA. In early August, Helisek was returned to Peoria, where his woes continued (5.84 ERA).
Scanio, 25, a native St. Louisan, simply could not progress quickly enough. Last season, the Cards’ 16th-rounder in 2012 from Northwestern State University in Louisiana was bounced back down to short-season State College from Peoria, despite the fact he had been in the Midwest League for the entire prior season, 2013.
The right-handed reliever concludes his Cardinals career with a 3.71 ERA. Scanio struck out 107 in 140 2/3 innings, but also issued 42 walks.
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