With the Monday announcement of the preliminary roster of the 2015 Memphis Redbirds, it is appropriate to look back and compare this roster to the one I predicted would be in place over a month ago, before spring training even began.
First of all, here are the initial 26 Redbirds for 2015, with one player to be removed from this list by Thursday’s opening day for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The columns show how the roster evolved over the last few days, starting with the exhibition game against St. Louis last Friday, the final cuts by the Cardinals and those returned to lower levels of play.
|Exhibition in||Came from||To Sgf/PB||Almost|
|Memphis (24)||St. Louis (7)||(5)||Opening (26)|
|T Kelly||T Kelly|
|G Garcia||G Garcia (21)|
|B Valera||B Valera (15)|
|A Garcia||A Garcia|
|Mc Elroy||Mc Elroy (PB 32)|
|(x) TCN top 40|
In a strong statement of continuity, a whopping 18 of the 26 appeared with the 2014 club. Six more played at Triple-A in other organizations – pitchers Marcus Hatley, Miguel Socolovich and Tyler Waldron, infielders Dean Anna and Ty Kelly and outfielder Gary Brown. That leaves just two Redbirds who are being promoted to the level for the first time, 2014 Springfield Cardinals catcher Cody Stanley and infielder Matt Williams.
15 of the 26 were drafted by St. Louis with another originally signed as a non-drafted free agent - pitcher Zach Petrick. Two were acquired via trade - Nick Greenwood and Kelly - while two others were waiver claims by the Cardinals - outfielders Brown and Rafael Ortega. Five were signed as free agents - pitchers Hatley and Socolovich, catcher Ed Easley plus infielders Anna and Scott Moore - and one was a Rule 5 selection - Waldron.
Eight of the 26 are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015, including four members of the top eight: Marco Gonzales (1st), Stephen Piscotty (5th), Tim Cooney (7th), Sam Tuivailala (8th). The others are all in the third ten: Greg Garcia (21st), Stanley (26th), Petrick (29th) and Xavier Scruggs (30th).
Now, let’s compare my early predictions to the 26-man roster. “Adds” are the players who were not on my list. “Misses” are the players I thought would be on the roster, but are not.
We will start with pitchers, catchers and first basemen.
|SP adds||RP adds||C adds||1B adds|
|SP misses||RP misses||C misses||1B misses|
|Mayers (25)||Wyatt||Jon Rodriguez|
Though St. Louis has no left-handers in its starting five with the injury to Jaime Garcia, the Redbirds have four of five. The only exception is Petrick. The others include Gonzales, Lyons in his fourth year at Triple-A, Cooney and John Gast.
Gast is an interesting story, trying to come back from shoulder ailments and trying to earn his way back onto the 40-man roster. The ultimate goal is St. Louis, where he made three starts in 2013 before getting hurt.
I had Gast in the limbo status before spring camp, not knowing if he would be ready. As a result, prospect Mike Mayers has to return to Springfield.
The big arms who should be at the back of the pen are the ones we saw in big league camp this spring – Tuivailala and Mitch Harris. Nick Greenwood and Dean Kiekhefer offer a nice one-two punch from the left side.
I had six of the eight relievers pegged, but missed on lefty Justin Wright and righty Heath Wyatt. Apparently the two will not be back with the Redbirds to open 2015. If they are with Springfield, it will give that pen, a weak point last season, some definite experience.
One of the two I missed, Boone Whiting, I really didn’t miss. I had him in limbo status since it seemed clear there was no room for the right-hander in the rotation, a point which proved to be correct. I noted a move to relief was possible and that is what happened.
The other addition to the pen, Rule 5 pick Tyler Waldron, remains an unknown to me. Last season for the Pirates, the right-hander pitched at three levels – from A-Advanced to Triple-A.
It has been pretty clear all along that veteran Easley and Triple-A rookie Stanley would share the job. Third catcher Travis Tartamella would be my guess as to the player destined for the disabled list to reach 25 players on Opening Day.
Having two first sackers would be a bit unusual, but I had thought there was a chance for both Xavier Scruggs and Jonathan Rodriguez to make the team. The latter moved up to Memphis for the first time in August when Scruggs made his MLB debut.
Both have been playing some outfield and Rodriguez can also cover third base. As it turned out, both will be back at their respective levels for a second season, specifically with Rodriguez returning to Springfield. It is not like Memphis does not have plenty of multi-positional players already, but Rodriguez has more power and a better on-base mark than many.
As we should see in the Springfield and Palm Beach roster articles coming, this will almost certainly cause other first basemen to not be able to move up as rapidly, as well.
Now, let’s move to the rest of the infield and the outfield.
|2B adds||SS adds||3B adds||OF adds|
|2B misses||SS misses||3B misses||OF misses|
|A Diaz (12)||Pham (13)|
With the additions of Anna and Kelly to the organization over the winter, it seemed clear that Garcia would return to the Redbirds. Garcia and Kelly should be the primary second basemen, but will also play all over.
Anna is a natural shortstop, but so is the player I missed among this group in Matt Williams. In hindsight, I should have taken to heart manager Mike Shildt’s praise of Williams while at Springfield. Still, I wonder how much playing time could be ahead for him at Memphis, though.
Coming into Major League camp, I expected Cuban signee Aledmys Diaz to be given a longer audition. However, the organization is still playing it very safe with the shortstop’s shoulder and will basically have him reset to where he started 12 months ago - Springfield.
Coming off his success at the Arizona Fall League and especially again during big league camp, I thought Jacob Wilson may have played himself into contention for Memphis, especially when Diaz played sparingly. Then again, consider my Williams remark above. Given the numerous competitors for infield at-bats with the Redbirds, the organization likely decided Wilson would be better off starting every day at Springfield.
This is a rare example in which I sense that bringing in players from the outside - in this case, two middle infielders in Anna and Kelly - may inhibit the pace of player development. Only to provide Pete Kozma competition in big league camp perhaps did they not decide last winter to go with a Memphis middle infield of Garcia, Wilson, Diaz and Williams. The cupboard at Springfield would not have been bare, either, with Breyvic Valera and Alex Mejia still among those experienced hands left at Double-A.
No mystery here. The veteran leader among the position players, Moore, is back for another season. Any of the middle infielders could be his reserve.
Returnees Piscotty and Ortega were easy predictions for the 2015 Redbirds. So was another shot at the level for Mike O’Neill, who actually had more Triple-A at-bats in 2013 than he did last season.
I will close with a reminder of how fast things can change. One year ago at this time, the Cardinals had a glut of Triple-A outfielders. This spring, they ended up falling short of viable candidates.
Before camp, I had predicted that Tommy Pham would reclaim the centerfield job in Memphis. As it turned out, he is on St. Louis’ DL instead. With no clear centerfielders ready to come up from Springfield, the Cardinals instead acquired Brown off the waiver wire. Unlike the infield, the Cards had no good internal options, so the Brown move seems to make a lot of sense.
So, there you have it. The “almost” 2015 Memphis Redbirds, a club with a lot of familiarity and experience, headlined by some exciting young talent we should be seeing in St. Louis soon.
Stay tuned to The Cardinal Nation for Springfield and Palm Beach roster information this week.
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To see the full 2014 season-ending rosters by level and position for the entire Cardinals system on one page, along with every transaction all season long, check out the Roster Matrix, always up-to-date and free at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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