A Second Look at 2015 Palm Beach Cardinals

How the St. Louis Cardinals’ high-A Florida State League roster compares to our pre-spring training predictions.

We have received a preliminary roster for the 2015 Palm Beach Cardinals. It still includes 30 players, so is far from final. Specifically, five further reductions will be required by Thursday’s Opening Day for the Florida State League.

In addition, there are five others who were with Palm Beach last season and/or expected to be there who are not included among the 30, nor on any other active rosters, and therefore, presumed to be in rehab or perhaps assigned to extended spring training.

I will also use this opportunity 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 tentative initial 30 Beach Birds for 2015. Listed under the DL? heading are the five inactive players mentioned above. In parenthesis are the players’ rankings in The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015.

Palm Beach (30+5)      
SP RP C 1B
Reed (L) Perry  C Kelly (11) Voit
Littrell (L) Llorens (37) Jo Gonzalez  
Kaminsky (L 3) Barraclough  Neil  
Nielsen  Shaban    
Ar Reyes  Herget    
Al Reyes (2) Sabatino (L)    
Weaver (9) J Lucas    
Brookshire (L) Nazario (L)    
       
DL?      
C Jones  Echemendia Velazco  
S Garcia       
Melling (L)      
       
2B SS 3B OF
Katz (33) C Valera  Caldwell Bosco
R Reyes Herrera (17)   McElroy (32)
  Wiley    R Castillo (36)
      Wick (28)
(x) TCN top 40 rank      

Exactly half, 15 of the 30, finished the 2014 season with Palm Beach, including top draft pick Luke Weaver, whose season ended early. Nine more are promotions from Class-A Peoria.

Four new Cards are being promoted to the A-Advanced or high-A level from short-season Class-A State College – pitchers Trey Nielsen and Josh Lucas, plus infielders Robelys Reyes and Brett Wiley, while one finished last season at rookie-level Johnson City – catcher Charlie Neil. The final tentative Beach Bird, catcher Jose Gonzalez, was acquired as a free agent during the off-season.

One-third, ten of the 30, are members of The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015, headlined by some real star power in the rotation. The group includes three top 10 players in the system in Alex Reyes (2nd), Rob Kaminsky (3rd) both up from Peoria, and Weaver (9th).

Others are catcher Carson Kelly (11th), infielders Juan Herrera (18th) and Mason Katz (33rd), reliever Dixon Llorens (37th) and the outfield trio of Rowan Wick (28th), C.J. McElroy (32nd) and Ronald Castillo (36th).

Now, let’s compare my early predictions to the not-yet-complete 30-man roster. “Adds” are the players who were not on my early guess list. “Misses” are the players I thought would be on the roster, but are not. Of course, remember that with five more moves coming, some of the “Misses” may not end up being.

We will start with pitchers, catchers and first basemen.

SP adds RP adds C adds 1B adds
Nielsen J Lucas Jo Gonzalez Voit
  Shaban Neil  
  Perry    
       
SP misses RP misses C misses 1B misses
Morales T Lee  Bean Washington
Brookshire (L) Billbrough    
Littrell (L)      

Starters

With eight legitimate contenders for six starting berths, four lefties and four righties, it will be interesting to see who is squeezed out as the club gets to its opening 25.

I would have to believe that Alex Reyes, Kaminsky, Weaver and Nielsen, a STEP camper who has really impressed, will be among the six.

I was conservative initially, missing out on Nielsen making the jump over Peoria and Andrew Morales being deemed ready for Double-A. Other misses were that I had Chase Brookshire returning to Peoria’s rotation and had Corey Littrell, who joined the Cardinals in the John Lackey trade last summer in roster limbo – meaning I did not see him making the top 25.

Relievers

The core of the 2014 pen returns with Llorens, Chris Perry and Iden Nazario. The three had 18 saves and 46 game finishes among them for Palm Beach last season.

The only members of my pre-camp projected bullpen not with the club are Thomas Lee, who progressed to Springfield, and Logan Billbrough, who was released.

I had Ronnie Shaban listed in limbo pre-camp and thought Perry would make the jump to Springfield. I also did not anticipate Lucas would reach Palm Beach from State College, as his trial at Peoria last summer was not great.

With a total of 16 pitchers between starters and relievers on this tentative roster, at least three will likely be deactivated by Thursday.

Catchers

I had Steve Bean joining Kelly up from Peoria, but the organization decided to split the two up this season. Along with Kelly, expected to be the regular starter at Palm Beach, are Gonzalez and Neil. I would not be surprised to see the latter deactivated in the final cuts. Second baseman Katz could serve as third catcher if needed.

First base

As I mentioned in the Springfield article, based on 2014 performance, I predicted that Luke Voit, not David Washington, would be the first baseman promoted from Palm Beach. With Washington not only being perhaps the most impressive hitter in spring training and his ability to also play some outfield, I can see why he received the nod for Springfield. So Voit remains and should be a potent bat in the Palm Beach offense.

Now, let’s move to the rest of the infield and the outfield.

2B adds SS adds 3B adds OF adds
R Reyes Wiley    Wick
       
2B misses SS misses 3B misses OF misses
  Vargas   Bryan

Second base/Shortstop

Last year’s core of Katz (2B), Herrera (SS) and Cesar Valera (UT) are back.

While State College had a wealth of infielders last summer, several were hurt during the season. It is especially refreshing to see Wiley, an underrated talent, make the jump from the New York-Penn League. Robelys Reyes did too. As the NYPL all-star turns 25 years of age in July, it is time to accelerate his progress.

My only pre-camp prediction miss was thinking re-signed free agent Ildemaro Vargas would stick. Instead, he was waived, with Wiley perhaps getting his roster spot.

Third base

Another under-the-radar performer, Bruce Caldwell, is back. Wiley is among others who could also handle the hot corner in what could be an infield rotation.

Outfield

Castillo and McElroy being promoted from Peoria was not a surprise, but Vaughn Bryan being sent to extended spring training and Wick moving up with the two from the Midwest League were both unexpected. It will be especially interesting to watch how Wick, who slugged 20 home runs last season, adapts to Florida State League pitching and bigger ballparks.

The three - Castillo, McElroy and Wick - will join returnee Jimmy Bosco on the initial Palm Beach roster.

So, there you have it. The “rough cut” at the 2015 Palm Beach Cardinals, a club with a very strong rotation, an experienced bullpen but some youth on offense.

Stay tuned to The Cardinal Nation for the final rosters at all full-season levels coming this week.

Bookmark the Roster Matrix

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.

Join the 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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