With Friday’s Rule 5 protection deadline looming, the St. Louis Cardinals protected three players by adding them to their 40-man roster. The club purchased the contracts of shortstop Aledmys Diaz and left-handed relief pitcher Dean Kiekhefer from Triple-A Memphis and outfielder Charlie Tilson from Double-A Springfield.
The former two have especially improved their stock with recent results.
Diaz, 25, is two years into his four-year, $8 million deal signed when the Cuban was a free agent. Taken off the 40-man roster in July, he almost immediately turned his mediocre 2015 results around, batting .333/.404/.574 over his final 45 games between Springfield and Memphis and earning a spot in the Arizona Fall League, where he has continued to hit with power. The question is whether Diaz will be ready to compete to replace Pete Kozma as an infield reserve with St. Louis to open 2016 after just 14 games at Triple-A.
Kiekhefer, 26, posted a 2.41 ERA in 50 Pacific Coast League appearances in 2015. The control artist walked just seven batters in 59 2/3 innings. Kiekhefer continued his stinginess in his second stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he has issued just one free pass against 14 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. Perhaps more than anyone, he improved his standing over last year, as he was exposed in the 2014 Rule 5, but was not selected. With the departure of Randy Choate as a free agent, Kiekhefer will report to spring camp with an apparent shot at a left-handed relief role with St. Louis.
At Springfield, Tilson, 22, logged a line of .295/.351/.388 with 46 stolen bases, second in the entire Cardinals system. The center fielder was a mid- and post-season Texas League All-Star. However, Tilson is currently struggling in the Arizona Fall League, with a line of .200/.313/.255. St. Louis’ second-round draft pick in 2011 should compete for a job at Memphis next season.
With these moves, the Cardinals now have 36 players on their 40-man roster. The open spots can be used a number of ways, including selecting other organizations’ unprotected players in the Rule 5 Draft.
The 2015 Rule 5 Draft will close out baseball’s Winter Meetings on Thursday, December 10.
To see the entire 40-man roster plus every player in the system by position and level and review every transaction all year long, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
Who is off?
Almost as interesting as the players added to the roster are those who were left off, eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
In our members-only Rule 5 preview here at The Cardinal Nation, we highlighted six players who had what we considered to be the best chances to be protected. The first three are noted above while the three left off are Memphis second baseman Jacob Wilson, Springfield third baseman Patrick Wisdom and Palm Beach pitcher Luis Perdomo.
Named to represent the Cardinals at the MLB All-Star Futures Game with Alex Reyes was injured, the 22-year-old Perdomo raised his visibility considerably in 2015. After a strong start at Peoria, including an All-Star berth, the right-hander’s progress slowed after his promotion to A-Advanced Palm Beach in early August, however. In the final month in the Florida State League, Perdomo posted a 5.13 ERA on the heels of his 3.68 mark at Peoria. Though some club might take a chance on the Dominican native in the Rule 5 Draft, I doubt his ability to stick.
Unlike Perdomo, I thought both Wilson and Wisdom would be protected. The question is whether either could remain on a Major League 25-man roster for the entire 2016 season. The Cardinals are apparently betting not.
Despite a poor second half, Wilson, 25, still led the entire Cardinals system for the full season with 18 home runs and tied for tops in RBI with 77. The downside is that the Memphis-area native appears to be blocked by Greg Garcia and perhaps Diaz and has no experience at shortstop. The Cardinals have also continued to carry another middle infielder on the 40-man in Dean Anna. Wilson played in the 2014 AFL.
Wisdom, 24, had a roller-coaster season in his second shot at Double-A. It began with him not being invited to MLB camp, then a slow start at the plate led to a reboot in minor league camp in May, an organization Player of the Month award in June and a drop off afterward. The 24-year-old was the only Cardinals position player named to the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game. In the AFL, he has 21 RBI in 24 games, but is batting just .237. The plus defender and supplemental first round pick in 2012 is the only true third baseman in the system anywhere near St. Louis.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Coach Carlos Reyes on Cardinals AFL Pitchers
Coming at The Cardinal Nation: More interviews with St. Louis Cardinals prospects playing in the AFL, including Kiekhefer.
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