Cardinals Maintain Minors Staffs for 2016

There are few changes in the St. Louis Cardinals player development ranks from 2015 to 2016.

Usually, I fill my annual announcement of changes in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league staffs with interesting back stories about the new arrivals. For 2016, however, there is little new to say.

The 2015 managers at all eight levels return to the same jobs in 2016. They include The Cardinal Nation 2015 Manager of the Year, Joe Kruzel, at Class-A Peoria (pictured above)

All eight pitching coaches were with the Cardinals last season, though the three at the lowest levels swapped assignments with each other.

The hitting coach side of the house has the most change. Still, half of the coaches remain in their identical jobs as 2015. Two others shifted teams while two coaches are new.

Even so, Donnie Ecker is not entirely new, as he was promoted from the fourth coach at Palm Beach to the club’s hitting coach. Cody Gabella has been hired for the Gulf Coast League job, with 2015 GCL hitting coach Roberto Espinoza moving up to Johnson City.

Gabella was an infielder in the Padres system from 2011-2012 and in independent ball last season. The 24-year-old played for his father, former minor league manager Jim Gabella, in rookie ball after being San Diego’s 43rd-round pick in 2011.

2015 JC hitting coach George Greer will focus his full efforts on the Minor League Offensive Strategist role while Springfield’s hitting coach for the last two seasons, Erik Pappas, has left the organization. Pappas joins the Orioles’ high-A affiliate, the Frederick Keys, as their 2016 hitting coach.

Speaking of fourth coaches - a one-year-only training assignment to prepare individuals for a later full-time scouting or coaching job - the organization has added a fifth fourth coach for 2016.

The first-year fourth coach role at State College goes to a former Cardinals minor league outfielder (2009-10) who will be in his first year as a non-player, C.J. Beatty. Beatty’s hiring is news The Cardinal Nation members first learned last month.

Other fourth coaches include Memphis' Robby Hisert, 30. The Amsterdam, New York native previously served as first base coach for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish and hitting coach for Southern Vermont College.

Springfield’s T.C. Calhoun, 31, first coached in the high school ranks in his native Virginia before assisting at several colleges. He was an associate scout for the Yankees in 2014 and scouted for The Baseball Factory since 2011.

Peoria fourth coach Nathan Sopena, 24, played in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in 2014. The native of Lake in the Hills, Illinois was a collegiate player at Eastern Illinois University through 2013 and returned there as a volunteer assistant coach last season.

Rather than copy or re-word team press releases, here are links for those who want to read about each individual coach – at least for those clubs who published them on Tuesday.

State College

The Cardinals organization, under Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque, announced its entire roster of player development assignments for 2016 on Tuesday.

The following table denotes 2016 as well as 2015 assignments, with changes coded.

  Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach Trainer 4th Coach
  Memphis (AAA)        
2016 Mike Shildt Bryan Eversgerd Mark Budaska TBA Robby Hisert
2015 Mike Shildt Bryan Eversgerd Mark Budaska Jeremy Clipperton Vance Albitz
  Springfield (AA)        
2016 Dann Bilardello Jason Simontacchi Ramon Ortiz Scott Ensell TC Calhoun
2015 Dann Bilardello Jason Simontacchi Erik Pappas Scott Ensell David Compton
  Palm Beach (A+)        
2016 Oliver Marmol Randy Niemann Donnie Ecker Brent Neuharth Jim Foster
2015 Oliver Marmol Randy Niemann Ramon Ortiz Keith Joynt Donnie Ecker
  Peoria (A)        
2016 Joe Kruzel Dernier Orozco Jobel Jimenez Dan Martin Nathan Sopena
2015 Joe Kruzel Dernier Orozco Jobel Jimenez Brent Neuharth Brian Pruitt
  State College (A)        
2016 J. Rodriguez Darwin Marrero Roger LaFrancois Chris Whitman CJ Beatty
2015 J. Rodriguez Darwin Marrero Roger LaFrancois Dan Martin none
  Johnson City (R)        
2016 Chris Swauger Cale Johnson Roberto Espinoza Keith Joynt  
2015 Chris Swauger Bill Villanueva George Greer Chris Whitman  
  GCL Cards (R)        
2016 Steve Turco Giovanni Carrara Cody Gabella Koji Kanemura  
2015 Steve Turco Cale Johnson Roberto Espinoza Tony Reyes  
  DSL Cards (R)        
2016 Fray Peniche Bill Villanueva Erick Almonte TBA  
      John Matos (inf)    
2015 Fray Peniche Giovanni Carrara Erick Almonte Koji Kanemura  
      John Matos (inf)    
  New to org        
  New assignment        
  Left Cardinals        

Key Cross-Organization Roles

The overall field coordinator for the system, Mark DeJohn, as well as the pitching and hitting coordinators, Tim Leveque and Derrick May, return again for 2016.

Administrator, Minor League Operations – Tony Ferreira
Field Coordinator – Mark DeJohn
Pitching Coordinator – Tim Leveque
Hitting Coordinator – Derrick May
Roving Infield Coordinator – Ron “Pop” Warner
Latin America Coordinator – Luis Aguayo
Minor League Pitching Coach/Coordinator of Pitching Analytics/Rehab – Paul Davis
Minor League Offensive Strategist – George Greer
Minor League Rehab Coordinator – Dave Meyer
Assistant Minor League Rehab Coordinator – Frank Daversa
Senior Medical Advisor – Barry Weinberg
Special Assistant to Player Development – Gaylen Pitts
Special Assistant to Player Development – Willie McGee

All of the above are returnees. It is not clear if former Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Rachel Balkovec, who has moved to the Astros, is being replaced.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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