Predicting 2016 Springfield Opening Roster

The players Brian Walton sees as having the best chance of making the Cardinals’ Double-A roster to open the regular season and why.

Welcome to the third installment of The Cardinal Nation’s annual series to predict the season-opening rosters of the St. Louis Cardinals and their four full-season minor league affiliates. Today’s subject is the Texas League’s Springfield Cardinals.

The Double-A portion of this annual exercise is traditionally quite challenging, and the 2016 version is no exception. One assumption is that no players are being sent down from Memphis.

Five projected promotions from the year-end Springfield roster help create openings. There are a number of players from A-Advanced Palm Beach who appear to be ready for the step up to the Texas League, especially pitchers.

By the way, I should mention that in this exercise, players are assumed to be on their season-ending 2015 rosters – unless called out otherwise. To see the full rosters for the entire system on one page, you can also check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog, both in the present and backward for seven years.

Springfield Cardinals projected 2016 opening day roster, as of 3/18/16

Springfield (25+7)      
Mayers (STEP) S Garcia (NRI) C Kelly (NRI) * Jacobs (STEP) *
Poncedeleon (NRI) * J Lucas (STEP) * Rosario (NRI)  
Nielsen (NRI) * Brebbia (STEP) *    
Weaver (NRI) * Shaban    
Littrell (L NRI) * T Lee    
Morales  Baker    
  Aquino (L) *    
Al Reyes (RL STEP) R Rowland (NRI - DL)    
Reed (L) Perry     
  Melling (L)    
B Valera  M Williams  Diekroeger * Martini
Katz *   Caldwell McElroy (STEP) *
      Radack *
      Bader (STEP) **
  Herrera (STEP)    

(X+Y) = Active + Limbo
Limbo = DL/rehab/demote/release candidate
Bold = 40-man roster member
NRI = non-roster invitee to MLB camp
* promotion from year-end 2015
(L) = Left-handed pitcher

Roster sourcing

Returnees  11        
Promos from Palm Beach  11 Poncedeleon Nielsen Weaver Littrell
    J Lucas Aquino Kelly Katz
    Diekroeger McElroy Radack  
Promo from Peoria 1 Bader      
Free agent signees  1 Jacobs      
Rule 5 acquisition 1 Brebbia      
Acquired via trade  0        
Down from Memphis 0        
Limbo/disabled list 7 Al Reyes Reed Rowland Perry
    Melling  Donofrio Herrera  

As was the case for Memphis, due to the large quantity of pitchers, I am assuming 13 pitchers instead of the traditional 12. That includes six starters, though the club may only open with five.

More players would be promoted from below, 12, than would be holdovers from the 2015 season-ending Springfield club, 11.


Rotation: Major migration North

Mike Mayers and Andrew Morales should be back to compete for rotation berths to open the season. Mayers missed much of the season recovering from thoracic outlet surgery, similar to procedures done to Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Among the departed for 2016 are Kyle Hald and Nick Petree, both of whom retired. Alex Reyes is suspended and I have swingman Thomas Lee returning to the pen.

Four TCN top 40 prospects should be in the Springfield starting mix in Luke Weaver, Daniel Poncedeleon, Trey Nielsen and lefty Corey Littrell. All starred for Palm Beach in 2015.

Potentially on the outside looking in is another left-hander, Jimmy Reed, who logged a 5.14 ERA in his 16 starts following his promotion to Springfield last season.

In addition, our Springfield reporter Derek Shore suggests that top prospect Jack Flaherty could leap over Palm Beach and join the Springfield rotation to open the season. I don’t see how that is feasible, especially given the number of arms ahead of Flaherty in the pecking order.

While starters could become relievers, I don’t anticipate those changes occurring yet for any of the “Palm Beach Four.” It is also worth noting that all four received invitations to Major League camp this spring, while Flaherty did not. However, his 2015 Peoria rotation-mate Austin Gomber did.


Relievers: An experienced pen

Here is how I see the seven-man relief corps coming together. Assuming he is healthy, non-roster invitee Silfredo Garcia would seem to be a lock. I think he will be joined by a pair of relievers invited to STEP camp in tall Josh Lucas and newcomer John Brebbia (Rule 5), both up from the A-Advanced level.

When 40-man roster pitcher Jayson Aquino was optioned out the other day, the left-hander was specifically labeled as a reliever, despite having always started previously. Though he could eventually move faster as a bullpenner, Aquino has yet to throw a pitch at Double-A. I think he will open in the Springfield pen.

My final three spots are for returnees – Lee plus Ronnie Shaban and Corey Baker.

That leaves four relievers potentially without a spot among the active 25. Robby Rowland required surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, missing out on a non-roster invitation to MLB camp. He will certainly open on the disabled list. Feeling the roster squeeze could be lefty Tyler Melling and right-handers Joey Donofrio and Chris Perry.


Catchers: Kelly advances

Manager Dann Bilardello, a former MLB catcher, will be receiving the organization’s best hope in one day replacing Yadier Molina in 2015 Minor League Gold Glove Award winner Carson Kelly. He should be backed up by returnee and minor league veteran Alberto Rosario. I am about as sure of these two as any of my predictions in this series.

Infield: Plenty of turnover

The six-man infield corps should be a split between returnees and new faces.

While 2015 Palm Beach first baseman Luke Voit would seem to be ready for the Texas League, I have free agent signee Chris Jacobs manning first for the Double-A Cardinals. The 27-year-old Jacobs was in STEP camp but Voit was not. One should also remember that versatile Mason Katz, a natural second baseman, can catch and play first as well.

I have Breyvic Valera returning at second and he can also serve as the fifth outfielder when needed. Matt Williams, who had 61 games at Memphis last season, could be the every-day shortstop since my projected starter at the position, Juan Herrera, appears to be out due to injury again.

Danny Diekroeger and Bruce Caldwell can play multiple positions, including third. Caldwell also spent considerable time as a designated hitter in 2015.


Outfield: One big jump

Among the projected outfielders is one returnee, Nick Martini, who also has Triple-A experience. A Palm Beach outfield standout from last summer, C.J. McElroy, was again invited to STEP camp and should be promoted along with Collin Radack.

The final outfielder is perhaps the one with the highest ceiling. I have 2015 third-rounder Harrison Bader leaping over Palm Beach entirely and settling into the everyday Springfield batting order. I see this for two reasons. One is Bader’s potential. The other is that there are no other outfielders obviously more ready for Double-A.

Up next

The Cardinals’ A-Advanced Palm Beach roster will be the focus of Part 4 of this series - coming soon for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Links to related articles:
Predicting the 2016 Cardinals Opening Roster
Predicting the 2016 Memphis Opening roster

The Roster Matrix

To see the full 2015 season-ending rosters by level and position and every transaction across the entire Cardinals system on one page, check out the Roster Matrix, always up-to-date and free at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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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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