As the major league club continues to shed players, reassigning them to minor league camp, the St. Louis Cardinals organization is releasing players from the other end of the pipeline. On Thursday, left-handed reliever Lee Stoppelman and right-hander Kevin Alexander received their release.
Stoppelman, 25, once was among the more promising relievers in the system before falling upon rougher times. St. Louis’ 24th-rounder in 2012 from the University of Central Missouri was a New York-Penn League All-Star that summer and received The Cardinal Nation recognition as the top reliever on the Batavia club plus our system-wide Rookie Reliever of the Year.
His momentum accelerated in 2013 as he reached Triple-A Memphis in his first full-season as a professional. On the way, he was the organization’s Pitcher of the Month that August (competing against starting pitchers) and we recognized him as our Springfield Reliever of the Year and our system-wide Reliever of the Year.
The Cardinals thought enough of Stoppelman to send him to the 2013 Arizona Fall League prospect showcase and followed it up with a non-roster invitation to 2014 Major League spring training camp. We had named him the number 18 prospect in the system during the winter of 2013-2014.
The future looked bright, but that would be his career peak.
Stoppelman opened 2014 with Memphis, but after yielding 10 runs in 13 1/3 innings, he was returned to Springfield in early May. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder remained at Double-A for the remainder of the season, posting an unimpressive 5.00 ERA.
His 2015 regular season began with a six-week stay on Springfield’s disabled list due to shoulder discomfort. Once activated in late May, Stoppelman continued to struggle and in mid-June, he was sent down to A-Advanced Palm Beach. Back at a level at which he excelled in 2013, this time it went much differently. In 19 games of relief in the Florida State League, Stoppelman’s ERA was 5.56.
Over his Cardinals career, his ERA was 3.47. Stoppelman struck out 208 and walked 94 in 176 1/3 innings.
Alexander, 24, was originally the Baltimore Orioles’ 39th-round selection in the 2009 draft but instead attended Florida Atlantic University. The Florida native signed with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent in June 2014 and spent most of his first season in the organization pitching out of the Gulf Coast League Cardinals bullpen. Perhaps his highlight as a Cardinal occurred on August 6 of that year when he tossed two innings of what became a combined four-pitcher no-hitter against the Nationals.
In 2015, Alexander pitched across four levels – from the GCL up to Palm Beach – splitting the majority of the season between short-season Class-A State College and Class-A Peoria. Over his two seasons as a Cardinal, Alexander logged a 3.24 ERA over 75 innings. He fanned 69 and issued 19 free passes.
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