Brian Walton / The Cardinal Nation

With three rosters known, Brian Walton shares thoughts and questions about Cardinals minor league placements

With three rosters down and one to go, Brian Walton shares some of his thoughts and questions about Cardinals minor league placements.

With Thursday evening’s Opening Day to the 2016 Minor League Baseball season rapidly approaching, three of the four St. Louis Cardinals full-season affiliates have shared their tentative rosters. The fourth, the Class A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals, has not.

These rosters are reflected here at The Cardinal Nation. Underneath the site logo, click on PROSPECTS > MiLB Rosters/Player Pages at any time to view them.

In none of the cases, have those players earmarked to open the season on the disabled list been identified. That is also the case for those players at the lower levels bumped down to extended spring training camp.

During this interim period, while all the information is not yet available, I am tracking rosters and want to share my thoughts.

Let’s start with the three rosters known. (Click on the highlighted team names to be taken to their individual detailed articles, already posted.

Memphis

Unless there are more injuries in St. Louis, the Redbirds’ roster appears set on the position player side, with 12 hitters on the club. Of course, that will change in a few weeks when Eric Fryer, Aledmys Diaz and Jeremy Hazelbaker are no longer needed in St. Louis. In the meantime, that created opportunity at Memphis for Alberto Rosario, Alex Mejia and Nick Martini, who all have prior Triple-A experience.

On the pitching side, the club is carrying 16 pitchers for 13 openings. It seems likely that the top two pitchers in the rotation, lefties Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney, will open the season on the disabled list. One other pitcher needs to be deactivated. My guess is reliever Tyler Waldron, who like Cooney, missed most of the spring and could require time to get up to playing speed.

Springfield

The Double-A Cardinals’ roster seemed complete – until Aledmys Diaz was called up to join St. Louis on Monday. That meant shortstop Alex Mejia, who was on Springfield’s tentative roster, was returned to Memphis. At this point, Mejia’s Springfield replacement has not been named, but my guess is Andrew Sohn, who has filled in there before.

I did show two inactive players on the Double-A roster in Alex Reyes and Robby Rowland because I know for sure what is up with them. The former has 40 games to go on his drug suspension and the latter will miss much of the season while recovering from elbow surgery.

Along with Sohn, two other 2015 Springfield players who are yet to be accounted for are pitchers Silfredo Garcia and Chris Perry. I know the former had some physical issues early in camp, but am unaware of any problem with the latter. Perhaps one or both will open with Palm Beach - or on the Double-A DL. I will find out about them as soon as I can.

Peoria

The Class-A Midwest League affiliate was first to share its roster. Again, no injured players were listed, though I noticed that one of the local papers identified 2015 first-round outfielder Nick Plummer is scheduled to join the club when physically ready. He missed much of spring camp with a wrist injury.

If accurate, it would seem the organization was not discouraged by the comparable plan last season with Magneuris Sierra. Sierra struggled in the MWL and was moved down to rookie-level Johnson City to complete the summer.

Three 2015 Peoria players made the jump over Palm Beach to open this season with Springfield. Outfielder Harrison Bader and third baseman Paul DeJong should stick. However, catcher Luis Cruz may just be a placeholder until the Brayan Pena dominoes fall in a few weeks. When Yadier Molina’s back up returns to action, Fryer, Rosario and Cruz will likely each move down.

From the 2015 season-ending Chiefs, I am projecting infielder Josh Swirchak to open in extended spring training. He did not make Peoria out of spring camp and as you will read below, Palm Beach seems well-stocked on the infield already.

Palm Beach

By process of elimination, I can pretty much fill out the Palm Beach roster. This is all just my guesses at this point, but I am betting it is pretty close to what we will see on Thursday.

Pitchers

http://www.scout.com/player/180084-daniel-poncedeleon?s=321

I have 12 players repeating the level, led by starting pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon. The rest of the six-man rotation appears to be the starting five who ended last season with Peoria, headlined by Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber. Injured are Luke Weaver and Will Anderson. (While I know Weaver will open on a DL, it could be the Springfield DL, rather than Palm Beach, but I do not assume promotions until confirmed. So for now, he remains on my Palm Beach list.)

I only list six active relievers, which may be one short. Kyle Grana seems slated to close, with Rule 5 addition Michael Heesch the only left-hander. I thought free agent signee, lefty Bob Wheatley, might get the final pen spot, but he seemed a bit shaky in spring training. We will have to see.

http://www.scout.com/player/180422-kyle-grana?s=321

Harley Holt was a late 2015 addition to Palm Beach from Johnson City, so would seem short on experience. On the other hand, the right-hander is 24 years old, so needs to get moving. I left him on the roster.

Though there was some talent in the 2015 State College rotation, none of them made Peoria, squeezed out by the three aggressive promotions from the Gulf Coast League of Sandy Alcantara, Junior Fernandez and Derian Gonzalez. It would be a challenge for any of the State College starters to leap Peoria, though Jacob Evans could be a possibility, especially if moved to relief.

Right-hander Jery Then was among the rehabbers in spring camp and I did not see him pitch. He seems a likely person to open on the DL or he could simply be assigned to extended spring training.

Position Players

With 12 pitchers on my list plus one to be added, I could include 12 active position players. I jumped four players up from State College. To be honest, they were needed to simply fill out the roster.

http://www.scout.com/player/169789-steve-bean?s=321

Starting with catcher, Steve Bean seems the clear successor to Carson Kelly for 2016. With Peoria carrying three backstops, the most likely available catcher is 2015 draftee Jesse Jenner.

There would be no clear first baseman on the Palm Beach roster unless Casey Grayson moves up from the Spikes.

Same in the outfield, as I had only Blake Drake and Nick Thompson listed initially. I added Orlando Olivera and Michael Pritchard from State College to complete my four projected promotions from the New York-Penn League.  

Moving to the returnees, I show three second basemen. Mason Katz was cleared to start hitting late in camp after a leg injury and could be the one to open on the DL. He could also be in the first base mix, though. Darren Seferina looks to be the starter at second with free agent signee Mikey Reynolds the infield reserve. The latter had a very strong spring with the bat.

http://www.scout.com/player/191523-darren-seferina?s=321

At short, Juan Herrera remains out, clearly slated to open on the DL, with Oscar Mercado stepping up from Peoria to be the regular shortstop.

Danny Diekroeger was the regular third baseman at Palm Beach for much of 2015. He can also play some second and some first as well. If Grayson isn’t promoted, they could play Diekroeger at first, perhaps.

Allen Staton was a hitting sensation at Johnson City last summer after signing as a non-drafted free agent. The third baseman finished the 2015 season at Palm Beach and could get the call to return. An alternative could be utilityman Cole Lankford from State College, who can also play first, second and the outfield.

Projected Palm Beach roster as of April 5, 2016

Palm Beach (25+5)      
SP RP C 1B
Anderson (DL) Herget Bean  Grayson
Poncedeleon  Grana Jenner  
Pearce Frey    
Weaver (DL) McKnight     
Flaherty  Heesch (L)    
Gomber (L) Then (DL)    
McKinney (L) Holt     
D Perez (L) another reliever    

 

2B SS 3B OF
Katz (DL) Herrera (DL) Diekroeger Drake 
Seferina  Mercado  Staton Thompson 
Mi Reynolds     Pritchard
      Olivera

So, that is it. My later-term assessment of the Cardinals minor league rosters and some of the questions to still be answered in the hours and days ahead.

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

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