While the other three minor league affiliates of the St. Louis Cardinals released preliminary rosters, the A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals did not – holding their information until Thursday afternoon.
It is an interesting roster with 13 pitchers and 12 position players. In the latter group are two catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.
The new “Beach Birds” roster includes six returnees from the season-ending 2015 club, one Rule 5 addition (reliever Michael Heesch), nine players up from Class-A Peoria, one player down from Springfield (pitcher Silfredo Garcia), six promotions from State College (skipping over Peoria) and two all the way up from the Gulf Coast League (reliever Rowan Wick and second baseman Andrew Brodbeck).
The first two starters to get the ball from manager Oliver Marmol in games 1 and 2 of the regular season are promotions from the Midwest League in right-hander Jack Flaherty and lefty Austin Gomber. The former is The Cardinal Nation’s second-ranked prospect in the system and Gomber, the organization’s co-Pitcher of the Year in 2015, is ranked 14th.
Other Redbirds in the TCN top 40 include shortstop Oscar Mercado, ranked 32nd and starting pitcher Matt Pearce, 39th.
If past practice is followed, the Cardinals would spend the first month or so with a six-man rotation. At this point, however, the roster shows five starters and eight relievers. The announced rotation is Flaherty, Gomber, Blake McKnight, Pearce and the second lefty, Ian McKinney.
Update: Though he was initially listed among the team's relievers, Jacob Evans has been confirmed as the sixth member of the initial rotation and will start the club's fourth game, after McKnight and ahead of Pearce in the sequence. That splits up the rotation - R-L-R-L-R-L.
The Cardinals sport the 2015 closers from both clubs immediately below in Peoria’s Kyle Grana and State College’s Pedro Echemendia.
Bullpenners with Florida State League experience include Kevin Herget, Cody Schumacher and Silfredo Garcia, all right-handers. The two lefties are Jacob Evans, the organization’s sixth-rounder last June who is up from State College and Heesch, a Rule 5 addition from the Cubs.
The final member of the Palm Beach bullpen has played for the club before – but as an outfielder. I am referring to Rowan Wick. The former slugger was remade into a pitcher after 33 games with the Beach Birds to open 2015. The 23-year-old, a hard-throwing right-hander, is making a big leap from the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Steve Bean, who received high marks from coaches for his offensive improvement this spring, has moved up after two seasons at Peoria. He is being joined by Jesse Jenner, St. Louis’ seventh-round pick from last June.
Steady Casey Grayson should be the regular first baseman after his promotion from State College.
Former independent leaguer Mikey Reynolds hit well in spring camp and is joined by Brodbeck, St. Louis’ ninth-rounder from last June. The latter, like Wick, is making the big leap from the GCL into high-A.
Peoria’s regular shortstop in 2015, Oscar Mercado, is making the logical one-level jump.
Danny Diekroeger is back for another season at the hot corner, joined by Allen Staton, a free agent who finished 2015 at Palm Beach after a strong introduction at Johnson City.
Blake Drake is the lone holdover in the outfield. He is joined by Nick Thompson, up from Peoria, plus intriguing power bat Orlando Olivera and Michael Pritchard, a one-time free agent who was an all-star in both seasons as a professional.
Among those who finished last season with Palm Beach but who are not currently accounted for include starting pitchers Luke Weaver and Will Anderson. Both should be on the DL, likely at this level. Same with shortstop Juan Herrera.
In a bit of a surprise, two second basemen, Mason Katz and Darren Seferina, are inactive to open the season. I was aware that Katz was coming back from injury, but not Seferina. In fact, I saw the latter hit a long homer in spring action as recently as March 24.
So, that concludes our initial look at the out-of-the-gate version of the 2016 Palm Beach Cardinals. It is a club with considerable star power at the top of the rotation and a potentially strong bullpen. Power and run-scoring may be a challenge for the offense, especially given the injuries.
Chris Greene is back for another year with his weekly notebooks covering the Beach Birds, posted each Wednesday morning all season long, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
Stay tuned to The Cardinal Nation for more Cardinals system full-season and extended spring training roster information and analysis this week.
To see the entire Cardinals system by level and position, along with free agents and every transaction all year long, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
© 2016 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.