Jodran Hicks and Nick Plummer / Brian Stull, St. Louis Baseball Weekly

A preliminary view of how the St. Louis Cardinals’ Appalachian League club for 2016 is being assembled.

A preliminary view of how the St. Louis Cardinals’ Appalachian League club for 2016 is being assembled.

The Cardinal Nation’s weekly Johnson City Cardinals Notebooks will be back for 2016, appearing each Sunday morning for the entire season, offering in-depth assessments from our local reporter. Our new beat writer is Andy Fisher from the staff of Eastern Tennessee State University. Read about Andy here.

While the official initial Johnson City roster will be released on Thursday, just prior to the Appalachian League opener, we have here a preliminary roster of 34 players. As I did with the preliminary State College roster, I decided to look at the group based on where the players came from, rather than by position. Of course, one can still get the latter perspective simply by viewing the following table by columns.

The following shows the tentative Cards by their sourcing.

Johnson City (34)              
Returnees (7)              
R Santos Yokley (ML)     Doyle (RL)     Asbury-Heath
J Mateo Parra     J Hawkins      
GCL promos (13)              
Oxnevad (L) Arias J Lopez   Brodbeck Cordoba Denton Bandes 
Oca (L)   Zavala         J Rivera
Hicks             Torres
Draft (8)              
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Sexton (18) N Gonzalez (29) Knizner (7)   Lopes (33)     Fiedler (9)
Castano (L 19) Tilley (32)           Billings (13)
Free agent (6)              
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
MaVorhis Siomkin E Garcia       Y Gonzalez  
Shew Vance (L)            


Seven members of the new roster suited up for Johnson City last season, including two Latin Americans from the 2015 rotation who made a total of 14 starts – Ramon Santos and Julio Mateo. Former starter Frederis Parra is only one of two members of the tentative bullpen to have pitched in a relief role in the system in 2015, in direct contrast to the very experienced bullpen at State College.

Among the seven returnees are two players not suiting up currently. Reliever Ben Yokley is serving his Air Force commitment and second baseman Luke Doyle has yet to serve a 50-game drug suspension handed down in February.

The other 2015 Cardinals back again are second baseman Joey Hawkins and outfielder DeAndre Asbury-Heath.

Gulf Coast League Promotions

As one might expect, the largest segment of the 2016 JC Cardinals are being promoted from the Gulf Coast League, 13 of the 34. Only four are pitchers with nine position players.

Three members of the GCL rotation are ready to move up, as lefties Ian Oxnevad and David Oca made seven starts each last summer. They are joined by Jordan Hicks, St. Louis’ third-round supplemental pick in June 2015, who will be making his official professional debut with Johnson City after missing all of last summer due to injury.  Reliever Estarlin Arias rounds out the pitching promotions. Oxnevad and Hicks, both 19, are the only teenagers from among the 16 pitchers.

Two of four catchers on the new JC roster were behind the plate in the GCL last summer in Joshua Lopez and 2015 draftee Stephen Zavala. Second sacker Andrew Brodbeck is also moving up from last season, but in between had a preview filling in with Palm Beach earlier this season.

The excitement is on the left side of the infield with shortstop Allen Cordoba, the 2015 Most Valuable Player in the GCL and third baseman Bryce Denton, St. Louis’ second-round pick last June and the youngest player on the roster at 18 years, 10 months.

The outfield is headlined by St. Louis’ number one selection last June, outfielder Nick Plummer, coming back from hamate bone surgery. He will be joined in the JC outfield by three products of the Cardinals overseas academy and his 2015 GCL teammates, Luis Bandes, Jonathan Rivera and Carlos Torres.

The players promoted from the GCL include four members of The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list from May in Plummer (8), Denton (18), Cordoba (23), Oxnevad (34) plus Hicks (honorable mention). No other JC-Cards are yet among the top 40.

2016 Draft

This group of eight newly-signed draftees may be augmented before Thursday and will probably grow some next week and beyond as well, as more players join the organization.

Half of the eight assigned to the Appy League Cardinals now are pitchers. The first drafted was St. Louis’ 20th overall pick in this class, right-hander Austin Sexton (18th round). Other new JC-Cards hurlers are lefty Daniel Castano (19th), Noel Gonzalez (29th) and Leland Tilley (32nd).

The top 2016 picks placed at Johnson City so far are seventh-round catcher Andrew Knizner and a pair of outfielders – ninth-rounder Matt Fiedler and 13th rounder Shane Billings. Second baseman Caleb Lopes, taken in the 33rd round completes this group. All were collegians this spring.

Free agents

The final group of six players were signed as free agents since last season, with one, catcher Erik Garcia, considered more of a veteran, having been a Cardinal since last October after playing college ball at Missouri Baptist. The others are four brand-new pitching signees this week in Levi MaVorhisKeaton Siomkin, Anthony Shew and lefty Ross Vance. Vance also had a brief stint in the USBL after leaving West Virginia this spring. The first three hurlers are right-handers, all with roles to be defined. At 24 years of age, Siomkin and Vance, along with draftee Tilley, are the oldest Cardinals.

The final free agent to date is third baseman Yariel Gonzalez from the University of San Francisco, an accomplished hitter at the NAIA level.

Opening Day update - Thursday, June 23

It appears the Opening Day roster consists of 36 players. Additions from the above table of 34 include three pitchers: Yeison Medina, who was sent down from State College on Wednesday, Davis Ward, who is up from the GCL last season and former MLB starter Daniel Bard, who is over a year older than his new manager Chris Swauger.

The only subtraction from the above is injured outfielder Nick Plummer, who has been placed on the 60-day DL of the Gulf Coast League for the summer. I need to get to the bottom of another rehabbing player, 2015 JC first baseman Hunter Newman, who was not listed above.

The Johnson City roster here at The Cardinal Nation is up to date.

For more

As more signing and roster information is learned, it will be noted on team rosters here at The Cardinal Nation as well as on the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog. The latter source also is tracking the status of all 42 draftees.

To go deeper on any of the Cardinals’ 42 draftees, check out this article.

By clicking on any highlighted player name, you will be taken to his individual player profile page. There, a wealth of past information about him is available – articles, injury news, photos, videos, interviews and more - all in one place.

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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