Ronald Medrano (Brian Walton / The Cardinal Nation)

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

A preliminary view of how the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gulf Coast League club for 2016 is being assembled. Not surprisingly, the 2016 Draft class should be well-represented.

Note: The Cardinal Nation’s weekly Gulf Coast Cardinals Notebooks will be back for 2016, appearing each Monday morning for the entire season, offering in-depth assessments from our local reporter, Paul Ivice. Read about Paul here.

While the official initial Gulf Coast League Cardinals roster may not be released until Friday’s opener, I have come up with 35 individuals who are candidates for the club. As the GCL team will be the last in the organization to take the field for 2016, the candidate players are basically those still standing – any returning players plus new signees who are not assigned anywhere else in the system.

This will not be entirely accurate, but it should be very close – with the biggest opportunity for differences to be with the 2016 draftees, some of whom could be assigned to a higher level of play.

As I did in my earlier pre-season roster projections for State College and Johnson City, I decided to look at the candidates 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 instead of rows.

The following shows the possible GCL Cards by their sourcing.

GCL tentative (35)              
Returnees (7)              
Medrano  Schlesener (L)           Talavera 
  Higgins (reh)            
  Salazar (reh)            
  Ward (reh)            
DSL EST (10)              
Casadilla Changarotty  D Ortega C Rodriguez L Flores Balbuena   Rosendo
J Alvarez          Figuera     
O Diaz (reh)              
Draft signed,               
unassigned (15)              
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Hudson (1) O'Reilly (27) Lancaster (16) Trosclair (20)   Del Perez (1) Young (37) Carlson (1)
C Jones (2) Mulford (34)           Robbins (5)
Gallen (3) Gordon (36)            
Tewes (8) Calvano (38)            
Ciavarella (L 24)              
Free agent signed,             
unassigned (1)              
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Thomson (L)              
Limbo (2)              
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
C Rowland     Newman (reh)        

Returnees (7)

This group is smaller than they were at any other level of the system, with the seven returnees including just one position player, outfielder Carlos Talavera. Further, three of the six pitchers were among the rehabbers (noted above as "(reh)") when I was at extended spring training last month. Perhaps one or more are ok now, or they could open on the disabled list, on this roster or with another club.

The most prominent name from this group is right-handed starting pitcher Ronald Medrano. The $100,000 Nicaraguan signee from 2012 opened last season in the Dominican Summer League rotation before making six starts in the GCL, where he logged a 3.60 ERA.

Dominican Summer League Promotions (10)

Speaking of the DSL, I previously reported the Cardinals had sent 11 players over to extended spring training in the US. Only one, outfielder Wadye Ynfante, was later returned to the DSL to start the season. The others would seem destined to open with the GCL club.

The 10 include The Cardinal Nation’s choice as DSL Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2015, right-hander Franyel Casadilla, who logged a sharp 2.16 ERA last summer. First baseman Carlos Rodriguez was the DSL team’s co-leader in hitting with a .311 average, as well as first in slugging (.366) and OPS (.863) in 2015.

2016 Draft (15)

As I mentioned earlier, the group of draftees is most volatile and will almost certainly change before and after opening day, as some players are assigned higher up and more of the 11 still-unsigned draftees join the organization.

The top 2016 picks most likely to be placed in the GCL are the top three prep signees, first round shortstop Delvin Perez and outfielder Dylan Carlson plus fifth round outfielder Walker Robbins.

After their Monday signings, yet to be made official by the team, second and third round college pitching draftees Connor Jones and Zac Gallen are also Jupiter-bound, per a report from the Post-Dispatch.

There, they would likely join first-rounder Dakota Hudson (34th overall). Given the considerable spring workloads of the three and the Cardinals’ past care with college arms, a once-per-week GCL starting berth seems most likely, though providing bullpen help for nearby Palm Beach cannot be completely ruled out. A lot will depend on what the Cardinals coaches learn when they work with the pitchers for the first time.

Free agents (1)

Three of the Cardinals’ four recently-signed non-drafted free agents are already with Johnson City, leaving left-handed pitcher Colton Thomson from the University of New Mexico as the current lone possibility for the GCL roster.

Of course, other free agents could be signed, depending on the gaps needing to be filled.

Limbo (2)

Two players who finished 2015 at higher levels complete our group of 35. First baseman Hunter Newman was among the rehabbers last month at EST after spending last season at Johnson City. Likely he will end up back on the Appalachian League club’s disabled list, but if the timing of his rehab coincides properly, ramp up time in the GCL would not be unusual at all.

The final player yet to be assigned underwent a change that I learned about in EST, but apparently forgot to share with readers until now. Champ Rowland, an infielder in 2015, has become a pitcher. The 24-year-old, who signed last summer as a free agent from the College of Charleston, batted just .140 between the GCL and State College. So a career change in an attempt to remain employed seems a good idea, with the GCL the best place to start.

The schedule

The 2016 GCL Cardinals will open play on Friday, June 24, with noon games on Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. Saturday contests. The 56-game schedule runs through September 1, with all opponents being either the Mets, Marlins, Nationals or Astros.

The staff

Manager Steve Turco, the organization’s George Kissell Award winner in 2011, is back for his eighth season as manager and 16th as a manager in the Cardinals organization. Turco led the GCL Cards to division titles in three of the last four seasons, including back-to-back first-place finishes in 2014 and 2015.

Pitching coach and former Major Leaguer Giovanni Carrara moves to the GCL for 2016 from the DSL last season. First-year coach Cody Gabella is also on the staff, with trainer Koji Kanemura.

Opening day update – Friday, June 24, 2016

36 players are on the Opening Day roster, with 32 active. The only key changes from above are as follows:

Catcher Irving Wilson has been brought in from the DSL. The Cards decided to give him everyday time there after he was in the US for spring training and the start of extended.

2015 Johnson City first baseman Hunter Newman has been assigned to the GCL Cards and is active. He was injured for at least part of the spring. lists first rounder Dylan Carlson as a first baseman, rather than an outfielder. (Update: That seems to be an error as he started in center on Friday.) also has not noted the change of Champ Rowland from the infield to pitching. (Update: Rowland has converted. MiLB is just behind.)

Four players are opening the season on the disabled list. Along with Plummer, the other three are pitchers – Blake Higgins, Ronald Medrano and eighth-rounder Sam Tewes. The latter was drafted from Wichita State following March Tommy John surgery.

Only one of the reported 32 signed from the draft class of 42 is not yet on a roster. That is 24th round pitcher Anthony Ciavarella. I will be looking into his status.

Rosters here on the main site are now current, with a new Roster Matrix at the TCN Blog to be posted on Friday morning.

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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