Six Cardinals to the Desert
Preliminary team rosters were announced on Wednesday for the 2016 Arizona Fall League. The St. Louis Cardinals have invited six players – three relief pitchers, a catcher, an infielder and an outfielder – all of whom will be members of the Glendale Desert Dogs, along with prospects from the Dodgers, White Sox, Astros and Nationals.
One common thread among all six is their proximity to the major leagues. Four have Triple-A experience with the other two currently at Double-A. Five of the six are members of The Cardinal Nation top 50 prospect rankings, with their respective placement in parentheses below.
Left-handed relievers Ryan Sherriff (NR) and Corey Littrell (37) have demonstrated success at Triple-A Memphis, with the former a Pacific Coast League all-star and the latter in his first year of relieving. Hard-throwing right-hander Rowan Wick (39) dominated out of the high-A Palm Beach bullpen before encountering turbulence at Double-A Springfield.
Memphis catcher Carson Kelly (9) will be added to the 40-man roster this winter and is in line to make his MLB debut some time in 2017. He also played in the 2016 MLB Futures Game. Third baseman Paul DeJong (15) and outfielder Harrison Bader (4) are 2015 draftees who skipped over Palm Beach this season and went on to become Texas League mid-season All-Stars with Springfield. Bader spent time with Memphis as well before being returned to Springfield last week.
Interestingly, past guidelines regarding inclusion of high-A players must no longer apply, which invalidated several of my AFL predictions. However, I did get Sherriff, Kelly and Bader right.
Another interesting point is that the Cardinals did not name a starting pitcher – at least yet. Last year, they had two in Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver, though the latter was initially in the bullpen. Also, the organization did not announce a taxi squad player, an optional reserve eligible to play only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
My original projection was that Memphis righty Mike Mayers (25) will head to the AFL, but if he is the designee, the Cardinals may be waiting to ensure the 40-man roster pitcher will not be needed in St. Louis, instead.
The 2016 AFL season gets under way on October 11 and runs through the championship game on November 19. After a short break following the regular season and playoffs, where applicable, all six Cardinals will join the organization’s extended spring training camp approximately one week before reporting to Arizona on October 8 to ramp up again for the fall campaign.
Two Lukes Receive TL Post-Season Honors
Voit, the league leader in batting average (.301), hits (138) and OPS (.862), took the designated hitter spot, but lost out on the league Player of the Year Award to A’s third baseman Matt Chapman. Voit was also a mid-season TL all-star, and started for the North Division in the midsummer game.
Weaver, now in St. Louis’ rotation, is one of eight pitchers on the squad. The right-hander made nine second-half starts for Springfield, logging a 1.59 ERA to go with 63 strikeouts and just eight walks in 56 2/3 innings. Weaver was the Texas League Pitcher of the Month for June.
Springfield post-season All-Stars in 2015 were Arturo Reyes, Michael Ohlman and Charlie Tilson.
Lucas Back to Memphis
With the call up of reliever Dean Kiekhefer to St. Louis on Monday, the Memphis Redbirds received reliever Josh Lucas from Double-A Springfield for the third time. The 25-year-old had made his Triple-A debut in June, and though he struggled then, Lucas had a very good week with Memphis in late July.
With Springfield, the right-hander saved 16 of 19 opportunities, posted a 3.25 ERA to go with 61 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 52 2/3 innings.
The S-Cards did not immediately receive a pitcher to replace Lucas on their 25-man roster.
Anna Out Again
On Monday, the Redbirds returned infielder Dean Anna to the seven-day disabled list. The 29-year-old had just been activated on August 20 after missing 11 days. This time, Anna played in six games before being placed back on the shelf.
Overall, the 40-man roster player has appeared in 106 games with Memphis in 2016, with a line of .266/.344/.341/.685.
Caldwell Gets a Call
To replace Anna at Memphis, the Cardinals promoted infielder Bruce Caldwell from Double-A Springfield. The 24-year-old is making his Pacific Coast League debut after first reaching the Texas League in late May of 2015.
The 2016 mid-season Texas League all-star had spent the entire season with Springfield prior to his promotion, with a slash line of .251/.325/.400/.725, 11 home runs and 52 RBI in 355 at-bats over 99 contests.
Lankford Drafting Upward
Caldwell’s backfill at Springfield is utilityman Cole Lankford, up to Double-A for the first time from A-Advanced Palm Beach.
In the Florida State League, the 23-year-old put together a slash line of .293/.331/.341/.672, hit one home run and plated 23 in 276 at-bats over 71 games. Defensively, Lankford played at both corner infield and outfield positions plus one game at second base for Palm Beach.
Lankford’s replacement on the Palm Beach roster is infielder Andrew Brodbeck, activated from the high-A club’s seven-day disabled list on Monday.
Out since July 23, Brodbeck, 22, is on his third stint with the Beach Birds this season and also played six games with Johnson City. In his 25 contests with Palm Beach, the right-handed hitter has a line of .194/.264/.258/.522.
Pena Back to Birds
After a brief detour to play several rehab games in the Gulf Coast League, catcher Brayan Pena’s rehab assignment has been returned to Palm Beach. At the plate in this rehab go around, the 34-year-old is 5-for-16 (.313), including a double, home run and five RBI.
Pena has appeared in three games at each of the two stops, but has played a total of just four innings behind the plate, with the rest of time serving as designated hitter. With MLB rosters expanding beyond 25 players on Thursday, he should be returning to St. Louis shortly after.
Appy League Leader Sidelined
Shortstop Allen Cordoba, the Appalachian League’s leading hitter at .359, has been out of action one week, since August 24. The Johnson City club will not comment on the reason for the 20-year-old’s absence from the lineup, but if it continues, it will be a big blow to the club’s title hopes.
The Panamanian native leads the playoff-bound Cards in batting average and OPS (.918), is third in on-base percentage (.423) and second in slugging (.495). In counting stats, Cordoba leads the rookie-level club in runs scored (48), triples (5) and stolen bases (22) and is second in doubles (16).
Joey Hawkins, hitting .097, has been filling in at short for Cordoba, TCN’s 22nd-ranked Cardinals prospect.
Update: Gomber Active
The replacement at Springfield for Baker is left-handed starter Austin Gomber, activated from the seven-day disabled list on Wednesday to start for the Double-A club in their double header that evening.
The Cardinal Nation’s 12th-ranked prospect suffered a finger injury and was placed on the DL on August 3. In two starts with Springfield, Gomber, 22, impressed, allowing just one run in 13 innings on five hits, five walks and eight strikeouts.
Update: Pearce FSL Post-Season All Star
The Palm Beach Cardinals had one player named to the Florida State League post-season All-Star team, Matt Pearce.
The right-hander went 8-8 in 20 starts with a 2.37 ERA, third in the league. He also led the FSL in complete games with four before his promotions to Springfield and now Memphis.
Pearce tossed a team high 136 2/3 innings, giving up only 114 hits and 43 runs (36 earned), walking only 15 batters and striking out 81. FSL opponents hit just .222 against the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month and FSL Player of the Month for July.
Beach Birds’ mid-season All-Stars were Rowan Wick and Austin Gomber, now with Springfield, and Steve Bean.
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