For the fifth consecutive year after a brief interruption, the St. Louis Cardinals will be holding their fall instructional league camp in Jupiter, Fla. during late September and early October. The focus is on individualized instruction for a specially-chosen group of players.
40 young men have been invited this year, a group of 18 pitchers and 22 position players. That compares to 42, with two fewer pitchers, last fall. This is enough to have two teams, but low enough to focus on individualized player instruction.
A major difference in the 2016 camp compared to the prior year is that nine players from this June’s draft have been invited, eight of whom are position players, including a mix of former collegians and high schoolers. Last year, all June draftees were sent home following the completion of the regular season and playoffs.
In terms of experience levels, while most competed in short-season ball this past summer, the number of players at each level from A-Advanced Palm Beach down to the Dominican Summer League is fairly consistent. State College. Johnson City and the DSL are down slightly, while the GCL is up, the latter due to the addition of the 2016 draftees. Also, one player who has reached Double-A Springfield has been included.
Breakdown by level of play
|State College||Short-season A||5||7|
Over half - 22 of the 40 - are ranked among The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospects as of August. That includes four in the top 10: shortstops Delvin Perez (3rd) and Edmundo Sosa (6th), outfielder Magneuris Sierra (7th), and pitcher Sandy Alcantara (10th). All rankings are listed in the table below in the column labeled “TCN”.
The invitees include the last two TCN Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year – Sierra and shortstop Allen Cordoba from the 2014 and 2015 Gulf Coast Leagues, respectively.
On the pitching side, four returning products of the international program are especially noteworthy. They include high-velocity hurlers Alcantara, Junior Fernandez and Derian Gonzalez along with the Cardinals’ top July 2nd signing from 2015, Alvaro Seijas.
Also included are the Cardinals’ two biggest international signings of 2016, both Cubans - outfielder Jonatan Machado ($2.3 MM) and pitcher Johan Oviedo ($1.9 MM). The two are following the same path through instructs after signing as did Fernandez two years ago and Seijas in 2015.
Also noteworthy from the DSL contingent is 2016 league home run and RBI champion Brian Sanchez. The 20-year-old outfielder will be making his first US appearance at instructs.
Draftees heading to instructs include the top three high school players selected by the Cardinals this June in Perez plus outfielders Dylan Carlson and Walker Robbins.
The top collegian from this draft to attend is fourth rounder, catcher Jeremy Martinez. Other notables taken later, but having received extra money to sign, are pitcher John Kilichowski and second baseman J.D. Murders. The rounds of all 2016 draft selections are included in the “Draft” column in the table below.
Half of the pitchers in camp are returnees. Nine of the 13 invitees who also attended instructional league in 2015 are hurlers. In contrast, just four of the 22 position players were in last fall’s camp – Sosa, Cordoba, Sierra and shortstop-turned-center fielder Oscar Mercado. This group is distinguished in the column entitled “Ret”.
|Position Players (22)||Pos||Tm||TCN||Ret||Draft|
|Plummer, Nick (rehab)||OF||GCL||14|
The Cardinals’ top three 2016 draftees from the college ranks – pitchers Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones and Zac Gallen – are among those not attending. That is expected.
Another uninvited pitching prospect for whom workload may be a concern include Palm Beach’s Jack Flaherty (fifth-ranked prospect). Flaherty did not participate in instructs in 2015, either.
The regular season of his teammate, second baseman Darren Seferina (30th-ranked) ended early due to injury. As noted above, 2015 first rounder Nick Plummer will continue rehabbing his surgically-repaired hand in camp.
Camp begins on Thursday, September 15 with pitchers reporting on Sunday the 18th. The schedule is 10 days shorter than in 2015. The 13-game slate consists of six camp days, in which the Cardinals will play each other, along with seven games against external competition – four against the Marlins and three versus the Mets, the latter which includes quarterback-turned-baseball player Tim Tebow. The heavy camp day focus is required due to the uneven number of teams in the area.
Still, there will be a game at the Cardinals complex every day. On the camp days, the two St. Louis squads will face each other. When facing the Mets and Marlins, one contest will be held at each team’s facility.
First games are on Saturday, September 24 and the schedule concludes on Thursday, October 6 with camp breaking the next day.
A number of Cardinals minor league managers and coaches will participate in some or all of instructs, led by camp coordinator Mark DeJohn. The system’s coordinators will also be present, including George Greer (hitting), Tim Leveque (pitching) and Ron “Pop” Warner (infield).
Last year's managers of the two squads were Chris Swauger and Roberto Espinoza, the latter pictured with Greer and three players in the main photo accompanying this article.
In addition to the 40 regular invitees, the Cardinals’ Arizona Fall League contingent of seven players is expected to again be in Jupiter for the final week of camp. After several weeks off, they will ramp up again for their time in the desert by participating in the Instructional League.
This group includes pitchers Austin Gomber, Rowan Wick, Ryan Sherriff and Corey Littrell, plus catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Paul DeJong and outfielder Harrison Bader.
The AFL players will move to Arizona on October 8 for the new season that begins on October 11. They will be members of the Glendale Desert Dogs.
More from The Cardinal Nation
As has been the case for more than the last decade, I will be reporting first-hand from both the Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League, continuing The Cardinal Nation’s direct coverage of Cardinals prospects at a level not provided anywhere else.
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