With the unprecedented level of international signings since July 2nd swelling the ranks, adding 23 new players to the organization at last count, the DSL Cardinals roster is jammed. Though most of the signings are for the 2017 season, there are so many players that the Cardinals have added a second team in the current Dominican winter instructional league.
To be specific, the current DSL Cards roster count is 56 players. Even after upcoming promotions to the US and injuries next spring that will put some on the disabled list, the active total will need to get all the way down to 35 by the time the 2017 Dominican Summer League schedule opens in late May.
Of course, one way to help get there is by pruning players from the ranks who are considered less competitive. So it was last week when the Cardinals released four players – two pitchers and two position players – taking that total down to 52.
In addition to less-than expected performance, a common thread is that all will celebrate their 20th birthdays by the time the next DSL season opens.
The two third basemen have competed in three DSL campaigns but neither displayed enough competence with the bat to be afforded another season.
Both pitchers were hampered by injury. Estevez tossed just 1 1/3 innings in 2015 and none in 2016. Nunez was signed in the following year’s class from the others, and missed his two entire seasons as a professional.
One other release
Speaking of missing seasons due to injury, here is a case that doubles up on Nunez’ misfortune.
In an unceremonious end to a long and fruitless story, the Cardinals also released right-handed pitcher Blake Higgins off the Gulf Coast League Cardinals roster. The 24-year-old, originally from Jackson (Michigan) Community College and with a commitment to Michigan State, was taken in the 13th round of the 2013 Draft, but has never thrown an official professional pitch in game action.
Missing four consecutive seasons due to injury may be a record. In addition, the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder holds the unique distinction of having reached Rule 5 eligibility despite no career stats. Not that he ever would have been selected in the December draft, but it is definitely an oddity.
His problems began even before signing in June 2013 with Tommy John surgery and he was never healthy enough to be activated in any of the following three seasons, either. Higgins’ signing bonus of $100,000 was the maximum allowed for post-10th round draftees until MLB rules at the time.
Update: Wheatley re-signs
The above tweet says it all. The first known re-signee of at least 21 prospective minor league free agents from the Cardinals system has been offered and signed a contract to return for 2017, left-hander Bob Wheatley.
The 24-year-old joined St. Louis as a free agent last January after his release by the Toronto Blue Jays, who had drafted him in the 26th round in 2014. Wheatley had not advanced beyond short-season Class A with the Jays and returned to the level after not making Peoria out of spring training and pitching in extended spring training.
With State College, Wheatley allowed just one earned run in 18 innings over nine games and moved up to the Chiefs for the final month of the season, where he appeared in seven contests, all in relief. Between the two stops, he posted an odd line in which his WHIP (1.55) was higher than his ERA (1.52). A key reason was a batting average against of .313.
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