Riley Drongesen (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The St. Louis Cardinals released four players while adding a Latin American pitching prospect.

The St. Louis Cardinals released four players while adding a Latin American pitching prospect.

An early Christmas surprise was clearly not what four now-former St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers were hoping for. On December 19, the organization released four players. All were likely deemed to not be competitive for 2017.

They are Springfield right-handed reliever Chris Thomas, Peoria outfielder Carlos Torres and second baseman Josh Swirchak and State College catcher Riley Drongesen. In addition, this week, the signing of an international free agent, Mexican right-handed pitcher Hector Soto, was disclosed.

Thomas’ time done

Thomas, a non-drafted free agent from NAIA Avila (MO) University in 2012, lasted five seasons in the Cardinals system. The 28-year-old right-hander first reached Double-A in 2014, but leveled out there. The 2015 Texas League All-Star had a 12-game trial with Memphis that season, but was back with Springfield for 2016.

Or more appropriately, he was twice on the S-Cards’ disabled list for extended periods with elbow problems. Thomas pitched in just 14 games in his final season with the Cardinals, posting a career-worst 6.75 ERA, dragging down his solid five-year mark of 2.73.

Swirchak squeezed

To date this winter, the Cardinals have added two Class-A second basemen in Luke Dykstra (trade with Atlanta) and Dickie Joe Thon (free agent signing). They shed another second sacker in Swirchak, who finished 2016 at Peoria.

The 23-year-old was another non-drafted free agent, signed in June 2015 after he completed his time at Wilmington (DE) University. Swirchak finished his two years in the system with a slash line of .207/.276/.255/.531 over 290 at-bats.

Torres terminated

Torres, 24, spent six years in the Cardinals system since being a July 2nd signing in 2010 out of Venezuela. The outfielder could never put it together at the plate, with his .268 mark during a partial 2016 season at Peoria his career best.

Without power, on-base skills or prowess on the basepaths, his career seemed doomed. Torres’ six-year line ends at .242/.313/.326/.639. That includes 10 home runs and 25 steals over 908 career at-bats.

Drongesen done

Drongesen, 24, completes this list of former non-drafted free agent releases. The former Menlo College (CA) catcher was signed in June 2015.

In two years of short-season play, the right-handed hitter put up a slash line of .162/.234/.246/.481. Defensively, he threw out 40 percent of those attempting to steal (8-of-20).

Sequence of Sotos sign

The Cardinals added their third Soto in the system in recent months with the signing of 17-year old Mexican right-handed pitcher Hector Soto. The 17-year-old has been assigned to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

Soto, the Cardinals’ 25th international signee in this July 2nd class, last pitched in the Mexican League developmental academy. In brief action there, he allowed one earned run on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts over six innings.

He joins DSL catcher Carlos Soto and shortstop Franklin Soto as 2016-2017 July 2nd class members. The latter will also make his professional debut in 2017.

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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