Carson Kelly (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images)

A recap of St. Louis Cardinals-related news from the period of January 16-22, 2017

Last week’s St. Louis Cardinals news includes prospect rankings, Hall of Fame disappointment, a Hot Stove ember and leftovers from Winter Warm-Up.

Two Cardinals prospects tops at their positions

MLB Pipeline has released its Top Ten Prospects lists by position and two St. Louis Cardinals are included - pitcher Alex Reyes and catcher Carson Kelly.  Reyes was named the No. 1 right handed pitching prospect, while Kelly is their top catching prospect in the game.

Reyes unseats White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito, who was the No. 1 RHP prospect for 2016.  Reyes is followed by Pirates prospect Tyler Glasnow, while Giolito fell to No. 3 on the list.  Reyes made his major league debut for the Cardinals on August 9, 2016, starting in five games and making 12 total appearances, for a record of 4-1 and an ERA of 1.57 in 46 innings pitched.

http://www.scout.com/player/174617-alex-reyes?s=321

Kelly makes the 2017 list as top catcher following the graduation from prospect status of Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras and Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, the two top-rated catchers from the 2016 list.  Kelly was drafted by the Cardinals as a third baseman, but the organization quickly saw Kelly’s future as as a catcher and groomed him to follow in Yadier Molina’s footsteps.  Kelly already has one minor league Gold Glove under his belt and his defensive abilities are well known in the prospect world.  His offense is a work in progress but is showing promise.

http://www.scout.com/player/161612-carson-kelly?s=321

Kelly made his major league debut on September 5, 2016 and appeared in 10 games with the Cardinals.  It is expected Kelly will begin the 2017 season with the Memphis Redbirds, while Reyes seems slated for a spot in the Cardinals’ starting rotation.

 

Reduced playing time for Molina not in the cards

Out of the many things that came out of the Winter Warm-Up, the subject of playing time for Yadier Molina - which has been debated strongly over the last several years by both media and fans - has seemingly been resolved.  Manager Mike Matheny told the assembled press that he doesn’t see Molina’s playing time as an issue, and he intends to play him as much as both he and Molina see fit.  The manager disagrees with the notion that the 34 year old catcher has been overworked.  Matheny sees his job as winning games, therefore not putting Molina in the lineup every day is inconsistent with that goal.

http://www.scout.com/player/67461-yadier-molina?s=321

Molina caught a career high 142 games in 2016, managing to stay healthy despite two offseason thumb surgeries and a history of knee issues.  Whether that health will continue as he ages remains to be seen.

Molina’s streak of eight consecutive Gold Glove Awards came to an end in 2016, as he lost out to Giants’ catcher Buster Posey for that honor.

 

Hacking penalty expected soon

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told the media during the Winter Warmup that he expects a decision from the Commissioner’s Office concerning the investigation of the “hacking” case to be announced later this month or at the start of February.

The case concerns illegal intrusions by former Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa into the systems of the Houston Astros that came to light at the beginning of 2015.   Correa was charged, tried, and convicted in Federal Court last summer and is serving a four year sentence in federal prison.

The Commissioner’s office has been conducting its own investigation into the case, separate from the federal criminal case, and a final determination in that investigation has been delayed.  While there has been no indication that cooperation from Correa was received, the Commissioner’s office has indicated they have received some information from federal authorities to aid their investigation.

Possible penalties to the Cardinals have been speculated and debated upon over the last two years, despite no official indication that anyone in the organization other than Correa was involved.  Some type of penalty is expected, however, whether that be merely financial or some punishment in terms of draft picks or other punitive measures.

The Cardinals conducted their own investigation, now concluded, in which it was determined that Correa acted alone.  The Cardinals have stated they have fully cooperated with the Commissioner’s investigation and will react to whatever punishment is imposed.

 

Former Cardinals fell short on Cooperstown ballot

Five former Cardinals appeared on the ballot for the 2017 Hall of Fame class, but none of the five garnered sufficient support to be selected for the honor, the highest in baseball for any individual.

Relief pitcher Lee Smith was in the 15th and final year of his candidacy and now falls off the ballot.   Smith is still eligible for election by the Veterans Committees at some point in the future.  Smith received 34.2 % of the vote, down from a high of 50% in 2012.  The requirement for selection is 75%.  Smith was MLB’s all-time saves leader from 1993 until 2006.

Outfielder Larry Walker, who played for the Cardinals from 2004-05, received 21.9% of the vote, an increase from 15.5% last year.  Walker received his highest vote count, 22.9% in 2012.  Walker has three more years of eligibility.

Also on the ballot were Edgar Renteria, Arthur Rhodes, and J.D. Drew, none of whom received the requisite 5% vote to remain on the ballot another year.

 

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

During Winter Warm-Up, club officials reaffirmed their interest in adding a left-handed hitting outfielder. This will likely be via free agency and perhaps on a minor league contract, given the 40-man roster is currently full.

 

Transactions

There are no transactions to report.

 

Injury Report

LHP Zach Duke is reportedly doing well in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.  The team thinks that Duke may be able to pitch before the end of the 2017 season.

http://www.scout.com/player/53062-zach-duke?s=321

As noted here last week, outfielder Randal Grichuk disclosed during Winter Warm-Up that he had surgery to remove loose cartilage from his left knee and should be ready to go this spring.

 

Looking Ahead

Cardinals pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha have filed for arbitration and along with the team have submitted salary numbers for 2017.  Martinez and the team are $350,000 apart, while the difference between Wacha and the club is $425,000. From January 30 through February 17, arbitration hearings will taking place in Phoenix, Arizona in which one or the other amount will be selected.  A settlement between the team and either or both pitchers is still possible up until their hearings.  Should the Cardinals reach an agreement with Martinez and/or Wacha, an announcement should be forthcoming within the next several weeks.  The Cardinals have not been to an arbitration hearing with a player since 1999, but hardened their stance this year.

Spring Training begins in mid-February, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report on February 14, and position players on February 17.  The first spring training game is scheduled for February 25 against the Miami Marlins. The full Spring Training schedule can be found here.

Several St. Louis players will be participating in the World Baseball Classic, which begins on March 6.  The players are Seung Hwan Oh (Korea) Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez (Dominican Republic), Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico) and Matt Carpenter (USA).  All five players will miss some of Spring Training to take part in the Classic.  Information about the tournament, including the schedule and pools, can be found at www.worldbaseballclassic.com.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Farm Director Gary LaRocque (two-part interview)

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