Delvin Perez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The St. Louis Cardinals have invited 30 top minor leaguers to their annual early Spring Training camp.

The St. Louis Cardinals have invited 30 top minor leaguers to their annual early Spring Training camp. Included are four of The Cardinal Nation’s top 12 prospects, led by shortstop Delvin Perez.

On Wednesday, the St. Louis Cardinals organization disclosed the names of their 30 invitees to its Spring Training Early Program or STEP Camp. The seventh consecutive year of the Cardinals’ early camp for selected minor league prospects will get underway on Saturday, February 25 in Jupiter, Florida. The focus is to provide the youngsters with extra, more individualized instruction both on and off the field to help ready them for the increased exposure likely ahead.

Here is the breakdown of the 30 by position grouping, listed in alphabetical order within.

Pitchers (11) 2016 TCN rk   Catchers (4) 2016 TCN rk
Ellis, Chris AAA HM   Chinea, Chris Peo 50
Fernandez, Junior PB 11   Godoy, Jose Peo  
Gallen, Zac GCL 31   McCarvel, Ryan SC  
Gonzalez, Derian PB 33   O'Keefe, Brian Peo  
Hicks, Jordan SC 25        
Hudson, Dakota Spr 6        
Jones, Connor SC 24        
Morales, Andrew Spr          
Oviedo, Johan DSL 18        
Williams, Ronnie Peo 28        
Woodford, Jake Peo 12        
Infielders (6) 2016 TCN rk   Outfielders (9) 2016 TCN rk
Dykstra, Luke A     Arozarena, Randy DNP 17
Edman, Tommy SC 35   Carlson, Dylan GCL 22
Mejia, Alex Spr     Denton, Bryce JC 26
Perez, Delvin GCL 3   Drake, Blake Spr  
Thon, Dickie Joe A+     Jackson, Vince SC HM
Voit, Luke Spr 46   Martini, Nick Mem  
        Mercado, Oscar PB  
        Plummer, Nick DNP 21
        Wilson, Austin A+  

These players will have a leg up on the others who will report to minor league camp later to be brought in for the day on an as-needed basis for games played by the big league club. They will have a week and a half head start in preparedness over the others and benefit from exposure to the major league coaching staff. The remainder of the minor league players will report for Spring Training on March 6 (pitchers and catchers) and March 8 (full squad).


Top prospect power

Of course, the STEP campers are many of the organization’s better prospects not already invited to big league camp, as being on the 40-man roster or as a non-roster invitee (NRI list here).

To that end, in the above table, I added the STEP camp invitees’ rankings in The Cardinal Nation top 50 prospect list for 2017. 17 members of the top 50 are STEP campers, including two of the top six (shortstop Delvin Perez and pitcher Dakota Hudson) and four of the top 12 (pitchers Junior Fernandez and Jake Woodford).

Also included in the above table are the season-ending 2016 roster assignments for each of the 30 invitees. It is the most diverse group possible in terms of experience. Every one of the Cardinals’ eight minor league affiliates are represented – from Triple-A Memphis down through the rookie-level Dominican Summer League.


Four new recruits

Two of the STEP campers, pitcher Chris Ellis and second baseman Luke Dykstra, joined the Cardinals from the Braves in the Jaime Garcia trade. Another new name is a familiar one. This free agent signee, second baseman Dickie Joe Thon, has a former MLB player as his father, like Dykstra.

The fourth new Cardinal is a former unsigned draftee of St. Louis, Austin Wilson. The outfielder spent the last four seasons in the Seattle system before the Cardinals selected him in the minor league phase of the December Rule 5 draft.


Two key international signees

A key Cuban who will making his Cardinals debut this spring is Randy Arozarena. The outfielder is the most experienced player in the club’s record-breaking international class this July 2nd period. Arozarena was signed for a $1.25 million bonus in a deal that was finalized in time for the 21-year-old to participate in fall instructional league camp.

Perhaps the most awaited new recruit in STEP camp is right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo. The Cuban’s deal, which included a $1.9 million signing bonus, was done early enough the 18-year-old could make his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League.


2016 draft class leaders

The Cardinals’ 2016 draft class is represented by seven invitees to STEP camp, in addition to two catchers in big league camp (Jeremy Martinez and Andrew Knizner).

The group includes St. Louis’ first five picks, taken in the first through third rounds – Perez, outfielder Dylan Carlson plus pitchers Hudson, Connor Jones and Zac Gallen. The other STEP campers from the 2016 draft are sixth-round middle infielder Tommy Edman and the organization’s 14th rounder, outfielder Vince Jackson.

Update 2/18

With the promotions of original STEP camp pitchers Junior Fernandez and Jake Woodford to big league camp, catchers Luis Cruz and Jesse Jenner have been added to the STEP roster, maintaining the total player count at 30. (Further details for TCN members here.)

Check the Roster Matrix

To follow all transaction and roster-related information for the entire Cardinals system, by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog. Of course, these 30 STEP campers will be called out there, as well!


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: 2017 Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Schedules

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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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