Mike Mayers (Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports Images)

How contenders have performed in St. Louis Cardinals major league spring training camp to date.

What can performances tell us about roster competition in 2017 St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp? Mike Mayers, Ryan Sherriff and Harrison Bader are among the quieter standouts.

Welcome to our second look at how the less-experienced roster contenders are performing in spring training camp. With two weeks remaining in camp, the key contenders for roster spots have remained healthy and several cuts have been made. The most recent was outfielder Magneuris Sierra sent down on Wednesday.

In past years, I focused these reports on top prospects and non-roster invitees, but for 2017, I have expanded the scope slightly – to include all of those contending for a spot on the opening day roster.

As I spelled out in my St. Louis opening roster prediction article posted Wednesday, the only roster battles seem to be for a bullpen spot and the reserve outfielder – and there seems clear front-runners for both.

But even for those with almost no chance to make the team now, despite there being no roster space immediately, making a good impression now can pay off later.

Of course, the usual small sample size warnings are relevant. Think of this as a hot-lukewarm-cold look from one period that could and likely will change substantially from one week to next.

 

The team

The club got off to a fast start, but has cooled down with a 2-2-2 record over the last week, dropping their overall record to a still-solid 11-5-3. The pitching remains ahead of the hitting – with the latter on a recent downturn.

St. Louis’ staff has a cumulative ERA of 3.43. Though that is up from 3.09 last week, it is still the very best among the 30 MLB teams this spring. The team hitting is sliding, though. After just a .223 mark over the last six games, the spring team batting average is down 20 points from .288 through last week to .268 now. That puts the Cards at 15th in MLB. They are also 15th in runs scored with 101. 

 

The players

The Cardinals opened big-league camp with 68 players invited, with 40 on the 40-man roster and 28 non-roster invitees. They were vying for one of the 25-man roster spots to open the season.

The current totals are down to 36 and 18, respectively, for a total of 54. We are tracking 32 of them, with 14 others having been sent to minor league camp this week.

This group is those about whom I will be reporting. Of course, the 32 we are now tracking here – 16 pitchers and 16 position players - will further decline in count each week as camp continues and cuts are made.

I rank each player based on his momentum – high/medium/low. I want to be clear that is NOT how I assess their chances of making the team. Players will remain “medium” unless I see as a clear reason to shift them. Note that any player without a high/medium/low assessment this week did not appear in game action.

Innings pitched (IP), walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and earned run average (ERA) are through first 21 games of the spring, coming into play on Thursday, March 16. The tables that follow are split into two groups – 40-man players and NRIs – and ordered by ERA or batting average among hot-medium-cold groupings.

 

The results - pitching

Pitchers  Top  Ros 2016 end IP ERA WHIP Mo Mo
Majors camp 50           Last wk This wk
Alex Reyes 1 40m St. Louis 0.0 DNP      
Mayers 30 40m St. Louis 7.0 0.00 0.71 High High
Bowman NA 40m St. Louis 5.0 0.00 1.00 High High
Gant NR 40m Triple-A 8.0 1.13 0.38 High High
Socolovich NA 40m St. Louis 6.0 1.50 0.33 Medium High
Tuivailala 37 40m Memphis 5.2 6.35 1.59 High Low
Weaver 2 40m St. Louis 3.2 7.36 2.18 Medium Low
Wick 40 40m Springfield 2.1 15.43 2.14 High Low
                 
Nielsen 44 NRI Springfield 2.0 0.00 0.50 High WBC
Baker NR NRI Springfield 2.2 0.00 0.75 High WBC
Lucas NR NRI Springfield 4.0 0.00 0.75 High High
Sherriff NR NRI Memphis 5.2 1.59 1.06 Medium High
Ar Reyes NR NRI Memphis 7.1 4.91 1.36 Medium Medium
Phillips NA NRI Triple-A 4.1 4.15 1.62 Low Medium
Harris NA NRI StL DL 2.0 9.00 3.00 Low Low
Schafer NA NRI Triple-A 3.2 9.82 2.73 Medium Low

This time out, I gave six of the 16 contending pitchers a high mark. The primary contender for the last bullpen spot, Miguel Socolovich, continues to just get hitters out. Notice his baserunners allowed is the lowest among all 16 pitching contenders tracked here.

I’ve talked before about the strong showings by starter John Gant and reliever Matt Bowman, but quietly, Mike Mayers has also put together a very nice spring. I am not suggesting Mayers will make the team, but it seems clear both he and Gant are positioning themselves as contenders with Luke Weaver for the next shot at starting for St. Louis during the season.

http://www.scout.com/player/135121-mike-mayers?s=321

Among the non-roster invitees, Josh Lucas and Ryan Sherriff keep putting up good numbers. I think the latter made a good decision to remain in camp during the World Baseball Classic and could fight his way into the left-handed relief picture during the season.

http://www.scout.com/player/158032-ryan-sherriff?s=321

In addition, a medium score was assigned to two hurlers. Starter Arturo Reyes and reliever Zach Phillips look to be slated for jobs with Memphis after some good and some not-so-good outings this spring.

The final five pitchers in camp, three 40-man pitchers and two NRIs – are assessed as “low” or cold. Weaver, Sam Tuivailala and Rowan Wick each had rough appearances this past week. Jordan Schafer is likely out for the season and Mitch Harris is very slowly working his way back from his own elbow surgery.

 

Pitchers cut from camp

Dropped off T50  Ros 2016 end IP ERA WHIP Mo Mo
this week             Last wk This wk
Gonzales 23 40m Mem DL 0.0 DNP      
                 
Poncedeleon 36 NRI Springfield 6.2 0.00 0.60 High High
Fernandez 11 NRI Palm Beach 2.0 0.00 1.00 High  
Woodford 12 NRI Peoria 2.0 0.00 2.50 Medium  
Flaherty 7 NRI Palm Beach 7.0 2.57 1.43 Medium High
Alcantara 8 NRI Palm Beach 8.0 4.50 1.88 Low High
Gomber 9 NRI Springfield 8.1 4.32 1.20 Low High
Rowland NR NRI Springfield 2.1 7.71 2.57 Low Low

Before leaving big-league camp, four top 50 prospect pitchers each made strong appearances this past week – Daniel Poncedeleon, Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber. Not so for reliever Robby Rowland in limited action.

 

The results – hitting

Hitters  Top  Ros 2016 end AB BA Mo Mo
Majors camp 50         Last wk This wk
Jo Martinez NR 40m St. Louis 33 0.424 High High
An Garcia NR 40m Memphis 24 0.250 Medium Medium
Valera 39 40m Memphis 20 0.250 Low Medium
Kelly  4 40m St. Louis 18 0.222 High Low
Pham NA 40m St. Louis 34 0.206 Low Low
               
Adolis Garcia NA NRI Japan 0 DNP    
Rosario NA NRI St. Louis 6 0.500 High WBC
Bader 5 NRI Springfield 27 0.370 High High
DeJong 13 NRI Springfield 35 0.257 Medium Medium
Wisdom NR NRI Memphis 23 0.261 High Low
Huffman NA NRI Triple-A 25 0.200 High Low
Tovar NR NRI Triple-A 26 0.192 Medium Low
Lino NR NRI Double-A 4 0.250 Medium  
Fryer NR NRI Pittsburgh 21 0.238 Low Low
Cunningham NR NRI Triple-A 20 0.150 Low Low
Schafer NA NRI Triple-A 3 0.000 Low  

This period, I am a tough scorer – or perhaps it is just the overall cooling of the offense. Of the 16 hitters remaining in camp, just two are considered “hot”. Jose Martinez’ continued success has rightly received a lot of attention, but for the future, Harrison Bader’s standout play is even more important for the organization.

http://www.scout.com/player/175479-harrison-bader?s=321

I scored just three hitters as “medium” for the week. Non-roster invitee Paul DeJong continues to be solid in all aspects of his game. Joining him are 40-man roster players Anthony Garcia and Breyvic Valera. Garcia has not been flashy, but decent, while Valera had a modest, but positive 2-for-6 period.

That leaves a lot of “cold” hitters – seven to be exact. Of note are infielder Patrick Wisdom, in an 0-for-7 skid after a hot start, and Carson Kelly, just one for his last eight.

Clearly the player in the most crucial battle for a roster spot still in the deep freeze is Tommy Pham. Last week, the outfielder went 3-for-14 and is batting just .206 on the spring, including 11 strikeouts and four walks in 38 plate appearances. He does lead the team with three steals in three triess, but had no attempts this past week.

http://www.scout.com/player/88019-tommy-pham?s=321

Pham, who spent all last season with St. Louis, needs to get going to keep Martinez at bay.

Three hitters expected to contribute with veteran play at Memphis this season – Chad Huffman, Todd Cunningham and Wilfredo Tovar – are all ice cold at the plate. All three being at or under the Mendoza Line for the spring is hardly encouraging.

 

Hitters cut from camp

Dropped off T50  Ros 2016 end AB BA Mo Mo
this week           Last wk This wk
Sierra 10 40m Peoria 31 0.387 High High
Alvarez 16 40m Peoria 13 0.154 Low Low
Sosa 14 40m PB DL 7 0.143 Low  
               
Knizner 45 NRI Johnson City 3 0.000 Low  
Je Martinez 29 NRI State College 1 0.000 Low  
Ortega 43 NRI GCL 3 0.000 Low Low

There were two kinds of cuts of hitters this past week – three high-profile 40-man roster hitters and three young catchers, no longer needed due to the pitching staff reductions.

In the former group, Sierra received considerable at-bats and impressed greatly, finishing his first spring camp at .387. For Eliezer Alvarez and Edmundo Sosa, their time is still ahead.

 

For more

To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees, all transactions and more, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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