As minor league spring training camps get fully underway, development staffers continually evaluate players as they keep an eye on filling full-season rosters to open the season. Some who are viewed as less competitive are given their walking papers.
Oddly, this particular Sunday seemed especially bad for Baptists, as two of the released players went to colleges affiliated with the religion.
Pritchard was signed as a free agent from the University of Nebraska in June 2014, and earned all-star recognition in the Gulf Coast League that season and again in the New York-Penn League in 2015.
2016 was tough for the 6-foot, 180-pounder, as he had three separate stints on the Palm Beach disabled list that began with an ankle injury. Through 65 games, the left fielder had a .256/.376/.308/.684 slash line in 227 at-bats for the Beach Birds. Pritchard had no home runs and 13 RBI but continued to show a good eye at the plate, walking 42 times against 26 strikeouts.
For his three-year career, the 25-year-old put together a .277/.369/.331/.701 slash line in 191 games.
Olivera was drafted in the 38th round in 2015 from Missouri Baptist. The 26-year-old led the 2016 Palm Beach club in homers with just six, but hit only .220 in the Florida State League. Overall in his two seasons with St. Louis, the sturdy right-handed hitter logged a slash line of .265/.324/.385/.708.
Ironically, on Saturday, Pritchard and Olivera shared the designated hitter spot for Memphis against the Mets’ Triple-A squad. The latter launched a long double, plating two (captured in the above photo). Apparently it was too little, too late.
It is also fair to note that the Cardinals have recently added three outfielders who will compete for jobs at the same Double-A or higher levels for which Pritchard and Olivera were competing - Cuban free agent signees Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena and Rule 5 addition Austin Wilson.
25-year-old Ward was the Cardinals’ final pick in the 2014 draft, their 40th round selection from Ouachita Baptist. After a debut in the 2014 Gulf Coast League, the right-hander missed all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery.
Ward returned from his rehab to split 2016 between Peoria and Palm Beach. Over his Cardinals career, his ERA was 2.31 in 52 1/3 innings. Ward fanned 38 and walked just five while holding opposing batters to a collective .261 average.
In addition, three players have been released from the roster of the Dominican Summer League Cardinals. They are infielder Esequiel Delgado, pitcher Estalin Tejada and outfielder Carlos Luis, all natives of the Dominican Republic.
Originally, Delgado received some attention as a free agent, settling for a reported signing bonus of over $100,000 on July 2, 2014. Now 19 years of age, the 6-foot-1, 185 pounder, appeared in 91 games over two years with the DSL Cardinals.
The right-handed hitter dropped 47 points of batting average between 2015 and 2016 (.252 to .205) and while he had a good eye at the plate, his power was almost non-existent. His aggregate slash line was an unusual .221/.379/.289/.667.
Tejada, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, signed with St. Louis in May 2015. Like in the case of Delgado, the 21-year-old’s results dipped in his second professional season. Working exclusively in relief, his ERA dropped from 2.13 in 2015 to 4.00 last summer. Delgado struck out 53 but walked 24 in 43 1/3 career frames.
Luis first signed in November 2013. In his two seasons in the DSL (he missed all of 2015 due to injury), the 20-year-old put up a slash line of .247/.316/.322/.638 in 52 games. The 6-foot-4, 180-pounder fanned 60 times in just 174 career at-bats.
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