As the minor league opening day is just 10 days away, the St. Louis Cardinals are preparing by continuing to release players not considered to be competitive for one of the full-season rosters and not a candidate to remain behind for extended spring training camp.
The newest cuts again total seven, the same quantity as the last two sets of releases.
The group is headlined by catcher Steve Bean, a supplemental first rounder in 2012. Also from Palm Beach in 2016 is infielder Andrew Sohn. Springfield releases include outfielder Vaughn Bryan, utilityman Cole Lankford and pitcher Chris Perry. From Peoria, first baseman R.J. Dennard was let go as was infielder Joey Hawkins from Johnson City.
Six of the seven were ones I did not see as making one of the full season teams in my recent roster prediction series. The only exception is Lankford, who I had on the Springfield roster.
Taken 59th overall in the 2012 draft from a Texas high-school, Steve Bean may have been hoped by the Cardinals to one day grow into Yadier Molina’s replacement. The compensation pick used for Bean was granted to the team for the departure of Edwin Jackson as a free agent.
However, the left-handed hitter did not develop with the bat. Playing the last three seasons in full-season Class-A ball, Bean’s batting average fell each year – from .235 in 2014 to .222 the next year, both at Peoria, to just .188 in 80 games with Palm Beach in 2016.
Bean finishes his five-year career in the Cardinals system with a combined slash line of .215/.301/.280/.581. That includes just eight home runs in 1,231 plate appearances.
On the positive side, Bean threw out 32.9% of attempted base stealers in his career (103-of-313). The now-23-year-old was a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training camp in both 2015 and 2016, but was passed over this year – an indication his stock was not on the rise.
Sohn, 23, was St. Louis’ sixth round selection in the 2014 draft from Western Michigan. The infielder spent most of last season with Palm Beach, where he batted just .194. Sohn had a better 10-game stint as an injury replacement at Springfield, but overall, has been a subpar offensive performer.
Over three seasons in the system, Sohn’s career line is .233/.320/.310/.629 in 571 at-bats over 185 games.
Bryan, 23, was St. Louis’ 35th-round selection in the 2013 draft from Broward College in Florida. The switch-hitter got out the gates well, earning an Appalachian League All-Star bid in his first partial season.
His career progress stalled, however, as he spent all of 2014, 2015 and part of 2016 at Class-A Peoria. Bryan also spent 48 games at Palm Beach and another 19 at Double-A Springfield last summer. At the final stop, his slash line was .227/.333/.254/.576. Overall, Bryan’s career line was .253/.317/.350/.667 over 1,065 at-bats.
With the additions of Cuban outfielders Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia and youngsters like Magneuris Sierra moving their way up through the system, Bryan was eventually pushed aside.
Lankford, 24, was the Cardinals’ 27th-rounder in 2014 from Texas A&M. The infielder/outfielder spent his first two summers in short-season ball before leaping over Peoria for 2016. The left-handed batter spent most of last season with Palm Beach with an 11-game trial at Springfield. Defensively, Lankford played first base, second, third, left and right field.
Overall, in 738 at-bats over 202 career games, Lankford’s slash line was .259/.304/.336/.640.
My guess is that with Lankford’s release, Jacob Wilson will make the Springfield opening roster instead, as he can play third base, along with Mason Katz. Darren Seferina could instead be moved up from Palm Beach, but that would create a log-jam with projected second-base starter Eliezer Alvarez. Katz and Bruce Caldwell also call second base their primary home.
Perry, 26, was selected in the 17th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft from Methodist University in North Carolina. Moved to relief in 2014, the right-hander advanced to Peoria and had an all-star season there, and was also named TCN’s Chiefs Reliever of the Year.
In 2015, he split his time between Palm Beach, where he excelled, and Springfield, where he struggled. Perry pitched in the Arizona Fall League following the season. However, Perry returned to Double-A in 2016, where he logged a 3.38 ERA in 37 games. He fanned 60 but walked 40 in 53 1/3 innings. Perry finished last season on the disabled list, placed there on August 26 with an undisclosed injury.
Dennard, 24, was Peoria’s first baseman last season, but did not seem to have a clear spot in 2017. The left-handed batter logged a slash line of .229/.304/.334/.638 in 2016, hitting just five home runs from a position at which power is expected.
The former Armstrong State standout became a Cardinal in the 39th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft and played at State College that summer.
Hawkins, 24, is a Canadian who attended college at Missouri State. The right-handed hitter was St. Louis’ final selection in the 2015 draft, in the 40th round. Though Hawkins spent most of 2016 at Johnson City, the infielder also filled in at three different levels as an injury replacement – at Springfield, Palm Beach and State College.
In his two seasons, Hawkins’ slash line was an anemic .134/.214/.176/.391 in 73 career games.
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