Random Musings on the Minors Moves (Part 2)

Second installment in Leonda Markee's new series analyzing the Cardinals minor league player transactions this winter.

Terry Evans (OF) – Evans was transferred from the Palm Beach to Memphis roster where he remains. My reaction here is "Why?" Evans turns 24 in January and went .221/.285/.330 in one hundred fourteen games and three hundred eighty-five at bats last season. He played almost exclusively in right field so did not display positional flexibility in 2005. I am baffled as to why he was protected and will be even more baffled if he starts the season with Memphis. He will be competing not only with Skip Schumaker, John Gall and Chris Duncan (if he continues to play the outfield), none of which are likely to make the major league squad, but also with off-season signees Prentice Redman, Ramon Nivar and Kit Pellow as well as Shaun Boyd who has been assigned to Memphis, as of now, from Springfield. I do not foresee any circumstance under which Evans is part of the Memphis Redbirds' 2006 roster.

Brian Falkenborg (RHP) – Falkenborg was re-signed to a minor league contract and re-assigned to Memphis. After spending most of his professional career as a starter, one hundred twenty-three starts in one hundred thirty-three minor league game appearances through 2004, he did not start at all in 2005. At best Falkenborg will return to the Memphis bullpen in 2006.

Jose Garcia (RHP) – Garcia was moved from Palm Beach to Memphis for Rule 5 protection and then moved to the Springfield roster. He was a swing man in Palm Beach with twenty starts in thirty game appearances in 2005 and did a serviceable job. However, there are better starting options for Springfield than Garcia. Both Chris Lambert and Stuart Pomeranz are likely to start the year in Springfield. Eric Haberer, Mark Michael and Mike Parisi are better long-term candidates for promotion from Palm Beach to the Springfield rotation than is Garcia. Springfield has nine relievers currently assigned to it, not including Garcia. Five of the nine ended the 2005 season in the Palm Beach bullpen. Four of those five had a better WHIP and BAA than did Garcia. It is possible that Garcia sticks in Springfield as a "stopper", a pitcher on the roster used to prevent an actual prospect from advancing before they are ready. But I do not think that scenario is likely.

Justin Garza (RHP) – Garza was transferred from the Palm Beach to Memphis roster for the Rule 5 draft then moved to Springfield. Strictly a reliever in 2005, Garza should have a shot to make the Springfield bullpen. His Palm Beach stats included a 3.57 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .266 BAA and 2.00 K/BB ratio in forty and one-third innings over twenty-nine games. The Springfield bullpen will be a pretty open contest with much depending on not only how well Garza does in Spring Training but on how well those relievers currently assigned to Memphis do.

Blake Hawksworth (RHP) – Hawksworth was shifted from New Jersey to Memphis for Rule 5 then transferred to Palm Beach. I expect Hawksworth to begin 2006 in the Palm Beach rotation with Tyler Adamczyk and Dennis Dove. If he proves to be healthy, and that is a huge "if" with Hawksworth, he should move up very quickly.

Gabe Johnson (C) – My comments on Johnson are based on the supposition that he successfully makes the move to behind the plate. Johnson was moved from Springfield to Memphis where he remains. 2005 was to be the year Johnson moved behind the plate but he appeared in only fifty-one of Springfield's one hundred forty games due to a broken kneecap suffered in mid-April. He subsequently mainly played first base because his kneecap could not handle the stress of catching. Johnson was sent to the Arizona Fall League to work on his catching where he appeared in fourteen games. Although he is probably behind the learning curve, when it comes to catching, I expect him to be the Redbirds' starting catcher to begin 2006. The only other catcher currently assigned to Memphis is free agent signee Iker Franco.

Josh Kinney (RHP) – Kinney was transferred from the Springfield to Memphis roster and remains there. 2005 was an up-and-down year for Kinney. He was quite successful as the Springfield closer which prompted a promotion to Memphis on May 22nd. However, Kinney did not make a successful transition and was optioned back to Springfield on July 24th. He went on the disabled list a week later and was activated on August 20th. Kinney will be given a second shot at the Memphis bullpen in 2006. He turns 27 at the end of March so 2006 is likely his "do-or-die" year.

Rayner Laya (SS) – Laya went from Springfield to Memphis, roster-wise. Although he is primarily a shortstop, Laya does play second base and even made a cameo appearance at third base and left field in 2005. He spent most of last season at Palm Beach where he started at shortstop during Brendan Ryan's stint on the disabled list and after Ryan's promotion to Springfield on July 20th. Tyler Greene took over at shortstop when he was promoted to Palm Beach on August 12th. Laya moved up to Springfield on August 19th He saw limited action in Springfield, playing at three different positions in nine games. Since the Triple-A shortstop job is John Nelson's, Laya's best shot at sticking in Memphis would be in a utility role. However, Kevin Estrada is both more experienced in the utility role and a bit younger (a month or so) than Laya. With Brendan Ryan as Springfield's starter at shortstop, Laya will likely compete with Mike McCoy for the utility role there.

Randy Leek (LHP) – Leek was re-signed to a minor league contract on October 22nd and assigned to the Memphis roster. He spent most of 2005 in the Springfield rotation where he led the Texas League in both wins (15) and innings pitched (185.2). Leek took Anthony Reyes' Memphis start when the latter made his Major League debut against Milwaukee and took a hard-luck loss when he allowed one run, earned, on six hits and no walks in six innings. Leek turns 29 in late April so is not a "prospect" but I think he has a very good chance of cracking the Memphis rotation in 2006 as that lefty starter.

Matt Lemanczyk (OF) - Lemanczyk was shifted from Quad Cities to Springfield for the Rule 5 draft but he will not make this big of a leap. At 25 this past October, Lemanczyk was very old for the Midwest League. He went .266/.350/.404, 110-for-413, in one hundred fifteen games and led the Cardinals' minor league system with forty-eight steals in 2005. Those stats and his speed may put him in the mix for a slot in Palm Beach but that is about it.

Juan Lucena (SS) – Lucena was transferred from the Quad Cities to the Memphis roster for Rule 5 protection but will not stay here. While he hit well in 2005 at Quad Cities with a .301 batting average, his on-base percentage was a poor .329 because he practically never walks. He is a contact hitter as he practically never strikes out either. His biggest "problem" is the position he plays, shortstop. Lucena has John Nelson in Memphis, Brendan Ryan in Springfield and Tyler Greene at Palm Beach ahead of him on the shortstop depth chart. Although he turns 22 in January which is an acceptable age for the level at which he played in 2005, he is not going to supplant Nelson, Ryan or Greene as a starter. A move to second base might be an option as he would have only Jarrett Hoffpauir ahead of him on the second base depth chart. The only prediction I will make for Mr. Lucena is that he will not remain in Memphis. (How's that for a safe bet?)

Next, I will take a look at the moves for the following players:
Brian Martin
Joe Mather
Kyle McClellan
Mike McCoy
Mark Michael
Victor Moreno
Jason Motte
Kevin Ool
Matt Pagnozzi
Jordan Pals

Check out our new "Player Awards" page, where we list all pitcher and player awards for the 2005 season. You can always find it via a link located on the lower left of our homepage.

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