2006 Depth Charts – Springfield Cardinals

The third of a seven-part series on 2006 depth charts for the St. Louis Cardinals' system focuses on Double-A Springfield.

This third report of a seven-part series on the 2006 depth charts for the St. Louis Cardinals system looks at the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. The Redbirds compete in the Texas League whose roster rules are 24 active until the 30th day of the regular season and also beginning August 10; 23 from the 31st day of the season until August 10.

As mentioned in the Memphis report, all depth charts are interconnected in that predictions made at one level impact those made at another level. This creates an almost infinite number of possible scenarios. However, I tried to address only those alternate scenarios that are the most likely so I can get these reports finished before the regular season starts and renders them obsolete. The most probable alternate scenarios are listed under the heading "Variables" in the pertinent section.

Those variables increase the lower one travels in the minor league system. While the "prospects" are given more time to work out any difficulties or slumps that occur so their positions on the roster are pretty firm, overall the situation is far more fluid. Therefore, projections were not made for both bench and bullpen spots. The most probable candidates were listed with those players that are likely competing for a spot on a higher roster having an asterisk by their name.

The list of competitors/candidates is mainly drawn from two areas; those players currently assigned to the pertinent roster and those players that are projected to make a higher level squad. If I think there is a particularly strong candidate that is in neither of aforementioned groups, they are included as well.

Position Players

First Base
Known Competitors - Juan Diaz, Jesse Hoorebelke, John Santor, Andy Schutzenhofer
Projected Starter - Juan Diaz
This is a competition among non-prospects. Diaz is a career minor leaguer who had one very brief cup of coffee with the Boston Red Sox in 2003. He did a very good job hitting for the Springfield Cardinals after he was signed on May 18, 2005, going .308/.374/.571/.945 in one hundred ninety-eight at bats. He split his time between first base and designated hitter and turns 32 in a few days. The best of the rest, to my mind, is lefty-hitting Andy Schutzenhofer. His glove is superior to Diaz', he was often used as a late-innings defensive replacement for Diaz, but hit .269/.344/.347/.691 in one hundred ninety-three at bats in Springfield during 2005 before his demotion to Palm Beach in late June.

Variables -
Daubach is not the Memphis Redbirds' first baseman - Then Diaz most likely will be the Redbirds' firs baseman. In that case the main competition for the first base job in Springfield is likely Hoorebelke and Schutzenhofer. Schutzenhofer turned 25 last month and Hoorebelke is three and one-half years older. Both have mediocre bats. Santor has not shown that he can hit at class A-Advanced Palm Beach. Therefore, I do not see him as an option for this job.

Second Base
Known Competitors - None
Projected Starter - Unknown
This is a position where we go straight to possibilities. Aaron Herr, Springfield's 2005 second baseman, is no longer in the system. While I expect Palm Beach's second baseman, Jarrett Hoffpauir, to see Springfield at some point next season, I think he will start in Palm Beach so do not consider him a real option yet at this level. The Cardinals have not signed any roster filler second baseman during the off-season to fill this slot.

So we go to possibilities. There is a pending situation at shortstop which may well impact this particular job. Brendan Ryan is expected to begin the season as Springfield's shortstop with higher-upside prospect Tyler Greene starting at short in Palm Beach. It is entirely possible that Ryan will be moved to second when Greene is promoted from Palm Beach. If that is the St. Louis Cardinals' projection, then they may begin the season with a utility infielder at second to hold the position until the Cardinals are ready to make the positional change.

Given this scenario, the likely candidates for second base are infielders Rayner Laya and Milko Jaramillo and all-round utility guy Mike McCoy, who saw decent time at second last season with Palm Beach. Kevin Estrada could also be part of this mix if he does not make the Redbirds' squad. The Cardinals could also go with a temporary measure at second base until Hoffpauir is deemed ready for promotion.

Projected Starter - Brendan Ryan
Ryan is a lock to be Springfield's starting shortstop when the 2006 season begins. What the future holds for The Birdhouse's thirteenth-ranked prospect, and second-ranked middle infield prospect, very likely depends on how Tyler Greene does in Palm Beach. As mentioned in the "Second Base" section, Ryan is a strong candidate to be moved to second base, which would fill two needs in the Cardinals' system. The move would open a shortstop slot for Greene and, secondly, give the Cardinals a second base prospect in the upper levels of their system.

Third Base
Known Competitors - Matt Dryer, Vince Harrison, Rico Washington
Projected Starter - Rico Washington
Like the first base, this is also a competition among non-prospects. Matt Dryer played third base for Palm Beach last season. His main asset is that he hit twenty-one home runs in a pitcher's league. Dryer's home run total placed him in a four-way tie for the home run title in the Cardinals' system. However, his .219 batting average and .296 on-base percentage do not impress. Dryer turned 26 in November 2005.

Vince Harrison was obtained in the Triple-A phase of the December 2005 Rule 5 draft from the Red Sox organization. Without any data on what other positions Harrison might play, I moved him to Springfield to compete for the open job at third there. Harrison missed the 2005 season with a broken hand and is two weeks younger than Matt Dryer. His previous AA experience came in 2004 when he went .266/.372/.402/.774 in one hundred eighty-four at bats while in the Tampa Bay organization.

Interestingly, recent signee Rico Washington played for Tampa Bay in Double-A, where Vince Harrison last actually played, in 2005 where he went .300/.387/.500/.887 in four hundred fifty-four at bats. While he has struggled in two brief stints in Triple-A, I give Washington the best chance of winning this slot due to his success at Double-A. Washington turns 28 in late May 2006.

Left Field
Projected Starter - Cody Haerther
The left field starting job belongs to The Birdhouse's fifth-ranked prospect, Cody Haerther. Haerther is also the highest-ranked position prospect. While going .298/.333/.500/.833 after his promotion to Springfield on May 30th, Haerther went a torrid .361/.378/.681/1.081 the last month of the season. Beginning in Springfield gives him the opportunity to work on his defensive skills. Haerther turns 23 in mid-July.

Projected Starter - Reid Gorecki
Gorecki should be given another opportunity to succeed at Double-A in 2006. He was Springfield's opening day starter in 2005 where he struggled greatly until he was optioned to Palm Beach on May 30th. His hitting came around after a three-week stint on the disabled list beginning in late June, as Gorecki eventually went .286/.374/.457/.831 while in Palm Beach. He is reportedly one of the best athletes in the Cardinals' system and the Cardinals will undoubtedly give him another shot at Double-A when the 2006 season opens.

Right Field
Projected Starter - Nick Stavinoha
The Cardinals have already stated that Stavinoha will be given "every opportunity" to be Springfield's starting right fielder in 2006. Stavinoha dominated in his first round of professional ball at class A Quad Cities last season, going .344/.398/.564/.962 in two hundred fifty at bats. While the jump from low A to Double-A is a big one, Stavinoha has the age (he turns 24 in May) and baseball background (he was drafted out of Louisiana State University) to do it. He is The Birdhouse's sixteenth-ranked overall prospect and fourth-ranked outfield prospect.

Projected Starter - Gabe Johnson
Johnson's transition from infielder to catcher was slated for 2005. However the broken kneecap he suffered during an April 2005 game not only put him out of action until July but also halted his progress at catcher. The tender knee necessitated him playing first base when he returned. Johnson caught during the Arizona Fall League and will likely work on his catching education as Springfield's starting catcher to begin the 2006 season.

The bench slots at this and lower levels are very difficult to predict with any accuracy. Bench spots are almost entirely determined by on-field performance during Spring Training. Therefore, I will simply give you some of the leading candidates with their most recent level played, according to position:
Outfielders - Terry Evans (A-Advanced), Brian Martin (A-Advanced), Joe Mather (A-Advanced), Ty Parker (Double-A)
Middle Infielders - Milko Jaramillo (Triple-A), Rayner Laya (Double-A)
Corner Infielders - Matt Dryer (A-Advanced), Vince Harrison (AA), Jesse Hoorelbeke (Double-A), Andy Schutzenhofer (A-Advanced), John Santor (A-Advanced)
Utility - Kevin Estrada* (Double-A), Mike McCoy (A-Advanced)
*If does not make Triple-A team
Catchers - Brent Cordell (Independent League), Brian Esposito (Double-A)


Known Competitors - Roberto Batista, Buddy Blair, Jeremy Cook, Jose Garcia, Chris Lambert, Mark Michael, Stuart Pomeranz, Rich Rundles*, Brad Voyles*
*If do not make Triple-A team
Projected Starters - Chris Lambert, Mark Michael, Stuart Pomeranz, ??, ??

The Springfield rotation is very much up in the air. The only two locks are Chris Lambert and Stuart Pomeranz. While he is assigned to the Triple-A roster, I am placing Mark Michael at this level. He has no chance of starting the season in Memphis but does have a legitimate chance to make the Springfield squad if he shows himself to be healthy. Although his control needs to improve, Michael had the best batting average against (.224) and WHIP (1.25) in the Palm Beach rotation last season.

The final two spots in the rotation will be a competition. Batista, Blair and Garcia are all swing guys. Blair and Rundles are lefties. Since I do not have either Rundles or Voyles making the Memphis team, they are added into this mix. Whoever wins the slots will likely either have to pitch beyond what they have shown to this point or subsequently risk losing their rotation spot to one of several prospects that will begin in the Palm Beach rotation.

Closer Candidates - Cory Doyne*, Josh Kinney*, Matt Smith*, Mark Worrell
Projected Closer - Josh Kinney
Kinney is slotted for the Springfield closer role to start 2006 because I do not see him making the Memphis team. I do have Cory Doyne on the Memphis squad. While Worrell will start 2006 in Springfield, he is likely going to be given time to adjust to Double-A before moving into the closer role. Hence the job will go to Kinney with Worrell in the bullpen pool.

Lefty Candidates - Carlos Artiles, Kevin Ool, Anthony Rawson, Sam Walton
Righty Candidates - Josh Axelson, Alan Benes*, Andy Cavazos*, Justin Garza, Victor Moreno, Blaine Neal*, John Riedling*, Chris Russ, Rich Scalamandre
*If do not make the Memphis team
Mark Worrell will get one of the bullpen spots. I merely list the rest of the competitors.

Springfield Cardinals
Position Likely Starter
C Gabe Johnson (R/R)
1B Juan Diaz (R/R)
SS Brendan Ryan (R/R)
3B Rico Washington (L/R)
LF Cody Haerther (L/R)
CF Reid Gorecki (R/R)
RF Nick Stavinoha (R/R)
OF Joe Mather (R/R)
SP Chris Lambert
SP Stuart Pomeranz
SP Mark Michael
SP ??
SP ??
Closer Josh Kinney*
Bullpen Mark Worrell, Jr

  = no options left, must pass through waivers
  =<3 yrs service, one option year remaining
  =<3 yrs service, two option years remaining
  =<3 yrs service, three option years remaining
Italicized  =left-handed hitter, used for position chart

Next up: Palm Beach

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