High-A – Palm Beach Cardinals
League Affiliation - twelve-team Florida State League, six-team East division
Overall Record 3 – 1
Weekly Record – 3 - 1
Current Standing – Tied for second with the St. Lucie Mets, one game behind the Brevard County Manatees (Milwaukee)
Current Week Team Batting - .217/.309/.380/.689
Current Week Pitching Stats – Rotation - 3.54 ERA and 1.38 WHIP: eight earned runs, seventeen hits and eleven walks in twenty and one-third innings pitched
Current Week Pitching Stats – Bullpen - 5.14 ERA and 1.57 WHIP: eight earned runs, nineteen hits and three walks in fourteen innings pitched
Who's Pitchin' Hot – RHS Mark Michael's line: 1 G, 1 GS, 1-0, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 1 BB, 7 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
Who's Pitchin' Not – RHR Justin Garza's line: 2 G, 2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 13.50 ERA, 3.50 WHIP
Who's Hittin' Hot – SS Tyler Greene went .286/.333/.286/.619, 4-for-14 in four games with a stolen base. The team hit .217 for the week. This is the best performance.
Who's Hittin' Not – INF Ryan Barthelemy went .125/.222/.250/.472, 2-for-16 in four games with seven strikeouts.
Transactions - none.
The Roster –
The Palm Beach Cardinals' average age on Opening Day was twenty-three years, six months. Twenty-two of the twenty-four Cardinals are home grown with only reliever Jose Garcia, a 2004 Rule 5 draftee, and infielder Ryan Barthelemy, a recent minor league free agent signee, as the ‘outsiders'. Eight of the nine Opening Day starters are Cardinals' products. The breakdown by signing year is:
2005 (5) – pitchers Mitch Boggs, Nick Webber and Zack Zuercher; shortstop Tyler Greene and centerfielder Sean Danielson
2004 (7) – pitchers Eric Haberer, Matt Scherer and Mike Sillman; first baseman Mike Ferris, infielders Chris Patrick and Matt Shepherd and outfielder Simon Williams
2003 (5) – pitchers Dennis Dove, Justin Garza and Mark Michael; catchers Jason Motte and Matt Pagnozzi
2002 (1) – second baseman Juan Lucena*
2001 (4) – pitchers Tyler Adamczyk and Blake Hawksworth, catcher-turned-outfielder Joe Mather, outfielder Terry Evans
*2004 was his first year of professional ball in the United States
Fifteen players (the 2004 and 2005 ‘classes' plus Dove, Lucena and Mather) are experiencing their first class A-Advanced Opening Day and ten of those fifteen (all except Dove, Greene, Haberer, Mather and Williams) are making their class A-Advanced debut.
The youngest group on the roster are born within four months of each other, all turning 22 in 2006: Mitch Boggs, Juan Lucena, Nick Webber and Zack Zuercher. (Side note: To illustrate how young Stuart Pomeranz is, he is over seven months younger than the youngest player on the Palm Beach Cardinals' roster.) The oldest player on the roster, by over a year, is Ryan Barthelemy who turns 26 in May. The oldest of the ‘native' Cardinals are Mike Sillman and Dennis Dove, both of whom will turn 25 in the latter half of the calendar year.
Of Note - Overall -
Palm Beach began defense of their 2005 Florida State League title by taking three of four from the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins). Two of the wins were one-run victories while the remaining two games were lopsided blow outs. After spending 2005 in the Swing rotation, Matt Scherer picked up two of the three wins out of the Palm Beach bullpen where he is currently pitching due to a glut of starters. Offensively, Palm Beach continued a pattern from last season of winning games without hitting. How do you win three-of-four when you are hitting a collective .217?
Of Note – Offense/Defense -
The most pleasant roster surprise is Sean Danielson who made the team after spending only six games at class A Quad Cities late last season. In fact there are only two position players from the 2005 signees currently on the team: first round, million dollar bonus baby shortstop Tyler Greene and non-drafted free agent signee centerfielder Sean Danielson. That just illustrates the uncertainty in projecting prospects. The experts will tell you that Greene's upside is much higher than Danielson's and they would likely be right. But the fact remains that both of them made the Palm Beach team and both are starters. Another name that is nice to see at this level is Mike Ferris who may have finally figured out that hitting thingie, the lack of which kept him at Quad Cities all last season. You may remember that my year-end summary on Quad Cities pointed out that Ferris hit a very respectable .282/.349/.474/.823, 22-for-78 in 24 games the last month of the season. Defensively, Juan Lucena has been moved from short to second to improve his path upwards. He is a talented player that currently has both Brendan Ryan and Tyler Greene ahead of him on the shortstop depth chart. On the other hand, only Jarrett Hoffpauir is ahead of him at second base. Hoffpauir's keystone partner in college, Matt Shepherd, made the team as a utility infielder role as he plays third and second in addition to short.
Of Note – Pitching -
The Cardinals' system has an abundance of starting pitching which has created a logjam. That logjam shows up most at the class A level. The Palm Beach rotation is Mitch Boggs, Eric Haberer, Blake Hawksworth, Mark Michael and Nick Webber. Currently in the bullpen are Dennis Dove, Matt Scherer and Zack Zuercher. Last season Dove was a member of the Palm Beach rotation while Scherer and Zuercher started at Quad Cities and New Jersey, respectively. (Side note: Zuercher and Boggs are the only players that ended the 2005 season at short-season A New Jersey and started the 2006 season at Palm Beach.) All are candidates for starting although some may not see a rotation slot again. Another factor in this equation is chronically underperforming pitchers that are taking up roster slots. A chief example of this is Tyler Adamczyk who is currently part of the Palm Beach bullpen. Adamczyk was drafted out of high school, a seventh-round selection back in 2001 and received a one million dollar bonus. He has not had an ERA under 4.00 since 2002, his first professional season. He has never had a WHIP under 1.40. The pressure for Adamczyk to produce will increase the closer we come to the June 2006 draft when a new batch of players comes into the system. Hard decisions will have to be made as there are also pitchers deserving of a chance that are currently at Extended Spring Training. But more on them later.
On the DL front – OF Matt Lemanczyk (swelling in arm)
Continuing the domino effect of players coming off the DL, Matt Dryer's possible return to Palm Beach may spell the end of Ryan Barthelemy's stint as a Cardinal. Barthelemy was only signed after Dryer was called up to Springfield to take Juan Diaz' roster slot when he was called up to Memphis to replace Brian Daubach who went on the DL. Whew! Statistically it is a bit of a toss-up between the two. Barthelemy has hit for better average at this level while Dryer has shown a bit more pop to his bat. They are born six months apart with neither qualifying for prospect status.
Ty Parker's activation at Springfield will likely bump Brian Martin while Brendan Ryan's activation there will probably take Rayner Laya's spot on the active roster. Both players may find themselves on the wrong side of a numbers squeeze as both turn 26 this year and may not bump a younger player from the Palm Beach roster. However, there is no set time frame for either of the Springfield activations so another player's performance and injury status may free up slots for them.
Upcoming Week – at Brevard County Manatees (Milwaukee) 10th through 12th, at Daytona Cubs 13th through 15th
Low-A – Swing of the Quad Cities
League Affiliation - fourteen-team Midwest League, eight-team West division
Overall Record 2 – 2
Weekly Record – 2 - 2
Current Standing – Every team in the West division has a 2-2 record
Current Week Team Batting - .230/.316/.333/.649
Current Week Pitching Stats – Rotation - 5.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP: thirteen earned runs, twenty-two hits and eight walks in twenty and two-thirds innings pitched
Current Week Pitching Stats – Bullpen - 0.66 ERA and 1.10 WHIP: one earned run, eight hits and seven walks in thirteen and two-thirds innings pitched
Who's Pitchin' Hot – RHS Mark McCormick's 2006 debut: 1 G, 1 GS, 0 CG, 1-0, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 7 SO, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
Who's Pitchin' Not – RHS Cory Meacham's first professional start: 1 G, 1 GS, 0 CG, 0-1, 4 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 1 SO, 11.25 ERA, 2.25 WHIP. A bright spot is that four of the six runs allowed came in the second inning.
Who's Hittiin' Hot – OF Wes Swackhamer went .429/.467/.429/.895, 6-for-14 in four games
Who's Hittiin' Not – CF Colby Rasmus went .063/.211/.063/.273, 1-for-16 in four games, with five strikeouts and three walks
Transactions – none
The Roster –
Here is the Swing of the Quad Cities roster. Their average age as of Opening Day, was twenty-two years, four months. All of the twenty-five are Cardinals products. The breakdown by signing year is:
2005 (18) – pitchers Danny Borne, Jason Cairns*, Adam Daniels, Jaime Garcia, Trey Hearne, Mark McCormick*, Cory Meacham*, Jon Mikrut, Kyle Sadlowski, Matt Trent* and Scott Vander Weg; catcher Bryan Anderson, outfielder Charles Carter, centerfielder Colby Rasmus, third baseman Randy Roth, utility player Casey Rowlett*, first basemen Adam Rodgers and A. J. Van Slyke
2004 (4) – pitchers Phillip Andersen* and Jeremy Zick*; shortstop Dan Nelson, outfielder Wes Swackhamer*
2003 (1) – catcher Brandon Yarbrough*
2002 (2) – second baseman Calvin Hayes*, outfielder Yonathan Sivira**
*on Quad City 2005 roster, at some point
**2004 was his first year of professional ball in the United States
All but Calvin Hayes, Wes Swackhamer and Brandon Yarbrough are experiencing their first class A Opening Day and fifteen are making their regular season class A debut as noted above by the single asterisk next to the player's name.
The three youngest players on the roster are Jaime Garcia, Colby Rasmus and Bryan Anderson. They are born within five months of each other and turn 20 this calendar year. The next youngest is Brandon Yarbrough who is a ‘veteran' with 553 at bats under his belt. The Swing also have nine players that turn 24 this year: Cairns, Carter, Daniels, Mikrut, Rodgers, Roth, Trent, Vander Weg and Zick.
Of Note - Overall -
The Swing began their 2006 season by losing the first two games by a combined score of 14-9, two real pitching duels there. Their first win of the season came via a fine effort by Mark McCormick whose efforts are highlighted in the "Pitchin' Hot" above. The big bats in that game were Wes Swackhamer and Bryan Anderson who each two of the team's seven total hits. Lefty Adam Daniels picked up his first win of the year the next day. Daniels struck out six in six innings with only one walk and five hits.
Of Note – Offense/Defense -
One area to note is the catching tandem of Brandon Yarbrough and Bryan Anderson. Yarbrough is trying to rebound from a sub-par 2005 which saw him get demoted from Quad Cities to short-season New Jersey and bat a combined .234/.311/.377/.688. Anderson is looking to build on his rookie season where he went .331/.383/.513/.896, 51-for-154 in fifty-one games for Johnson City. Further, Anderson received the high compliment of being the only 2005 draftee invited to the St. Louis Cardinals' 2006 Spring Training camp, due to him being a catcher, while Yarbrough was not. Right now they are splitting the starting duties but the Cardinals would like nothing better than for Yarbrough's bat to get hot so he can be promoted to Palm Beach.
Like Anderson, Colby Rasmus jumped over short-season A to start 2006 in Quad Cities at a young age. Rasmus is off to a slow start but will be given plenty of time to adjust. With both the excellent quality of the most recent draft and the forthcoming 2006 June draft, the pressure is on those repeating at this level to perform. Hayes, Swackhamer and Yarbrough are all high round draft picks but that will only buy them so much time.
Of at least minor interest is the appearance of A. J. Van Slyke in left. Van Slyke was an outfielder in college but the Cardinals had him exclusively at first base last season as his arm was supposedly not strong enough to play the outfield professionally. Things that make you go "Hmmmm".
Of Note – Pitching -
The Swing rotation at season's start is Phillip Andersen, Adam Daniels, Jaime Garcia, Mark McCormick and Cory Meacham. There are a couple of interesting things to note here. One is the appearance of Cory Meacham in the Swing rotation. Meacham was a starter exclusively prior to being drafted by the Cardinals last June. However, he worked entirely out of the bullpen last season when he became the only 2005 draftee to play at three different levels due to promotion. Late last season the Cardinals spoke with him about becoming a professional starter and here he is. What is most interesting about this move is the Cardinals' decision to place Meacham, a thirty-fifth round selection, in the Swing rotation over highly touted prospects like Josh Wilson, second round, and Tyler Herron, first round. Meacham was likely considered to be the most ready for this level.
Also vaulting past Wilson and Herron is lefty Jaime Garcia. Young Mr. Garcia was drafted in the twenty-second round last year but did not pitch due to work visa issues. He is making his professional debut at age 19 at the full season A level and is certainly a prospect to which attention should be paid.
It is also noted that Phillip Andersen, who I thought to have a good shot at making the Palm Beach squad, is back in the Swing rotation instead. Andersen compiled a 1.16 WHIP and 2.32 K/BB ratio while holding opposing batters to a .216 average last year while in the Swing rotation. While it is very difficult to argue against the Palm Beach rotation as it is presently constructed, Andersen deserves a shot at the next level. The Cardinals apparently decided that they wanted him pitching in the rotation in competitive games so placed him here to start the season. He is another example of the logjam of starters the Cardinals have.
A final item worth mentioning is the conversion of infielder Jon Mikrut to a pitcher. Mikrut is a 2005 non-drafted free agent signee out of Northwestern University. He was Northwestern's closer and shortstop his first three years but pitched only one-third of an inning his senior year as his hitting ability took priority. Unfortunately, that hitting ability did not translate to the professional ranks as he went .215/.255/.452/.707 in ninety-three at bats for Johnson City last year. He did, however, pitch in two games where he struck out five of the eleven batters he faced over three innings while allowing only one hit and no walks. The Johnson City Press, on one of the rare occasions they actually covered the team, said Mikrut had a nasty breaking pitch. Apparently it was good enough to get him a slot in the Swing bullpen.
On the DL front – Kyle McClellan (July 2005 Tommy John surgery), Donnie Smith (August 2005 shoulder capsule surgery)
Both McClellan and Smith are currently rehabbing from surgeries that put an end to their 2005 seasons. The time frame for their expected return is unknown.
Upcoming Week – at Clinton LumberKings (Texas) 10th through 12th, at Peoria Chiefs (Cubs) 13th through 15th
Extended Spring Training
Obtaining an exact list of those players still at Extended Spring Training is more difficult to do than getting the secret formula to Coca-Cola. However, there are certain prospects that it is a ‘no-brainer' to presume are still there while there are a couple of other players that were scheduled to begin the season on a particular roster but did not.
The following pitchers, in addition to those listed on the Swing DL, ended the 2005 season injured –
RHS Michael Cooper (shoulder inflammation)
Kenny Maiques (did not pitch in '05 while recovering from Tommy John surgery)
Jackson Paz (partial labrum tear)
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