OK, not exactly. In fact, not at all. But the calendar has already turned over on another season for the St. Louis Cardinals Florida Winter Instructional League.
Starting September 12th, 25 of the organization's top young prospects put in three weeks of work together at the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida, receiving individualized instruction from some of the most experienced coaches in the minor league system.
For the second consecutive year, Minor League Field Coordinator Jim Riggleman was the camp Coordinator. He was assisted by coaches Mark Riggins - pitching, Dann Bilardello – catching, Tom Spencer – baserunning/outfield, Gene Tenace – hitting.
While several players finished the season at High-A Palm Beach, the majority played for rookie-level Johnson City, State College or Quad Cities this past summer. In fact, State College skipper Mark DeJohn and Johnson City manager Dan Radison, who managed most of these players during the 2006 campaign, were also on staff, providing important continuity.
Participants from the 2005 draft included four of the organization's first five selections that year, including outfielder Colby Rasmus, shortstop Tyler Greene and right—handed pitchers Mark McCormick and Nick Webber.
The full Cardinals Winter Instructional League roster is available to subscribers at this link.
In the following exclusive interview, subscribers can hear Riggleman provide a summary of how camp was run, with a focus on individualized instruction and how it was different from previous seasons. We discussed the differences between coaching former college and high school players and how feedback was gathered and delivered.
(6:40) (subscribers only)
Sample Q&A from Part One:
This year, you had a group of players who were in high school a few months ago as well as some players like the ones from Miami who came from successful four-year college programs. Do you deal with the younger players any differently?
Well, yes you do. The college players, and this was a good example of it, are a little more developed. Their swings are a little more refined. Their maturity level is higher and so forth. We are really just doing a little fine tuning with them.
The high school hitters, even the one who signed in '05, we're trying to do some things with their swings that will allow them to be productive hitters in the future. There is still a lot of work to do with those guys.
The college players like Tyler Greene, Jon Jay, those kinds of guys, Mark Hamilton, we are doing a little evaluating as much as we are teaching them. We're trying to nail down what level they can start at next year, to get them on a fast as pace as possible to get them to St. Louis.
In Parts Two and Three of this interview, subscribers can listen to Riggleman go into detail on both the standout position players and pitchers on the 2006 Cardinals Florida Winter Instructional League roster.
You'll get insider information available nowhere else, like why Hamilton was slowed in camp and what caused pitcher Gary Daley to be sent home, as well as learn which positions the organization feels they are deepest in and which ones require some catching up.
Sample Q&A from Part Three:
Who were some of the top pitchers in camp and why?
(Chris) Perez, the kid from Miami, was very impressive in all aspects of his game. He broke his curveball back out, which was a good pitch for him in college that we didn't see this summer. He really showed that as a positive pitch for himself.
Do you see Perez remaining a closer and moving on a fast path through the system in that role?
Yes, I think so. We would like to start him in Palm Beach next year and see if he can handle it. And if he throws the ball the way he threw it here, there is no question he can handle it. It is going to be up to him to win that job, but we think he is the front runner to start there. So, that would be a real plus for the organization if he could do that.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2006 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.
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