As the Rosters Change – Palm Beach Cardinals

Comparing the 2007 Cardinals Minor League Opening Day rosters to the 2006 versions. Our third report in the series covers the Single-A Palm Beach Cardinals.

In our third installment, we compare the Palm Beach Cardinals' 2007 Opening Day roster to its 2006 counterpart and try to answer the same four questions as in the previous two articles: Is the average roster age getting younger? Is the roster comprised of more home-grown talent? Are players moving faster? Does such a comparison tell us anything at all? Once again this article focuses particularly on those players drafted by St. Louis.

Note: The term ‘draftees' is used loosely in this article to denote all players brought into affiliated professional baseball by the St. Louis organization, whether via the June draft or undrafted free agent signees – foreign and domestic.

Further Note: The 2006 Opening Day roster for the Palm Beach Cardinals had only 24 active players, one under the league maximum allowed.

A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals
Opening Day Roster Size – 25 active
Average Age - The average age of the 2007 opening day roster was 23 years, four months and 20 days. That is almost identical to the 2006 average age of 23 years, six months and 15 days.

Roster Composition – Twenty-three of the 25 players on the 2007 roster were drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Mike Cooper, SS Allen Craig, RHP Gary Daley Jr., LHP Adam Daniels (pictured), OF Sean Danielson, 1B Mike Ferris, RHP Luke Gregerson, 1B Mark Hamilton, RHP Trey Hearne, INF Jose Martinez, RHP Jon Mikrut, RHP Jason Motte, INF Dan Nelson, LHP Tyler Norrick, RHP Adam Ottavino, OF Shane Robinson, UT Casey Rowlett, RHP Donnie Smith, OF Nathan Southard, OF A.J. Van Slyke, RHP Scott Vander Weg, RHP Nick Webber and C Brandon Yarbrough. Their average age is 23 years, three months and seven days.

For 19 of those 23, or 83% of Cardinals' draftees, April 5, 2007 marked their first A-Advanced Opening Day: Cooper, Craig, Daley, Daniels, Gregerson, Hamilton, Hearne, Martinez, Mikrut, Nelson, Norrick, Ottavino, Robinson, Rowlett, Smith, Southard, Van Slyke, Vander Weg and Yarbrough. Of those nineteen, only Brandon Yarbrough has previous A-Advanced experience as he was promoted to Palm Beach from Quad Cities on May 22, 2006. He subsequently accumulated 144 at bats in 43 games at Palm Beach in 2006.

The 2006 roster was almost identical in its composition as 22 players of the 24 players on the Opening Day roster were either drafted or brought into affiliated professional baseball by the St. Louis organization: RHP Tyler Adamczyk (pictured), RHP Mitch Boggs, OF Sean Danielson, RHP Dennis Dove, OF Terry Evans, 1B Mike Ferris, RHP Justin Garza, SS Tyler Greene, LHP Eric Haberer, RHP Blake Hawksworth, INF Juan Lucena, OF Joe Mather, RHP Mark Michael, C Jason Motte, C Matt Pagnozzi, OF Chris Patrick, RHP Matt Scherer, INF Matt Shepherd, RHP Mike Sillman, RHP Nick Webber, OF Simon Williams, LHP Zack Zuercher. Their average age was 23 years, three months and 23 days.

Fifteen of the 22, or 68% of the draftees, experienced their first A-Advanced Opening Day: Boggs, Danielson, Dove, Ferris, Greene, Haberer, Lucena, Mather, Patrick, Scherer, Shepherd, Sillman, Webber, Williams and Zuercher. However, five of the fifteen played at Palm Beach at some point during the 2005 season: Dove, Greene, Haberer, Mather and Williams.

Now it is time to sort out each group by draft class. The 2007 group of 23 players includes eight from 2006 (Craig, Norrick, Robinson, Daley Jr., Hamilton, Gregerson, Ottavino and Southard), nine from 2005 (Cooper, Daniels, Danielson, Hearne, Mikrut, Rowlett, Vander Weg, Van Slyke and Webber), four from 2004 (Ferris, Martinez, Nelson and Smith) and two from 2003 (Motte and Yarbrough). Like Rick Ankiel's situation in Memphis, although far less publicized, Jason Motte's (pictured) conversion from catching to pitching during 2006 is a break in his developmental path and, as such, is not included in the ‘prior professional experience' section. Therefore, the amount of prior professional experience for the other 22, going strictly by draft year and not taking either injuries or time spent on the Disabled List into account, ranges from just under one year to just under four years with 17 of them, 77%, having under two years of prior professional experience.

The 2006 group of 22 included five from 2005 (Boggs, Danielson, Greene, Webber and Zuercher), seven from 2004 (Ferris, Haberer, Patrick, Scherer, Shepherd, Sillman and Williams), five from 2003 (Dove, Garza, Michael, Motte and Pagnozzi), one from 2002 (Lucena) and four from 2001 (Adamczyk, Evans, Hawksworth and Mather). The amount of prior professional experience, going solely by draft class, ranged from just under one year to just under five years with 12 of them, 55% of them having under two years of prior professional experience.

Conclusions -
Now, to answer the four questions from the opening paragraph:
Is the average roster age getting younger? The answer for the Palm Beach roster is "No". The average of the 2007 roster is two months younger than the 2006 roster The difference is even less when comparing the average age of those draftees experiencing their first A-Advanced Opening Day. The 2007 group of 19 had an average age of 23 years, one month and 15 days while the 2006 group of 15 had an average age of 23 years, two months and 14 days; about a one-month gap.

The numbers actually flip when comparing the average age of those for whom Opening Day was their A-Advanced debut. Eighteen of the 19 2007 players made their A-Advanced debut on April 5, 2007 (whether actually playing in the game or not) and their average age was 23 years, one month and 17 days. Ten of the fifteen 2006 players made their debut on Opening Day 2006 and their average age was 22 years, eleven months and 24 days. Hence the 2007 group was older by about two months.

Is the roster comprised of more home-grown talent? The answer here is "No". Each Opening Day roster was 92% home-grown. That is a number that is difficult to improve upon and it is very unlikely to make that much of a quality difference with a figure of 100%.

Are players moving faster? The answer to this one is "A bit". Sixty-five percent (15 of 23) of the home-grown talent on the 2007 roster were drafted less than two years ago compared to 55% (12 of 22) from the 2006 roster. However, the average age of these two groups is nearly identical with the 2006 group being younger by a mere two weeks: 23 years, one month and 17 days for the 2006 group.

Does such a comparison tell us anything at all? In the case of the Palm Beach roster, it appears to only confirm what is already well known. Several players were moved to Double-A ahead of ‘older' teammates. Eight of the nine players that both 1) made their Double-A debut in Springfield earlier this month and 2) have less than two years prior professional experience are younger than the average age of the same group in Palm Beach: Anderson, Boggs, Jaime Garcia, Jay, Perez, Rasmus, Rauschenberger and Zuercher. In fact the Palm Beach ‘inexperienced' set is over a year older than is the same set at Springfield.

A side note: Seven of the 22 2006 draftees are no longer in the St. Louis organization. Six were released and one (Terry Evans) was traded.



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