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.
Class-A Swing of the Quad Cities
Opening Day Roster Size – 25 active
Average Age - The average age of the 2007 opening day roster was 22 years and nine days. That is ever so slightly younger than the 2006 average age of 22 years, five months and 15 days.
Roster Composition – Twenty-four of the 25 players on the 2007 roster were drafted by or brought into affiliated professional baseball by the St. Louis Cardinals: INF Brandon Buckman (pictured), RHP Brandon Dickson, LHP Brad Furnish, RHP Shaun Garceau, INF Isa Garcia, OF Luke Gorsett, C Chris Grossman, RHP Elvis Hernandez, RHP Tyler Herron, OF Daryl Jones, RHP Blake King, RHP Matt Lane, INF Christian Lopez, RHP Kenny Maiques, RHP Kyle Mura, OF Jim Rapaport, RHP Kyle Sadlowski, INF Willan Sandoval, RHP Mike Schellinger, LHP Brian Schroeder, INF Jared Schweitzer, OF Mark Shorey, INF Donovan Solano, RHP P.J. Walters. Their average age is 21 years, 11 months and 22 days.
For 23 of those 24, or 96% of Cardinals' draftees, April 5, 2007 marked their first full season Class-A Opening Day. Only Kyle Sadlowski from the above-mentioned list has experienced one previously. Of those 23, only Daryl Jones has previous full season A experience, as he was promoted to Quad Cities from Rookie level Johnson City on July 26, 2006. He subsequently accumulated 81 at bats in 26 games at Quad Cities in 2006.
The entire 2006 Opening Day roster was composed of players either drafted by or brought into affiliated professional baseball by the St. Louis organization: RHP Phillip Andersen (pictured), C Bryan Anderson, LHP Danny Borne, RHP Jason Cairns, OF Charles Carter, LHP Adam Daniels, LHP Jaime Garcia, INF Cal Hayes, RHP Trey Hearne, RHP Mark McCormick, RHP Cory Meacham, RHP Jon Mikrut, INF Dan Nelson, CF Colby Rasmus, 1B Adam Rodgers, INF Randy Roth, UT Casey Rowlett, RHP Kyle Sadlowski, OF Yonathan Sivira, OF Wes Swackhamer, RHP Matt Trent, OF A.J. Van Slyke, RHP Scott Vander Weg, C Brandon Yarbrough and RHP Jeremy Zick. Their average age was 22 years, five months and 15 days.
Twenty-two of the 25, or 88% of the draftees, experienced their first A-Advanced Opening Day. 2006 was not the first full season A Opening Day for Cal Hayes, Wes Swackhamer and Brandon Yarbrough. Additionally, Andersen, Cairns, McCormick, Meacham, Rowlett, Trent and Zick all appeared on the Quad Cities' roster at some point during the 2005 season.
When looking at each roster by draft class, another anomaly appears. Catcher Chris Grossman (pictured) was signed to his first professional contract in affiliated baseball by St. Louis in January 2007. However, he has a full two years of prior professional experience in an Independent League. That amount of experience differs greatly from the only other ‘Indy' signee to appear on an Opening Day roster in either 2006 or 2007, Josh Kinney. Kinney appeared in three games prior to St. Louis signing him. Hence, Kinney was included in the draft class break-down while Grossman will be excluded.
That leaves 23 names in the 2007 group. There are 11 from 2006 (Buckman, Dickson, Furnish, Garcia, Gorsett, Mura, Rapoport, Schroeder, Schweitzer, Shorey and Walters), 11 from 2005 (Garceau, Hernandez, Herron, Jones, King, Lane, Lopez, Maiques, Sadlowski, Schellinger and Solano) and one from 2004 (Sandoval). The amount of prior professional experience, not taking either injuries or time spent on the Disabled List into account, ranges from just under one year to just under three years, with 22 of them, or 96%, having under two years of prior professional experience.
The 2006 group of 25 included 18 from 2005 (Anderson, Borne, Cairns, Carter, Daniels, Jaime Garcia, Hearne, McCormick, Meacham, Mikrut, Rasmus, Rodgers, Roth, Rowlett, Sadlowski, Trent, Van Slyke and Vander Weg), four from 2004 (Andersen, Nelson, Swackhamer and Zick), one from 2003 (Yarbrough - pictured) and two from 2002 (Hayes and Sivira). The amount of prior professional experience, going solely by draft class, ranged from just under one year to just under four years, with 22 of them, or 88%, having under two years of prior professional experience.
Now, to answer the four questions from the opening paragraph:
Is the average roster age getting younger? The answer for the Quad Cities roster is "Not much". The average of the 2007 roster is five months younger than the 2006 roster. The age difference widens just a bit when comparing the average age of those draftees experiencing their first full season A Opening Day. The 2007 group of 23 had an average age of 21 years, 11 months and eight days while the 2006 group of 22 had an average age of 22 years, five months and 27 days; approximately a five and one-half month gap.
The gap narrows when comparing the average age of those for whom Opening Day was their full season A debut. Twenty-two of the 23 2007 players made their A-Advanced debut on April 5, 2007 (whether actually playing in the game or not) and their average age was 22 years and 16 days. Fourteen of the 15 2006 players made their debut on Opening Day 2006 and their average age was 22 years, two months and 14 days.
Is the roster comprised of more home-grown talent? The answer here is "No". The 2006 Opening Day roster was 100% home-grown while the 2007 Opening Day roster is 96% 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 "Inconclusive". Ninety-six percent (22 of 24) of the home-grown talent on the 2007 roster were drafted less than two years ago compared to 88% (22 of 25) from the 2006 roster. That is only a difference of a couple of players. It is also important to note that several factors impact the validity of comparing a player's draft year to the level at which he is playing. In addition to the abovementioned injury history, a player's age at the time they were drafted is also important. Generally, younger players are expected to develop more slowly than are older players. A good example is catcher Brandon Yarbrough, who was on the 2006 Opening Day roster. Yarbrough was drafted in 2002, which excluded him from the ‘moving faster' group. However, the 21-year-old was a year younger than the average of that Opening Day roster.
Does such a comparison tell us anything at all? In the case of the Quad Cities roster, what was most interesting is that the 2007 Opening Day roster is the only St. Louis full-season minor league Opening Day roster in the past two years, 2006 and 2007, to have three foreign-signed non-drafted free agents on it. Elvis Hernandez, Donovan Solano and Willian Sandoval are all products of St. Louis' increasing expansion into foreign markets. That move is expected to continue with St. Louis' opening of a Gulf Coast team that will now mark most foreign-signed players' first experience in professional ball in America.
In the ‘What Happened to that 2006 Opening Day Roster?' – four (Andersen, Cairns, McCormick and Trent) opened the 2007 season on the Disabled List, one (Sadlowski) is on the Swing's 2007 Opening Day roster, eight (Daniels, Hearne, Mikrut, Dan Nelson, Rowlett, Vander Weg, Van Slyke and Yarbrough) are on Palm Beach's Opening Day roster, three (Hayes, Rodgers and Roth) retired, five (Borne, Carter, Sivira, Swackhamer and Zick) were released and four (Anderson, Jaime Garcia, Meacham/Rauschenberger and Rasmus) are on Springfield's Opening Day roster.
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