Continuing an aggressive season of promotions, especially at the lower levels of the system, St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month for July, corner infielder Osvaldo Morales has been promoted to Johnson City from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
Morales batted .333 for the month of July with six home runs, 20 RBI and a 1.034 OPS. Overall this season, the 20-year-old has posted a .290/.384/.542 (BA/OBP/SLG) line over 131 at-bats in the GCL. The Domincan native was signed as a non-drafted free agent in March, 2006 and competed in the Dominican Summer League last season.
Morales is replacing another player who had been highly thought of by the organization. In a major surprise, Wilmer Alvarado has been released by the Cardinals organization.
The switch-hitting Alvarado spent time at third base and catcher, but seemed to struggle in both the field and at the plate this season. He hit just .200 in 27 games at low-A Quad Cities after being added from extended spring training at the end of May. As a result, he was sent down to Johnson City on July 15.
The 19-year-old hit just .130 in 46 at-bats with Johnson City and committed eight errors in fourteen games while playing third base. The Venezuelan native, considered a potential power bat, played in the Dominican Summer League in 2005 and 2006, before joining the Venezuelan Summer League for the final 28 games last season, where he batted .299.
Note: After this report was published, we learned that Alvarado has been suspended indefinitely, not released, due to off-field issues and was sent home. His future in the organization is uncertain. We apologize for the initial misinformation provided.
It has been a bad week for those young men who man the outfield for Johnson City. Beyond the three injured players highlighted below, only two other true outfielders remain on the roster, Jon Edwards and Travis Mitchell.
Almaraz estimates that corner outfielder Beau Riportella will miss "at least one more week" due to his wrist injury. The 18-year-old last appeared in a game on July 31 and has posted a .328/.371/.426 line in 122 at-bats this season.
Riportella was the Cardinals' tenth-round pick in the 2007 draft from California's (junior) College of the Sequoias. Both his batting average and stolen base count (nine) place him among the top ten in Appalachian League this season.
Outfielder Adron Chambers "will miss more time" with his left knee injury, according to Almaraz, but at this point, precisely how much time is unknown. On August 2, the Cards' 38th round pick out of Pensacola Junior College in Florida injured his knee while chasing a line drive up the steep berm in right centerfield.
Chambers, 20, was red-hot prior to the injury, hitting 9-for-19 (.474) with four runs scored and two stolen bases last week. He raised his batting average above the .300 mark for the first time this year and his fourteen game hitting streak ended after having to leave the game due to his knee injury.
During Tuesday night's game, outfielder Joey Hage was hit by a pitch on his left hand/wrist/forearm area. He remained in the game to run the bases but was removed between innings. The swelling required icing. Nick Vera moved from third base to left field. The extent of Hage's injury and the impact to his playing time is currently unknown.
Since a fast, but short start in the Gulf Coast League (.393/.452/.714 in 28 at-bats), Hage has struggled with the bat in the Appy League with a .230/.298/.274 line in 118 at-bats. The 18-year-old was taken by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of this June's draft from Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Although right-handed starting pitcher Matt North will be getting some rehab innings with the GCL Cardinals, it is "very unlikely that he will pitch in Johnson City this year", according to Almaraz. The 19-year-old had been sidelined due to tendinitis before being sent to Florida to rehab. He tossed one clean inning for the GCL club on Sunday in his first action there.
North was taken by the Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2006 draft from Deer Valley High School in Antioch, California. Last season, he posted a 2-5 record with a 6.41 ERA in 39 1/3 innings with Johnson City.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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