This year, the draft class of 2004 becomes eligible for the first time. In addition, at least two players from the St. Louis Cardinals' 2003 draft, Stuart Pomeranz and Brandon Yarbrough, who were each 18 years old when first signed, also become Rule 5-eligible this year if not protected.
The problem is that all the eligible players who might be considered worthy cannot be protected due to the limited number of spots on the Cardinals' 40-man roster. With the waiving of outfielder Cody Haerther and addition of reserve catcher Jason LaRue in the past few days, the Cardinals headed toward the deadline with just four open spots on their roster.
The organization must carefully weigh the risk of losing a minor league player to another claiming organization against the precious roster spot taken up by the player. Once players are added, they cannot be removed again without being exposed to waivers.
On the day protected lists are due to be turned into the Commissioner's Office, the St. Louis Cardinals have made their immediate decisions. Along with outfielder/first baseman Joe Mather, who had joined the 40-man after the season, the club added five more on Tuesday. The contracts of second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir, starting pitcher Mike Parisi and relievers Jason Motte, Mark Worrell and Kyle McClellan were purchased by the Cardinals.
Other candidates who might have been added to the roster but weren't include oft-injured right-handed starter Pomeranz, catcher Yarbrough and lefty Eric Haberer.
One year ago at this time, four players were added - left-handed pitcher Troy Cate, right-handed pitchers Dennis Dove and Blake Hawksworth and outfielder Cody Haerther. In a fairly ironic set of circumstances, of the four, only Hawksworth remains on the roster today. Here's hoping the 2007 class scores better than 25% just 12 months later.
One year ago, left-handed reliever Carmen Cali and outfielder Larry Bigbie were removed from the 40-man. Now, the same fate has befallen right-handed relievers Brian Falkenborg and Andy Cavazos as both received their unconditional release.
Let's look at each of the newest players added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster. Three of the five competed in the prestigious Arizona Fall League which ended last week and one other played there last fall. Now each of these five players will have up to three years before they must become permanent Major Leaguers or require being exposed to waivers.
Second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir
The 24-year-old second baseman was drafted by the Cardinals in the sixth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft after starring at Southern Mississippi. One of the most improved players in the system in 2007, Hoffpauir has also become a fan favorite.
Coming out of spring training, Hoffpauir was assigned to repeat Double-A Springfield and he made the best of it. In 61 Texas League games, he hit .345/.420/.527 (AVG/OBP/SLG). Coming off batting .410 in June, Hoffpauir was assigned to Triple-A Memphis on July 4.
For the year between the two levels, Hoffpauir finished with a line of .323/.407/.473 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs. Even more impressive is his total of 55 walks compared to only 39 strikeouts – the only player in the entire Cardinals minor league system whose walk count exceeded his strikeouts.
In the AFL, however, Hoffpauir did not get the chance to play regularly and struggled, with just one extra-base hit in 55 at-bats. Still because he walked 12 times, his line was an odd-looking .236/.368/.255 (AVG/OBP/SLG).
Starting pitcher Mike Parisi
Our Scout.com 2007 Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for the Memphis Redbirds didn't post glowing numbers - an 8-13 record with a 4.91 ERA in 28 starts. However, Parisi led his club with 165 innings pitched as well as collected 111 strikeouts. The first-year Triple-A player proved to be a dependable starter who refused to miss an outing because of nagging injuries and consistently put together solid outings for a poor Memphis club overall.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has to be considered a dark horse to compete for a spot at the back-end of the 2008 Cardinals rotation. More than likely, he will return for a second season in Triple-A.
In 2006, Parisi went 9-8 with a 4.60 ERA for Double-A Springfield. In 150 2/3 innings, he allowed 168 hits, walked 63 and struck out 107. Opponents hit .281 against him. Following that season, Parisi pitched in the Arizona Fall League. In nine games, he posted a 7.88 ERA, allowing 18 hits, walking seven and striking out 14.
The 24-year-old was originally selected by the Cardinals in the ninth round (270th overall) in the June, 2004 First-Year Player Draft after playing collegiate ball at Manhattan College.
Reliever Jason Motte
Motte's Cardinals career began when he was selected in the 19th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft from Iona College. He was a catcher for his first three years as a professional. But after struggling offensively, he was convinced by the organization to switch to the mound to take advantage of his strong arm.
That has proven to be a great decision as the 24-year-old has experienced a quick rise through the Cardinals' system. In May 2006, Motte joined the short-season Class-A State College Spikes where he posted a 3.08 ERA in 26 innings, striking out 25 and walking only four. Late in the season, Motte was promoted to low Class-A Quad Cities where he finished the year.
In 2007, Motte began at Class A-Advanced Palm Beach. After 10 innings of 0.90 ERA pitching, he was promptly promoted to Double-A Springfield. In the Texas League, Motte continued to impress with a 2.20 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 49 innings, holding enemy hitters to a .208 average.
In the Arizona Fall League, Motte held his own, posting a 3.00 ERA and striking out ten in 12 innings pitched. He held opposing batters to a .208 average, same as with Springfield, but did walk five and allow two home runs, however.
Reliever Mark Worrell
The 24-year-old Floridian was named our Scout.com 2007 Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year for the Memphis Redbirds. Worrell posted a 3-2 record along with 3.09 ERA over 67 innings. The right-hander struck out just under a batter per inning as he collected 66 strikeouts and walked 25. He held opposing hitters to a collective .236 batting average.
When Rick Ankiel declined to participate, Worrell became the Redbirds' lone Pacific Coast League All-Star representative this season. Despite being placed in a set-up role for journeyman closer Falkenborg, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder demonstrated that he should be considered in the Major League club's bullpen mix in the near future.
Worrell was our 24th-ranked Cardinals prospect one year ago, coming off a 27-save season for Springfield. That was down seven spots from the year before, when he was awarded the Rolaids Relief Man Award for the minor leagues while pitching for Palm Beach.
Worrell was originally selected by the organization in the 12th round (360th overall) of the June, 2004 First-Year Player Draft from Florida International University.
Reliever Kyle McClellan
23-year-old Kyle McClellan was the Cards' 25th round pick in the 2002 draft from Hazelwood West High School in Missouri. After missing much of the 2006 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, McClellan underwent yet another operation during the past off-season to move his ulnar nerve. He was activated and assigned to high Class-A Palm Beach on May 1.
Working out of the bullpen, McClellan went 4-1 with a 1.24 ERA. In 29 innings, he collected 24 strikeouts compared to only four walks. He was then promoted to Double-A Springfield, where he was just as dominating. McClellan finished with a 2.35 ERA in 30 Texas League innings along with 30 strikeouts, only six walks and an 2.35-to-1 groundball-to-fly-ball ratio.
McClellan capped his strong comeback season by being selected to represent the Cardinals in the Arizona Fall League. His stay was preset to the first half only due to his wedding. In seven AFL outings, McClellan posted an ERA of 4.91. In two of those appearances, he gave up two runs in each but was not scored upon in his other five outings, allowing only three total hits. In seven innings of work, he logged nine strikeouts.
The Cardinals' 40-man has undergone significant change since the conclusion of the regular season with more to come. At that time, the team had 45 players in total, as five players were on the 60-man disabled list and did not count against the sum. However, after the season, they had to be restored.
Following are the various puts and takes with the 40-man in this off-season so far, which currently sits at 39 players:
(40) Starting point
(-8=37) Declared free agents: Troy Percival, Kip Wells, Gary Bennett, Kelly Stinnett, Russell Branyan, Miguel Cairo, David Eckstein, Preston Wilson
(-3=34) Removed from the 40-man: Dennis Dove (to Memphis), Cody Haerther (claimed by Toronto), Mike Maroth (released)
(+1=35) Added to the 40-man: Joe Mather
(+1=36) Free agent signing: Jason LaRue
(-2=34) Removed from the 40-man: Brian Falkenborg, Andy Cavazos
(+5=39) Added to the 40-man: Jarrett Hoffpauir, Mike Parisi, Jason Motte, Mark Worrell, Kyle McClellan
While this could imply that the Cardinals can only bring in one player the rest of the off-season, it is not the case.
There are several players who remain on the 40-man today but are at risk of being non-tendered due to eroding performance, limited ceiling and/or eligibility for a significant raise via arbitration. Therefore, one or more might be removed from the roster in the upcoming weeks.
In addition, there are several marginal Major Leaguers who could join Dove, Haerther, Falkenborg and Cavazos in being waived in order to free up additional roster spots.
So, if the Cardinals needed to free up two or three more spots on the 40-man beyond the one opening now, that seemingly could be accomplished without sacrificing the team's future.
Another possibility that would grow the 40-man would be if the Cardinals decide to be active in the Major League phase of the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Last year they selected no one, but the year before, pitcher Juan Mateo was taken from the Chicago Cubs. He remained on the Cardinals' 40-man from December, 2005 until he was returned in March, 2006.
Note: Subscribers can return here to stlcardinals.scout.com tomorrow to review the lists of Cardinals minor leaguers eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.
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