Up first is a team that should see better success than it has experienced in recent years, the Memphis Redbirds. In the past, the organization has staffed their Triple-A affiliate with an ample supply of veterans signed as minor league free agents to provide depth if needed in St. Louis. While this is true of some of the players set to see time on Beale Street in 2008, a number of players the organization has developed will also man the team.
Top prospect Colby Rasmus will most likely start the year at Memphis before making his Major League debut sometime during 2008. Recent 40-man roster additions such as Jarrett Hoffpauir and Joe Mather should provide the fans at AutoZone Park plenty of wins.
Here is a look at the candidates:
Brian Barden (right)
The former Arizona Diamondback is fighting for a utility job with the Cardinals. If Brendan Ryan starts the year in St. Louis, Barden will probably get the nod as the starting shortstop for Memphis.
With the addition of Phelps and with Mark Hamilton at Double A, this could be it for the former second-round pick. Ferris hit only .216/.298/.392 for the Redbirds during 2007.
The Cardinals picked up the St. Louis native for Jim Edmonds during the offseason. Freese played in the High Class-A California League in 2007 where he hit .302/.400/.489 with 17 home runs. With Allen Craig slated to start the year at Double-A, it looks like Freese will skip a level and start 2008 with Memphis. A former college teammate of P.J. Walters, Freese has seen action for the Cardinals during the first games of spring training.
Haerther is the odd man out during spring training because he is a left-handed hitting outfielder and the big league club has a plethora of outfielders that fit that description. Manager Tony La Russa was quoted recently as saying Haerther needs to go Memphis and hit .350. Slowed by injury in 2007, the 24-year-old hit .289/.377/.486 in 37 games at Double-A Springfield.
Hoffpauir had a breakout season in 2007 in which he hit .300/.394/.416 for Memphis after being promoted from Springfield. He could get the call to the big club should the Cards need depth in the middle infield.
D'Angelo Jimenez (right)
The on-base machine will provide solid depth and will most likely see action in St. Louis during the season. His chance of a spot on the opening day roster greatly improved with the recent release of Scott Spiezio. During 2007, the switch hitter posted an on base percentage of .379 for the Washington Nationals and .461 in Triple-A.
An offense-first catcher that was picked up to provide veteran depth and provide a left-handed bat should Yadier Molina or Jason Larue spend time on the disabled list. The former first-round pick of the Chicago White Sox has not seen action at the Major League level since 2004. In 80 games for Triple-A Tuscon (Arizona Diamondbacks) in 2007, Johnson hit .320/.440/.410.
It could be nearing the end of the road for the 33-year-old outfielder. The Cuban provides fantastic power but is still green for his age. Between the Mexican League and Springfield, Marti hit .330/.399/.548 with 21 home runs.
Along with Hoffpauir, Mather enjoyed one of the best breakout seasons in the system with 31 home runs. Will get action at first, third and the outfield and could provide a right-handed utility bat in St. Louis.
The 25-year-old hit only .220/.275/.305 for Memphis during 2007. Though he lacks offense, Pagnozzi does provide solid defense in a back up catcher role.
Josh Phelps (right)
A good right-handed bat that will provide depth should Albert Pujols' elbow flare up. The native of Alaska hit .351/.463/.649 in 77 at bats for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007. Was a teammate of Ryan Ludwick for the Toledo Mudhens during the 2006 season when he hit .306/.369/.528 with 24 home runs.
What else needs to be said about the best prospect in the system? He should see his first big league action sometime during 2008.
With the recent release of Scott Spiezio, Ryan has a great shot of making the Cardinals after a solid rookie season in the big leagues during 2007. Ryan hit .272/.328/.341 in Memphis and .289/.347/.406 in the majors. Along with Albert Pujols, he has been one of the Cardinals hottest hitters in the early going of spring
The former Bayou Bengal struggled in his first try at Triple-A. The corner outfielder slugged only .373 during 2007. If he rebounds, Stavinoha could provide some of the right-handed power the Cardinals are searching for.
The 29-year-old is a career minor leaguer that provides solid depth in the Cardinals' system. In 54 games at Memphis in 2007, Washington hit .315/.374/.536. The left-handed hitter was even better in winter ball, batting .305/.422/.497 in 60 games.
The former Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year, Hanson has struggled in recent seasons. After hitting 20 home runs in 2005, the 27-year-old has hit seven since. In his second run at Memphis in 2007, Hanson hit .217/.246/.287.
The small stature McCoy provides a good glove in the middle of the infield. McCoy hit .247/.356/.318 for Memphis in 2007. The 2002 draft pick turns 27 before opening day and it looks like his ceiling has probably been reached.
C Mark Johnson
1B Josh Phelps
2B Jarrett Hoffpauir
3B David Freese
SS Brian Barden
LF Cody Haerther
CF Colby Rasmus
RF Joe Mather
St. Louis or released
Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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