Cardinals Promote Five More Prospects

Johnson City is the center of Wednesday's player moves in the St. Louis Cardinals system. 2008 third-rounder Niko Vasquez is among those changing addresses.

With all the roster changes in the St. Louis Cardinals system this summer, it has been difficult to track them all. At least five more changes occurred at the lower levels of the organization on Wednesday.

 

On Tuesday, we reported the injury to Allen Craig of Springfield that led to the promotion of 2008 first-round pick Brett Wallace from Quad Cities, with the latter skipping a level.

 

The dominoes continue to fall today as Quad Cities is restocked with two players promoted all the way from Johnson City of the Appalachian League, also bypassing one level in the process, Batavia of the New York-Penn League. They are first baseman Curt Smith and shortstop Niko Vasquez.

 

In addition, the first-place Muckdogs received a new corner infielder, Osvaldo Morales, also sourced from Johnson City.

 

With the JC Cardinals in second place, five games back with seven to play, they were sent two reinforcements from the struggling Gulf Coast League Cardinals, outfielder Ryde Rodriguez and shortstop Yunier Castillo.

 

Smith, a native of the Dutch Antilles, has been one of the pleasant late-round surprises of the 2008 draft. Selected in the 39th round from the University of Maine, the 21-year-old took to the Appalachian League well.

 

The right-handed hitter was the Appy League Player of the Week for the period ending July 20 and overall with Johnson City, Smith posted a stellar line of .378/.418/.585 (BA/OBP/SLG) in 193 at-bats over 47 games.

 

Vasquez, 19, was selected by the Cardinals in the third round, 91st pick overall, from a Las Vegas high school. The right-handed hitter received $423,000 to sign and so far, has not disappointed.

 

With Johnson City, the right-handed hitter registered a stellar .317/.416/.462 line and was successful in eight of ten stolen base attempts. Vasquez heads into Quad Cities on a hot streak, with eight hits over his last three games with JC.

 

Morales, 21, has been well-traveled in 2008. He began the season in extended spring training before joining Quad Cities in late April. After 27 games in the Midwest League, he was dropped all the way down to Johnson City. The right-handed hitter now makes a partial step back up with his promotion to Batavia.

 

The native of the Dominican Republic can play first base and third and was a good source of power for Johnson City, with a .250/.345/.579 line including 12 home runs, 12 doubles and a triple among his 38 hits there.

 

Morales split his time last season between the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and Johnson City, registering an aggregate line of .270/.366/.534 in 237 at-bats.

 

Rodriguez, a native of Cuba, has been a high-profile player since coming onto the Cardinals' radar screen in the winter of 2006-2007. The organization announced the signing of the now-20-year-old for a bonus of $460,000 last July.

 

In his first official action this season, the well-built switch-hitter posted a .329/.374/.392 line in the GCL. Expected to be a source of power, Rodriguez had just nine extra-base hits, all doubles, among his 47 safeties this season. Perhaps he will crack his first professional long ball with Johnson City.

 

Castillo, just 19 years of age, played in 40 games for the GCL Cardinals this season, with a .256/.285/.318 line. The switch-hitting native of the Dominican Republic is in his first season in the Cardinals system.

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net

 

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