In earlier articles, we looked
into Cardinals prospects heading to the Arizona Fall League and
With play at least a month away, plans can and will change. In fact, in several cases, they already have. Here's the latest, with a major jump start from Cardinals Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow.
I asked Luhnow if sending three left-handed pitchers to the Arizona Fall League signals that they are looking for one to emerge to help the major league club. The three are Brad Furnish, Justin Fiske and Tyler Norrick.
"We hope so. Furnish is
interesting. Most times, when you send a pitcher to
"Dennis Martinez (
"He went and he had some success.
I am looking forward to him continuing it in the fall league.
"Fiske, what can I say about him?
This guy has been an incredible story. The light bulb turned on for me when I
went to watch him pitch in
"I thought to myself, ‘Why isn't this guy starting? This guy could go through the lineup more than once.' And that was always the knock on him, because his stuff isn't spectacular. That the second time around they would probably hit him.
"So, I put that theory to test. ‘Let's see. Let's find out.' And he had a tremendous year. He is going to go back into relief (in the AFL) because he had a lot of innings this season.
"I don't know if he is going to
"Norrick. I was there in
"That outing in
"Those three guys are exciting, but I'd like to have eight, instead of three, though," Luhnow said.
In addition, outfielder Shane Robinson will be the Cardinals "priority player", meaning he is assured of being a regular starter for the Peoria Saguaros.
Note: Full details on all eight
Cardinals participating in the AFL under
The Mexican Pacific League
previously announced that reliever Jason Motte will pitch for
If Motte does head south, he will
"We like to send guys where we have our own people," Luhnow explained. It is a common thread throughout, as you will see in this article.
As we previously disclosed, the Cardinals will be aligned with two of the four clubs in the Colombian Winter League. The Sincelejo Toros will be managed by Cardinals Minor League Catching Coordinator Dann Bilardello. Among his players will be closer Casey Mulligan. Outfielder Jon Edwards is also a possibility.
"Bilardello tried to do a land grab and take every player and convince them to go down there. I had to tell him to back off," Luhnow joked.
The other club, the Cartagena Tigers, will be headed up by another Cardinals employee, Neder Horta. The native Colombian is the Cards' head scout there and his club will also receive a complement of organizational prospects this winter.
Recently-released infielder Dan Nelson and Quad Cities first baseman Carlos Pupo are also listed on the Toros' tentative roster. We also have an unconfirmed report that Casey Rowlett will be playing there.
Luhnow explains that there has been a change of plans in Garceau's case.
"Shaun has really had a terrific season, but he is done. He is not pitching any more (this year). He could. I just don't want him to pitch any more. He wanted to, but I don't want him to. He's pitched a lot of innings this year (123 1/3)," Luhnow explained.
It seems the largest contingent of Cardinals prospects will be heading to the smallest league.
"We could end up sending a dozen
Some players and their families
may be concerned about the crime rate in
"The places where we play are the tourist resorts and they are very well protected. I go there myself and I would never send them there if I thought it was a problem," said the fluent Spanish-speaker.
The Cardinals will be
participating in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League for the second consecutive
season. This year, instead of sending middle relievers, the organization is
planning to send as many as four higher-profile prospects. They will work under
the direction of
Three of the four come off the
roster of A-Advanced Palm Beach. The exception is centerfielder Jim Rapoport, who began the season with
The versatile power hitter Tony Cruz, who missed the last half of the regular season due to a left hand injury, will play if permission is received from the Dominican club that drafted him. The two pitchers are not set, but they may be a pair of right-handers - Blake King as a reliever and Tyler Herron starting.
The Cardinals again have a key employee in an important position as super scout and manager of the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, Enrique Brito, is serving as the general manager of the Caribes team. 2008 Memphis Redbird David Freese will be their third baseman.
Another Venezuelan League club,
the Margarita Braves, will also have a Cardinals presence. Minor League Hitting
Coordinator Dan Radison will be
their hitting coach and will take some
A long-time relationship has been in place between the Cardinals and the Tigres de Aragua and one of their stalwarts from last year's championship series may be coming back for another season. Luhnow explains.
As we previously reported, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo will be leading the Carolina Giants. Yadier Molina is deciding whether or not he wants to return to his hometown club for another winter. At this point, the Cardinals aren't ready to disclose who might suit up in the league, which is back to life after a one-year hiatus.
"We're working on that right now. We have a couple of position players that have been asked for permission and are negotiating right now," said Luhnow.
The Licey Tigers are typically the
best team in the toughest winter league, the one in the
The Cardinals have Nelson Norman, their Dominican Summer League skipper, placed as a coach with Licey, but he won't be guiding the Cardinals top prospect. In a bit of a surprise, Rasmus has declined to play winter ball, despite missing most of the last half of 2008 due to injury.
Luhnow is rightfully excited about the quantity and quality of players the organization is sending south this winter.
"We're really going to be sending
I estimated it could be double last winter's take. The farm director agreed.
"It is and it doesn't even count
the three instructional programs we have. We have one in Jupiter, one in the
Dominican and one in
"Everybody who wants to get playing time is going to get it. Most of the guys from the draft, we are going to shut them down and tell them just to stay in shape (after instructs), Luhnow explained.
While winter league participation is voluntary, Luhnow makes it clear that the organization encourages it, especially for position players and in doing so, it distinguishes them from those who stay home.
"We're trying to place guys where we have staff, but mostly, we're trying to get guys opportunities – especially the position players... We do worry more about the pitchers than the hitters, but as far as I am concerned, every hitter who can get some at-bats should do it, because if they don't, somebody else is going to and they need to be ready."
As every year, stlcardinals.scout.com will be your leader in first-hand reporting on and from the fall and winter leagues. So, check back for reports on the Cardinals prospects all off-season long.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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