Surveying the Crops: Winter Edition

Senior Minor League writer Dustin Mattison looks back at the winter league seasons of some of the St. Louis Cardinals farmhands.

As spring training gets into full force with the St. Louis Cardinals first game on Thursday, we will pause to take a look back at some of the top performers of this past winter league season. Also, some of those whose performances might have disappointed will be reflected upon as well.

Players go and play winter ball for a variety of reasons. Some are coming off injuries and hope to make up for lost time spent on the disabled list. Others spend their off-season in a foreign environment to work on a new position or maybe the player wants to the extra work hoping to catch the eye of the front office.

The Pitchers

The player that helped himself the most had to be Pete Parise. Not only was he named to the 2010 Caribbean Series All-Tournament team but reportedly he added velocity to his fastball. His effort has gotten the attention of the team's front office and he is getting a look this spring.

After a solid Puerto Rican League season, the right-hander saved his best for the Caribbean Series. In six shutout innings, he struck seven while not allowing a walk.

One of the newest Cardinals, Rule 5 selection Ben Jukich, posted a 2.86 ERA in 56.2 innings of Dominican Winter League action. In 11 starts, he struck out 42 compared to 15 walks while yielding a batting average against of .270.

During Mexcian League action, Fernando Salas showed the control that propelled his successful 2008. The 24-year-old struck out 20 while allowing only three walks in 14.1 innings of work. He capped off his fine campaign with two shutout innings during the Caribbean Series. If he can show similar control during spring camp, he has a great shot of making his major league debut during 2010.

Oneli Perez appeared in 23 games out of the bullpen during Dominican Winter League action. The 26-year-old earned 16 saves while posting a 2.59 ERA.

After a fantastic 2009, Casey Mulligan stumbled in Puerto Rico and finished with a 7.71 ERA in 13 games. He struggled with his command, allowing eight walks while striking out nine in 11.2 innings.

The Hitters

Like Parise, Jon Jay put together a standout campaign in the Caribbean that caught the eye of the Cardinals' front office. During play in the Venezuelan Winter League, the former Miami Hurricane hit .323/.418/.431 in 130 at bats. Jay is getting a look as an extra outfielder with St. Louis this spring.

After a breakout season in 2009, Adron Chambers continued to hit in the Colombian winter League. The outfielder finished third in the league in average, .365, first in triples, 6, second in hits, and fourth in slugging with a .529.

His teammate, Mark Shorey, was named the MVP of the Colombian Series after going 8-for-19 (.421) with four doubles, one home run, and eight RBIs during the six game series. During the deciding game, the 25-year-old had two hits with one double, three RBIs, one run, and one walk.

The former 31st round selection finished seventh in the league in average, .337, sixth in doubles, fourth in hits, fourth in homers, and fifth in slugging with a.526 mark.

Ruben Gotay hit only .218/.314/.294 during the Puerto Rican Winter League but did secure a minor league contract with the Cardinals.

I was glad to hear at the beginning of the winter that Mark Hamilton was going to the Caribbean to work on his outfield skills. The 25-year-old possesses an interesting left-handed power bat, something the Cardinals have been looking for. But after hitting an anemic .191/.298/.340, he was sent home after only 15 games.

Globe Trekker

Amaury Cazana played on three different teams in three different countries during the winter. The 30-something outfielder struggled during his time in the Dominican and Venezuela but did produce during a six-game stay in Mexico.



Dustin can be contacted at dustin@whiteyball.com.
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