Predicting Springfield's 2014 opening roster

Pitcher of the Year Petrick may be back

The players Brian Walton sees as having the best chance of making the Cardinals' Double-A roster to open the regular season and why.

Welcome to the third installment of my series to predict the season-opening rosters of the St. Louis Cardinals and their four full-season minor league affiliates. Today's challenge is the Double-A Springfield Cardinals.

When I call this a challenge, it turned out to be far more straightforward than I thought it would be – at least for position players. Perhaps because the 2013 S-Cards lost several members of last year's team due to free agency and Rule 5, openings could exist for key position players ready to advance from Palm Beach.

The pitching side of the house may be less wide-open, however. More on that is coming after I disclose my roster.

By the way, I should mention that in this exercise, players are assumed to be on their season-ending 2013 clubs – unless called out otherwise. To see the full rosters for the entire system on one page, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

Springfield Cardinals projected 2014 opening day roster, as of 2/21/14

Springfield (25+2)      
SP RP C 1B
Ferrara (L) Baker Rasmus (NRI) *J Rodriguez (STP)
Blair (STP) Wyatt  Stanley (NRI)  
Petrick (NRI) Wright (L)    
Cornelius (L) Miranda (L)    
*Gaviglio (NRI) Kiekhefer (L)    
  *Swagerty (NRI)    
  *Billbrough (STP)    
       
Limbo     Smith
       
2B SS 3B OF
Lu Mateo (NRI) *Mejia (STP) *Wisdom (NRI) Ramsey (NRI)
Walsh  M Williams   Ortega
      S Rodriguez
      *Popkins
      *An Garcia (STP)
       
Limbo     Melker

Legend
(X+Y) = Active + Limbo
Limbo = DL/release candidate
Bold = 40-man roster member
NRI = non-roster invitee to MLB camp
STP = STEP camp
* promotion from year-end 2013
(L) = Left-handed pitcher

Roster sourcing

Returnees = 15
Acquired via waivers = 1 (Ortega)
Promotions from A-Advanced = 8*
Down from Triple-A = 1 (Ramsey)
In limbo = 2

An experienced rotation

There could be just one open spot among manager Mike Shildt's starting five. It would be vacated by Tim Cooney, if the lefty is the one to join Memphis as I predict.

Though 2013 first-round Marco Gonzales surely has the pedigree, I think Sam Gaviglio will instead be the first 2013 season-ending Palm Beach starter to get a shot at Double-A. Both are non-roster invitees to big-league spring camp, but Gaviglio was showcased in the Arizona Fall League and seems fully prepared for the Texas League. Gonzales could be along a month or two later as opportunity presents itself.

As I noted in the Memphis article, consensus 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Zach Petrick is another preparing for his chance at Triple-A. Still long on potential but spotty in results, righty Seth Blair should be back among the Springfield starting five. The final two members are projected to be returning lefties Anthony Ferrara and Jonathan Cornelius.

If creating rotation space at Springfield for Gonzales or others becomes an immediate priority, I could see any combination of the latter three being shifted to relief. Of course, that would elbow forecasted bullpenners out of jobs.

Kiekhefer
An experienced pen

A by-product of the lack of movement above is that five of the seven projected Double-A relievers would be back from 2013. Lefty Dean Kiekhefer pitched in the AFL prospect showcase, but may have to wait for Sam Freeman, Nick Greenwood or Lee Stoppelman to create some space ahead of him.

Other Texas League-tested Springfield relievers I have coming back include lefties Justin Wright and Danny Miranda plus right-handers Heath Wyatt and Corey Baker.

Good health coming off Tommy John surgery is assumed for the two bullpen promotions I think could come from Palm Beach. Right-hander Logan Billbrough scored an invitation to STEP Camp and is a pitcher to watch in 2013 after coming back for last season's final month.

Jordan Swagerty is not exactly a promotion, as he pitched for Springfield in 2011 before two years lost due to slow recovery following Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old finished last season on Palm Beach's disabled list but is now in big-league camp.

The Cardinals could decide to return Swagerty to starting, but my guess is they will take it slowly by a pen assignment, at least initially. Before injury, Swagerty proved capable in either role as a top 10 prospect in the system. I have no idea if the Cards would consider it, but if ready, Swagerty would be a very interesting choice to be Springfield's closer.

Big-league camp catchers

Casey Rasmus may have quietly been one of the system's most improved players in 2013. His hitting was a pleasant surprise and pitchers like to throw to him. Rasmus and Cody Stanley, once a more decorated prospect, may again be the catching tandem for Springfield.

Travis Tartamella, who has already spent parts of three seasons in the Texas League, could also come down from Memphis and squeeze one of the two out of an active roster spot.

Mateo
A green infield

Four of the six projected infielders finished last season at Palm Beach. Though Xavier Scruggs should graduate to Memphis and re-signed Curt Smith will also be in camp, underrated power prospect Jonathan Rodriguez is my bet to move up and seize the first base job.

Luis Mateo scored a big-league camp invitation and has returnee Colin Walsh to contend with at second base. Versatile Matt Williams could also be back to fill in at multiple positions on the infield.

The left side of my starting infield may or may not be ready to take the step to Double-A, but I am guessing they will – shortstop Alex Mejia and third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Mejia could be a sleeper in 2014 and Wisdom managed to slip in just over 100 Florida State League plate appearances after starring for Peoria for most of the summer.

If Wisdom is not deemed ready, then Smith could also play some third. On the other hand, if everyone else steps up, I don't see roster room for the well-traveled Smith, who is 27 years of age.

Newcomer Ortega
Three new faces in the outfield

Rafael Ortega, a December waiver acquisition, is the only 40-man roster player I have starting 2014 below Triple-A. Given his experience, Springfield seems the appropriate destination to start the season. As explained in the Memphis article, I think James Ramsey could be back in Springfield to get at-bats until Triple-A roster room is created.

I have them joined by arguably the two best hitters at Palm Beach last season in David Popkins and Anthony Garcia. Though Garcia had an injury-wrecked summer, he had a very strong winter ball campaign. After a head start via STEP Camp, I could see the organization giving Garcia the challenge.

Once a very promising second baseman, Starlin Rodriguez the outfielder needs to hit better to avoid his career stalling out. I have him getting the final roster spot in a close battle with 26-year-old Adam Melker, who joins Smith on my Limbo list.

Up next

The Cardinals' A-Advanced Palm Beach roster will be the focus of part four of this series - coming soon for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.



Links to related articles:
Predicting the 2014 Cardinals' opening roster
Predicting Memphis' 2014 opening roster



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2014 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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