On Tuesday, the Cardinals announced the rosters for their four full-season affiliated teams. For prospect nerds like myself, minor league roster release day is a joyous occasion that we celebrate and freak out about.
Although the Cardinals have been playing for a few days now, tonight marks the start of the minor league season. There is a ton of depth in the organization, pitching depth in particular, and it can be dizzying to follow.
So, what I’m going to do is give you the “Cheat Sheet” version of what to look for as we start the 2017 minor league season. I’m going to let you know when the first game is, who it’s against, and how many of our Top 30 Prospects are on each roster. The number behind the players name represent where they placed on our top 30 list.
MEMPHIS – 4/6/17 at 7:00 CT: Luke Weaver(2) @ New Orleans(MIA) – 5 Players From Our Top 30 Prospects List
The offensive core has been compare to the 2009 “Memphis Mafia” that featured David Freese, Allen Craig, and Jon Jay, among others. While I don’t think this core is quite that good, short stop Paul DeJong(16), catcher Carson Kelly(3), first baseman Luke Voit and outfielder Harrison Bader(7) really will be an interesting and fun group to watch. Also, my, how Tommy Pham has fallen.
The staff will be interesting, as well. Arturo Reyes has all the trappings of a 6th inning guy. As I mentioned in our prospect write up of Luke Weaver(2), he needs the time to develop his arsenal. That only happens in John Gant(27) comes back healthy, and soon. Josh Zeid, coming off of a stellar WBC, is an interesting name to watch. Mike Mayers and his illegitimate brother Chris Ellis round out the rotation. I’m most interested in the right handed side of the bullpen. Rowan Wick is interesting enough, but Josh Lucas and Kurt Heyer are sleeper-status pen arms.
SPRINGFIELD – 4/6/2017 at 7:05 CT: Jack Flaherty(8) @ Frisco(TEX) – 6 Players From Our Top 30 Prospects List
Most of the conversation about Springfield will revolve around the four top prospects that will headline the rotation: Austin Gomber(6), Sandy Alcantara(5), Jack Flaherty(8), and Dakota Hudson(12). Try not to sleep on either Matt Pearce or Daniel Poncedeleon(30), as they’ll be the gents rounding out the rotation. They’re pretty good, too. Kevin Herget, although way too old for the level, is an interesting guy and Pedro Echemendia probably has the best chance to make a major league impact. On a side note, I hate that Poncedeleon is repeating Springfield to start. What a waste.
Springfield possess the prospect that surprised me the most during spring; Adolis Garcia. It’s worth mentioning that I wasn’t really high on Garcia when the Cards signed him, but he’s made a believer out of me. Most scouts will travel to Springfield to see second baseman Eli Alvarez(14). This is a big year for him, as he is finally in a league that matches his talent level. I’m anxious to see how Oscar Mercado‘s evolution as an OF continues, and Blake Drake‘s right field defense alone is worth the price of admission.
PALM BEACH – 4/6/2017 at 5:30 CT: Junior Fernandez(11) @ St. Lucie(NYM) – 9 Players From Our Top 30 Prospects List
For those of you that don’t know, I hate the Florida State League, Palm Beach, and Roger Dean Stadium. There’s no conceivable way to evaluate players there, position or pitcher. The wind and cavernous stadiums skew stats to the Nth degree.
That said, Palm Beach has the strongest collective group of prospects. My favorite part of this squad is the outfield. I’m excited to see how CF Magneuris Sierra(9) performs at an advanced level after his second-half surge in Peoria, and I’m even more excited to see what he and Randy Arozarena(20) look like at the top of a lineup. Add in Austin Wilson, who is personal favorite, and I don’t see many missed plays in the OF. Also, I’ll be following catcher Jeremy Martinez(28), short stop Edmundo Sosa(8), and first baseman Chris Chinea very closely. Sosa in particular. A bounce back season at the dish will put him on the fast track to the majors.
And if the hitting wasn’t enough, the six man rotation in PB is sneaky good. I’m anxious to watch Junior Fernandez(11) rebound, and Ryan Helsley(15) is my breakout candidate for the 2017 season. Add in 2016 draft picks Zac Gallen(23) and Connor Jones(19), plus 2015 first round pick Jake Woodford(13), and you have the pedigree to contend with most rotations in the minors. I really like the high strikeout bullpen, which features Ian McKinney, Brennan Leitao, Tyler Bray, Landon Beck and Jacob Evans. I expect the lefty Evans to rise quickly through the organization now that he’s a reliever.
PEORIA – 4/6/2017 at 6:30 CT: Jordan Hicks(24) @ Burlington(LAA) – 5 Players From Our Top 30 Prospects List
I REALLY like this club. Peoria might be lost in the fray of its “older brothers”, but this is a really good group of prospects. I’m most anxious to see how the top of the rotation performs. We’ve all heard-tell of Jordan Hicks‘ 100 MPH fastball and 70 grade curve, Ronnie Williams(17) charm, poise, and demeanor, and John Kilichowski‘s Vanderbilt-finishing, but now we get to see all of it play out in one location. Bryan Dobzanski and Steven Farinaro aren’t exactly slouches, either. It looks like Dailyn Martinez is headed to the bullpen, and, if that’s the case, I can’t imagine him staying in Peoria for long.
What I like most about the Peoria lineup is it’s polish. There are a lot of professional hitters in this lineup. Utility middle infielder Tommy Edman and his Standford educated bat will probably come close to repeating his 286/400/427 State College slash line. First baseman Stefan Trosclair and catcher Andrew Knizner are my low-level breakout candidates, while second baseman J.R. Davis and third baseman Danny Hudzina have college-advanced approaches at the plate. Personally, I’ll be making the trip to see the outfield of Dylan Carlson(18), Nick Plummer(25), and Bryce Denton(22). Denton will start the year on the DL because he had his appendix removed earlier this week, but I fully expect him to break out in Peoria. Also, I’m betting we get to see SS Delvin Perez(4) at Peoria once the weather heats up. The cold-culture is tough on Latin America-born players, especially the aggressively promoted. Just ask Mags Sierra.
You can look forward to all of this and much more when the season fires up tonight. What are you going to be following when the games get going? Let us know!
Thanks for reading!