To protect them from being eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft, the Cardinals added four players to their 40-man roster this week: LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Derian Gonzalez, OF Oscar Mercado, and OF Tyler O’Neill.
The Cardinals needed to have Rule 5-eligible players protected by 7:00 PM Central time on Monday, and the team announced their roster additions that afternoon.
O’Neill, the fourth-rated prospect in the St. Louis system, was acquired in a late-July trade with the Seattle Mariners for left-hander Marco Gonzales. O’Neill, 22 years old, appeared in 37 games for the PCL Champion Memphis Redbirds, slashing .253/.304/.548 with 12 long balls and 39 RBIs.
Gomber is the eighth-highest-rated pitching prospect in the Cardinals’ organization and ranks 15th on the whole. The 24-year-old made 26 starts for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals in 2017, going 10-7. Across a career-high 143 innings, Gomber had a 3.75 xFIP and a 140:51 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Mercado, coming off of a full season at Double-A Springfield, is ranked 18th in the system by MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old was one of eight Cardinals to appear in the recently-concluded Arizona Fall League. In 120 games at Springfield, Mercado maintained a 114 wRC+ with a .346 wOBA to go along with 38 stolen bases. Mercado flashed power we’ve never seen from him: he hit 13 home runs to crush his previous career high of 4, from back in 2015.
Gonzalez is not ranked in the top 30 prospects, but the Cardinals clearly do not want to risk parting ways with the 22-year-old right-hander. Gonzalez made two starts for the GCL Cardinals in 2017, but he primarily worked for the Palm Beach Cardinals. In 18 games (15 starts), Gonzalez logged 79 frames and posted a 3.56 FIP. Gonzalez allowed just five home runs, giving him a 0.57 HR/9 rate.
After the four roster additions, the Cardinals have just one vacancy on their 40-man roster, as that has now reached 39 occupants. Although the team protected the players they anticipated might draw the most attention, the Cardinals left a few notable prospects off the roster, including infielder Patrick Wisdom and pitchers Andrew Morales, Trey Nielsen, and Matt Pearce.
The Rule 5 Draft is held every year during the Winter Meetings. This year’s meetings will take place December 10-14 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida; the draft will take place on the morning of Thursday, 12/14.
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