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Meet the unknown players at Spring Training

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Meet the Spring Training players who have virtually no shot at the MLB roster in 2019.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Last year, a Cardinal batter came to the plate 1,210 times during Spring Training. A little over half of those plate appearances went to players who made some sort of significant impact in the majors and I’m including players like Carson Kelly and Francisco Peña in that group. That means that a little under 400 plate appearances went to players who either saw a cup of coffee or didn’t see the majors at all. Considering the team leader in PAs had 69 last year, that is not an insignificant amount of plate appearances to spread to MLB nonfactors.

This post is for those players, or to be even more specific, this post is mostly for the players who end up getting just five chances or less to make an impression in game situations. It is a weird mix of players.

Cardinals Prospects

You have probably heard of these players, but not everyone follows the farm system, so I thought I’d cover all my bases here. I will not be listing every prospect, namely the ones who people might not know. I will list their team ranking, according to Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, who ranked the top 40 Cardinals prospects.

Ryan Helsley (#8) - Everyone seems convinced he will become a reliever, and a good one at that, but the Cardinals will try him at starter as long as they can. He’s set to begin the season in Memphis and hopefully stay healthy all year. He’s a good bet to make an appearance in an MLB bullpen this year if he can. (Memphis)

Connor Capel (#13) - He was one of two prospects in the return for Oscar Mercado. He had a good start to the season with the Indians but Palm Beach ate him up. Assuming there is room for him, the soon-to-be 22-year-old OF probably starts the season in Springfield.

Genesis Cabrera (#15) - One of three players in the Tommy Pham trade, he has a similar problem to Helsley. Probable reliever who just might work as a starter. One of these types are going to need to be a starter or the Cards will have to suck it up and sign someone. (Memphis)

Lane Thomas (#16) - Viva La Flyball Revolution. The 23-year-old OF was traded for mere international bonus money and hit 27 homers in 132 games split between AA and AAA after hitting 13 homers for the Blue Jays in his four years in their system. (Memphis)

Connor Jones (#18) - He’s still just 24, but pretty much completely bombed at both Springfield and Memphis last year. Very probable reliever, if he can ever strike anyone out. (Memphis)

Justin Williams (#19) - Also a part of the Pham trade, he’s just 23. The theory goes that a swing change will bring about more power. He had a 134 wRC+ in AA in about 600 PAs, most of it played while he was 21, so there’s probably something here. (Memphis)

Randy Arozarena (#20) - Adolis Garcia seems to be the better prospect of the two and I’m not sure why. Arozarena has been a schizophrenic hitter in the minors, displaying excellent patience (13.8% BB rate in AA in ‘17), very little patience (4.4% in A+ in ‘17), good power (.196 ISO in A+) to not much power (.116 ISO in AAA in ‘18). (Memphis)

Tommy Edman (#21) - If he can distinguish himself among the crop of similar middle infielders, he will be your regular Dan Descalso/Greg Garcia type. (Memphis)

Ramon Urias (#22) - He dominated the Mexican League for 3 seasons before the Cardinals signed him. He won’t turn 25 until June. The infielder utterly demolished AA and faltered in AAA. He has a 104 wRC+ projection right now so there’s a good chance he’s being underrated. (Memphis)

Luken Baker (#25) - 6’4, 265 1B who was drafted 75th overall. Him being invited to Spring Training already tells you that the Cardinals think he’s going to rise through the system fast. Likely a right-handed Matt Adams, but big 1B sometimes become Paul Goldschmidt. Dream big. (Palm Beach)

Evan Kruczynski (#29) - His trial by fire in Springfield last year went pretty well, but he’s probably going to repeat the level and prove himself again. Still, because he was drafted at 22 and is already going to be 24, he’s a solid under the radar prospect and he’s a lefty starter.

Seth Elledge (#32) - Best I can tell, Elledge was the #16 Mariners prospect, didn’t disappoint in A+, was aggressively promoted to Springfield by the Cards where he held his own and... is the #32 prospect for the Cards. Cards have a sneaky deep system I think.

Evan Mendoza (#35) - He’s probably going to get lost in the shuffle with the Nolan Gorman/Elehuris Montero/Malcolm Nunez triumvirate right on his tail at 3B. He got promoted to Palm Beach after just 17 games in Peoria, crushed the ball there (due to a sky high BABIP mostly), and played most of the season in Springfield where he was not that great. But part of that is the super aggressive promotions.

Minor League Free Agents

Harold Arauz - He signed with the Astros at 17 out of Panama, was a part of the Vince Velasquez-Ken Giles trade between the Astros and Phillies and battled various injuries throughout his minor league career. He was solid as a starter out of AA last year in 24 games. Having been a minor leaguer for seven seasons, he elected free agency instead of resigning with the Phillies. He’ll be 24 in May and is actually a fairly interesting pickup by the Cards! See, this guy is why I’m writing this post.

Chris Beck - 28-year-old with a 5.88 career ERA and similar advanced stats in 100+ MLB innings, this guy is probably here to fill out the AAA bullpen.

Hunter Cervenka - The 29-year-old lefty has been a Red Sox, a Cub, a Brave, a Marlin, and a Tiger. He would be a decent 3rd-string lefty - the guy who gets promoted when an MLB lefty gets hurt - but he’s like 6th on the Cards lefty depth chart, which is insane.

Mike Hauschild - In six games, he has a 7.71 ERA. He has been a starter his entire professional career as a minor leaguer. When the AAA rotation gets raided, he will probably start again.

Tommy Layne - He has 149.2 career MLB innings of being a decent lefty, but is 34-years-old. He had a 1.35 ERA and 2.10 FIP last year in Memphis, so if the Chasen Shreve/Brett Cecil and I guess Tyler Webb all don’t work out, he’s there too.

Ryan Meisinger - The Orioles couldn’t find room for him on the 40 man roster, so the Cards claimed him over the offseason. They too cut him from the 40 man roster, but he went unclaimed. He has really good minor league stats and is only 25, so if some breaks go his way, he could be on the MLB team in 2019.

Williams Perez - Another pitcher with extensive major league experience, Perez has played the last two seasons in the minors and will be 28 in May. He has a 4.31 FIP projection from ZiPS as a starter, which is better than Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson. So there’s that.

Joe Hudson - Your standard career minor league backup catcher

The Non-Prospect Prospects

Andrew Morales - 26-year-old reliever who is solid bullpen depth, but things will have to go poorly for the Cards for him to get an MLB shot sadly.

Roel Ramirez - One of the pieces of the Pham trade, he struggled in 10 innings in Springfield but had been good in AA with the Rays. Turns 24 this year so could be future MLB bullpen guy.

Austin Warner - Signed out of the independent league, he started last year in Palm Beach, dominated and then was pretty bad in both Memphis and Springfield. Hard to see a future since he turns 25 in June.

Jake Woodford - He was also pretty bad in AA and AAA last year, but he’s still just 22. That said, his velocity has already fallen from a high of 95 to 89-92 so things aren’t looking good.

Jose Godoy - He’s been in the system since 2012, but is still just 24. He had a 123 wRC+ at Palm Beach and has generally been a good hitter. And he’s a catcher. If he could pan out, the timeline works for him to be Andrew Knizner’s backup.

Jeremy Martinez - He’s only 24 but seems unlikely to be anything more than a minor league backup catcher.

Brian O’Keefe - This catcher played in Palm Beach last year as a 24-year-old. He hit well and will presumably be in Springfield for this year, but if the Cards thought high of him, he would have been promoted more aggressively.

Dennis Ortega - Almost exactly a league average hitter in Peoria last year, he’s a semi-interesting prospect at just 21, mostly because he’s a catcher.

Julio Rodriguez - He split time at catcher with Ortega last year in Peoria with a 93 wRC+ and weirdly enough, he was born on the exact same day as Ortega.

Rangel Ravelo - It looked like he couldn’t hack it in AAA, the Cards signed him as a minor league free agent, and he’s since hit. Problem: he’s a 1B and going to be 27.

Kramer Robertson - Since he was drafted at 22, I’m guessing the hope was that he’d do well enough in Palm Beach last year to earn a promotion to Springfield midseason. But he was a league average hitter and stayed there all year. His upside is a bench player.

Max Schrock - A part of the Piscotty trade, Shrock was a huge disappointment in 2018. But he’s still 24 and has a year of AAA experience under his belt.

Scott Hurst - 3rd round pick, first for the Cards that year, Hurst would probably be a legitimate prospect were it not for the injuries. Collegiate career of injuries and he only played in 63 games last year as an OFer, but he was good in those games.

Chase Pinder - Pinder had a 13.4 BB% in Palm Beach to help him to a 112 wRC+. He turns 23 later in March and will start the season in Springfield. You can add him to the pile of interesting OF prospects

What’s the lesson? Well, the Cardinals seemingly made it a priority to fill their AAA pitching staff with as much major league experience as possible. Bad MLB experience, but experience nonetheless. The future Memphis lineup could arguably be transplanted to the MLB squad and it.. wouldn’t be that bad? I think they could maybe win 70 games if you gave the Cards the MLB pitching staff. That’s nuts.

*This is based off the roster on ESPN. I am sure a few of these guys have been sent to minor league camp already.