Sometimes I think it's easy to lose track of just how skilled at baseball the players who make it to the majors are. At any given time, just 25 of those players can be on the active major-league roster (plus those on the disabled list). Those who populate the active MLB roster are chosen from the 40-man roster's "other 15," who are playing in the minors at the time, awaiting a call-up to the show. Every other ballplayer in the organization's farm system is on the outside looking in, working to achieve that child's dream, which they have carried into adulthood due to their unique talent, of playing big-league baseball.
In spring training, this dynamic exists but on a smaller scale. There are two camps for each club during spring training: major league and minor. Typically the road between them is a one-way street.
In major-league camp, there are two groups of players: those on the 40-man roster and non-roster invitees. You've likely heard of clubs signing players to minor-league contracts with an invitation to spring training. The Cardinals did this last year with Pat Neshek and this offseason with Carlos Villanueva. But teams do this with more than just free agents. In fact, it's more prevalent with minor-leaguers. This enables the MLB coaching staff to get a look at the organization's farmhands so they have an idea of who the team might promote when injury strikes due to their having been in the system for long enough to have reached the high minors and near eligibility for the Rule 5 draft.
As Joe broke down upon their announcement, the Cardinals' issued non-roster invitations to major-league camp to the following minor-league and free-agent players:
- Tim Cooney (LHP)
- John Gast (LHP)
- Mitch Harris (RHP)
- Marcus Hatley (RHP)
- Dean Kiekhefer (LHP)
- Mike Mayers (RHP)
- Zack Petrick (RHP)
- Miguel Socolovich (RHP)
- Carlos Villanueva (RHP)
- Steve Bean (C)
- Carson Kelly (C)
- Alberto Rosario (C)
- Travis Tartamella (C)
- Scott Moore (IF)
- Breyvic Valera (IF)
- Jacob Wilson (IF)
- Rafael Ortega (OF)
- Stephen Piscotty (OF)
Typically, players move from major-league camp to minor-league camp after the club decides they've seen enough of them and demote them. Sometimes, though, a player gets a promotion from minor-league camp to St. Louis. 364 days ago, for example, the Cardinals moved righty Scott McGregor from minor- to major-league camp (apparently because the St. Louis coaching staff was not entirely satisfied with their bullpen options). Sans injury, I'd be surprised if the Cardinals made any McGregor-esque moves this spring.
On Saturday, the Cardinals announced their first round of cuts from major-league camp, optioning a 40-man roster member to Memphis and demoting the following NRI players to minor-league camp in Jupiter:
- Catcher Michael Ohman (40-man), who the Cards acquired in February, optioned to Memphis
- Catcher Steve Bean (NRI) reassigned to minor-league camp
- Catcher Alberto Rosario (NRI) reassigned to minor-league camp
- RHP Mike Mayers (NRI) reassigned to minor-league camp
- LHP John Gast (NRI) reassigned to minor-league camp
Now there are 52 players in the MLB camp and it's time to fire up the good ol' spring training roster matrix. The color coding is:
- Red: Likely 25-man roster member
- Navy Blue: In spring-training competition for a 25-man roster spot. I've included Randal Grichuk in navy even though I don't know how much of a competition he is actually in with the other position players in navy.
- Royal Blue: 40-man roster member
- Light Blue: Non-roster invitee (NRI).
- Gray: Demoted from major- to minor-league camp whether by option (for those on the 40-man) or reassignment (for those not on the 40-man).