This look at Springfield has showed that the Cardinals were on the right path last year when they installed some veteran leadership on the club. Ruben Gotay manned the hot corner for all of 2013, earning much more than a AA salary in the process, and his career continues in part because not many former major league players would spend a campaign in the Texas League. While not quite on the same level as Gotay, a newcomer to the organization projects to play a vital role in keeping the infield squared away in Springfield.
Greg Miclat joined his third club this past December, as St. Louis grabbed him via the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft. The former Orioles and Rangers farmhand has experience all other the diamond, but he supplies needed shortstop depth as well as a chance to prove his health to the Cardinals. Miclat has 116 Pacific Coast League games to fall back on, and that experience will guide a young SCards group this April.
To aid in the leadership, Travis Tartamella returns from a successful 2nd half run in Memphis and is positioned to keep the young pitching staff on task. He will share catching duties with Cody Stanley, and the duo offers a nice pair of options for manager Mike Shildt. Tartamella put himself back on the map last season so his stay in Springfield may be short with Stanley ready to take over.
In replacing Gotay’s production, a couple of players with unique skill sets will be counted on going into the season. Both Luis Mateo and Vance Albitz are no stranger to how St. Louis utilizes the trek back and forth to Memphis, and that battle will be fun to watch for two reasons. Mateo earned a late call-up for the Redbirds and held his own while Albitz has spent the last two years bouncing back and forth.
Colin Walsh was the main beneficiary as Mateo and Albitz regularly had their bags packed, and he is set to begin as the regular second baseman. That leaves third base and a utility position amongst the needed roles, but there will be plenty of moving parts as Springfield keeps the hot bats in the lineup. Walsh struggled in his initial appearance and can’t afford a slow start with Jacob Wilson on the fast track.
Rounding out the group, Jonathan Rodriguez offers one of the more intriguing profiles of any first baseman in the Cardinals’ organization. He has good power from the right side and has done nothing but get on base at every stop. This past year, however, Rodriquez added another weapon to the arsenal by swiping 21 bases, more than double his career total. His ability to drive in runs trumps the speed game initially, but it is one more interesting angle to watch.
Springfield competes in possibly the toughest minor league division, but St. Louis faces an interesting dilemma for 2014. Memphis was recently purchased and that could influence how the top performers in the Texas League are handled. The same goes for Wilson and others who will be pushing for their time in the spotlight, as this preseason look heads down to Palm Beach and the Florida State League next.