It’s that time of year when the rosters for spring training are being set and we find out just which players get to go play with the big boys this spring. The prospect watchers especially get excited to know who they will be able to see wearing the high numbers and getting some time in Jupiter.
Obviously, there’s little chance that anyone on this list goes north with the club, though it’s not unheard of for it to happen. It just takes an astounding spring training and an unexpected opportunity. After all, Albert Pujols was a non-roster invitee in the spring of 2001, and that turned out pretty well.
So while these guys will be the focus of a number of people who shake off the bonds of winter and head down to Florida in the next month or so, we aren’t likely to see them in St. Louis to start the season and, frankly, it’d be a surprise to see many of them at all this year. The opportunities are going to be thin on the ground with a loaded roster and, to be fair, many of them still need plenty of seasoning.
That doesn’t mean they won’t generate some chatter, though. Last spring Michael Wacha almost forced his way onto the Cardinal staff. This year, Marco Gonzales tries to duplicate that “one year in college, the next in the majors” feat and headlines the group going to Jupiter. Gonzales, the 2013 top draft pick of the Redbirds, didn’t quite run as far as fast as his predecessor, so there’s going to be less of a clamor for him even if he has a good spring. He did quite well in Palm Beach last year, though, and could get a ticket to Springfield if he impresses.
He may not be the pitcher that most people are watching, though. The meteoric rise of Zach Petrick, from unknown starter to organizational pitcher of the year, was pretty dramatic. It would seem that he would be headed back to Springfield since he only pitched nine games there and didn’t have the overall success he had in the lower levels, but spring is a time for surprises.
In some years, Lee Stoppelman might get a serious look, but there are already likely three lefties set for the Cardinal pen and anyone that just makes the team might get bumped when someone (Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte) who might not be ready to start the season finally is cleared. It seems unlikely the Cardinals are going to add someone to their 40-man for him to play in the big, just to see him sent down to Memphis in May.
If the outfield wasn’t so crowded, Stephen Piscotty and James Ramsey might have a little more to play for. Piscotty, who has been on the rise and had a strong Arizona Fall League, could make some serious noise and make the club feel better about promoting him should there wind up being an opening during the season. As you’d expect Oscar Taveras to take the first spot, a Piscotty appearance in St. Louis before September could be the sign of a major issue. Ramsey’s case was hurt by the acquisition of Peter Bourjos, but he only had one game in Memphis last year anyway, so AAA was always going to be his landing spot.
The Preacher can tell you more about these folks and likely will during his examination of the minors. The most important thing that yesterday’s release of the NRI names tells us is that spring training is drawing ever closer. Just three weeks from today the pitchers and catchers are due to report, which means some will be down there even sooner than that. Baseball is coming, folks!