With an eye towards keeping with recent moves, aggressive promotions are going to be the trend starting with the next stop of the system. The Cardinals still possess a top ten minor league system and can afford to see who rises to the challenge of tougher competition.
St. Louis has taken pitchers directly from Springfield in each of the last three seasons so which hurler is ready for a trip East up the I-44. The hardest player to place on any roster may also be the best bet for a surprise call-up depending on how things play out in Spring Training. Jordan Swagerty had his fast track to the majors derailed by Tommy John surgery but should be coming to camp completely healthy. He’s got a future in the bullpen but for now a starting spot makes the most sense given the health struggles.
While a number of players made the trek from Palm Beach last year, this Springfield campaign will feature a trio of southpaws as well as a closer with 34 saves the last two seasons. Ronnie Shaban finds himself with a clear path moving up the system especially with an impressive Texas League run in the 9th inning. He’s one to watch after allowing only a pair of home runs and shutting the door on 18 Palm Beach victories in 2013.
Each lefty option is already familiar with the SCards, as Justin Wright, Danny Miranda, and Anthony Ferrara all spent time in last year’s bullpen. In the case of Wright, he enters a third consecutive season at the AA level and will be counted on for leadership and consistency. Miranda made the jump to Springfield after a dominating showing in Palm Beach but didn’t fare as well down the stretch. His role is flexible but the prior back-end experience may help avoid just a LOOGY label.
Just as with the Redbirds, a long man from the left side appears in order with Ferrara making the transition to the bullpen full time. His appearance in the Arizona Fall League began the grooming process, and a solid start could pave the way to Memphis. One other returning member of the Springfield staff will also be looking for his opportunity at the next level. Heath Wyatt acclimated just fine and earned Mid-Season All-Star honors while showing he can handle pressure situations. He will likely be the 8th inning option and ready to step in should the need arise.
The final spot in the pen will likely come down to a battle of health with Logan Billbrough the early favorite. He finished strong for Palm Beach and earned a coveted spot on the STEP roster. Another hurler with closing experience never hurts, and Billbrough may have the most upside of any RHP not on the 40-man roster. Swagerty could also join the mix as well as Aidan Lucas, but those two have to prove to be fully recovered before denting the Springfield radar.