It is finally here!! Spring Training 2013. The 2012 season for the St. Louis Cardinals came to a disappointing end on October 22nd in a loss in the National League Championship Series against the eventual champs, San Francisco. But, making it within a game of back-to-back World Series appearances, with a bunch of young, home-grown talent has folks in St. Louis very optimistic for the coming season. Not to mention, Manager Mike Matheny was in his first season as a Manager. That’s some sound experience.
The Springfield Cardinals ended 2012 on the highest of highs winning their first Texas League Championship in franchise history. In fact, the professional championship was the first for the city of Springfield since 1939! Pretty remarkable.
More than likely gone in 2013 will be Player of the Year, Oscar Taveras, super second base prospect, Kolten Wong, and a number of other key contributors, but the next batch of future St. Louis Cardinals will be on display at Hammons Field come April 11th.
A nice trip down memory lane for a moment there, but now it’s time to spring forward. The eternal optimism that is Spring Training. Every team is undefeated. Every team believes this is their year to win the World Series (yes, even the Cubs). Every fan base believes the same thing. However, games are won and lost on the field, not on paper (even the green kind that got shelled out from Yankees-Light, Los Angeles). The spring is for honing those skillsto prepare for the grind that is a 162 game season (spring training and playoffs excluded).
Pitchers and catchers reported today in Jupiter, Florida. Position players arrive on Valentine’s Day. Although many players have been throwing bullpens and getting ready for the last month, every other pitcher and catcher on the 40-man roster and Non-Roster Invitee list reported today, officially. A number of those are former/current Springfield Cardinals including Michael Blazek, Keith Butler, Eric Fornataro, Jorge Rondon and Kevin Siegrist (all on the 40-man roster). Non-Roster invites were given to Jon Gast, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Audry Perez, Greg Garcia, Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras to name a few.
This opportunity, especially for the non-roster invitees, gives the younger guys a chance to mingle with vetrans and learn how they go about their business in the right way. It’s an honor and a privilege to be asked to come to major league camp. This group of players knows that and will make the most of their opportunities.
Back now to what Spring Training really means. It means the beginning of Spring and Summer. America’s past-time is officially back in action. It’s almost hard to believe that the Cardinals first Spring Training game is on February 23rd (against Miami). That’s LESS than two weeks away. Teams will have about seven full days of work outs before the games start. Crazy right?! Well, for some, that can’t get here soon enough.
The madness that is the Winter Meetings with signing and trading players is long gone. Some Free-Agents are still looking for jobs (see Kyle Lohse or Michael Bourn among others). Arbitration cases will be heard, jobs will be won, jobs will be lost…this is the real fun of Spring Training. A team never knows what’s going to happen. In 2001, did anyone see Albert Pujols coming? Nope, not even Bobby Bonilla and his bad hamstring. That worked out ok, right? Matt Carpenter won a job on the big league roster last year. Tony Cruz beat out former high prospect Bryan Anderson for the “Back up Yadi” sweepstakes. And who could forget Trevor Rosenthal?
The guy went from 21st round pick in ’09, to being invited to big league camp dominating big leaguers the entire time to being Springfield “Ace” until his major league call-up in July last summer. All he did from there was blow through every lineup in the playoffs with 100mph gas.
But those opportunities don’t happen unless the players, themselves, prove in Spring Training that they can do it and live up to the expectations. This is the time to shine for the youngsters.
As you may be realizing, this is a very exciting day. It’s almost like a Baseball-Christmas for fans. Go to sleep with the anticipation on the eve of Spring Training and when you wake up, there’s just that little extra hop in your step. Your shoulders are a held a little higher and the air smells a little sweeter. Today, Cardinals Nation, is a great day. Baseball Season is HERE!!!
The annual ranking of baseball’s biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com’s Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players’ skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on mlb.com’s Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2013.
The Cardinals had just two crack the Top 100 in 2012. This year, six players made the list in all, including four in the top 50. Outfield Oscar Taveras (No. 3) and Right-handed pitchers Shelby Miller (No. 25), Carlos Martinez (No. 33) and Trevor Rosenthal (No. 43). Kolten Wong, the teams top 2B prospect, landed at No. 79 and 2012 First-Rounder Michael Wacha checked in at No. 83.
All six players have spent time in a Springfield Cardinals uniform since 2011 with five, all but Miller, contributing to the 2012 Texas League Championship.
A look at each player and their outlook.
Oscar Taveras – The 20-year-old, skipped High-A Palm Beach to make his Double-A debut in 2012 and did not disappoint. He hit .321 (tops in the league) and led all of St. Louis’ Minor Leaguers in hits (153), home runs (23), RBIs (94), doubles (37) and slugging percentage (.572) en route to being named the Texas League Player of the Year in 2012. Cardinals’ Farm Director said, “As he’s getting closer to the big leagues, it’s how he carries himself and turns himself into a Major League player. I think some of it is continuing to improve on the defensive and baserunning side. It’s going to be more attention to detail and smoothing out the rough edges.” One insider during the revieling of the Top 100 said of Taveras, “He reminds me of a young Barry Bonds”. Pretty high praise for a sensational up and coming star. He’s projected to begin the year in AAA Memphis.
Shelby Miller – Pitched with the Springfield Cardinals in 2011 and went 9-3 with 2.70 ERA in 16 starts. That prompted a move to AAA Memphis in 2012 and he saw his far share of struggles in the first half of the season going 4-8 with a 6.17 ERA. But, in his final 10 starts, Miller dominated going 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA with 70 strikeouts and only seven walks in 59.1 innings. That success turned into a Big League Call-Up in September. We excelled in six games, one start, with a 1-0 record and a 1.32 ERA. He will battle for a spot on the Major League roster in the Spring.
Carlos Martinez – Only 21-years-old, Martinez made a jump to Springfield in June and went 4-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 15 games. He turned in his best outing of the year in his final start in the Texas League Championship Series against Frisco twirling seven shutout innings allowing just four hits while striking out seven. Polishing his pitch repertoire and increasing his endurance will be focal points for Martinez, who has shown no hesitancy in using his off-speed pitches at a young age. “He’s never really had a full season where he’s thrown a lot of innings, so it’s more conditioning him to what it takes to be a starting pitcher over the long haul,” Vuch said. “It’s getting him ready to handle the rigors of the long season.”
Trevor Rosenthal – Another Springfield Cardinal to start the 2012 season, he was outstanding at the AA level before being promoted straight to St. Louis in July going 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA in 17 starts allowing batters to hit just .202 against the righty. He was just the third player (Steven Hill, 2010, and Maikel Cleto, 2011) to go directly from Springfield to St. Louis to make their big league debut. Rosenthal, a member of the St. Louis bullpen in the postseason, flat out overwhelmed major league hitters allowing no runs on just two hits while striking out 15 in 8.2 innings.
Kolten Wong – The top second baseman in the system, Wong spent all of 2012 in Springfield, his first full season of pro-ball, and was a Texas League All-Star and named to the Post-Season All-Star Team honored the top 2B in the league. He batted .287 and stole a team high 21 bases while playing stellar defense. He should be the everyday 2B in Memphis and even battling for a spot on the big league roster in Spring Training.
Michael Wacha – Drafted with the 19th overall selection in June, 2012 out of Texas A&M, the tall right-hander shined in his professional debut rising all the way to Springfield in August. As a pro, he appeared in 11 games allowing just two runs on eight hits in 21 innings while striking out 40 and walking four on limited work. Opponents hits just .114 against Wacha. He will be moved back into the starting rotation in 2013 and will more than likely begin the season In Springfield.
For an entire listing of the Top 100 prospects, follow this link: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130129&content_id=41230208&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb
In addition to these Top Prospects, a number of former Springfield Cardinals were Non-Roster Invitees to Major League Spring Training reporting on Feb. 11 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 15 (position players)
Pitchers – John Gast*, Seth Maness*, Tyler Lyons*, Carlos Martinez* and Michael Wacha*
Catchers – Adam Ehrlich, Rob Johnson, Jesus Montero, Audry Perez*, Cody Stanley and J.R. Towles
Infielders – Greg Garcia*, Starlin Rodriguez and Kolten Wong*
Outfielders – Justin Christian and Oscar Taveras*
* – Denotes Springfield Cardinal Alumni
Here it is! Our first official post in our brand new blog…Very exciting times for the Springfield Cardinals! So, Here…We….Go!
Springfield Missouri loves baseball. In particular, St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. So when Hammons Field hosted the annual St. Louis Cardinals Caravan on Friday last week, naturally fans were excited to get the ball rolling on the 2013 season. Attendees included former Springfield Cardinal Shelby Miller (who made his MLB debut in September of 2012), ’12 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Seth Maness (and overall one of the nicest human beings in the organization), and Cardinal Alums Cal Eldred, Alan Benes and current hitting coach John Mabry. TV Analyst Al Hrabosky served as the Emcee and spoke very fondly of the support the city of Springfield gives to not only its Double-A team, but to the “Big Birds” in St. Louis.
Players and alums answered a number of great questions from the fans including asking Seth Maness, “If Wainwright and Carpenter are gone after this season, are you going to take their jobs.” Seth came up with a very diplomatic response and cited the “friendly” competition among the minor league hurlers. Great stuff from GREAT fans.
The group then signed autographs for ALL fans. There was some worry that not everyone would get an opportunity to receive and autograph, but the St. Louis staff on hand said, “Everyone should get a chance to meet these guys.” Terrific Call St. Louis!
Fans also had a chance to purchase game used and new bats, game-worn jerseys, helmets, baseballs and other types of memorabilia to have signed. We call this our “Garage Sale” and it seemed to go over well for the third straight year.
Trips to Mercy and Cox South hospitals to visit the pediatric levels to visit with the young fans followed the program at Hammons Field. ”Seeing these ailing kids made the trip whole thing worth while,” a few of the players mentioned. One was just four months old.
After a couple hours off, the Caravan headed over to JQH Arena to sign autographs for fans for an hour. Fans young and old where there to catch a glimpse of Cardinals Nation past, present and future! The group then went on the court and was honored with a standing ovation from the large crowd at halftime of the 7:30pm game Friday night of the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions.
Also making an appearance was the 2012 Texas League Championship Trophy, won for the first time in Springfield’s eight-year history in the TL. Fans applauded loudly and were excited to see the piece of hardware for the first time.
Overall, another great Caravan in Springfield last week! Players were outstanding, Alums were terrific and Al was glowing with his remarks about the city and ballpark!
So, our first blog is in the books. Feel free to share your input. Ask questions about the Cardinals, Springfield or St. Louis. Give us some ideas on what you want to hear about. This is as much a blog FOR the fans as it is OF the fans…so speak up and enjoy! Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @SGF_Cardinals