By Rob Rains
There will be 31 position players in camp when the Cardinals go through the spring’s first full-squad workout next Monday in Jupiter, Fla., and most are familiar faces.
Only 10 of those 31 will be spending their first spring in the Cardinals’ major-league camp, and four of those players are non-roster catchers on hand to be available for all of the extra pitchers in camp.
Earlier this week we looked at the 15 pitchers in the big-league camp for the first time. Here are the new position players, listed in alphabetical order:
Dylan Carlson (NR) – One of the Cardinals’ top prospects, the 20-year-old switch-hitting outfielder likely will begin the season at Double A Springfield, where he once again will be one of the youngest players in the league. A 2016 first-round pick out of high school in California, Carlson split last season between Peoria and Palm Beach and showed impressive plate discipline, drawing 62 walks and striking out just 88 times in more than 500 plate appearances. He likely will have better power numbers in hitter-friendly Springfield and as body starts to fill out.
Jose Godoy (NR) – One of the non-roster catchers in camp, the 24-year-old native of Venezuela has been in the Cardinals system since 2012 but has only played 10 games above Class A. He hit .289 at Palm Beach last year and likely will begin this season as one of the catchers in Springfield.
Paul Goldschmidt – This will be Goldschmidt’s first spring training outside of Arizona and his first in a uniform other than that of the Diamondbacks. He will spend the spring getting to know his new teammates and the facilities at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadum as he prepares for what the Cardinals hope will become a long stay through a contract extension signed before he can become a free agent at the end of this season.
Joe Hudson (NR) – Signed as a minor-league free agent in November, the 27-year-old Hudson made his major-league debut in 2018, catching eight games for the Angels. He was traded from the Reds to Los Angeles during the season and spent most of the year at Triple A. Hudson is expected to play at Memphis this season, serving as the backup to prospect Andrew Knizner.
Brian O’Keefe (NR) – The 25-year-old catcher has been in the Cardinals’ system since 2014, when he was a seventh-round draft pick out of St. Joseph’s. He spent all of 2018 at Palm Beach. O’Keefe likely will be one of the catchers at Springfield to begin the season.
Drew Robinson – Acquired in a trade from Texas in December for Patrick Wisdom, the 26-year-old Robinson has two factors working in his favor as he tries to win a roster spot in the majors to start the season – he has the ability to play virtually anywhere on the field and he hits left-handed. Those factors alone won’t give him a job, however, even if the Cardinals elect to carry an extra bench player to start the season; he will still have to hit for a decent average this spring to win a job.
Julio Rodriguez (NR) – The other non-roster catcher in camp, Rodriguez split the catching assignments at Peoria last year with Dennis Ortega; ironically both were born on the same day – June 11, 1997, Ortega in Venezuela and Rodriguez in the Dominican Republic. The two could well be together again this season in Palm Beach unless the organization decides to jump one of them to Springfield.
Lane Thomas – In less than two years in the organization, the 23-year-old outfielder has become one of the Cardinals’ best prospects. Acquired from Toronto in 2017 in exchange for international bonus money, Thomas led the team’s minor league system with 27 homers and 88 RBIs, mostly at Springfield, last season and then played well in the Arizona Fall League. He has the defensive skills to play all three outfield spots and also stole 17 bases last year. Thomas is all but certain to begin the year in Memphis but an injury or sub-par performance by one of the outfielders in St. Louis could result in his first shot at the major leagues.
Ramon Urias – Another intriguing prospect, the 24-year-old infielder was signed as a minor league free agent out of the Mexican League last March. He split last year between Springfield and Memphis and showed some pop in his bat, hitting 13 homers in 310 at-bats while finishing with a .300 average. He played at least seven games at all four infield positions, although second base is probably his best position. He should start the year at Memphis along with fellow infield prospects Tommy Edman and Max Schrock.
Justin Williams – Fans probably won’t see much of Williams this spring after he broke his hand in an off-season incident that remains mysterious. The 23-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder was acquired with Genesis Cabrera from Tampa for Tommy Pham. A former second-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2013, last season was his first at the Triple A level where he hit a combined 11 homers in 425 at-bats. Once he is able to play Williams will join a crowded Memphis outfield with Thomas, Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo of Dylan Carlson by Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs