By Rob Rains
When the Cardinals pitchers and catchers go through their first formal workout of the spring on Wednesday, there will be a whopping 18 pitchers doing so for the first time.
Only two of those newcomers are actually on the 40-man roster; lefthander Kwang Hyun Kim, signed to a two-year contract as a free agent after starring in his native Korea, and lefthander Ricardo Sanchez, acquired last week on a waiver claim.
The other 16 are in camp on a non-roster basis, the larger than normal number due partially because of the Cardinals decision not to conduct an early spring camp for minor-leaguers this year.
The only pitcher in camp for the first time who already has pitched in the majors for the Cardinals is Junior Fernandez, called up last summer after not being a part of the major-league spring camp in 2019.
Here are capsule summaries of the 18 new pitchers, listed in alphabetical order:
Akeem Bostick: A 24-year-old righthander, Bostick was signed as a minor-league free agent last September, a month after being released by the Astros. A second-round pick out of a South Carolina high school by the Rangers in 2013, Bostick was traded to Houston two years later. Last season at Triple A Round Rock he was used as both a starter and reliever but posted a 7.28 ERA.
Nabel Crismatt: Another minor-league free agent signing, the right-handed Crismatt, 25, pitched in Triple A for the Mariners last season. Used as both a starter and reliever, Crismatt posted a 9.06 ERA in 13 games. He pitched much better (1.94 ERA in 83 innings) to start the season in Double A. Crismatt, a native of Columbia, originally signed with the Mets and was in their organization from 2012 through 2018.
Bryan Dobzanski: Selected in the 29th round by the Cardinals in the 2014 draft out of high school in New Jersey, Dobzanski received a $700,000 signing bonus to bypass a commitment to the University of Louisville. A 24-year-old righthander, Dobzanski has moved up steadily through the organization, reaching Triple A Memphis last year. He was converted into a reliever in 2017. He was a two-time state wrestling champion in high school, going 46-0 as a senior and 158-8 in his career.
Alex FaGalde: A 30th-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2017 draft out of California-Riverside, the right-handed FaGalde gets his first chance to come to the big league camp after splitting the 2019 season between Palm Beach and Double A Springfield. The 25-year-old righthander had a combined 113 strikeouts and just 39 walks in 139 innings last season.
Junior Fernandez: A move to the bullpen has proved big for Fernandez, who made his major-league debut last season for the Cardinals after a strong season at Triple A Memphis. The righthander signed as an international free agent with the Cardinals in 2014 after playing high school baseball for two years in Miami. Fernandez will turn 23 on March 2 and will be in the mix for one of the setup jobs in the major-league bullpen.
Rob Kaminsky: A former first-round pick by the Cardinals out of a New Jersey high school in 2013, the left-handed Kaminsky returns to the organization after signing as a minor-league free agent. Traded to the Indians in 2015 for Brandon Moss, Kaminsky has battled a series of injuries the last few years. Moved to the bullpen in 2018, the 25-year-old pitched in 42 games last year between Double A and Triple A, striking out 61 batters in 56 innings.
Kwang Hyun Kim: The 31-year-old Kim arrives in the major leagues after a stellar career in his native South Korea, including winning 17 games in 2019. He has been both a starter and reliever in his career and will be competing this spring with Carlos Martinez for the open spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. The left-handed Kim has displayed excellent control in his career, last year issuing just 38 walks while striking out 180 batters in 190 innings.
Matthew Liberatore: Acquired in a trade from Tampa Bay, the 20-year-old lefthander already is ranked as the top pitching prospect in the Cardinals organization. A childhood friend and teammate of Cardinals’ third base prospect Nolan Gorman, Liberatore was the Rays’ first-round pick in 2018 out of high school in Arizona. He pitched in the low A Midwest League last season, and probably will begin this season at high A Palm Beach before moving up to Double A Springfield later in the year.
Johan Oviedo: A native of Cuba who signed for a seven-figure bonus in 2016, the righthander who will turn 22 on March 2 had the best season in his short pro career in 2019. Oviedo combined to start 28 games between Palm Beach and Springfield, picking up 12 wins while recording 163 strikeouts in 146 innings. He is expected to open this season as part of the starting rotation in Springfield.
Tommy Parsons: A year ago, the right-handed Parsons was in his first minor-league spring training camp after signing as a non-drafted senior from Adrian College in Michigan in 2018. He earned the non-roster invitation to the big-league camp after climbing through four levels of the organization last year, from Peoria to Memphis, with a combined 11 wins and 3.53 ERA in 27 starts. Parsons, 24, was not drafted despite going 40-4 in his college career, including 11-0 as a senior.
Roel Ramirez: The Cardinals obtained the right-handed Ramirez along with Genesis Cabrera and Justin Williams in the 2018 trade that sent Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay. He spent the majority of his first full season in the organization in 2019 in Springfield, pitching mostly in relief. He was an eighth-round pick of the Rays in the 2013 draft.
Griffin Roberts: The top pitching selection by the Cardinals in the 2018 draft, the 43rd overall selection, Roberts had to miss the first 50 games of the 2019 season as the result of a positive drug test for marijuana. The righthander from Wake Forest, 23, was just 1-7 at Palm Beach but pitched well in the Arizona Fall League with 18 strikeouts and just two walks in 14 innings. The organization needs to decide if they want Roberts to start or relieve, but either way he likely will be at Springfield this season.
Angel Rondon: Named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year for 2019, the 22-year-old righthander split the season between Palm Beach and Springfield, going 11-7 with a 2.93 ERA. A native of the Dominican Republic, Rondon signed with the Cardinals as an international free agent in 2016. He likely will begin this season back in the rotation at Springfield.
Ricardo Sanchez: The 22-year-old lefthander was acquired in a waiver claim from the Mariners last week. The native of Venezuela pitched in Double A last year for the Mariners, earning a spot in the the Texas League All-Star game. Originally signed as a free agent by the Angels, Sanchez also has spent time in the Braves system.
Ramon Santos: A right-handed reliever, Santos has been in the Cardinals organization since signing as an international free agent in 2012. Now 25, he pitched all of last season at Palm Beach, racking up 65 strikeouts in 56 innings. A native of the Dominican Republic, Santos likely will be in the bullpen in Springfield this season.
Alvaro Seijas: Signed to a $762,000 bonus in 2015, the native of Venezuela had the best season of his pro career in 2019. The righthander went 8-6 with a 2.81 ERA in a combined 24 starts with Peoria and Palm Beach. Still only 21, Seijas could return to Palm Beach to start this season but likely will wind up in Springfield at some point during the year.
Zack Thompson: The Cardinals’ first-round pick in last year’s draft out of the University of Kentucky, the lefthander was used sparingly by the organization in his first pro season after a heavy college workload in the spring, logging just 15 innings in 13 appearances. Those restrictions won’t be in place this season for the 22-year-old, who probably will begin the season in the rotation at Palm Beach before receiving a promotion to Springfield before the end of the summer.
Kodi Whitley: A 24-year-old right-handed reliever, Whitley could be the latest find by the Cardinals from a small college. He was drafted in the 27th round in 2017 out of Mount Olive (N.C.) after pitching only five innings that year because of Tommy John surgery. Whitley climbed from Palm Beach to Memphis in 2019 before finishing his year in the Arizona Fall League. He had a 1.60 ERA in 50 games with 78 strikeouts and only 19 walks between the three levels in the Cardinals’ system, then turned in a 1.64 ERA in the fall league.
Later this week we will take a look at the position players in camp for the first time.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains