By Rob Rains
Of the 72 players coming to spring training with the Cardinals this year, there are 13 position players who will be there for the first time.
Two of those players is on the 40-man roster, outfielder Austin Dean, the only position player acquired from outside the organization over the winter, and infielder Brad Miller, signed as a free agent on Wednesday.
Six of the newcomers to camp are catchers, six are infielders and Dean is the only outfielder who will be participating in the first full squad workout on Monday. Earlier this week we wrote capsule summaries on the 18 pitchers in camp for the first time. CLICK HERE to read that story.
Here are capsules on each of the new position players in camp, listed in alphabetical order:
Aaron Antonini, C: The 21-year-old native of Venezuela was the Cardinals 18th round pick in last year’s draft out of Middle Tennessee State. He spent his first pro season at rookie level Johnson City, where he played well defensively and hit five homers in 73 at-bats while posting a .219 average.
Luken Baker, INF: The first baseman spent the 2019 season at Class A Palm Beach, hitting 10 homers in a power-challenging league. A second-round pick in the 2018 draft out of TCU, Baker likely will make the jump to Double A Springfield this season, where it will be interesting to see what offensive numbers he can produce in a league which is much more hitter friendly than the Florida State League.
Austin Dean, OF: The Cardinals acquired Dean in a trade from the Marlins in the off-season for a low level minor-league outfielder. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter hit 18 homers at Triple A last season and also hit six home runs for the Marlins in 73 at-bats. More than likely Dean will be part of the Memphis outfield, adding depth to the organization.
Nolan Gorman, INF: One of the Cardinals best prospects got into a handful of games last spring when he was brought over from the minor-league camp, even hitting a home run. The first-round pick in 2018 split last season between Peoria and Palm Beach and appears in line for a promotion to Double A Springfield, which will be a challenging assignment for the third baseman who won’t turn 20 until May.
Oscar Hernandez, C: A veteran minor-leaguer, Hernandez signed with the Cardinals as a minor-league free agent after spending the last two years in the Red Sox system. The 26-year-old has been playing professionally since 2010 and also has 22 games of major-league experience. Hernandez will most likely open this season at Triple A Memphis.
Ivan Herrera, C: One of the Cardinals’ rising prospects, Herrera will be another young player at Double A Springfield this year, beginning the season as a 19-year-old (turning 20 in June). Herrera split 2019 between Peoria and Palm Beach before finishing the year in the Arizona Fall League. A native of Panama, Herrera has been in the Cardinals’ system since 2017, posting a career .309 average.
Evan Mendoza, INF: The Cardinals’ 11th round pick in the 2017 draft out of North Carolina State, where he was a teammate of Andrew Knizner, Mendoza spent the bulk of the 2019 season at Springfield. He played both third base and first base while posting a .248 average, a drop-off from his previous seasons in A ball, which makes this an important season for him and his future in the organization.
Brad Miller. INF: The left-handed hitter is the favorite to win the final reserve infielder spot on the roster but will be competing with Yairo Munoz and Edmundo Sosa this spring for that job. The Cardinals like the fact the 30-year-old Miller can play anywhere on the field and offers power potential from the left side of the plate. He has been in the majors since 2013 and last year hit 13 homers in 170 at-bats split between the Indians and Phillies.
Elehuris Montero, INF: One of the Cardinals’ top prospects heading into last season, Montero suffered through an injury-filled year and played in just 59 games at Springfield and struggled when he did play, only hitting .188. The third baseman, who was the MVP of the Class A Midwest League for Peoria in 2018, was able to get some extra at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, but the 21-year-old needs a healthy 2020 to retain his high prospect status.
John Nogowski, INF: Signed by the Cardinals out of independent ball in 2017 after starting his career in Oakland’s farm system, Nogowski has produced good offensive numbers at Springfield in 2018 and at Memphis last season, where he hit 15 homers and a .295 average. He gets his first major-league spring invitation as a 27-year-old but is expected to return to Memphis this season.
Pedro Pages, C: Pages is the second catcher invited to the major-league spring training camp less than a year after he was drafted by the Cardinals, in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic. A native of Venezuela, Pages made his pro debut in State College, where he hit .291. He likely will be in line for a promotion to either Peoria or Palm Beach this season.
Carlos Soto Jr., C: Still only 20 years old, Soto has been in the Cardinals’ system since 2016 when the native of Mexico signed as an international free agent. The left-handed hitter split the 2019 season between State College and Peoria and probably will begin this season either back at Peoria or in Palm Beach.
Alexis Wilson, C: Also a native of Mexico, Wilson has been in the Cardinals system since 2014. Now 23, he spent the majority of last season at Peoria and will be in the mix for an assignment to Palm Beach to begin the season.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by Mark Harrell/Springfield Cardinals