By Rob Rains
The Cardinals top two picks in this year’s draft are going to be able to play baseball this summer after all.
Both third baseman Jordan Walker and two-way player Masyn Winn were among the 12 players announced by the Cardinals on Wednesday night who will be participating in their satellite camp in Springfield, which will open on July 16.
The roster will be headed by some of the top prospects in the organization, third baseman Nolan Gorman and lefthanded pitcher Matthew Liberatore, both of whom likely would have been playing in Springfield for the Cardinals Double A team this summer had the minor league season not been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another top prospect headed to Springfield is outfielder Trejyn Fletcher, selected in thr second round of last year’s draft. Prospects Dylan Carlson, Zack Thompson and Ivan Herrera are in the Cardinals major league camp but could be in Springfield for at least part of the summer as well once the Cardinals set their active roster for the season.
“We felt like giving these guys an opportunity to do something was important,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations.
Mozeliak knows this camp will be different than a traditional minor-league season but he said a case could be made that players like Walker and Winn in particular, both 18 years old, could benefit from being around more experienced players. Fletcher turned 19 in April.
“We know we are not going to be able to replicate a season and we know we are not solving that, but it’s a small step,” Mozeliak said. “Hopefully it’s one they view as a positive for their careers.
“This is going to be a very different education than what they would have traditionally gotten. In some ways this might be a more unique one that they can prosper from. I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Walker was able to play just a handful of games this spring before his season was canceled, and Winn played in only one high school game this spring.
The young players in the Springfield camp will be surrounded by players who basically are Triple A level players, there to provide insurance for the major-league team in case of injuries.
They also will be able to spend the next two months working daily with Jose Oquendo, who will be in charge of the camp.
“From an opportunity standpoint for these young men you could argue this is priceless and hopefully they will make the most of it,” Mozeliak said.
Part of the reason for including the young players, he said, beyond the sheer benefit of getting them into a baseball environment for at least part of the summer, was the fact the Cardinals and all teams still don’t know if they will be able to hold an instructional camp this fall or winter.
The players will be able to get at-bats against live pitching and get work on defense during intrasquad games and workouts, Mozeliak said.
“We’re going to try to be as creative as possible and give them some exposure they might not otherwise have gotten,” he said. “We understand it’s not perfect but we are trying to take what we have and make the most of it.”
One player not going to the camp, at least for now, is righthanded pitcher Tink Hence, the Cardinals third pick in this year’s draft who won’t turn 18 until August.
“It came down to numbers,” Mozeliak said. “He certainly was somebody we discussed. We only had 60 spots total.”
It would appear that third base will be a very crowded position at the camp. In addition to Gorman and Walker, two other third basemen on the camp roster will be Malcom Nunez and Elehuris Montero, who currently is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 in the major-league camp.
The other players named to the Springfield roster were righthanded pitcher Nabil Crismatt, infielder Evan Mendoza, righthanded pitcher Roel Ramirez, catcher Julio Rodriguez, righthanded pitcher Angel Rondon and righthanded pitcher Alvaro Seijas.
Wednesday’s other news and notes from the Cardinals camp:
*The Cardinals are scheduled to play their first intrasquad game of the camp on Thursday and it will opening day starter Jack Flaherty opposing Dakota Hudson. Each is expected to pitch at least three innings in the scheduled four-inning game, depending on their pitch count.
*Other than the three players who had positive COVID-19 tests, the only players expected to be in camp who are not on the field are pitchers Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos. Gallegos is reportedly still at home in Mexico because of travel issues but the team has not provided any information about Reyes’ status other than that he is in St. Louis.
*Mozeliak said the team likely will add three more players to the major-league camp roster, which currently stands at 48, including the three positive COVID-19 cases (Genesis Cabrera, Ricardo Sanchez and Montero).
*Manager Mike Shildt said that for now the team expects to hold most of its workouts leading up to opening day on July 24 at night.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains