Where will Cardinals top prospects be playing when minor-league seasons begin?
By Rob Rains
The Cardinals announced the rosters for their four full-season minor-league affiliates on Friday, all of which will begin their seasons on Tuesday.
The organization’s top two affiliates remain the same as in previous seasons, Triple A Memphis and Double A Springfield, but the two Class A teams have flipped, with Peoria now the high A affiliated and Palm Beach becoming the low A level.
“We all are anxious to get started,” said Gary LaRocque, director of player development, after all the minor-league seasons were canceled last year. “Naturally it will take a little bit for the players to get their feet under them, it’s to be expected. Once we start we’ll get a real measure of how we’re doing after the first month where they get to play finally.”
The restructured farm system includes two fewer affiliates, as State College and Johnson City became development teams run by major-league baseball.
The teams have been training in Florida for the last month, arriving after the major-league team started the regular season. All of the teams will break camp on Saturday.
Here is a team by team look at where the organization’s top prospects will be as the season begins:
Memphis – The top two pitching prospects in the farm system, left-handers Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson, make the biggest jumps in the organization, all the way to Triple A. Liberatore pitched in low Class A in 2019, when he was with Tampa Bay before he was traded to the Cardinals. Thompson was the Cardinals’ top pick in the 2019 draft but has logged only 15 innings in pro ball that same year, split between high A and the Gulf Coast League.
Also assigned to Memphis were pitchers Johan Oviedo, Tommy Parsons, Angel Rondon and Austin Warner. Jake Woodford is not on the initial Memphis roster as he is part of the taxi squad for the Cardinals series this weekend in Pittsburgh,
The top position players assigned to Memphis were infielder Evan Mendoza and outfielders Scott Hurst, Lars Nootbaar and Lane Thomas.
Springfield – The organization assigned its top two position playing prospects, infielder Nolan Gorman and catcher Ivan Herrera, to Springfield to begin the year, as expected. Also on the opening day roster is shortstop Delvin Perez, a former first-round pick who played in low Class A in 2019. Another former first-round pick, outfielder Nick Plummer, also will begin the year in Double A.
Peoria – The new High A affiliate will begin the season with prospects Jhon Torres, an outfielder, third baseman Malcom Nunez and two of the team’s draft picks from last summer, pitcher Ian Bedell and outfielder Alec Burleson. Making the jump from short-season Johnson City in 2019 to high A is infielder Chandler Redmond.
Palm Beach – The Cardinals top two picks in last year’s draft, high school infielders Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, will begin their pro careers together on the Palm Beach roster. Each was part of the alternate site camp roster a year ago when the pandemic wiped out their first actual minor-league seasons. Walker is expected to primarily play third base while Winn, a two-way player, will primarily be a shortstop.
One of the organization’s top new international prospects, right-handed pitcher Edwin Nunez, also is on the Palm Beach roster as is another player drafted last summer, left-handed pitcher Levi Prater and infielder Franklin Soto.
Players not assigned to a full-season roster to begin the year will be part of the complex league roster, formerly called the extended spring training program. The rookie league short-season team in Jupiter will begin its season in July under the new minor-league format. That group of players includes right-handed pitcher Tink Hence, catcher Jake Burns and outfielder Trejyn Fletcher.
Here are the complete rosters:
Pitchers: Jesus Cruz, Alex FaGalde, Junior Fernandez, Bernardo Flores, Connor Jones, Evan Kruczynski, Matthew Liberatore, Johan Oviedo, Thomas Parsons, Johan Quezada, Roel Ramirez, Angel Rondon, Ricardo Sanchez, Zack Thompson, Austin Warner, Garrett Williams;
Catchers: Aaron Antonini, Dennis Ortega;
Infielders: Rayder Ascanio, Evan Mendoza, Max Moroff, Kramer Robertson;
Outfielders: Conner Capel, Scott Hurst, Lars Nootbaar, Matt Szczur, Lane Thomas
Pitchers: Grant Black, Jacob Bosiokovic, Patrick Dayton, Edgar Escobar, Edgar Gonzalez, Salvador Justo, Kyle Leahy, Andre Pallante, Jacob Patterson, Dalton Roach, Griffin Roberts, Domingo Robles, Alvaro Seijas, Connor Thomas, Jake Walsh;
Catchers; Ivan Herrera, Nick Raposo, Julio Rodriguez;
Infielders: Luken Baker, Nick Dunn, Nolan Gorman, Irving Lopez, Delvin Perez, Juan Yepez;
Outfielders: Chase Pinder, Nick Plummer, Justin Toerner, David Vinsky
Pitchers: Cole Aker, Ian Bedell, Fabian Blanco, Michael Brettell, Logan Gragg, Nathanael Heredia, Mac Lardner, Connor Lunn, Ian Oxnevad, Freddy Pacheco, Wilfredo Pereira, Jack Ralston, Jacob Schlesener, Evan Sisk, Leonardo Taveras, Michael YaSenka;
Catchers: Cristhian Longa, Pedro Pages, Zade Richardson;
Infielders: Moises Castillo, Imeldo Diaz, Brendan Donovan, Malcom Nunez, Chandler Redmond, Brady Whalen;
Outfielders: Alec Burleson, Leandro Cedeno, Matt Chamberlain, Jhon Torres
Pitchers: John Beller, Will Guay, Ludwin Jimenez, Francisco Justo, Jose Moreno, Edwin Nunez, Luis Ortiz, Inohan Paniagua, Levi Prater, Ramon Santos, Enmanuel Solano, Luis Tena, Nick Trogrlic-Iverson;
Catchers: Edgardo Rodriguez, Carlos Soto;
Infielders: Jacob Buchberger, Francisco Hernandez, Todd Lott, Franklin Soto, Jordan Walker, Donivan Williams, Masyn Winn;
Outfieldrrs: Adanson Cruz, Terry Fuller, L. J. Jones, Matt Koperniak, Patrick Romeri;
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo of Matthew Liberatore by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports