By Rob Rains
Even though a lot of familiar faces will be away from the Cardinals’ spring training camp for much of March because of the World Baseball Classic, the team has not really replaced them with a lot of newcomers.
There will be 14 position players going through their first major-league camp with the Cardinals, including outfielder Oscar Mercado, back for a second tour of duty after a few years in Cleveland.
Of the 11 non-roster players, five of them are catchers, brought over from the minor-league camp to handle all of the extra pitchers who will need somebody to throw to.
Earlier this week we took a look at the pitchers who are in camp for the first time. To read that story CLICK HERE
Here is the rundown of the position players who will be in their first major-league spring training with the Cardinals, listed in alphabetical order:
Jose Alvarez, catcher (NR) – Claimed by the Cardinals from the Astros in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, Alvarez spent time at four levels of the Houston system in 2022, hitting .279. A 22-year-old native of Venezuela, he likely will begin this season at either Peoria or Palm Beach.
Tres Barrera, catcher (NR) – Signed as a minor-league free agent in January,Barrera is the only one of the non-roster catchers with major league experience. He logged a combined 51 games with the Nationals over the last two seasons. Barrera, 28, likely is ticketed to serve as one of the catchers at Memphis when the season begins.
Willson Contreras, catcher – The major off-season acquisition by the Cardinals, Contreras turned down an invitation to catch for his native Venezuela in the WBC so he could spend the full spring in camp with the team. Expect him to catch when one of the Cardinals’ projected starters is on the mound, as well as getting time behind the plate working with their key relievers.
Jimmy Crooks, catcher (NR) – A lefthanded hitter, Crooks was the Cardinals’ fourth-round pick in last year’s amateur draft out of Oklahoma. He made his pro debut by playing 23 games at Palm Beach, where the 21-year-old showed some power potential, hitting three homers in 79 at-bats. He is expected to open the year either in Palm Beach or Peoria.
Jose Fermin, infielder – Acquired from the Indians for cash considerations, the 23-year-old Fermin spent last year at Triple A, where he hit six homers but posted a .215 average. A native of the Dominican Republic, Fermin had been in the Cleveland farm system since 2016. He is expected to begin this season at Memphis.
Moises Gomez, outfielder – One of the most interesting players in camp, Gomez is coming off a 2022 season that saw him lead all of the minor leagues with 39 home runs, 23 at Springfield and 16 at Memphis. Signed as a minor-league free agent before last season, Gomez, 24, will be part of a crowded outfield competition and no doubt also will get some at-bats as the designated hitter, which might be his most direct path to the majors.
Oscar Mercado, outfielder (NR) – Ten years after he was drafted by the Cardinals and five years after he was traded to Cleveland, Mercado is back after signing as a minor-league free agent. Mercado, 28, made his major-league debut in Cleveland in 2019 but has seen his offensive performance slide since his rookie season. Considered an excellent defensive outfielder, Mercado probably will be providing depth to the roster in Memphis when the year begins.
Taylor Motter, infielder (NR) – The Cardinals are the seventh stop on Motter’s professional journey which began when he was drafted by Tampa Bay out of Palm Beach Gardens High School. He has 159 games of major-league experience with the Rays, Seattle, Minnesota, Colorado, Boston and the Reds. Motter, 33, was signed as a minor-league free agent to provide infield depth at Memphis.
Juniel Querecuto, infielder (NR) – Signed as a minor-league free agent to provide more depth in Memphis, Querecuto is a 30-year-old switch-hitter who hit .256 with 11 home runs last year in Triple A with the Reds. Signed by Tampa Bay out of Venezuela in 2010, Querecuto played in four games in the majors with the Rays in 2016.
Nick Raposo, catcher (NR) – Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Division III Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Raposo has spent the last two seasons at Springfield, where he hit .270 in 2022. The 24-year-old will be trying to earn a promotion to Memphis to begin the year.
Jeremy Rivas, infielder (NR) – Just 19, Rivas will be the youngest player in the Cardinals’ camp. Signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela in 2019, Rivas was the primary shortstop at Palm Beach last season. He likely will begin this season at Peoria.
Wade Stauss, catcher (NR) – Also signed as a non-drafted free agent, in 2021, Stauss is a native of St. Louis and played for Southeast Missouri. A 23-year-old lefthanded hitter, he split the 2022 season between Palm Beach and Peoria but struggled offensively, hitting a combined .199. He will be trying to earn a spot in Peoria to begin this season.
Jordan Walker, outfielder (NR) – Walker will no doubt be one of the most watched players not only in the Cardinals’ camp but in all of baseball. Ranked among the best prospects in the game, the 20-year-old Walker will get a chance to prove that he can skip Triple A and move directly from Springfield to the majors to begin this season. The absence of Lars Nootbaar and Tyler O’Neill because of the WBC will give him extra games and at-bats to try to accomplish that goal.
Masyn Winn, shortstop (NR) – Ranked right behind Walker on the list of the top prospects in the organization, Winn won’t be competing for a major-league roster spot but he will get a chance to perform in front of the major-league staff for the first time. He also made several appearances at second base in the Fall League and probably will see time there this spring as well. Winn is all but certain to begin the year at Memphis.
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Photo of Jordan Walker courtesy of Springfield Cardinals