By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 15th season of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals already is under way, with the home-opener tonight at Hammons Field marking the start of a seven-game homestand and a 140-game schedule.
Need a primer? Here’s a rundown of prospects, maybe prospects and notable promotions:
By the numbers
124 – The number of players who have been on the Springfield Cardinals official roster since 2005 and who have since reached the big leagues.
8 – Springfield Cardinals who reached the big leagues last year alone
7 – Number of St. Louis’ Top 30-ranked prospects, by either Baseball America magazine or MLB.com, on the roster as of Tuesday
Will we see the No. 1 prospect again?
The organization’s No. 1-rated prospect by MLB.com, third baseman Nolan Gorman, opened the season in the low Class A Midwest League with the Peoria Chiefs. It’d be safe to say we wouldn’t see him this summer, given he’s only 18. Yet Gorman already is off a torrid start, and the Cardinals have gone old-school in recent years by dusting off an old playbook – jumping low Class A prospects over the high Class A Midwest League and challenging them here in the Texas League. He’s ranked No. 60 among MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. By the way, Baseball America’s No. 1 Cardinals prospect entering the season was right-hander Alex Reyes, who made the big-league club out of spring training.
Who are Springfield’s current prospects?
3B Elehuris Montero (No. 3 MLB.com among Cardinals prospects, No. 5 by Baseball America): At 20 years and 236 days old, Montero is the fifth-youngest player in the Double-A Texas League, according to Baseball America. He also arrives just a year after winning MVP honors of the low Class A Midwest League, where the Dominican Republic native led the circuit in average (.322), slugging (.529) and OPS (.910). He signed for a reported $300,000 in 2014.
OF Dylan Carlson (No. 6 MLB.com, No. 10 Baseball America): A switch-hitter, Carlson was the 33rd overall selection of the 2016 draft out of a California high school and signed for $1.35 million, according to Baseball America. He should be fun to watch at the plate as well as in right field, as he has 25 assists already in his career. It’ll be interesting to see the adjustments between him and Double-A pitchers as the season goes on, as the Texas League historically throw secondary pitches in fastball counts. By the way, he’s the fourth-youngest player in the TL.
OF Conner Capel (No. 17 MLB.com): The Double-A club has featured several exciting center fielders over the years, including Harrison Bader, Oscar Mercado and Lane Thomas, and actually came over from the Indians in 2018 when the Cardinals traded Mercado. Drafted out of a Texas high school, Capel enjoyed a 22-homer, 22-double season in the low Class A Midwest League in 2017 but hit 13 home runs in the same number of at-bats in two high Class A levels last year, yet still had 23 doubles.
RHP Seth Elledge (No. 28 MLB.com): Drafted by the Mariners in 2017 for $400,000, the former Dallas Baptist career saves leader (27) joined the Double-A club in 2018 following the Sam Tuivailala trade. In 16 innings here, he struck out 20 and walked six. MLB.com says he could move up once he refines his slider.
RHP Connor Jones (No. 16 MLB.com): He helped the University of Virginia win the College World Series in 2016 and was a second-round draft pick in 2016. The Cardinals have traditionally drafted college starting pitchers with hopes of them moving to the big leagues quickly as starters, but Jones moved to the bullpen in the 2018 Arizona Fall League after making 17 starts here. Can his stuff play up now? That’s the intrigue surrounding his return to Springfield.
LHP Evan Kruczynski (No. 27 MLB.com): You might want to catch him quickly if he performs as well as he did last year, when he struck out 107 and walked 31 in almost 116 innings – 22.2 innings for Springfield — and performed well in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. A left-hander? With four pitches? He certainly could be something.
INF Evan Mendoza (No. 29 by Baseball America): An 11th-round draft pick out of North Carolina State, Mendoza spent a majority of last season here in Springfield and opened this season at Triple-A Memphis.
Manager Joe Kruzel: He’s in his 12th season with the Cardinals and seventh as a manager, having previously worked in the short-season New York-Penn League, high Class A Midwest League and Rookie-level Appalachian League. Kruzel was a college coach spent 1989-2003 at the University of Toledo, including 11 seasons as head coach.
INF Kramer Robertson: He’s the son of Kim Mulkey, the coach of the national championship Baylor women’s basketball team. He also hit one of two home runs off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday night in Tulsa. Carlson had the other.
RHP Sam Tewes: He was an eighth-round draft pick out of Wichita State and his two brothers play for Drury University.
INF Chris Chinea: He was on Louisiana State’s 2015 College World Series team.
RHP Williams Perez: He’s a 27-year-old former big-leaguer, having pitched 170 innings for the Braves over the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Scott Hurst: He was a non-roster invite to big-league camp and played in 15 games this spring, two years after being a third-round draft pick.
ABOUT THIS HOMESTAND
The Cardinals play the Kansas City Royals’ Double-A affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals for a four-game series and follow with a three-game series against the Tulsa Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers).
The Naturals roster includes outfielder Khalil Lee, ranked No. 2 among Royals Top 30 prospects by Baseball America. Catcher Melbrys Viloria (No. 14), right-hander Gerson Garabito (No. 21) and outfielder Kort Peterson (No. 29). Viloria played 10 games in Kansas City last year.
– $1 hot dogs on Tuesday, $1 bratwursts on Thursdays
– Fireworks every Friday night
– Every Sunday: Kids Run the Bases
– Bobbleheads: Yadier Molina & Roberto Clemente dual bobbleheads (May 30), Harrison Bader with Flo (June 15), Jack Flaherty (June 27), ), Lou Brock (Aug. 10), Ned Reynolds (Aug. 16),
– Other notable giveaways: St. Louis Cardinals 2013 NLC Championship mystery ring (June 1), Ozark Fence camo dry fit shirt (June 13), St. Louis Cardinals road alternate embroidered jersey (July 11), St. Louis cardinals 1944 World Championship replica ring (Aug. 30), Cardinals 2004 NLCS beer stein (Aug. 31)
– Fort Leonard Wood Military Appreciation Day (June 1)