By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 14th season of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals opens tonight at Hammons Field, marking the start of a six-game homestand and a 140-game schedule.
Need a primer? Here’s a rundown of prospects, maybe prospects and notable promotions:
By the numbers
117 – The number of players who have been on the Springfield Cardinals official roster since 2005 and who have since reached the big leagues.
13 – 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, right-hander Alex Reyes, likely will traverse through an injury rehab tour, given the Cardinals have publicly said they want him in the big leagues near the end of May. The question is – will he come through Springfield one more time? He was last here in 2015.
Who are Springfield’s current prospects?
RHP Ryan Helsley (No. 7 MLB.com & No. 8 BA): He reached Double-A Springfield in the second half of last year and was signed out of Northeastern Oklahoma State in Tahlequah. His signing scout? That was Aaron Looper, who recommended a juco shortstop/pitcher by the name of Trevor Rosenthal in 2009. He can buzz his fastball in in the mid-90s, but he’ll need to show better command – and look out if he nails down a change-up.
C Andrew Knizner (No. 9 MLB.com & No. 10 BA): What’s not to like? This dude hit .324 (59-for-182) in 51 games last year for Springfield and got an invite to the prestigious Arizona Fall League. The question now is whether he can improve behind the plate. The Cardinals already have a top flight catching prospect in Carson Kelly in Triple-A Memphis, but Knizner could certainly work his way into a big-league backup role with quality defensive persona.
INF Edmundo Sosa (No. 16 MLB.com & No. 30 BA): That Sosa’s two rankings are far apart sheds light on why so many have mixed opinions of him. He showed flashes last year in high-Class A Palm Beach but missed a chunk of the season because of injury. At times, he’s one of the slickest gloves in the infield. At other times, he hasn’t been aggressive enough. He’s got a good enough bat to be an everyday guy.
RHP Conner Greene (No. 21 MLB.com): He was the pick-up in the Randal Grichuck offseason deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted Greene in the seventh round in 2013 out of high school. He can light up radar guns with a mid-90s fastball, but he hit a roadblock last year.
RHP Jake Woodford (No. 22 MLB.com & No. 18 BA): Woodford was the 39th overall selection of the 2015 draft, signing out his high school senior year in Tampa. He doesn’t have the electric fastball, but does have the smarts with adding and subtracting on his low 90s fastball. In fact, Baseball America notes he’s sort of a Jeff Suppan-type arm. It worked well last year in the high-Class A Florida State League, where he led the circuit in ERA (3.14) and was in the top 10 in WHIP and innings pitched. But can he handle the hitter-friendly ballparks of the Texas League?
RHP Connor Jones (No. 23 MLB.com & No. 22 BA): The Cardinals have long tried to draft college pitchers from winning programs, and Jones could be a nice fit, given he led Virginia to the NCAA championship in 2015 and in 2016 was a second-round draft pick. He got the club’s first win of the season Monday, when he worked five innings and survived six hits and four runs, three earned. That’s notable because Jones needs to show what he learned last year, when in his first full season he yielded 120 hits and 49 walks in the high Class A Florida State League.
Tommy Edman (No. 26 MLB.com & No. 29 BA): Over the years, the Cardinals farm has produced key bench guys for the big-league club such as Daniel Descalso and Greg Garcia (hold your applause for both, please). Is Edman the next in the lineage? He’s got the smarts, having majored in math and computational science at Stanford University, and the athleticism. In short, he’s a shortstop who does a lot of small things well and could be a headache late in games, given he’s a switch-hitter and might be a matchup problem when opposing managers try to deploy their bullpens. Even better, he already has five multi-hit games in the first six days of the season.
RHP Sam Tewes: He was an eighth-round draft pick out of Wichita State and his two brothers play for Drury University.
INF Luke Dykstra: Yes, he’s the son of former Mets and Phillies centerfielder Lenny Dykstra. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2014 and is just 22.
1B John Nogowski: He’s the guy rescued last summer from the independent leagues and surged in Springfield, batting .295 with 12 doubles in 287 at-bats.
INF Chris Chinea: He was on Louisiana State’s 2015 College World Series team
“Old” Outfield: The club’s outfielders: The club’s veteran outfielders — Granden Goetzman (25), Victor Roache (26), Thomas Spitz (25) – could be steadying influences on the field and in the clubhouse, along with 22-year-old Lane Thomas.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
New concessions: The Cardinals are delivering a revamped Concessions Scene for 2018, including the addition of The Original Chicken Sandwich in the Chick-fil-A Corner, a new Hiland Dairy Cardinals Creamery, three new unique menu items perfect for the ever-expanding Minor League Baseball foodie scene and The Cardinals Cantina. Three new concession items — the Funyun Burger, the Flaming Hot Cheetos Dog and Pig Wings — also debut in 2018. The ballpark also will have Foodie Fridays with an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Key promotional nights this homestand
- Thursday – magnet schedules, Fireworks, $1 bratwursts
- Friday – magnet schedules & Friday Night Fireworks
- Saturday – Day game at 2:10 p.m.
- Sunday – Kids run the bases after the game
- Monday – Missouri Department of Conservation Educational Day
- Tuesday — $1 hot dogs, CoxHealth Kids Program & High School Leadership Forum Educational Day