In less than a week baseball junkies such as myself will finally have their beloved sport back. As the Midwest digs out from the winter that won’t end, Twitter is alas filled with the harbingers of spring. Pictures are emerging of equipment being readied, uniforms being shipped, and Baseball America being delivered as the signs of a new season begin to blossom before us and once again hope springs eternal in the human breast (Alexander Pope–An Essay on Man). While times and topics are certainly different now than they were for the 18th century poet, the basic idea remains–man is nothing without hope. And so it is for the baseball fan, anxiously awaiting news of topics as mundane as arrivals and opening workouts. My mind begins to wonder what this spring training will offer and what surprises may await as non-roster and roster invitees alike are making preparations. So as a dedicated Cardinals fan and one who is devoted to the minor leagues and the prospects of what’s to come, here are a few players to watch in this year’s training camp…
Carson Kelly–Catcher/3B While still very young (he turns 20 this July), Kelly already has several years experience. Kelly was a second round draft pick for the Cardinals in 2012, drafted out of Westview High School in Portland, Oregon at the age of 17. He spent the 2012 season with the Johnson City Cardinals, and was promoted last season to the Peoria Chiefs.
Why he’s interesting–While nowhere near ready for a major league assignment, Kelly being added as a non-roster invitee is at the very least intriguing. In high school he was a third baseman and a pitcher and while much of his professional career has been at third, his potential may come as a catcher. A position where the Cardinals organization has definite future need, Kelly is the right age for development, has a strong arm as one of his major assests, a pitching background and according to Baseball America’s assessment of the Cardinals 2012 draft– potential as a hitter. Ultimately he may just be the right player, at the right age, in the right system at the right time. Can you imagine going to spring training with Yadier Molina, arguably the best catcher in the league when you were 19? Molina who was good enough to replace Mike Matheny, then a 3x and eventually 4x, Gold Glove recipient, and who (oh yeah) will also be at training camp as the club manager. This is an organization where success is predicated on the position of catcher. There is definite opportunity.
What to hope for–A great season with the Double-A Springfield affiliate where Kelly can hone his skills at the position of catcher and cultivate his batting skills against some higher quality pitching.
Marco Gonzales–LHP In 2013 was a first round draft pick for the Cardinals out of Gonzaga University. He finished last season with the Palm Beach Cardinals where he pitched a total of 16.2 innings and had an ERA of 1.62 with 13 strikeouts. He’s mainly a fastball pitcher, throwing in the low 90’s and he’s a lefty.
Why he’s interesting-– He’s very athletic and can play both sides of the ball. When he wasn’t pitching in college, he played first base. He’s just one of those players that does everything well; he can pitch, hit and field. He has an impressive list of high school and college accolades (link http://www.gozags.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205176487&). Overall, his pure athleticism makes him an exciting player to watch.
What to hope for–Again, I look to see Gonzales in Double-A Springfield at the very least. I think he has the potential to rise within the system very quickly.
Xavier Scruggs–1B with the Springfield Cardinals and one of my personal favorites. The 26 year-old from California finished last season just one homer short of 30.
Why he’s interesting–After a lengthy minor league career, Scruggs could be looking at one of his last shots to move up with the Cardinals. While he has power and potential, he also has strike outs so although he finished last season with a career high 29 homers, he also finished with a batting average still just under .250. As a player he has the maturity to move up with the organization and can be dynamic in clutch situations; seeming to love the high-pressure moment. He is the player that hit the walk-off homer in front of a capacity crowd at Hammons Field on the 4th of July.
What to hope for–Loved watching Scruggs in Springfield, but hoping he’s at least in Memphis this summer. This is a player who has done everything asked of him and who could be a major-leaguer in other organizations but is limited by his lack of flexibility in the field.
Game stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
DeAnn Short is a wife, mother of two boys, educator and high school counselor. Born and raised in Springfield, MO, she still resides in the Southwest part of the state. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Missouri State University. She is a devoted sports fan, proud citizen of Cardinal Nation and self-proclaimed minor league aficionado. She also writes a blog called Raising Johnny Ballgame http://cdshort.wordpress.com/ in which she combines two of her loves, her boys and sports. Her favorite place to be– on the river or at the ballpark, any ballpark. Follow her https://twitter.com/DeAnn5372 on Twitter