As the Cardinals sifted through the players they had to protect and the roster they had to rearrange to do so before the Rule 5 draft, the numbers that drove them to add 24-year-old second baseman Ramon Urias were obvious.
They lit up the scoreboard every time he came to the plate.
“He just hit at every level,” general manager Michael Grisch said.
At the November deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft, the Cardinals added four players. Two, Ryan Helsley and Genesis Cabrera, are touted pitching prospects who the Cardinals expect to contribute to the bullpen at some point in 2019. A third, center fielder Lane Thomas, had a breakout year that included 27 home runs at two levels and the Cardinals making trades to clear playing time for him at higher levels.
The fourth, Urias, just hits.
The older brother of prized Padres prospect Luis Urias, Ramon hit three home runs and drove home seven in his first Mexican Pacific League game this winter after being added to the 40-man roster. Through 47 games in the league, he had hit .317/.436/.518 with nine homers and 33 RBIs, and that was a continuation of what the Cardinals saw in their system.
At two levels, Urias hit .300/.356/.516 with 13 homers and 41 extra-base hits. That included a .996 OPS in 44 games at Double-A Springfield.
Urias had been a farmhand in the Rangers’ system, signed originally out of Mexico for the 2011 season, but Texas relinquished his rights to the Mexican League’s Mexico City franchise late in the 2013 season. The Cardinals signed him as a free agent before the 2018 season.
He hit .323 over five seasons in Mexico City, and the Cardinals saw him as a whip-strike bat with good exit velocity, and he had the nimbleness for the middle of the infield. He has played shortstop and second base, and the Cardinals believe he could adapt to third if needed.
Urias is earmarked to be an everyday player at Triple-A Memphis at multiple positions. That will get his glove ready for the versatility he will need in St. Louis.
Beyond that, all he has to do to get called up is just hit.
— In order to acquire six-time all-star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals dealt from their depth while trying to talk Arizona away from players who had clear roles in 2019. For Goldschmidt, they packaged righthander Luke Weaver, a 2014 first-round pick; catcher Carson Kelly, one of the top prospects at his position; and second baseman Andy Young, who had a breakout year at Double-A Springfield in 2018. St. Louis also included a 2019 supplemental second-round pick.
— Righthander Alex Reyes, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball until elbow and shoulder surgeries slowed his ascent, will be on target for a normal spring training, the Cardinals suggest. They intend to prepare him as a starter, but the team is open to the possibility he will spend 2019 as a reliever and could have a late-game role for the team.