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Following a familiar formula that led them to Michael Wacha the year before and Luke Weaver the year after, the Cardinals drafted Gonzales 19th overall in 2013 as a polished, athletic pitcher from a strong program who had a plus changeup and a history of winning. He signed quickly for $1.85 million and advanced even quicker. It took the Gonzaga product 21 starts in the minors before he made his big league debut on June 25, starting for the Cardinals at Coors Field. Gonzales grew up a Rockies fan, and thousands of friends and family made the hour drive from his hometown to see him pitch just a few blocks from where he helped his Fort Collins, Colo., high school win four consecutive state championships. His father Frank Gonzales was allowed to leave his job as pitching coach in the Rockies' minor league system to attend. It was Frank who urged his son to learn the changeup'the offspeed equalizer a mile above sea level--but the son didn't commit to pitching full time until turning pro. He led Gonzaga in hitting as a junior and gained recognition as one of the top two-way players. That kind of agility drew the Cardinals to him, and they identified him early as a lefty who could climb quickly. Gonzales once joked that his changeup "is as much a part of me as walking." He can find the circle-change grip in the dark and never doubts his feel for what is a true swing-and-miss pitch. It has a late drop, and he adds to the deception by not varying his delivery speed or arm angle from changeup to fastball. He is willing to throw to hitters on either side of the plate, and in his debut he flummoxed Troy Tulowitzki with a series of changeups for a strikeout. His fastball hums in the 88-91 mph range and averaged 90 in the majors. The changeup runs 12 mph less, and he mixes in a sinker (89.5 mph) and an occasional curve (74.5 mph). His curve has good depth. All of that comes from an easy delivery that he is able to maintain, and that consistency aids his command, but he'll have to improve upon the control to blossom. The Cardinals were so intrigued by Gonzales-- late-season turn as a reliever that they used him in a prominent role in the postseason and intend to find some role for him in the majors in 2015. He'll come to spring training competing with Carlos Martinez for the rotation, and the Cardinals believe his future is as a starter. But an assignment to the bullpen would reduce his innings--which the team intends to do regardless of role--and let him learn while letting it loose. The giddyup they saw on Gonzales' fastball out of the bullpen means the team could fit him for a late-inning role for his first full season in the majors, just as Adam Wainwright did in 2006 before moving into the rotation.
A high school third baseman in New Jersey who wasn't convinced he'd get attention from scouts, Reyes circumnavigated the draft by relocating to the Dominican Republic, where he lived with relatives, had a chance to focus on baseball and was, on a lark, put on the mound. He won't be leaving it. The Cardinals outmaneuvered the Astros and Royals to sign Reyes for $950,000 in 2012. He joined Carlos Martinez in that high-bonus bracket, and like Martinez, had the athleticism, untamed mechanics and power arm the Cardinals covet. Reyes has at least two plus pitches . He can locate with a 92-96 mph fastball that can reach 100. He couples that with a power curve that has sharp, 12-to-6 drop. His changeup will be an above-average pitch, and already is for the lower levels. Reyes is a strapping young man with a tight end's frame . He's already developed a reputation for durability but must maintain his conditioning . He has an easy delivery but stretches of erratic control will have to improve . The Cardinals intend to keep the young righthander starting until they need him to relieve or want him to gain experience . Reyes has big league stuff and is primed to be the next pitcher who zooms to the upper ranks. He could reach Double-A Springfield in 2015.
Piscotty has often heard questions about his power and whether it would manifest as he grew stronger and more experienced. He knows this: He's not going to force it. Piscotty has said he "knows the line-drive hitter that I am, and I'm comfortable staying with that." The Cardinals landed two compensation picks when Albert Pujols left for the Angels--one they used for Michael Wacha and the other for Piscotty. They got a level-headed and hard-hitting outfielder who may develop power but will hit for average. Piscotty has an innate feel for the strike zone (98 walks and 132 strikeouts in 303 professional games) and uses that patience to sweeten an authoritative, balanced swing built to hit .300. Piscotty keeps both hands on the bat and learned at Triple-A Memphis how to pull the ball more often instead of settling for line drives to right field. That ability to pull, coupled with more loft, is what hints at more power, though maybe in the 15-20 homer range. Drafted as a third baseman, Piscotty has taken to right field where he has good instincts and where his arm is a plus asset. The Cardinals' acquisition of Jason Heyward means Piscotty is ticketed for a return to Memphis so he can continue playing every day, though he'll debut at some point in 2015 and the club has kept its roster flexibility open for him to be a regular as soon as 2016.
Taken one spot ahead of Mike Trout by the Angels in the 2009 draft, Grichuk redefined himself as something else entirely for the Cardinals: starting right fielder. The prospect St. Louis landed from Los Angeles in a trade that featured David Freese and Peter Bourjos finished 2014 as the Cardinals' right fielder in October. Power has been Grichuk's signature tool since hitting four homers during the 2004 Little League World Series. Wrist, thumb, and knee injuries robbed Grichuk of at-bats after the draft, but in 2013 he led the Double-A Texas League in extra-base hits with 57. Grichuk earned playing time ahead of Oscar Taveras in the postseason mainly because of his defensive reliability in right field and those flickers of power. He is one of the finer athletes in the organization and his agility gives him the skills for center field. His arm is above-average for that position, catapulting from a lithe strength in the same way the ball does from his bat. Grichuk is not a hulking hitter, just one gifted with bat speed. He'll have to tame his strikeout rate to turn his starts in 2014 into a longer engagement. Though the Cardinals have a starter at all three outfield positions, Grichuk comes to spring with a chance to be a righthanded-hitting alternative in center and right.
During his first visit to Busch Stadium, the New Jersey native made sure he was judged on the depth of his curve instead of the size of his jersey. "I don't think you have to be a certain height to get people out," he said. Kaminsky, a bulldog in a compact frame, passed on a commitment to North Carolina to sign for $1.785 million as a first-round pick in 2013. He had a 0.10 ERA and 126 strikeouts as a high school senior, then logged 100 innings in 2014 as one of the youngest starters in the low Class A Midwest League. Kaminsky's curveball, the pitch that created all those Ks, didn't disappoint as a pro. He raises his finger on it to give it a spike-curve look. His confidence in the deceptive pitch can make him curveball-happy at times--which is why he was asked to feature other pitches at low Class A Peoria. His fastball works around 91 mph, though he can hit 95 with it. He throws from a high three-quarters slot that adds to his offspeed pitches, especially versus righthanders. That overwhelming curve/fastball combo, with movement on the latter, gives some the sense he'll at least be a reliever, but a potential above-average changeup and feistiness hints the small package contains a starter. There's a spot in the high Class A Palm Beach rotation waiting for Kaminsky in 2015, and a cameo at Double-A Springfield is possible.
To lure Flaherty away from North Carolina, the Cardinals signed him to the largest bonus ($2 million) of any of their 2014 draft picks and the team's fifth-largest in the past 16 years. Like most of baseball, the Cardinals first scouted Flaherty as a third baseman--one with gap power, good feel at the plate and a power arm from the corner. It became clear during his junior year, one evaluator said, that pitching was his future. He struck out 12 in his first prep start of 2014 and went to complete a 23-0, 0.63 stretch in his final two seasons in high school. Before growing into his frame and adding the strength that scouts believe will add velocity, Flaherty already has a feel for four pitches. He works from 90-92 mph with his fastball, and he has a changeup that will be a swing-and-miss pitch. His slider and curveball are clearly different from each other, not some uncommitted blend. And both pitches offer promise--with the slider being the better bet. Flaherty's fastball command is beyond his age. He has that high-angle delivery with swift arm speed that the Cardinals have sought in other tall, young righthanded pitchers. Eased into the pros in 2014, Flaherty will likely open 2015 in extended spring training with the possibility of seeing time at low Class A Peoria by summer's end.
A series of injuries at the levels above him in 2013 brought Cooney to Double-A Springfield ahead of the Cardinals' plans, but the lefty hasn't shown any signs of needing to slow his advancement. He affirmed it with a complete season at Triple-A Memphis in 2014 as arguably the Redbirds' most consistent starter. Cooney was a standout in the Cape Cod League and only slipped in the draft due to a series of injuries that interrupted his junior year at Wake Forest. That year is a distant hiccup considering the relentless consistency he's brought to the pros with an average of six innings per start in 25 at Memphis. Cooney has the poise and presence expected from a college pitcher with a mature sense of his mechanics and stuff. The tall, lithe lefty brings a fastball that hums from 88-92 mph with movement, allowing him to effectively spot both sides of the plate. His changeup advanced to above-average at times in 2014, and he has a yeoman's curve that drops around 75-76 mph. He uses that spectrum of speeds to upset timing, which allows him to aggressively pitch within the strike zone. Cooney inevitably draws comparisons with Marco Gonzales because of handedness and use of the changeup, and he's right behind the touted lefty in terms of ETA. Valued for his reliability and durability, he should debut in 2015 and could receive a cameo start.
Cardinals officials had already made the decision to move Tuivailala to the mound before he hit a home run in his final game as a position player in 2012. Carried by a double-plus fastball, he sped through four levels in 2014, reaching the majors in September. With the frame of a power forward, Tuivailala is the Cardinals' latest converted power pitcher after Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal. He has a fastball that can touch 100 mph, and he works consistently at 98. Fine command is all he lacks with the heat. In the Arizona Fall League, Tuivailala's curve advanced. It's a 12-to-6 breaking ball that he throws hard and with a sharp drop. He also sports a changeup that he can throw when needed, giving him an offspeed entry between his two best pitches. Tuivailala once referred to pitching as his "Plan B," and in less than two years he's gone swifter and higher than his Plan A was likely to take him. If he opens the season at Triple-A Memphis as a closer, it won't be long before he's called to contribute in the majors.
The reward Tilson was about to receive for a standout 2014 season was a chance to show his growth in the Arizona Fall League. An injury canceled those plans. Tilson was unable to play in the AFL because of a fracture in his foot'the most recent injury to rob him of development time. The Chicagoland speedster grabbed attention at the 2010 Area Code Games with his defense and an unexpected flash of power. The Cardinals landed him as a second-rounder in 2011 with a $1.275 million bonus, but a shoulder injury robbed him of his first pro season. The Cardinals rushed Tilson to Double-A Springfield in 2014 due to trades and injuries above him, and while his production faltered, he wasn't overmatched at the level. A highenergy outfielder, Tilson has the speed to course-correct in the field. He has a solid approach at the plate that uses the whole field. If the power doesn't come, his legs should lift his slugging percentage by finding doubles. He may have to adopt a less aggressive approach at the plate to stick at the top of a lineup. The Area Code fireworks left scouts wondering if this was his peak or a peek into his potential. Viewed by the Cardinals as a raw talent, Tilson has advanced rapidly when healthy, and his strides put him back on track for Double-A for 2015.
As the Cardinals identified where they've best had success in Latin America, they felt that the players with mid-range bonus demands and raw tools were their ideal targets. Sierra fit that description. A left/left center fielder with a projectable frame, Sierra signed for $105,000 in 2012 and hinted at a much larger return in 2014, his first season in the U.S. He won the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League batting title (.386) and ranked third in on-base percentage (.434). He became the youngest winner of the Cardinals' minor league player of the year award. Sierra has a steady, line-drive swing with bat control that keeps the barrel in the zone. He uses all fields and figures to maintain that high-average ability as he develops an approach that could belong at the top of the order. His broad shoulders and athleticism hint at the strength he'll gain as he matures, but he doesn't have that lift for future power. He has speed on the bases and in the field, making him one of the finest fielders at his position in the GCL. The secret is out. A name whispered throughout the Cardinals organization is now one known beyond their academy and expectations will surge accordingly. A year at another short-season club is possible in 2015 before he slingshots to higher levels.
Major League Baseball barred Diaz, who left Cuba in 2012, from signing for a year because he misrepresented his age. The Cardinals signed him in March 2014 to a four-year, $8-million deal. Diaz hit .315/.404/.500 in his final season with Cuba's Villa Clara, and scouts saw a level swing that had some inside-out tendencies. His mannerisms reminded many scouts of Derek Jeter, and Diaz explained that's because he mimicked the Yankees great--how he ambled in the field, how he swung, his arm angle. Diaz's swing has punch that should complement the ability to hit for average with extra-base sprinkles. His bat is ahead of his fielding and some see him as a utility infielder or second baseman. The Cardinals see consistency that could stick at short. Shoulder trouble in 2014 limited Diaz to 47 games and led the Cardinals to move him to high Class A Palm Beach to be closer to the team's spring facilities. He'll start 2015 wherever there's the most playing time so the Cardinals can now see what their first foray into Cuba brought them.
Weaver finished 2014 at high Class A Palm Beach after signing for $1.843 million as the 34th overall pick. His jump to the Florida State League did not fare well in starts, but the Cardinals are confident he can have success as he did in college at Florida State. Scouts say Weaver lost some of his looseness from 2013, when he ranked 11th in the country with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. That rate dipped to 7.2 in 2014, when Weaver's fastball usually sat 88-92 mph after sitting in the los 90s and touching 96 in 2013. Weaver pitches with a three-quarters arm slot, and his changeup has good deception and sinking action. However, his slider was fringy in college. Weaver might return to Palm Beach in 2015, but note that the Cardinals haven't been shy of challenging first-rounders'see: Michael Wacha or Marco Gonzales'with quick assignments to Double-A Springfield.
The Cardinals signed Kelly for $1.6 million in 2012 after making him a second-round pick. Two years later, St. Louis moved him from third base to a full-time catching role at low Class A Peoria, and managers appreciated the way he embraced the change. Kelly's strong arm held the running game in check, and he threw out 33 percent of basestealers in 2014, though he also was charged with 13 passed balls. Kelly appeared to have lost about 15 pounds by season's end, and five of his six homers came in the season's first two months. The Cardinals believe they spotted the flaw. Kelly's eyes tended to stop tracking pitches late in the zone, creating a vulnerability on late movement. His sturdy frame has room to grow, and St. Louis is optimistic that he'll power more balls to the gaps and over the fence once he adds loft to his swing and adjusts to the rigors of catching. Kelly still drew walks and had a strong instructional league in 2014, so look for him to advance to high Class A Palm Beach in 2015.
The Cardinals regarded Sosa as a top target for July 2 in 2012, when they signed the Panamanian shortstop for $425,000. He quickly rewarded the organization's confidence by performing well in the Dominican Summer League, then made a smooth transition to the U.S., playing in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014. Sosa's baseball instincts are advanced for his age and background. He makes contact at a high clip because of his easy, level stroke and ability to control the bat head with good hand-eye coordination. He did a better job in 2014 of using the whole field and showed gap power. With his bat-to-ball skills and plus speed, he should hit for a high average and potentially be a top-of-the-order hitter if he can draw enough walks. Before signing, Sosa demonstrated above-average times in the 60-yard dash and has added strength to become a plus runner. One of the better defensive shortstops in the GCL, Sosa has good range, athleticism and quickness but also plays under control. The one knock on him is fringy arm strength, but he makes up for it with a quick release. He's primed for full-season ball in 2015.
Each of Pham's prior four seasons ended prematurely because of wrist and shoulder injuries--but he finished 2014 in the majors. Pham opened 2014 as Triple-A Memphis' fourth outfielder but surged once given an everyday role. He strikes out too much, chasing pitches out of the zone, but his strength yields solid gap power once he connects. His 20 stolen bases were a career high, and he's still learning to read pitchers' tendencies. Scouts love his defense in center field, where Pham has plus range and average arm strength. His athleticism also allows for wall-scaling, home run-robbing catches. Pham fits the fourthoutfielder profile, and as a 40-man roster member will challenge for that role in St. Louis in 2015.
The Cardinals usually prefer college pitchers to high school arms in the early draft rounds, but the philosophy has evolved. In 2014, Williams followed California high schooler Jack Flaherty in the second round, arriving from south Florida after signing for $833,900. Williams stands out for his athleticism. He was a two-way recruit to Florida A&M and is a plus runner. The Cardinals scouted every one of his games in the spring after seeing him in April, with two scouts struck by his athleticism and easy velocity. His fastball came on significantly as a prep senior, and his fastball touched 97 mph in 2014 after it sat 87-88 mph in the summer of 2013, when he wasn't completely healthy. Williams is better when his fastball sits in the low 90s with good armside life. He also has flashed feel for a changeup and a too-slow curveball, though he's shown some ability to spin the ball with a rudimentary slider. The Cardinals are banking on Williams' makeup, athleticism and quick arm. He appears likely to start 2015 in extended spring training with a step up to Rookie-level Johnson City in June.
Herrera was acquired in a trade that sent Marc Rzepczynski to the Indians in 2013. He's an energetic type, always smiling and always with a bounce in his step. He's got a plus arm suitable for deep throws from the shortstop hole. He's not known for power, but his bat speed allows him to pepper the gaps with doubles, while his solid-average speed plays on the bases. To continue climbing the ladder, he'll need to stop giving up the outer half of the plate and also needs to moderate his hyper-aggressive approach. He reached high Class A Palm Beach in the final week of 2014 and likely will return there in 2015.
The Conference USA player of the year as a senior in 2012, Wilson signed for just $20,000 and excited Cardinals coaches on the farm in 2014. Wilson is a high-character guy the organization desires, but he suffered a season-ending left knee injury in early June and soon required surgery. At the time, Wilson was setting the Double-A Texas League aflame in the month following a promotion from high Class A Palm Beach. His bat showed plenty of pop, as the stocky, strong righthanded hitter can turn on inside fastballs and has the strength to drive them to the gaps. Defensively, a smooth transition from third base to second base has only excited club officials more. He doesn't show great range with his fringy speed and doesn't look the part of a middle infielder, but he reads swings and has good instincts. He turns double plays well thanks to an above-average arm and fearlessness on the pivot. Wilson competed in the Arizona Fall League for a second straight season in 2014, this time to make up for lost at-bats, and should challenge for a role at Triple-A Memphis this spring.
Scruggs has re-cast himself over the past three seasons and earned a September callup to St. Louis in 2014. Patience at the plate and enhanced conditioning keyed the turnaround. Sent to Triple-A Memphis in 2014, he trimmed his strikeout rate from 32 percent of plate appearances to 21 percent. He's consistently produced above-average power and crushes lefties (.350/.403/.686 in 2014, with OPS marks above .900 the previous two seasons), pointing to a potential platoon future. As a first baseman, Scruggs has enhanced his range and footwork in recent years and added left field duties in winter ball in the Dominican League. Scruggs is on the 40-man roster, but the signing of Mark Reynolds likely relegates him to a holding pattern back at Memphis in 2015.
The Cardinals drafted three third basemen in the first two rounds of the 2012 draft and have moved two of them, with Stephen Piscotty going to right field and Carson Kelly to catcher. Wisdom, with his double-plus throwing arm, has stayed at third and reached Double-A Springfield. It's difficult to ignore his Texas League-leading 26 errors in 2014, as the game sped up on him. He's still learning to enhance his reaction time, improve his footwork and increase his range. Offensively, Wisdom's plus raw power, especially to his pull side, at times shows through, and he led Springfield with 14 home runs. Pitchers exploited his inability to identify breaking balls, and he ranked second in the TL in strikeouts (149) and had a career-low batting average (.215). Wisdom's tools will earn him another chance at Double-A in
Kolten Wong's double-play partner at Hawaii and again in 2012 and 2013 at Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, Garcia received two callups to St. Louis in 2014 and remains on the 40-man roster. He's long been seen as a coach on the field, but it is probably to be expected as a third-generation player. His dad Dave was a 1978 first-round draft pick of the Yankees, and his grandfather Dave Sr. managed the Angels (1977-78) and Indians (1979-82). Garcia profiles as a big league utility man, given he plays shortstop, second base and added third base in the recent past. His feel for the game, by positioning himself well defensively and anticipating a hitter's tendencies, receives high marks. With Daniel Descalso gone via free agency to the Rockies, Garcia could make a play for the Cardinals' utility role. However, he'll need to handle the bat better, especially in dropping down bunts, and regain some of his plate discipline, which regressed last season.
Stanley's efforts to restore his image following a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use in 2012 materialized at Double-A Springfield in 2014. His overall game matured to the point that the Cardinals added him to the 40-man roster in November. Stanley finished fifth in the Texas League in batting (.283) and slugging (.429) in 2014, largely because he began using the whole field and exhibited more patience. Most of the lefthanded hitter's power is to his pull side, and he can drive the ball to the gaps. He remains susceptible to chase, particularly against lefthanders, who held him to a .227/.306/.309 line. For a catcher, he's fleet afoot and knows when to pick his spots. Defensively, Stanley's game-calling, handling the staff, blocking ability and control of the running game improved dramatically. He threw out a careerhigh 42 percent of basestealers, showing improved footwork out of the crouch. Stanley will challenge for a Triple-A Memphis role in 2015 and profiles as a solid backup catcher.
The Cardinals bought Bean out of a commitment to Texas with a $700,000 bonus in 2012, when he was the 59th overall pick in the draft. Two years later, he reached low Class A Peoria but sputtered offensively. The lefty-hitting catcher split time with Carson Kelly in 2014 and saw just 34 at-bats versus lefthanders the entire season. Bean has yet to demonstrate manifest power, but scouts do seem some looseness to his swing and some pop to the gaps with a solid idea of the strike zone. The Cardinals targeted his receiving skills in instructional league after Bean threw out 27 percent of basestealers in 2014--which was down from 46 percent in 2013. He has plus arm strength, but he tended to sit back on his heels and hurry his throws. Both issues are being corrected, which will allow him to regain rhythm on his throws. Another assignment to Peoria in 2015 seems likely.
A Canadian prep product out of the Vancouver area, Wick began his collegiate career at St. John's before transferring to Cypress (Calif.) JC. The ex-catcher intrigues because of his plus raw power and right-field profile. Scouts grade his outfield arm as double-plus, with some giving him top-of-the-scale 80 grades, and he turned in 12 outfield assists in 2014. His bat is another interesting story. Wick hit his way out of the short-season New York Penn League after 35 games, leading the league in slugging (.815) even after being penalized with the 64 hitless at-bats needed to qualify. One scout called Wick's swing "a beautiful stroke," but others consider it too grooved, in the same place at the same speed with same path, a tendency that was exploited by better pitchers at low Class A Peoria. He's a decent runner for his size. Wick's power prompted his name to come up in 2014 trade talk, and his power could push him to Double-A Springield by the end of 2015.
An Ohio prep product, Mayers spent two years in the Mississippi rotation, then signed for $510,000 as a Cardinals third-rounder in 2013. He jumped through three levels in his first full season, finishing at Triple-A. In the Texas League, he turned in 10 quality starts out of 13 tries, working with Yadier Molina in his final Double-A start when Molina was down on an injury rehab assignment. Mayers' above-average fastball has some giddyup, topping at 97 mph, and he mixes in a sinker and slurvy slider. He didn't give up many home runs, even though he frequently missed up with his fastball. Tightening his slider, which plays fringe-average, would help improve his modest strikeout rate. Mayers learned to manage himself as a pro, showing maturity when it came to minimizing damage. He could open 2015 back at Memphis.
Valera, who joined Double-A Springfield in late June, actually made his Double-A debut two years earlier as a 19-year-old brought up from the short-season New York-Penn League in order to cover for Futures Game-bound Kolten Wong. Valera isn't flashy or overly muscular, but coaches suspect his baseball smarts will make up for both. He struck out just 6.1 percent of the time in 2014, and just two qualified minor league batters struck out less frequently. When he connects, Valera gets enough loft to lift singles over the infield--55 of his 65 Double-A Springfield hits were singles--and shows patience by drawing walks. Defensively, he mainly plays second base, where he shows nice range, soft hands, instincts and hangs in on the pivot. He can play third base and the outfield in a pinch but needs seasoning at both. Scouts see him as a big league utility infielder at best, but he'll need to enhance his bunting to stick as a National League bench player. Valera, who signed for $1,000 out of Venezuela at age 18, wasn't added to the 40-man roster and slipped through the Rule 5 draft unselected. He should return to Springfield to begin 2015.
Collymore committed to Missouri before the Cardinals offered a $275,000 bonus after drafting the Canadian in the 10th round in 2013. He's built strong, like a running back, and could easily be mistaken for older than 19. In his first two pro seasons, Collymore's intelligence and knack for hitting the ball hard hasn't been lost on coaches. He has long demonstrated power; he hit a home run against the Astros when the Canadian junior national team was on a tour of spring training bases in Florida in his draft year. He made lots of hard contact in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014, ranking third in the league in batting (.333) while tying for the lead with eight triples. Most of his power is to the gaps for now. He's an above-average runner who needs to polish his baserunning. He also needs to find a position. He plays second base and may give third a try, and he has the wheels to move to the outfield. He will try to earn a full-season spot in 2015 but may start the year in extended spring training.
The son of former big league lefthander Chuck McElroy and nephew to all-star Cecil Cooper, C.J. McElroy surged a year after a foot injury truncated most of his 2013 season. Signed for $510,000 in 2011 as a third-round pick, he resumed working on switch-hitting upon his return to health at low Class A Peoira in 2014, incorporating batting lefthanded. It makes sense to add the feature, given his top-of-thescale speed. While he needs polish on the bases, McElroy led the organization with 41 steals. He's not a power hitter despite his compact, muscular build. Mainly, he is a consistent singles hitter who can also draw some walks, then run his way to second and third base. McElroy's speed will come in handy in the spacious ballparks of the high Class A Florida State League in 2015.
Morales led UC Irvine to the College World Series in 2014 and went 42-3 in his four seasons in junior college and college ball. A strike-thrower by nature despite a stiff arm action, Morales has gained strength over the course of his career and now holds his 89-91 mph fastball velocity deep into games. He'll touch 93 mph on occasion and has excellent control with a chance for major league average command. He locates his hard 79-82 mph slider as well, and he overmatched college hitters with it, leading NCAA Division I in strikeouts in 2014. He has some deception thanks to his high arm slot, and his serviceable changeup has room for improvement. He lacks projection but not heart, pitching savvy or competitiveness. Morales could be assigned back to high Class A Palm Beach in 2015 after finishing 2014 there.
When the Cardinals selected Harris, a record-setting starter at Annapolis, they knew he had a commitment to his country, and they were willing to make a commitment to the Navy righthander. Harris went five years between his selection in the 2008 draft and his first inning for the Cardinals organization in 2013. He was older than his manager at short-season State College when he debuted. While he had tried to maintain his skills by throwing while on active duty for the Navy--one of his assignments was part of the drug war--the rust on his fastball was clear as it hovered in the mid-80s. A year later he saw a reassuring number: 95 mph. Aware the clock was ticking on his opportunity in pro ball, Harris has advanced swiftly as a reliever, pitching at three levels in 2014 and performing in the Arizona Fall League. He cannot be rattled on the mound, and he's developed the repertoire of other late-20s relievers who reach the majors: a cut fastball that's a legit out pitch and a split-finger fastball that the club wishes he'd throw more. Exposed in the Rule 5 draft, Harris went unselected, meaning St. Louis will bring him to spring training with a shot at the Triple-A Memphis bullpen.
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