Cards' Minor Leaguers set to begin
Thursday is Opening Day for all four full-season affiliates
ST. LOUIS -- It's a little less heralded than Opening Day at the Major League level, but it's a big day nonetheless. Thursday brings the season openers for all four of the Cardinals' full-season Minor League affiliates.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the organization's more noteworthy Minor Leaguers at each level.
Triple-A Memphis: The Redbirds begin the season with four players who appeared in St. Louis in 2008: pitchers Mitchell Boggs and Chris Perez, outfielder/infielder Joe Mather and outfielder Brian Barton. All provide valuable depth for the Major League roster, and Perez and Mather in particular are expected to get back to the Majors sooner than later. Other names worth noting at Memphis include infielder Tyler Greene and outfielder Jon Jay, who both enjoyed fine runs in Major League Spring Training, and right-hander Jess Todd. Todd is moving to the bullpen, where his path to the Majors could be faster than if he had remained a starter.
Double-A Springfield: The big name for the S-Cards is the big club's No. 1 Draft pick in 2008, third baseman Brett Wallace. The slugger out of Arizona State absolutely raked after he was returned to Minor League camp, and he'll be looking to advance quickly. Outfielder Daryl Jones, 21, had a breakout year in 2008, spent mostly at Class A Palm Beach and partly at Springfield. Jones batted .316 with a .407 on-base percentage and .483 slugging percentage in '08, re-establishing himself as a promising prospect.
Class A Palm Beach: The Draft class of 2008 has some representation at high Class A, especially on the pitching staff. Righty Lance Lynn, selected out of the University of Mississippi, heads to the Florida State League after a solid debut split between short-season Batavia and low Class A Quad Cities. Infielder Colt Sedbrook also makes the jump to the FSL, while 2007 first-rounder Pete Kozma returns to Palm Beach after a brief rough go there in 2008.
Class A Quad Cities: Infielder Niko Vasquez gives full-season ball another shot after his 11-game debut there was a bit rocky in 2008. The organization loves Vasquez's bat, as he hit .317 with a .416 on-base percentage at rookie-level Johnson City in 2008. Another intriguing name at Q.C. is outfielder Ryde Rodriguez, a switch-hitting Cuban native who hit .329 with a .378 OBP in his pro debut in 2008, split between the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Johnson City.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.