The Cardinals added three minor leaguers and designated veteran reliever Dominic Leone for assignment Wednesday as they placed their 40-man winter roster at 40 players a couple of weeks or so ahead of the winter meetings.
The most notable additions were righthanded pitcher Jake Woodford, a 23-year-old who pitched at Class AAA Memphis, and 21-year-old third baseman Elehuris Montero, who was mostly at Class AA Springfield but had to battle a fractured hamate bone for much of the season. Also promoted was 21-year-old righthander Alvaro Seijas, who excelled in Class A at both Peoria and Palm Beach.
Woodford, impressive this past spring training in Cardinals camp, was 9-8 with a 4.15 earned run average at Memphis, where he was a mid-season All-Star and went on to rank second in the Pacific Coast League in innings pitched at 151 2/3 and first in both opponents’ batting average and slugging average at .223 and .384, respectively.
Woodford who was rated the No. 16 prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America before the season, was a supplemental first-round choice in the 2015 draft and relies more on location than high velocity.
Montero, who had been Baseball America’s No. 5 Cardinals prospect, batted only .188 at Springfield in two stints, covering 63 games, as he never really found himself after the injury. The year before, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound free agent was the Midwest Player of the Year at Peoria when he hit .322 and had an OPS of .950 before a late-season promotion to High-A Palm Beach. After his 2019 season, he played in the Arizona Fall League where he batted .200 in 15 games.
Seijas, a Venezuelan product, was 8-6 with a 2.81 ERA over 24 starts for Peoria and Palm Beach and was named a Midwest League All-Star. He had a complete-game shutout among his wins and had six scoreless outings of five innings or more.
The Cardinals don’t always protect Class A players on their 40-man roster but, four years ago were burned when they left Class A righthander Luis Perdomo unprotected and Perdomo was snapped up in the Rule V draft at the winter meetings. Perdomo went on to win nine games for the San Diego Padres the next season (2016) and eight more in 2017.
The 28-year-old Leone, acquired from Toronto in the Randal Grichuk trade after the 2017 season, was beset with a nerve ailment for much of the 2018 season in which he was 1-2 with a 4.50 earned run average. He was up and down between St. Louis and Memphis in 2019, holding opponents to a .250 average in 40 outings for the Cardinals but being left off the postseason roster.
Woodford might contend for a spot in the Cardinals’ rotation next spring. Montero likely would be at Springfield again, along with possibly Seijas. By protecting the trio, the Cardinals made them exempt from the Rule V draft.
Among those they left exposed was lefthanded-hitting infielder Max Schrock, who has spent the past two seasons at Memphis, where he hit .249 and .275, respectively, and was in big league camp both years.
Unless protected at the major league level, players eligible to be drafted in December generally are college signees from 2016 or before and high school players signed in 2015 or before. Cardinals prized prospects Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman don’t have to be protected because they were high school draftees in 2016 and 2018.
CARDINALS' 40-MAN ROSTER
John Brebbia, Genesis Cabrera, Brett Cecil, Junior Fernandez, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Andrew Miller, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Alex Reyes, Alvaro Seijas, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Webb, Jake Woodford.
Andrew Knizner, Yadier Molina
Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Elehuris Montero, Yairo Munoz, Rangel Ravelo, Edmundo Sosa, Ramon Urias, Kolten Wong.
Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, Adolis Garcia, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams.