In order to finish rounding out the 40-man roster following the additions of Jordan Hicks and Francisco Pena, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that pitcher Josh Lucas and second baseman Breyvic Valera have been designated for assignment.
Despite being released in the same move for the same reason on the surface, the moves tell different stories for the two players on the St. Louis Cardinals.
On one hand, it seems unlikely this move indicates the St. Louis Cardinals are giving up on Josh Lucas. He has been with the organization since the Cardinals drafted him in the 21st round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, at just 19-years-old. From there, Lucas has steadily climbed up the minor league hierarchy until pitching for seven games at the major league level last season. Despite walking four batters in 7.1 innings, he finished with a 3.68 ERA.
His minor league career isn’t without its struggles though. While he cruised through the leagues early, he hit a road bump in Triple A in 2016 after just 5.2 innings of time spent in Double A. While he was elite with the Palm Beach Cardinals of Single A Advanced, it proved to be too little experience, and Lucas struggled and his control faltered to the tune of a 9.39 ERA and 1.70 WHIP over 7.2 Triple A innings before he was sent back to Double A for the rest of 2016.
He performed decently in double-A in 2016, posting a 3.25 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 52.2 innings for Springfield, but he was 25 at that point, and starting to climb above the average age in his league. Seeds of doubt were planted when Lucas finished a 12 game, 12 inning stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2017 in which he posted a 5.25 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, despite being two and a half years older than the league average.
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Those seeds would soon be stomped out following a strong stint in Triple A last season in which he finished with a 3.15 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with a 68/12 K/BB ratio in 60 innings.
On top of last season’s drastic improvement to his control and his decent major league stint, Lucas performed very well this spring. He gave up no runs and just 4 hits over 11.1 innings while posting an impressive 12/2 K/BB ratio.
Now. at just 26 and with all of that momentum and the time spent on his development, now would be as odd of a time as ever to suddenly give up on from Lucas.
He has proven he can improve over both short and long periods of time, and has shown that he is a hair’s length away from being at the level of a major league reliever with strikeout upside.
There is no reason that the Cardinals would ignore that along with eight years of cultivation and just dump him.
On the other hand, Breyvic Valera is coming from a not so flattering spring. As a second baseman, he slashed .160/.250/.160 over 25 at-bats, coming in second to last among position players on the Cardinals with at least 15 at-bats. He is another player that the Cardinals found and have spent coming up on eight years now developing him into a major league level player.
While he has performed well in the minors and has the utility to play short and outfield, there is one caveat.
Despite slashing an impressive .323/.386/.443 over the last two seasons at Triple A Memphis following a steady climb up the minor league totem pole, Valera has still not developed the kind of pop or bat speed expected from a major league hitters. He only has eight homers and 72 RBI’s over those two seasons after tallying just three homers in six seasons and 770 at-bats in double-A.
He wasn’t able to make it up with speed at the triple-A level either, posting just 19 stolen bases in triple-A on 34 attempts (55.9%). The main thing that Valera provides right now is contact, and unlike Lucas, Valera struggled both in spring and in his brief stint in the majors in 2017. He slashed just .100/.182/.100 over 11 plate appearances in the majors, which doesn’t provide optimism when paired with his poor 2018 spring performance.
That being said, Valera is only 25, and his numbers in triple-A certainly don’t indicate that he is a lost cause. However, it does seem far more likely that the Cardinals would be inclined to allow Valera to walk than they would Lucas.
What do you think about these moves? Do you think we will ever see Lucas or Valera in Cardinal Red again? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.