Meet the NRIs: LHP Tyler Lyons

The next stop on this tour is left handed pitcher Tyler Lyons. Lyons was selected by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2009 Major League draft out of Oklahoma State University, but elected not to sign. When he was selected by the Cardinals in the 9th round of the 2010 draft, he would sign though wouldn’t play for the organization in 2010.

He began the 2011 season in the Palm Beach rotation. After 21 relief appearances, he slid into the starting rotation where he has stayed since. Last year he posted a 4.13 ERA and a 9-13 record over 27 starts between Springfield and Memphis. He may have been moved through the system a little faster than beneficial for him, but he will be 25 by the time this season starts, so he is fast aging himself out of prospect status.

As a left handed reliever in the Cardinals’ organization, they’ll need all the talent they can get in that department. An invitation to Spring Training is a big plus for Lyons over some of the other left handers ahead of him in the organization. How he develops this next year will be interesting to watch.

You can follow him on Twitter at @Tyler_Lyons.

Meet the NRIs: C Audry Perez

Audry Perez signed with the Cardinals in March 2008 as an undrafted free agent from the Dominican Republic. He took off with a boom, hitting .322 in the Dominican Summer League in his first season with the organization.

Perez, 24, moved on to Johnson City in 2009, hitting .258. Then to Batavia in 2010 where things clicked and he posted a .315 batting average in easily his best season in the US. In 2011 he split time between Palm Beach and Springfield, hitting .269 with 11 HR and 47 RBI in 81 games.

In 2012, he was he primary catcher at Springfield for the Cardinals, catching 81 games. His .263/.281/.346 slash line leaves plenty to be desired at the plate, but he appears to be a strong defender, throwing out 42% of would be base stealers last season. Most recently, Scout.com put him as the organization’s #38 prospect.

Perez gets the invite to spring training because of the catching workload early in camp. He will likely return to Springfield for 2013. With many major league teams putting a premium on a catcher’s ability to defensively play the position and manage a game, Perez may have a future on a big league squad somewhere. But it will be for that and not his bat.

Meet the NRIs: RHP Seth Maness

Seth Maness was an 11th round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 MLB draft. A right handed pitcher out of East Carolina. He was a middle infielder when he started his collegiate career, but was converted to pitcher after injury struck the Pirates’ starting rotation. He was Conference USA’s Pitcher of the Year in 2010.

Maness, 24, compiled an 14-4 record over 7 starts in Palm Beach and 20 more in Springfield. His combined ERA was 2.97. He was awarded the organization’s Pitcher of the Year Award after the season. I’m not sure if you could really call it a breakout season for the young right hander considering he posted a 1.53 ERA over 53 innings between Batavia, Quad Cities, and Palm Beach in 2011.

Maness is known for his control. In fact over his 223 innings in his minor league career he has only walked 15 batters. That control is his best asset. His other tools make him a fringe-type player on most prospect lists, but keeping guys off base is half the battle. If he keeps learning he could surprising quite a few people and end up being a Kyle Lohse type in my opinion.

If Twitter is your thing, you can find him @Maness_43.

Lynn’s comments ignite fans

Many St. Louis Cardinals fans and bloggers today have jumped all over Lance Lynn thanks to a quote tweeted by Cardinals.com beat writer Jenifer Langosch. “I was an 18 game winner last year with an All Star appearance. I have to do a lot of things to lose my spot, in my opinion.” This isn’t the “Cardinal Way.”

In fact, former Cardinals.com beat writer Matthew Leach commented that it wouldn’t have flown under the previous administration. It’s the sort of comment that Tony La Russa wouldn’t have liked. You had to come to Spring Training prepared to work. To earn your spot every spring.

Those are the comments echoed by the veteran players like Yadier Molina who says he has to earn his spot every year. But if you really asked him one-on-one, off the record, I would bet money that he thinks he has a 100% chance of starting on Opening Day as long as he’s healthy. Even if Molina went hitless in March, he’d still be starting on Opening Day. [click to continue…]

Meet the NRIs: C J.R. Towles

Justin Robert Towles, or better known as J.R. Towles, is probably best known to Cardinals’ fans as the backup catcher for the Houston Astros. Despite being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2002 and 2003, Towles returned to school until drafted by the Astros in the 20th round of the 2004 draft.

Towles’ highlight game came against the Cardinals on September 20, 2007, where he posted the Astros franchise record 8 RBI after being in the majors for all of about two weeks. That game included him hitting his first career home run off of Aaron Miles in an 18-1 blowout. From there, however, his career has struggled to take off.

He was expected to be the Astros’ primary backstop in 2008, but found himself headed to Triple-A by June after hitting .145 through the first two months of the season. He bounced back and forth for the rest of the season and then did so the next few years. After being cut loose by Houston after the 2011 season, he played last year for the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester. He hit .214/.280/.315 in 52 games.

Towles isn’t expected to do much beyond minor league depth. He and Rob Johnson are likely to battle each other for the starting job in Memphis to fill a hole in the system. Both should be an advantage for the young pitching the Cardinals’ have.