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I am not sure if there is another team in Major League Baseball that does player development like the Cardinals do. 30 of the 38 players on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster have played in the Cards’ minor league system. Two more (Angel Castro and Randal Grichuk) will likely be “on the farm” in 2014.
Gary LaRocque joined the Cardinals in 2008 as a Special Assistant to the GM. With him, he brought over 30 years of professional experience including time as a minor league player, manager, and scout.
Recently, LaRocque had been in charge of the Player Development division of the Baseball Operations side of the organization. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that LaRocque is shifting to directing Minor League Operations.
CardinalsFarm wants to thank Mr. LaRocque for his time answering our questions.
Gary LaRocque: Chris and Malik played 2B to allow for more at bats in their first season. All three players started at the GCL, so the move kept them all in the lineup, and hopefully creates more value as they move through the system.
CF: You appear to have a log jam in OF in AAA with several strong candidates. How does the organization help ease that?
GL: Always a good problem to have. Quality playing time is the key, and prospects need to be in the lineup. To ease potential logjams, we’d use the AA roster for playing time. Rosters change quickly as the season progresses and we remind the players that where they play in July and August is the key.
CF: What does the organization look for when deciding on promoting a prospect to a higher level? How much of a mix between advanced metrics and old fashion scouting is used when determining promotion?
GL: Our decisions are a combined effort between the Cardinals’ analytics and the scouting evaluations from the roving instructors and the Player Development Staff. One element we focus on when moving a player is how well the player has developed up to the league level, which will include using our metrics provided. Once a player has moved ahead of the respective league level, consideration for moving up is discussed.
CF: Along the same lines, what do you look at when deciding placement for newly drafted rookies?
GL: One of our challenges when deciding to place a player is to provide the level that gives the player the best chance to experience success. We are fortunate to have three short season clubs to help accommodate the drafted players. Although some drafted players can be considered for the Class A clubs, most will play with a short season club; State College, Johnson City and the GCL. All three present different levels of play, from the more advanced level at State College and Johnson City to the GCL. First year placement is the key to build on.
CF: What should Cards fans expect from Edmundo Sosa in 2014? Will we see him stateside?
GL: Edmundo will be in spring training in March. A must for Edmundo to get the playing time needed through our Extended Spring program and then with a short season club.
CF: What does the Second Base position at Memphis look like? I see Jermaine Curtis is playing some second in the winter league. Is he in the mix?
GL: Jermaine has value with his versatility and he will have the opportunity to earn playing time at multiple positions.
CF: What role does the player development department have in the Draft process?
GL: Player Development provides the Amateur Scouting Department with the depth chart for our lower levels, helping the placement of drafted players. Scouting evaluations are discussed as the draft occurs to help place each drafted player with the right club.
CF: What did you guys see from Carson Kelly that prompted the move to catcher?
GL: Carson’s tools fit at 3B, and we also feel they will play well as a catcher. He brings a strong-arm, good hands and as his bat develops with time he can move through the system. His great makeup and desire will bring it all together.
CF: Also what position do you see Breyvic Valera playing in 2014?
GL: Being very athletic, Breyvic brings versatility to the lineup. Last season the goal was more playing time for 2B, yet kept himself in the lineup with his offense. He can handle all infield positions, and has the range and instincts to move to the outfield at any time.
CF: I have heard some reports that Seth Blair may be moving to the bullpen. Has that been discussed?
GL: Seth is coming off a solid season as a starter, and he goes into this season with the same expectations in a starting role.