Right-hander Chris Ellis and catcher Oscar Hernandez were among the 33 minor leaguers released by the Cardinals in the final week of May, Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat reports (Twitter thread). Right-hander Johnny Hellweg was also cut loose. Jones’ thread has additional names from each level of the Cardinals’ system, though none of the bunch has any MLB experience.
Each of Ellis, Hernandez and Hellweg has had a fleeting look at the Majors. Ellis was a Rule 5 pick of the Royals in 2018 and subsequently tossed one inning in Kansas City last year before being returned to the Cards. The 27-year-old has been moved in a pair of notable trades, going from the Angels to the Braves alongside Sean Newcomb in the Andrelton Simmons swap before being flipped from Atlanta to St. Louis a year later in the Jaime Garcia deal. (The Braves also sent John Gant and Luke Dykstra to the Cards in that deal.) Ellis had a nice year between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018, but he was rocked for a 7.18 ERA in 79 Triple-A frames in 2019.
Hernandez himself was once a top pick in the Rule 5 Draft, going from the Rays to the D-backs in 2014. He appeared in 22 games with Arizona but hit just .167/.239/.262 in 47 plate appearances. Now 26 years old, Hernandez signed a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp this winter. Despite a solid defensive reputation, he’s managed just a .210/.279/.336 slash in parts of three Triple-A campaigns.
Hellweg, 31, was once a rather well-regarded prospect himself. Originally a 16th-round pick by the Angels (2008), he was in the midst of a solid 2012 campaign at the Double-A level when the Halos flipped him, Jean Segura and Ariel Pena to the Brewers to rent ace Zack Greinke. He was hit hard in 30 2/3 frames with the Brewers and hasn’t pitched in the Majors since the 2013 season. Since then, he’s spent time with the Padres and the Pirates in addition to stints in the independent Canadian-American Association and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Like Hernandez, he’d inked a minor league deal with the Cards this winter.