All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2017

photo: Luke Weaver / Memphis Redbirds

As we have done each fall for over a decade, the staff of The Cardinal Nation will start this series with recaps of the just-completed season at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals system, including the major league club. We will also crown three award winners for each team – The Cardinal Nation Minor League Starting Pitchers, Relievers and Players of the Year.

We will unveil our selections, one team recap or award per day, every day, beginning on Monday, September 11, and continuing throughout the month of October. Club recaps are first, then the Dominican Summer League (DSL) Reliever of the Year and all the way through the Memphis Redbirds Player of the Year.

Some special awards will be added and of course, our top selections for the entire Cardinals minor league system for 2017 as well as the best-performing rookies follow. The minor league section of the series will conclude with our choice as the top manager in the organization before we break down the big-league club’s top players and regular season and post-season results, if applicable.

Though they watched these clubs and reported on them all summer long, our team of locally-based writers – covering every Cardinals minor league affiliate first-hand – still have their work cut out for them to select the very best of the best from nearly 300 players.

Yet this most knowledgeable group is more than qualified and is again up to the challenge. They include Jon Morgan Bell (Memphis), Derek Shore (Springfield), Nick Konow (Peoria), David Eckert (State College), Erin Zinnanti (Johnson City) and Paul Ivice (Gulf Coast League). Also contributing to the series is TCN draft analyst Scott Schook.

Note: While the team reports and all winning names will be made available to everyone as this master article is updated daily, the detailed commentary behind most of the player awards in this series will be exclusively for The Cardinal Nation members. All major league articles will again be free for all.

This series will include analysis from our local reporters as well as comments by Cardinals players, coaches and executives. We explain what tradeoffs were made and what we saw in the best players to take the field at each level of the Cardinals system during the 2017 season.

Again, we begin the process with a daily series recapping each minor league club’s 2017 season in depth, looking at records, injuries, player movement, key stats and much more. Once they are published, you can click on the highlighted team names below to read those articles if you missed them the first time.

2017 The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Award Winners/Schedule

Minor League System
Free articles Member articles Member articles Member articles
2017 Team Recaps Top Relief Pitcher Top Starting Pitcher Top Position Player
Dominican Summer (Rookie) Hector Soto Coming Sept. 27 Coming Oct. 5
Gulf Coast (Rookie) Kevin Hamann Coming Sept. 28 Coming Oct. 6
Johnson City (SS-R) TBA Jake Walsh Coming Sept. 29 Coming Oct. 7
State College (SS-A) Levi MaVorhis Coming Sept. 30 Coming Oct. 8
Peoria (A) Yeison Medina Coming Oct. 1 Coming Oct. 9
Palm Beach (A+) Estarlin Arias Coming Oct. 2 Coming Oct. 10
Springfield (AA) Coming Sept. 25 Coming Oct. 3 Coming Oct. 11
Memphis (AAA) Coming Sept. 26 Coming Oct. 4 Coming Oct. 12
Minor League System
Member articles Member articles Member articles Member articles
Top System Players Top Relief Pitcher Top Starting Pitcher Top Position Player
Rookies of the Year Coming Oct. 13 Coming Oct. 14 Coming Oct. 15
Players of the Year Coming Oct. 16 Coming Oct. 17 Coming Oct. 18
Manager of the Year Coming Oct. 19
St. Louis
Free articles Free articles Free articles Free articles
Players of the Year Top Relief Pitcher Top Starting Pitcher Top Position Player
Coming Oct. 20 Coming Oct. 21 Coming Oct. 22
Rookie of the Year
Coming Oct. 23
2017 Team Recaps
Regular season (Oct. 24)
Post-season (if needed Oct. 25)

Click on the player name highlighted in the table above to be taken to that detailed article. In addition, select each team name to read the 2017 overall summary for that level.

Then, join the daily discussion at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board, as each selection is unveiled.

If you ever forget the location of this article, you can always use the permanent link on The Cardinal Nation homepage. Underneath the site logo in the left column, click on “Season Recaps/Top Players”, and select the year. (Though the recent Scout.com conversion meant most prior articles are no longer available, lists of all system-wide winners have been posted here on the new TCN under “Season Recaps/Top Players”.)

Our annual Cardinals Top 50 Prospect Ranking countdown will begin in late November after this series concludes. Please remember that the two processes are separate and distinct.

This effort is to recognize the top performances on the field in 2017, whether or not the players are projected to have a major league future down the road. In other words, this is all about current year results at the assigned level of play, not future potential.


Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Recall Infielder Valera from Triple-A

photo: Breyvic Valera (Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Breyvic Valera (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Thursday) that they have recalled infielder Breyvic Valera (pronounced BRAY-vic VAH-lair-ah) from Memphis (AAA) and that he will join the team for tonight’s game in Cincinnati.  For Valera, it marks his second recall of the 2017 season and he becomes the 37th player on the team’s active roster.

Valera, 25, a non-drafted free agent (signed on May 13, 2010) from Montalban, Venezuela, played in 800 career minor league games over eight seasons before arriving in the Major Leagues.   He made his Major League debut on Sept. 5 at San Diego in a start at 2nd base and collected his first Major League hit with a pinch-hit single on Sept. 7 against the Padres.  He was optioned to Memphis on Sept. 11.

The switch-hitting infielder batted .314 with eight home runs, 41 RBI and 11 stolen bases and led the Redbirds in batting average, hits (133) and triples (6) during the 2017 season.

The 5-10, 184-pound Valera struck out just 34 times in his 424 at-bats this season, and led Memphis down the stretch in their record-breaking 91-win season by batting .346 with 5 HR’s & 18 RBI in 25 games in August – earning the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month award for the month of August.

Over his 800 career minor league games, Valera has a .303 batting average including a .359 on-base percentage.  He has been named to three mid-season All-Star Games (New York-Penn League 2012, Midwest League 2013 & Florida State League 2014) and was recognized as the 2016 Venezuelan Winter League Most Valuable Player.

Valera wears uniform No. 41.

Brian Walton’s take

Though he slowed in September, Valera was The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month for both July and August based on his Memphis performance, so he seemed worthy of a return to St. Louis.

The Cardinals had to wait an extra day to add Valera after his Memphis teammates Josh Lucas and Aledmys Diaz were promoted on Wednesday, because 10 days had to transpire between when he was optioned out and when he was eligible to be recalled.

No matter what, one must imagine Valera is delighted to log another 10 days as a Major Leaguer to conclude the regular season, following his initial six-day stint earlier this month.

For more

Check the always-free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation, for up-to-date roster details and every transaction made across the system all year long.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: 2017 Johnson City Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Spikes’ Steve Jones Named NYPL Broadcaster of the Year

photo: Steve Jones (SteveJonesShow.com)

State College Spikes press release

State College Spikes broadcaster Steve Jones has earned another accolade to add to his legendary legacy. Jones, who has served as the “Voice of the Spikes” since the inception of the franchise, was named the winner of the 2017 Warner Fusselle Award for Broadcast Excellence as the top broadcaster in the New York-Penn League.

The award is given annually by the NYPL to the radio or TV/video streaming broadcaster whose work is deemed exemplary based on baseball knowledge, delivery, production values and overall presentation.

The honor is bestowed in memory of the late Warner Fusselle, who served as radio broadcaster for the Brooklyn Cyclones from 2001 to his death in 2012. Fusselle’s familiar Southern cadence filled an illustrious career that spanned decades and included time spent as the host and narrator of the nationally syndicated “This Week in Baseball.”

“It is a great personal honor to accept an award named for the great Warner Fusselle, who was the gold standard for all broadcasters to follow,” said Jones. “This award also speaks to the commitment of the entire Spikes organization, starting with the visionary leadership of Chuck Greenberg, Jason Dambach and Scott Walker, to the importance of keeping in touch with our fans all over the world through these nightly broadcasts.

“I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with dynamic people like Ben Love and Dan Petrazzolo to create a quality broadcast night in and night out. Most of all, I am thankful for the chance to be able to work with a talented colleague in Joe Putnam as a broadcast partner for the last ten seasons.”

Well known throughout Pennsylvania as the “Voice of Penn State Sports,” Jones has also served as the lead play-by-play radio broadcaster for the Spikes since the club’s inaugural 2006 season.

Jones and Putnam call the action for the Spikes on Spikes Radio Network, presented by Penn State Sports Medicine, Official Healthcare Provider of Penn State Athletics, and flagship radio home NEWSRADIO 1390 WRSC. In addition, Jones and Putnam’s commentary is also simulcast on the Spikes’ streaming broadcasts of each home game on the MiLB.TV subscription service.

Since 2000, Jones has worked alongside former Nittany Lion and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Ham calling Penn State football radio broadcasts, while the 2017-18 season marks his 36th year calling PSU men’s hoops. In addition to his play-by-play roles, Steve also hosts the weekly “Penn State Coaches Show” with Head Football Coach James Franklin and Head Men’s Basketball Coach Patrick Chambers.

Jones has also been a fixture on many different radio and television stations throughout Centre County and currently hosts “Sports Talk with Steve Jones” weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 and “The Steve Jones Show” weekdays from 3-5 p.m. on Newsradio 1070 WKOK in Sunbury.

“We are extremely proud that Steve Jones has been named the recipient of this prestigious award, and honored to have Steve calling our games,” said Spikes General Manager Scott Walker. “From day one, Steve has been there for the Spikes, and he has truly seen it all unfold. His career achievements with Penn State and the Spikes speak for themselves, and we are truly happy he has been recognized by the New York-Penn League.”

Fans can look forward to the return of the Spikes during an All-Star summer in 2018, with the 2018 NYPL All-Star Game serving as the centerpiece of what promises to be a jam-packed schedule. To find out more about Season Seat Memberships, Value Plans, Flex Books and a variety of different group packages and experiences for the 2018 season, call the Spikes at (814) 272-1711. Additional team and ticket information can also be viewed by visiting State College Spikes.com.

Cardinals Recall Diaz and Lucas from Triple-A Memphis

photo: Aledmys Diaz (USA TODAY Sports Images)

For the final 12 games of the 2017 season, the St. Louis Cardinals will have 36 players on their active roster with the return of infielder Aledmys Diaz and relief pitcher Josh Lucas.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Aledmys Diaz (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Wednesday) that they have recalled infielder Aledmys Diaz and right-handed pitcher Josh Lucas from Memphis (AAA).  Both players will join the Cardinals in Cincinnati for tonight’s game against the Reds, upping the team’s active roster to 36 players.

Diaz, 27, began the year with St. Louis, batting .260 with 7 home runs and 20 RBI in 71 games before being optioned to Memphis following the game on June 27.  Diaz, who still leads the Cardinals with his 19 infield hits, had 23 extra base hits among his 71 safeties at the Major League level.

Josh Lucas (USA TODAY Sports Images)

In 46 games at triple-A, Diaz batted .253 with 4 home runs and 26 RBI as the Memphis club posted a franchise record 91 wins and won the Pacific Coast League Championship Series.   Diaz played 28 games at shortstop, nine at third base and six at second base for the Redbirds.

Lucas, 26, who made his Major League debut with 2.0 innings of relief at Pittsburgh on August 19, is being recalled for a second time this season.   The Cardinals 21st round draft pick in 2010 finished the season with 17 saves for Memphis (3rd in the PCL), and provided the rescue in the Redbirds pennant-clinching win on Sunday at El Paso, Texas.   Lucas fanned 68 batters in his 60.0 innings of work for the triple-A Redbirds and walked only 12.

Diaz wears uniform no. 36 and Lucas wear no. 77.

Brian Walton’s take

Adam Wainwright (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Following Adam Wainwright’s Tuesday activation off the 10-day disabled list into a season-ending relief role and Memphis’ final game of the year, the Cardinals made what appears to be their final promotions of 2017 in Diaz and Lucas.

I find that those not included is at least as illustrative as those who are. The only 40-man roster players not with St. Louis are relief pitchers Rowan Wick and Mike Mayers plus infielders Breyvic Valera and Edmundo Sosa.

Valera was promoted briefly in early September and made his MLB debut, but in an unusual move, was returned to Memphis a week later. Sosa’s season will continue in the Arizona Fall League after the shortstop finished 2017 at Palm Beach.

From the moves made (and those that were not), my assessment is that the 40-man spots of Mayers and Valera may be most tenuous. Sosa could also be in trouble later if he does not shine in the desert, but less likely. I suspect Wick will be given more time to develop his breaking pitches.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: 2017 GCL Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2017 Palm Beach Cardinals Team Review

photo: Palm Beach Cardinals

The Palm Beach Cardinals of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League had a solid 2017 season that culminated in a co-league title.

It was an impressive turnaround from a 2016 in which the Palm Beach club had the poorest showing in terms of winning percentage of any of the St. Louis Cardinals’ eight minor league affiliates. In fact, it had been the worst record posted by any Cards’ full-season club in over a decade.

Of course, through thick and thin, individual player development occurred as always.

Season summary

The 2017 edition of the Cardinals, managed by Dann Bilardello, got out of the gates quickly and finished the first half of the season 13 games over .500. That 40-27 record gave them first place by three games and punched their post-season ticket.

In the second half, Palm Beach was basically a .500 club, with a 34-33 mark that left them tied for fourth-place, eight games back in the six-team South Division.

In the hurricane-shortened division finals, the Beach Birds took the first two of three scheduled against second-half winner Fort Myers (MIN), including the crucial opener on the road. With the league finals canceled, Palm Beach was declared co-Florida State League Champion with the North’s Dunedin Blue Jays.

The schedule

The FSL is a full-season league. The 140-game regular-season schedule began on April 6 and concluded on September 3. The 12-team league is made up of two six-team divisions with the Cardinals placed in the South.

Each team was to play division opponents 10 times at home and 10 away. That meant the Cards’ schedule included 20 games each against the Bradenton Marauders (PIT), Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA), St. Lucie Mets, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) and Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB). The rest of the schedule was filled out against North Division foes Daytona (CIN), Clearwater (PHI), Florida (ATL), Lakeland (DET), Tampa (NYY) and Dunedin (TOR).

However, because of the frequent rain in Florida, no FSL team got in a full slate of 140 games. The league ranged from a low of 129 to a high of 138. Palm Beach was in the middle at 134 contests played.

For at least the second straight year, the Cardinals struggled to win at home, experiencing their greatest success on the road, where they were 14 games over .500. Not counting their showing as the visiting team at Roger Dean Stadium against Jupiter, Palm Beach had a 33-33 home record, after barely winning a third of their home contests in 2016.

By month


The Cardinals began with a home-and-home four game split against the Mets, the team they would also finish the season against. Palm Beach closed April with three series wins in their last four, for an overall record of 13-10.

The offense had trouble scoring during a rough first half of May, as the Beach Birds opened 4-9. Not surprisingly, they won four of the five games in which they were able to score at least four runs. However, in the second half, the hitting erupted and the team reeled off five- and six-game winning streaks to finish May with an 18-11 mark.

The Cards extended their three-game win streak ending May to eight games during a 13-day stretch in which four contests were canceled due to rain. As June 21 arrived, the end of the first half, the Beach Birds were 9-6 that month for a 40-27 overall record and a three-game edge over Bradenton.

With a playoff berth in hand, Palm Beach opened the second half 5-2, to finish their best month, June, with a 14-8 mark.

On July 7, the Cards were looking like potential back-to-back winners, having compiled a 10-4 start to the second half. However, the offense again disappeared, as Palm Beach scored a total of eight runs over seven consecutive losses. After suffering a four-game sweep at Tampa, the club finished July a disappointing 13-17.

In August, the team could never get much going, generally alternating wins and losses other than a five-game winning streak from the 18th though the 23rd. Through August and the final three regular season contests in September, the Beach Birds finished 16-14 and 34-33 for the second half. That put them eight games back, tied for fourth place.

The last two games mattered most, however, as Palm Beach took both division final contests by 3-2 scores. The first was at Fort Myers, but on September 6, the Cards were able to celebrate at home their first title since 2005.

A historical perspective

With the notable exception of 2016’s struggles, Palm Beach has logged winning seasons in three of the last four years, including an earlier playoff appearance in 2015.

In their 15 years at RDS, the Cardinals have posted eight winning seasons and two titles from five playoff berths.

Following are the Palm Beach Cardinals’ records by year.

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Pct. 0.552 0.423 0.543 0.547 0.474 0.471 0.493 0.536
W 74 58 75 76 64 64 68 75
L 60 79 63 63 71 72 70 65
Div 1 (1h) 5/6 1 (2h) 4 5 4 3 3
PO WC L1
2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
Pct. 0.442 0.547 0.507 0.556 0.493 0.545 0.408
W 61 75 71 75 69 73 58
L 77 62 69 60 71 61 84
Div 5 2 2 1 3 2 6
PO L1 L1 WC

WC=won championship
L1=first-round loss

The pitching

Playing in a pitchers’ park, the Cardinals finished fifth of 12 league teams in ERA for the second straight year, with the mark dropping from 3.44 in 2016 to 3.32 in 2017. The Cards were better than the league-average ERA this season of 3.51.

Despite a number of prospects in the rotation, the pitching staff did not collect a lot of strikeouts and were slightly worse than average in issuing walks. The Cards’ strikeout rate of 7.5 per nine innings was just one place above the FSL cellar. The staff issued the seventh-fewest walks at 3.1 per nine, roughly in the middle of the pack. Their strikeout to walk ratio was third from the lowest at 2.39.

The Cardinals’ WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 1.326 placed them seventh in the league. They were worse than the FSL average of 1.288.

The news is good in terms of age. The Cardinals’ opening staff was the youngest in the league, averaging 22.2 years old, almost a full year younger than the FSL average of 23.1 years.

The offense

The offense has an odd profile, neither favoring power nor speed. The Cardinals placed both last in the league in steals and home runs (tied) – plus were fourth to worst in drawing walks. Yet, they struck out the least and ultimately landed in the middle of the FSL pack in runs scored. Their 3.9 runs per game fell just under the league average of 4.0.

In the slash stats, the Cardinals were consistently in the bottom half of the league, specifically, batting average (2.51 – fifth from worst), on-base (.314 – fifth from worst), slugging (.345 – third from worst) and OPS (.658 – also third from worst, or 10th of 12).

In hitters’ age, the Cardinals average of 22.8 years was almost right on the FSL average of 22.7.

The defense

The Beach Birds were not an elite fielding club, coming in just a tick above the league average in fielding percent, .977 to .976, and placing them fifth overall.

Palm Beach’s ability to control the running game continues to be respected. The league attempted the fewest steals against the Cards, a year after they were second lowest in attempts against.

When the opponents tried, the Cardinals’ results were quite good. The Palm Beach catchers’ success rate at throwing runners out of 41.6 percent was fifth-best, seven percent above the FSL average.

The pitchers

Connor Jones (St. Louis Cardinals)

The Cardinals opened with six starters, of whom four remained at season’s end, but only three were active – Connor Jones, Jake Woodford, Derian Gonzalez and Junior Fernandez (on the disabled list since July 28). Jones also had a brief Springfield trial.

Among those promoted upward were Zac Gallen (June 3) and Ryan Helsley (July 31), both of whom have since progressed all the way to the Memphis playoff rotation.

In-season additions to the Beach Birds starting corps were prospect Jordan Hicks (July 12), Mike O’Reilly (July 19) and Sam Tewes (August 4). Both Hicks (after being promoted again to Springfield in a relief role ala Dakota Hudson in 2016) and Tewes, ended 2017 on the DL. Ramon Santos moved to starting and made six very good starts to close the year.

The hitters

Edmundo Sosa (USA TODAY Sports Images)

There was surprising stability among Palm Beach’s offense in 2017. Among those with the club essentially all year included catchers Jeremy Martinez and Jose Godoy, first baseman Chris Chinea, second baseman Luke Dykstra, shortstop Edmundo Sosa (though he missed considerable time due to injury), third baseman Leobaldo Pina and outfielder Thomas Spitz.

Magneuris Sierra (USA TODAY Sport Images)

Key in-season position player promotions to Springfield included outfielders Magneuris Sierra (who was promoted directly to St. Louis on May 7) and Randy Arozarena (June 30) plus second baseman Darren Seferina (July 6).

Contributors down from Springfield included first baseman Casey Grayson and outfielder Blake Drake. Up from Peoria were shortstop Jose Martinez, outfielders Shane Billings and Vince Jackson, and infielder Andy Young, the latter who finished with Springfield.

Beach Birds who were released include Josh Wirsu, Andrew Brodbeck, Danny Diekroeger and Austin Wilson.

Hopping over Palm Beach was catching prospect Andrew Knizner, who was able to make the jump and excel at Double-A.

FSL headliners

Jake Woodford (Peoria Chiefs)

At 3.10, Woodford captured the FSL ERA title. However, the bar is set very high, at 0.8 innings per team game, meaning there were only 13 qualifiers. Nine of the 13 had season ERAs higher than the league average of 3.51 and over half did not even post a winning record.

With eight wins each, Helsley and Jones were ranked in a tie with four others for sixth in the FSL. No Cardinals placed among the top 20 in the league in strikeouts. In a bit of a dubious honor, Jones was fifth in walks issued with 49. His rate per nine innings was 3.9.

Thomas Spitz (Peoria Chiefs)

On offense, it was hard to find a Cardinal among the league leaders. Spitz was 14th in walks with 46 and 16th in OBP at .340. Chinea was tied for ninth with 24 doubles and Arozarena was 11th with 22.

Team headliners

Gallen (1.62 ERA in nine starts) and Helsley (2.69 in 16) paced the rotation. The latter’s 91 strikeouts (in 93 2/3 innings) were the most on the staff.

Ian McKinney (Peoria Chiefs)

In middle relief, Ian McKinney (2.02) and Estarlin Arias (2.48) shined. They also combined for four wins and 10 saves.

Speaking of saves… In the true definition of bullpen by committee, 16 different pitchers earned saves, up from eight the year before.  Landon Beck led the way with seven, all in the first six weeks, before moving up to Springfield. Arias, who finished the year on the shelf, converted six. Eric Carter, up from Peoria, logged four over the final month. He was also promoted to Double-A, but returned to Palm Beach for the playoffs.

The offense had just four hitters batting at least .275, with Sosa on top at .285. Following were Billings (.281), Seferina (.278) and Arozarena (.275). Grayson’s .367 OBP led Seferina, next at .356. Before his promotion, Arozarena slugged a lusty .472, with Seferina and Sierra far behind at .407. At .805, Arozarena was the only hitter with an OPS over .800.

Randy Arozarena (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Despite playing in just 70 and 82 games, respectively, Arozarena and Drake topped the Beach Birds in home runs with eight and seven, respectively. Chinea drove in 48 (in 123 games). Spitz led the way with 11 steals with Arozarena right behind at 10. Both were caught four times.

Top prospects

Among the end-of-season Beach Birds ranked in the most recent monthly top 50 prospect list compiled by The Cardinal Nation are five pitchers and one position player. They include Fernandez (#11), Woodford (#16), Sosa (#22), O’Reilly (#32), Jones (#33) and Gonzalez (#44).

All-Stars

Ryan Helsley (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Three Cardinals were named to the Florida State League All-Star Game for the East Division, but Gallen and Beck had already been promoted. They were replaced by Fernandez and Arozarena. The latter won the Home Run Derby and started the game. The other selection was Seferina.

Only one Beach Bird was named to the league’s post-season All-Star Team, Helsley, but it was a major honor, as FSL Pitcher of the Year. Manager Bilardello was named a coach on the honorary team.

Big names passing through

With its proximity to the Cardinals rehab facility in Jupiter, a number of major leaguers appeared in Beach Birds games this season. They include Jose Martinez, Randal Grichuk, Jhonny Peralta, Kevin Siegrist and Zach Duke.

Triple-A rehabbers included Marco Gonzales, Arturo Reyes and Andrew Morales.

In conclusion

The 2017 Palm Beach Cardinals were above average in pitching, and had enough offense to take the first-half division crown. After a .500 second-half, the Cardinals won their two playoff contests and were crowned co-League Champion.

For more

Link to master article with all 2017 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Palm Beach Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 23 (This includes a detailed breakdown of Palm Beach’s playoff run.)

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Promote Sierra, Send Down Valera

photo: Magneuris Sierra (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals added outfield depth in Magneuris Sierra, and sent second baseman Breyvic Valera to Triple-A Memphis, which opens the Pacific Coast League finals on Wednesday.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Magneuris Sierra (USA TODAY Sport Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced that they have recalled outfielder Magneuris (Mag-NARE-ees) Sierra from Memphis (AAA) prior to this evening’s (Tuesday’s) game against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium.  In addition, the club optioned infielder Breyvic Valera to Memphis yesterday.

Sierra, 21, has played at four levels this season (A, AA, AAA & MLB) and batted a combined .270 in 101 games with 20 steals between Palm Beach (A) and Springfield (AA) during the regular season.  Sierra was promoted to Memphis at season’s end to help during the Triple-A team’s playoff run and played in four games (.308, 4-13), making three starts in centerfield, during the Pacific Coast League American Conference championship games.  This will be Sierra’s fourth recall to St. Louis this season, having made his MLB debut on May 7 at Atlanta.  Sierra has a .365 MLB average (19-52) over 13 games with hits in all but two games and in his first nine Major League games.  Sierra wears uniform No. 43.

Breyvic Valera (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Valera made his MLB debut last week, on September 5 at San Diego, in a start at second base.  He was 1-5 in three games, with his first hit a pinch single last Thursday (9/9).  Valera hit .314 (133-424) in 117 games with Memphis this season and led the Redbirds in batting, hits and triples (6).

Brian Walton’s take

With Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham affected by physical issues, it seems the Cardinals would prefer to have an extra center fielder in Sierra rather than Valera. The Triple-A Redbirds keep their 25-man roster full for the Pacific Coast League finals, rescheduled to open Wednesday night in Memphis.

For more

Check the always-free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation, for up-to-date roster details and every transaction made across the system all year long.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation:  Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 23

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2017 Gulf Coast League Cardinals Team Review

photo: Jose Oquendo, Willie McGee (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

By Brian Walton and Paul Ivice

The rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals were unable to repeat as league champions, missing the playoffs entirely. Hitting was improved, but pitching and defense backslid compared to 2016.

 

The rookie-level Gulf Coast League is the lowest rung of the seven levels in the St. Louis Cardinals system in the United States.

The reality that the club plays on the back fields of the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida in front of basically no fans, means information from the GCL is delivered mostly from box scores. However, the Cardinal Nation again has a local reporter, Paul Ivice, attending most home games, providing an insiders perspective that is available nowhere else. His insights provide the core of this article.

The club always features an interesting cross-section of players – from non-drafted collegians to high school stars to first-time US players from the Dominican Republic academy, a few top draft picks thrown in, and now and then, even more experienced players on rehab assignments to complete the mix.

Season summary

The 2017 edition of the Cardinals was unable to continue the regular-season success the club has enjoyed in recent years. Led by manager Steve Turco, then interim manager Erick Almonte, the club played .473 baseball, winning 26 and losing 29. The Cards were successful at home (16-11), but struggled badly on the road (10-18).

The Cardinals finished the season in fourth place, 7.5 games behind the Nationals.

GCL East W L PCT GB HOME AWAY DIV
Nationals 34 22 0.607 16-12 18-10 34-22
Marlins 32 23 0.582 1.5 19-9 13-14 32-23
Astros 27 27 0.500 6 13-14 14-13 27-27
Cardinals
26 29 0.473 7.5 16-11 10-18 26-29
Mets 19 37 0.339 15 13-15 6-22 19-37

It was a far cry from the 2016, when the Cardinals posted a .611 winning mark, going 33-21 and winning the five-team East Division by 2.5 games. It was their fourth division crown in the prior five years. They went on to take the GCL title.

The schedule

The GCL is a short-season league. The 56-game regular-season schedule began on June 26 and concluded on September 2. The 17-team league is made up of three four-team divisions, plus the Cardinals’ East Division, which has five clubs.

To ease travel, each team played exclusively in its division. That meant the Cards’ schedule included 14 games each against the Astros, Marlins, Mets and Nationals. In the five-team division, clubs played four games with the fifth day off.

By month

The Cardinals got out of the gates poorly, losing all four in June. The offense scored 11 runs, but the pitching yielded 26.

However, as the calendar flipped to July, the club hit what may have been its high point, opening the month with five straight wins. After essentially alternating losses and wins for a week, the Cards again reeled off five more victories in a row. At that point, on July 19, the club was a promising 12-8.

That momentum evaporated almost immediately, however, as the Cards reeled to a 2-10 record over the remainder of July. That included a six-game losing skid. The 14-14 month meant an overall record of 14-18.

August was almost a carbon copy of July. The new month began with four straight wins, as they reached .500 once again. From the 12th through the 15th, the Cardinals took five consecutive victories, with a 10-2 start to August.

However, the second half of the month was again a disaster. The Cards dropped 10 straight, while dodging rainouts and postponements. Winning three of the last four was a case of too little, too late.

A historical perspective

Looking at the big picture, the Cardinals’ decade spent in the GCL can be viewed as two clear groups. In the first four years, the Cards never logged a winning record. However, since 2010, they finished above .500 five of seven years, including four division titles.

Until finally breaking through in 2016, the Cardinals were partially stymied by GCL rules that continue to give division winners just one game in the semi-finals.

Last season, the Cards again took the East Division, then finally won the one-game first round of the playoffs, after dropping all three prior chances – in 2012, 2014 and 2015, before going on to win their first league title.

However, their 2017 winning mark of .473 is the second-worst for a Cardinals team since 2009 and their fourth place finish in the standings is the lowest since 2008.

Following are the GCL Cardinals records by year.

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Win pct. 0.473 0.611 0.576 0.617 0.407 0.586
Wins 26 33 34 37 24 34
Losses 29 21 25 23 35 24
Division 4th 1st 1st 1st 3rd 1st
Playoffs WC L1 L1 L1
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Win pct. 0.564 0.500 0.446 0.309 0.444
Wins 31 28 25 17 24
Losses 24 28 31 38 30
Division 2nd 3rd 3rd 5th 3rd
Playoffs

WC=won championship
L1=first-round loss

Potential factors

OK, so we know the Cardinals had a down season in 2017, but why might that be?

Paul Ivice weighs in, suggesting the difference is the level of talent.

Coming off their first league championship in 2016, and fourth division crown in five years, the GCL Cardinals had few things go right in their attempt to repeat.

The last Cardinals’ top draft pick who did NOT begin his pro career with the GCL team was Kolten Wong in 2011, and even then, four of the next five 2011 picks were assigned to the GCL.

This year, the Cardinals did not even have a pick until the third round, and sent their top three picks – and 15 of their first 19 selections – to higher-level leagues.

The highest picks sent to the GCL team this year were the least experienced, each drafted out of high school – three position players and a pitcher:

  • Zach Jackson (St. Louis Cardinals)

    Catcher Zach Jackson, the sixth-round pick out of Winter Haven, Florida, was 4-for-41 (.098) with 10 walks but 20 strikeouts in 41 at-bats over 14 games, but did not play after July 30 due to a sore back.

  • Right-handed pitcher Wilberto Rivera, the eighth-round pick from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, made only nine appearances, all in the last five weeks of the season. Rivera posted a 5.79 ERA in 9-1/3 innings, allowing 12 hits and six walks while fanning eight.
  • Donivan Williams (St. Louis Cardinals

    Infielder/outfielder Donivan Williams, the 14th-round pick out of Oak Lawn, Illinois, in west suburban Chicago, had a .204 batting average and .581 OPS with one home run and 16 RBI in 33 games. Drafted as a third baseman, Williams could get in only eight games there because of the presence of Elehuris Montero, but showed some versatility by playing 14 errorless games as a corner outfielder and even two games at second base.

  • Terry Fuller (St. Louis Cardinals)

    Outfielder Terry Fuller, the 15th-round pick from Griffin, Georgia, got the most playing time among the high school draftees, with 37 games, including 18 in left field and 18 in center. The lefty-swinging Fuller struggled most of the season against pitchers of both persuasions, finishing with a .161 average and .522 OPS. If there is one stat that bodes well for Fuller’s future, it is that he was 5-for-14 (.357) with two home runs and five RBI in late-and-close situations, including a game-winning home run in his final at-bat of the season.

So, overall it was at best an average year talent-wise for the GCL team. Nevertheless, there were some very good performers who earned some high marks.

There is even more than the rounds of the 2017 draft to consider. Despite the influx of high schoolers, in aggregate, the GCL Cards were older than most of their competition.

Of the 17 teams in the league, the Cardinals pitchers averaged second oldest with the hitters also tied for second-oldest. Specifically, the Cards hurlers were 19.7 years of age compared to the league average of 19.4. The position players averaged 21.3 years of age, almost an entire year older than the GCL average of 20.4.

The pitching

As an organization, the Cardinals are traditionally known for their pitching, but the 2017 results did not bear this out. Their 3.97 team ERA was in the lower half of the league (ranked 11th) and was over three-quarters of a run worse than the 2016 club, which finished sixth in the league in ERA at 3.16.

It is worth noting that while there were big names on last year’s team from the 2016 draft, the reality is that they did not throw many innings. Working under a closely-monitored pitching plan were Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones and Zac Gallen, who combined for less than two games total – just 17 2/3 innings pitched. Further, all three were gone by the post-season with the former two having been promoted and Gallen excused to return to college.

15 different pitchers started for the GCL Cardinals in 2017, including rehabbers Sean Gilmartin (Memphis – 5), Zach Duke (2), Derian Gonzalez (Palm Beach – 2) and Arturo Reyes (Springfield -1).

The 2017 pitching staff, tutored by second-year GCL coach Giovanni Carrera, logged the aforementioned aggregate ERA of 3.97, which was more than a three-quarters of a run worse than the 2016 club’s 3.16 mark. The league-average ERA in 2017 was 3.78.

As is typical across the system, the Cardinals pitchers strike out relatively few, but also limit free passes better than most. The Cards’ strikeout total of 398 was 14th in the league, down from 421 and eighth last year.

The Cards issued the second-fewest walks in the circuit with just 144, down from 181 the year before. Their strikeout to walk ratio of 2.76 was third-best in the circuit.

With 29 hit by pitches, the Cardinals tied for second-fewest after the lowest total in the league with 27 in 2016. On the down side, they were tied for the fourth-most long balls served up at 26.

In terms of baserunners, the Cardinals’ WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 1.44 was fourth-highest in the league, up substantially from 1.34 the year before. The GCL average was 1.36.

The offense


Under second-year hitting coach Cody Gabella, the Cardinals offense was a top third of the pack group in terms of numbers, with improvement pretty much across the board compared to 2016.

The Cardinals were third in runs scored per game at 5.02, up from 4.13 in 2016 but just eighth in batting average at .259. The 2017 offense was sixth in the league in on-base percentage at .340 and fourth in slugging at .370. Their .710 OPS was also in the top tier, second in the GCL and up from .680 from the year before.

In counting stats, the Cardinals were seventh in doubles with 71 and tied for 10th overall with 16 three-base hits. They swatted 29 home runs, good for a tie for third in the GCL (It should be noted that the Cards played five fewer games than many GCL teams, as the other divisions are scheduled for 60 games.)

An ongoing shortfall across the entire system, from St. Louis on down, is baserunning. The GCL Cardinals are no exception. They stole just 32 bases, dead last in the league and down from 36 the year before. Further, their success rate of 65.3 percent was well below the league-average of 70.1.

The defense

Despite support from instructors like Jose Oquendo and Willie McGee (pictured above), fielding was not a strong suit of the 2017 GCL Cardinals. Their fielding percentage of .961 was the same as 2016, ranking them 10th. The club tied for the 12th-most errors in the league at 75. The miscues were spread among many with no single player having more than six – other than third baseman Elehuris Montero with 10.

The catching, a strength in 2016, allowed 21 passed balls during the 2017 season, tied for third-most in the league, after just five last year. However, the catchers threw out 32 percent of baserunners attempting to steal, 22 of 68, third-best in the league, but way down from the 46 percent success rate in 2016.

The roster

The 33 players on the active initial roster included three 2016 Dominican Summer League hurlers who made their 2017 debuts with Johnson City just before being reassigned to the GCL. They are Angel Rondon, Junior Gonzalez and Enrique Perez.

Winston Nicacio (Dominican Summer League)

Opening day starter Winston Nicacio was another 2016 DSL graduate, as is pitcher Brian Pirela, a 2016 DSL All-Star. Position player standouts from last summer’s DSL squad include 18-year-old catcher Carlos Soto plus outfielders Jonatan Machado and 2016 DSL Player of the Year Brian Sanchez.

For the second year in a row, exactly 20 members of the initial GCL Cards were system returnees, most up from the DSL. GCL repeaters included pitcher Juan Alvarez, infielder Luis Flores and outfielder Sanel Rosendo.

In addition, there was a group of brand-new Cardinals, including 11 of the 38 players drafted by the organization this June, four of whom were highlighted above.

Taylor Bryant (St. Louis Cardinals)

Later arrivals included 33rd-round infielder Taylor Bryant, whose Cal State-Fullerton club was eliminated in the College World Series, and 35th-rounder Alex Gallegos, a prep pitching standout from Torrance, CA. Thought unsignable by some, Gallegos is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, so will not officially open his professional career until 2018.

Other 2017 draftees assigned to the GCL Cards include pitchers Kevin Hamann (22rd), Patrick Dayton (25th), C.J. Saylor (28th), Jim Voyles (38th), Chris Hunt (39th) and shortstop Michael Brdar (36th).

Four non-drafted players are made their Cardinals debut in the GCL. Three are free agent signees – pitcher Gabriel Gentner plus catchers Joe Gomez and Robbie Coman. The contract of the fourth, pitcher Austin Warner, was purchased from an independent league club. Warner quickly rose to Peoria while Gomez finished with State College.

In terms of ages, shortstop Moises Castillo was the youngest GCL Cardinal, celebrating his 18th birthday in July. In total, 10 of the 33 GCL Cardinals were still teenagers.

The headliners

Jonatan Machado (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

One way to compare the top talent level drop from 2016 to 2017 is to look at prospect rankings. Only three GCL Cardinals appear in the most recent monthly top 50 prospect list compiled by The Cardinal Nation – Machado (23rd) and Williams (50th), with Montero an honorable mention. One year ago, the GCL Cards had eight top 50 members, led by then-third-ranked shortstop Delvin Perez.

As many may remember, the latter was temporarily sent back to the GCL from Johnson City for an 11-game refresher before being returned to the Appalachian League in late July.

The 2017 Cardinals had two .300 hitters – Bryant at .324 and Machado, one point behind. At .423, Bryant logged the only .400-plus OBP among regulars. Montero led the club in doubles (16), home runs (five), RBI (36) and slugging (.468). Bryant’s .878 OPS topped Montero by 40 points. Machado’s eight steals in 10 attempts made him the clear team leader.

Kevin Hamann (St. Louis Cardinals)

The rotation leaders were Nicacio and Rondon, with ERAs at 2.61 and 2.64, respectively. Nicacio paced the club with four wins. Five different relievers shared the team lead with two saves each. Kevin Hamann, at 1.09, led the WHIP derby.

Top strikeout pitchers included Kodi Whitley, Cory Malcom and Patrick Dayton, at 11.7, 11.1 and 10.5 Ks per nine innings, respectively. Stingiest with walks was Hamann at 0.9 BBs per nine, followed by Chris Hunt at 1.2. Leading the way in strikeout to walk ratio was Hamann at 8.0, with Malcom at 7.5.

Elehuris Montero (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The Cardinals had one representative on the 12-man 2017 GCL All-Star Team, the 19-year old third baseman Montero.

As we move into the awards for the top position player, starting pitcher and relief pitcher on the 2017 GCL Cardinals, we will drill down further into individual player stats.

In conclusion

As a team, the 2017 Gulf Coast League Cardinals had a good offense but not enough pitching to again win the division. From the development perspective, the club should provide a number of battle-tested players to higher-level organizational clubs in 2018.

For more

Link to master article with all 2017 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the GCL Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 23

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2017 Dominican Summer Cardinals Team Review

photo: Cardinals Dominican Academy (St. Louis Cardinals)

The level of competition farthest away from the Major Leagues – in both distance and experience – is the Dominican Summer League. The St. Louis Cardinals’ club there opened 2017 – its 13th season in the rookie-level league -with promise, coming off their best season ever, 45-26 (.634) in 2016.

This optimism was furthered by the parent organization spending lavishly on international free agents, several of whom were activated in 2017. Yet, the team’s overall results were disappointing.

The Cardinals finished 30-40 (.429), in sixth place in the eight-team South Division. They won exactly 10 games in each of the three months – June, July and August – with a losing record in each and finished 18.5 games behind the division-leading Twins.

DSL South Division W L PCT GB HOME AWAY
DSL Twins (MIN) 49 22 0.690 24-11 25-11
DSL Mets1 (NYM) 44 27 0.620 5 23-13 21-14
DSL Rockies (COL) 36 35 0.507 13 20-16 16-19
DSL Angels (LAA) 35 35 0.500 13.5 18-18 17-17
DSL Phillies Red (PHI) 32 39 0.451 17 20-17 12-22
DSL Cardinals (STL) 30 40 0.429 18.5 13-19 17-21
DSL Yankees (NYY) 29 42 0.408 20 18-18 11-24
DSL Nationals (WSH) 28 43 0.394 21 17-18 11-25

The Dodgers2 team, champions of the North Division, beat the Dodgers1 club in the league finals.

With so many inexperienced players, won-loss records are de-emphasized as youngsters are tried defensively at different positions and in different situations.

The schedule

The DSL plays under a different calendar than other short-season leagues, opening their 72-game schedule at the start of June and finishing in late August.

To ease travel, each team played exclusively within its division. Series were always of two-game duration – one at home and one away. That meant three series per week with Sundays off.

In addition to the Cardinals and Twins, other division opponents were the Mets1, Rockies, Angels, Phillies Red, Yankees and Nationals.

By month

As noted above, it was a consistent but uneventful season for the Cardinals, with a losing record in all three months of play and losing marks both at home and on the road.

After a 4-1 start, the Cards dropped four in a row, the last time they would touch .500 for the season. In two of the four losses, the pitching yielded double-digit runs, a signal of difficulties to come. June ended with a 10-13 record.

July began with a season-worst five-game losing skid on the way to a 10-16 month. The last three games of July and the first of August marked the season-best four-game winning streak.

During the final month, manager Fray Peniche, in his seventh year, and his staff got the team playing a bit better, going 10-12, but they were eliminated from the division race fairly early in the month.

A historical perspective

The 2016 season’s DSL Cardinals best-ever .634 winning percentage appears to be an anomaly, as 2017 is the organization’s fourth losing season in the last five. The .429 mark is the fifth-lowest winning percentage in St. Louis’ 13 years in the league.

Though division configurations have changed over time, the sixth place finish is their second-worst since 2005, after a ninth place finish by the 2014 Cardinals.

2017 erased most of two straight years of double-digit win improvement by the Cardinals, since the 2014 low point.

Here are the DSL Cardinals records by year. They are still looking for their first division title.

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Win Pct 0.429 0.634 0.472 0.314 0.493 0.529 0.380
Wins 30 45 34 22 35 37 27
Losses 40 26 38 48 36 33 44
Division 6th 2nd 3rd 9th 5th 4th 3rd
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
Win Pct 0.549 0.630 0.409 0.462 0.462 0.507
Wins 39 46 27 30 30 36
Losses 32 27 39 35 35 35
Division 2nd 2nd 5th 4th 4th 4th

The pitching

Prior to 2016, the DSL Cardinals had relied in large part on pitching. 2017 marks a major downturn in mound effectiveness, with the offense taking a more prominent role.

Cardinals pitching was almost an entire run per nine innings worse in 2017 compared to 2016. The growth was from 3.53 to 4.50. In fact, it is a major change from 2015 and 2014, which were also right around the 2016 mark of 3.53.

The 2017 Cardinals team ERA of 4.50 is 37th of 40 DSL teams and is substantially higher than the DSL league average of 3.63.

In terms of baserunners allowed, with walks plus hits per innings pitched, WHIP, used as a surrogate, the Cardinals’ mark of 1.51 was 38th, third from the bottom.

The young staff averaged 18.1 years of age, almost the same as the year before and a half-year younger than the league average of 18.7.

Tutored by veteran pitching coach Bill Villanueva, back with the DSL club in 2017, the Cardinals pitchers dropped from #1 in strikeouts last year to the bottom third in 2017, at 28th, with 485.

The Cardinals were right in the middle in terms of free passes issued, logging the 19th most in 2017. Again, it was another annual decline, after the staff walked the ninth fewest batters in 2016.

The offense


In terms of age, the Cardinals hitters’ average age of 17.5 ties them for fourth-youngest roster in the league and more than a half-year younger on average than the league mark of 18.1 years of age.

Under long-time assistant hitting coach John Matos, who took over as the regular hitting coach this season, the Cardinals offense had a good showing, but again, the results were down from 2016.

The 2016 Cardinals were tops in the DSL in runs scored with 438, but fell to 13th with 349 in 2017. That is a drop of 89 runs year to year, or over one and quarter runs per game on average.

With team ERA up by almost a run and scoring down by over a run per game, it should be no surprise the team win total took a nosedive in 2017.

The Cardinals continue to be a good hitting team despite the run scoring decline. Specifically, the team was sixth in batting average at .255, but still down from their third-place showing at .265 last year. The league average was just .241 this year.

The Cards were fourth in the league with 113 doubles, after leading the DSL the year before. In home runs, they fell from the league-leading 35 last year to 25 in 2017, still sixth-most in the DSL.

As a group, the hitters lost considerable patience from year to year. The 2016 Cards took the third-most walks at 347, with that falling to a tie for 25th at 247 – exactly 100 less in 70 games. That translates into a drop in OBP, where they were second at .363 last year to .344 in 2017, but still good for sixth.

When they did reach base, the Cards were not standouts. They stole just 46 bases, with was third from fewest in the league after being last in each of the prior two seasons. When they did try, they were bad at it with a success rate of just 53.5 percent, down over 20 points from the year before.

In three-base hits, the power in the bats overcame the apparent lack of speed with the team’s total of 27 three-baggers ranking in a tie for 14th in the circuit. That was down from 35 and fourth, respectively, the year before.

Putting it all together, in OPS, the Cardinals were a solid sixth at .706 after leading the DSL at .756 in 2016.

The defense

The Cardinals were firmly in the bottom quarter in fielding percentage with a .950 mark ranking them 33rd, down from .959 and 19th one year ago.

144 stolen bases were attempted against Cardinals batteries in 2017. 58 were nabbed stealing, for a 40 percent success ratio that was tied for 13th-best and above the league average of 36%.

The All-Stars

Pablo Gomez

For the second consecutive year, two Cardinals were named DSL All-Stars. Not surprisingly, both are offensive performers – Ivan Herrera and Pablo Gomez.

Catcher Herrera, a 17-year old from Panama, put together a strong first-year campaign with a slash line of .335/.425/.441/.866. In three of the four categories, the right-handed hitter topped the team and was second in the other, slugging. He was one off the team RBI lead. Herrera threw out 40 percent of attempting-to-steal baserunners at 34 of 85.

At 18, Gomez, who was also in his first professional season, batted .300 with a .337 OBP and .368 slugging percentage. The second/third baseman posted a solid .705 OPS and tied for the team lead with eight stolen bases.

New arrivals

Jesus Cruz (Sultanes de Monterrey)

The Cardinals have signed at least 12 youngsters after the July 2nd signing period, with 10 of them inking 2018 contracts. The two who played in the 2017 DSL are pitcher Jesus Cruz and third baseman Francisco Hernandez.

The right-handed Cruz, at age 22 a veteran of his homeland Mexican League, moved to the GCL for one game, then to State College this summer. In the DSL, he appeared in nine games with and posted a 0.71 ERA with 19 strikeouts against four walks.

Hernandez, 17, did not provide much with the bat in his debut, with a slash line of .200/.253/.311/.564. Only four of his hits went for extra bases, including three home runs and 10 RBI. Hernandez struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances, took just three walks and stole just one base in four tries.

The group of 12 signees includes six Dominicans, four Venezuelans, a Mexican and a native of Canada.

In addition, the bulk of the 2016-2017 international class suited up for their first official action this summer – close to two dozen new recruits. They included outfielder Victor Garcia ($1.5 MM), outfielders Carlos Soler, Luis Montano and Alexander Samuel, infielder Franklin Soto and pitcher Roy Garcia, with the latter group all having received six-digit signing bonuses.

Looking ahead

The 2017 DSL Cardinals should compete in the Dominican version of instructs, which usually commences at the Cardinals academy in October. Joining them will be the remainder of the 2017-18 international signees who have yet to appear in regular-season DSL games.

In conclusion

The offense-slanted DSL Cardinals will hopefully build on their 2017 experience and progress to an even better 2018 performance, along with graduating a number of standouts to play in the States.

For more

Link to master article with all 2017 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the DSL Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 23

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 23

The first and second half winners of the Southern Division of the Florida State League faced off in the first round of the 2017 playoffs – the Palm Beach Cardinals and Ft. Myers Miracle, a Minnesota Twins affiliate. In a storm-abbreviated post-season, the Cards were declared co-league champions. Right fielder Thomas Spitz was the hero.

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Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 9/10/17

photo: Tyler O’Neill (Memphis Redbirds)

Results for the game played Saturday, September 9.

Memphis Redbirds 11 at Colorado Springs Sky Sox 8 (10 innings)

Tyler O’Neill (Memphis Redbirds)

The Memphis Redbirds’ record-breaking 2017 season was in serious jeopardy late Saturday night. Trailing Colorado Springs by two runs in the seventh inning, the Redbirds came back to keep their title hopes alive with an 11-8 win in 10 innings in Game 4 of the Pacific Coast League American Conference Championship Series.

The Redbirds put up four runs in the seventh to take a 7-5 lead, and after the Sky Sox plated two in the eighth to tie it, Memphis came back again with four runs in the 10th.

Player of the Day Tyler O’Neill continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-6 with two doubles and four RBI. Adolis Garcia finished a triple short of a cycle, including a fifth-inning home run. Jeremy Martinez was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

O’Neill’s RBI came in the seventh and 10th innings, as he doubled home the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh. The outfielder plated insurance runs with his two-run single in the 10th. Memphis opened the scoring in the 10th with a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch.

Josh Lucas allowed a run in the bottom of the 10th but shut the door for the save. Starter Zac Gallen went five innings, giving up five runs, four earned, on eight hits. Mike Mayers tossed two shutout innings, before Mark Montgomery gave up two runs in the eighth. Miguel Socolovich pitched a clean ninth, before the game was turned over to Lucas.

Sunday’s game: Memphis at Colorado Springs, 2:30 pm CT, Matt Pearce. This is the winner-take-all Game 5. If the Redbirds win the series, they will host PCL Championship Series games at AutoZone Park Tuesday and Wednesday,

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: State College Spikes Notebook: 2017 Week 12

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Cardinals Acquire Reliever Juan Nicasio

photo: Juan Nicasio (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals acquired a veteran reliever for the final few weeks of the 2017 season in return for a former top 20 second base prospect in the system.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have acquired right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio (pronounced nih-KAH-see-oh) from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for minor league infielder Eliezer Alvarez.

Juan Nicasio (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Nicasio, 31, had joined the Phillies just last week (August 31) on a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The 6-4, 250-pound Dominican native has combined to go 3-5 with a 2.79 ERA in a National League-leading 67 games between Pittsburgh (65 games) and Philadelphia (2 games) in 2017.   Nicasio, has fanned 61 batters in his 61.1 innings of work this season, walked only 18, and he’s allowed just four home runs while holding the opposition to .218 batting mark, including a .200 average vs. left-handed batters.    His 21 Holds rank T5th in the National League this season and his 1.09 WHIP is ranked 15th among all N.L. relievers.

Nicasio, who debuted with the Colorado Rockies in 2011, has appeared in 260 career games (82 starts) with the Rockies (2011-14), Los Angeles Dodgers (2015), Pittsburgh (2016-17) and Philadelphia (2017), putting together a career mark of 35-37 with a 4.60 ERA in 618.2 innings pitched.

Eliezer Alvarez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

A free-agent at season’s end, Nicasio will make every effort to join the Cardinals in San Diego for the conclusion of their road trip that includes games both tonight and tomorrow night.  He would not be eligible for postseason play should the Cardinals qualify.

Alvarez, 22, was signed by the Cardinals as a non-drafted international free-agent on July 2, 2011 out of Santiago, Dominican Republic.   The 5-11, 190-pound middle infielder batted a combined .248 with 5 HR’s and 28 RBI in 61 games between Springfield (AA) and the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (R) in 2017.

Nicasio has been assigned uniform no. 12.

Brian Walton’s take

The Cardinals clearly need bullpen help and finally made a small investment in 2017 at the expense of the future. But this month, will Nicasio really be a difference-maker – where that means making the playoffs?

When Nicasio was waived by Pittsburgh, the Phillies wisely put in a claim, even though they are out of contention in 2017. Philadelphia then flipped their new acquisition for a 40-man roster second base prospect.

Alvarez was added to St. Louis’ roster last fall for Rule 5 protection after a standout 2016 with Peoria, during which he was named TCN’s Cardinals Minors Player of the Year. However, after jumping to Springfield in 2017, his progress stalled, in part due to injury.

At this point, Alvarez, who had dropped to 24th in The Cardinal Nation’s most recent prospect list from #16 over the winter, did not appear to be a threat to Kolten Wong’s job. Had he been removed from the 40-man this offseason, he likely would have been claimed and if so, the Cardinals would have received nothing. Instead, they get three weeks of Nicasio.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 22

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Flaherty Named PCL Player of the Month

photo: Jack Flaherty (Memphis Redbirds)

Memphis Redbirds press release

Jack Flaherty (Memphis Redbirds)

Memphis Redbirds right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Month for August in a vote by the circuit’s managers, the league office announced Wednesday.

In five August starts, Flaherty went 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA (7er/32.0ip) and struck out 29 while walking seven. His finest outing was 7.0 innings of shutout, two-hit work at Tacoma Aug. 6, and he allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his five starts in the month. Flaherty helped the Redbirds to a division championship before making his Major League debut Sept. 1 at San Francisco, and he ended his time with Memphis allowing fewer than three earned runs in nine of his final 10 starts and three earned runs in the other.

In all, Flaherty was 7-2 with a 2.74 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 85.1 innings over 15 starts as a Redbird.

Brian Walton’s take

This is especially notable as pitchers usually lose out on these kinds of awards to hitters.

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Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 22

Already eliminated from the second half division race, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate finished 2-3 in the final week, but entered the playoffs as the first-half title winner. Catcher Jose Godoy continues his hot hitting and several fill-in players performed well.

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Gomber, Valera Cards August Pitcher, Player of the Month

photo: Austin Gomber/Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that Memphis (AAA) infielder Breyvic Valera (pronounced BRAY-vic VAH-lair-ah) and Springfield (AA) starting pitcher Austin Gomber have been honored as the Cardinals Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for August for their accomplishments on the field.

Breyvic Valera (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Valera, 25, was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2010 out of Montalban, Venezuela.  He batted .346 (36-104) with five home runs and 18 RBI over 25 games during the month of August.  He entered the month with two home runs and 22 RBI in the 89 games prior to August.

The switch-hitting infielder has been on a hot streak since July 4, batting .359, the 12th-highest mark in all of Minor League Baseball, while tallying 24 multi-hit games over that span including a 26-game on-base streak from July 30-August 29.  He began August by earning Pacific Coast League Player of the Week honors (July 31-August 6).

“Breyvic’s second half of the season helped lead Memphis to the PCL playoffs, highlighted by an excellent month in August,” said Gary LaRocque, St. Louis Cardinals Director of Player Development.

Austin Gomber (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Gomber, 23, was the Cardinals fourth round (135th overall) draft pick out of Florida Atlantic University in 2014.  In six August starts for Springfield, Gomber was 5-0 with an 0.91 ERA covering 39.2 innings with 44 strikeouts.  His 0.91 ERA was the lowest of any starting pitcher who did not make a relief appearance in double-A during August and his 44 strikeouts ranked 3rd among double-A pitchers.

In his last start of the season vs. Arkansas on August 31, Gomber struck out a career-high 11 batters over 6.0 innings.  He did not allow more than two runs in any of his final eight starts of the season including two scoreless 7.0 inning efforts.

“In Austin’s six starts during August, over 39 2/3 innings, opposing hitters only managed 18 hits and four earned runs with 44 strikeouts,” complimented LaRocque.

This was Valera’s first Cardinals monthly honor, while this marks Gomber’s second Minor League Pitcher of the Month award as he won the honor in August 2015, the same year in which he was named Cardinals co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Brian Walton’s take

Valera won TCN’s August Player of the Month honors, as well. In fact, it was his second straight award. Of course, of bigger celebration is his first-ever promotion to St. Louis, also announced on Tuesday.

For TCN’s Pitcher of the Month, Gomber was edged out by the only other starter in the system with a sub-1.00 ERA in August, Palm Beach’s Ramon Santos.


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Cardinals Promote Infielder Breyvic Valera

photo: Breyvic Valera (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Breyvic Valera (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Tuesday) that they have recalled infielder Breyvic Valera (pronounced BRAY-vic VAH-lair-ah) from Memphis (AAA) and that he will join the team for tonight’s game in San Diego.

Valera, 25, a non-drafted free agent (signed on May 13, 2010) from Montalban, Venezuela, played in 800 career minor league games over eight seasons before arriving in the Major Leagues.

The switch-hitting infielder batted .314 with eight home runs, 41 RBI and 11 stolen bases and led the Redbirds in batting average, hits (133) and triples (6) during the 2017 season.  From July 4 through the end of the season, Valera ranked 12th among all minor leaguers with a .359 average, tallying 24 multi-hit games and ran off a 26-game on-base streak from July 30-August 29, batting .366 with a .415 OBP during that stretch.  He was recognized as the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week for July 31-August 6.

The 5-10, 184-pound Valera struck out just 34 times in his 424 at-bats this season, and led Memphis down the stretch in their record-breaking 91-win season by batting .346 with 5 HR’s & 18 RBI in 25 games in August – earning the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month award for the month of August.

Over his 800 career minor league games, Valera has a .303 batting average including a .359 on-base percentage.  He has been named to three mid-season All-Star Games (New York-Penn League 2012, Midwest League 2013 & Florida State League 2014) and was recognized as the 2016 Venezuelan Winter League Most Valuable Player.

Valera has been assigned uniform No. 41 and will become the 11th Cardinal to make his Major League debut this season.

Brian Walton’s take

With an exceptional second half, Valera earned The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month award for both July and August. That revival may have opened the door for his Major League debut after Alex Mejia had passed him this summer and his 40-man roster spot, received last fall, seemed in potential jeopardy.


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Santos Named The Cardinal Nation August Pitcher of the Month

photo: Ramon Santos (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the conclusion of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series in which we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The top August player, Breyvic Valera, has already been named, leaving our top pitcher honor today, which goes to Ramon Santos of Palm Beach.

The guidelines

I am a firm believer in letting the comparative data tell the story. In the following table are the finalists for the Pitcher of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals system. To qualify, they needed a sub-2.00 ERA and at least 20 innings thrown. 35 hurlers crossed the innings bar, with ERA whittling down the finalists to 10.

By taking the aggressive 2.00 limit, top 20 prospects Sandy Alcantara (2.14 ERA), Jake Woodford (2.43) and Ryan Helsley (2.67) were left behind.

Let’s focus on who is included, rather than those who are not. There is solid cross-section of hurlers, as all eight levels of play are represented by one or more finalists. With two finalists each are Johnson City and the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, ironically two teams that missed their playoffs in a bid to defend their 2016 league titles.

The data

The ten finalists are listed in ERA sequence from lowest to highest.

Name IP ER R H SO K/9 HR BB BB/9 K/BB WHIP ERA FB GB GB/FB Team
Ramon Santos 32.67 3 9 26 26 7.2 1 4 1.1 6.5 0.93 0.83 13 57 4.4 PB
Austin Gomber 39.67 4 6 19 44 10.0 2 12 2.7 3.7 0.79 0.91 22 37 1.7 SPR
Andrew Summerville 36.33 5 6 20 29 7.2 2 12 3.0 2.4 0.89 1.24 29 40 1.4 SC
Angel Rondon 21 3 5 19 19 8.1 0 5 2.1 3.8 1.14 1.29 12 20 1.7 GCL
Zach Prendergast 27.67 5 6 22 37 12.0 1 4 1.3 9.3 0.96 1.63 15 31 2.1 JC
Diego Cordero 22 4 4 16 19 7.8 0 4 1.6 4.8 0.91 1.64 9 32 3.6 DSL
Evan Guillory 20.67 4 5 18 15 6.5 0 3 1.3 5.0 1.04 1.74 12 39 3.3 JC
Winston Nicacio 28.67 6 10 30 13 4.1 1 9 2.8 1.4 1.38 1.88 22 45 2.0 GCL
Evan Kruczynski 32.67 7 7 30 28 7.7 1 9 2.5 3.1 1.21 1.93 27 46 1.7 PEO
Jack Flaherty 32 7 7 27 29 8.2 1 7 2.0 4.1 1.06 1.97 21 42 2.0 MEM

Two pitchers had ERAs under 1.00 for the month, Ramon Santos and Austin Gomber, with two others under 1.30, Andrew Summerville and Angel Rondon. Five of the 10 have WHIPs under 1.00 during August

In strikeouts per nine, Zach Prendergast and Gomber are the only double-digit masters. In free passes issued per nine, Santos, Prendergast and his JC teammate Evan Guillory led the way.

Combining the two, Prendergast has the most superior strikeout to walk ratio, followed by Santos.

The final measures are ground ball to fly ball ratios. The only members of the 10 with better than 2:1 ratios are Guillory, Diego Cordero and by a huge margin, Santos at 4.4:1.

The winner

Ramon Santos (Johnson City Cardinals)

Taking all the measures into account, Palm Beach’s Ramon Santos has the most balanced performance among a very successful group. The 22-year old posted the lowest ERA at 0.83 and was among the lowest WHIP group at 0.93. His strikeout to walk ratio was second-best and his groundball rate was superior to all.

Santos was recognized as the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week for the August 7-13 period.

Santos last allowed as many as two runs eight appearances ago, on July 26. In his six starts since being moved into the rotation from relief, Santos has a 0.50 ERA. His full season mark between Peoria and Palm Beach is 2.99.

Congratulations to Ramon Santos, The Cardinal Nation Pitcher of the Month for August.

July’s winners in August

Last month’s winner Ryan Helsley shared his TCN honor with former Palm Beach and now current Springfield teammate Jordan Hicks. The latter was the Cardinals organization’s choice as July Pitcher of the Month. That both hurlers have been promoted speaks volumes on how their respective careers are progressing.

Specifically during August, Helsley was named a Florida State League post-season All-Star as well as the high-A circuit’s Pitcher of the Year. On the mound, he posted a 2.67 ERA to go with 41 strikeouts and 15 free passes issued in 33 2/3 innings.

Despite ending the month on the disabled list without pitching at Springfield, Hicks received a coveted spot in the Arizona Fall League. As an August reliever with Palm Beach, the 21-year old threw 10 scoreless innings on nine hits, 11 strikeouts and three walks.

Prior related article

Valera Repeats as The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month

What’s Next

Look for the Cardinals organization’s announcement of their choices as the top pitching and hitting performers from August.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Even More Palm Beach Cardinals Transactions

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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Even More Palm Beach Cardinals Transactions

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to make roster changes for the final days of the regular season with the high-A Palm Beach Cardinals being among the clubs heading into the playoffs. Two roster moves with pitchers affecting the Beach Birds occurred on Saturday.

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Cardinals Minor League Notebook: 9/3/17

photo: Sanel Rosendo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The St. Louis Cardinals system was 1-4 on Saturday, with Springfield being knocked out of the post-season race.  Our Player of the Day is Gulf Coast right fielder Sanel Rosendo, who was 2-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored the in the Cardinals’ season-ending victory over the Nationals.

Results for games played Saturday, September 2.

Memphis 11 at Colorado Springs 14

Tyler O’Neill (Memphis Redbirds)

The Redbirds came out on the wrong end of a slugfest in Colorado Springs on Saturday night.  The Memphis bats scored 11 runs on 15 hits, yet still lost.  Tyler O’Neill led the way with four RBI, three on a first inning home run.  O’Neill also plated a run on a sixth inning single, and was 3-for-5 with two runs scored.  Jordan Schafer drove in three and was 3-for-4. Wilfredo Tovar was 2-for-5 with two RBI.  Aledmys Diaz was 2-for-5.  Starting pitcher Kevin Herget drove in a run, as did Adolis Garcia.

Herget pitched four innings, giving up six runs on nine hits.  The right hander fanned two and walked one.  Rowan Wick tossed the fifth and surrendered one run on two hits.  Arturo Reyes took the sixth and was tagged with a blown save and the loss.  Reyes relinquished five runs on six hits.  Andrew Morales pitched a scoreless seventh.  Mark Montgomery allowed two runs in the eighth.

On the base paths, Gabriel Lino was picked off second base.  In the field, Garcia had an outfield assist.

The Redbirds are 89-50 on the season and are in first place in the PCL American South by 22 games.

Sunday’s game:  at Colorado Springs, Matt Pearce (4-3, 5.51) 2:30 CT.


Springfield 5 at Tulsa 6

Pedro Echemendia (St. Louis Cardinals)

The Cardinals were the hard luck losers in a one run game at Tulsa on Saturday night.  The Springfield bullpen faltered late in the game, allowing three runs in the eighth and ninth to let the game and the season get away.

With Tulsa holding the second half tie breaker, the Cardinals needed to sweep the Drillers in the three-game set to win the North Division second half title and make the playoffs. Those hopes were extinguished in the ninth inning.

Starter Pedro Echemendia pitched five innings, giving up two runs on four hits.  Echemendia struck out three and issued one free pass.  Corey Littrell surrendered two runs in his 2 1/3 innings of relief.  Landon Beck was tagged with the blown save and the loss.  Beck allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits.  Eric Carter gave up the single that scored an inherited runner for the walk off victory for Tulsa.

Andrew Knizner plated the first Springfield run on a single in the second inning and went 2-for-4.  In the third, one run came home on a throwing error and the second on a fielding error.  Eliezer Alvarez plated a run in the fifth on a single, and Tommy Edman’s ground rule double brought home the second run of the inning.

Anthony Garcia stole his eighth base in 10 attempts, and Oscar Mercado stole his 37th base in 56 attempts.  Randy Arozarena was caught stealing for the third time in 11 attempts. Edman committed a throwing error, and Mercado made a fielding error.

The Cardinals are 76-62 overall, 41-27 in the second half, and two games back of first place in the Texas League North.

Sunday’s game:  at Tulsa, Chris Ellis (5-9, 4.31) 7:05 CT.


Palm Beach 3, St. Lucie 4

Edmundo Sosa (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Cardinals were edged by the Mets at home on Saturday.  Starter Sam Tewes took the loss, pitching 4 2/3 innings and giving up four runs, three earned, on 12 hits.  Tewes fanned four and walked one.  Winston Nicacio tossed the final 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

The Cardinals scored their first run in the third on Edmundo Sosa’s RBI single.  Sosa plated another run on a sac fly in the seventh.  A run in the fifth came home on Jose Martinez’ single.  Vince Jackson was 2-for-4 and was the only Cardinal with multiple hits.

Casey Grayson stole his second base in two attempts, Blake Drake stole his sixth in nine attempts, and Jackson swiped his first base in two attempts with Palm Beach.  Jackson was also picked off and caught stealing for the first time in two attempts.   Sosa committed a throwing error.

The Cardinals are 74-59 overall and 34-32 in the second half.  They are eight games back of first in the FSL South.

Sunday’s game:  vs. St. Lucie, Evan Guillory (0-0, 0.00) 9:30 a.m. CT.


Peoria 0 at Kane County 3

The Chiefs were shut out on the road by the Kane County Cougars on Saturday night.  The Peoria offense managed only two hits, singles by Dennis Ortega and J.R. Davis.

Starter Austin Warner pitched two innings, giving up one run on three hits.  Warner struck out one and walked none.  Bryan Dobzanski surrendered two runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief. Colton Thomson and Dewin Perez combined for the final 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Warner took the loss, his fourth.

In the field, Evan Mendoza committed a fielding error.

The Chiefs are 67-70 overall on the season, 37-31 in the second half to put them four games back of first place in the Midwest League West. Both clubs have already clinched playoff berths. Kane County will play Cedar Rapids in the first round while the Chiefs take on Quad Cities.

Sunday’s game:  at Kane County, Anthony Shew (4-0, 2.72) 6:30 CT.


State College at Mahoning Valley

This game was cancelled due to rain and will not be made up. The Spikes remain 2 ½ games behind the Scrappers for the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division lead and three games back of the wild card, in third place, with five games remaining in the regular season.

Sunday’s game:  vs. Auburn, Daniel Castano (8-3, 2.82) 5:05 CT


GCL Cardinals 13 at GCL Nationals 9

Sanel Rosendo (St. Louis Cardinals)

The Cardinals prevailed in a slugfest against the Nationals on the road on Saturday.  Home runs by Taylor Bryant and Sanel Rosendo highlighted a big offensive performance. Bryant hit a solo home run in the in the fifth inning, while Rosendo added a three run shot in the ninth.  Bryant was 3-for-5 with three runs scored.  Rosendo was 2-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored.  In addition to the home run, Rosendo singled in a run in the eighth.

Luis Flores plated two runs on second inning single and Michael Brdar drove in a run on single in the second.  Moises Castilllo drove in a run on double to cap the four run second inning.  Donivan Williams plated two on an eighth inning single, and Brdar drove in the final run in the inning on a ground out.  In the ninth, Robbie Coman added an RBI single.

Starter Junior Gonzalez pitched five innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on five hits.  The right hander struck out three and walked one.  Oneiver Diaz was bombed, surrendering seven runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings of relief.  Patrick Dayton tossed the final 1 2/3 innings, allowing two inherited runners to score to tie the game.  Dayton allowed no runs on his own, was charged with a blown save, but earned the win.

In the field, Williams committed a fielding error and a throwing error.  Rosendo had an outfield assist.

The Cardinals finish 26-29 on the season, 7.5 games back of first place in the GCL East.



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Valera Repeats as The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month

photo: Breyvic Valera (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Breyvic Valera (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The first of The Cardinal Nation’s top two monthly awards to St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers goes to the top system-wide hitter in August. The selection is made by reviewing a series of rate and counting stats, with the winner usually revealing himself.

This time around, we have a two-time winner. In fact, Memphis’ Breyvic Valera is the rare individual to collect these honors in two consecutive months, adding August honors to his July award.

We start our analysis with the Tommy Phams of the minor league system – .300 hitters, .400 on-base performers, .500 sluggers and of course, those with at least a .900 OPS across the Cardinals system. Players needed at least 60 at-bats to qualify.

Rate stats

Name BA Team Name OBP Team
Anthony Garcia 0.391 SPR Taylor Bryant 0.481 GCL
Taylor Bryant 0.385 GCL Chase Pinder 0.470 JC
Yariel Gonzalez 0.356 SC Anthony Garcia 0.444 SPR
Breyvic Valera  0.346 MEM Yariel Gonzalez 0.418 SC
Wilfredo Tovar 0.343 MEM Kramer Robertson 0.417 PEO
Chase Pinder 0.338 JC Rangel Ravelo 0.396 MEM
Jonatan Machado 0.338 GCL Breyvic Valera  0.395 MEM
Andrew Knizner 0.324 SPR Scott Hurst 0.393 SC
Carlos Soler 0.316 DSL
Scott Hurst 0.316 SC
Rangel Ravelo 0.313 MEM
J.D. Crowe 0.311 SC
Juan Yepez 0.309 PEO
Kramer Robertson 0.308 PEO
Imeldo Diaz 0.307 JC
Leobaldo Pina 0.307 PB
Name SLG Team Name OPS Team
Adolis Garcia 0.600 SPR/MEM Breyvic Valera  0.991 MEM
Breyvic Valera  0.596 MEM Anthony Garcia 0.960 SPR
Stefan Trosclair 0.573 PEO Chase Pinder 0.947 JC
Luis Bandes 0.567 JC Rangel Ravelo 0.934 MEM
Brian O’Keefe 0.551 PEO/PB Adolis Garcia 0.927 SPR/MEM
Rangel Ravelo 0.538 MEM Taylor Bryant 0.927 GCL
Patrick Wisdom 0.538 MEM Brian O’Keefe 0.901 PEO/PB
Carlos Soler 0.532 DSL Carlos Soler 0.900 DSL
Anthony Garcia 0.516 SPR
Andrew Knizner 0.500 SPR
Anthony Garcia (USA TODAY Sports Images)

As the above tables indicate, there were at least 16 .300 hitters in the Cardinals system during August. That is as high as I can recall in recent memory. At the top are Anthony Garcia and Taylor Bryant, each pushing .400. Three others were clustered around .350 – Yariel Gonzalez of State College and a pair of Memphis teammates, Valera and Wilfredo Tovar.

Garcia and Bryant are among the OBP leaders, with Chase Pinder of Johnson City joining them. Only two others had a .400 OBP or better – Gonzalez and Kramer Robertson of Peoria. However, Valera and another Memphian, Rangel Ravelo, were very close.

Adolis Garcia (St. Louis Cardinals)

In the slugging category, the “other” Springfield Garcia, Adolis, led the way, closely followed by Valera. Stefan Trosclair, Luis Bandes and Brian O’Keefe all came in over .550.

Putting it together in OPS, Valera and Anthony Garcia are head and shoulders above the others. Six others logged an OPS of at least .900 in August.

Counting stats

Now, let’s look at the system-wide August leaders in home runs, RBI, runs scored and stolen bases.

HR Team RBI Team
Adolis Garcia 7 SPR/MEM Luis Bandes 26 JC
Luis Bandes 7 JC Yariel Gonzalez 25 SC
Patrick Wisdom 7 MEM Adolis Garcia 23 SPR/MEM
Tyler O’Neill 6 MEM Julio Rodriguez 19 JC
Breyvic Valera 5 MEM Breyvic Valera 18 MEM
Brady Whelan 5 JC Elehuris Montero 17 GCL
Brian O’Keefe 5 PEO/PB Patrick Wisdom 17 MEM
Stefan Trosclair 5 PEO Stefan Trosclair 17 PEO
Runs Team SB/att Team
Brady Whelan 23 JC Wilfredo Tovar 8/12 MEM
Irving Lopez 21 JC Jonatan Machado 6/7 GCL
Kramer Robertson 21 PEO Harrison Bader 6/9 MEM
Breyvic Valera 19 MEM Edwin Figuera 5/7 SC
Adolis Garcia 19 SPR/MEM Magneuris Sierra 4/5 Spr
Leobaldo Pina 18 PB Darren Seferina 4/5 SPR
Stefan Trosclair 18 PEO Kramer Robertson 4/5 PEO
Edwin Figuera 17 SC Carlos Soler 4/6 DSL
Luis Bandes (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

We have some short-season names on top here, including Bandes and Yariel Gonzalez. Bandes of Johnson City is the sole leader in RBI, with an amazing 26 in 23 games, followed by State College’s Gonzalez with 25.

Bandes is joined by Patrick Wisdom of Memphis and Adolis Garcia with seven August long balls each.  Next is newcomer Tyler O’Neill with six homers.

In runs scored, JC teammates Brady Whelan (23) and Irving Lopez (21) are first and tied for second, respectively. Also at 21 is Kramer Robertson of Peoria, with Valera and Adolis Garcia next.

A surprise leader in stolen bases with eight is Memphis’ Tovar, though his success rate was just 66%. Jonatan Machado from the GCL was more effective, swiping six of seven bags attempted.

Overall

If I could combine the two Garcias, Adolis for his power and Anthony for his rate stats, they/he would be the winner.

However, in terms of overall success across the board, Valera checks more boxes. In the eight lists of leaders above, the Memphis utilityman appears on seven, only falling short in stolen bases.

With the top OPS in the system as well as strong performance in both scoring runs and driving them in, Valera is officially named The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month for August.

Last month’s winners

TCN’s July Player of the Month honors also went to Valera, who despite his good play is completing his second season since competing in the Arizona Fall League and first on the 40-man roster without a promotion to St. Louis.

Given his exceptionally strong second half, it seems surprising Valera’s hold on his 40-man spot could be tenuous.

To be specific, in the second half, Valera’s slash line is an impressive .370/.431/.580/1.011.

Harrison Bader (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Cardinals organization instead named Valera’s Memphis teammate Harrison Bader as their July Player of the Month.

Over the prior 31 days, the outfield prospect had just one extra-base hit, slashing .222/.320/.259/.579 for the Redbirds. Bader did appear among the August steals leaders noted above, but was caught one-third of the time.

September began with Bader’s return to the majors, with a home run in his first game back.

What’s Next

Look for TCN’s Cardinals Pitcher of the Month as well the Cardinals organization’s announcement of their choices as the top pitching and hitting performers from August.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Promote Five from Minors

photo: Harrison Bader (Memphis Redbirds)

As Major League rosters expand beyond 25 on September 1, the St. Louis Cardinals began with five additions and one removal from the 40-man roster.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Friday) that they have promoted five players from their minor league system, as Major League Baseball rosters are allowed to expand up to 40 players beginning today.

The Cardinals today announced that they have purchased the contract of rookie right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty from Memphis (AAA) and that he will start tonight’s game in San Francisco.  The Redbirds also announced that they have purchased the contract of rookie right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcántara from Springfield (AA) and the contract of catcher Alberto Rosario from Memphis.   In addition, infielder Alex Mejia and outfielder Harrison Bader have been recalled from Memphis.

Sean Gilmartin (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Cardinals also announced that left-handed pitcher Sean Gilmartin has been outrighted off of the team’s 40-man roster, creating space for today’s additions.

JACK FLAHERTY #32 – RHP: The Cardinals first round pick (34th overall) in the 2014 amateur draft out of Harvard-Westlake High School (Calif.) will become the 14th youngest Cardinals pitcher to make his Major League debut as a starter (21-years, 320 days) and the youngest since Rick Ankiel (20 years-35 days) did so at Montreal on Aug. 23, 1999.  He is the fourth Cardinals pitcher to make his Major League debut this season and the first Cardinals pitcher since Kurt Kepshire (1984) to debut as a starter in San Francisco.

The 6-4, 225-pound right-hander was 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA over 25 starts between Springfield (AA) and Memphis (AAA) this season.  He struck out 147 batters in 148.2 innings with a 1.04 WHIP, allowing only 12 home runs and posted identical 7-2 records in both Springfield and Memphis.  He’s leading all Cardinals minor league pitchers in wins, ERA and strikeouts, something no Cardinals’ minor league pitcher has done since Ankiel in 1999.

Jack Flaherty (Memphis Redbirds)

Flaherty’s 14 wins rank T-3rd among all minor league pitchers in 2017 and he’s the first Cardinals’ minor league right-handed pitcher to record 14 wins in a season since Seth Maness did so in 2012.  His 2.18 ERA ranks 12th among minor league full-season pitchers, while his 1.04 WHIP ranks 18th.

Flaherty was selected to pitch in the Futures Game at the 2017 MLB All-Star Game in Miami and pitched the 6th inning for the USA Team.  He was recognized as a Texas League Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star while earning Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month and Texas League Pitcher of the Month honors in April. He is a high school teammate of current Major League pitchers Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves.

Sandy Alcantara (USA TODAY Sports Images)

SANDY ALCÁNTARA #56 – RHP: Pronounced al-CAHN-ta-rah…the 6-5, 185-pound 21-year-old is a native of San Juan De La Maguana, Dominican Republic…was an international free-agent signing by the Cardinals on July 2, 2013…he was 7-5 with 4.31 ERA in 25 games (22 starts) for Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League (AA) this season– his first season at double-A… moved into relief role for the S-Cards on Aug. 23 and has struck out 5 in 4.0 innings pitched in three appearances out of the bullpen…ranks among Texas League leaders in innings pitched (125.1-12th), strikeouts (106-9th) and WHIP (1.43-14th)…was 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA in six appearances (3 starts) in August, striking out 23 in 21.0 innings pitched…he ranked 5th among all Class-A level pitchers in strikeouts (153) last season in 23 starts between Peoria and Palm Beach.

Alberto Rosario (USA TODAY Sports Images)

ALBERTO ROSARIO #68 – C: Is a veteran of nine seasons in the minors…the 30-year-old Dominican native joined the Cardinals organization for the 2015 season after stints in the Angels, Red Sox and Dodgers systems…made his Major League debut with the Cardinals on July 9, 2016 after 709 games in the minors…has appeared in 20 Major League games (started eight), batting .184 (7-for-38) with 2 RBI…collected his first M.L hit as a pinch-hitter on July 9, 2016 at Milwaukee…was batting .247 in 50 games for Memphis (AAA) this season, including .288 mark in August & .310 with runners in scoring position…has thrown out 4 of 12 attempted base-stealers (33 pct.) at the Major League level & 302 of 746 (40 pct.) in the minors.

Alex Mejia (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

ALEX MEJIA #54 – INF: Right-handed hitting infielder is being promoted for his second stint with the Cardinals this season…has played at three levels this year (AA, AAA, MLB)…the 26-year-old Sylmar, Calif. native was the Cardinals 4th round draft selection in 2012 out of the University of Arizona where he was an all-American at shortstop and earned PAC-12 Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year selections for the Wildcats in their College World Series championship season…batted .214 (3-for-14) in 10 games with the Cardinals earlier (June 28 – July 9) this year, collecting his 1st ML hit on July 1 vs. Washington, while also homering and collecting 2 RBI in start at 2nd base…was batting a combined .291 with 7 HR’s, 57 RBI and 32 doubles in 118 games between Springfield (AA) – 63 games and Memphis (AAA) – 55 games… named to Texas League North Division All-Star team…had .335 BA and .381 OBP at Memphis….has played all four infield positions this year at Memphis, where he was errorless in 25 games at shortstop and 16 at second base…was errorless in 17 total chances with the Cardinals, playing SS, 2B & 3B.

Harrison Bader (USA TODAY Sports Images)

HARRISON BADER #48 – OF: Pronounced BAY-der…rookie outfielder is being promoted for his second tour with the Cardinals this year after debuting on July 25 vs. Colorado when he scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 9th in a 3-2 walk-off victory…played six games with the Cardinals during his call-up from July 25-31…batted .286 (6-for-21) with St. Louis, starting all six of his games in centerfield…23-year-old was the Cardinals 3rd round draft selection (100th player overall) in 2015 draft out of the University of Florida, where he played in the College World Series and was named to the NCAA World Series Tournament Team…the 6-0, 200-pound right-handing hitting Bader is a native of Bronxville, NY…was named to Arizona Fall League All-Prospect team and Rising Stars Game last year…was batting .283 with 20 HR’s, 55 RBI and 15 SB’s in 123 games at Memphis this season…111 of his 117 defensive games played this year for Memphis have come in centerfield.

Brian Walton’s take

The only mild surprises to me are the promotion of Mejia over Aledmys Diaz and the DFA of Gilmartin. The former could still be added to St. Louis’ roster later. I thought the lefty Gilmartin would get a September look as a reliever based on his success in the role since coming off Memphis’ disabled list. Obviously, that is not going to happen.

Essentially, Flaherty took Mike Leake’s 40-man roster spot, Alcantara assumed Kevin Siegrist’s place and Rosario took the spot of Gilmartin. The Cardinals’ 40-man remains full.

Among The Cardinal Nation’s top prospects, rankings are as follows: Flaherty #3, Bader #4, Alcantara #8. Mejia (honorable mention).

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation:

We have already documented 19 downstream player moves across the Cardinals system related to these changes. They are broken down here.

Palm Beach Cardinals Roster in Change

Also, here is my earlier article outlining my guesses as to who the Cardinals will call up this month.

TCN’s Annual Cardinals September Call-up Predictions

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Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals DFA Kevin Siegrist, Recall John Gant

photo: Kevin Siegrist (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals have designated reliever Kevin Siegrist for assignment, recalling pitcher John Gant from Triple-A Memphis.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Kevin Siegrist (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Thursday) that they have recalled right-handed pitcher John Gant from triple-A Memphis to join the team for tonight’s game in San Francisco.  The team also announced that left-handed pitcher Kevin Siegrist was activated from the 10-day disabled list and designated for assignment.

Gant, 25, was acquired by the Cardinals last December in the trade that sent Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves.  In 18 starts with Memphis this season, Gant is 6-5 with a 3.83 ERA, pitching 103.1 innings while striking out 99 batters, ranking 10th in the Pacific Coast League.

John Gant (USA TODAY Sports Images)

He has won his last five decisions over seven starts dating back to July 24, the only pitcher in the Pacific Coast League with at least five wins and no losses during that span.    Gant has held his opposition to three runs or less in each of his last four starts and has not allowed a home run since August 4th.   He earned Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week honors during the week of June 12-18.

Gant began the 2017 season on the 10-day disabled list on the St. Louis roster and was optioned to Memphis upon activation from the disabled list on May 16.  He was recalled to St. Louis on May 31 and made one relief appearance throwing 3.1 innings at Cincinnati on June 6, which is tied for the longest relief outing by a Cardinals pitcher this season.

Siegrist was 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA and one save in 39 relief appearances this season.

Gant wears uniform No. 53.

Brian Walton’s take

On one hand, I did not see this coming, but on the other, we all saw it coming for the last two years as Siegrist tried to cope with decreased velocity and diminished effectiveness. He joins Seth Maness, who suffered a similar fate one year ago and is struggling at Triple-A for Kansas City, and Trevor Rosenthal, out for the next year or so, as the young trio of Cardinals relievers heavily used by manager Mike Matheny in their early years, only to struggle later on.

In three one-inning outings with Palm Beach this past week, Siegrist  allowed one run on three hits, two walks and three strikeouts.

The Cardinals have 10 days to decide Siegrist’s fate, whether trade, release or outright to the minors. The club also has created one opening on the 40-man roster, which will likely be used very soon on another call-up.

Gant, a player I predicted would be called up for the final month, offers reliable long relief innings, and a buffer if first-time starter Jack Flaherty runs into trouble on Friday.

This month in five starts with Memphis, Gant has posted a 2.97 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 30 1/3 innings.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: TCN’s Annual Cardinals September Call-up Predictions

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.