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.

TCN 2018 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #40: Patrick Wisdom

photo: Patrick Wisdom (Memphis Redbirds)

by The Cardinal Nation staff

2017 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 3B 08 27 91 6-2 210 R R 2012 1s

Link to Wisdom’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2017 stats

Mem 0.243 0.286 456 68 111 25 31 89 38 149 2 0.347 0.310 0.507 0.817

TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (41): After appearing in four straight community rankings from 2013-2016, Wisdom dropped out of the voting all together this time last year. That was on the heels of a rough 2016 season, during which he carried a 79 wRC+ (.677 OPS) at Triple-A Memphis. This year, Wisdom, and his 31 home runs, put him back on the map as the 41st prospect ranked in the community ballot. Bw52 put him on the board first at #35.

Desmetlax12 mentioned Wisdom a year ago saying that he could see an argument for supporting the third baseman due to excellent defense and his power, however his sub-par plate discipline made desmetlax12 question Wisdom’s ability to make it to the majors. Flash forward a year and posters like Mudville and SoonerinNC were openly advocating for Wisdom to make it as a September call-up, with SoonerinNC going as far as calling him a potential big bat that the Cardinals may be looking for. Desmetlax12 said that the fact that Wisdom was not called up nearly caused him to leave him off the community ballot altogether. Wiley believed Wisdom could go in the Rule 5 Draft if he was not protected after his career year in Memphis. – Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (40): Shortly after his prospect status faded last winter, Wisdom re-entered prospect consideration through a career-year in his second trial at Triple-A Memphis.

Patrick Wisdom (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The 26-year old’s sixth professional season was full of career bests, including his highest batting average (.243), slugging percentage (.507), and on-base plus slugging percentage (.817) over a full season. He also blew way past his previous career highs with 31 home runs and 89 RBI.

“He did a nice job of driving the ball,” Memphis manager Stubby Clapp said. “When he got his pitch, he didn’t miss it for the most part. He was important in clutch situations. Being able to drive in some RBIs, especially during the playoffs.

“As important as his glove and his arm is at third base, his bat is making the adjustment. He has a couple more adjustments left, and he is going to be a nice big leaguer.”

After being limited to only 78 games at Triple-A in 2016 due to surgery on his hamate bone, this season was perhaps Wisdom’s most defining of his career – and it all started in spring training.

“He was noticeably better,” one pro scout said. “I think it took him a while to get over his hamate injury last year. He had a very good spring (in big-league camp). It looked like he belonged there.”

Wisdom carried the momentum from the spring throughout the 2017 season and became The Cardinal Nation’s Memphis Player of the Year by season’s end.

“He’s really started to put together a better approach at the plate and with what the pitcher is doing,” Clapp told reporters. “He’s worked hard to simplify some things, and it’s given him a better opportunity to make solid contact on a more consistent basis.”

The reason for the third baseman’s success has indeed been a simpler approach at the plate, not thinking about previous at-bats or the pitcher he is facing.

“Wisdom is seeing the ball well,” Memphis hitting coach Mark Budaska told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There was a time when he would go up there, get mad about a pitch he missed or took and everything would speed up on him. If you’ve got the right plan, you’ve got to stick to it. You can’t jump ship from your plan. He’s getting that processor going. We got him quiet. He’s putting it together.”

His biggest flaw as a prospect has and will always be his strikeout percentage. Even after his terrific season, Wisdom’s strikeout rate of 29.4% raises concern, especially since it shows little improvement from his career 31.9% punchout percentage.

Budaska preached to Wisdom that he had a solid two-strike approach, but wasn’t utilizing it. The hitting coach told Wisdom the swing he uses to do that should be his two-strike swing.

“He’s so strong, once he stays compact and short like that and barrels it up, it can go anywhere,” Budaska said.

From a scouting perspective, one scout likes Wisdom as a prospect and thinks he has value, depending if a team gives him an everyday shot to play. Another scout doesn’t believe he is a sure thing but could play regularly. With a good enough glove and playable power at the hot corner, Wisdom will likely struggle against right-handed pitching and projects to be a platoon type in the big leagues.

Before being passed over as a September call-up, Wisdom spent half the month of September helping the Redbirds win their first Pacific Coast League title since 2009. Looking ahead, there is no telling if he will remain in the organization by next spring (Rule 5 eligible).

Assuming he’s not taken in the Rule 5 draft in December, Wisdom will look to fight for a job in the majors come March with the Cardinals.

Brian Walton (42): Again, the three voters place Wisdom in the same vicinity in the top 50 rankings, in the low 40’s. That is not a great area for a Triple-A player in the second half of his 20’s age-wise, even one who was named to the All-Pacific Coast League squad. Those for whom there are high expectations would have already risen to the top, rather than struggling for recognition entirely.

To that point, in this, Wisdom’s sixth year to qualify for this list, he rejoins the ranks after not placing in the top 50 in 2017. For the record, his slow decline began with two years ranked in the teens, followed by two more in the 20’s overall in the Cardinals system.

The starkest comparison for Wisdom is a fellow California college star third baseman who was St. Louis’ pick before him, as both were selected in the supplemental first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. That other Cardinal is Stephen Piscotty, who was taken at 36th overall, with Wisdom following at #52.

While Wisdom is still trying to make his MLB debut after six years of efforts, Piscotty underwent a position change and has already logged over 1,300 big-league plate appearances through three seasons. Further, Piscotty earned a long-term contract, while Wisdom has not yet made the 40-man roster.

Speaking of the latter, for me, the handwriting was on the wall when Wisdom was not among the Cardinals farm hands who were promoted to St. Louis this past September. While Wisdom has one more year before being able to declare minor league free agency, he will be eligible to be taken in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

The question is then, what kind of team would value Wisdom the most?

As we already know, along with Wisdom’s considerable power comes with a price – a high strikeout rate and low batting average. Though his third base defense is good, utilizing his skills in an American League environment might be his best possible fit.

Even then, remember that simply being selected in the Rule 5 is much, much easier than actually sticking on a big league roster for an entire season. Also working against him is the trend across the game for larger bullpens, meaning fewer bench spots for marginal position players.

It seems clear the Cardinals do not see Wisdom’s fit as a third baseman, at least for them. Further, those who criticize the club for not trading him are being unrealistic. Other teams knew it was likely he would be available for the taking in the Rule 5 Draft, so why allocate resources ahead of time to acquire him?

After all, how unique are his feats, really? Many players are hitting more balls out of stadiums at an alarming rate all across baseball, diminishing the differentiation of Wisdom’s one standout tool – his power. Specifically, eight Triple-A players launched at least 30 round-trippers this season, including faded prospects like Bryce Brentz and Richie Shaffer. The Cardinals kept another 30-homer hitter in Tyler O’Neill, who is almost four years younger than Wisdom.

If Wisdom is taken in Rule 5 and returned to St. Louis, or is not taken at all, he seems slotted to return as Memphis’ third baseman, perhaps backed up by Aledmys Diaz. If the current organizational personnel remain in place, it would take a run of injuries to others for Wisdom to have a realistic chance to the make the Cardinals out of spring training. Among those with third base capabilities ahead of him are Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Greg Garcia, Diaz and Paul DeJong.

As indicated above, Wisdom receives a Scouting Grade of “4 medium”. The numeric score reflects a potential future ceiling as an impact bench player, with “medium” suggesting some additional work remains ahead for him to achieve it.

Specifically, it should begin with cutting the strikeouts from his 29.4 percent mark in 2017 and turning around his consistently under eight percent walk rate. At this point, however, there is little reason to believe significant changes are ahead, despite periodic exclamations that his potential had been unlocked by this coach or that.

However, if Wisdom remains in the organization for another go-round, it is not unreasonable to anticipate that injuries will open up an opportunity for him with St. Louis at some point during the long season ahead. After all, despite low expectations having been placed on him, Luke Voit contributed in 2017, so why couldn’t Wisdom in 2018?

Our 2018 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Winter Hitters Report: 2017-2018 Period 3

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, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects: 2018

photo: Jordan Hicks, Sandy Alcantara, Andrew Knizner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

It only makes sense that the unveiling of the 13th annual The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect 50 List began on Monday, November 13.

During the period we call “50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 Cardinals Prospects”, a new top St. Louis Cardinals prospect is disclosed each day, starting with number 50 and carrying us into the New Year and beyond.

Alex Reyes (USA TODAY Sports Images)

We will continue until the number one pick is identified on January 1 – our top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system coming into the 2018 season. Will Alex Reyes hold his crown for the third consecutive year or be unseated by the likes of Jack Flaherty or Carson Kelly as the king of the farm system?

As always, following the top 50 countdown will be our annual 10-pack of “best-of”, “just-missed” and in-depth analysis articles. This series will conclude as Winter Warm-Up’s arrival signals pitchers and catchers reporting in just four more weeks.

As has been the process in recent years, the final ranking representing the site is actually a melding of three individual prospect lists. Our 2017 voters return for another year: site owner Brian Walton, Springfield reporter Derek Shore and you, the readers.

Since starting just after Labor Day, the members of our free message board community have been conducting voting for their own Cardinals prospect list. This detailed annual ranking involves considerable debate and discussion. The fan voting process has been imitated but never duplicated, as our readers continue to be the some of the most knowledgeable people anywhere when it comes to the players in the Cardinals minor league system.

The Cardinal Nation community ranking is given its customary one-third weighting to yield the countdown order to be unveiled here. The community leader who led the voting process, “PadsFS,” aka Jeremy Byrd, will also speak for the group in the individual player capsules posted daily. Shore will provide his scouting-oriented commentary on each member of the new top 50 as well as on a handful of others who just missed out.

To follow the countdown, you can either read each new story when posted on our home page every morning or click on the individual players’ names, which will be listed below as they are unveiled. You can also return to this page daily to check the current status of our Top 50 countdown.

As always, readers can join in the debate at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board, where there will be discussion surrounding that day’s entry onto the top prospect list.

To check out the corresponding rankings from each of the past 12 winters, click here, or you can always access them the permanent link in the left column located underneath the site logo called “PROSPECT RANKINGS”.

The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospects – 2018

50. Breyvic Valera (free)
49. Rowan Wick (TCN members)
48. Derian Gonzalez (TCN members)
47. Mike Mayers (TCN members)
46. Nick Plummer (TCN members)
45. Andy Young (free)
44. Juan Yepez (TCN members)
43. Josh Lucas (TCN members)
42. Bryce Denton (TCN members)
41. Ryan Sherriff (TCN members)
40. Patrick Wisdom (free)
39. Ian Oxnevad (TCN members)
38. Coming November 25 (TCN members)
37. Coming November 27 (TCN members)
36. Coming November 28 (TCN members)
35. Coming November 28 (free)
34. Coming November 29 (TCN members)
33. Coming November 30 (TCN members)
32. Coming December 1 (TCN members)
31. Coming December 2 (TCN members)
30. Coming December 3 (free)
29. Coming December 4 (TCN members)
28. Coming December 5 (TCN members)
27. Coming December 6 (TCN members)
26. Coming December 7 (TCN members)
25. Coming December 8 (free)
24. Coming December 9 (TCN members)
23. Coming December 10 (TCN members)
22. Coming December 11 (TCN members)
21. Coming December 12 (TCN members)
20. Coming December 13 (free)
19. Coming December 14 (TCN members)
18. Coming December 15 (TCN members)
17. Coming December 16 (TCN members)
16. Coming December 17 (TCN members)
15. Coming December 18 (free)
14. Coming December 19 (TCN members)
13. Coming December 20 (TCN members)
12. Coming December 21 (TCN members)
11. Coming December 22 (TCN members)
10. Coming December 23 (free)
9. Coming December 24 (TCN members)
8. Coming December 25 (TCN members)
7. Coming December 26 (TCN members)
6. Coming December 27 (TCN members)
5. Coming December 28 (free)
4. Coming December 29 (TCN members)
3. Coming December 30 (TCN members)
2. Coming December 31 (TCN members)
1. Coming January 1 (free)

There’s more!

At the conclusion of the countdown, a 10-part series follows, as we drill down into the details behind the top 50. Most of these articles will be exclusively for TCN members.

We will analyze each voter’s individual top 50 lists, year-to-year changes and the top additions. The voters highlight their ranked players that did not make the combined top 50 and we unveil our All-Prospect Team – the highest-ranked players at each position. We will take a view behind the numbers, a look back at our best and worst picks from the previous year, the top prospect list cut by level of play, those on the 2017 list who dropped off for 2018 and wrap it up with a potential-only based-list.

  • 2018 Top Cardinals Prospects – The Final Tally – Coming January 2 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Top Cardinals Prospects – The Newbies – Coming January 3 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Cardinals Prospects: Best of the Rest – Derek Shore – Coming January 4 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Cardinals Prospects: Best of the Rest – Brian Walton – Coming January 5 (TCN members)
  • 2018 The Cardinal Nation All-Cardinals Prospect Team – Coming January 6 (free)
  • 2018 Top Cardinals Prospects – Behind the Numbers – Coming January 7 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Top Cardinals Prospects – Picks and Pans – Coming January 8 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Top Cardinals Prospects by Level – Coming January 9 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Top Cardinals Prospects – The Departed – Coming January 10 (TCN members)
  • 2018 Cardinals Top 50 Prospects on Potential Only – Coming January 11 (TCN members)

Not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation?

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

The voting process

Here is a bit of insight into the process behind the picks. Earlier this fall, Brian Walton and Derek Shore independently documented their top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. The Community vote was then folded in.

A weighted score was tabulated, which drove the ranking you will see here. The individual scores will also be shown on the player pages as they are unveiled each day, along with a wealth of additional information on each of the 50 prospects.

To come up with the 50 names, each of us submitted a list of 65 players. This year, 80 prospects were identified by at least one voter, with all members of the top 50 having received at two votes. Ties were broken by the best individual voter score.

In terms of qualification, all players in the Cardinals minor league system are eligible, including those on the 40-man roster, as long as they have not exhausted their MLB rookie designation of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched.

The unparalled depth of coverage of the Cardinals system all year round by The Cardinal Nation means there is much more behind these rankings than just a list of names.

Brian and Derek ranked based on personal observation as much as possible, and with local reporters in every affiliate city, TCN knows these players well. Brian was out to see the affiliates in person this spring, summer and fall, and in many cases, multiple times. That included covering spring training, extended spring training, and the Arizona Fall League first-hand. We also received valuable input from coaches, scouts and others in and out of the organization.

Scouting Grades return for 2018

Brian is again grading each prospect on a 2-8 scale, based on their most likely future potential. This mirrors the standard 20-80 scouting scale, while taking a simplified look at ultimate potential, rather than a full detailed, tool-by-tool breakdown. The grades are accompanied by a risk factor, which assesses the likelihood of a player reaching or exceeding his ceiling.

8 – Elite talent
7 – All-star
6 – Above average starter, mid-rotation starting pitcher, impact reliever
5 – Average starter, #3-5 starting pitcher, closer candidate
4 – Impact bench/bullpen, spot starter
3 – Up and down player
2 – Career minor leaguer

Safe – Almost certain to reach ceiling
Low – Strong chance of reaching ceiling
Medium – Some work to become an MLB player
High – More projection than results
Extreme – Highly projectable, small chance of making the majors

Remember that these are point-in-time assessments, which can easily be overachieved (or underachieved) in the future as some players break out and others regress.

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

Cardinals Add Four Players to 40-Man Roster

photo: Austin Gomber/Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Monday) that they have purchased the contracts of left-hander pitcher Austin Gomber, right-handed pitcher Derian Gonzalez and outfielders Oscar Mercado and Tyler O’Neill. All four players have been added to the team’s 40-man Major League roster which currently stands at 39.

Austin Gomber (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Gomber, who turns 24 later this week, was the Cardinals 4th round (135th player overall) draft selection in 2014 out of Florida Atlantic University and was named the Cardinals Minor League co-Pitcher of the Year in 2015 when he led the Midwest League (A) with 15 wins while pitching for Peoria. The 6-5, 228-pound lefty paced the Springfield Cardinals (AA) in wins (10), ERA (3.34), strikeouts (140), innings pitched (143.0) and games started (26) this past season.   He finished 2nd among Texas League leaders in strikeouts, was 3rd in ERA and T5th in wins.

Gonzalez, 22 and a native of Santa Barbara del Zulia, Venezuela, was signed by the Cardinals as an international free-agent in September of 2012.   The 6-3, 190-pound Gonzalez completed his 3rd season in the States this year, and went 4-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) for the Palm Beach Cardinals (A) who were co-champions of the Florida State League.  Gonzalez has allowed only seven home runs in 330.1 career innings pitched, five of those coming during this past season with Palm Beach.

Oscar Mercado (Springfield Cardinals)

Mercado, 22, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 2nd round (57th player overall) in 2013 out of Tampa’s Gaither High School as a shortstop and he was converted to a full-time outfielder this past season, putting together an All-Star season as the centerfielder for the Springfield Cardinals (AA).  The 6-2, 190-pound Mercado batted .287 with 13 home runs, and 46 RBI in 120 games for Springfield this season with a team-high 137 hits, 76 runs scored, four triples and a Texas League-best 38 stolen bases.  Mercado, who has 159 career stolen bases in the minors, also led the Appalachian League in steals (26) in 2014 and the Midwest League with 50 in 2015.  The right-handed hitting Mercado just completed a 22-game stint with Surprise in the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League, batting .264 with six steals in six attempts.

Tyler O’Neill (Memphis Redbirds)

O’Neill, 22, was acquired by the Cardinals in a July trade from Seattle in exchange for pitcher Marco Gonzales and hit .246 with 31 HR’s and 95 RBI in 130 combined games between triple-A Tacoma and Memphis, helping the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League title.  The 5-11, 210-pound O’Neill, a native of British Columbia, Canada, has cracked 101 homers in 455 games in the minors, including 32 with Bakersfield of the class-A California League in 2015 and 24 for Jackson of the Double-A Southern League in 2016.  The right-handed hitting O’Neill, who owns a career .508 slugging pct., ranked 4th among PCL leaders in both home runs & RBI in 2017 and ranked 5th in total bases (247).

Brian Walton’s take

These protection moves were required to be made no later than 8:00 p.m. ET Monday night to remove players from eligibility for the December 14 Rule 5 Draft.

By holding one spot open on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals wisely are keeping their options open to potentially select a player in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Of course, that will depend on the players left exposed by other organizations and who remains by the time the Cardinals pick at number 19. Two years ago, St. Louis selected Matt Bowman from the Mets, but the Cardinals passed last year.

Monday’s roster additions of O’Neill, Mercado and Gomber were expected and had been forecasted to occur by The Cardinal Nation (member article). Though TCN’s annual top 50 prospect countdown is still in the 40’s, it is giving away little to disclose that all three new 40-man roster players will be reside firmly among our top 20 Cardinals prospects for 2018.

Derian Gonzalez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

While we had identified Gonzalez with the other three as one of the nine most likely candidates for 40-man roster consideration, ultimately we thought he would be left unprotected. This is due to his injuries the past two seasons and the fact he has yet to play above high-A. However, perhaps the risk of losing another high-velocity pitcher with the same level of experience two years ago in Luis Perdomo, now with San Diego, influenced the Cardinals decision to not expose Gonzalez to the Rule 5 Draft. Gonzalez, who features an upper-90s fastball with movement, is ranked as St. Louis’ #48 prospect for 2018 by TCN.

Among the benefits of 40-man roster placement include an automatic invitation to big-league spring training camp. 2018 will be the first St. Louis camps for O’Neill, Mercado and Gonzalez. Gomber was a non-roster invitee in 2017, as was O’Neill, then with Seattle.

All four players will now have three minor league option years, which will enable the Cardinals to move them up to St. Louis or down to the minors at will – until they are either entrenched in the majors or allowed to take their services elsewhere once their options are exhausted.

Five other top Cardinals protection candidates were not added to the 40-man, and therefore potentially at higher risk to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft from the over 50 Cardinals farmhands eligible. They are slugging third baseman Patrick Wisdom, Springfield second baseman Darren Seferina, and pitchers Matt Pearce, Arturo Reyes and Daniel Poncedeleon. All except Seferina finished 2017 with Triple-A Memphis, though Poncedeleon was on the disabled list.

If the Cardinals need to create additional 40-man roster space this off-season due to trades and/or free agent signings, those currently on the roster can still be removed, but as always, with the potential risk of being claimed by another organization.

For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: TCN 2018 Cardinals Prospect #48: Derian Gonzalez

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 Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

TCN 2018 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #45: Andy Young

photo: Andy Young (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

by The Cardinal Nation staff

2017 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 3B 05 10 94 6-0 195 R R 2016 37th

Link to Young’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2017 stats

Peo 0.284 0.331 211 31 60 11 12 38 22 54 5 0.411 0.379 0.545 0.924
PB 0.265 0.322 196 24 52 9 5 20 10 49 3 0.333 0.327 0.388 0.715
Spr 0.667 1.000 3 2 2 0 0 1 1 1 0 0.660 0.800 0.667 1.467
Tot 0.278 410 57 114 20 17 59 33 104 8 0.359 0.471 0.830

TCN Scouting Grade: 3.5, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (50): Andy Young, a 6’0” tall second baseman drafted in 2016, jumped into the community rankings for the first time in 2017, finishing at #50. Bccran put Young on the list first with a vote at #34.

Last year, Young even got a vote at #60 from 14NyquisT. He stated at the time that Young is a hard worker and has speed with a good knowledge of the game, also saying that he had a feeling about this guy. This year, 14NyquisT was equally complimentary of Young saying that he was the main spark for Peoria for two months and was impressed with his quick movement within the organization up to Springfield. He also thought that Young displayed a great go-getter attitude and liked his ability to play multiple infield positions. Bccran was also complimentary of Young, stating that 17 home runs and eight stolen bases is a nice showing in his first year of professional baseball. – Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (44): When he was drafted back in 2016, Andy Young was hoping to catch on as a utility infielder after being drafted in the 37th round by the Cardinals.

Andy Young (State College Spikes)

Fast forward following his first full season, Young has asserted himself as one of the top offensive prospects in the organization.

Young, 23, signed out of Indiana State University as a senior third baseman, who had struggled after a strong junior season. In his junior and senior years for the Sycamores, the West Fargo, North Dakota native accumulated 424 at-bats that included a .297/.397/.488 line along with 13 homers, 40 doubles, six triples, and 60-to-40 strikeout to walk ratio. As a senior, Young tied for second on the team in homers with six and OPS with a .894 mark.

The right-handed hitter was a big-time middle of the order presence for Indiana State. With an adept ability to drive the ball, his bat was expected to act as his carrying tool in the pro ranks.

As an older prospect, Young opened his pro career in the Gulf Coast League before finishing his draft year at State College. A year later, he found himself at low-A Peoria with much to prove.

Young was up to the task, posting a .284/.379/.545/.924 slash line with 12 home runs and 38 RBI in the first half of the season with the Chiefs while making the midseason Midwest League All-Star team.

“I think he is a guy with a really efficient swing,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger said. “What he does at the plate is very, very simple. Mechanically, he’s a guy at this level, who had a lot of success.”

By June 19, Young fully mastered the Midwest League, earning a promotion to high-A Palm Beach, where he held his own to the tune of a .265 average and .715 OPS. He finished his first full season with a cup of coffee at Double-A Springfield.

The adjustments made in his mechanics during spring training – adding a leg kick – proved to be the power source for Young.

“We have devices we put on our players at spring training that measure their body mechanics, their swings, every movement,” Chiefs hitting coach Donnie Ecker told the Peoria Journal Star back in June. “Young had a launch angle of 10 degrees when we measured him. We added a little leg kick, just lifts that leg a bit, and now his launch angle is 20 degrees. He’s become a terrific hitter.”

With a free-swinging approach, though, Young’s 104-to-33 strikeout to walk ratio does bring up some cause for concern around the organization.

“We continue to preach to him to continue to refine his approach because that is what will serve him best as he gets to the upper levels and there are not as many mistakes being made in the strike zone,” Swauger said.

His skipper at Palm Beach saw the struggles first-hand in the Florida State League, but liked his defensive progress more.

“Andy is still a young player, still learning,” manager Dann Bilardello said. “I think the part hitting-wise was at times he got a little long and struggled a little bit. You can see there is potential there.

“Defensively, he is just going to have to learn to position plays.  Position himself well and learn the hitters. Take what the hitter does according to who is on the mound. Position himself better that will give him better range in the infield.”

In the field, Young provides versatility, playing primarily at second base while mixing in at shortstop and third base on occasion.

“I think he is a really good second baseman,” Swauger said. “I think that is probably his best position, but he is very serviceable at short (and third).”

Even for a prospect with a $3,000 signing bonus, Young has a chance to have a major-league future if he continues to progress as hoped.

“He has the tools and has unbelievable power,” Swauger said. “Defensively, he can fill in at a lot of different spots. He is a really quality utility guy on any team that coupled with his bat-potential makes him an exciting guy.

“From what I saw the most from him was just intensity and passion for the game. He loves showing up every day and loved being in the lineup and just getting out there and competing. That will serve him well when you couple that with his talent.”

Brian Walton (51): There is no doubt a 37th-rounder has to work harder to draw attention to himself. Being honest, Young was not on my radar coming into this season, but now, he is on mine – and others’ too.

Even so, I am not as far along in praise of Young as Derek. Undoubtedly, Young had a very strong first half, but that is not enough for me to be ready to proclaim him to be among the top offensive prospects in the system. That certainly could occur with a sustained performance in his age 24 season in 2018, however.

While Young had a standout stint at Peoria, with an extraordinary wRC+ of 158, his second half at Palm Beach was far more ordinary, coming in at 110. (100 is team- and league-adjusted average.) The latter wRC+ was comparable to his 2016 performance at State College, which while good, was not enough to resonate into these prospect rankings one year ago.

Young did not stand out in comparison with other college-trained middle infielders at State College in 2016. To be more specific, Young’s .720 OPS was 43 points lower than Dylan Tice’s and 107 points under Tommy Edman. Edman is considered a definite prospect, while Tice is not. (Their respective wRC+ marks were Edman 151, Tice 132 and Young 115.)

But that was then and this is now. The swing plane adjustment driven by a leg kick explained above apparently contributed to Young’s increased power. While his strikeout rate remains well above 20 percent, it did not increase with his Midwest League power surge. That is somewhat encouraging.

Yet those later Palm Beach results were mixed. Young’s .715 OPS was under Magneuris Sierra’s .744 but above Edman’s .695. Interestingly, the power-challenged Sierra outslugged Young in the Florida State League by 20 points.

I go through all these comparisons not to run Young down, but to explain why I would like to see more sustained performance before I proclaim a breakout has occurred.

In his prospect list debut, Young receives a Scouting Grade of “3.5 medium”. This reflects a potential future somewhere between a spot starter and an up and down player, with some work remaining ahead to achieve it.

The fact Young was given a brief familiarity with Double-A Springfield may give him a leg up to open next season – though that is far from a sure thing. Due to other infielders above, the road may initially be blocked. My early projections have 2017 starters Darren Seferina and Edman along with infield reserves Jacob Wilson and Bruce Caldwell back in the Texas League to open 2018.

Our 2018 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Prospect Interview: Andy Young

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, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Arizona Fall League Notebook: 11/14/17

photo: Josh Lucas (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Results for the Arizona Fall League game played on Tuesday, November 14.

Surprise Saguaros 6, Scottsdale Scorpions 5

Edmundo Sosa (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The Surprise Saguaros defeated the Scottsdale Scorpions on Tuesday by a 6-5 final score. The Saguaros’ league-worst record of 12-16 has them one game from elimination in the Arizona Fall League West Division.

Two St. Louis Cardinals players started: center fielder Oscar Mercado and second baseman Edmundo Sosa. The two each doubled for both of Surprise’s extra-base hits.

Batting second, Mercado singled in the first, but was stranded and shot a two-base knock to left for an RBI in the fifth. Sixth-place hitter Sosa collected his double in the eighth for two runs batted in. He then came around to score the tying run at 5-5. Surprise finished the job the next inning on a walkoff.

Josh Lucas (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Between the last two events, Josh Lucas did his job, and collected the win, his first against two losses in the AFL. The right-hander pitched a scoreless ninth inning with a single allowed and two strikeouts. Among five Surprise pitchers to take the mound, Lucas was the only Cardinal.

Friday’s game: The Saguaros will host the Mesa Solar Sox on Wednesday at 2:35 PM Central time. Cardinals prospect Jordan Hicks (0-2, 7.82) will make his first AFL start.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals AFL Prospect Interview: Jordan Hicks

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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.

Follow Josey Curtis on Twitter @Curtis_Josey.

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

TCN 2018 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #50: Breyvic Valera

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

by The Cardinal Nation staff

2017 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
39 2B/OF 08 01 92 5-11 160 B R 2010 IFA

Link to Valera’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Selected 2017 stats

Mem 0.314 0.324 424 68 22 6 8 41 38 34 11 0.360 0.368 0.450 0.819
StL 0.100 0.100 10 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.143 0.182 0.100 0.282

TCN Scouting Grade: 3, Risk: Safe (click here to review scales)

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Breyvic Valera (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Message board community (45): Breyvic Valera began receiving some community votes from bccran at vote #37. The infielder ended up being voted in as the #45 prospect in our community rankings, slightly higher than Brian and Derek had him here. 45th is also a drop from last year when the community had him ranked at #35 and a significant drop from his highest ranking of #15 back in 2015. As mentioned last year, Valera began receiving community votes as far back as 2012, when he finished in the mid-40s then as well.

Last year, many posters were touting Valera’s consistency and versatility in justifying his position in the top 40 prospects. After putting up an .819 OPS at AAA Memphis this year, desmetlax12 said that he believes Valera is on the path for a MLB bench spot, even though he may never make a huge impact. Wiley similarly believes that Valera has nothing left to prove in the minors. 14NyquisT thinks it is just a matter of time before Valera gets to the majors and stays. He mentioned his switch-hitting ability and sound defense at all the various positions that Valera can play. Mudville thinks that Valera has hit his peak however, while CariocaCardinal thinks that Valera would have been ranked higher had he not been called up to the Cardinals roster in September. – Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (48): Coming off a season in which he saw his prospect status reinfused after hitting a robust .341 at Triple-A Memphis, Valera followed that up with perhaps an even stronger 2017 that included repeating as TCN’s Player of the Month in both July and August.

Valera, 25, has been in the Cardinals system for a long time, signing out of Venezuela in 2010. Despite only a steady rise, the switch-hitter proved himself at all stops along the way as a .300 hitter in the lower levels until reaching Double-A Springfield in 2015 where he struggled to a career-low .236 average in 105 games.

With bottom of the scale power and speed that didn’t play well on the basepaths, his offensive profile was always empty and his stock fell drastically after struggling against more advanced pitching.

Returning to the Texas League in 2016, Valera got off to a so-so start, hitting .258 in 178 at-bats, but it was his second half in Memphis that reopened eyes and led to the Cardinals adding him to the 40-man roster on November 9 of 2016.

That paid off as Valera went on to have a career year this past season, including career-highs in slugging percentage, doubles (22), and home runs (eight). More impressively, he maintained his high-contact ability with added power all while drawing 38 walks against 34 strikeouts in 424 at-bats.

His season was capped by making his big-league debut on September 5 and returning to Memphis a week late to help win the Pacific Coast League title.

The difference is explained by his hitting coach.

“He finally realized he can swing harder and under control and not just try to hit the baseball,” Memphis hitting coach Mark Budaska said. “I was trying to get him to do that all of last year, but he would just hit it instead of trying to smash it.

“All of a sudden he got the feel of that using his bottom hand a little bit more and created some bat speed. He’s making contact out in front of the plate a little more and backspin it with some elevation, and he’s getting double results.

Thus, Valera showed increased punch at the dish, going from primarily a singles hitter to turning around on some doubles and the occasional home run.

“It was a really easy concept for him,” his manager Stubby Clapp said. “He just started swinging harder. He had the hand-eye coordination. He had a great control of the strike zone. He just had to trust himself and let it go a little bit more.

“He did, and he found out that he could drive the ball. Keep the outfielders honest, and they found out not to play him in so much.”

Scouts like Valera for his knack for contact and feel to make adjustments with two strikes. He projects to be a major-league average hitter.

His defensive profile is a question as he lacks the range and arm strength to play shortstop and is an average runner. According to two industry sources, Valera ultimately projects as an organizational utility player at best and a 25th man in the most optimistic view, playing with the motor of a longtime veteran all-star which does not suit that role.

Clapp liked the strides he made at second base, though.

“He made some strides at second base,” Clapp said. “He was tentative out there in the beginning. He worked hard on his glove-side, trying to stay low on some hard-hit balls. He was tentative on those balls. He worked hard at that.

“Tried to be useful over there at second base. He got himself there. Turns a decent double-play. The most important part is he can play anywhere in the outfield, too.”

Valera was set to play winter ball in Venezuela again but looks like he will sit out as he is dealing with an inflamed ligament in his thumb in his right hand.

All in all, Valera had an impressive 2017 and should be in the mix for a utility role in St. Louis next year.

Brian Walton (64): As our relative ratings indicate, compared the other voters, I continue to be far less bullish on Valera. Despite his very strong finish at Memphis and his first-ever MLB cameo in September, I don’t see his low career ceiling having been raised. While other prospects continue to join the system, Valera adds years of service as others pass him by.

As evidence, he dropped 10 places on each of the other two voters’ lists from last year to this, and 18 points in my personal rankings. That led to a fall of 11 spots on the overall list from 2017 to 2018 – certainly not the kind of trajectory you want to see.

In addition, as you may have noticed above, I dropped both Valera’s Scouting Grade and Risk from one year ago. His 2018 grade of 3.0 (from 3.5) means I assess his ceiling has been reached as an up and down player. The risk associated with that grade has been reduced from low to safe, meaning that I am highly confident of that assessment.

Having said all of that, I do not see Valera as being valueless. After all, he showcased his best tool, his hit tool, all summer long. To that end, I named him The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month for the entire Cardinals system for both July and August – a rare occurrence.

Yet, more than one talent evaluator with whom I spoke with over the last year expressed surprise that Valera was protected by the Cardinals last fall – because that meant a younger player with a much higher potential ceiling at a more premium position, Allen Cordoba, was left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, and eventually lost by the organization.

Some of that may have been Monday morning quarterbacking, and Cordoba’s future remains unclear. But the fact is that after Valera’s eight years in the Cardinals system, it seems pretty obvious that he is who we thought he would be – a good player who probably isn’t quite good enough to secure an ongoing job as a major leaguer.

Depending on the roster gyrations ahead for the Cardinals this off-season, I would not be surprised if Valera’s hold on his 40-man spot remains tenuous. Current course and speed, he is not going to beat out Greg Garcia for the infield reserve spot in St. Louis next spring and if there was an opening, Aledmys Diaz appears to be firmly ahead in the pecking order.

If fact, with no further changes, even the Memphis 2018 infield is looking very crowded. My projected starter at short is Wilfredo Tovar, with Valera battling Alex Mejia for the job at second. If Patrick Wisdom returns at third, as hoped, Diaz could be a super-sub.

In this scenario, among those potentially left on the outside or returning to Springfield are veterans Jacob Wilson and Bruce Caldwell, not to mention possibly holding back promising younger middle infielders pushing up from Double-A in Tommy Edman and Darren Seferina.

Sure, Valera can play some outfield as well, but there look to be more players than spots to put them. At some point, if the older guys cannot progress, they have to either move aside or move on.

Our 2018 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!

Also, join the daily discussion about each prospect at The Cardinal Nation’s free message board.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Prospect Interview: Andy Young

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, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

How Might a Stanton Trade to the Cardinals Work?

photo: Giancarlo Stanton (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

“Giancarlo Stanton to the St. Louis Cardinals” is the clear number one topic among the team’s fans early in the 2017-2018 hot stove season.

Giancarlo Stanton (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Who can blame them? The slugging outfielder is the favorite to win the National League Most Valuable Player award on the heels of his MLB’s-best 59 home runs and could address a glaring need while anchoring the Cardinals lineup for years to come.

As many know, the key open questions are:

  • What would it take to acquire Stanton’s services from the Miami Marlins?
  • Would Stanton waive his no-trade protection to join St. Louis?

On the latter point, there have been persistent rumors that Stanton wants to play for a winner – check. Make that, a winning team that plays on one of the coasts – full stop.

On this aspect, there is very little more to say. To the best of my knowledge, neither the outfielder nor his agent have been quoted on the matter. We only have speculation to go on.

So let’s assume that will be resolved if necessary and focus on question #1.

Miami’s vise

First, some background. New Marlins owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter have disclosed their intent to drop Miami’s player payroll from a projected $140 million down to approximately $90 million for 2018.

Per Stanton’s contract, which has $295 million remaining, the 27-year old’s salary increases from $14 million in 2017 to $25 million in 2018. That inflection point, along with the huge total commitment remaining, make this off-season the ideal time for Miami to trade the 6-foot-6, 250-pound masher.

Trading Stanton could conceivably get the Marlins half-way to their reduction goal. If Miami could also move two other veterans in third baseman Martin Prado and second baseman Dee Gordon, the target would be in sight.

However, there are two inherent assumptions, neither of which may be totally realistic. One is that the Marlins do not take on any major salary commitments in return and two, the traded players’ new clubs assume 100 percent of the remaining money owed.

Of course, the Marlins could either revise their target or decide to move other players, in addition to or instead of one or more of the aforementioned trio.

A giant contract to the Giants?

The sheer enormity of Stanton’s heavily back-end loaded contract – which runs through 2027 with a 2028 club option/buyout, ending in either his age 37 or 38 season – makes him a non-fit with most of baseball’s financial powerhouses. The reason is MLB’s Luxury Tax, with its sizeable penalties.

Two teams that many observers feel are the Marlins’ best fits as a trade partner are the Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. Both feature a winning history, have the money and the need. St. Louis has an added advantage, ample prospects to trade, which could increase its appeal to Miami.

However, San Francisco could provide the geographic edge to Stanton. In fact, the Giants may have another leg up, as well. The rumor mill this July had Stanton trade negotiations between the Giants and Marlins progressing to the point that names going the other way in the proposed deal were being exchanged, before talks ended.

But still, there is that contract. It is so onerous, that when national writer Peter Gammons recently spoke to three different MLB general managers from “profitable market” teams, they all agreed that if Stanton would be put on waivers, he would go unclaimed (because the claiming team would be required to assume the entire remaining financial liability).

Even so, no one is suggesting that the Marlins are going to give Stanton away. They do not have to – as long as there is a competition for his services.

The rub

Here is the rub as I see it, however.

The Marlins and any prospective trade partner have a tradeoff to make. The more money that Miami pays to offset Stanton’s contract, the more and/or better prospects/players they can demand in trade. Of course, the opposite also applies – the less money the Marlins send pinned to Stanton’s jersey, the fewer/lower quality players they may receive in return.

Both sides settling on this sliding scale and where to land on it would be crucial to actually closing a deal. And of course, the Cards would need to be in a better spot than Miami perceives the Giants’ offer to be.

The opt out

There is another potentially complicating factor not yet mentioned here. Stanton may opt out of his contract following the 2020 season.

I don’t consider this a huge matter, one way or the other.

Even if Stanton took the opt-out, the Cards would have received the benefit of three prime seasons from him, his ages 28-30 years. In doing so, Stanton would walk away from a guaranteed seven years/$218 million (over $31 MM average annual value or AAV) for his ages 31-37 seasons plus an option for age 38.

Could Stanton really do better in three years from now on a new seven-year deal through his declining years in his 30’s? I really question that. Also, remember his health history has been spotty.

The Cards have to assess the trade assuming Stanton stays for the duration of the contract, while also making sure they can come out good through three years by not loading so much cost up front that they lose out badly if he walks. They cannot make the deal assuming it will only be a three-year term, but they have to be cognizant of the possibility.

If I was representing the Cards, the opt-out means I would be inclined to take on slightly more back-end salary commitment and/or offer less in players in return up front. When all is said and done, though, securing the next three prime years of Stanton’s services alone would be a pretty darned good take.

I would not let the opt-out be a deal-breaker.

A key starting point

Gammons also wrote this: “…the Cardinals have reportedly made one of their best young pitchers available if the Derek Jeter ownership will take back some of the money…”

Let’s take this at face value for a minute. The Cards are willing to include a good young arm – if Miami pays some of Stanton’s salary.

What we still don’t know is considerable:

  • Which of the “best young pitchers” were made available? Is it Alex Reyes or Dakota Hudson, for example? Both are among the best in the Cardinals system, but their ceilings are very different.
  • Are the Cards offering other players, too?
  • How much salary is St. Louis trading off against that young pitcher?
  • Are these kind of terms interesting to Miami?

Which player(s) to Miami?

If Jeter’s plan to cut payroll takes its most direct route, the less salary he takes on through acquisition of other players in a Stanton trade, the better. That means controllable players in pre-arbitration status (less than three years of MLB service time) would be ideal gets.

On the pitching side, the choices are ample, with Reyes, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Sandy Alcantara, Hudson and Jordan Hicks all recent top-10 talents in the Cardinals system.

Tommy Pham (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Among hitters, the players I would most want if I was Jeter are those the Cardinals may least want to give up – Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong and Carson Kelly would top my list. They are both good and set to be inexpensive for years into the future.

Losing players in the next tier down would be less painful to the Cards, but likely less appealing to Jeter – Randal Grichuk and Jose Martinez, for example.

This does not mean that Miami may not be interested in slightly more experienced players on longer-term deals such as Stephen Piscotty or Kolten Wong. Taking on those contracts would just mean more payroll cuts would be needed elsewhere, or they could be flipped to another team.

I could see the latter scenario even more likely if the Cards took Prado off the Marlins’ hands as well, for example. The third baseman is set to make $28.5 million over the next two seasons. The 34-year old missed most of the 2017 season due to injury and could be on a Jhonny Peralta-like late-career trajectory, making the contract seemingly difficult to trade on its own.

When all is said and done, we have no way of knowing exactly which Cardinals players the new Marlins regime want and would settle for – as well as what other deals they may be considering. There are a lot of potentially moving parts here.

A proposal

Perhaps the two sides could come up with a sliding scale that back end loads Miami’s continuing commitment to Stanton. Here is but one example, with the basic concept offered by a poster on The Cardinal Nation’s forum.

Let’s say St. Louis commits to the trading the young pitcher Gammons referenced plus another player and takes on $240 million for the final 10 years of Stanton’s contract. That leaves the Marlins on the hook for $55 million, but on a scale that starts at just $1 million in 2018 and grows by $1 million each year to the maximum of $10 million in year 10.

If Stanton opts out after the 2020 season, the Marlins would still keep the players and have paid just $6 million on Stanton. The Cards will have received three prime years of Stanton for $71 million, or an AAV of $23.7 million. Reasonable for all parties.

Of course, if the quality of the pitcher goes up and/or more players are added, the money St. Louis absorbs could go down. Or if Miami assumes less of a financial burden, the quality/quantity of the players offered could drop.

However, this cannot be executed in a vacuum. As noted above, the Cardinals may not be alone in their pursuit of Stanton. They may have to outbid the Giants and even perhaps the dreaded “mystery team” that often seems to pop up in Rumorville. That could lead to Miami having to pay less money and/or receive more on the player side of the equation.

I have no way of knowing how this will play out, but I have to admit I have enjoyed considering these angles. I hope you found thought-provoking value in reading this, as well.

Catch you around the hot stove!

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals AFL Prospect Interview: Oscar Mercado

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 Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

SDI Helps Explain Why No Cardinals Won Gold Gloves

photo: Jedd Gyorko (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Our eyes told us that the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals were not a particularly strong team defensively. Now we have a consolidated metrics-based view of player performance in the field – a measure that is important, as it is 25 percent of the annual Gold Glove Award scoring – the SABR Defensive Index, or SDI.

Yadier Molina (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Yadier Molina’s eight-year reign as the top defensive catcher in the National League ended a year ago when Buster Posey unseated the Cardinals legend as the Senior Circuit’s Gold Glove Award recipient. A new winner at the position was crowned this week in Cincinnati’s Tucker Barnhart.

As Molina continued to demonstrate impressive durability in 2017, leading NL catchers in games played and innings caught, some Cardinals fans feel the 35-year old should have reclaimed the defensive award.

The measurements suggest otherwise, however. According to the SDI, Molina ranked fifth at his position in the NL this season, just ahead of Posey. The top-ranked NL backstop in SDI, San Diego’s Austin Hedges, was not among the top three overall scorers, pre-announced as “finalists,” with Gold Glove winner Barnhart second in SDI.

No measure is the be-all, end all, which is why actual voting by managers and coaches still make up the lion’s share of the Gold Glove scoring, 75 percent. But the SDI has a solid foundation, based on not one, but a group of defensive metrics. Though some discount any single-season’s worth of fielding results, those behind the SDI originally created and refined many of the measurements and devised the Index as a blended measure of multiple stats. (SDI background can be viewed here.)

Overall, the SDIs did not seem to swing the final results hard, with only four of the nine Gold Glove winners having the top SDI at their respective positions.

With that background in mind, let’s look at how several St. Louis Cardinals fared in the final update of the SDI for the 2017 season. (Because of its importance in the Gold Glove Award results, the full-year SDI is not published until after the winners were announced.)

Here are the Cardinals’ individual scores with the league leaders by position listed alongside.

NL pitchers Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Mike Leake non-finalist 9th of 36 2.8 R.A. Dickey 1 5.1
Michael Wacha non-finalist 21st of 36 0.2 Zach Greinke 8 2.9 GG
Lance Lynn non-finalist 22nd of 36 0.1
Carlos Martinez non-finalist 36th of 36 -2.6
NL catchers Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Yadier Molina finalist 5th of 14 7.1 Austin Hedges 1 10.7
Tucker Barnhart 2 10.4 GG
Buster Posey 6 4.8
NL first basemen Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Matt Carpenter non-finalist 7th of 14 0.3 Brandon Belt 1 10.7
Paul Goldschmidt 2 8.8 GG
NL second basemen Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Kolten Wong non-finalist 8th of 16 -0.9 D.J. LeMahieu 1 10.7 GG
NL third basemen Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Jedd Gyorko non-finalist 3rd of 13 8.9 Nolan Arenado 1 11.0 GG
NL shortstops Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Paul DeJong non-finalist 6th of 15 1.7 Addison Russell 1 8.3
Brandon Crawford 4 4.8 GG
NL left fielders Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Tommy Pham non-finalist 2nd of 11 4.2 Marcell Ozuna 1 6.5 GG
Randal Grichuk non-finalist 8th of 11 0.9
NL center fielders Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Dexter Fowler non-finalist 11th of 13 -7.8 Michael Taylor 1 7.9
Ender Incarte 2 7.1 GG
NL right fielders Gold Glove SDI ranking SDI Top SDIs Rk SDI Winner
Stephen Piscotty NR Jason Heyward 1 12.8 GG

These rankings are especially enlightening, since the Gold Glove Award announcements only include the top three vote-getters, the so-called “finalists”.

Jedd Gyorko (USA TODAY Sports Images)

As it turned out, Molina was neither the top scoring, nor top-ranked Cardinal on defense. Those honors go to Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham, respectively.

Tommy Pham (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Gyorko continues to score well in the annual SDI metrics, coming in a very strong third among NL defenders at the hot corner, with the highest Cardinal SDI of 8.9. In left field, Pham finished second overall to Miami’s Marcell Ozuna, the highest individual placement by a Cardinal in 2017.

As a team, St. Louis was shut out of the nine NL Gold Glove Awards for the second consecutive year. Molina was the only “finalist,” indicating Gyorko and Pham did not receive balloting support to the level their SDIs placed them.

At the other end of the spectrum was Carlos Martinez, with the lowest SDI of the 36 NL pitchers ranked. The team’s ace also had a negative SDI in 2016. Newcomer Dexter Fowler came in with the lowest negative score among Cardinals at -7.8. Last year, shortstop Aledmys Diaz had that dubious distinction.

Only three of the 12 Cardinals players listed compiled a negative SDI, however, with Kolten Wong joining the aforementioned two. Still, Wong was still in the middle of the pack of NL second baseman, eighth of 16.

Of the four St. Louis pitchers among the 36 ranked in the NL, now ex-Cardinal Mike Leake was the only one to register in the top half. Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn were in the middle of the pack.

Other St. Louis defenders with positive SDIs for the 2017 season are Paul DeJong, Randal Grichuk and Matt Carpenter. Adam Wainwright and Stephen Piscotty are among the Cardinals not receiving a 2017 SDI score.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals AFL Prospect Interview: Oscar Mercado

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 Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Cardinals Organization Roster Matrix: 2017-2018 Off-Season

With the official opening of free agency for another fall, it is time for another refresh of the Roster Matrix.

This reflects moves during the 2017-2018 off-season. The previous matrix reflects the rosters as they evolved from the 2017 draft and short-season play through the end of the World Series.

If you are new to The Cardinal Nation and not familiar with the Cardinals organization roster matrix, here is quick summary:

As the off-season began, the St. Louis Cardinals had 288 players under contract from top to bottom, including 42 players on the 40-man roster. The 40-man members are called out in bold.

The matrix places each of the 288 at his assigned level in the system as well as by position. The matrix is kept updated daily or as transactions occur.

Also broken out are major league and minor league free agents, though of course, they are no longer included in the organization’s totals.

Nowhere else will you find this current and comprehensive single-page view of the entire Cardinals organization plus multiple years of history.

Do not be concerned about the order of the players’ names within position. It has no relative significance.

Looking ahead and back

Now that you’ve found this page once, remember one of three ways to get back here. Bookmark the page, type “Roster Matrix” in the dark blue search box at the upper right (click on the magnifying glass icon) or use the menu at the left of the page: “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES” > “TRANSACTIONS/ROSTER MATRIX”.

While you are using that menu, note TCN’s full rosters and player pages for every level and every player in the Cardinals system.

St. Louis Cardinals
Memphis Redbirds
Springfield Cardinals
Palm Beach Cardinals
Peoria Chiefs
State College Spikes
Johnson City Cardinals
Gulf Coast League Cardinals
Dominican Summer League Cardinals

For details behind past rosters and transactions, check out the earlier versions (back to 2009) of the Cardinals organization Roster Matrix, via the following link.

Link to previous matrices


11/1: New matrix. Organization total: 288 players.

11/2: Four pitchers declared MLB free agents: Lance Lynn, Seung-hwan Oh, Zach Duke, Juan Nicasio. New organization total: 284 players.

11/6: Two players outrighted: IF Alex Mejia (to Mem), C Alberto Rosario (to free agency). RHR Trevor Rosenthal released. New organization total: 282 players.

11/7: Seven minor leaguers declared free agents: Ps Mark Montgomery, Miguel Socolovich, Josh Zeid, C Gabriel Lino, OFs Nick Martini, Anthony Garcia, C.J. McElroy. New organization total: 275 players.

11/13: FA RHR Mark Montgomery signs as free agent with Detroit. Minors deal with MLB camp invite.

11/20: Four added to 40-man roster: Mem OF Tyler O’Neill, Spr LHS Austin Gomber, Spr OF Oscar Mercado, PB RHS Derian Gonzalez. 40-man now at 39 players.

11/20: Three releases: SC LHR Jordan DeLorenzo, JC RHR Silas Bohannan, C Stephen Zavala. New organization total: 272 players.

The St. Louis Cardinals Organization Roster Matrix (effective 11/20/17)

St. Louis (32) 40-man (39)
C Martinez  Lyons (L) Molina  Carpenter Wong  DeJong Gyorko  Grichuk
Wainwright Cecil (L) C Kelly  Voit G Garcia A Diaz Jose Alb Martinez
Weaver Bowman Valera Fowler 
Wacha Brebbia Pham 
Al Reyes  Tuivailala Piscotty
Flaherty  Sherriff (L) Bader
Alcantara  Sierra 
J Lucas
MLB free agents (5)
Lynn Duke (L)
Rosenthal (rel)
Minors free agents (7+1)
Socolovich A Rosario Martini
Montgomery (Det) Lino An Garcia
Zeid McElroy
Memphis (21)
Herget Wick Jenner Ravelo J Wilson Tovar Wisdom O’Neill
Pearce Mayers Je Martinez Mejia Edman Caldwell Ad Garcia
Helsley Gilmartin (L)
Gallen Ar Reyes
Springfield (17)
Ellis Littrell (L) Knizner Nogowski Seferina Young Arozarena
Gomber (L) Nielsen Mercado
Hicks Echemendia Schafer
Evans (L)
Palm Beach (29)
Ju Fernandez Bowen (L) Godoy Chinea Dykstra Jose Alex Martinez Pina Spitz
D Gonzalez Vance (L) Grayson Sosa Drake
O’Reilly D Martinez Ascanio Billings
Woodford Leitao Thomas
C Jones R Santos Jackson
Tewes H Mendoza
McKinney (L)
Peoria (29)
Shew R Williams D Ortega McCarvel JR Davis Robertson Yepez Plummer
Warner (L) Almonte O’Keefe Trosclair Hudzina Fiedler
Oxnevad (L) Thomson (L) E Mendoza Fennell
Kilichowski (L) Tilley Carlson
Sexton Dew Perez (L)
J Perez Dobzanski
Kruczynski (L) Y Medina
Parra Siomkin
State College (32+2)
Oviedo J Cruz J Lopez Kirtley Figuera Y Gonzalez Hurst
Castano (L) Ciavarella (L) J Gomez M Davis I Diaz Denton
Mulford Gordon Lancaster (RL) Lopes Crowe
Summerville (L) Trayner A Wilson Myers R Bautista
Balestrieri Calvano I Lopez Benson
N Gonzalez
Jo Rodriguez (Unk) MaVorhis
Johnson City (31+1)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Oca (L) Yokley (ML) Ju Rodriguez Bandes Murders Whalen Balbuena J Rivera
Schlesener (L) J Alvarez C Rodriguez Del Perez Espinal Robbins
Prendergast Blanco (L) Talavera
Casadilla Hamann Ynfante
Seijas Whitley Pinder
Ramirez Salazar
Nicacio Changarotty
Patterson (L)
Dahlberg (L)
St. Clair
Seeburger (L)
GCL (31)
P P C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Pirela Gentner Z Jackson D Gomez L Flores M Castillo E Montero Rosendo
De Jesus E Perez (L) C Soto Cedeno Bryant Brdar D Williams B Sanchez
Rondon Gallegos Knight A Luna
Jr Gonzalez W Rivera Coman Machado
Dayton (L) Fuller
O Diaz
DSL (47)
Pereira Trompiz I Herrera F DeJesus Ozuna F Hernandez Jimenez
Cordero (L) Geronimo Joyser Garcia Andujar F Soto V Garcia
Ventura Madera Longa Y Rosario Soler
Benitez Avelino Orecchia E Pena Del Rio
Solano R Garcia L Rodriguez P Gomez Montano
Moreno Soriano Zapata Del Villar Samuel
Zapata (L) Mora A Cruz
Taveras De Los Santos
Prada (L) L Pena
H Soto G Rodriguez
Zamora Burgos


(DL): injured – on the disabled list
(TI): temporarily inactive list
(PL): paternity leave
(RL): restricted list
(L): left-handed pitcher
bold: on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster
(#+#): for teams, the number of active players on the roster plus number of inactive/not under contract (DL+TI+PL+RL) players

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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Cardinals Arizona Fall League Notebook: 11/7/17

photo: Jordan Hicks (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Results for the Arizona Fall League game played on Tuesday, November 7.

Surprise Saguaros 6 at Glendale Desert Dogs 1

Oscar Mercado (Springfield Cardinals)

On Tuesday afternoon, the Surprise Saguaros defeated the Glendale Desert Dogs by a 6-1 final score. With the victory, the Saguaros are 10-13 this season, three games back of Peoria and in second place in the AFL West.

For Surprise, Oscar Mercado and Edmundo Sosa started in center field and at third base, respectively. Mercado fanned twice but also drew three walks, resulting in a run scored and a run batted in. The number three hitter also had an assist from the outfield — throwing a runner out at second base.

Batting eighth, Sosa drove in a run with a base hit, walked and scored. Sosa committed his first error of the season, a fielding miscue, as well.

Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals)

Among the six Surprise pitchers were Jordan Hicks and Arturo Reyes, who finished out the contest. Hicks punched out two and yielded a single and a stolen base in a scoreless eighth inning.

Reyes gave up a run in the ninth on two hits, including a double, threw a wild pitch and fanned one. With a six-run cushion, however, the run was not costly, other than to Reyes’ ERA, now up to 5.73.

Next game: The Saguaros are off Wednesday and will resume play on Thursday, when they will host the Glendale Desert Dogs at 2:35 PM Central time.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Arizona Fall League Interviews: Sandy Alcantara

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