All posts by Blake Newberry

The Cardinal Nation’s June 2021 Player of the Month – Jordan Walker

Photo: Jordan Walker (Palm Beach Cardinals)

It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This covers play during June across the St. Louis Cardinals’ four full-season minor league affiliates.

While the Cardinals system is struggling on the mound, the offenses are performing much better. This is emphasized by the fact that eight players finished the month with an OPS over .900.

While there were plenty of impressive performances, Jordan Walker demonstrated a strong ability to hit the ball and hit for power, leading him to be our choice as the Player of the Month for June.

This article will describe the impressive performance of Walker this month, and it will also note other standouts at the plate.

Guidelines

Please remember, this is NOT the “Player of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here, either.

To qualify, a player must have had at least 60 plate appearances in June. That narrowed our population from the 82 players who stepped up to the plate during June (including pitchers) down to 37.

To make the list of eight finalists, an OPS over .900 was required. This eliminated five players with OPSes between .850 and .900. This is a high benchmark, and it is a sign of the strong production at the plate of the Cardinals system as a whole.

We will take two views of the data. The first look will be at counting stats, followed by rate stats. Names are listed in the same sequence in both tables, in descending OPS order.

Counting Stats – finalists

Hitter Age Level G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO
Jordan Walker 19 A, A+ 15 70 59 12 23 7 0 4 13 1 0 8 11
Leandro Cedeno 22 A+ 20 83 76 10 27 8 1 3 17 0 1 5 25
Tommy Jew 23 A 22 89 76 16 24 2 1 5 22 5 3 12 26
Brendan Donovan* 24 A+, AA 26 113 94 20 30 6 0 4 17 6 2 16 15
Matt Koperniak* 23 A 20 82 66 14 22 3 0 2 5 1 0 14 11
Delvin Perez 22 AA 24 111 101 18 35 3 3 3 8 6 4 9 25
Brady Whalen** 23 A+ 21 93 87 17 25 5 0 7 16 1 0 6 20
Nolan Gorman* 21 AA, AAA 23 110 102 13 30 3 0 8 18 2 0 8 30
*left-handed
**switch-hitter

Every full-season Cardinals affiliate is represented on this list, although Memphis is only represented through Nolan Gorman who was promoted to Triple-A at the end of the month. The Cardinals also have three first round picks on this list – Jordan Walker (2020), Delvin Perez (2016), and Nolan Gorman (2018).

Jordan Walker had the fewest plate appearances of any finalist. However, he had the third most extra base hits, finishing one behind Leandro Cedeno and Brandy Whalen. He also tallied nearly as many strikeouts as walks. The 19-year-old was the youngest finalist in terms of age and professional experience as this is just his first professional season.

Delvin Perez led the organization in hits this month with a whopping 35, while TCN’s top ranked prospect, Nolan Gorman, led the organization with eight home runs. Tommy Jew finished with the most RBI (22) of any player in the Cardinals system, with non-finalists Masyn Winn and Kramer Robertson behind him with 20.

Two players – Brendan Donovan and Matt Koperniak – finished the month with more walks than strikeouts.

Also of note is that three finalists – Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, and Nolan Gorman – earned promotions during their strong months. Walker and Gorman were promoted at the end of the month, while Donovan was promoted at the beginning of the month, meaning that most of his production came against Double-A competition.

Rate Stats – finalists

Hitter BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SF IBB
Jordan Walker .390 .457 .712 1.169 42 2 1 2 0
Leandro Cedeno .355 .410 .605 1.015 46 1 2 0 0
Tommy Jew .316 .404 .566 .970 43 1 0 1 0
Brendan Donovan* .319 .425 .511 .936 48 1 2 1 0
Matt Koperniak* .333 .464 .470 .934 31 0 2 0 0
Delvin Perez .347 .405 .525 .930 53 4 1 0 0
Brady Whalen** .287 .333 .586 .919 51 0 0 0 0
Nolan Gorman* .294 .345 .559 .904 57 2 0 0 0

Walker led the organization in batting average, slugging, and OPS, while he finished second in OBP, just behind Matt Koperniak. Walker’s OPS was over 150 points higher than the next closest contender, giving him the title of Player of the Month despite having the fewest plate appearances of any finalist.

Leandro Cedeño

The main competitor to Walker was Leandro Cedeno, who finished second in average, slugging, and OPS, and fourth in OBP.

It is a testament to Koperniak’s plate discipline that he finished first in OBP despite finishing fourth in average. The former undrafted free agent broke out this month after struggling through the month of May.

Springfield’s Delvin Perez led the finalists in ground ball double plays, which is perhaps a testament to his high ground ball tendency. Although, he still added some power with nine extra base hits and three home runs.

The Player of the Month

Jordan Walker earned a promotion to A-Advanced Peoria on June 28 due to his strong start to his professional career. Walker missed the beginning of the month with an injury that did not allow him to begin playing this month until June 12. The slugger showed no signs of rust upon being activated as he tallied two hits in his first game back.

It is impressive that Walker has been able to have this kind of production to begin his career, especially since he was selected out of high school. High schoolers can sometimes take longer to have success in their careers due to the large step up in competition. However, Walker clearly had no issues facing better pitching and now will get to make the step up to Peoria.

Jordan Walker

Walker settled into the three-hole in Palm Beach manager Jose Leon’s lineups and has batted second in each of his first three games in Peoria.

The 19-year-old debuted as TCN’s 6th ranked prospect in the offseason after being selected 21st overall in the 2020 MLB draft. He was moved up to fourth in the May re-ranking, and he has certainly justified his high ranking.

It is Walker’s power that is his highest graded tool. He demonstrated that with a slugging percentage of .712 this month. Walker has also recorded an in-game exit velocity of 116.3 mph. According to Statcast, only ten players in Major League Baseball have hit a ball harder than that in 2021.

The right-handed hitter has only played third base in his professional career. It is possible that the 6’5”, 220-pound Walker will need to move to first base as he gets older, but his bat should give him the ability to provide production from either corner spot. Walker made six errors in 22 games at the hot corner with Palm Beach.

Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s June Player of the Month, Jordan Walker.

Other stat leaders of note

Leading the system in walks during June was Springfield catcher Ivan Herrera. The backstop took 19 free passes, although he struggled overall, slashing .185/.350/.259/.609. Kramer Robertson came in second with 18 walks.

Palm Beach first baseman Todd Lott finished the month tied with Leandro Cedeno for the most doubles with 8. Each player also hit three home runs. This is a strong sign of power to come as each player continues to mature.

How last month’s winner fared this month

In May, Alec Burleson received a promotion to Double-A Springfield after his hot start and proceeded to post a 1.047 OPS in his first 11 games at the level.

The 22-year-old cooled off this month, slashing .266/.310/.385/.696. He struck out 32 times in 116 plate appearances.

Alec Burleson

Burleson did have the second most hits for Springfield in June with 29, six behind Delvin Perez. Of those 29 hits, four went for doubles, while three landed over the fence. The outfielder has consistently batted in the heart of the order for manager Jose Leger’s team.

As the first player from his 2020 draft class to reach Double-A, Burleson has moved quickly. His production may have dropped from last month, but he is still a talented hitter who just needs to adjust the more advanced pitching that he is now facing.

Update

The Cardinals organization made their corresponding announcement on Saturday, July 3.

Related article

The Cardinal Nation’s June 2021 Pitcher of the Month – Roel Ramirez

What is next

The Cardinals organization should announce its corresponding June Pitcher and Player of the Month winners this week, as well.


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.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 8


Now Available – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.


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@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation’s June 2021 Pitcher of the Month – Roel Ramirez

Photo: Roel Ramirez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

It is once again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month. This article covers play during June across the four full-season affiliates.

As a reminder, this is NOT the “Pitcher of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here.

Among our group of nine June finalists, Roel Ramirez tallied the lowest ERA, lowest WHIP, and third best strikeout to walk ratio. The 26-year-old had to beat out new signing Kevin McGovern, as well as a group of both starters and relievers in order to become our Pitcher of the Month.

Read on for the details on how the decision was made, while recognizing a number of other mound standouts during the month, as well.

Guidelines

To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 10 innings during June. That took our prospective candidate list from 71 down to 43. To make a list of nine finalists, an ERA of 3.50 or better was required. This cut line eliminated one pitcher (John Beller, Single-A, 3.77 ERA) who met the 10-inning qualifier but had an ERA between 3.50 and 4.00.

In the following tables, names are listed in descending ERA order.

Counting Stats

Pitcher Age Level W L ERA G GS GF IP H R ER HR BB K
Roel Ramirez 26 AAA 0 0 0.63 9 0 2 14.1 6 2 1 0 3 15
Kevin McGovern* 32 AA 0 0 0.73 3 2 0 12.1 8 1 1 0 1 16
Will Guay 24 A 2 1 0.82 6 0 3 11 6 1 1 0 8 15
Dionys Rodriguez 20 A 2 0 1.10 9 0 4 16.1 11 4 2 0 5 27
Inohan Paniagua 21 A 0 1 2.45 3 3 0 14.2 8 6 4 0 6 16
Connor Jones 26 AAA 2 2 3.07 11 0 5 14.2 11 7 5 0 7 16
Andre Pallante 22 AA 2 1 3.23 6 6 0 30.2 33 12 11 4 13 24
Connor Thomas* 23 AAA 1 0 3.33 5 4 0 24.1 29 9 9 3 7 22
Matthew Liberatore* 21 AAA 3 1 3.42 4 4 0 23.2 17 9 9 4 7 24
*left-hander

Only three of the four full-season affiliates are represented among the group of finalists, as Peoria’s pitching staff struggled as a whole, and no pitcher was able to meet the qualifications. (Four pitchers had an ERA under 4.00, but none of them threw 10 or more innings. Of the pitchers that threw 10 or more innings, Connor Lunn was the closest to qualifying with a 5.01 ERA.) Triple-A Memphis has the most finalists with four, but Single-A Palm Beach has three of the top five pitchers in terms of ERA.

Three of the nine finalists posted an ERA under 1.00, while Dionys Rodriguez was close to joining them with a 1.10 ERA. Roel Ramirez and Kevin McGovern were the top competitors for this award, but Will Guay and Rodriguez also distinguished themselves in June.

Kevin McGovern

Ramirez had the lowest ERA of the group. Both he and McGovern allowed just one earned run, but Ramirez tossed two more innings. They also allowed the same number of walks and hits combined, but McGovern had one more strikeout.

McGovern made his first appearance on June 17 after being signed by the Cardinals on June 10 from the Independent American Association. If he had pitched the full month, then he might have ended above Ramirez. However, Ramirez just edged out McGovern for the Pitcher of the Month award.

Further down the list, it is important to note Dionys Rodriguez’ strikeout total, as he finished the month with the most strikeouts among the finalists (27) despite throwing 16 1/3 innings. Three pitchers on this list threw over 23 innings and were unable to top Rodriguez’ strikeout total.

Dionys Rodriguez

Also impressive, is that none of the top six pitchers on this list, in terms of ERA, surrendered a home run.

Rate Stats

Pitcher HBP BK WP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
Roel Ramirez 0 0 3 0.63 3.77 0.00 1.88 9.42 5.00
Kevin McGovern* 2 0 0 0.73 5.84 0.00 0.73 11.68 16.00
Will Guay 0 0 3 1.27 4.91 0.00 6.55 12.27 1.88
Dionys Rodriguez 1 1 1 0.98 6.06 0.00 2.76 14.88 5.40
Inohan Paniagua 1 0 1 0.95 4.91 0.00 3.68 9.82 2.67
Connor Jones 1 0 1 1.23 6.75 0.00 4.30 9.82 2.29
Andre Pallante 2 0 2 1.50 9.68 1.17 3.82 7.04 1.85
Connor Thomas* 0 1 0 1.48 10.73 1.11 2.59 8.14 3.14
Matthew Liberatore* 1 1 0 1.01 6.46 1.52 2.66 9.13 3.43

Ramirez also led the group in WHIP and hits allowed per nine innings. Even though McGovern walked fewer hitters, his WHIP was still slightly higher than Ramirez’. Despite having just the sixth highest strikeout rate among finalists, Ramirez had the third best strikeout to walk ratio, behind only McGovern and Rodriguez.

While McGovern posted the lowest walk rate of the group, he also tied for the lead in batters plunked (2). This gives him as many hit batters and walks as Ramirez, in two fewer innings.

Will Guay had the second highest strikeout rate, but also the highest walk rate. As a result, Guay had the second worst strikeout to walk ratio. The 24-year-old also led the group in wild pitches with three.

Among the three pitchers who threw 20 or more innings. Matthew Liberatore had the lowest WHIP, and hits allowed per nine, as well as the highest strikeout rate and best strikeout to walk ratio.

TCN’s Pitcher of the Month

As the winner of The Cardinal Nation’s June Pitcher of the Month recognition, Ramirez has been consistent and versatile. The reliever demonstrated an ability to pitch multiple innings and finish games. He was often used as the first pitcher out of the bullpen in Memphis, but he also finished two games. This ability to be effective in any situation was key for a Redbirds team that ranks 19th in ERA in the 20-team Triple-A East.

Ramirez allowed just a .136 batting average this month, and he walked a batter in just two of the nine games in which he made an appearance. The 26-year-old’s strong performance earned him a promotion to St. Louis at the end of the month.

Roel Ramirez

This success marks a peak in Ramirez’ career with the Cardinals. After being acquired from the Rays in 2017 as part of the Tommy Pham trade, the right-hander did not excel in the Cardinals system, posting an ERA of 4.98 in Double-A in 2019 (although his 3.85 FIP was more positive).

Following the 2019 season, the former 8th round selection posted a 2.03 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. He never got the chance to build on this success, though, as the 2020 minor league season was cancelled due to COVID-19. This meant that Ramirez was limited to one competitive appearance in 2020, although it was his major league debut. It did not go well for him as he allowed four home runs and six earned runs in just 2/3 of inning.

Ramirez did not pitch the rest of the season and was even designated for assignment in September. However, he remained in the organization and was outrighted to the minors later in the week.

Ramirez’ strong month of June marks a clear improvement for his career. The lack of a 2020 season was unfortunate for Ramirez as he did not get to build on his strong AFL performance, but his success this month, and subsequent promotion, represent a strong rebound effort.

How Last Month’s Winner Fared This Month

Jake Walsh has not appeared in a game since May 30 and was placed on the seven-day IL on June 19. The right-hander posted a 1.29 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 14 innings across a stellar month of May.

What is next

On Friday, I will be back to disclose our Player of the Month for the Cardinals system during June. The Cardinals organization should announce its corresponding winners this coming week, as well.

Update

The Cardinals organization made their corresponding announcement on Saturday, July 3.


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.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 8


Now Available – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.


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@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Promote Roel Ramirez and Brandon Waddell for Bullpen Help

Photo: Roel Ramirez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this afternoon that they have selected the contract of right-handed rookie pitcher Roel Ramírez from Memphis (AAA) and recalled rookie left-hander Brandon Waddell (pronounced wah-DELL) from Memphis.  The team also optioned pitchers Seth Elledge and Jake Woodford to Memphis and designated first baseman John Nogowski for assignment.

Ramírez, 26, who debuted with the Cardinals in 2020, has worked 18 games in relief for the Memphis Redbirds this season, going 0-1 with a 4.67 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in his 27.0 innings pitched.  The 6-0, 220-pound Texas native has been especially good of late, posting a 0.63 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in nine June contests (14.1 IP) with 15 strikeouts and just three walks. Ramirez was acquired by the Cardinals from Tampa Bay on July 31, 2018 in a deal that also included Génesis Cabrera and Justin Williams.

Waddell, 27, was claimed on waivers from Baltimore on June 6.  He has appeared in seven career games in the majors with Pittsburgh (2020), Minnesota (2021) and Baltimore (2021).    In five relief appearances with Memphis this month, the 6-3, 180-pound Waddell has logged 7.0 innings pitched with a 2.57 ERA.

Ramírez wears uniform no. 77 and Waddell no. 70.

Blake Newberry’s take

St. Louis’ search for bullpen help has led to the promotion of a pair of relievers from Memphis.

Ramirez made his MLB debut last season and allowed six runs, on four home runs, while collecting just two outs. He did not make another appearance.

Ramirez’ 3.23 FIP is much lower than his 4.67 ERA in 27 innings this season. While he has improved in June, his FIP suggests that his full season results have been solid, and that he is better than his ERA suggests.

The 26-year-old has been a bullpen prospect for the Cardinals since he was acquired from the Rays in the Tommy Pham trade. Despite his difficult debut last season, Ramirez has earned another chance with his solid performances in Memphis. The right-hander has done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard (0.67 HR/9), while he has posted strong strike out rates since 2018 (9.84 K/9 in 2018, 10.15 K/9 in 2019, 9.00 K/9 in 2021) and has seen his walk rates improve in recent years (2.67 BB/9 in 2021).

Roel Ramirez

Waddell has tossed 8 1/3 innings at the highest level, although the Cardinals will be the fourth team he has played for in the majors. In this time, Waddell has compiled a 6.48 ERA while walking six, fanning three, and allowing two long balls.

The 27-year-old has done a good job of preventing runs at Memphis since being acquired on waivers from Baltimore, but his 4.23 FIP suggests that he has not pitched as well as his 2.57 ERA might indicate.

The southpaw has struggled with the long ball in Triple-A, and he has not had a significant amount of success at the level despite throwing over 150 innings there. However, he has struck out batters at a high rate in Memphis this season, and did the same in the Pirates organization in 2019 (10.26 K/9 in 2019, 10.29 K/9 in Memphis).

Waddell was claimed on waivers to add upper level pitching depth to the Cardinals system. With the Cardinals’ bullpen struggling, it is minor league depth that is now needed at the major league level. Since Waddell is on the 40-man roster, his promotion was an easy transaction that did not require someone to be DFA’d.

Brandon Waddell

The Cardinals bullpen has few, if any, reliable relievers besides Giovany Gallegos, Alex Reyes, and Genesis Cabrera. It appears that the Cardinals are searching for arms who can provide solid middle relief, and Ramirez and Waddell are the next two pitchers to get a chance to do that.

Waddell will likely slot in as one of the lesser used options in the bullpen. Being left-handed, he has Genesis Cabrera and Andrew Miller ahead of him. Ramirez, on the other hand, will likely be given every chance to seize a spot as a go-to middle reliever since the Cardinals could use stability in the bullpen.

To make room for the reinforcements, Seth Elledge and Jake Woodford are both returning to Memphis after struggling in bullpen. Woodford (6.54 FIP) has had less success than Elledge (4.43 FIP), but neither one has seized a full-time big league job.

It appears that Jake Woodford will enter the Memphis rotation. This will give him the chance to enter the Cardinals rotation if he returns to St. Louis this season. The 24-year-old spent the entirety of his minor league career in the rotation, and with the Cardinals rotation struggling, this could be helpful down the road. If Woodford is to return to St. Louis, though, he will need to control his high walk rate (4.67 BB/9) and his high home run rate (1.78 HR/9).

Jake Woodford

Elledge, like the rest of the Cardinals’ pitching staff, has struggled with walks (5.40 BB/9) and will likely focus on improving his control in Memphis so that he can be more reliable if he returns to St. Louis later in the season.

Seth Elledge

To make room for Roel Ramirez on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals designated John Nogowski for assignment. The first baseman opened the season in St. Louis after a strong Spring Training, but he was limited to pinch-hitting while serving as Paul Goldschmidt’s backup.

The 28-year-old slashed .056/.150/.056/206 in 20 plate appearances. At the Triple-A level, Nogowski recorded a .601 OPS in 148 plate apperances.

John Nogowski

If Nogowski remains in the organization, he will likely remain with Memphis. If claimed, he will leave the Cardinals organization and join a different team’s 40-man roster.


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.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

2021 Cardinals Jupiter Complex Plans and Schedule


Now Available – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!


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@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals 2017 Draft Prospects Minor League Assignments

The Cardinals focused heavily on experienced college players in the 2017 draft, as a result of having the smallest bonus pool in the league due to punishment for the Jeff Luhnow hacking scandal. Only two prospects have reached St. Louis – Kodi Whitely and Scott Hurst. The rest have 40-man roster decisions and the Rule 5 Draft looming.

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Cardinals 2015 Draft Prospects’ Minor League Assignments

photo: Nick Plummer (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

This is the first article in a series that will look back at the St. Louis Cardinals’ draft picks since 2015 and identify what level they have reached in the organization.

Only three players from the Cardinals’ 2015 draft remain with the organization in the minor leagues, but five players are with in St. Louis. The three still in the minors were all selected out of high school and have found the jump from high school to the professional ranks to be difficult.

For 2021, they all progressed a level and are looking to regain their former prospect status this season.

2015 Draft

Prospects in the Cardinals System:

1st Round, 23rd overall – Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School (MI)

Age: 24, TCN Prospect Ranking: Unranked, Level: Double-A

Since being selected in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals, Nick Plummer has struggled to consistently produce at the plate. This is not uncommon for a high school hitter making the jump to the professional ranks. In fact, even though he has struggled at times, he has been younger than his average competition at every level of the minor leagues.

The outfielder began the 2021 season with Double-A Springfield. Even though he is still slightly younger than the average Double-A player, he has been in the professional ranks for close to six years and will need to show some progress toward becoming a consistent hitter.  This will be an important year for the  soon-to-be 25 year old if he want to raise his prospect stock after seeing it drop rapidly since being drafted.

Plummer has begun the season well with a .344/.436/.500/.936 slash line through his first ten games. Additionally, he has dropped his strikeout rate by more than 10% while maintaining a strong 12.8% walk rate. Defensively, Plummer has seen time at all three outfield positions, while playing nine of his ten games in the corner outfield spots.

Nick Plummer

8th Round, 251st overall – Ian Oxnevad, LHP, Shorewood High School (WA)

Age: 24, TCN Prospect Ranking: Unranked, Level: A-Advanced

There are a few similarities between Plummer and Ian Oxnevad. To begin with, each player missed a full season due to injury (Plummer in 2016, Oxnevad in 2019). Additionally, each player has moved slowly through the organization since being selected from the high school ranks. Oxnevad has yet to reach Double-A as he has struggled to be consistently effective on the mound since reaching full season ball.

This season, Oxnevad appears to have transitioned to the bullpen full-time, as his first two appearances of the season have come in relief after starting in 60 of his first 66 professional appearances. So far, he has yet to allow a run in 3 2/3 innings of work while striking out four and walking three.

Like Plummer, this will be an important season for Oxnevad as he will look to move up the minor league ranks before his prospect status decays any further due to being almost 25 years old. 

Ian Oxnevad

12th Round, 371st overall – Jacob Schlesener, LHP, Logan-Rogersville High School (MO)

Age: 24, TCN Prospect Ranking: Unranked, Level: A-Advanced

Like Oxnevad, Jacob Schlesener was a left hander selected out of high school who has moved slowly through the organization. Unlike Oxnevad, though, Schlesener has shown an ability to generate plenty of strikeouts. However, he has struggled with control throughout his minor league career.

Since 2017, Schlesener has never posted a K/9 below 11.87 in a full season; but, he has also never posted a BB/9 lower than 4.82. He has also routinely posted groundball rates above 60%.

Since he has this profile, it makes sense that he has been converted into a reliever this year. Previously, he had split time between the rotation and the bullpen, but he has made his first four appearances of the 2021 season out of the bullpen.

So far, Schlesener has allowed 7 earned runs in 6 innings (10.50 ERA) while fanning eight and walking 16. He has only allowed four hits, though, as much of the damage has been self-inflicted.

Jacob Schlesener

MLB Players:

Competitive Balance Round A, 39th overall – Jake Woodford, RHP, Henry B. Plant High School (FL)

After being selected by the Cardinals in the 2015 draft, Jake Woodford spent five years in the organization’s minor league system. The right hander debuted in 2020 and pitched 21 innings at the big league level before opening the 2021 season with St. Louis.

2021 stats
ERA: 5.19
Innings Pitched: 8 2/3
K/9: 8.31
BB/9: 7.27

Jake Woodford

3rd Round, 100th overall – Harrison Bader, OF, University of Florida

Harrison Bader advanced through the minor leagues more quickly than Woodford. He received one mid-season promotion every year as he tore through the minor league system and made his MLB debut at the end of the 2017 season.

2021 stats
.283/.361/.528/.889
Plate Appearances: 61
Walk Rate: 11.5%
Strikeout Rate: 13.1%

Harrison Bader

3rd Round, 105th overall – Jordan Hicks, RHP, Cypress Creek High School (TX)

After being selected in the 2015 draft, Jordan Hicks did not make his professional debut until 2016. The flamethrower then reached the A-Advanced level by the end of the 2017 season before making the Opening Day Cardinals roster in 2018.

2021 stats
ERA: 5.40
Innings Pitched: 10
K/9: 9.00
BB/9: 9.00

Jordan Hicks

4th round, 131st overall – Paul DeJong, 3B, Illinois State University

Like Bader, Paul DeJong rose through the system quickly. The Cardinals shortstop, who was originally selected as a third baseman, broke onto the MLB scene upon reaching St. Louis  in 2017 and accumulated 3.1 WAR in just 108 MLB games in his debut season.

2021 stats
.177/.277/.371/..648
Plate Appearances: 141
Walk Rate: 10.6%
Strikeout Rate: 22.7%

Paul DeJong

5th Round, 161st overall – Ryan Helsley, RHP, Northeastern State University

Ryan Helsley spent his first four and a half seasons in the Cardinals minor league system. He made his MLB debut in 2019, throwing 36 2/3 innings and compiling a 2.95 ERA out of the bullpen.

2021 stats
ERA: 5.09
Innings Pitched: 17 2/3
K/9: 9.17
BB/9: 6.11

Ryan Helsley

What is next

To read future installments in this series, covering the current status of active members of the St. Louis Cardinals draft classes after 2015, subscribe to The Cardinal Nation.

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2021 Prospect Guide now available!

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

St. Louis Cardinals 2020-2021 Winter League Pitching Recap

This report recaps the results of the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitchers across the various winter leagues. Our Pitcher of the Winter is Carlos Martinez, who won the Dominican Winter League and the Caribbean Series with Aguilas. Other impressive performances came from Genesis Cabrera, who did not allow a single hit all winter, Angel Rondon, who also pitched for Aguilas, and 18-year-old Omar Sanchez.

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St. Louis Cardinals 2020-2021 Winter League Hitters Recap

Photo: Dennis Ortega (IVC Network) 11 members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization played in various Winter Leagues around the world. Six are catchers and the other five are infielders. The Hitter of the Winter was Dennis Ortega, who posted an OPS over 1.000 while playing as his team’s starting catcher. Ortega  finished seventh in…

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St. Louis Cardinals Sign Depth Outfielder Matt Szczur

Photo: Matt Szczur (Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

On Saturday, it was disclosed that the St. Louis Cardinals have signed Matt Szczur to a minor league deal with an invitation to  major league spring training camp.

The 31-year-old outfielder spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Cubs and the Padres. However, he has not made an appearance at the MLB level since 2018.

In 2019, Szczur played in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization and slashed .322/.390/.577/.967 in Triple-A. Then, he signed a minor league deal with the Phillies in 2020 but failed to win an MLB job during the summer camp and at its conclusion, was given his release.

Despite his success in Triple-A in 2019, Szczur has not had good results at the MLB level, as evidenced by his career slash line of just .231/.312/.355/.667. However, Szczur has experience playing all three outfield positions. He will provide the Cardinals with a veteran organizational presence behind their group of young outfielders, six of whom are already on the 40-man roster vying to open the season with St. Louis.

The right-handed hitter does not have much power in his bat, but he does have a solid career 9.7% walk rate to go with a 19.9% strikeout rate. Additionally, nearly 60% of the pitches he has hit into play have gone up the middle or to the opposite field.

Matt Szczur

Due to this, it appears that Szczur may be able to add some value to the Cardinals by taking walks, avoiding strikeouts, and slapping singles to the opposite field.

It does not appear that Szczur will be much more than a depth piece, since the Cardinals were willing to trade Dexter Fowler, in part, to open playing time for the young outfielders on the team. Because of this, if Szczur gets playing time, it will likely be due to injuries or under-performance from the team’s young outfielders. More than likely, he will end up at Triple-A Memphis.

While Szczur may only be a depth acquisition, he does have an interesting history. The 31-year-old was a two-sport athlete at Villanova University where he also played football. In his football career, Szczur played a variety of positions, including quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, out of the wildcat, while also contributing on special teams. His versatile skill set helped Villanova win the FCS National Championship in 2009.

Additionally, Szczur is  an artist who makes and sells his own art. Examples of his work can be found at his website here.


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.


2021 Prospect Guide Now Available

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Acquire Catching Prospect Ali Sanchez from the Mets

Photo: Ali Sanchez (Getty Images)

After Ali Sanchez was designated for assignment by the New York Mets Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced on Friday their acquisition of the catching prospect in exchange for cash considerations.

Sanchez was originally signed by the Mets as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in July of 2013. He received a $690,000 signing bonus and began his professional career the following summer. The catcher got off to a strong start as he slashed .303/.406/.394/.800 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the Dominican Summer League.

However, after coming stateside, Sanchez showed his limitations as a hitter. The right-handed hitter has not tallied a wRC+ above 100 (league average) since leaving rookie-level ball. Much of this is due to his lack of power as he has hit just 11 home runs in six minor league seasons.

Ali Sanchez

However, even though Sanchez does not have much power in his bat, he has a solid overall hit tool. The 24-year-old batted .265 between Single-A and A-Advanced in 2018 before hitting .278 in Double-A in 2019.

Sanchez struggled at the plate upon receiving a promotion to Triple-A, as he posted an OPS of just .527. Despite this, he rebounded in the Arizona Fall League after the 2019 season, slashing .262/.347/.310/.656. This was also an improvement on the .401 OPS that he posted in the AFL in 2018.

Additionally, Sanchez has shown an ability to limit strikeouts as he has posted strikeout rates of 17.7% in Double-A and 16.9% in Triple-A. Further, his 2018 strikeout rate was around 11% across the two full season Single-A levels.

This is due in part to Sanchez’s swing mechanics. The Venezuelan has a small stride and a small load, and this limited pre-pitch movement helps him stay in control of his body. This allows him find his timing more easily and make more consistent contact, even if he does sacrifice some power.

To go with this ability to avoid strikeouts, Sanchez also has a decent proficiency in drawing walks. This is a relatively new development for the backstop as his walk rates typically hovered around 5-6% for much of his minor league career before ticking up to 7.8% in 2019.

Even though Sanchez has shown a decent hit tool and solid plate discipline, he still has a relatively limited offensive profile. His production at the plate will largely be carried by his on-base percentage, as he does not have much power to speak of. However, an OPS of around .650 could be enough to keep him at the big-league level considering his defensive prowess.

According to Baseball America, Sanchez has been the top defensive catcher in the Mets organization since 2018, and due to this, he was ranked as the Mets 27th best prospect for the 2020 season. What really stands out is Sanchez’s arm, as he threw out 44% of base stealers in 2019. This was no fluke either, as Sanchez has consistently thrown out a high percentage of base stealers in his career, including throwing them out at a 57% rate in the 2019 AFL.

This success is due to solid arm strength, but also quick exchange and great accuracy. Additionally, Sanchez has received high marks for his ability to call a game and block balls in the dirt, as well as his framing of pitches. This combination of defensive skills should make Sanchez a favorite with Cardinals pitchers.

The Venezuelan made his MLB debut in 2020 as he spent much of the year alternating between New York and the Mets alternate site. Sanchez received just 10 MLB plate appearances, tallying a hit and a walk while striking out three times.

In the offseason, the Mets added Sanchez to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. However, the club needed to make room on the roster after other recent moves, and they ultimately decided to remove Sanchez by designating him for assignment.

This acquisition by the Cardinals allows them to add another upper level catcher to the Spring Training roster. Sanchez will likely compete with 29-year-old minor league signing Tyler Heineman for duties as the third catcher on the depth chart, behind Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner. With the big league taxi squad likely returning in 2021, all three backstops could travel with St. Louis with the fourth assigned to Memphis.

With the addition of Sanchez, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster now is at 39 players.


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.


2021 Prospect Guide Now Available

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – Now Available!

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

St. Louis Cardinals Winter Ball Report – February 9

Weekly news and notes on St. Louis Cardinals players competing this winter across the globe. Carlos Martinez is our pitcher of the week after tossing another gem for the Caribbean Series champions, while Australian catcher Jake Burns has heated up heading into the ABL playoffs. Also included are video highlights of the Caribbean Series, including a pair of flashy plays from Evan Mendoza.

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St. Louis Cardinals Winter Ball Report – February 2

Weekly news and notes on St. Louis Cardinals players competing this winter across the globe. Carlos Martinez is our Pitcher of the Week after a strong performance for the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series, while Yadier Molina is our Hitter of the Week after crushing a two-run home run for Puerto RIco. Also included is a scouting report of Martinez’s start, information on Mendoza’s season in Colombia, and plenty of video highlights.

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St. Louis Cardinals Winter Ball Report – January 19

Weekly news and notes on St. Louis Cardinals players competing this winter across the globe. Yadier Molina is the hitter of the week after a strong debut in Puerto Rico, while Omar Sanchez is the pitcher of the week following his five inning, one run performance for RA12. Also included in this report are highlights of Carlos Martinez’s and Yadier Molina’s pitching performances.

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