All posts by Blake Newberry

Scouting New Cardinals Cesar Prieto, Drew Rom and Zack Showalter

In the St. Louis Cardinals’ final trade deadline deal, on August 1, starting pitcher Jack Flaherty moved to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitchers Drew Rom and Zack Showalter and infielder Cesar Prieto. Blake Newberry scouts the three new arrivals in the fourth article of our Cardinals trade deadline series.

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Cardinals 2023 World Baseball Classic Recap

We, as St. Louis Cardinals fans, are lucky. We could see 17 Cardinals players participate in the World Baseball Classic, the most of any MLB team, and they played for 11 different countries. That means that if you turned on any random WBC game, you were likely to see a Cardinal in action. And, even better, the championship game featured Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt facing off against Lars Nootbaar.

The baseball itself was already amazing but the overwhelming Cardinals presence made the tournament even better. And since the organization had so many players participating, I’m not going to bore you with a standard recap of each player’s stats. Rather, I’ll pick some highlights and go in depth with them. But if you want to know how every player did in the tournament, don’t worry, I’ll still have a full statistical recap at the end of this piece.

So, let’s get started with the man who has gotten all the media attention recently.

The International Sensation

Lars Nootbaar’s career has been a whirlwind. He went from non-prospect to top 10 prospect in a single season, first appearing on top prospect lists in 2022 and making his debut on TCN’s prospect countdown at #10, then became an MLB starter, and has now become an international sensation.

There were many great Nootbaar moments in this tournament, on the field and off the field, so I will point out a few.

Here’s an example:

Nootbaar brought an infectious personality and popular celebration to Team Japan which won him the hearts of Japanese fans. His pepper grinder celebration not only spread through the dugout of Team Japan but into the stands in the Tokyo Dome and across the country.

Even the Japanese prime minister got in on the action!

In fact, his pepper grinder celebration has even generated some culinary inspiration.

And finally, the friendship of Lars Nootbaar and Shohei Ohtani has created some amazing moments. Dream away Cardinals fans!

Lars Nootbaar’s final stats may not have been outstanding (.693 OPS) but he got off to a hot start in the group stage. Even though he cooled off at the end of the tournament, his icon status was already cemented.

Nootbaar may not have had the best numbers but it’s impossible to argue that he didn’t have the best tournament of all Cardinal representatives. Between winning the championship and his new status as an international icon, Nootbaar raised his profile more than any other player in the tournament.

The Americans

While Nootbaar and Team Japan topped Team USA in the championship game, the four Cardinals playing for Team USA all had fantastic results in the tournament, and none more so than Nolan Arenado.

The third baseman slashed 385/.448/.577/1.025 while scoring five times and knocking in five runs. He was also an extra base hit machine, racking up three doubles and a triple during Team USA’s run.

He made sure to bring his glove too:

Arenado was a key piece of the American lineup, but so, too, was the guy hitting right in front of him – Paul Goldschmidt. The Cardinal first baseman had a more modest but still excellent slash line of .280/.455/.440/.895. He crossed the plate eight times and also knocked in five runs while also providing a key moment when he gave Team USA the lead with his first inning home run in the semifinal game against Cuba.

Neither Arenado nor Goldschmidt was the best player in the Team USA lineup (that distinction belongs to Trea Turner who hit five home runs) but both players batted in the heart of the order and were key drivers for a team featuring potentially the best lineup in the tournament.

Where Team USA lagged behind the other top teams was pitching. But don’t tell that to Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright because the Cardinals duo did an excellent job when called upon. Each pitcher only made two appearances but Mikolas allowed just one run in six innings (1.50 ERA) and fanned five while Wainwright fanned five over eight innings and pitched his way to a 2.25 ERA.

Wainwright managed to dance his way out of first inning trouble in a big semifinal start against Cuba as he gave up three consecutive bad luck infield singles to open the game and then walked in a run but managed to get three straight outs without allowing any more damage.

It was a huge effort from Wainwright to keep the game from getting out of hand early and then he followed that up with three more strong innings.

Wainwright certainly didn’t have his best velocity in the World Baseball Classic but he was still crafty enough to be effective and he was a key contributor to an American pitching staff that was missing quite a few big names.

Team USA may have come up short but the Cardinals contingent played a huge role in the team’s success and represented their country well.

The Canadian Crusher

The Cardinals had big names scattered throughout the championship game but they also had key performers on other teams. Namely, Tyler O’Neill for team Canada.

The outfielder had an exceptional tournament, with an unbelievable .615/.722/.769/1.491 slash line. In just 13 at-bats, O’Neill tallied 8 hits, 5 runs, and 4 RBI while finishing with the fourth highest OPS of any player in the tournament to take more than two at-bats.

Despite O’Neill’s strong effort, Team Canada was unable to advance past the group stage. They finished with a record of 2-2 in third place in Group C, which contained the United States and Mexico, the two teams to advance.

It’s fun to dream on what O’Neill could have done if his team had reached the knockout stages. Even though his tournament was cut short, it’s impossible to consider it anything but a resounding success.

The Mexican Bullpen Duo

Team Mexico was a big surprise in the tournament, defeating Team USA in their only matchup and then finishing the group stage as the Group C champion while the United States was the runner up. But then, to make things even better, Mexico beat Puerto Rico, managed by Yadier Molina, in the quarterfinal before getting walked off by Japan in the semifinal.

This was a team that went further than many thought possible and only lost to the eventual champions by one run, on a walk-off double that surrendered both the lead and the game to Japan.

It was a disappointing end to a great tournament for Mexico, but it was also a disappointment for Cardinals fans as the walk off double came against Giovanny Gallegos, who, up until then, had been having a great tournament in the back of the Mexican bullpen.

But he wasn’t the only Cardinals reliever who struggled to shut down Japan in that game. JoJo Romero surrendered a three-run home run to Matasaka Yoshida, who recently signed a $90 million contract with the Red Sox.

The home run didn’t come on a bad pitch. It was a down and in changeup that was actually located well. Yoshida simply hit an unbelievable home run and every time I watch it, I wonder how he managed to get so much power on it and how he kept it fair. Here’s the video:

It was a tough game for the Cardinals duo, but until then, both relievers had acquitted themselves well. Romero had allowed just one run in his previous three outings and was a trusted member of the bullpen prior to his semifinal blow up.

Gallegos had been even better, racking up two saves and tallying three scoreless outings prior to taking the loss in the final game. Unfortunately for him, he made one mistake to a really good hitter (Munetaka Murakami hit 56 home runs and OPSed 1.168 in Japan last year en route to the MVP Award) and he was punished for it.

Things may have ended poorly for the Cardinals relief duo, but a bright spot came in the quarterfinal when Romero earned the win and Gallegos picked up the save in a one-run victory over Puerto Rico.

The Colombian Flamethrower

Gallegos and Romero had strong tournaments until the final game but the most impressive Cardinals reliever was offseason signing Guillermo Zuniga. I’m sure you’ve heard about his exploits by now but the flamethrowing reliever, who has yet to pitch above Double-A, touched 102 and showed off a nasty slider.

In fact, he shut down team Mexico in his first outing while his fastball averaged above 99 mph. Here he is escaping the ninth inning jam to force extra innings:

And then he here is pitching the 10th and earning the win with a called strike three on his slider:

Some more extensive highlights are posted below to show you just how nasty Zuniga was. I highly recommend watching the video if you haven’t already.

Get to know Zuniga now because he has MLB arm talent and electric stuff. I don’t know when, but after watching him dominate in the World Baseball Classic, I expect him to debut with the Cardinals at some point either this year or the next.

Colombia finished in last place in Pool C which robbed us of the chance to see more Zuniga appearances, but his final stat line was outstanding. The right-hander fanned six hitters in three innings and allowed only two base runners, one via hit and one via walk.

And while we’re talking about Colombia, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Oscar Mercado, who slashed .308/.400/.385/.785 in his WBC campaign. Zuniga may have been the highlight and grabbed all the headlines but Mercado was a key contributor to Colombia’s offense.

Other Notes

I want to briefly discuss a few other notes from the World Baseball Classic before I list all Cardinals stats at the end of this piece.

Andre Pallante

For starters, I haven’t talked about Andre Pallante but he is certainly worth mentioning. The right-hander’s results were a mixed bag in this tournament for Italy. He finished tied for first on the team in appearances (3) and tied for second in innings (4) but he also had the second most walks among all pitchers in the entire tournament (6). That’s what got him in trouble more than anything, but he did keep his ERA at a reasonable level despite his lack of control.

Despite the lackluster results, there are two highlights worth pointing out. The first came when he struck out Lars Nootbaar and the second came when he touched 98.8 mph, which is harder than he threw any pitch last year.

Joseph King

It was awesome to see Joseph King suit up for Great Britain because the World Baseball Classic actually represented the first professional outing for the Cardinals ninth round pick from the 2022 draft.

He even started the final game of the tournament for Great Britain, opening a 2-1 loss against Mexico that dropped Great Britain’s record to 1-3. That game gave us a great look at his arsenal.

He threw his fastball 44% of the time and it averaged 92.4 mph with 2044 rpms of spin. HIs go-to secondary offering was a changeup that sat 84.8 mph and got four whiffs on eight swings. He rounded out his arsenal with a suspiciously low-spin curveball that may have been incorrectly classified.

In his first outing, He only threw fastballs and changeups, and he got another four whiffs on five swings with his changeup. That is a limited sample but his changeup is certainly a pitch worth watching, especially as he faced Canada and Mexico, both with solid rosters.

Keep an eye on Joseph King and his changeup this year.

Opening Day Roster Bubble

I also want to mention is that at least a few Cardinals on the fringes of the roster were fighting for spots from afar as they competed in the World Baseball Classic. One of these players may have been Pallante, who didn’t exactly dominate the WBC, but his spot was secure with the injuries to Adam Wainwright and Wilking Rodriguez. Romero, though, was firmly on the roster bubble.

As I said above, Romero pitched well outside of the home run he surrendered in the semifinal. How much did his performance influence the Cardinals’ decision makers? We can’t know that, but what I will say is that I don’t think his home run is worth an overreaction.

I have two reasons. The first is that the pitch was actually located well. The second is that he shouldn’t have been throwing a left-on-left changeup, and especially not in that scenario. To me, that’s a bad decision and even though he should have shook off the pitch, he likely didn’t make the call.

Romero only threw one left-on-left changeup last year. His go-to pitch against lefties was a slider that had an 82.4% whiff rate. It seems to me that his slider would have been a much better choice against Masataka Yoshida.

The lefty executed his pitch and got beat but he should have been throwing a slider anyway. He was competing for a bullpen spot with a large group of lefties so every small detail will garner consideration but, to me, the home run he allowed is a non-issue.

The other player on the roster bubble who elected to play in the World Baseball Classic is Genesis Cabrera, but he made only one appearance for a loaded Dominican Republic team that shockingly didn’t escape the group stage. Thus, Cabrera didn’t get a full opportunity to strut his stuff on the international level while missing valuable time in Cardinals camp. Both Cabrera and Romero will open 2023 with Memphis.

Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar Make History

The final thing I want to mention is that Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar made history by playing for their World Baseball Classic teams. Edman became the first half-Korean player to represent Korea on the national team while Nootbaar became the first player born outside of Japan to play for the Japanese national team.

Edman may not have played as well or received the same level of attention as Nootbaar but it was awesome to see both players make history for a sport that seems to be growing internationally every year.

Those are all the notes I have from what was a thoroughly entertaining World Baseball Classic that saw intense, high level, playoff atmosphere baseball being played every night. I sincerely hope you got a chance to watch some of it.

I’ll end this piece with the stats for every Cardinals participant. Enjoy.

Full Hitting Stats

Name Country Avg OBP SLG OPS R RBI BB K
Tyler O’Neill Canada ..615 .722 .769 1.491 5 4 5 4
Tommy Edman Korea .182 .250 .182 .432 1 2 1 2
Oscar Mercado Colombia .308 .400 .385 .785 1 1 2 3
Noah Mendlinger Israel .300 .417 .300 .717 2 0 1 3
Matt Koperniak Great Britain .000 .200 .000 .200 1 0 2 2
Lars Nootbaar Japan .269 .424 .269 .693 7 4 6 6
Nolan Arenado USA .385 .448 .577 1.025 5 5 2 3
Paul Goldschmidt USA .280 .455 .440 .895 8 5 7 7

Full Pitching Stats

Name Country G IP W L ERA H BB K SV
Guillermo Zuniga Colombia 2 3 1 0 0.00 1 1 6 0
Joseph King Great Britain 2 2.1 0 0 3.86 3 3 3 0
Wilfredo Pereira Panama 2 2 0 0 18.00 7 1 2 0
JoJo Romero Mexico 4 3.1 1 0 8.10 4 3 2 0
Giovanny Gallegos Mexico 4 3 0 1 6.00 5 1 3 2
Genesis Cabrera Dominican Republic 1 1.1 0 0 0.00 0 0 2 0
Andre Pallante Italy 3 4 0 0 4.50 3 6 2 0
Adam Wainwright USA 2 8 2 0 2.25 10 2 5 0
Miles Mikolas USA 2 6 0 0 1.50 9 0 5 0

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2023 Caribbean Series Recap

The Cardinals had three participants in this year’s Caribbean Series and Irving Lopez was the best of the trio with a 1.008 OPS, some dazzling defensive plays and the versatility to play second base and left field for the Mexican team that finished in third place. We have all the tournament details!

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