All posts by Blake Newberry

Getting to Know Chandler Redmond

photo: Chandler Redmond (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

On Wednesday night, Springfield Cardinals first baseman Chandler Redmond hit for the home run cycle. You already knew that, though, because I’m pretty sure the entire world knows about it by now. He started with a two-run shot in the 5th inning, then followed with a grand slam in the 6th, a solo home run in the 7th, and a three-run home run in the 8th.

Yes, that also means he completed the home run cycle in consecutive innings. It doesn’t get more poetic than that.

After such a historic game, what better occasion could there be to highlight Chandler Redmond and discuss some baseball history? I can’t think of one. So, let’s dive into an unexpected celebrity and some minor league lore

In all of baseball history, the only other player to hit for the home run cycle was Tyrone Horne, and the parallels between the two players are amazing.

Tyrone Horne also accomplished the feat in the Cardinals organization. He did it while playing for the Arkansas Travelers, who, at the time, were the Double-A affiliate of the Cardinals, and played in the Texas League.

So not only did Horne hit for the home run cycle, but he did it in the same organization, at the same level, and even in the same league as Redmond. Baseball just has a way of making extraordinary moments even better.

(As an aside, I will say there’s something special about the Texas League. At least, there is if you like offense. In fact, the single game home run record may have even occurred in the Texas League in 1903 when Jay Clarke may or may not have gone 8-for-8 with 8 home runs. That record is disputed but SABR still holds it to be the record)

I’m sure Redmond would like the parallels to continue because Horne had a monster season when he accomplished the feat. In 1998, the 27-year-old played 123 games at the Double-A level and slashed .312/.402/.605, giving him an OPS over 1.000.

The home run cycle may have been the highlight of the season, but it came in a year in which he clubbed a whopping 37 long balls for Arkansas. Somehow, that was only good enough for him to earn a 3 game cameo in Triple-A Memphis before departing the organization in the offseason.

That was the second and last time Horne ever played Triple-A ball. His affiliated career was over two years later, though he did find success in Korea and Indy ball before retiring after the 2001 season at age 30.

Though Horne never reached the Major Leagues, he will forever have a place in the Hall of Fame.

Baseball is a game with a long history. For something to be accomplished for the first time ever in 1998 is incredible. Horne stood alone for almost 24 years before Chandler Redmond nudged him aside and claimed his share of the spotlight.

If you’re a regular reader of this site or a follower of the Cardinals system, you probably already know some things about Redmond, but since he now has a place in the extensive baseball history books, he deserves a feature article.

Redmond’s parallel with Horne goes even further than what I mentioned above. Both players were late draft picks. And not 15th round late. Horne was taken in the 44th round while Redmond was taken in the 32nd round.

Those are not rounds from which major league contributors are typically found, or even solid prospects for that matter. Horne never became an MLB player, but Redmond definitely has a chance to do what his predecessor couldn’t.

That’s largely because Redmond is simply a hitter. He began his professional career as a utility player but he has only played two positions this year – first base and designated hitter. That puts a lot of pressure on his bat to be his carrying tool, but that’s not a problem for Redmond.

He takes walks and hits for power, which gives him the kind of offensive profile that fits in the corners. His strikeout rate is a bit high, consistently registering above 30%, but he’s managed to be effective despite it. In fact, he’s even made improvements in that regard, dropping his strikeout rate nearly 4% from last season (34.8% in 2021, 31.3% in 2022).

The 25-year-old hasn’t been as successful this season but that four home run game really turned things around for him. His wRC+ rose from somewhere in the 80s (I don’t remember exactly) to 101 after the game, meaning that he went from being a well below league average hitter to a league average one, or even a tick above league average.

Chandler Redmond

This is only the first time Redmond has really struggled at the minor league level.

He has been nothing but a productive hitter in his career, registering wRC+s of 151 in rookie ball, 120 in High-A, and 129 in Double-A in 2021. His home run totals are also impressive for a minor league prospect, and especially one who was drafted so late.

In 2019, Redmond clubbed 12 home runs in 54 games at the rookie ball level en route to being named The Cardinal Nation’s system-wide Rookie Player of the Year.

The missed 2020 season wasn’t ideal for a player who was drafted following his senior year, but he made up for it in 2021, reaching Double-A for the first time. He hit 18 long balls that year in 95 games.

Now this season, after the four homer game, Redmond’s home run total sits at 17 home runs in 75 games.

That’s a lot of power! You would be hard pressed to find a more productive 32nd round draft pick in recent years.

(As an aside, there have indeed been MLB players to come out of the 32nd round. The most famous examples are Kevin Pillar, Robb Nen, and Eric Rasmussen. MLB players came every round of the draft. It’s just up to scouts to find them, coaches to develop them, and players themselves to make it happen.)

He has been a productive hitter his entire career and his blend of plate discipline and power gives him a strong offensive skill set. So, now you know who he is as a player, but that’s not all there is to Chandler Redmond.

Redmond is also known throughout the organization as someone who helps other players with their swings.

Here’s an article from Daniel Guerrero, which details how Redmond helped top Cardinals prospects Masyn Winn and Jordan Walker tweak their swings when they were struggling a bit.

Redmond is not just an asset on the field, but he’s an asset in the clubhouse too. It’s not uncommon for teams to keep “glue guys” in the organization for their leadership abilities, locker room presence, and willingness to help the younger guys.

Those “glue guys” aren’t always good players, though. Redmond is.

So we know Redmond is a slugger and swing doctor, but how about a smart guy too? He finished his senior year at Gardner-Webb on the Presidential Honor Roll while clubbing 18 home runs and finishing with a 1.072 OPS.

Chandler Redmond (Gardner-Webb University)

Redmond is just the second player to hit for the home run cycle and the first to do it in consecutive innings. That made him known to a wider audience, but he should be appreciated for more than that.

He is a slugger, a swing doctor, a smart guy, a promising prospect, and perhaps one of the best 32nd round draft selections in the past few years. He has a legitimate chance to make an MLB debut. That’s why he opened the season as TCN’s 25th ranked prospect. His status has dropped down to 40th in the most recent re-ranking, but his promise remains.

It’s always cool when a member of the Cardinals organization makes history, but it’s even better when he is more than just a good player on the field. That description fits Chandler Redmond perfectly.


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Cardinals Begin Draft with Selection of College Southpaw Hjerpe

photo: Cooper Hjerpe (Karl Maasdam/Oregon State University)

The St. Louis Cardinals named their two selections on Day 1 of the 2022 First-Year Player Draft. They are both left-handed pitchers – Cooper Hjerpe of Oregon State and Brycen Mautz of San Diego. Reactions from the first rounder, the team’s scouting director and full scouting reports follow.

By Blake Newberry and Brian Walton

The first two rounds of the 20-round 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft were held on Sunday evening, July 17 in Los Angeles, California. For the second year, the draft is reduced to 20 rounds and held a month later than traditionally, now as part of MLB’s All-Star Weekend.

By virtue of their 2021 success, the St. Louis Cardinals received the 22nd overall selection in the first round and the 59th overall in round 2. The organization’s eight picks to be made in the third through 10th rounds will be made on Monday, starting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. The final 10 selections will be unveiled starting at 2:00 p.m. ET Tuesday.

The Cardinals have been assigned a pool total of $6,845,900 to cover the signing bonuses for their first 10 rounders plus any bonuses greater than $125,000 for draftees selected in rounds 11-20.

To reference the Cardinals’ new draft class on an ongoing basis here at The Cardinal Nation, each player will have a profile located on a holding team called “DRAFT UNSIGNED PLAYERS”. This can be accessed at the bottom of the drop-down menu in the red column in the left menu called “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES” or click here.

St. Louis’ selections – 2022 draft day 1

First round, 22nd overall – Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State junior

6’3, 200 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Cooper Hjerpe

The pool amount for this pick is $3,182,200.

Randy Flores comments

Cardinals Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Randy Flores spoke with the media via Zoom shortly after the selection was made Sunday evening. As one would expect, he praised the organization’s newest pick.

“Cooper possesses a tremendous set of weapons in his pitching arsenal that we are ecstatic about adding to our system,” said Flores.  “He has a unique look that can make opposing hitters uncomfortable as evidenced by his high strikeout totals and elite whiff rates.  Based on his three-year track record at Oregon State, our scouting department hopes that he can rise quickly through our system once we connect him with our player development staff.”

Hjerpe’s comments

The pitcher offered his opening remarks as a Cardinal via Zoom on Sunday evening, as well.

Hjerpe explained that he grew up a fan of the two Bay Area teams, the Giants and A’s. He said he admires Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom the most among MLB pitchers, noting that Scherzer is “almost like a psychopath out there and I love it” and deGrom is “an animal.”

To further develop his slider and changeup, the 21-year-old said he “invested in myself” by going to Driveline Baseball during the offseason.

Scouting report

The Cardinals have a type when it comes to pitching and Cooper Hjerpe fits the bill perfectly as a productive college arm with control and a fastball that doesn’t set radar guns ablaze.

The thing that really stands out about Hjerpe is his arm slot. It’s low. Like really low. Like Chris Sale low. Take a look at it. (I’ll reference this video more later, so keep it handy).

Quite honestly, with that kind of an arm slot, his fastball velocity isn’t really that important. He doesn’t need to blow his heater past hitters to be effective because he offers a unique look and plenty of deception.

Hjerpe has a much flatter vertical approach angle than most pitchers which allows his fastball to play up, especially in the top of the  zone. Because he comes in from such a low arm slot, his pitches have less drop from their natural angle leaving his hand. This is especially important for his fastball since it gives it a greater rising effect than most other fastballs..

The pitch is also unique in the fact that it gets a good amount of run to go with it’s rising effect. Because he comes in so far from the side, all of his pitches get more sweep than drop and that gives his fastball a nasty combination of movement.

It’s truly a plus pitch that plays really well at the top of the zone. I love his fastball and it’s a pitch that he can build the rest of his arsenal on. That’s rare for a 90 mph fastball.

Before I say what I’m about to say, I just want to point out that I am NOT comparing Hjerpe to Chris Sale. It doesn’t do the kid justice to compare him, a 21-year-old, to one of the best pitchers in the game. However, I want to point out what Sale’s fastball looks like.

Sale’s four-seamer gets a crazy 14 inches of run, which is 70% more than the average four-seamer. Again, Hjerpe isn’t Sale, but the similar arm slot means that he should also get well above average horizontal movement on a pitch not typically known for movement in that direction. When paired with the rising effect, that’s a really nasty pitch regardless of velocity.

The pitch plays really well at the top of the zone despite it’s low velocity and Hjerpe should keep it there to get the most out of its rising effect. He also throws a slider and a changeup, and both of those pitches are solid. I think his slider rivals, or maybe even surpasses, his fastball.

Hjerpe’s slider is more of a sweeper (think Andrew Miller) considering his arm angle, and some prospect evaluators call it a fringy pitch right now but I don’t think that’s the case. It has above average spin and still had close to a 50% whiff rate according to Baseball America. And that was against high-level Pac-12 competition.

As I watched some video of Hjerpe, his slider really stood out as a knee-buckler that generated a lot of ugly swings. It’s especially nasty against left-handers as he throws it right at them and watches it break over the plate.

In the video I posted above, look at the pitch starting at 1:28 to see a hitter who has absolutely no idea what to do with the pitch. That doesn’t always happen, though. Look at 6:38 for an example of a hitter who stayed on the slider and took it the other way.

Here’s another slider making a hitter look silly.

Watch the slider at 1:28 and the slider above and then consider a 50% whiff rate and try to tell me that it’s a fringy pitch. You really can’t. It’s an underrated offering and forms a nasty one-two punch with the four-seamer.

That doesn’t mean the slider is perfect. I do think his slider could improve if it was a bit firmer. He throws the pitch in the upper 70s, but ticking up to the lower 80s could help the pitch become sharper and nastier.

From what I’ve seen, when hitters, and especially right-handers, aren’t fooled by the movement, they are able to sit on the pitch and take it the other way. Adding velocity would make it tougher to hit and a real terror for left handed hitters. .

The Cardinals are a great fit for Hjerpe because they are an organization who have successfully been able to add velocity to pitchers in the past. Think Gordon Graceffo and Andre Pallante for some higher profile examples. If they can do the same with Hjerpe, he could become even nastier.

The final pitch in Hjerpe’s arsenal is a changeup that moves a lot like his fastball, but at an upper 70s speed. It’s definitely the third pitch in his arsenal. That’s less of an indictment of the pitch and more a praise of his other two offerings.

As I watched Hjerpe, something that really stood out to me is how well Hjerpe is able to hide the ball from hitters. Unsurprisingly, he’s better at it against lefties, but when you watch video of him throwing, a hitter can’t really pick up the ball until it leaves his hand.

Between the deception, the arm angle, and the movement of his pitches, it’s tough for a hitter to feel comfortable. Nothing emphasizes that more than the fact that he allowed just three home runs in 103 ⅓ innings.

That’s part of the reason why Hjerpe dominated with Oregon State in the Spring, compiling a 2.53 ERA and allowed more than three earned runs in a start just once. He also lasted at least five innings in all but one start while lasting into the 7th innings or later four times in 17 starts. He was the best starter for one of the best programs in the country.

Hjerpe may be a funky pitcher, but he fits perfectly into the Cardinals type since he’s a bona fide strike thrower. The lefty walked just 2 batters per nine innings which looks even better when paired with his 14 Ks per nine.

Some scouting sites have mentioned that Hjerpe has some reliever risk but I really don’t think that’s the case. He has three good pitches, a nasty one-two punch, great underlying metrics and a repeatable delivery. Even though there aren’t a ton of starters that pitch like him, saying that Hjerpe has reliever risk doesn’t give him enough credit.

He’s not just your trademark pitchability prospect. He has great control and he doesn’t have elite velocity, but his arm slot makes everything play up. He’s absolutely a starting pitcher in the future and I see very little reliever risk with him. The Cardinals aren’t an organization that would really take a guy with reliever risk in the first round anyway.

It’s way too early to project Hjerpe to be more than a number 3 starter kind of pitcher, but adding velocity could change that projection.

A fun fact about Hjerpe is that his dad was a college pitcher too so it seems that he’s continuing the family legacy at a higher level.

I love the fit for Hjerpe and I think the Cardinals are one of the best organizations he could have gone to in order to develop fully. The organization seems to target his type and works with it well. As a polished college pitcher with funky arm action, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move quickly.


Second round, 59th overall – Brycen Mautz, LHP, University of San Diego junior

6’3, 190 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Brycen Mautz

The pool amount for this pick is $1,246,200.

Scouting report

By national scouting standards, Brycen Mautz was a bit of a reach. Baseball America had him as their 95th ranked prospect while MLB.com had him ranked 69th. The Cardinals must have seen something they like that caused them to rank him higher, and we may be able to find out what it is.

First off, Mautz is another college lefty who broke out in his final collegiate season. He also showed good control, walking just 2.2 batters per nine innings in the Spring.

Let’s start by looking at Mautz’s delivery, since it provides some similarities with Hjerpe. Let me be clear, his arm slot isn’t nearly as low as Hjerpe’s, but it’s definitely lower than the standard pitcher. Like with Hjerpe, there are some scouts who are worried about his unusual delivery.

The Cardinals clearly do not share those concerns as they have now used their first two picks on pitchers who are considered to have unorthodox deliveries.

Look below for some video of Mautz.

The first thing you should notice is the deception in Mautz’s delivery. He has a slight turn inwards when he raises his front leg and that hides the ball well. That’s similar to Hjerpe. He also comes from a lower arm slot. Again, similar to Hjerpe, though not as low.

That helps give his fastball plenty of run ans he still gets a lot of sink. In the video, hitters seem to have had a tough time getting underneath the pitch and driving it in the air. The strong two plane movement paired with a fastball that sits 92-94 is promising.

Fastball movement seems to be something that the Cardinals value. We see it at the major league level with the organization seemingly placing a premium on groundballs and sinkers and we saw it in the first selection with Hjerpe.

The fastball already looks pretty good and with Mautz being listed at 6’3” and 190 pounds, he looks like a prime candidate to add some velocity. I mentioned it after the first pick and I’ll mention it here too. The Cardinals are good at squeezing extra velocity out of players and Mautz looks like a prime candidate for that.

If you watch the video for long enough, you’ll see Mautz throw some breaking balls. To be honest, those look like curveballs to me. You can see the big hump as it comes out of his hand and the pitch dives toward the ground like a curveball. Even the velocity (~77 mph) suggests that it’s a curveball.

The interesting thing is that Mautz doesn’t throw a curveball. Every scouting outlet gives him a slider and after I watched some video of his start against Vanderbilt in the Regionals, I can absolutely declare that he does in fact throw a slider.

That slider has plenty of sweeping action (again, similar to Hjerpe) and got a lot of swings and misses. It’s a good pitch and makes a great pair with his fastball.

The video that I posted above is from 2021. That makes me wonder if Mautz really worked to reshape his breaking ball in the 2021/2022 offseason because it looked much different in 2022 than it did in that video. To me, that’s a good thing because I like his sweeping slider a lot.

I should also note that it does look like the Cardinals are targeting pitchers with sweeping action, even if that means an unorthodox delivery.

The Cardinals are certainly leaning into that unorthodox delivery despite the fact that some scouts think it brings more risk. To be honest, the delivery is probably part of the appeal because it generates that sweeping action.

I am a fan of pitches with that kind of a movement pattern. Thinking logically, a pitch with sinking motion can stay on the barrel if a hitter can touch it. It may be the bottom of the barrel and have a lower launch angle, but it can still be hit pretty hard, even if a hitter doesn’t hit it perfectly. When a pitch is sweeping, it should run off the barrel when a hitter doesn’t hit it perfectly, which leads to weak contact.

Mautz gets a lot of horizontal movement of his two best pitches and that is the appeal. The deception just makes things even better.

I haven’t seen much of Mautz’s changeup but he’s not scared to throw it, even if it is a clear third option. He threw at least a few against Vanderbilt and I saw a few in the video that I linked above. To be honest, it’s not as nasty as his fastball or his slider but it’s not a hopeless pitch.

Baseball America gave a 30 grade while MLB.com was much higher on it, giving it a 45 grade. I side more with MLB.com after watching it. From what I saw, he commands it pretty well to the outside part of the plate and it has decent arm side run at around 9 mph slower than his fastball.

The development of Mautz’s changeup may determine his future, If he can get it up to being an average pitch, then he’ll have three average of better offerings which gives him a future in the rotation. If he never gets it to work right, then he can ride his fastball/slider combo to bullpen success.

My hunch is that the Cardinals believe in his changeup because I don’t think they would have picked him here if they thought his future was in the bullpen. That’s just not how they usually operate.

I like the fastball/slider sweeping combination a lot on video, but Mautz’s statistics do leave a bit to be desired. He had a 3.87 ERA in his final season and that was brought below 4 in his final start of the season when he went 7 innings and gave up 1 run against Vanderbilt.

2022 was his first season as a full time starter and his first season with below a 4 ERA. 2022 also saw his strikeout rate take a massive jump from 8.7 K/9 to 12.8 K/9. At the same time, his walk rate was cut in half, going from 4.7 BB/9 to 2.2 BB/9. This is likely what drew the Cardinals to him.

Mautz also pitched in the Northwoods Summer League following the 2021 college season and posted a 2.08 ERA in over 30 innings out of the bullpen. The Cardinals have drafted successful Northwoods League players often, so it should not be surprising to see Mautz fall into that category.

Above, I noted that Mautz may have reshaped his slider prior to the season and that may have helped him see a huge uptick in strikeouts. The numbers and the different pitch shape indicate a lot of growth in a short amount of time and this is likely a pick built on the idea that he can continue growing at a quick rate.

Deception and a really good two pitch combo give Mautz a high floor and the ability to rack up strikeouts, but Mautz’s ceiling is based on improving his changeup and maintaining the control gains that he found in his final collegiate season. If he can do those two things, then he could be a really promising starting pitching prospect. Still, there is some reliever risk here.

I expect that the Cardinals are saving some money with this pick to potentially pursue a prep player tomorrow but only time will tell.

So far, that’s two college starters with somewhat similar profiles in the first two picks. That could give the Cardinals room to find some more hitters later in the draft, but it’s interesting to see the Cardinals attacking a certain kind of arm. They’ve always liked college pitching, and especially college pitchers who could add velocity, but the newfound emphasis on sweep and a lower arm slot means that the approach has potentially gotten more nuanced.

Your authors

TCN staff writer Blake Newberry wrote these player scouting reports with Brian Walton filling in the rest.


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The Cardinal Nation’s June 2022 Hitter of the Month – Malcom Nunez

Photo: Malcom Nunez (Springfield Cardinals)

I am once again pleased to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This article covers play during June across the entire system, including the FCL and DSL levels and will not only highlight the winner, but also a group of runners up.

A trio of prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals system separated themselves from the rest of the pack with OPSes above 1.000,, but one player outclassed the rest. This was not a particularly close decision, but each of the nine finalists this month are worth highlighting.

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.

Guidelines

To qualify, a player must have had at least 50 plate appearances in June. To make the list of finalists an OPS over .900 was required, a much higher mark than last month (.900). A list of nine qualified batters with OPSes above .900 is quite impressive and it’s a sign of the overall strength of the organizational lineups this past month.

Every level is represented except for the FCL affiliate of the Cardinals, as even one DSL player was a finalist. Springfield was the most represented, with three players heading the S-Cards lineup last month.

Four of the nine players on this list earned promotions, in large part due to their strong performances in June.

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

Rate Stats – Finalists

Hitter Team AVG OBP SLG OPS
Malcom Nunez Springfield .381 .454 .726 1.180
Maycol Justo DSL Cardinals .339 .383 .661 1.044
Moises Gomez Springfield/Memphis .301 .404 .615 1.019
Jonah Davis Springfield .233 .327 .651 .978
Conner Capel Memphis .279 .456 .515 .971
L.J. Jones Peoria .330 .410 .557 .967
Alec Burleson Memphis .358 .402 .547 .949
Mike Antico Peoria .315 .398 .546 .944
Brady Whalen Palm Beach .306 .422 .506 .928

After taking a look at the rate stats, it should be clear why Malcom Nunez is worthy of TCN’s Player of the Month honor. He led all finalists in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS, and he did it by a wide margin for each statistic.

Interestingly, Conner Capel, who ‘only’ had the fifth best OPS, took the OBP crown and prevented Nunez from achieving a clean sweep of the rate stats.

Conner Capel

It’s worth highlighting our sole rookie-ball finalist – Maycol Justo. He tallied the second best OPS largely due to having the second highest slugging and despite the fact that he was one of only three finalists with an OBP below .400 for the month.

Maycol Justo

That last part is impressive, too, since it shows that these finalists did more than crush baseballs. They also got on base and racked up hits and walks.

I also want to point out that the 4th place finisher in OPS batted just .233. That’s incredible, and by incredible, I mean incredibly weird, because as you will see below, 7 of Jonah Davis’ 10 hits went for extra bases.

Jonah Davis

His power is what carried him into the top half of finalists, because his batting average and on-base percentage were both last by a mile. This was a bounce back month for the minor league free agent signing as he still has a season wRC+ of just 75 despite the strong month.

No list of finalists would be complete without Moises Gomez’s name on it, as the breakout prospect was one of three finalists with an OPS above 1.000. His month was weirdly impressive, but I’ll save that surprise for later in the article.

Now, before continuing into the counting stats section, I want to highlight the sole Palm Beach finalist, Brady Whalen. Palm Beach is a tough hitting environment which is why Palm Beach hitters typically have worse numbers than hitters at other levels. So, a Beach Bird OPSing over  .900 is no mean feat.

Brady Whalen

Counting Stats – Finalists

Hitter Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS
Malcom Nunez Springfield 23 84 19 32 2 0 9 27 12 21 1 2
Maycol Justo DSL Cardinals 13 56 11 19 3 3 3 16 3 21 1 1
Moises Gomez Memphis/Springfield 23 83 16 25 8 0 6 15 14 43 2 2
Jonah Davis Springfield 15 43 10 10 1 1 5 14 5 22 1 0
Conner Capel Memphis 20 68 15 19 2 1 4 9 21 10 6 4
L.J. Jones Peoria 23 88 13 29 11 0 3 16 10 17 0 0
Alec Burleson Memphis 24 95 10 34 3 0 5 20 9 13 0 0
Mike Antico Peoria 26 108 21 34 13 0 4 19 13 24 14 0
Brady Whalen Palm Beach 24 85 12 26 6 1 3 11 13 18 0 0

When it comes to the counting stats, it’s Mike Antico who steals the show. The former Peoria leadoff man, and now Springfield leadoff man, played the most games and took the most at-bats, which is partially why he led in most categories. Regardless, his 13 doubles in a month is quite impressive, but perhaps not as impressive as his perfect 14-0 record on stolen bases. He was a prototypical leadoff man in June. He got on base often and put himself in scoring position often.

Mike Antico

Antico did not take sole possession of first place in hits because Alec Burleson tied him despite taking 13 fewer at-bats. The Memphis outfielder has done nothing but hit this year and that trend certainly continued in June. While the 23-year-old had a fantastic month, it was nothing out of the ordinary for him as his lowest OPS in a single month this season is a whopping .936 (April).

Alec Burleson

While Antico’s 13 doubles were impressive, Peoria’s L.J. Jones clubbed 11 in 20 fewer at-bats. That’s good for second place amongst finalists, making him the only other finalists with double digit doubles.

LJ Jones IV

Our Player of the Month Malcom Nunez led in home runs this month, as he smacked nine balls over the fence. That certainly helped him lead all finalists in RBI too. He was a major run producer in Springfield last month and actually tripled his home run output from the first two months of the season, while more than doubling his RBI output. June was definitely a transformative month for the 21-year-old, who is over three years younger than his average competition.

Now, I told you that Moises Gomez’s month was weirdly impressive and that’s because, as you can see in the above table, he struck out an incredible 43 times. That means that he struck out in 43% of his trips to the plate in June, but somehow managed 25 hits. When you add in his 14 walks, and a hit-by-pitch, that means he only made 16 batted ball outs. He actually had more hits than batted ball outs last month! I told you it was a crazy way of finding production.

Moisés Gómez

While I’m talking about strikeouts, Conner Capel contrasts really well with Gomez. The outfielder, who now plays in St. Louis, fanned just 10 times last month, which was the fewest among finalists. He also walked 21 times, meaning that he walked more than twice as often as he struck out. That’s almost the complete opposite of Gomez.

However, it doesn’t matter how the production comes. It just matters that it comes if a player wants to be a finalist for the Player of the Month award.

TCN’s June Player of the Month – Malcolm Nunez

Malcom Nunez joined the Cardinals organization on July 2, 2018 when he signed for a reported signing bonus of $300,000. He proceeded to dominate the Dominican Summer League en route to winning the triple crown and immediately placing himself on the prospect radar, making his debut on TCN’s list at number 10 in 2019. He’s been a fixture on the list ever since and was most recently ranked 22nd in our June re-ranking.

Malcom Nuñez

The corner defender stumbled a bit in 2019, hitting just above a league average level in rookie ball and struggling immensely with his first taste of full season ball. The lost 2020 season meant that he never got the chance to repeat Single-A. Instead, he jumped straight to High-A in 2021 and more than held his own with a 121 wRC+.

He was promoted to Double-A after just 35 games and came back down to earth, performing at a rate about 9% below the league average. He’s been much better in his second go-around, showing more power and better plate discipline, and he now holds a 113 wRC+ and .821 OPS on the season.

June was really the coming out party for Nunez as he only posted a .679 OPS in April and an even worse .636 OPS in May. Now he needs to prove that his June production is closer to the norm than his April and May production.

How May’s Winner Fared in June

Another month has passed and Jordan Walker refuses to slow down. Well, I guess you could call his measly .871 June OPS ‘slowing down’ if you compare it to his .996 OPS in May. Since he finished with an OPS below .900 he missed the cut and wasn’t a finalist in June.

Jordan Walker

He still crushed 11 extra base hits, 3 home runs, while walking 10 times and stealing 4 bases. It was another month where Walker showed that he can do everything – hit for average (.300), hit for power (.200 ISO), take walks, and add value on the basepaths.

Walker has yet to finish a month with under an .800 OPS this season. The 20-year-old and soon-to-be TCN’s top ranked prospect has kept up a torrid pace all year while handling every challenge that has been thrown at him.

For the year, Walker has a .904 OPS, 11.8% walk rate, 20.9% strikeout rate, and 134 wRC+, all while being over 4 years younger than the average Double-A player. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back on the list of finalists at the end of July.

Related Articles

The Cardinals made their choices for Pitcher and Player of the month…

Cardinals Name Malcom Nuñez and Inohan Paniagua June’s Top Minor Leaguers

…And we have now finished ours.

The Cardinal Nation’s June 2022 Pitcher of the Month – Alex Cornwell


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The Cardinal Nation’s June 2022 Pitcher of the Month – Alex Cornwell

Photo: Alex Cornwell (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month. This article covers play during June across all levels of the system.

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.

Guidelines

To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 10 innings during June. To make the list of finalists, an ERA below 2.25 was required.  The group broke out into two pitchers with ERAs below 1.00, five pitchers with ERAs between 1:00 and 1.50, two pitchers with ERAs between 1.50 and 2.00, and two pitchers with ERAs between 2.00 and 2.25.

Counting Stats

Of the 11 finalists, all levels of the organization are covered except for the Dominican Summer League. Palm Beach is the most represented with 6 finalists.

In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending ERA order. Leaders are bolded.

Pitcher Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB K
Hayes Heinecke Palm Beach 2 0 0.71 5 0 3 4 12.2 8 2 1 0 4 18
Alex Cornwell Palm Beach 2 0 0.92 5 2 1 1 19.2 17 3 2 0 4 20
Logan Gragg Peoria 2 0 1.13 3 3 0 0 16 15 3 2 1 1 6
Tink Hence Palm Beach 0 0 1.23 5 5 0 0 14.2 6 3 2 0 4 26
Carlos Guarate Palm Beach 3 0 1.31 6 2 0 0 20.2 17 3 3 1 3 14
Yonael Dominguez FCL 1 0 1.38 4 1 0 0 13 8 2 2 1 1 12
James Naile Memphis 1 0 1.47 8 2 0 0 18.1 14 4 3 1 1 15
Ryan Loutos Springfield 1 0 1.80 10 0 3 3 15 8 4 3 0 7 20
Gustavo J. Rodriguez Palm Beach 1 0 1.98 6 0 2 3 13.2 6 4 3 1 5 16
Inohan Paniagua Palm Beach 4 1 2.18 5 5 0 0 33 20 8 8 2 7 38
Zach McAllister Memphis 2 1 2.25 12 0 1 2 16 11 4 4 0 1 18

The fact that there were 11 qualified pitchers with ERAs below 2.25, a high bar for the finalists, demonstrates that June was a really strong month for pitching. Palm Beach was especially strong, which isn’t surprising since the Florida State League skews toward pitching, but it was still a great month for the Single-A affiliate’s pitching staff.

Thus, it’s not surprising that Hayes Heinecke, a Palm Beach reliever, led all finalists in ERA and saves; Inohan Paniagua, a Palm Beach starter, led all finalists in wins and strikeouts; and Gustavo J. Rodriguez, another Palm Beach reliever, finished with the fewest hits.

Hayes Heinecke

Though Alex Cornwell didn’t lead in anything, he did everything well enough to earn our Pitcher of the Month award. He had the second best ERA, one of only two finalists to finish the month with a sub-1.00 ERA, and he has the best ERA among any finalist to start a game. He threw just under 20 innings and allowed only two earned runs while capping off the month with a seven inning start in which he only surrendered an unearned run while fanning 8.

Inohan Paniagua, who won the Cardinals Player of the Month award, was a close challenger for the award, as he averaged nearly seven innings per start, had the most strikeouts by 12, a solid 2.18 ERA, and the most innings pitched by a whopping 12 ⅓ innings.

Inohan Paniagua

Even though he came up just short, he is certainly a deserving finalist and he was nearly TCN’s choice as well.

Rate Stats

In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending batting average against (Avg.) order. Leaders are bolded.

Pitcher Team BAA HBP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 K9 K/BB
Tink Hence Palm Beach .125 1 0.68 3.7 0.0 2.5 16.0 6.5
Gustavo J. Rodriguez Palm Beach .136 1 0.80 4.0 0.7 3.3 10.5 3.2
Ryan Loutos Springfield .151 1 1.00 4.8 0.0 4.2 12.0 2.9
Yonael Dominguez FCL .167 4 0.69 5.5 0.7 0.7 8.3 12.0
Inohan Paniagua Palm Beach .174 2 0.82 5.5 0.5 1.9 10.4 5.4
HayesHeinecke Palm Beach .195 1 0.95 5.7 0.0 2.8 12.8 4.5
Zach McAllister Memphis .196 2 0.75 6.2 0.0 0.6 10.1 18.0
James Naile Memphis .206 1 0.82 6.9 0.5 0.5 7.4 15.0
Carlos Guarate Palm Beach .230 3 0.97 7.4 0.4 1.3 6.1 4.7
Alex Cornwell Palm Beach .230 0 1.07 7.8 0.0 1.8 9.2 5.0
Logan Gragg Peoria .259 2 1.00 8.4 0.6 0.6 3.4 6.0

The rate stats are where Tink Hence really stands out. The 19-year-old was nearly unhittable, posting the best batting average against and the fewest hits allowed per nine innings. He also had the lowest WHIP, didn’t allow a home run, and had the highest strikeout rate by over 3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Tink Hence

This made him a serious contender for the award as well, and my decision really came down to him, Paniagua, and Cornwell.

Three pitchers (Logan Gragg, Zach McAllister, and James Naile) also showcased impressive control with fewer than one walk per nine innings and fewer than two hit by pitches. Yonael Dominguez also walked very few hitters, but he did bean four more so it’s tough to say that he had great control.

McAllister’s excellent display of command and strikeout prowess gave him the best strikeout to walk ration. He is one of a pair of veterans who had a great month in the Memphis bullpen. The other member of the pair, James Naile, is pitching in St. Louis now. Perhaps Zach McAllister may get a look if he continues at this pace.

Zach McAllister

In terms of strikeouts, Hayes Heinecke and Ryan Loutos both struck out 12 or more batters per nine innings. Loutos parlayed that into a July 1st promotion to Triple-A Memphis. After being signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2021 draft, Loutos has now reached Triple-A in his first full season in the system.

Ryan Loutos

Among all 11 finalists Paniagua is the only one to repeat from last month.

TCN’s Pitcher of the Month – Alex Cornwell

Alex Cornwell was the Cardinals 15th-Round selection in the 2021 draft and the organization eased him into professional ball. The former USC Trojan missed the entirety of 2018 and 2019 with injury and then when he was finally healthy, COVID canceled much of his 2020 season. So, Cornwell really only pitched for one season in college and it didn’t go well.

Alex Cornwell

The Cardinals saw promise in him, thought and took him on the third day of the draft. He has rewarded that faith this year. The 23-year-old began the season in the bullpen, but has since joined the Palm Beach rotation. He has excelled in both roles, compiling a 3.86 ERA and 3.12 FIP.

He has a great 29.3% strikeout rate without walking too many hitters (8.5% walk rate) and has allowed just two earned runs in his last three outings, all starts, lasting 20 innings.

The left-handed pitcher will likely stay in the rotation for the rest of the season considering his success. He likely began the year in the bullpen in order to keep his innings count down.

There were a number of deserving candidates this month, but Cornwell’s ability to thrive in both the long relief role and a starter’s role as one of only two pitchers to finish the month with under a 1.00 ERA gave him the edge. Hence may have had better rate stats but he surrendered more runs in fewer innings and Paniagua may have been the best full-time starter, but again, Cornwell’s ability to keep runs off the board gave him the edge.

What’s Next

Tomorrow I’ll be back with The Cardinal Nation’s choice for the June Hitter of the Month.

Related Article

Cardinals Name Malcom Nuñez and Inohan Paniagua June’s Top Minor Leaguers


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Cardinals Announce Top Players in May

Photo: Alec Burleson (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

St. Louis Cardinals Press Release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today their selections for Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for May, with Memphis Redbirds (AAA) outfielder Alec Burleson and Springfield Cardinals (AA) right-handed starter Gordon Graceffo (gruh-SEFF-oh) taking the honors for the second time in their respective careers.

Burleson, 23, hit for an .357 average (35-for-98), with five home runs, eight doubles, 24 RBI and 16 runs scored in 24 games with Memphis.  His .592 slugging percentage and 58 total bases led all qualified Cardinals minor league hitters for the month, while also ranking first in batting average and RBI.  Burleson finished the month strong, hitting .455 (20-for-44) with five 3+ hit games over his final 10 games, including his second career four-hit performance on May 28 vs. the Iowa Cubs.

“Alec put together an outstanding month offensively, his .980 OPS helped to lead Memphis to their winning month of May,” said Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque.

The 6’2”, 220-pound Burleson was a 2nd round compensation selection for the Cardinals (70th overall) in 2020 out of East Carolina University where he played both outfield and pitched.  Currently ranked the 9th best prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America, Burleson previously earned Minor League Player of the Month honors in his first month of professional baseball in May 2021.  Among all Cardinals minor leaguers through the end of May, Burleson ranked 1st in hits (55) 2nd in average (.327), RBI (38), total bases (99), and 3rd in HR (11) and extra base hits (21).

Graceffo, 22, posted a 2-2 record with a 1.45 ERA (5 ER/31.0 IP), 0.84 WHIP, and 30 strikeouts to just three walks over his five May starts (four with High-A Peoria Chiefs and one with Double-A Springfield).  After earning a promotion to Springfield on May 23, Graceffo made his Double-A debut on May 27 at Tulsa, earning the win while allow two runs on six hits and striking out four over 7.0 innings.  He is the first Cardinals pitcher to win back-to-back Pitcher of the Month honors since LHP Austin Gomber (August 2017 & April 2018) and first to do so in the same calendar year since LHP Bud Smith (July & August 2000).

“Gordon’s month of May was highlighted by five quality starts and his well-deserved promotion to Double-A Springfield,” stated LaRocque.

Drafted by the Cardinals in the 5th round (150th overall) in 2021 out of Villanova University, the 6’4” starter led all Cardinals minor league pitchers in ERA (1.20), wins (4), strikeouts (60), WHIP (0.70) and innings pitched (52.2) through the first two months of the season.  He currently ranks as the 10th best prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America and did not allow more than two runs in any of his first nine starts this year.

Blake Newberry’s Take

We’ll start with the Pitcher of the Month, since the Cardinals and I both agreed that Gordon Graceffo is the top choice. He dominated High-A competition with Peoria and then was unfazed in his Double-A debut. He was the top starter in the system and completely deserving of the Pitcher of the Month honor.

Gordon Graceffo

It regards to the Hitter of the Month, Alec Burleson is a fine choice, though I chose Jordan Walker. The Memphis outfielder led all finalists in hits (35), RBI (24) batting average (.357), and slugging percentage (.592) while leading the way for the Memphis Redbirds lineup.

Alec Burleson

Burleson was chosen 70th overall in the 2020 MLB draft, but had to wait until 2021 to make his professional debut.  That didn’t effect him much, though, as all he’s done since joining the organization is hit. He reached Triple-A by the end of his first season, though his 81 wRC+ meant that he was less productive at the highest minor league level than he was in the previous two.

He debuted at High-A Peoria and tallied a 153 wRC+, a sign of his advanced bat coming out of college. He was then promoted to Double-A Springfield where he was still 16% above league average as a hitter (116 wRC+).

This season, he has proven that his Triple-A struggles in 2021 are nothing to be concerned about, as he has a 153 wRC+ while crushing 12 home runs and striking out in just over 13% of his plate appearances.

Jordan Walker

In my assessment, he finished in a close second to Jordan Walker, who led all finalists in walks (16), OBP (.418) and OPS (.996) in May. Ultimately, there is not a wrong choice as both players excelled last month.

If Burleson keeps playing the way he has been, then he may be looking at a major league debut in 2022.


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Cardinals Shuffle Pitching Staff

Photo: Johan Oviedo (Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals Press Release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced a series of roster moves prior to this afternoon’s game at Chicago.

The team announced that they have recalled right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo from Memphis (AAA) and selected the contract of rookie left-handed pitcher Zack Thompson from Memphis.

Pitchers Matthew Liberatore and Kodi Whitley were optioned to Memphis following last night’s game, and Memphis infielder Kramer Robertson has been designated for assignment to make room for Thompson on the 40-player Major League roster.

In addition, outfielder Tyler O’Neill (right shoulder impingement) will begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with Memphis and outfielder Dylan Carlson (left hamstring strain) will begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with Springfield (AA).  O’Neill has been out since May 18, missing 14 games, and Carlson has been sidelined since May 22, missing 11 games.

Oviedo, 24, has appeared in 19 games (18 starts) with the Cardinals since debuting in 2020.  The 6-5, 260-pound Cuba native was 4-2 with a 5.58 ERA in 10 starts for Memphis this season.  Thompson, the Cardinals 1st round draft selection (19th overall) in 2019, will become the 9th Cardinal to debut this season with his first game appearance.  The 24-year-old University of Kentucky alum was 2-2 with a 4.67 ERA in his 10 starts for Memphis season.

Oviedo wears uniform no. 59 and Thompson no. 57.

Blake Newberry’s take

With a doubleheader approaching on Saturday, the Cardinals will need innings. Fresh off his start yesterday, Liberatore would have been unable to help the rest of the series, and after struggling mightily in two of his first three starts, he was a relatively easy choice to send to Memphis.

Matthew Liberatore

Whitley also didn’t do himself any favors by allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in 2 ⅔ since being recalled from Memphis.

Kodi Whitley

The Cardinals have not yet announced who will start on Saturday. Packy Naughton would be due for a start considering that Saturday would be the fifth day since his last appearance, but he is far from a regular member of the rotation.

Oviedo’s last start for Memphis was on May 28th, so he should be well rested for Saturday, meaning that he could take the ball to open a game. Zack Thompson last pitched on May 31st, so he is probably not a candidate to start.

My guess is that the Cardinals will have Naughton start one game on Saturday and have Oviedo start the other, though one or both of those games could see the starter pulled early in favor of a bullpen approach.

Beyond the approaching innings complication, the Cardinals are simply looking for pitchers who can get outs as Nick Wittgren, Drew VerHagen, Kodi Whitley, and T.J. McFarland have been inconsistent at best.

Really, only Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, and Andre Pallante have established themselves as reliable options. Bringing up a pair of fresh arms from Memphis is a chance to alleviate that problem.

Oviedo has not had the strongest season with the Redbirds, tallying a 5.58 ERA and 6.68 FIP, but he was already on the 40-man roster which made him easy to move.

Johan Oviedo

Thompson has been better, though his 4.67 ERA in Triple-A is inflated by a disastrous last start in which he surrendered six runs (three earned) and didn’t escape the first inning.

The former first round pick has a more respectable 3.98 FIP and has bounced back in a big way after struggling with an aggressive Triple-A assignment in 2021. He will likely serve as a lefty out of the bullpen.

Zack Thompson

This could be a boost for the Cardinals, who have struggled to get production out of their left-handers as T.J. McFarland has a 7.65 ERA and Genesis Cabrera’s strong ERA (2.14) is portended by a 5.38 FIP.

In order to add Thompson to the 40-man roster, someone needed to be removed. Kramer Robertson is the casualty that allows the left-hander to join St. Louis, though Robertson will almost certainly remain in Triple-A if he clears waivers.

Kramer Robertson

Rehab Assignments

Tyler O’Neill has been out of the lineup for over two weeks dealing with a shoulder issue. He may only need a short rehab since he didn’t miss too much time, but that will depend on how he feels when he begins playing in Memphis.

Tyler O’Neill

Fellow outfielder Dylan Carlson is also on the path to returning to St. Louis and he will begin his rehab assignment with Double-A Springfield. Like O’Neill, Carlson may not need long since he has only missed around two weeks. Hamstring injuries can linger, though, and Carlson will need to feel comfortable before returning to St. Louis.

Dylan Carlson

Both O’Neill and Carlson have had their fair share of struggles this season, so the injury time and the rehab assignment could be their time to find their swings and return to form. If they don’t, playing time will become harder to earn, considering the increased competition from rookies Juan Yepez and Brendan Donovan.

For more

To see all players in the system by level and position plus every transaction all year ‘round, check out the always free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation.

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The Cardinal Nation’s May 2022 Hitter of the Month – Jordan Walker

Photo: Jordan Walker (Springfield Cardinals Fanatic Photos)

It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This article covers play during May across the four full-season affiliates. The two short-season rookie level clubs will not be considered since they have not yet begun play.

This was a close decision as the top two prospects were neck-and-neck all month. One led all finalists in average and slugging while the other led in OBP and OPS. Ultimately, it is Jordan Walker who earned the crown, with Alec Burleson coming up just short.

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.

Guidelines

To qualify, a player must have had at least 50 plate appearances in April. To make the list of finalists an OPS over .810 was required, a much lower mark than last month (.900) as there were fewer offensive breakouts.

There are nine finalists from all four full season levels, with Peoria only represented by the recently promoted Masyn Winn, who now suits up for Springfield. The strongest affiliate was Triple-A Memphis, as the team has five of the nine finalists on its roster.

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

Rate Stats – Finalists

Hitter Team AVG OBP SLG OPS
Jordan Walker Springfield .311 .418 .578 .996
Alec Burleson Memphis .357 .388 .592 .980
Masyn Winn Peoria/Springfield .316 .367 .571 .938
Conner Capel Memphis .317 .371 .476 .847
Nolan Gorman Memphis .271 ..338 .508 .846
Ben Deluzio Memphis .257 .353 .486 .839
Luken Baker Memphis .245 .308 .511 .819
Osvaldo Tovalin Palm Beach .298 .359 .457 .816
Brady Whalen Palm Beach .284 .372 .444 .816

Only three batters broke the .900 OPS mark – Jordan Walker, Alec Burleson, and Masyn Winn. The other finalists all had fine months, but they do not measure up to this trio, so these are the only three names that I seriously considered for the title of Player of the Month.

Winn’s season-opening success earned him a promotion to Springfield at the end of May, and all he did was knock two home runs, one inside the park and one way over the fence, in his first seven games in Double-A. Still, each of his slash numbers lagged behind Burleson and Walker, leaving him short of earning the monthly honor.

Burleson led all finalists in batting average by a wide margin as he batted .357 while no one else cleared .320. His .388 OBP was the second best among finalists, behind Walker’s, and though his slugging percentage edged Walker’s, he finished a touch behind in OPS.

Alec Burleson

Walker was the only finalist to clear .400 in OBP and his .418 OBP was 30 points better than Burleson’s. Walker was also one of two finalists, with the other being Burleson, to rise above a .575 slugging percentage.

Even though the former first round pick finished second in slugging, he still showed more pure power than Burleson as his isolated power (.267) was 32 points higher than the Memphis outfielder’s. It is this combination of on-base skills and power that earned Jordan Walker our May Player of the Month recognition.

Further down the table, Conner Capel and Brady Whalen finished with OBPs above .370, which actually was better than Masyn Winn. Whalen and teammate Osvaldo Tovalin carried the Palm Beach lineup this month, and their impressive performances are even more impressive considering that the Florida State League generally saps power with its MLB sized stadiums and winds near the Florida coast.

Brady Whalen

Counting Stats – Finalists

Hitter Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS
Jordan Walker Springfield 24 90 23 28 11 2 3 14 16 25 4 2
Alec Burleson Memphis 24 98 16 35 8 0 5 24 3 14 2 0
Masyn Winn Peoria/Springfield 25 98 16 31 13 3 2 11 8 24 8 0
Conner Capel Memphis 20 82 11 26 6 2 1 10 7 22 4 2
Nolan Gorman Memphis 15 59 12 16 2 0 4 7 6 23 2 0
Ben DeLuzio Memphis 21 74 12 19 6 1 3 15 7 20 10 0
Luken Baker Memphis 25 94 12 23 4 0 7 18 8 24 0 0
Osvaldo Tovalin Palm Beach 25 94 17 28 5 2 2 14 6 14 0 0
Brady Whalen Palm Beach 24 81 12 23 4 0 3 12 10 17 2 0

Walker’s excellent OBP is explained by the fact that he led all finalists in walks with 16. The next closest finalist was Whalen, who had 10. Undoubtedly, this contributed to him leading all finalists in runs. However, despite the high walk total, he also led the table in strikeouts, though that’s justified a little bit by the fact that he was tied for the most plate appearances.

Another highlight is Burleson’s 35 hits. He led the entire system in hits in the month of May as he averaged almost a hit and a half per game. He hit practically everything that was thrown at him as he tied for the fewest strikeouts among finalists as well while hitting the second most home runs, behind only Luken Baker.

Luken Baker

On that note, Luken Baker really tapped into his power in the last month as his seven homers far surpassed his two in the prior month. He seems to have broken out of his extended slump that lasted through all of April and into May.

Two more of Baker’s teammates are worth noticing. Like Baker, Conner Capel broke out of an April slump with a strong May and his success was joined by that of speedster Ben Deluzio, who stole 10 bases in May, which only trailed Mike Antico’s 13 for Peoria for the most in the organization last month.

Ben DeLuzio

Though Baker may have led all finalists in home runs, Winn took the crown in both doubles and triples as his combination of speed and power helped him take plenty of extra bases. This helped give him the third highest slugging percentage despite only hitting two homers in the month (only one of which left the park).

Masyn Winn

TCN’s May Player of the Month – Jordan Walker

Jordan Walker’s stellar professional career continued in May with him dominating the Double-A level despite being over four years younger than his average competition. The 21st overall pick from 2020 has blazed through the minors, debuting in 2021 and crushing both Single-A levels before earning his Double-A debut at the start of this season and hitting the ground running.

Jordan Walker

Walker’s .996 OPS was an improvement on his measly .817 mark in April, the second worst monthly OPS of his career. That’s right. He’s only ever finished a month with a sub-.800 OPS once in his career. That’s not too shabby.

TCN’s 2nd ranked prospect was not a finalist for the award last month, but he still had a strong performance. He took the extra step this month with an OPS just shy of 1.000 to earn our Player of the Month honors due to his strong blend of power and on-base skills.

How April’s Winner Fared in May

Moisés Gómez followed up his outstanding April with another strong month, posting a .799 OPS in May, While that wasn’t good enough to make him a finalist for our Player of the Month again, and it was a significant step down from his inaugural month in the organization, it was still a respectable effort.

Moisés Gómez

The outfielder clubbed six home runs, which put him second to only Luken Baker in May. His 15 RBI were tied for the most among Springfield hitters, and he crossed the plate the second most times for the Double-A affiliate behind only Jordan Walker.

The powerful 23-year-old struck out a whopping 35 times in 101 plate appearances (34.7% K-rate), which was a marked increase from April when he fanned 18 times in 70 appearances (25.7% K-rate). He did walk nine times and was hit by three pitches, which helped him raise his OBP to .327 despite a .226 average.

On the season, Gómez still has an OPS over 1.000 (1.096), 17 home runs, and a wRC+ of 163 at the Double-A level.

What’s Next

This concludes our Pitcher and Player of the Month selections for May. The St. Louis Cardinals should follow soon with their picks for the best minor league pitcher and the top hitter in May, which will be updated here.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2022 Week 8


Now Available – 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2022 Prospect Guide is back for its fifth year. It includes 276 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos. Order your PDF or printed book copy today!

Order TCN’s 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide


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.

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© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation’s May 2022 Pitcher of the Month – Gordon Graceffo

photo: Gordon Graceffo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month. This article covers play during May across the four full-season affiliates. The two short-season rookie level clubs will not be considered since they have not yet begun play.

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.

Guidelines

To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 10 innings during May. To make the list of finalists, an ERA below 3.00 was required.  The group broke out into five pitchers with ERAs between 1.00 and 1.99 and three between 2.00 and 2.99.

Counting Stats

Of the eight finalists, three are starters and five are relievers, covering all four full season levels of the minor leagues, though Springfield is only represented via a late-month promotion. The two Single-A levels tied for the most representatives with three each.

Four finalists posted an April ERA under 1.50, so it’s not a surprise that the Pitcher of the Month came from that group.

In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending ERA order. Leaders are bolded.

Pitcher Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB K
Trent Baker Palm Beach 2 2 1.29 5 5 0 0 28 19 8 4 1 14 35
Nathanael Heredia Peoria 0 0 1.32 8 0 0 0 13.2 6 3 2 0 8 21
Jose Moreno Palm Beach 0 1 1.35 7 1 1 1 20 16 4 3 0 13 26
Gordon Graceffo Peoria/Springfield 2 2 1.45 5 5 0 0 31 23 6 5 0 3 30
John Beller Peoria 1 0 1.98 6 1 1 1 13.2 6 3 3 2 3 24
Tommy Parsons Memphis 2 0 2.03 8 0 0 0 13.1 8 3 3 2 2 7
Inohan Paniagua Palm Beach 1 2 2.67 5 5 0 0 27 31 12 8 2 11 25
Brandon Waddell Memphis 2 0 2.91 11 0 1 1 12.1 10 4 4 0 7 17

From this table, a list of four candidates rise above the rest – Trent Baker, Nathanael Heredia, Jose Moreno, and Gordon Graceffo. Baker has the lowest ERA but he also surrendered the most runs with four earned and four unearned. He has the most walks as well, but that goes with the most strikeouts.

Trent Baker

Heredia had the fewest hits and runs allowed but also the fewest innings of the four. That comes with the territory of being a reliever. Fellow reliever Moreno had a strong month, but his 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t the most impressive. Though he threw more innings than Heredia, the Peoria reliever has been more dominant.

Nathanael Heredia

Graceffo has the highest ERA of the four, but he also pitched the most innings, averaging over six innings per start. His five earned runs are one more than Baker’s but his six total runs allowed are two fewer. Additionally, he walked just three batters, which is fewer free passes than Heredia handed out in less than half the innings.

Further down the table, John Beller impressed out of Peoria’s bullpen with 24 strikeouts and only three walks. He did allow a pair of home runs, though, which is tied for the most among finalists. Beller has now earned a spot in Peoria’s rotation. Also allowing a pair of home runs was Tommy Parsons, who had the lowest ERA among Memphis’ arms and handed out the fewest walks.

Tommy Parsons

Rate Stats

In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending batting average against (Avg.) order. Leaders are bolded.

Pitcher Team BAA HBP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 K9 K/BB
John Beller Peoria .125 1 0.66 4.0 1.3 2.0 15.8 8.0
Nathanael Heredia Peoria .133 1 1.02 4.0 0.0 5.3 13.8 2.6
Tommy Parsons Memphis .174 0 0.75 5.4 1.4 1.4 4.7 3.5
Trent Baker Palm Beach .190 0 1.18 6.1 0.3 4.5 11.3 2.5
Gordon Graceffo Peoria/Springfield .207 2 0.84 6.7 0.0 0.9 8.7 10.0
Jose Moreno Palm Beach .229 0 1.45 7.2 0.0 5.9 11.7 2.0
Brandon Waddell Memphis .250 0 1.46 8.0 0.0 5.1 12.4 2.4
Inohan Paniagua Palm Beach .295 4 1.56 10.3 0.7 3.7 8.3 2.3

Beller’s impressive month really stands out in this table. He led all finalists in WHIP, batting average against, and strikeouts per nine innings, while tying for the lead in hits per nine and finishing second in strikeout to walk ratio. This is enough to vault him into serious consideration for the Pitcher of the Month award, but not enough for him to win.

John Beller

Heredia’s strikeout rate of 13.8 is just short of Beller’s, but Heredia walked a few too many hitters, which raised his WHIP above 1.00.

Palm Beach starter Inohan Paniagua had the highest batting average against by a wide margin as it approached .300, which, when combined with his 3.7 walks per nine innings, gave him the highest WHIP at over 1.50. He still finished with a solid 2.67 ERA out of the Palm Beach rotation.

Inohan Paniagua

Graceffo also shines on this table, tying for the lead in home runs per nine innings with none and finishing top in walk rate and K/BB. He was one of only three finalists with a WHIP under 1.00, the other two being Beller and Parsons.

Despite leading all finalists in ERA, Baker was middle of the road in most of the rate stats. This was enough for him to not take the honors for the month as he was edged by Graceffo.

TCN’s May Pitcher of the Month – Gordon Graceffo

Graceffo’s impeccable control led the way for him again as he walked fewer than one batter per nine innings in May, though his walk rate actually more than doubled from 0.4 in April to 0.9 in May.

I’ll admit that I was hesitant to award the honors to Graceffo again after so many impressive performances from other pitchers, but he made it impossible for someone to take the crown from him. Trent Baker benefited from a pitcher-friendly Florida State League and actually allowed more runs than Graceffo.

Graceffo was more dominant overall with many fewer walks, fewer runs allowed, and a much better strikeout-to-walk ratio in more innings and longer starts on average.

Gordon Graceffo

Heredia and Beller each had strong months but Graceffo had a lower ERA than Beller in more than twice the innings. Heredia also walked more than twice as many batters than Graceffo in less than half the innings.

If there’s one area in which Graceffo lagged behind, it’s strikeouts, but his rate of 8.7 per nine innings wasn’t terrible and he excelled in every other area. Though he was fourth in ERA among finalists, it was only .16 points behind the leader, Baker. A pair of relievers also had slightly better ERAs than Graceffo, but the significantly higher innings total works in Graceffo’s favor as it’s much harder to keep a sub-1.50 ERA out of the rotation.

Graceffo’s ERA actually rose from last month, from 0.83 to 1.45, but he made an extra start and threw nearly 10 more innings. It was another impressive month in what has been an impressive professional career for Graceffo, and it earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he tossed a gem in his first outing, lasting seven innings and surrendering two runs.

The Cardinal Nation’s 12th-ranked prospect has torn his way through the minors and established himself as one of the hottest prospects in the Cardinals system. If he keeps up this level of success, he may see Memphis by the end of the year, though it’s still too early to tell.

What’s Next

I’ll be back on Thursday with our Player of the Month. The St. Louis Cardinals should follow soon with their picks for the best minor league pitcher and the top hitter in May.

June 2 Update

In the original article, I failed to include Ryan Loutos, whose strong performances earned him a promotion from  High-A Peoria to Double-A Springfield.

Ryan Loutos

In May, the reliever threw 12 innings and allowed just one run for an ERA of 0.75. He struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings and walked just three in a dominant performance last month.

Though his numbers were not enough to overcome our winner, Gordon Graceffo, they were certainly impressive enough to be highlighted.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Peoria Chiefs Notebook – 2022 Week 8


Now Available – 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation 2022 Prospect Guide is back for its fifth year. It includes 276 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos. Order your PDF or printed book copy today!

Order TCN’s 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide


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.

Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.

© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.