All posts by Brian Walton

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

Cardinals Add Martinez and Helsley, Cut Gregerson and Leone

photo: Carlos Martinez (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s (Friday, May 17) series opener against the Texas Rangers, that they have activated right-handed pitcher Carlos Martínez from the 10-day Injured List and recalled rookie right-handed pitcher Ryan Helsley from Memphis (AAA).  The team also announced that right-handed pitcher Luke Gregerson has been designated for assignment and right-handed pitcher Dominic Leone has been optioned to Memphis (AAA).

Carlos Martinez (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Martínez, 27, has been on the Injured List all season (right shoulder cuff strain) and recently completed an injury rehabilitation assignment that included five relief appearances that totaled 6.2 innings between Peoria (A), Memphis (AAA) and Springfield (AA).   He allowed one run on five hits, walked four and struck out six.

Martínez, 54-38, 3.37 ERA career, made 15 relief appearances at the end of last season, going 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA (18.1 IP), five saves and 19 strikeouts.  He pitched multiple innings in five of the 15 relief outings.

Ryan Helsley (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Helsley, 24, will be making his second stint with the Cardinals, after having been previously recalled on April 16.  The 6-2, 230-pound Oklahoma native made three relief appearances with the Cardinals, totaling 6.1 innings pitched with just three hits allowed and seven strikeouts for a 2.84 ERA.  Each of his three appearances, including his Major League debut on April 16, were of two innings or more.

Since returning to Memphis following an option an April 29, Helsley has appeared in five games (including one start) and has gone 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA (10.2 IP/4 ER), striking out 12.   He was unscored upon in his four relief outings, covering 8.1 innings pitched, including 1.2 innings last night at San Antonio.

Leone, 27, appeared in 20 games for St. Louis this season, going 0-0 with a 8.02 ERA (21.1 IP) and 27 strikeouts.

Gregerson, 35, began the 2019 season on the Injured List and appeared in six games, allowing five runs, following his return to the active roster on May 4.  He’s 35-36, 3.15 ERA and 66 saves in 646 career games pitched.

Martínez wears uniform no. 18 and Helsley wears uniform no. 56.


Brian Walton’s take

Dominic Leone (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Two of the big hopes to rejuvenate the 2018 bullpen are removed from the roster the same day.

Leone, acquired from Toronto as the cornerstone of the Randal Grichuk trade in January 2018, was thought of as a potential closer candidate at the time, but struggled with injury last season. He began 2019 strongly, but was knocked around in his recent outings. Leone has one minor league option year remaining.

(Interestingly, the other player acquired in the Grichuk deal, Conner Greene, is starting against the Double-A Springfield Cardinals for Northwest Arkansas (KC) on Saturday evening. He was lost in a waiver claim last November.)

Luke Gregerson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

While some are concerned about the money sunk in Gregerson’s contract, to me that is not the big issue. Instead, he had to be pitched in major league games, 23 of them to be precise, during which the team went 8-15.

To be fair, he had not earned higher leverage opportunities, but how could he be counted upon in pressure situations? This season, Gregerson yielded runs in three of six outings since a very long minor league rehab tour that took the entire allowable month, basically during April. Certainly, he had more than enough time to get ready.

On the money side, the total contract commitment by St. Louis to Gregerson is $11 million – $5 million each for 2018 and 2019 and $1 million to buy out the club’s 2020 option.

Some may think the Cardinals will be cutting their ties with the man they initially suggested would be their 2018 closer by releasing him, but that contract commitment may continue to be the primary reason Gregerson remains with the Cardinals organization.

Because his contract would follow him on waivers, he isn’t going to be claimed if placed there and probably they Cardinals cannot get anything for him in trade. If he opts for free agency rather than accept a minor league outright, which would be his right, he would forfeit the remainder of his contract money due.  Instead, he may swallow his pride and join Chasen Shreve in Memphis to keep the paycheck coming and try to earn his way back up to St. Louis.

A side point is that for the first time in months, St. Louis’ 40-man roster is below the maximum. This is because a DFA’ed player is removed from the roster immediately and during the seven day period the team is allowed to decide his future (trade, release, outright).

(From TCN’s Paul Ivice: Gregerson’s average two-seamer in 86.4 mph, compared with the MLB average of 92.6, per MLB.com.

Gregerson’s spin rate of 2,177 rpm is close to the 2,204 MLB average, but if you aren’t throwing hard, you must have pinpoint location, and the 90.3 average exit velocity on Gregerson’s two-seamers, compared with 89.0 league average, indicates his pitches are much too hittable.)

Martinez’ rehab stint, which began in Peoria, then to Memphis, and to Springfield, has been well documented. There have been too many walks – four plus two hit batters in 6 2/3 innings – but it remains to be seen if that was just rust.

His situation for the second consecutive year remains a curiosity. Martinez is comfortable pitching in relief, but not starting. He is being paid for and expected to perform in the latter role, but there have bee questions about his preparation and readiness to pitch.

Instead of rejoining the rotation – because of his shoulder situation, coupled with Jordan Hicks’ growth into the closer job – it appears that Martinez will become one of MLB’s most highly-paid set up men at $11.5 million per season. His contract commitment runs through 2021 plus two option years that can be bought out.

Helsley, The Cardinal Nation’s sixth-ranked prospect in April, has been working in long relief for Memphis since his MLB debut earlier this season. Perhaps it could change in 2020, but for now at least, his role seems to be in relief.


For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Peoria’s Schlesener Returns to Extended Spring Training


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. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Extended Spring Camp Report – 5/16/19

Brian Walton’s Thursday news from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida including Jose Oquendo and Alex Reyes updates, game highlights, photos and more! The Player of the Day is outfielder Joerlin De Los Santos, who had a hand in all four White runs.

This content is for Paid – Monthly, Paid – Three Months and Paid – Annual members only.
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Order The Cardinal Nation’s 2019 Prospect Guide

The Cardinal Nation has published annual rankings of the top prospects across the St. Louis Cardinals system since 2006.

Once again here in 2019, we have compiled all of these reports and much more into a new 190-page book – The Cardinal Nation 2019 Prospect Guide.

The core of this new 190-page Guide is in-depth profiles on all players on the top 50 prospect list, with each player write-up new for 2019. Individual profiles include 2018 stats, photos, scouting reports, probable 2019 team assignment, ultimate potential and more.

In addition to the all-new player write-ups and dozens of additional photos, new sections for 2019 include top statistical performers last season, team records/standings, sourcing of the top 50, organizational Pitchers and Players of the Year and George Kissell Award history, both going back several decades.

For full details on the contents of the Guide and how to order, either in print or electronic form, click here.

Cardinals Extended Spring Camp Report – 5/14/19

News flash: Suspended #stlcards minors RHP Griffin Roberts is too good for extended spring training, logging 5 2/3 dominant scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. Out Tuesday EST report includes a Brett Cecil sighting, game highlights, photos and more!

This content is for Paid – Monthly, Paid – Three Months and Paid – Annual members only.
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Cardinals Extended Spring Camp Report – 5/13/19

Brian Walton’s Monday news from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida including an Alex Reyes update, game highlights, photos and more! My Player of the Day is lefty Colin Schmid, who fanned five of six batters faced.

This content is for Paid – Monthly, Paid – Three Months and Paid – Annual members only.
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No Reason for Cards Fans to Give Cubs the High Ground

photo: Taylor Davis and Matt Carpenter (Quinn Harris/Imagn)

After the St. Louis Cardinals dropped the first two meetings of 2019 with their long-time rivals, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday and Saturday, a segment of the Cardinals’ fan base seemed defeated, as well.

Take these two typical examples, which I encountered in my travels Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

  • “The Cardinals can’t win at Wrigley.” – TCN forum member

  • “The Cubs still own the Cards head-to-head.” – Facebook commenter

Granted, the Cardinals are coming off three straight non-playoff seasons, but the Cubs’ fortunes have trended downward since their 2016 World Championship, as well.

My view of the surroundings leads me to conclude that these fans should not be conceding superiority to the Baby Bruins.

While the Cubs took the upper hand starting with the fateful 2015 League Division Series epitomized by Kyle Schwarber vs. Kevin Siegrist, the Cardinals have made progress since.

Mike Shildt (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Few seem to recall that just last season, St. Louis actually held a 10-9 season advantage over Chicago. Not surprisingly, each team established an edge at home. The Cubs were 6-4 at Wrigley and the Cards were 6-3 at Busch.

For those more negative Cardinals fans who cite results further back in time as evidence of the current team’s limitations, I ask you to step back and consider the huge changes to the team just since 2017.

This starts with three-fifths of the current rotation plus the closer, none of whom were yet with the club. Add to that Cubs-killer Paul Goldschmidt and a new manager among others, and it is clear the Cardinals of 2019 do not greatly resemble the team of just two seasons ago, let alone 2015.

One regular on TCN’s message boards sees a shortage of motivation. He believes the Cardinals have not aggressively targeted their head-to-head matchups with Chicago.

Wrote the poster:

“Maddon made beating Cardinals in St Louis a priority for the Cubs when he took the helm. He told his team that the Division belonged to the Cardinals until they could beat the Cards at home. I think Shildt needs to make a similar point of emphasis to his team.”

In my view, what this fan really wants is to be assured himself by Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. As noted above, the Cardinals of 2018 already established a significant advantage over the Cubs at home – and the two clubs have yet to meet at Busch in 2019.

Joe Maddon (Joe Camporeale/Imagn)

Back when Maddon took over the Cubs in 2015, he had to overcome decades of frustration and disappointment – a very different place from where the Cardinals are today. Further, he is a master at managing the media, though the brass above may be less impressed, as they are letting Maddon manage without a contract for 2020.

For all we know, Shildt may be circling the Cubs dates on his calendar, as well. For example, his getaway day lineup in Washington, in which he rested three starters the afternoon before the Cubs opener, suggested just that.

But whatever Shildt is saying to his team behind closed doors is far more important than what he is telling the media (and fans). All indications are that the manager is highly respected by the players for his open communications. As a result, I highly doubt the Cardinals lack adequate motivation when they face the Cubs.

A few more wins against Chicago should remind uneasy Cardinals fans that these two clubs are very competitive and are likely going to fight through all 19 games this season. Their next head-to-head set will be at Busch on May 31-June 2, with another matchup the following weekend in Chicago.

In the meantime, lose that inferiority complex. It is unwarranted.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Who is Tommy Parsons and why is he so good?


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. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Promote Top April Minor League Pitchers

photo: Johan Oviedo (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Anyone reading The Cardinal Nation in recent days is aware of the strong Aprils put together by Tommy Parsons and Johan Oviedo. The former is The Cardinal Nation’s April Pitcher of the Month and the latter is the Cardinals organization’s choice for the equivalent honor.

If you missed it, check out the full details in the following articles.

Parsons Named The Cardinal Nation April Pitcher of the Month

Cardinals Name Oviedo, Toerner their Top Players in April

Franyel Casadilla (Peoria Chiefs)

On Saturday, both pitchers were promoted. Coming from Class-A Peoria, Parsons should step into the high-A Beach Birds’ rotation, replacing Oviedo, and Oviedo will join the starting five at Double-A Springfield, likely starting on Sunday. The latter promotion was first reported by The Cardinal Nation’s Derek Shore.

At Peoria, right-hander Franyel Casadilla has been activated from the injured list to take Parsons’ spot. The 22-year old native of Venezuela will be making his 2019 debut. Casadilla’s three-start Peoria introduction in 2018 was bumpy, with 16 earned runs scored against him in 12 innings.

The player leaving the Springfield active roster to accommodate Oviedo’s arrival will be highlighted here when it is announced.


Casey Meisner (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

Update: Cardinals Release Casey Meisner

The transaction to make room for Oviedo at Springfield is the release of right-handed pitcher Casey Meisner. The 23-year old opened the season in the Double-A Cardinals bullpen before making four starts.

Meisner allowed multiple runs in all six outings in 2019, culminating in a 9.78 ERA – 8.31 in relief and 10.20 as a starter. Texas League hitters batted a collective .367 against him.

Meisner was acquired by St. Louis from Oakland at the end of spring training 2018 in return for reliever Josh Lucas. Last season, the 6-foot-7 hurler posted a 3.62 ERA in 22 appearances, 21 starts, between Palm Beach and Springfield.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Who is Tommy Parsons and why is he so good?


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. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Name Oviedo, Toerner their Top Players in April

photo: Johan Oviedo/Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Johan Oviedo (Peoria Chiefs)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Saturday, May 4) their selections for Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for April, with Palm Beach Cardinals (High-A) teammates Johan Oviedo and Justin Toerner taking the honors.

Oviedo (pronounced Oh-vee-ah-doh) went a perfect 5-0 in six games (five starts) for Palm Beach, striking out 35 batters in 33.2 innings pitched.  The 6-6, 210-pound right-hander is leading the Florida State League in wins (5) and is co-leading the league with his 35 strikeouts.   Oviedo, 21, was born in Havana, Cuba and signed by the Cardinals as an international free-agent on July 2, 2016.

“Johan has had an outstanding start to his 2019 season in the Florida State League,” stated Cardinals’ Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque.  “With over 33 innings of work, he and Justin Toerner have helped Palm Beach maintain a top spot in the league standings.”

Justin Toerner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Toerner (pronounced Turner) reached base safely in all but one of his 21 games played in April and hit safely in 17 of those 21 April contests, batting .394 (28-for-71) with a .531 on-base percentage.

The 22-year-old Toerner is currently leading the Florida State League in batting (.367), on-base pct. (.500), walks (20), runs scored (20) and OPS (1.006) and has a team-high 16 RBI.  The left-handed hitting outfielder was drafted by the Cardinals last June in the 28th round (843rd player overall) out of Cal State University-Northridge.

“Justin’s month included Florida State League Player of the Week honors (April 8-14) to begin the season and he’s continued to put together consistent at-bats,” said LaRocque.


Brian Walton’s take

Earlier this week, The Cardinal Nation also selected Toerner as our Player of the Month, but Peoria’s Tommy Parsons edged Oviedo as our top pitcher in April. In The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect Rankings in April, Oviedo was no. 20, Toerner no. 35 and Parsons no. 50.

You can read about them and many other honorable mentions across the Cardinals system in April in these two articles.

Toerner Tops Gorman for The Cardinal Nation April Player of the Month Honors

Parsons Named The Cardinal Nation April Pitcher of the Month


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Who is Tommy Parsons and why is he so good?


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. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Activate Gregerson, Option out O’Neill

photo: Luke Gregerson (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

From St. Louis Cardinals media relations

Luke Gregerson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Prior to today’s game (Saturday, May 4), the St. Louis Cardinals activated RHP Luke Gregerson from the 10-day Injured List and optioned OF Tyler O’Neill to Memphis (AAA).

Gregerson, who hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since July 25, 2018 in Cincinnati, has recovered from a right shoulder impingement, which caused him to miss the first 32 games of the 2019 season. He made 11 minor league rehab appearances posting an 0-0 record with a 1.64 ERA between Palm Beach (A), Springfield (AA) and Memphis (AAA).

O’Neill has appeared in seven games with 10 at-bats since returning from the Injured List on April 26.


Brian Walton’s take

Tyler O’Neill (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The Cardinals had a choice whether to send down a reliever and continue with a five-man bench or go back to an eight-man pen. They picked the latter.

The relievers on the St. Louis roster with minor league options have all performed well – John Brebbia, Giovanny Gallegos, Dominic Leone and Tyler Webb. The latter also serves as the second lefty in the pen behind Andrew Miller.

It will be interesting to see what role Gregerson plays among the Cardinals relievers, a group that has been effective to date in 2019. One might expect that despite the full 30 days of rehab, he will be eased into action carefully.

Instead of optioning out a pitcher, the choice was then between position players O’Neill and infielder Yairo Muñoz. Considering both O’Neill’s long-term importance to the Cardinals (a potential 2020 replacement for Marcell Ozuna in left field) and his recent struggles, sending him down to play every day for Memphis seems the right move at this time.

While his slash line with St. Louis this season is a so-so .263/.282/.395/.677, O’Neill has taken some undisciplined swings in recent at-bats. Specifically, he is striking out at a 46.2 percent rate while walking in just 2.6 percent of his 39 plate appearances.

Memphis already had an open roster spot following the trade of catcher Francisco Peña to San Francisco, so no further moves are required.


For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Who is Tommy Parsons and why is he so good?


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. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Send Catcher Peña to Giants

photo: Ronald Acuna Jr. and Francisco Pena (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

On Thursday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals made this announcement via Twitter:

Francisco Pena (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

This move will likely be better for all parties. Peña re-signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals in December after spending much of 2018 as Yadier Molina’s back up. However, the 29-year old batted just .203. Following last season, Peña was outrighted (removed from the 40-man roster) and became a free agent.

Once St. Louis signed a far more accomplished reserve in late February in Matt Wieters, Peña’s St. Louis future became blurry. He began the season in extended spring training and since joining Memphis on April 17, went 6-for-18 with a home run and four RBI.

Even at Memphis, he was redundant as the third catcher on the roster. The Redbirds’ remaining two backstops are prospect Andrew Knizner and another journeyman, Joe Hudson. Peña was not on St. Louis’ 40-man roster and that remains full.

For his new organization, Peña will report to Triple-A Sacramento.

Memphis is temporarily down one player, but that should change if St. Louis activates Luke Gregerson as expected. If a position player is sent out, likely candidates are Tyler O’Neill and Yairo Muñoz, both of whom are in St. Louis’ Thursday getaway day lineup in Washington.


For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 4


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. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are $5 off, so get yours today!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com or for fastest turnaround, pose your questions on The Cardinal Nation’s members-only forum. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Toerner Tops Gorman for The Cardinal Nation April Player of the Month Honors

photo: Justin Toerner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

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

Justin Toerner (State College Spikes)

As a reminder, this is NOT is the “Player of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every hitter 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 ranking considerations, are not factors here, either.

As good of an April as was put together by the organization’s top prospect, Peoria third baseman Nolan Gorman, Palm Beach’s Justin Toerner was even better. For that reason, the 22-year old outfielder is our April Player of the Month.

I imagine you want to understand how I came to that decision. Of course, I will oblige, while also noting many other first-month offensive standouts.


Guidelines

To qualify, a player must have taken at least 40 at-bats in April. That narrowed our population down to 42 players. To make the list of 10 finalists, an OPS of .850 or higher was required.

We will take two views of the data. 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 Tm AB H R 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS OPS
Justin Toerner PB 71 28 20 5 0 2 39 16 20 17 3 3 1.081
Nolan Gorman Peo 80 26 15 6 1 6 52 20 8 23 1 0 1.039
Ivan Herrera Peo 41 11 9 2 0 3 22 4 9 14 0 0 0.940
Brady Whalen Peo 68 22 7 5 0 3 36 13 6 14 0 0 0.924
Irving Lopez Spr 79 21 16 5 0 6 44 15 8 18 0 0 0.920
John Nogowski Mem 69 19 15 4 0 3 32 12 18 10 0 1 0.899
Edmundo Sosa Mem 68 23 5 4 1 2 35 10 3 13 1 1 0.885
Julio Rodriguez PB 61 20 9 2 0 2 28 8 5 12 0 0 0.856
Dylan Carlson Spr 94 27 17 7 1 4 48 18 10 19 3 1 0.853
Kramer Robertson Spr 73 19 17 3 0 3 31 10 18 13 4 1 0.852

Clearly, the two at the top – Toerner and Gorman – are different kinds of players.

Toerner led the entire system in hits (tied with Tommy Edman), runs scored and OPS. Gorman was tied for second in home runs and RBI (both behind Adolis Garcia), was first in total bases and second in OPS.

Other finalists who stood out include Dylan Carlson, tied for second in the system with seven doubles, one ahead of Gorman and two more than Toerner.

Dylan Carlson and Justin Toerner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Hey! Where are ­­­­­­­­Edman and Garcia and …?

Before we continue with our regularly-scheduled program, it is worth stopping to explain why Edman and Garcia (and several others) fell short of the finalist list.

Edman was one of just two .300 hitters in April to miss out, due to his .837 OPS. Still, his eight doubles were most by any Cardinal and his four steals tied for most with three other players, including Kramer Robertson.

The other .300 hitter to miss the top 10 is Edman’s teammate Andrew Knizner, who batted .329, but fell short in SLG and OPS due to just four extra-base hits during the month.

Garcia is the epitome of feast or famine. Despite the home run and RBI leadership, the outfielder batted just .230 and was tops in the system with 30 strikeouts. Then again, the Memphis outfielder was also the only player in the organization with as many as two triples.


Rate stats – finalists

Hitter Tm AVG OBP SLG OPS BB% K% wRC+
Justin Toerner PB 0.394 0.531 0.549 1.081 20.8% 17.7% 223
Nolan Gorman Peo 0.325 0.389 0.650 1.039 8.9% 25.6% 189
Ivan Herrera Peo 0.268 0.404 0.537 0.940 17.3% 26.9% 166
Brady Whalen Peo 0.324 0.395 0.529 0.924 7.9% 18.4% 165
Irving Lopez Spr 0.266 0.363 0.557 0.920 8.7% 19.6% 142
John Nogowski Mem 0.275 0.435 0.464 0.899 19.6% 10.9% 129
Edmundo Sosa Mem 0.338 0.370 0.515 0.885 4.1% 17.6% 114
Julio Rodriguez PB 0.328 0.397 0.459 0.856 7.4% 17.6% 162
Dylan Carlson Spr 0.287 0.343 0.511 0.853 9.3% 17.6% 121
Kramer Robertson Spr 0.260 0.427 0.425 0.852 18.6% 13.4% 141

Toerner led the entire system in April batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, and with an amazing Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 223.

Toerner also had the highest walk rate in the system and was just one of three finalists who drew more free passes than struck out. (The others are Robertson and John Nogowski.)

Getting to my bottom line, any player who averages .394 over an entire month (including .421 with runners in scoring position) and reaches base at a rate that is nothing short of amazing at .531 – while competing in the big ballparks of the Florida State League – is most deserving of this honor.

In fact, that is the highest OBP of any player in all of Minor League Baseball (h/t TCN staffer Paul Ivice).

Nolan Gorman (Peoria Chiefs)

Gorman also had a tremendous month, obviously, ranking first in slugging and second in OPS and wRC+. Normally, a wRC+ of 189 would mean a landslide winner, but not this time. The third baseman’s only minor blemishes are a relatively low walk rate and a high strikeout rate.

But despite Gorman’s power-heavy showing, Toerner was no slouch in that department either. His SLG was third in the system behind Gorman and Springfield second baseman Irving Lopez.

Other April standouts include a pair who ranked second and third in the organization in OBP – Memphis first baseman Nogowski and Springfield shortstop Robertson, thanks in part due to their aforementioned ability to draw free passes.

Three hitters with OPSes over .900 are emerging players to watch closely – Peoria catcher Ivan Herrera, his first base teammate Brady Whalen and Lopez.


The Player of the Month

Justin Toerner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

When all is said and done, Justin Toerner is the winner of The Cardinal Nation’s April Player of the Month honors. The left-handed hitter, who bats leadoff for first-place Palm Beach, was hot from the very start, named the first Florida State League Player of the Week in 2019, covering the period of April 4-14.

After his selection by the Cardinals in the 28th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft, 843rd overall, the former Cal State Northridge star reported to short-season Class-A State College. Following 50 solid games in the New York-Penn League, with a .292 average and 11 steals, Toerner was jumped to Palm Beach.

In his initial 10 contests with the Beach Birds last August, Toerner performed even better, with a slash line of .300/.391/.425/.816. His next stop was to help Peoria out after injuries thinned their outfield. In the final week, he batted .500 and in two games in the Midwest League playoffs, he went 3-for-8 (.375).

Toerner is The Cardinal Nation’s 36th ranked prospect.


First-round strugglers

I do not normally draw attention to those players not doing well, but two drew attention to themselves. It was impossible not to notice the 41st and 42nd of the 42 qualifiers in OPS this past month. After all, both are former first-round draft picks of the Cardinals.

Hitter Tm AB H R 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS
Delvin Perez Peo 63 16 7 1 0 0 17 5 3 16 1 3
Nick Plummer PB 65 10 8 0 1 1 15 5 8 30 0 2
Hitter Tm AVG OBP SLG OPS BB% K% wRC+
Delvin Perez Peo 0.254 0.288 0.270 0.558 4.5% 24.2% 63
Nick Plummer PB 0.154 0.273 0.231 0.503 10.4% 39.0% 61

Peoria shortstop Delvin Perez managed just one extra-base hit all month, and coupled with a mere three walks, led to an OBP of .288 and a slugging percentage of .270.

Palm Beach’s Nick Plummer might be happy with Perez’ numbers. Known in the past for his plate discipline, the outfielder is striking out at an alarming 39 percent rate and no other qualifier had as few as his 10 hits in April, of which eight were singles.

Consistent with their hitting struggles were their results on the bases as the pair were a combined 1-for-5 in stolen base attempts.

May offers a time for both to turn the page.


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