All posts by Brian Walton

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

Cardinals Name Oliver “Oli” Marmol as Team’s 51st Manager

photo: Oliver Marmol via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this morning (Monday, October 25) that they have named Oliver “Oli” Marmol as the team’s manager, the 51st field manager in franchise history, and at age 35, the youngest since Marty Marion who piloted the team at age 34 in 1951.   Marmol served as the Cardinals bench coach the past three seasons (2019-21), and was the team’s first base coach from 2017-18.

“We are extremely pleased to name Oliver “Oli” Marmol as our new manager,” stated Cardinals’ Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Bill DeWitt, Jr.  “Oli is a career member of the Cardinals organization, and someone who has built excellent working relationships with our players, coaches and staff members at all levels.  We believe that he possesses strong managerial skills that will allow for the continued success of our team.”

Bill DeWitt Jr. via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Oli, who was born in New Jersey, and is of Dominican descent, becomes only the second minority to manage the Cardinals and the first since Cuban-born Mike González did so for parts of the 1938 and 1940 seasons.

“The entire organization felt that it was important to try and maintain the success, progress, and momentum that was built over the course of 2021 season,” said Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.  “We are excited to have Oli helping us to further grow that effort as we move forward.  Oli has always been someone that I knew would one day become a manager, and today I am pleased to join in introducing him as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.”

John Mozeliak via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Marmol spent five seasons (2012-16) managing in the Cardinals farm system, leading his teams to the postseason in four of those five seasons, including the New York-Penn League title in 2014 with State College.  Marmol’s teams were a combined 268-225 (.544), posting league-best 48-win seasons in both 2013 and 2014 at State College.

In 2015, his first season managing at Palm Beach, the Cardinals reached the Florida State League’s (A) postseason for the first time since 2008 when Oli was serving as the Palm Beach second baseman.

Oli’s first managerial experience came in 2012 with Johnson City, leading the rookie-league Cardinals to a 39-28 mark and a playoff appearance.  His first coaching position was as the hitting coach with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2011.

Marmol, who was drafted (6th round) by the Cardinals in 2007 as an infielder out of the College of Charleston (S.C.), finished his four-year (2007-2010) professional playing career at Palm Beach of the Class A Florida State League.   Oli was first drafted in 2004 by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla, but chose to attend college and did not sign.

Marmol was voted the recipient of the Cardinals organization’s prestigious George Kissell Award in 2013 for excellence in player development.

Oli, and his wife, Amber, have two daughters; Riley and Kylie.

Brian Walton’s take

Almost immediately on Sunday after the Cardinals informed media members of a 10:00 a.m. Monday announcement, word leaked out that Marmol was the choice. First was Katie Woo and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Given the organization’s importance of continuity and developing from within, Marmol had emerged from the start as the front-runner. He solidified that after discussions with Mr. DeWitt and Mr. Mozeliak.

Once the Zoom call began and the two team executives finished their prepared remarks and began fielding questions, several necessary balance points became clear.

Mozeliak said the “narrative is not accurate” of Marmol being a ‘yes man’ for the front office. He cited the importance of giving the manager the “resources” and “tools” to make the best decisions during games, but “not give the manager lineups or dictate who will close the game”.

Mozeliak said several times that Marmol would “bring his own voice, his own fingerprints” and would “have autonomy”. However, he also stressed the importance of synergy between the manager and departments “downstairs” like performance analysis and baseball development. Examples cited include sharing “why players were acquired and how to (best) use them” as well as the importance of “feedback loops”. Mo expects Marmol to “grow from what he saw” as bench coach.

Oliver Marmol via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Marmol mentioned that it was “shocking” to him that Mike Shildt was fired last week and cited the former manager as one of his three career mentors, along with Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque and retired field coordinator Mark DeJohn. Because the two had worked so closely together, getting the support of Shildt was “important” and “meaningful” to the new manager.  Marmol told me he would continue to “rely” on the trio in the future as well as others outside the game in the area of leadership.

Marmol has also spoken with four “core” team leaders – Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. He is looking forward to leading them and helping them to achieve their goals.

Communicating clearly, being a good listener and being observant are the most important parts of the job, said Marmol. He does not consider his relative youth a positive or negative, noting that “if a player knows you care”, “if you are prepared and help them get better”, then he will “have the respect of the club”.

In terms of the team’s goal, Marmol defined it is a “championship – anything less is a disappointment.” He specifically said that applies to 2022.

Asked about hitting coach Jeff Albert, Marmol harkened back to 2008, when their personal and baseball paths first crossed. The new skipper made it clear that “our philosophies align”. Marmol said they “will improve on messaging with players and getting them to do what we’d like them to do”.

I asked Mo about how they would balance organizational continuity with gaining external experience as they consider candidates to be the bench coach replacement for the 35-year-old Marmol. The PBO acknowledged the “value in an outside voice to improve our product” while noting they also have internal candidates for the opening. The job should not be open long, as the plan is to replace Marmol by the conclusion of the World Series.

For more

The full video of the Zoom call (courtesy of Charlie Marlow) is included for those who want to listen to every word. There was much information shared during the over-45-minute session.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

2021 Florida Complex League Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year

Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Cardinals Claim Rehabbing RHP Ljay Newsome

photo: Ljay Newsome (Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals’ ongoing search for relief pitching continued Friday afternoon, though their newest addition will not contribute until well into 2022.

The club claimed off waivers right-handed pitcher Ljay Newsome from the Seattle Mariners. The 24-year-old is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery (right UCL) conducted in late May, per the Post-Dispatch. That means Seattle’s 26th round draft pick from 2015 will miss at least part of the 2022 season.

Ljay Newsome

In 2021, Newsome only pitched the first month of the season before initially going on the 10-day injured list. In that time, the Maryland native made six relief appearances and one start with Seattle, logging a 7.98 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. In his 2020 MLB debut season, Newsome’s ERA was 5.17 in 15 2/3 frames.

As a Mariner, Newsome yielded nine home runs in those 30 1/3 innings while opposing batters hit a collective .310 against him. The short-armer is a strike-thrower with a walk rate of just 2.9% in his limited time with Seattle. His strikeout rate is a below average 18.2%, however.

Newsome features a plus changeup and below-average curveball to go with a fastball that is average at best in velocity (low 90s). He likely does not have the offerings to be a big-league starter but could later contribute in relief.

The Cardinals initially placed Newsome on the 60-day injured list, so they did not immediately have to drop another player to add him. However, all players on the 60-day IL must be returned to the 40-man roster following the World Series. At that time, spots are cleared by departing free agents.

With St. Louis, Newsome becomes the sixth player on the 60-day IL, five of whom are pitchers. He was first added to Seattle’s 40-man roster in August 2020 and has three option years remaining.


For more

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


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

St. Louis Cardinals Dismiss Manager Mike Shildt

photo: Mike Shildt via Zoom (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this afternoon (Thursday, October 14) that they have agreed to part ways with Manager Mike Shildt.

Mike Shildt (USA TODAY Sports Images)

“While these decisions are difficult, both parties agreed that philosophical differences related to the direction of the organization brought us to this conclusion,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. ”With just one year remaining on Mike’s contract, it was in everyone’s best interests that we address this now.”

Shildt, 53, was named the Cardinals interim manager on July 15, 2018 and had his interim title removed on August 28, 2018.  He spent 13 years (2004-16) in player development as a scout, coach and manager before joining the Cardinals Major League coaching staff in 2017.

In his three-plus seasons as the Cardinals Manager, Shildt posted a 252-199 won-loss record and was voted National League Manager of the Year in 2019 by the BBWAA.

Today’s announcement marks just the third managerial change for the Cardinals dating to 1996, when the team hired Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa.  Mike Matheny (2012-18) and Shildt (2018-21) have followed La Russa’s 16-year tenure in St. Louis that was capped off with a World Series title in 2011.

Brian Walton’s take

I join the many Cardinals followers who was surprised by the move. In a hastily called Thursday afternoon Zoom call hosted by Mozeliak and his boss, team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., the PBO called it a “dismissal” and “a baseball decision”.

The stated reason was “philosophical differences”. When asked to define the organization’s philosophy, Mozeliak said the organization has trust in creating a pipeline from the minors to the majors to grow internally. He went on to say they did not want to debate that, with the implication that Shildt did. Mozeliak added that Shildt was “very shocked” by the decision.

The rift appeared to come to a head in an internal organization meeting last Friday, and “the conclusions came quickly,” per Mozeliak. The situation “evolved rapidly” and the Cardinals “did not want it to drag into next week,” receiving permission for the unusual timing to make the announcement during the MLB post-season.

Hitting coach Jeff Albert is under contract for 2022 and is expected to return. A Post-Dispatch question about potential friction between the manager and hitting coach was de-emphasized as a factor in the firing. The other coaches from 2021 could return as well, though one might be in the big chair.

Mozeliak suggested they could have a replacement for Shildt within the next month and acknowledged that several internal candidates will be considered. Names were not offered, but first base coach Stubby Clapp has recent managerial success in Triple-A. Bench coach Oliver Marmol also managed in the minors but is a very close ally of Shildt. A number of external candidates could be on Mozeliak’s list. One up and coming name is former Cardinal Skip Schumaker, who was most recently associate manager for the San Diego Padres under another recently axed skipper, Jayce Tingler.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Arizona Fall League Interview – Nolan Gorman


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


Not yet a member?

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Cardinals Minor League Records in 2021 Reach New Low

The quantity of minor league teams and their locations change over time, but important consistency measures for the St. Louis Cardinals system over the last half-century have been to develop quality future major leaguers – while playing winning team baseball.

The former, the organization’s player pipeline to St. Louis, continues, though more narrowly on the pitching side currently.

However, the collective game results of the teams of over 200 players across the minor league system fell to a new low in 2021.

Since 1963, when the minor leagues were reorganized into the basic structure we know today with four full-season levels, the Cardinals system has never logged a year as poor as their collective .386 winning percentage this season.

This is a period of 57 years!

2021 recap – three views – full-season, US-only, entire system

In 2021, all four full-season clubs – Triple-A Memphis, Double-A Springfield, High-A Peoria and Low-A Palm Beach – posted losing records while finishing no better than fifth place in their respective divisions. The latter three were cellar-dwellers.

Team Memphis Springfield Peoria Palm Beach Full Season
Pct. 0.475 0.375 0.375 0.316 0.386
W 57 45 45 37 184
L 63 75 75 80 293
Place 5 5 6 5

This is the continuation of a recent trend. 2021 is the second consecutive campaign in which all four Cardinals full-season teams posted a losing record, with each team faring worse in 2021 than in 2019. (The 2020 season was not played.)

Including the other US-based club, the Florida Complex League Cardinals, does not alter the overall picture. The rookie-level Cardinals also finished in last place, though they were only five games under .500 (24-29).

Team FL Complex US total
Pct. 0.453 0.392
W 24 208
L 29 322
Place 5

The five US teams ended 2021 with a collective .392 winning percentage. That is 30th (last) of all 30 organizations. In fact, all of the other 29 organizations were above .400 this season, led by Tampa Bay at .648.

Taking a full organization view would include the two Dominican Summer League squads. The DSL Cardinals Red and Blue also posted losing records this season, with the full seven-squad Cardinals minor league system coming in at .396 in total.

Team DSL Blue DSL Red System
Pct. 0.356 0.474 0.396
W 21 27 256
L 38 30 390
Place 7 6

(Note that at least one national source, Baseball America, included in its totals the add-on final two weeks of Triple-A play, called the Triple-A Final Stretch. However, MiLB.com lists these results in the “post-season” category, separate from the regular season. Given the latter, the Final Stretch games are not included here, though in reality, Memphis’ 4-4 record would not change the bottom line, anyway.)

Historical perspective

As much as it would be easy to write this off as a one-year, COVID-driven blip, it is not. During the last prior “normal” minor league season, 2019, the Cardinals system’s winning percentage was 29th of 30 organizations. So, 2021 is a continuation of a downward trend.

A major difference from 2019 is due to the game-wide contraction of the minor leagues. With two fewer short-season levels in the system starting this year, the Cardinals had to develop a new strategy in advancing players – directly from the Florida Complex League to Class-A, what previously would have been a three-step jump. Of course, there was an effect on the teams above, as well.

While the basics of contraction are not unique to the Cardinals, the follow-on approach may vary. Organization officials point out that their system is young compared to its competitors, which is true. It is in part reflecting the home-grown approach taken in building the system.

Staffers also note that the Cardinals pushed a number of younger players ahead who ultimately did not catch up to the competition at their assigned level. While the short-term results may not have been as desired, the experience will better prepare these challenged players for the future.

Further, many other organizations sign large numbers of minor league journeymen to augment upper-level rosters. The Cardinals did not do this – until bringing in a number of independent league players during the 2021 season to try to fill depth gaps, primarily on the pitching side.

Specifically, pitching was the Cardinals system downfall in 2021 as all four full-season affiliates registered team ERAs of over 5.00.

Yet relative youth may not be a new theme. For example, the Memphis roster has stacked up young in age versus its Triple-A league competitors in recent seasons, but with much better comparative results on the field in the past.

Memphis Redbirds recent history (compared to league)

  • 2021 – youngest hitting and pitching – fifth place finish
  • (2020 – no season)
  • 2019 – youngest hitting and pitching – second place finish
  • 2018 – youngest hitting and pitching in the middle of the pack – WON the league
  • 2017 – second youngest hitting and youngest pitching – WON the league

In future articles, I will dig further into the relative age matter at the various levels over time.

The trend downward

The Cardinals haven’t always played losing baseball. Far from it.

From a longer-term perspective, before the recent downturn, the Cardinals system was a consistent winner on the field, logging eight aggregate over-.500 seasons in the nine years from 2010 through 2018.

However, the current trend is concerning. The system was .550 in 2018, .463 in 2019 and now .396 in 2021.

According to national prospect talent analysts, in comparative rankings, the Cardinals system has fallen into the 20 (Baseball America) to 21 (MLB Pipeline) range of the 30 organizations – after consistently placing in the top half over the last 10 years.

In 2021, the Cardinals system was shut out of the playoffs for the first time since 2015. However, an asterisk is required. 2021 became a more restricted environment than usual. Not only are there two fewer levels than before, Triple-A did not have a traditional post-season, nor did the rookie levels. Playoffs at Double-A, High-A and Class-A included just the two league teams with the best regular-season records – a much narrower field than previously.

Prior to 2021, the last time every Cardinals affiliate finished with a losing record was two decades ago. In 2001, the then-total of six minor league clubs each came in under .500, posting a collective .423 winning percentage.

As noted above, the sub-.400 results for the organization in 2021, no matter how one considers it (full-season, US-only or total system), established a new Cardinals low since at least 1963 – and perhaps all-time.

What is next?

For members of The Cardinal Nation, we will look at records and ages at each level of the system, comparing 2021 to prior seasons.


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Cardinals Lose Top Player Development Assistant

photo: Tony Ferreira (LinkedIn)

The St. Louis Cardinals player development function, responsible for the minor league system, has some big shoes to fill, finding a replacement for a key position that hasn’t been open in over a decade.

Manager of Player Development Tony Ferreira has left the Cardinals organization. The long-time right-hand man to Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque moved to the Los Angeles Angels with his new title assistant director of player development.

Trying to describe Ferreira’s role with the Cardinals is challenging. Essentially, it was to do anything needed to ensure players are where they need to be and ready to play, whether schedules, rosters, logistics or payments – while on call basically 24/7.

“It is a great opportunity for him, no question about it,” LaRocque said. “Tony’s time here made a big, big difference for the player development staff and the players. You know the kind of work he did. He is always engaged; he loves his work and really made a difference over the last 10 to 12 years.”

Perhaps the best way to indicate Ferrera’s value to the organization is to remember how he was recognized.

For the 2019 season, Ferreira received the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the Cardinals system. This top organization honor is voted upon by minor league managers, coaches and staff. In over two decades, it was only the second time a non-uniformed individual received the Award.

The farm director speaks highly of his former lieutenant, who joined the organization around the same time as he did, in 2008.

“That (the Kissell Award) was so well earned because for so many years, Tony had been right there and led us through everything,” LaRocque said. “As an administrator, he had to handle all of it. He did a great job with it.”

The Cardinals’ loss is the Angels’ gain.

Read more about the Kissell Award here:

Ferreira Receives 2019 Cardinals George Kissell Award

The organization plans to post the position to find Ferreira’s replacement. In the short-term, others including LaRocque and Director of International Operations and Administration Luis Morales (located in Jupiter) are helping to pick up the slack.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

2021 Peoria Chiefs Starting Pitcher of the Year


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

St. Louis Cardinals Add Juan Yepez to Wild Card Roster

photo: Juan Yepez (Memphis Redbirds)

Entering Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game in Los Angeles, the St. Louis Cardinals were required to submit a roster of 26 active players for the contest. With the team having ended the season with 28, changes would be required.

With Adam Wainwright scheduled to start against the Dodgers and at least four pitchers with significant starting experience available out of the bullpen (Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and Kwang-Hyun Kim), the Cardinals excluded starters J.A. Happ, Jon Lester and Jake Woodford from Wednesday eligibility. If the Cardinals advance, the former two, if not all three, would likely join the NL Division Series roster.

The club also added a hitter to the 40-man and 26-man active rosters for the first time, corner infielder/outfielder Juan Yepez. The 23-year-old brings a potent bat, likely off the bench as a right-handed pinch-hitter.

Juan Yepez

Rather than repeat the 2021 highlights of the Cardinals’ system’s breakout player here, check out Tuesday’s story:

Memphis Redbirds Yepez and Liberatore are Triple-A East All-Stars

Having just been named to the Triple-A East Division All-Star Team on Tuesday has to pale in comparison to potentially making team history on Wednesday.

The Cardinals only moved the schedule ahead a few weeks by adding Yepez to the 40-man roster now. The 2021 breakout hitter would have to be placed their by November anyway to avoid being eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft. Surely the organization wants to keep him.

Elledge, 25, was acquired while a Double-A player from Seattle for Sam Tuivailala in July 2018. The Dallas, Texas native made his St. Louis and MLB debuts on August 16, 2020, a day after having been added to the 40-man roster.

Seth Elledge

This season, the right-hander was called up to St. Louis from  Memphis three times and returned to Triple-A each time. In total, Elledge pitched 11 1/3 innings over 11 games with the Cardinals, logging a 4.63 ERA. He fanned 11 but walked seven and opposing hitters batted .302 against him.

As he has been designated for assignment, in the next seven days, Elledge could be claimed by another organization off outright waivers, traded, released or perhaps more likely, outrighted to Triple-A to remain in the organization.

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

2021 Palm Beach Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year

Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale

Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Memphis Redbirds Yepez and Liberatore are Triple-A East All-Stars

photo: Matthew Liberatore (Memphis Redbirds)

On Tuesday, October 5, Minor League Baseball announced its 2021 All-Star rosters for the two Triple-A leagues. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Memphis Redbirds affiliate, which competes in the 20-team East League, secured two coveted berths on the 12-man squad, and also features the top managers, pitcher, hitter and MLB prospect.

The Memphis representatives are first baseman Juan Yepez and left-handed starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore. Yepez is The Cardinal Nation’s 14th-ranked prospect. Liberatore is no. 2 (after Nolan Gorman).

Juan Yepez

Yepez, 23, who was rewarded with selection by St. Louis for the Wild Card Game, was promoted to Triple-A on June 1 after hitting five long balls the first month at Double-A Springfield. With the Redbirds, the corner infielder/outfielder blasted 22 more out of the park, with his total of 27 leading the entire Cardinals system in 2021.

Yepez’ .589 SLG and .971 OPS with Memphis led the East League.

He also paced the organization with his 29 doubles, 77 RBI, .586 slugging and .959 OPS this season and was the consensus (per the Cardinals organization and The Cardinal Nation) system-wide Player of the Month for the month of August.

Matthew Liberatore

After skipping two levels to open 2021, Liberatore took some lumps early in his Triple-A debut, so his 9-9 record with a 4.04 ERA may not look spectacular. However, the 21-year-old progressively improved during the season and finished strongly.

Specifically, over his last 10 appearances, since August 1, Liberatore posted an ERA of 2.67 while averaging 6 2/3 innings in the seven games in which he started.

Both Triple-A All-Stars should report to 2022 spring training camp as strong competitors to earn their first major league roster spots.

Here are all of the Triple-A honorees:

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

2021 Palm Beach Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year

Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

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

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale

Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Cardinals Invite Eight to 2021 Arizona Fall League

photo: Jordan Hicks (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals today (Tuesday, September 28) announced eight players have been selected to participate in the 2021 Arizona Fall League (AFL) season.  The list of players is highlighted by Major League reliever Jordan Hicks and outfielder Lars Nootbaar, top 10 prospects Nolan Gorman and Zack Thompson, and minor leaguers Brendan DonovanAndre PallanteJake Walsh and Juan Yepez.  All eight players will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs, whose roster consists of players from the Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.

Dean Kiekhefer (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Additionally, Palm Beach pitching coach Dean Kiekhefer and Springfield athletic trainer Chris Whitman have been assigned to serve in those same positions for Glendale.  The Desert Dogs will play their home games at Camelback Ranch, the spring training home of the White Sox and Dodgers, in Glendale, Arizona.

The six-team AFL will begin its 29th season on Wednesday, October 13, with each team playing a 30-game schedule.  The League’s annual Fall Stars Game will be played on Saturday, November 13, while the AFL Championship Game is scheduled for Saturday, November 20, both of which will air live on MLB Network as well as streaming on MLB.com and in the MLB app.

Recent Cardinals to participate in the Arizona Fall League include Kodi Whitley (2019), Tommy Edman (2018), Jordan Hicks (2017), Andrew Knizner (2017), Edmundo Sosa (2017), Harrison Bader (2016), and Paul DeJong (2016).

A brief description of this year’s player selections and the full 2021 AFL schedule follow below.  League information, including scores, standings and statistics, can be found at mlb.com/AFL.

 

INF Brendan Donovan                      .311/.404/.464/.869, 20 2B, 12 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB (30 G in AAA, 50 G in AA, 25 G in A+)

  • Ranked as the 15th best prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America.
  • Selected in the 7thround of the 2018 MLB Draft from the University of South Alabama.
  • Hit for a .313 average and .946 OPS in 30 games played at Triple-A Memphis this season.

Brendan Donovan

INF Nolan Gorman                                                                 .280/.333/.484/.817, 19 2B, 25 HR, 75 RBI (74 G in AAA, 43 G in AA)

  • Ranked as the number one prospect in the Cardinals organization by MLB Pipeline and 25thoverall in MLB.
  • Selected in the 1stround (19th overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Sandra Day O’Connor HS in Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Named the starting third baseman and batted third for the National League in the 2021 MLB Futures Game.
  • Since being promoted to Memphis on June 29, has started 65 of 74 games at second base.

Nolan Gorman

RHP Jordan Hicks                                                                                 0-0, 10.0 IP, 5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10 SO, 10 BB (10 G in MLB)

  • Limited to 10 games with Cardinals after landing on the Injured List on May 4 with right elbow inflammation.
  • Began a rehab assignment with the Memphis Redbirds on September 25.
  • Underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2019; did not play in 2020 season.

Jordan Hicks

OF Lars Nootbaar                                                                                             .230/.310/.430/.740, 5 HR, 14 RBI (54 G, 21 GS in MLB)

  • Made his Major League debut on June 22 at Detroit. Has been on the MLB roster since July 30.
  • Selected in the 8thround of the 2018 MLB Draft from the University of Southern California.
  • Hit .308 with 6 HR, 19 RBI and a .900 OPS in 35 games for Triple-A Memphis this year.

Lars Nootbaar

RHP Andre Pallante                                                                             4-7, 94.1 IP, 3.82 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 84 SO, 43 BB (21 GS in AA)

  • Selected in the 4thround of the 2019 MLB Draft from the University of California-Irvine.
  • Led all Springfield starting pitchers with a 3.82 ERA across 94.1 innings pitched.
  • Promoted from Springfield to Memphis on September 20.

Andre Pallante

LHP Zack Thompson (23.335)                                          2-10, 93.0 IP, 7.06 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 82 SO, 57 BB (22 G, 19 GS in AAA)

  • Ranked as the 8th best prospect in the Cardinals organization by MLB Pipeline.
  • Selected in the 1stround (19th overall) of the 2019 MLB Draft from the University of Kentucky.
  • Started his first full minor league season in Triple-A Memphis at age 23.

Zack Thompson

RHP Jake Walsh                                                                               2-1, 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 25 SO, 5 BB (13 G in AA)

  • Ranked as the 23rd best prospect in the Cardinals organization by Baseball America.
  • Selected in the 16thround of the 2017 MLB Draft from Florida Southern College.
  • Named Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May.
  • Was on the Injured List from June 19 through September 3.

Jake Walsh

INF/OF Juan Yepez                                                                 .279/.376/.575/.951, 27 2B, 26 HR, 74 RBI (89 G in AAA, 19 G in AA)

  • Acquired by the Cardinals from the Atlanta Braves in May 2017 in exchange for Matt Adams and cash.
  • Named Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month in August.
  • Among qualified Triple-A players, ranks 2ndin slugging percentage (.643) since July 6.

Juan Yepez

Brian Walton’s take

Excellent selections, all.

It will be interesting to see if Thompson or Pallante will be starting for the Desert Dogs, but roles can and do evolve during the AFL campaign. Also, will Hicks close or just throw an inning a week, for example?

Also to watch is who will be the Cardinals priority player – the one who will receive four or five starts per week. The likely choice will be Gorman, though Nootbaar should play often as well.

Donovan and Yepez emerged as top prospect hitters this season, finishing with Memphis and Walsh began and finished 2021 strongly, but missed most of the year in between. That injury recovery makes him a prime AFL selection along with Hicks.

Current TCN Top Prospect Rankings

MLB closer Hicks will be joined by six members of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 20 prospects on the 2021 Glendale Desert Dogs.

  • Hicks – graduated
  • Gorman – no. 1
  • Thompson – no. 6
  • Pallante – no. 12
  • Yepez – no. 14
  • Nootbaar – no. 15
  • Donovan – no. 17
  • Walsh – unranked

TCN’s Monthly Cardinals Top 50 Prospect Rankings – September 2021

What is next?

Every morning through the entire Arizona Fall League season, The Cardinal Nation will run free recaps of the prior day’s game and top performers. In addition, Brian Walton will again report directly from the AFL with news from and about the eight Cardinals participants. For the full details, with depth you won’t find elsewhere, join The Cardinal Nation today!

For more

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

Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

St. Louis Activates Two Starting Pitchers on Friday

photo: Jack Flaherty (Jeff Curry/Imagn)

On Friday, September 24, pitchers Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson were activated off St. Louis Cardinals injured lists and Brandon Waddell was optioned to Memphis.

Jack Flaherty

The ace of the St. Louis Cardinals staff was activated from the 10-day injured list on Friday. His double-header Game 2 start in Chicago will be his 15th start of the season (and 90th of his career).

Jack Flaherty

This was Flaherty’s second IL stint in 2021. He first missed 60 games (June 1-August 12) with a left oblique strain in May and 28 additional games this time around (August 25-September 23) after suffering a right shoulder strain.

Brandon Waddell

In order to make room on the active roster for Flaherty, left-handed pitcher Brandon Waddell was returned to Memphis.

Brandon Waddell

This time up with St. Louis, since Monday, September 20, Waddell did not pitch in game action.

Dakota Hudson

The Cardinals selected right-handed pitcher Dakota Hudson as the 29th man for their Friday doubleheader in Chicago. In order to do so, he first had to be moved off the 60-day injured list, using the final open spot created when Daniel Ponce de Leon was outrighted (and subsequently released) this week.

Hudson will be making his 2021 debut after missing the season to date as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old had a long stretch of five rehab appearances, finishing with Memphis, and yielded just two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings.

Dakota Hudson

For Saturday and onward, the Cardinals will have to option out another player so Hudson can remain with St. Louis.

Update

The Cardinals optioned out Jake Woodford on Friday, but recalled him on Saturday when reliever Justin Miller was returned to the 10-day injured list with continued problems with his right elbow.

Justin Miller


For more

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


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


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Brendan Donovan Named Triple-A East Player of the Week

photo: Brendan Donovan (Springfield Cardinals)

Just three weeks into the Triple-A phase of his career, Memphis Redbirds infielder Brendan Donovan has been named the Player of the Week for the period of September 6-12 in the Triple-A East League, which consists of 20 teams.

Brendan Donovan

The 24-year-old was trouble in the six-game series in Nashville, batting .474 including three multi-hit games and two home runs. The left-handed hitter plated eight, scored eight runs and stole three bases.

Courtesy of MLB.com, here is Donovan’s slash line last week.

.474/.583/.842, 6 G, 19 AB, 8 R, 9 H, 1 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 3 SO, 3 SB

Memphis is the third stop of 2021 for St. Louis’ seventh-round draft pick in 2018. Donovan began the season at High-A Peoria and was promoted from there and Double-A Springfield. He is The Cardinal Nation’s 17th-ranked prospect.

Exclusive for Members of The Cardinal Nation

Florida Complex League Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 11

Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

Now available, The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth scouting detail and commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos and history information you cannot find anywhere else.

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


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Cardinals Remove Brandon Dickson from Rosters

photo: Brandon Dickson (USA Baseball)

On Monday, September 6, the St. Louis Cardinals quietly activated left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller from the 10-day injured lost. To make room on the 28-man active roster, pitcher Brandon Dickson was designated for assignment.

On Wednesday, the club disclosed that Dickson has cleared waivers (was not claimed by another organization) and has been outrighted to Memphis (taken off the 40-man roster but remaining with the organization).

At this point, the next use of that 40-man spot is unknown. It could be allocated to a prospect not yet on the 40-man (Matthew Liberatore, for example) or to a player currently on the 60-day injured list who is nearing activation (Dakota Hudson, for example).

In an unrelated move, reliever Justin Miller officially began his rehab with Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday.

Dickson

Dickson, who had a 9.58 ERA in his 11 appearances with the Triple-A Redbirds this season, was elevated to St. Louis and placed on the 40-man roster on September 1. Prior to that, he earned a silver medal with Team USA in the 2021 Summer Olympics.

Brandon Dickson

With St. Louis, the 36-year-old pitched an inning each in two games, allowing three earned runs on five hits for a 13.50 ERA.

Andrew Miller

The 36-year-old, who has a 6.78 ERA in 35 appearances this season, went back on the injured list on August 27 with a left foot blister.

Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller, who is playing out the final weeks of his three-year, $35 million contract, has been reduced to pitching in low-leverage situations in 2021. This is his second foot blister bad enough to require an injured list move this season. One has been on each foot.

Justin Miller

The 34-year-old right-handed reliever had been placed on the 10-day injured list on August 18 due to right ulnar nerve irritation.

Justin Miller

Justin Miller has a 6.00 ERA in 12 innings, 14 appearances, since joining St. Louis via a waiver claim from the Washington Nationals on July 3.


For more

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


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Peoria Chiefs Notebook – 2021 Week 18

Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

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

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Cardinals Recall Woodford, Move Fernandez to IL

photo: Jake Woodford (Memphis Redbirds)

Prior to Friday night’s series opener in Milwaukee, the St. Louis Cardinals placed right-handed relief pitcher Junior Fernández on the 10-day Injured List due to a right shoulder strain. The transaction is retroactive to September 2, after Fernandez had to leave the team’s contest the night before.

Fernandez is the 10th Cardinal on the injured list, nine of whom are pitchers. The 24-year-old has been a regular rider on the I-55 shuttle, with his fifth and most recent recall from Memphis having occurred on August 25. Fernandez 2021 ERAs are 6.28 with Memphis and 5.66 with St. Louis.

Junior Fernandez

The corresponding move is the recall of right-handed pitcher Jake Woodford from Triple-A Memphis. In four starts since he was last sent down, on August 1, Woodford posted a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings, struck out 17 and logged two quality starts. At this point, the role Woodford will play going forward is unclear.

This will be Woodford’s fourth stint with St. Louis this season after he made the team out of spring training but was first sent down on April 11. For the season, Woodford’s ERAs are 4.50 with Memphis and 5.08 with St. Louis.

Jake Woodford

Friday minor league transactions

The big day for pitchers whose name starts with “J” continued – especially for Jakes – though Ramon Santos must not have received the memo.

On Friday, the Cardinals organization also announced three other player moves, including the pitcher to replace Woodford on the Memphis roster.

  • RHP Ramon Santos promoted to Memphis from Springfield
  • RHP Jake Walsh activated from Springfield’s 7-day IL
  • LHP Jacob Schlesener placed on Peoria’s Temporarily Inactive List

Santos

In a story of persistence, Santos, who is in his 10th year in the Cardinals system, has reached Triple-A for the first time. His career stalled after he earned mid-season All-Star honors in the Texas League in 2018, but he has made major strides in 2021.

As noted in our Pitcher of the Month article, Santos is coming off a strong August for Springfield, posting a 1.56 ERA in long relief. Santos fanned 21 in 17 1/3 innings, but also walked 13.

Ramon Santos

In 67 2/3 innings this season between Palm Beach and Memphis, Santos has crafted a 2.79 ERA, with 102 strikeouts and 40 walks. Opposing hitters are batting a collective .173 against his offerings.

Walsh

The last we heard from Walsh, he was coming off having been named The Cardinal Nation’s system-wide Pitcher of the Month for May. The 26-year-old logged a smart 1.29 ERA in nine relief appearances totaling 14 innings.

The Cardinal Nation’s May 2021 Pitcher of the Month – Jake Walsh

Jake Walsh

Walsh last appeared in game action on May 30, but for reasons not clear, was not placed on the seven-day IL until June 19.

Schlesener

Being placed on the temporarily inactive list essentially means that Schlesener has an excused absence from work to attend to a personal matter.

Jacob Schlesener

In his second partial year with Peoria, but first at High-A, the 24-year-old has exhibited continued but worsening control issues. Schlesener has walked a whopping 58 batters in 47 1/3 innings this season, for a career-worst BB rate of 11.0 per nine innings. This has negated much of the value of his 69 strikeouts, as evidenced by his 7.61 ERA.

Schlesener was an above-slot high school signing taken in the 12th round back in 2015.


For more

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


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 17


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

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

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


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The Cardinal Nation’s August 2021 Pitcher of the Month – Austin Warner

photo: Austin Warner (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

It is a great pleasure to again select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system. This article covers play during August across the four full-season affiliates and three short-season rookie level clubs.

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

Among our group of 11 finalists, Memphis left-hander Austin Warner logged the lowest batting average against and WHIP and the best highest strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 27-year-old, who is in his first season a reliever, edged out a number of starters as well as peer bullpenners to become our Pitcher of the Month.

Austin Warner

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

Guidelines

To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 12 innings during August. To make the list of finalists, an ERA below 3.00 was required.  The group broke out into five with ERAs between 1.00 and 1.99 and six between 2.00 and 2.99.

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 SO9 SO/W
Austin Warner MEM 0.154 1 0.52 4.7 1.2 0.0 8.2 inf.
Diorys Guerrero DSL Red 0.180 0 0.80 5.9 0.7 1.3 13.8 10.5
Enmanuel Solano PEO 0.191 1 1.17 5.9 1.3 4.6 5.3 1.1
John Beller PB 0.194 2 1.21 6.6 0.5 4.3 12.3 2.9
Hancel Rincon DSL Blue 0.197 1 0.95 6.3 0.0 2.3 8.1 3.6
Ramon Santos SPR 0.200 1 1.44 6.2 0.0 6.8 10.9 1.6
Angel Rondon MEM 0.214 1 1.15 6.9 1.7 3.4 6.9 2.0
Wilfredo Pereira PEO 0.215 0 1.33 7.5 0.8 4.5 11.6 2.6
Matthew Liberatore MEM 0.240 0 1.14 8.2 1.1 2.1 8.5 4.0
Gordon Graceffo PB 0.254 2 1.28 9.0 0.0 2.5 13.0 5.2
Engels Martinez DSL Red 0.306 0 1.54 10.4 0.0 3.5 5.5 1.6

Six of the seven affiliates are represented among the finalists, with only the Florida Complex Cardinals missing out. (In fairness, one must remember that the FCL active roster currently includes a whopping 25 pitchers, so accruing a lot of innings is not the goal there. Many of these hurlers are 2021 draft picks, often throwing just one inning at a time as their first-year workload is carefully managed.)

It is here that Warner’s success becomes clear. The left-hander registered the lowest batting average against (and lowest hit rate per nine innings), and the lowest walk rate (none). So, it only follows that his WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) will also be lowest.

To help put this into perspective, the WHIP of the entire Memphis staff (the best in the Cardinals system this season) is 1.48 (which Includes Warner). His August WHIP is barely one-third of that.

The Redbirds staff batting average against is .266, with Warner’s August mark of .154 a whopping 122 points better.

In the walk department, it is impossible to be better than issuing none. That makes his strikeout to walk ratio infinite. But even if he had walked one batter last month, his K/BB ratio still would have been best.

Warner’s only wart was allowing two home runs, while four finalists yielded none. But the damage to Warner by these long balls was limited.

His strikeout rate was in the middle of the pack of the finalists, with Dominican Summer League Red starter Diorys Guerrero’s 13.8 K/9 rate standing above the other 10.

Diorys Guerrero

In a mixed role for Palm Beach, first-year professional hurler Gordon Graceffo was close behind with a strong 13.0 K/9 showing last month.

Gordon Graceffo

Counting stats

None of the 11 finalists posted an August ERA under 1.00, but five came in under 2.00. Our winner would ideally come from this latter group, and it did.

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

Pitcher Team W L ERA G GS Sv SVO IP H R ER HR BB SO
Diorys Guerrero DSL Red 2 0 1.32 3 2 0 0 13.2 9 2 2 1 2 21
Hancel Rincon DSL Blue 0 1 1.35 4 4 0 0 20 14 4 3 0 5 18
Gordon Graceffo PB 1 0 1.50 7 1 1 1 18 18 5 3 0 5 26
Ramon Santos SPR 1 2 1.56 7 0 0 0 17.1 12 7 3 0 13 21
Austin Warner MEM 0 0 1.76 9 0 1 1 15.1 8 3 3 2 0 14
Engels Martinez DSL Red 0 2 2.08 5 2 0 0 13 15 6 3 0 5 8
Angel Rondon MEM 1 0 2.30 3 3 0 0 15.2 12 9 4 3 6 12
John Beller PB 0 1 2.37 4 4 0 0 19 14 6 5 1 9 26
Wilfredo Pereira PEO 0 2 2.63 5 5 0 0 24 20 10 7 2 12 31
Enmanuel Solano PEO 1 0 2.63 9 0 0 0 13.2 9 5 4 2 7 8
Matthew Liberatore MEM 2 2 2.84 4 4 0 0 25.1 23 11 8 3 6 24

I have to admit that had I led with these stats instead of the rate stats, it would have been easy to select one of the two DSL starting pitchers for this award. The numbers registered by Guerrero and Hansel Rincon are exceptional, but there is more to selecting a winner than just taking the lowest ERA.

Ramon Santos has been very strong out of a Springfield pen that really needed some relief, but his 13 walks in 17 1/3 innings made for the highest free pass rate from among our finalists.

Ramon Santos

Among the over 2.00 finalists, Memphis’ Angel Rondon was finally hitting on all cylinders before hitting the injured list in the final week of the month. It is really too bad as he might have put himself in position to get a second shot with St. Louis during the final month.

Angel Rondón

His teammate Matthew Liberatore is pitching deeper into games and is solidifying his case to compete for a role with St. Louis next spring. But as good as the organization’s top pitching prospect was last month, it wasn’t quite good enough to win in this analysis.

Matthew Liberatore

One final name to call out. Palm Beach starter John Beller put together a strong August across the board, but with his 2.30 ERA was shielded from nine walks issued and five unearned runs scored during his stints.

John Beller

TCN’s Pitcher of the Month

Austin Warner (Memphis Redbirds)

The winner of The Cardinal Nation’s August Pitcher of the Month hailed from Bellarmine College in Kentucky, with his four years of starting concluded in 2016. The lefty went undrafted, later acquired by St. Louis in June 2017 after catching eyes pitching for River City in independent ball in both 2016 and 2017.

Working exclusively as a starter in the Cardinals system, Warner earned mid-season All-Star recognition in High-A in 2017 and Double-A in 2019. Though it looked like he would sit out in 2020, Warner joined St. Louis’ alternate camp in mid-September. He continued to tune up for his return this season with a stint for Panama in the 2021 Caribbean Series (2.25 ERA in four innings).

The Louisville native scored a non-roster invitation to St. Louis’ spring training camp for the second consecutive spring before returning to Memphis to open 2021. Warner had started in 11 games for the Triple-A club in 2019, but has worked primarily from the bullpen this season, with three spot starts sprinkled in, as well.

Warner has excelled in his relatively new relief role and should be congratulated for his fine August.

Last month’s winner this month

Our July honoree was starter Edgar Manzo of Palm Beach. In August, the script for the 20-year-old right-hander flipped entirely. Manzo made five appearances including four starts and was bombed for 20 runs, all earned, on 30 hits in just 18 1/3 innings for a 9.82 ERA.

Update

Late Friday afternoon, the Cardinals organization announced their corresponding awards for August. Predictably, their pitching choice is their top mound prospect, Matthew Liberatore.

Link to related article

The Cardinal Nation August 2021 Player of the Month – Juan Yepez

What is next

The Cardinals organization should announce its corresponding winners of Player and Pitcher of the Month any day, as well.


For more

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


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 17


Now Available – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

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

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


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

The Cardinal Nation August 2021 Player of the Month – Juan Yepez

photo: Juan Yepez (Memphis Redbirds)

It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This covers play during August across the St. Louis Cardinals’ four full-season minor league affiliates and their three rookie-level clubs.

Some months, the data is inconclusive, with a number of standouts each having a good case to be our choice as the Player of the Month. That is not the case in August.

With no suspense whatsoever, Memphis utilityman Juan Yepez is our selection. When you review the comparative data, you will see why there can be no debate.

Juan Yepez

In addition to the significant accomplishments of the winner, we will note other offensive standouts during the month, as well.

Guidelines

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

To qualify, a player must have had at least 50 plate appearances in August. To make the list of finalists, which numbers nine, an OPS over .800 was required. In admirable balance, all seven minor league teams are represented by one or more finalists.

We will take two views of the data. 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.

Rate stats – finalists

Hitter Team AVG OBP SLG OPS
Juan Yepez MEM 0.355 0.453 0.763 1.216
Nolan Gorman MEM 0.316 0.364 0.561 0.926
Thomas Francisco PB 0.333 0.434 0.492 0.926
Romtres Cabrera DSL Red 0.283 0.415 0.491 0.906
Noah Mendlinger PB 0.313 0.459 0.438 0.896
Chandler Redmond PEO/SPR 0.300 0.337 0.533 0.870
Nick Plummer SPR/MEM 0.244 0.426 0.439 0.865
Maycol Justo DSL Blue 0.362 0.429 0.420 0.849
Luis Montano FCL 0.313 0.340 0.500 0.840

As you can see, the discussion is over before it starts. Not only is Yepez tops in slugging and OPS, he is also second in batting average and on-base percentage. Look at the margins to the next-best hitter.

  • Slugging – 202 points ahead of teammate Nolan Gorman
  • OPS – 290 points ahead of Gorman and Thomas Francisco

In the two second-place categories, here is how close the Venezuelan native was to making a clean sweep:

  • Batting average – just 7 points (.007) behind the leader
  • On-base percentage – just 6 points (.006) behind the leader

In addition to the seven finalists batting .300 or better in August, Florida Complex League shortstop Jeremy Rivas batted .313 (.748 OPS). With a handful more plate appearances each, two of Rivas’ teammates, Adanson Cruz (.314 and .899 OPS) and Hansel Otamendi (.302 and .804) would have joined the finalists.

Non-drafted free agent Noah Mendlinger had a strong August at Palm Beach. The former Georgia College infielder batted .313 and walked an amazing 50% more often than he struck out (12 to 8). Put that together and the first-year player posted a system-best .459 OBP last month.

Noah Mendlinger

It is always difficult to put into full context stats generated in rookie leagues, and that is especially the case for the Dominican Summer League. Then again, the pitchers are of similar skill and development and a .362 batting average deserves attention wherever and whenever it is compiled. 18-year-old switch-hitting shortstop Maycol Justo of the DSL Blue posted that mark in August.

Maycol Justo

And we cannot take for granted the top prospect in the Cardinals system. Infielder Nolan Gorman’s slugging of .559 and OPS of .926 would have been enough to take this award many months. As it was, he was second to Yepez in both categories as he was in home runs and RBI (see below).

Nolan Gorman

Counting stats – finalists

Hitter Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR  RBI BB SO SB CS
Juan Yepez MEM 23 76 17 27 10 0 7 22 14 13 0 0
Nolan Gorman MEM 25 98 19 31 4 1 6 18 7 21 1 0
Thomas Francisco PB 19 63 9 21 4 0 2 10 8 13 1 0
Romtres Cabrera DSL Red 16 53 15 15 2 3 1 8 6 22 6 3
Noah Mendlinger PB 18 48 7 15 4 1 0 4 12 8 0 1
Chandler Redmond PEO/SPR 23 90 12 27 6 0 5 15 4 39 0 1
Nick Plummer SPR/MEM 25 82 16 20 5 1 3 9 22 32 4 2
Maycol Justo DSL Blue 18 69 12 25 1 0 1 5 5 14 2 3
Luis Montano FCL 13 48 9 15 3 0 2 5 2 14 2 0

The Yepez Show continues with his finalist-leading (and system-leading) double, home run and RBI totals. At least as impressive to me as his 10 doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBI is his walk count of 14 exceeding his strikeout total of 13.

Second to Yepez in two-base hits is Peoria’s Tyler Reichenborn. Oddly, eight of the outfielder’s 10 August hits were doubles.

Given the rarity of the triple, it should not be surprising that three in a month posted by DSL Red outfielder Romtres Cabrera topped the system. The outfielder also swiped six bags in nine tries, third in the system after Peoria teammates Masyn Winn (12 of 14, .507 OPS) and Jordan Walker (8-for-8, .730 OPS).

Romtres Cabrera

Memphis infielder Kramer Robertson’s 20 runs scored led the Cardinals system last month.

August promotions taken

At least five hitting prospects moved up a level during August. Two did not miss a beat, one continued to be solid, while two others, Jacob Buchberger and Matt Koperniak, may need a little more time adjusting to High-A and Double-A, respectively.

Brendan Donovan had a very solid OPS of .770 at Springfield and improved it to .797 in his first shot at Memphis, but that left the infielder short of finalist qualification.

A shout out is warranted on behalf of Chandler Redmond. Unlike many others who take some time to acclimate to a new, higher level of play, the infielder continued to produce offensively, with an .857 OPS in his first partial month with Springfield. Redmond’s overall slugging of .533 was third in the system as was his total of five home runs in August.

Chandler Redmond

The fifth and final promotee of note is also our prior Player of the Month.

Last month’s winner this month

The Cardinal Nation’s July Player of the Month, Nick Plummer, like Yepez is one of the biggest breakout stories of the system in 2021, having also become a professional in 2015.

St. Louis’ first-round draft pick that year received a well-deserved promotion to Memphis in late August. Though it is still early, the outfielder actually improved his results in his first week at his new, higher level.

Nick Plummer

Plummer’s OPS was .811 during his 19 games with Springfield this month, then shot up to 1.029 in his Triple-A introduction. His combined OPS of .865 placed the 25-year-old seventh among our August finalists.

Plummer’s long-standing forte, taking walks, continues with his system-leading total of 22 during the month topping his former Springfield teammate Nick Dunn by five.

The Player of the Month

Yepez’ career as a professional began way back in 2015 in the Atlanta Braves organization. He became a Cardinal the first time Matt Adams left the organization in May 2017. Then a third baseman, Yepez moved to first and later added the corner outfield positions as well.

Juan Yepez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

The power potential was always there but never consistently showed itself previously, with his highest home run total in a season a modest 10 in 2019.

That changed in 2021 as the right-handed hitter swatted five long balls in his first 19 games at Springfield and has piled on 19 more over his first 74 career games at Triple-A. As noted, seven of those balls flew over the fence in August alone.

In 2021 between Springfield and Memphis, Yepez has 24 home runs, 64 RBI and an OPS of .980, making him a top contender for our Minor League Player of the Year honors to be announced after the season.

If Yepez finishes his year strongly, he could inject himself into the St. Louis reserve infielder/outfielder discussion in spring training 2022. He needs to first secure a 40-man roster spot, which he will almost certainly receive prior to the December Rule 5 draft.

Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s August Player of the Month, Juan Yepez.

What is next

Look for TCN’s Pitcher of the Month followed by The Cardinals organization’s announcement of its corresponding August Pitcher and Player of the Month winners this coming week, as well.

Update

Late Friday afternoon, the Cardinals organization announced their corresponding awards for August. They also recognized Yepez.

For more

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

Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 17

2021 Prospect Guide now 20% off!

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

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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

Cardinals Make September Call-Up Decisions

photo: Ali Sanchez (Memphis Redbirds)

With Major League active rosters expanding from 26 to 28 players on Wednesday, September 1, the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to promote right-handed pitcher Brandon Dickson and catcher Ali Sanchez.

Ali Sanchez

Sanchez, 24, a former Mets prospect who was acquired for cash in March, has been on the 40-man roster and appeared with St. Louis earlier this season.

His inclusion among available players during the final month means reserve catcher Andrew Knizner can be used more frequently without concern of having no backup on the bench. With the Redbirds, Sanchez slashed .268/.313/.366/.679 in 240 plate appearances over 62 games.

Brandon Dickson

Dickson, 36, will find his way back onto the roster after nine years, most of which was spent in Japan. The right-hander was re-signed this year and stepped into a Team USA assignment for the Olympics when teammate Matthew Liberatore bowed out. In 11 appearances with Memphis this season, Dickson has a 9.58 ERA.

His role with St. Louis will likely be long relief and/or mop-up duty. It would not be surprising if the Cardinals re-use Dickson’s 40-man roster spot after the season.

Speaking of which, on Wednesday, the Cardinals will also need to announce an immediate roster move to the 40-man to make room for Dickson. Rather than remove a player, the organization could instead shift a player deemed unable to return this season from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list. Candidates such as Ryan Helsley and Wade LeBlanc come to mind.

The return of Dakota Hudson (likely as a reliever) later this month will require other roster gyrations prior to his activation by St. Louis.

Wednesday morning update

Prior to their Wednesday doubleheader in Cincinnati, the Cardinals confirmed the two promotions, adding the shift of right-handed pitcher Helsley (right elbow stress reaction) to the 60-day IL.

Ryan Helsley


For more

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


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Restock Full Season Minors Rosters


Now 20% Off – 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide

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

20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.

TCN’s 2021 Cardinals Prospect Guide – 20% Off Blowout Sale


Not yet a member?

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

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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