All posts by Bryant Dacus

2021 Memphis Redbirds Team Review

photo: AutoZone Park (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

After Covid-19 delayed the start of the 2021 season by one month, the Memphis Redbirds didn’t begin play until May. It was an up-and-down season for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A squad, but they finished season on a four-game winning streak.

Ben Johnson entered his second season as the ‘Birds skipper, with the second sub-.500 record after the 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic. With a lot of new faces in the mix, the 40-year-old put an emphasis on player development and getting them ready for “The Show.”

A number of players were called up to St. Louis throughout the season, including Lars Nootbaar and Johan Oviedo, and six of The Cardinal Nation’s top 10 prospects played at least one game with the Redbirds.  67 different players suited up for Memphis, and several, including top prospects Nolan Gorman, Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore, made their Triple-A debuts after spending the 2020 season at the Cardinals’ alternate training site.

Although the Redbirds didn’t finish over .500, they played well at AutoZone Park with a 36-27 record, but it was a different story on the road. The club didn’t find much success outside of Memphis, going 25-40 when in an opponent’s ballpark.

Southeast Div. W L PCT GB Home Away
Durham 86 44 .662 45-20 41-24
Jacksonville 75 55 .577 11.0 36-29 39-26
Gwinnett 71 58 .550 14.5 38-26 33-32
Nashville 70 58 .547 15.0 41-24 29-34
Memphis 61 67 .477 24.0 36-27 25-40
Norfolk 52 78 .400 34.0 30-35 22-43
Charlotte 47 81 .367 38.0 26-39 21-42

By the Month

The Redbirds got out to a slow start in May with a 9-15 record. The group was dealt a difficult early schedule, as three of the four teams they played in the month finished over .500, including the Durham Bulls which led the Southeast Division for the season with an 86-44 record.

Max Moroff and José Rondón both had big months at the plate before being called up due to injuries in St. Louis. Moroff hit .538 in seven games with Memphis, while Rondón hit six home runs and recorded 19 RBI in 21 appearances.

José Rondón

June was another disappointing month, as the group logged a 10-15 record. It was another tough schedule for Memphis, as they faced three teams with winning records for a second straight month, including two series against Toledo which finished the season in first place in the Midwest Division with a 74-56 record.

Relief pitcher Roel Ramirez had an impressive June, posting a 0.63 ERA through nine games. Ramirez struck out 15 and gave up one earned run on six hits and three walks in 14 1/3 innings.

Roel Ramirez

The Redbirds started to get hot in the third month of the season, winning 19 games in July, including a 15-game winning streak that is the longest in franchise history. Memphis started the month with a 2-4 record, but the team flipped the switch on July 9 and didn’t lose again until the final week.

The squad was clicking on all cylinders as several players had massive months, including outfielder Clint Coulter, who had a breakout four weeks. Coulter was signed from independent ball in May, and batted .378 and recorded six home runs and 13 RBI in July.

Conner Capel also had an impressive month, batting .296 with a .414 on-base percentage.  Usually hitting cleanup, the outfielder drew 17 walks, hit five home runs and recorded 15 RBI.

Conner Capel

Memphis returned to earth in August with a 10-15 record and won only one series of four. The Redbirds played two series against teams with a losing record, but they couldn’t take advantage, losing one and tying the other.

While it was an up-and-down month for the team, Juan Yepez found his rhythm at the plate with a 1.216 OPS. Yepez led the team in doubles (10), home runs (7) and RBI (22) in the month.

The Redbirds played five different teams in August, and ended with an almost even 12-13 record. While they got off to a slow start, the Redbirds heated up in the middle of the month and finished the four weeks on a three-game winning streak.

Like the team, the pitching staff had an up-and-down August, and they posted a 4.11 ERA as a team. The group had with a WHIP of 1.43, as they allowed 206 hits, sixth-most among the 20 Triple-A East teams.

Memphis was set to wrap up the 2021 season with three games in October against the Charlotte Knights, but the first two games were postponed due to rain and playing conditions. The Redbirds finished with a 4-3 victory over the White Sox’s Triple-A club, ending the year on a four-game winning streak.

Team Pitching

Like the team as a whole, it was a roller coaster of a year for the pitching staff. They finished in the middle of the pack, ranking No. 13 among the 20-team Triple-A East in ERA. The team ERA was 4.79, which is slightly better than the 4.87 ERA the team posted in 2019, but they gave up the second most hits in the Triple-A East (1,130).

The pitching staff’s WHIP was 1.47 (No. 16), and they gave up 158 homers (No. 8) and 491 walks (No. 9). The squad struck out 1,096 (No. 18) and opposing teams hit .265 against them.

Team Hitting

It was an average season for Memphis at the plate, as they finished slightly below the middle of the rankings in key statistical categories. The Redbirds had a .244 batting average (No. 12), .324 OBP (No. 16), .400 slugging percentage (No. 13) and .723 OPS (No. 13).

Memphis recorded 1,014 hits and scored 587 runs, and they ended the year with 137 home runs (No. 13), which is significantly lower than the 200 home runs the team posted two years ago. The group struggled to move runners and only recorded 60 steals (No. 19), and they finished near the bottom of the pack with 212 extra-base hits.

The Hitters

The 2021 Redbirds featured several fun and intriguing hitting prospects in 2021.

Among the qualified hitters, Juan Yepez led the way with a .289 batting average and an OPS of .971. Yepez was called up from Double-A in June and found a spot in the lineup in August. He never turned back, leading the team in home runs (22), doubles (25) and RBI (63).

Juan Yepez

Behind Yepez, was Conner Capel with a .261 batting average among qualified players. Capel put together a nice season, playing a huge role in the team’s lineup, especially after losing Moroff and Rondón. The outfielder hit four triples, 17 doubles, 14 home runs and drove in 51, and he stole six bases.

Conner Capel

Infielder Kramer Robertson bounced around the infield throughout the season, but he became a consistent bat in the lineup toward the end of the year. Robertson batted .253, and led the team in runs (66), hits (99) and walks (62), and he finished second in RBI with 62.

Kramer Robertson

Evan Mendoza had an up-and-down season, batting .242 with a .305 OBP and leading the team in stolen bases (15). The shortstop struggled with his plate discipline, as he struck out 105 times and walked only 36 times.

Although he didn’t play the entire season, Nolan Gorman showed why he’s one of the top prospects in the game after he joined the Redbirds in late June. The Cardinal Nation’s top prospect hit .274 with the Triple-A club, hit 14 home runs, 14 doubles and posted 48 RBI.

Nolan Gorman

Pitching Staff

Matthew Liberatore made his Triple-A debut in 2021 after spending the entire 2020 season at the Cardinals’ alternate training site. The Cardinal Nation’s No. 2 prospect finished the year with a 9-9 record, but he dominated in most of his 18 starts.

Matthew Liberatore

The 21-year-old lefty struck out 123 batters and surrendered 56 earned runs on 123 hits, including 19 home runs, 33 walks and four hit by pitches in 124 2/3 total innings. Liberatore made 22 appearances for Memphis and started in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game during MLB’s All-Star weekend. He also took a break to pitch for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Austin Warner also had a strong season, finishing the year with a 7-3 record and an ERA of 3.34. Warner made most of his appearances out of the bullpen, only starting five games. The left-hander struck out 75 and gave up 27 earned runs on 57 hits in 72 2/3 innings.

Austin Warner

Connor Thomas joined the team after being promoted from Springfield in late May and immediately became one of the most impressive pitchers in the rotation. Thomas finished the season with a 3.10 ERA, the best in the rotation, and logged a 6-4 record in 22 games, including 14 starts. Although he is known as a groundball specialist, the right-hander struck out 92 and gave up 35 earned runs on 108 hits and 30 walks in 101 2/3 frames.

Connor Thomas

Angel Rondón bounced from Memphis to St. Louis and back before being placed on the IL in August, but he looked good in his 19 games with the Triple-A club. Rondón went 6-4 with a 4.58 ERA, and he struck out 68 and only gave up 39 runs on 85 hits through 76 2/3 innings.

Angel Rondón

Conclusion

The 2021 season was full of highs and lows for the Memphis Redbirds, but it was an important year of development for a number of the Cardinals’ top prospects. While the record wasn’t the best, the team seemed to improve throughout the season, and a few key players showed they’re ready to battle for a spot with St. Louis in 2022.

What is next?

Check out The Cardinal Nation’s annual article series highlighting team results and top hitters and pitchers across the entire St. Louis Cardinals system.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2021

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 21

Following a 1-4 series against Jacksonville, the Memphis Redbirds returned to AutoZone Park in the Triple-A Final Stretch’s final week to close the 2021 campaign. Due to rain throughout the weekend, the Redbirds only played three games against the Charlotte Knights, but they went a perfect 3-0 to conclude on a high note. Conner Capel led the way with a 2.095 OPS, while Juan Yepez and Justin Williams combined for four doubles, two home runs and nine RBI.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 17

After a subpar 2-4 stretch, the Memphis Redbirds bounced back, winning four of their last six games vs. the Columbus Clippers and the Gwinnett Stripers. Juan Yepez has been terrific at the plate, finishing the week with four home runs, four doubles and 15 RBI, posting a .542 batting average and a 1.208 slugging percentage.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 16

Coming off a .500 week, the Memphis Redbirds struggled to wrap up the series against Nashville and didn’t fare much better against the Columbus Clippers, finishing with a 2-4 week. Evan Mendoza led the team at the plate, batting .400 in six games, while Nick Plummer has made an immediate impact since joining the Triple-A affiliate, hitting .500 in three games.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 15

Following a 1-5 week, the Memphis Redbirds had an up-and-down seven days, but took three straight at home go 3-3 for the week. Matthew Liberatore struck out nine batters in one of his best performances of the season in his lone start. The Cardinal Nation’s No. 2 prospect improved to 5-7 with the win and has a 2.95 ERA over his three August starts.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 13

The Memphis Redbirds finished July with a strong 19-8 record but lost their first four games of the week before winning the last two. Zack Thompson earned his second Triple-A win in an impressive performance against Durham and struck out 10 batters in 11 innings this week.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 11

The Memphis Redbirds capped off a perfect week since the last Notebook, going 7-0, and they are currently in a franchise-record 12-game winning streak. After struggling through his first 10 games in Triple-A, Nolan Gorman has been impressive at the plate over the last seven games. The 21-year-old batted .310 over the span while recording three home runs and 10 RBI.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 10

After losing three in a row, the Memphis Redbirds have bounced back and are currently on a five-game win streak, their longest of the season, and are slowly improving their league lows in major pitching and batting categories. Conner Capel led the team at the plate over the seven-game span, hitting .389 with an OPS of 1.411.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 9

The Memphis Redbirds (21-35) went 2-4 last week against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and the Louisville Bats. The pitching staff struggled and now ranks among the bottom two in all four major categories among Triple-A East teams, but catcher Ali Sánchez had one of his best weeks of the season, batting .500 with an OPS of 1.250 over the last five games.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 6

Memphis (15-24) won three straight games over the weekend to tie the home series with the Gwinnett Stripers, but lost their first three at the Indianapolis Indians to start this week. Reliever Connor Jones earned two wins in three appearances over the last seven days, and the reliever allowed only one hit over 4 1/3 innings.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 5

The Memphis Redbirds went 1-5 this week. The Triple-A affiliate is struggling at the plate, as the team scored just 13 runs this week. The only bright spots have been Tyler Heineman’s hitting (.333 avg) and Kramer Robertson’s plate discipline (.435 OBP). On the mound, Austin Warner made a pair of strong appearances and leads the team in ERA (3.75).

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 3

After a back-and-forth series with Nashville, Memphis secured its first series victory of the season against Louisville, winning four-straight. But the Redbirds have gone 0-for-4 since, including three straight losses at Gwinnett, outscored by a 35-11 margin. Lars Nootbaar leads the team at the plate with a .328 batting average and an OPS of 1.021.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 2

After a disappointing 2-7 start to the season, Memphis bounced back winning four of their last six games. The pitching has slightly improved, while the offense dropped in several categories. Left-handed pitcher Bernardo Flores Jr. has dominated, earning two wins in his two appearances since last Friday.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2021 Week 1

The Triple-A Redbirds struggled out of the gate, sitting at 2-7 after a six-game series against Durham and three games against Nashville. Memphis has posted league lows in several pitching categories, while the offense has lacked consistency. Second baseman Max Moroff is second in the league with an OPS of 1.762.

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