All posts by Bryce Totz

2021 Palm Beach Cardinals Season Review

photo: Jose Leon (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate struggled for the majority of 2021. For the Palm Beach Cardinals, it was a tale of two seasons, in part due to the releveling in minor league baseball. Palm Beach had many first-year players, beginning with 2020 draft picks, then 2021 draft picks after the latter were promoted from the Florida Complex League.

Low-A Southeast League

The Palm Beach Cardinals represented the St. Louis Cardinals in the Low-A Southeast League’s East Division. In 2019 and prior, the Beach Birds were in the A-Advanced Florida State League, but MiLB realigned leagues and levels. There are 10 teams in the Low-A Southeast League, with four teams in the East Division and six in the West Division. Most of the teams in this league were part of the previous A-Advanced FSL and played in their MLB affiliate’s spring training facility. Spring training ballparks tend to be larger than most minor league parks which helps this league to be pitching oriented.

The regular-season schedule began on May 4 and ended on September 19, delayed one month and shortened due to the pandemic. Each team was scheduled for 120 games, but due to inclement weather, some games were canceled. The Beach Birds played 117 games including 47 against teams in the West Division and 70 in the East Division. The Cards played 60 games as the home team and 57 on the road, the latter not counting “road” games against the Marlins held at Roger Dean Stadium.

Coaching Staff

The 2021 Cardinals were managed by Jose Leon. This was Leon’s first season as the manager for Palm Beach, but he had been employed by the Cardinals’ organization since 2018. Leon was drafted by St. Louis in 1994 and made it to Double-A before being traded to Baltimore. The Puerto Rican native then made his way back to the Cardinals organization as a pitching coach for the Dominican Summer League, before being promoted to the manager of the State College Spikes in 2019.

Dean Kiekhefer (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Dean Kiekhefer was the pitching coach for Palm Beach this season. Kiekhefer was drafted by St. Louis in 2010 and was assigned to the Johnson City Cardinal. He was then promoted to the Class A Quad City River Bandits. In 2012 Kentucky native pitched for Palm Beach. His next season was split between Palm Beach and Springfield. In 2014 he spent time with Springfield and Memphis, and all of 2015 with Memphis. In 2016, after opening with Memphis, Kiekhefer was promoted to St. Louis. Kiekhefer retired from the MLB following the 2019 season after playing with St. Louis, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Oakland. He was then hired by the Cardinals for the 2020 season as pitching coach for the State College Spikes, but the season was cancelled.

The Cards’ hitting coach was Daniel Nicolaisen. He was originally hired to be the hitting coach for Johnson City in 2020 but was reassigned to Palm Beach following the COVID-19 pandemic. His coaching career started in 2017 as a volunteer assistant coach for the women’s softball team at Seton Hall University, where he was later promoted to a full-time assistant in 2018.

Results

2021 was a tale of two seasons for Palm Beach. They struggled for a majority of the summer, but many of the original players were no longer with the team by the time the season concluded. There was no all-star break this season, but the Cardinals were in last place at the halfway point with a record of 23-36. The Beach Birds won just one six-game series this season (they went 5-1 against Dunedin in Week 9), and they split six series. The Cards were slightly better at home, posting a 21-39 record, while they went 16-41 on the road (both were the worst in the league).

Palm Beach had standout player throughout the season, but before they had an opportunity to shine together, they were promoted to Peoria. In doing so, the team continued to struggle as they brought in first-year players from the rookie level Florida Complex League team and the 2021 draft.

Overall, Palm Beach finished in 10th/last in the Low-A Southeast League with a record of 37-80 (24 games behind the St. Lucie Mets (NYM) for first in the East, and 36.5 games behind the Tampa Tarpons [NYY]). The next worst league team went 52-64, 15 1/2 games better.

The lack of success in 2021 caused the Cards to miss the playoffs for what would have been the second consecutive season. As 2019’s playoffs were canceled due to Hurricane Dorian and the 2020 season was not played, the consecutive appearances would have been in 2018 and 2021.

Pitching

36 pitchers took the mound for Palm Beach in 2021 (the second consecutive season during which the team used 36 pitchers). 16 pitched at least 20 innings. The staff struggled this season with their combined ERA a league-worst 5.66.

The team was tied for the fewest shutouts (Daytona Tortugas [CIN]) at three. The Beach Birds had the fewest saves (14) and the highest batting average against (.261). The pitching staff also allowed the most hits (989), the most runs (738), the most walks (628), and the highest WHIP (1.66). The Cardinals allowed 79 homers (tied for seventh-most) and fanned 1174 (fifth-most).

Hitting

34 different players took at least one at-bat for Palm Beach in 2021, 15 of which had at least 100 at-bats (six with at least 200). The Beach Birds had more success at the plate than on the mound.

The batters finished with a .241 batting average (tied for third-best), 903 hits (3rd), and a .706 OPS (6th). They had trouble converting them into runs, however, with just 515 (10th). Palm Beach hitters combined for 73 home runs (tied for 6th) and 459 RBI (8th).

At the plate, the team fanned 1110 times (second-fewest) and they walked 498 times (eighth-most). The team’s stolen base percentage was 69% (62-for-90), the second-worst success rate in the league.

Fielding

Palm Beach posted a fielding percentage of just .962 (tied for ninth) this season. The defense committed 151 errors (8th). They recorded 217 double plays (6th) and 13 passed balls (tied for fourth-lowest). The catching staff allowed 155 stolen bases (fourth-most) and had a caught stealing percentage of 27% (fourth-best).

TCN Top Prospects

Palm Beach featured 13 of TCN’s Top 50 prospects in the Cardinals organization throughout the season. This included #3 prospect Jordan Walker, #4 prospect Masyn Winn, #7 prospect Michael McGreevy, #18 prospect Gordon Graceffo, #20 prospect Ryan Holgate, #22 prospect Austin Love, #24 prospect Patrick Romeri, #28 prospect Levi Prater, #41 prospect Matt Koperniak, #42 prospect Thomas Francisco, #46 prospect Edwin Nunez, #47 prospect Todd Lott, and #50 prospect Elijah Cabell.

Walker, Winn, Francisco, and Lott were promoted to High-A Peoria; and Koperniak was promoted to Double-A Springfield before the conclusion of the season.

Notable Contributors

Matt Koperniak played nearly half the season (58 games) with Palm Beach and posted a slash line of .322/.443/.470/.913. His OPS led the team (playing at least 30 games). Koperniak also had 15 doubles and four homers before his promotion.

Matt Koperniak

Masyn Winn played 61 games with the Beach Birds before moving up to Peoria. Winn had the fifth-most at-bats on the team. Over that span, he crossed home plate 50 times, hit 21 extra-base hits (including three homers), and stole a team-leading 16 bases.

Masyn Winn

L.J. Jones played more games (86) with the Cards than any other player in 2021. As a result, he also had the most at-bats (329) and he had a slash line of .243/.303/.371/.674.

LJ Jones IV

Luis Ortiz has the most appearances (60 ⅔ innings in 33 games) on the mound for the Cardinals but had an ERA of 6.68. Jose Moreno pitched the most innings (81 ⅓ innings) and posted a 5.53 ERA.

Luis Ortiz

Conclusion

2021 was a difficult season for Palm Beach. Most of the players were in their first professional season and/or first full season and the coaching staff was new to the team, league and level as well. Despite the overall struggles though, good individual efforts allowed for promotions to High-A Peoria (and one to Double-A Springfield).

Once the standout players were promoted, the team struggled once again. The coaching staff was missing the star power, and they were trying to learn the newcomers (the majority of which were either from the FCL team or the 2021 draft).

This season was quite different than previous formats, as Palm Beach does not typically have this many first-year players. Next season may look similar with many first-year players on the team, as they wait for their name to be called up to High-A.

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

2021 Prospect Guide now 20% Off!

Now available at a 20% discount on the printed version – The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide – 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

Not yet a member?

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

Follow Bryce Totz on Twitter @brycetotz.

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

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 18

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate won two of six games this week, both in extra innings. Outfielder Patrick Romeri batted .333 for Palm Beach this week, including a four-hit game on Sunday that included two home runs. The organization’s first 2021 draft pick to reach High-A is their 19th rounder.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 16

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate went 3-3 this week, Palm Beach’s first series split or better since Week 9. This is also the second time the Beach Birds have split a series with Daytona. In the first three games of the set, 2021 8th round center fielder Mike Antico hit three home runs.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 14

The Cardinals Single-A affiliate played just three games this week due to rainy weather. The Beach Birds lost all three, increasing their losing streak to 17 games. Jacob Buchberger has stayed hot at the plate with a 1.037 OPS in his last eight games, while Noah Mendlnger has gotten off to a strong start in his professional career.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 9

The Palm Beach Cardinals went 5-1 this week, marking the first time this season that they have won more than three games in a series. Both the pitching and the offense improved this week. There were impressive offensive performances by a number of hitters this week, highlighted by LJ Jones (.500 OBP, 1.119 OPS) and Franklin Soto (.688 SLG, 1.132 OPS).

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 8

The Palm Beach Cardinals went 3-3 this week, making this the third straight week that the Beach Birds have split a series. The best performer this week was Jordan Walker, who finished with an OPS of 1.250 and earned a promotion to Peoria. Other strong performances came from Tommy Jew and Todd Lott.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Shake Up Catching Corps

The roster of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate received multiple changes on Monday, June 21. Three players were added, one went on the 7-day injured list and two were sent down. Two of three sets of moves involved catchers with another involving a current outfield prospect and a former one.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 7

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate went 3-3 this week, keeping them at the bottom of the division. This is the second straight week, and just the third series in seven weeks in 2021 that Palm Beach has at least split its six-game set. Jordan Walker is the Southeast League Player of the Week (again).

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 6

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate went 3-3 this week, keeping them at the bottom of the division. This is just the second time in six weeks in 2021 that the Palm Beach Cardinals won at least half the games in a series. With 14 RBI in six games, shortstop Masyn Winn is the league Player of the Week.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 5

The Palm Beach Cardinals finished the week with a 2-4 record. The Beach Birds received strong offensive production from Jacob Buchberger (.348 avg) and Donivan Williams, who provided the team with a pair of walk-off hits. Palm Beach scored two runs or less in four of six games this week, although the pitching improved and kept the games close.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 4

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate went 0-6 last week, keeping them at the bottom of the division. The Beach Birds struggled at the plate and on the mound, ranking at or near the bottom in most major statistical categories on both sides of the field. Masyn Winn has heated up at the plate while Inohan Paniagua and Levi Prater are pitching well in the rotation.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Mask and Capacity Changes at Cardinals Minors Ballparks

photo: Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)

Heading to one of the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league ballparks, but unsure of the current regulations? Teams have made changes to their face covering and capacity policies and we have the specifics for all four stadiums.

The Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A) changed their policies on May 18. In accordance with Shelby County Health Directive, The Redbirds and AutoZone Park are allowing full capacity. Fans in attendance are only required to wear face coverings indoors. Signage has been posted around the ballpark to inform fans of areas that face coverings are required.

AutoZone Park (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The Springfield Cardinals (Double-A) also changed their policies on May 18 after the Springfield City Council unanimously approved the changes in their meeting on May 17. The Cardinals and Hammons Field are allowing full capacity starting June 1. As of May 28, face coverings will not be required at the ballpark, including indoors.

Hammons Field (Springfield Cardinals)

The Peoria Chiefs (A-Advanced) announced their policy change on May 21. Dozer Park increased its capacity to 60%, up from the 25% at the beginning of the season. Fully vaccinated fans can attend games without face coverings. Fans not fully vaccinated are still required to wear face coverings in public areas. Fans who wish to remain socially distanced can sit in Section 103.

The Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A) announced their policy change on May 27. Roger Dean Stadium will no longer require face coverings starting on May 28. The Stadium will increase its capacity to just under 100% starting June 10. Fans who wish to remain socially distanced can sit in Sections 201 and 213.


Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation

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


2021 Prospect Guide now available!

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 – Now Available!


Not yet a member?

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

Follow Bryce Totz on Twitter @brycetotz.

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

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 3

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate went 1-5 last week, keeping them at the bottom of the division. The Beach Birds struggled at the plate, as they faced three New York Mets pitchers on rehab assignments. 2020 draftee, lefty Levi Prater, is a Palm Beach rotation standout.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook – 2021 Week 2

The Cardinals’ Low-A affiliate went 3-3 this week, keeping them at the bottom of the East Division. Southeast League Player of the Week Jordan Walker performed well offensively, producing the best batting average in the league over the period. John Beller was the circuit’s top pitcher.

This content is for paid members only. Join The Cardinal Nation today!
Log In Register