All posts by Derek Shore

Cover the Springfield Cardinals and Cardinals minor league pipeline for The Cardinal Nation | Freelance sports writer

2019 Springfield Cardinals Team Review

photo: Dylan Carlson and Joe Kruzel (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

The 2019 campaign marked another down season for the Springfield Cardinals.

For one, the Cardinals missed the Texas League playoffs for the third consecutive season, which has happened only one other time since the franchise moved to Springfield in 2005.

At 60-80, Springfield finished with the second-worst record in the league for the second straight year as well.

Despite that, the S-Cards had many new arrivals earn a chance to develop at Double-A and featured the clear-cut best player in the Texas League. Dylan Carlson was the club’s first Player of the Year since Oscar Taveras and Matt Adams won it in back-to-back years in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Joe Kruzel (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

First-year manager Joe Kruzel sees positives from 2019.

“The biggest thing that I witnessed this season is there has been more individual growth by some players than team growth as far as wins and the record,” Kruzel said.

Kruzel said a number of players made “big strides and progress in their careers,” which he hopes will translate into more success in 2020.

“There has been a tremendous amount of individual growth, but it hasn’t translated into winning games this year,” Kruzel said. “Hopefully, next year it will.”

MVP Dylan

Dylan Carlson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

In a season that was more forgettable than memorable, Springfield will definitely remember the season 20-year-old sensation Dylan Carlson put together for years to come.

One of the youngest players in Double-A in 2019, on August 27, Carlson became only the ninth Cardinals prospect to win the Texas League Player of the Year honors. The switch-hitter exploded onto the scene, ranking among the league leaders in average, home runs, RBIs, OBP, slugging, OPS, hits, doubles, triples, walks, extra-base hits, total bases, runs and stolen bases.

He became The Cardinal Nation’s top overall prospect in the process and his breakout year culminated into a late-season promotion to Triple-A Memphis, where he continued his success.

“I was very fortunate to have been in the same city as he was for most of the season this year,” Kruzel said. “I always thought every time Dylan comes to the ballpark he expected to play and wanted to play. You never knew if he was doing well or not. He just acted the same every night. The best thing I did for him this year was I stayed out of his way, let him play and let him grow.”

Team Summary

The 2019 edition of the Cardinals featured more valleys than peaks, mostly due to a roster that was the youngest in the league (23.1 average age).

With a 30-40 first half and second half, the club ended a combined 60-80 on the season, a dismal .429 winning percentage. That is the second-worst mark in the division and league, ahead of NW Arkansas (KC, 57-81), which posted a .413 winning percentage.

Springfield finished in last-place in the first half, trailing Arkansas by 14 games. They played good ball at Hammons Field (22-15), but struggled mightily on the road (8-25).

The second half proved to be similar.

The Cardinals had a winning record at home (17-16), but scuffled away (13-24), finishing 11 games back of Tulsa (LAD, 41-29), in third place.

Springfield welcomed 328,217 fans through the turnstiles at Hammons Field, with their per-game average 4,757, fourth-highest in the Texas League. That was down from 4,871 in 2018 and 4,801 in 2017.

By month

The Texas League is a full-season league made up of a 140-game regular season, which began April 4 and concluded on Sept. 2. The eight-team league is divided into two divisions with the Cardinals Double-A club placed in the North.

Springfield started off very poorly, dropping their first seven games of the season. They went 8-17 overall in April.

Both the offense (.235 average) and pitching (5.97 ERA) struggled early on.

The Cardinals showed some improvement in May with their hitting and pitching on their way to a 14-15 record.

Springfield finished the first half splitting the final 16 games. Arkansas won the first-half title.

Kruzel took away a lot from his club in the first half.

“I think at times there was some really good things going on out there,” Kruzel said. “We went through some stretches where it wasn’t that we were playing really, really bad. We just weren’t winning. We weren’t finding ways to win. Something would happen that would create a loss for us instead of the other way around.”

As the records reset, the Cardinals could not find early momentum, dropping 14 of its first 26 games. Springfield followed a down June with a much-improved July (16-12) and entered the dog days of August in first-place with a 20-18 record.

The key behind their success was due to improved play in all phases – hitting, defense and pitching.

That said, the S-Cards lost that momentum and finished a disappointing 10-22 over the final 32 games.

The pitching and offense

As an organization, the Cardinals have traditionally been known for their pitching. This year’s Double-A version was led by the offense, however.

A key reason behind Springfield’s struggles in 2019 was the 4.79 team ERA, dead-last in the league.

Johan Oviedo (Peoria Chiefs)

15 different pitchers started for Springfield this season, including Johan Oviedo with 23, Evan Kruczynski with 20, Angel Rondon with 20, Tommy Parsons with 14, Austin Warner with 14, Williams Perez with 13 and Alex FaGalde with 11.

The 2019 pitching staff, tutored by second-year pitching coach Darwin Marrero, logged the already-mentioned 4.79 ERA. The league average was 4.02 and the next-worst club finished at 4.35.

On the offensive side, first-year hitting coach Brandon Allen spearheaded a powerful group, ranking third in the league with 140 homers.

Although Springfield was fifth in runs per game (4.35), compared to the most prolific offense in the league at 4.83.

The Cards were dead-last in batting average at .237 with the seventh-worst on-base percentage (.313). Though, the offense was fourth in slugging percentage (.379).

The defense

Fielding was a strong suit for the 2019 Cardinals.

The club’s fielding percentage was tied for the best in the league at .985 and they turned the fourth-most double plays with 290.

The catching was also a strength as they were tied for the least amount of passed balls (12) on the season. The catching corps threw out 30% of attempted baserunners, which is exactly league-average.

The roster

The 25 players on the active Opening Day roster included an experienced pitching staff and a youthful group of position players.

Evan Kruczynski (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

From among those returnees, Kruczynski was expected to anchor the rotation and Seth Elledge and Connor Jones were looking to lead a much-improved bullpen from 2018.

Anthony Shew, Casey Meisner, Austin Warner and Williams Perez rounded out the S-Cards Opening Day rotation.

Funky lefty Jacob Patterson was the lone southpaw in the bullpen. Elledge, Jones, Will Latcham, Jesus Cruz, John Fasola, Harold Arauz and Roel Ramirez were the right-handed relievers on the Opening Day roster.

On the position player side, almost every position player stepped up from High-A. The headliners were a pair of 20-year-olds – top prospects Carlson and third baseman Elehuris Montero.

Chris Chinea (Springfield Cardinals)

The Cardinals Opening Day roster also featured Jose Godoy, Brian O’Keefe, Chris Chinea, Kramer Robertson, Irving Lopez, Alberto Triunfel, Stefan Trosclair, Shane Billings, Conner Capel and Scott Hurst.

As the season progressed, the Cardinals added a number of players who contributed from Triple-A and High-A – position players Evan Mendoza, Johan Mieses, Yariel Gonzalez, Rayder Ascanio, Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez, Zach Kirtley, Julio Rodriguez and Justin Toerner.

Pitchers joining during the season include Rondon, Oviedo, Parsons, Kodi Whitley, Ronnie Williams, Bryan Dobzanski, Junior Fernandez and Mitchell Osnowitz.

40-man roster outfielders Randy Arozarena and Justin Williams also played with Springfield this season as both were working their way back from hand injuries.

In total, Springfield made 155 player transactions this season.

Austin Warner (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

All-Stars

The S-Cards had a down season in Texas League All-Star recognition. A year after nine Cardinals were named to the mid-season classic, just two were selected in 2019 – Carlson and Warner.

In the more elite post-season selections, Carlson was the lone representative, with the count of one the same as in the year prior.

In conclusion

As a team, the 2019 Springfield Cardinals had a young team with a struggling pitching staff, powerful, but inconsistent offense and superb defense. From a development perspective, the club provided many battle-tested players to Triple-A and two players who contributed to the Double-A club and made their big-league debuts.

Kruzel reflects on 2019 as a whole.

“The way the crowds supported us all year and the community,” Kruzel said. “Those are the things you are going to look at. These kids went out there for the most part every night battled and competed. Sometimes we came up short, but you can’t fault their effort on a day in and day out basis.

“I’m proud of that. Most of it is how the fans and the community supported us. That is one thing that will really stick out in my mind.”


For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up will be our Peoria Chiefs Team Review.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019


Bonus for Members of The Cardinal Nation

Youth a Factor in Rough 2019 across the Cardinals Minors


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 Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Adolis Garcia Named TCN’s Cardinals Minors August Player of the Month

photo: Adolis Garcia (Frank Ramirez/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the second of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. While the Cardinals themselves recognize their top players as well, we undertake our own independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the August system-wide hitting leaders.

Garcia claims TCN’s top August hitting honors

While a number of hitters in the Cardinals system had strong Augusts, one hitter distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of hitting to help Triple-A Memphis climb back into playoff contention.

Our August Player of the Month is Memphis slugger Adolis Garcia, who should have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Pacific Coast League Player of the Month honors.

Adolis Garcia

Among hitters across the Cardinals system with at least 75 at-bats, Garcia finished with the highest OPS (1.160). He also slugged a system-best eight homers and drove in the second most runs (21) in August.

Overall, Garcia slashed .338/.407/.753 and collected 14 extra-base hits through 25 games.

Memphis manager Ben Johnson explained where Garcia was in his game at the end of July.

“He’s had some ups and downs this year, but he hasn’t given in,” Johnson told The Cardinal Nation. “[Garcia] has worked diligently day-in and day-out, and now he’s finding his rhythm and staying in shape. He’s maintained his bat speed, strength and he’s taken off.”

While the strong finish to 2019 was not enough to earn him a September call-up to St. Louis, Garcia’s phenomenal month of August helped him cross the 30-homer and 90-RBI threshold.

“Thanks to God, everything has been coming out great this month,” Garcia told TCN reporter Frank Ramirez. “It took making various adjustments to make a better game plan, and thanks to that, everything has been better.”

His 95 RBI makes him the first Memphis batter since Nick Stavinoha (109 in 2011) to record 90-plus RBI in a year. He’s also the first Redbird since Rick Ankiel in 2007 to slug at least 32 homers.


Honorable Mentions

Runner-up to Garcia is High-A Palm Beach first baseman Luken Baker, who posted a .346/.413/.654 slash line over 23 games in August. The 22-year-old collected a system-best 16 extra-base hits and produced 14 RBIs for the Beach Birds.

Baker’s OPS of 1.067 ranked second only to Garcia among hitters with at least 75 at-bats.

After the most robust month of his professional career, Baker is poised to open 2020 at Double-A Springfield, where he has a chance to blossom.

Luken Baker

A trio of others who also received consideration are Memphis outfielders Justin Williams, Dylan Carlson and Randy Arozarena.

Finally healthy, Williams hit .353/.434/.576 in August and tied for a system-best with 21 RBIs over 27 games. The 23-year-old had an injury-plagued 2019, but goes into this offseason with offensive momentum.

Justin Williams

Carlson’s breakthrough season continued into August, which earned him a taste of Memphis to conclude 2019. The 20-year-old, named Texas League Player of the Year this past week, slashed .311/.387/.594 in 28 games between Double-A Springfield and Memphis.

Carlson also collected 14 extra-base hits and swiped six bags in eight chances.

Dylan Carlson

Arozarena, whose tremendous month of July powered him to his major-league debut in August, also performed well when with the Redbirds. The 24-year-old hit .314/.410/.643 with six homers and 12 RBIs for Memphis.

Randy Arozarena

Memphis infielder Ramon Urias also put together a solid August, hitting .310 with a .912 OPS in 28 games. The 25-year-old tallied 13 extra-base hits and knocked in 21 runs. Infielder Edmundo Sosa also hit well down the stretch for Memphis, hitting .345 with a .894 OPS in 27 games.

Ramon Urias

Sosa and Arozarena are expected to join St. Louis on Tuesday, with Carlson scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League.

In The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect Rankings for August, Carlson is no .1, Arozarena is ninth, Garcia came in at no. 14, Williams is 19th, Baker 24th and Urias checked in at no. 33.


Link to related article

Ponce de Leon is The Cardinal Nation August Pitcher of the Month


What’s next

This coming week, the Cardinals organization will disclose its choices of their top performers in the final month of the 2019 season.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 10


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 Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Cardinals No.1 Prospect Dylan Carlson is Promoted to Triple-A

photo: Dylan Carlson (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

Carlson heads to Memphis

In what is a big surprise timing-wise, the St. Louis Cardinals organization’s No. 1 prospect Dylan Carlson has been promoted to Triple-A Memphis with just three weeks left in the 2019 season. Carlson all but mastered the Double-A level, slashing .281/.364/.518 through 108 games and he led the league with 21 homers and 51 extra-base hits.

When he makes his debut, the 20-year old switch hitter will immediately become one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League and puts him right on the doorstep of the big-leagues.

To put his season in perspective with Springfield, Carlson was two steals away from becoming the youngest player in the Texas League of 20 years of age or less to accomplish a 20-20 season in the last 32 years.

Carlson will also join a crowded outfield of Harrison Bader, Justin Williams, Adolis Garcia and Rangel Ravelo at Memphis. It’s one that could potentially see Randy Arozarena and Lane Thomas back in the near future once Tyler O’Neill and Jose Martinez return from injuries in St. Louis.

After the promotion, I asked a professional scout if he was surprised that Carlson was promoted to Memphis given all the outfielders currently at the level.

“Not really surprised,” the pro scout said. “I think he has had a really good year. I think they want to see if one of those outfield bats can take off. Arozarena’s success and promotion kind of laid the groundwork for this. I don’t believe Carlson is the answer for this year but I do believe they want to see what he can do and likely bring him up once rosters expand.

“I would think it’s likely they move on from Ozuna if they don’t get into the playoffs and possibly start the rebuild.”

Dylan Carlson


Robertson rejoins Springfield

In the corresponding move for Carlson, infielder Kramer Robertson rejoined Springfield after his second stint with Memphis. Robertson is hitting .235 with a .719 OPS in 66 games at Triple-A this season.

Overall for 2019, the Cardinals 2017 fourth round pick is slashing .244/.371/.406 with a career-high 11 home runs and 48 RBIs between Springfield and Memphis.

Kramer Robertson


Toerner to IL

Announced late-Thursday, Springfield outfielder Justin Toerner landed on the injured list with an undisclosed injury. This injury was likely caused after he make a catch at the wall to rob a possible home run on Wednesday night.

Toerner was in obvious pain after the play and finished out the second inning before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. It looks like a leg injury, possibly a knee.

So far with Springfield this season, Toerner is hitting .211 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 49 games.

Justin Toerner


Lopez hits the shelf

Springfield lost two players to the injured list on Thursday. The second player was second baseman Irving Lopez.

Lopez, 24, left Wednesday’s game early as well with an undisclosed injury. The Cardinals 2017 19th round pick is slashing .254/.331/.434 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs in 82 games for the S-Cards this season.

Irving Lopez


Chinea back

In one of two accompanying moves, first baseman/catcher Chris Chinea returned following a two week stint on the IL. He had been out with a thumb injury.

In 68 games at Springfield this season, Chinea is hitting .255 with a .732 OPS.

Chris Chinea


Yepez up

The final roster move is the promotion of first baseman Juan Yepez from High-A Palm Beach. The Venezuelan is set to make his Double-A debut.

In 2019, the 21-year old Yepez is slashing .279/.358/.463 with eight homers and 33 RBIs between Low-A Peoria and Palm Beach this season.

Juan Yepez


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 19


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 19

After surging into first place in the Texas League North in July, the Springfield Cardinals have fallen off, dropping nine of their first 13 games in August. Inconsistent starters Evan Kruczynski and Johan Oviedo had strong outings during the 3-4 week.

This content is for Paid – Monthly, Paid – Three Months and Paid – Annual members only.
Log In Register

Dobzanski Wrestles with Change and is on Top

photo: Bryan Dobzanski (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

When Bryan Dobzanski was called into manager Chris Swauger’s office in June 2017, he assumed the worst.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ 29th round draft pick from 2014 was struggling in his first season with Low-A Peoria, going 1-5 with a 4.86 ERA and just 37 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings as a starter.

In those moments before heading into Swauger’s office, Dobzanski was left wondering if a demotion was in his future, or worse, a release.

“It didn’t turn out to be a release or anything,” Dobzanski said.

Dobzanski didn’t exactly suffer a demotion either, but he said it felt like one – he was getting sent to the bullpen.

“You kind of feel your stomach drop a bit,” he said.

Dobzanski had a 1.98 ERA the rest of the season as a reliever, and he has only continued to get better with more experience.

Bryan Dobzanski (Peoria Chiefs)

“At that point, it was the right direction,” Dobzanski said. “I wasn’t too upset after that point. It worked out to be the best for me.”

Dobzanski’s issue as a starter was about a pursuit of perfection. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, the two-time New Jersey state wrestling champion has athleticism few baseball players possess, yet his fastball sat in the high-80s.

“As a starter, you feel like your responsibility is to go pretty deep,” Dobzanski said. “You pace yourself and not giving everything you have into every pitch. That was the wrong thing to do.”

When Dobzanski was told he would be used in a relief role, Swauger said the next time he was on the mound, “throw as hard as you can.”

“As a reliever, it’s a different mentality where you get three to six outs or whatever they are asking,” Dobzanski said. “The night after (I moved to the bullpen) my velocity was higher and it seemed like everything was playing a lot better.”

2018 marked Dobzanski’s first full season as a reliever. He returned to Peoria, where he became one of the best relievers in the Midwest League.

Combining an eight percent jump in his strikeout rate with a two percent drop in his walk rate, Dobzanski cut his ERA down nearly a full point from 2017. A big part of his improvement began with a change in how he went about his offseason workouts.

Since he has been in professional ball, Dobzanski had always done football and wrestling workouts in his high school gym. In the offseason of 2017, he instead went to California and trained with Jack Flaherty for a couple of months.

“It showed me how an elite level athlete should be training for that specific sport – obviously baseball for me,” Dobzanski said.

Dobzanski has continued his refined plan ever since, working out at Maplezone Sports Institute. After revitalizing his workout routine, he has experienced considerable success this year in his second full season as a reliever.

Bryan Dobzanski (Palm Beach Cardinals)

He started the year at High-A Palm Beach and was bumped up to Double-A Springfield in June. Across those two levels, he has a 2.61 ERA in 39 games with 56 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings.

Dobzanski’s experience as a starter makes him an extremely valuable reliever.

“He has been good since he has come up from Palm Beach,” Kruzel said. “He has done a couple different things for us. He has pitched in middle relief. Sometimes I have asked him to go two or even three innings at a time. We have asked him to start one time and he took the ball and ran with it.

“He has also pitched at the back end of the game, so he gives you versatility out of that bullpen to do a couple of different things. He has responded well to each and every one of those challenges. He competes. He throws strikes. He has three quality pitches and makes quality pitches.”

Dobzanski had been losing faith in himself before the change, which is unusual for someone who has dominated in athletic situations.

Take his wrestling career, for example. Dobzanski was 158-8 as a high school wrestler and he can still remember stirring fear in opponents when they saw who they would be up against.

Dobzanski has gotten that same edge back, but as a reliever now.

“Being the top dawg – that is always what I looked forward to during the wrestling season,” Dobzanski said. “I try to take that one-on-one mentality out there – pitcher versus hitter – because that is what it feels like when you are out there on the mound. The ball is in your hand every single play.

“Everybody loves success, so when your snowballing with success, your confidence is through the roof.”

That increase in confidence has allowed Dobzanski to trust his stuff and throw his fastball and slider with conviction.

Springfield pitching coach Darwin Marrero has noticed that change compared to when he had him as a starter in State College in 2016.

“He is very aggressive,” Marrero said. “He has always been very competitive. His stuff has been growing. He has been maturing. His body is maturing right now. He can coordinate much better than years ago. You can see right now how the ball is coming out of his hand.

“He looks a lot better right now.”

When Dobzanski was starting during the early stages of 2017, his secondary repertoire consisted of a curveball and he picked up a slider in his transition to the bullpen. After tinkering with a few grips, Dobzanski has found one this year and stuck with it.

But there have been some growing pains with his slider as a result.

“It’s really just not trying to manipulate it,” Dobzanski said. “When I go out there, I’m trying to get this big break and trying to manipulate the pitch. It doesn’t do what you want it to, but I have to let the grip do the work and throw it like a fastball as hard as I can.

“That is when it has been the best for me.”

In addition to his coaches, Dobzanski has also piqued the interest of scouts as well.

He has an above-average heater that sits 95-97 and his slider has the potential to be an above-average offering as well. With good control and command, scouts say he has the upside of a seventh-inning major-league reliever.

With confidence and conviction on his side, Dobzanski’s vision for the future has never been clearer.

Obviously, I want to finish this season strong,” Dobzanski said. “Attack the offseason and get in the weight room right away, and lift some pretty heavy weight around. Get stronger and build that lower half. Hopefully, I’ll come back with some more mph on my fastball and a sharper slider.

“Hopefully, I’ll show out in spring training. Whatever happens there or wherever I start, next year my main goal is to end up in the big-leagues at some point. That is the target for me.”


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 18

The Springfield Cardinals’ playoff hopes faded with a disappointing 1-6 Week 18. The S-Cards are now four games back in the Texas League North with 25 games remaining. The offense stalled and the pitching was inconsistent this week. After an IL stint, Alex FaGalde has resumed leading the rotation with a 1.29 ERA at Double-A.

This content is for Paid – Monthly, Paid – Three Months and Paid – Annual members only.
Log In Register

Gonzalez Named TCN’s Cardinals Minors July Player of the Month

photo: Yariel Gonzalez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

This is the first of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals organization for July. While the Cardinals themselves recognize their top players as well, we undertake our own independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of July system-wide hitting leaders.

Gonzalez claims TCN’s top hitting honors

While a number of hitters in the Cardinals system had strong months of July, one hitter distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch to carry Double-A Springfield’s offense to first-place in the Texas League North Division.

Our July Player of the Month is Springfield three-hole hitter Yariel Gonzalez, who should have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Texas League Player of the Month honors.

Among hitters to qualify with at least 75 at-bats, Gonzalez tallied the most hits (35), total bases (60) and RBIs (30) in the Cardinals system for July. He finished with the third-highest batting average (.358), slugging percentage (.612) and had the fourth-best OPS (1.029) among qualifiers.

Yariel Gonzalez

Springfield manager Joe Kruzel uses one word to summarize his three-hole hitter.

“Consistency,” Kruzel said. “He has been able to go up there and maintain his plan and approach. He stays within himself. He has put himself into a good hitting position and giving himself a good chance to put a good swing. He has had some really positive results with that.”

The versatile infielder finished with 11 extra-base hits (four doubles and seven homers) through 98 at-bats for Springfield. In that span, he established a solid 13-to-9 strikeout to walk ratio as well.

The 2018 Peoria Chiefs mid-season and post-season All-Star’s month was highlighted by him being named Texas League Player of the Week on July 14. Overall with Springfield, Gonzalez is slashing .317/.368/.525 with five doubles, eight homers and 34 runs drive in over 36 games.

While many scouts view Gonzalez as upper-level organizational depth, some Cardinals prospects tend to end up being better than most think, ala Luke Voit. He certainly has a chance to be a big-leaguer, especially if he keeps hitting.

Gonzalez has set both short-term and long-term goals going forward.

“I’m trying to move up,” Gonzalez said. “I’m trying to keep going for my goal. All my life I just want to get to the bigs. I’m pretty sure that is every player’s goal. If I stay (at Springfield), I just want to get a championship. I want a ring. I want to celebrate with my boys and have a great time.

“That is all that matters right now.”


Honorable Mentions

Runner-up is Memphis outfielder Randy Arozarena, who finished the month with a .378 batting average. The 24-year old Cuban native also had an impressive 1.047 OPS in 27 games for Memphis in July.

The Cardinals organization’s reigning Player of the Month from June collected 14 extra-base hits (10 doubles, one triple and three homers), drove in 17 runs and swiped three bags in six chances. His month was headlined by hitting for the cycle in five innings on July 26th.

After perhaps the most robust month of his professional career, Arozarena is buliding his case to make his major-league debut at some point in 2019.

“He could help our major league club in a lot of ways,” Memphis manager Ben Johnson told the media. “He brings a lot of skill to the table. With that being said, our big league club has a lot of talent there, too. But I think at some point, if the fit were right, Randy could definitely go up and help our Major League club without a question.”

Randy Arozarena

Another who received consideration was outfielder Lane Thomas, who slashed .347/.388/.667 in 20 games for Memphis this month. He had second-best OPS of anyone in the Cardinals system with a 1.054 mark. The 23-year old slugged six homers and recorded 19 RBIs for the Triple-A club before being promoted to St. Louis.

Lane Thomas

At Low-A Peoria, third baseman Brendan Donovan had a month to remember, slashing a system-best .390/.489/.675 but in 20 fewer at-bats than Gonzalez and Arozarena as well against lesser competition. The 22-year old posted the best OPS (1.164) in the system with as many extra-base hits (14) as RBIs for Peoria this month.

Donovan is a name to keep an eye on if he is able to sustain his production as he moves ahead to higher levels.

Brendan Donovan

Back to Springfield, 20-year old sensation Dylan Carlson continued his breakout year and proved in July that his first half was not a fluke. The switch-hitting outfielder slashed .301/.389/.602 in 23 games. Of his 28 hits for the month, 14 of those went for extra-bases. He also had his most powerful month of the 2019 season, slugging seven homers in July for the S-Cards.

Dylan Carlson

Down at short-season Rookie Johnson City, second baseman Chandler Redmond continued to be a valuable middle-of-the-order bat for the Appy League Cardinals. His OPS was .882 in 24 games and hit five home runs while driving in 16.

Chandler Redmond


Update


What’s Next

Next up will be The Cardinal Nation’s July Pitcher of the Month announcement as well as the Cardinals organization’s choices of their top performers in the fourth month of the 2019 season.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation – Hear more from Gonzalez

Yariel Gonzalez Plays for Puerto Rico – and to Reach the Majors


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.


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Johan Oviedo Emerging at Double-A

Cuban native Johan Oviedo was one of St. Louis’ top signings in the 2016-2017 international class and is now beginning to realize his potential at Double-A Springfield. Derek Shore talks with the big right-handed pitcher and his managers prior and current.

This content is for Paid – Monthly, Paid – Three Months and Paid – Annual members only.
Log In Register

Yariel Gonzalez Plays for Puerto Rico – and to Reach the Majors

photo: Yariel Gonzalez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

As Yariel Gonzalez returned to Puerto Rico, he looked out the window as his plane descended for landing in his home country.

It is a view he’ll never forget. There were no leaves on the trees that remained. The plane flew over neighborhoods with houses and buildings that had no ceilings, or with missing walls.

“Whenever I got off the plane, I cried,” Gonzalez said. “On my way home, I cried. I can’t believe this is Puerto Rico right now. My heart has always been with them.”

The damage Gonzalez described was from Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that killed 112.

Yariel Gonzalez (Peoria Chiefs)

Gonzalez returned to his San Sebastian home after the 2017 baseball season ended in the U.S, ready to help his family, his people.

“It was friends and neighbors helping each other survive, trying to find each other,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez grew up in San Sebastian, and takes great pride in Puerto Rico. He has a brother in the U.S. Air Force, and another lives in the States. Everyone in his family played baseball.

In fact, his grandfather, Carlos Ramos, played with Roberto Clemente as youngsters in Puerto Rico.

The Hall of Famer Clemente died in a plane crash en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua in December of 1972.

“It’s a really big thing for us,” Gonzalez said. “Roberto Clemente is like an idol for us. He is an example of how you should do stuff and an example of it doesn’t matter about the bonus or money you get. It’s about how hard you play.”

Coming to the States

Gonzalez, like his home, is building on a slow, steady path. He understands humble beginnings.

He grew up on baseball and went on to play at the University of Science and Arts in Chickasha, Okla. The four-time .400 hitting collegian led them to the NAIA World Series in 2016.

“It was great because you don’t play for nothing than just a championship,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t know what is going to happen after that. You just know what is happening in the moment.

“It was one of the best moments ever.”

Yet, no major league team drafted him. The Cardinals signed him as a non-drafted free agent on June 16, 2016.

Gonzalez received a $1,000 signing bonus, with only $700 remaining after taxes.

“Talking about that, it was hard for me,” Gonzalez said. “If you look at my numbers compared to any guy in the league, I shouldn’t have signed for that much. But that is what God gave me. I will make sure I get the best out of it.”

Gonzalez played rookie ball for Johnson City and moved up to short-season State College to conclude his professional debut.

He returned to State College in 2017 and hit .305 with a 15-game hitting streak and a league-best 42 RBI.

That is when Gonzalez put himself on the prospect map.

After breaking camp with full-season Peoria in 2018, he slashed .311/.357/.458 over 107 games en route to both midseason and postseason Midwest League All-Star honors.

His 2018 manager Chris Swauger said the consistency in which he played stood out the most in his game.

“(Elehuris) Montero was MVP of the league and clearly our team,” Swauger said. “If you want to actually define a valuable player, Yariel was right up there because of all the roles he played on our team as far as the positions he played and he hit in the middle of our lineup and produced the entire season.”

Gonzalez attributed his success to always playing with a killer-mentality.

“I was hungry,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted more. I wanted to get out of there. I felt like I wasn’t right for that league. I was like, ‘Man, I should be somewhere else.’ I got to kill here. I need something that will help me move on.

“Great team. Great coach. Everything was perfect for playing ball.”

Returning home again

Puerto Rico is healing its wounds thanks in large part to the role baseball has played.

Gonzalez said one of the happiest moments for the country was when Major League Baseball announced the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins would play a two-game series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, last April.

To cap it off, native son Francisco Lindor hit a dramatic home run to create what was one of the lasting images of the 2018 season.

“That is something we all dream about,” Gonzalez said. “That is something any baseball player would dream about.”

For the past three off-seasons, Gonzalez has returned home to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Gonzalez hit .294 and recorded a homer and 23 RBIs in 32 games for the Indios de Mayaguez this past offseason.

His performance earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors, an award for which Gonzalez took great pride.

“You play there for love,” Gonzalez said. “The people who are expecting you to be in the bigs are watching you and crying with you – doing everything for you. It is really important for us. It teaches you a lot. You play with big-leaguers. You are playing with people who have 10 years’ experience or more.

“It teaches you a lot about baseball.”

Continuing to prove his worth

Gonzalez, 25, is older as a prospect in the eyes of scouts, but evaluators like his upside with the bat and versatility.

Yariel Gonzalez (Memphis Redbirds)

He has spent time at six different positions in professional baseball, including first base, second base, third base, right field, left field and shortstop.

Now in his fourth year with the Cardinals organization, Gonzalez admits his journey through the system has been hard.

“I’ve been doing everything I can,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve been doing everything they asked me for. They want me to play everywhere. I did it. They wanted me to do some other stuff and I did it.

“What can I tell you? It’s been fun, but at the same time, it’s been pretty hard. I’ve had to hit a lot (to keep moving up). I don’t know what to do to keep going higher because I feel like I’m old enough to keep going and I’m still here.

“It’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people who have taught me a lot.”

He faced another challenge to open this year in the Florida State League, a league known to suppress offense.

“Everything is difficult down there,” Gonzalez said. “The weather is hot. Really hot. The fields aren’t great. You can hit the ball hard and deep it is not going to go anywhere. It teaches you. Every league, you have to take the best out of it. You can’t frustrate yourself and be like, ‘Oh, I can’t hit. No, you can hit. Try and find ways to get better.’

“Hit the ball on the ground or line drives. Just change something and try to get used to that league.”

Gonzalez kept grinding.

After hitting .260 in 57 games for High-A Palm Beach, he moved up to Double-A Springfield on June 9. Six days later, Triple-A Memphis came calling due to injuries.

Gonzalez spent a week at Triple-A before being sent back to Springfield on June 24. Since that time, he’s been one of the hottest hitters in not only the Texas League, but the Cardinals system.

Gonzalez said he has been working with hitting coach Brandon Allen on settling and calming himself down at the plate.

That has paid immediate dividends. In July, he is slashing .352/.400/.568 with five homers and 25 RBIs through 23 games.

Manager Joe Kruzel uses one word to summarize his three-hole hitter.

“Consistency,” Kruzel said. “He has been able to go up there and maintain his plan and approach. He stays within himself. He has put himself into a good hitting position and giving himself a good chance to put a good swing. He has had some really positive results with that.”

It also helps that Gonzalez doesn’t have to worry about playing a different position every day. In Elehuris Montero’s absence, he has primarily played third base, a position he has played all his life.

“Whenever I got to the Cardinals, they asked me to play everything; because that was my only chance to stay here, so I did it,” Gonzalez said. “I was like, ‘Man, I want to play ball.’ I’ll do it. I’m not mad at it. I’m happy I get the opportunity to play everywhere and learn how to play everything because that opens a lot of doors.

“Now, I’m back at my corner. That is what I love. That is the place I like to be. Again, if someday they ask me to go to the outfield because that opens doors for me, I’m more than happy to do it.”

At the same time, Gonzalez has set both short-term and long-term goals going forward.

“I’m trying to move up,” Gonzalez said. “I’m trying to keep going for my goal. All my life I just want to get to the bigs. I’m pretty sure that is every player’s goal. If I stay (at Springfield), I just want to get a championship. I want a ring. I want to celebrate with my boys and have a great time.

“That is all that matters right now.”


For more

Check out Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, exclusively presented for members each Thursday here at The Cardinal Nation.


Get TCN’s New 2019 Prospect Guide

Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF with a special 50% off deal for annual members and printed book form, now $5 off.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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