All posts by Derek Shore

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

2019 Springfield Cardinals Feature Experience and Youth

photo: Dylan Carlson (Aaron Doster/Imagn)

The Springbirds of 2019 flocked to their adopted hometown on Saturday, returning to the Missouri city following one of their more down seasons in recent memory.

Two days later, the Springfield Cardinals hosted their Media Day at Hammons Field. As part of the Monday event, the Double-A Cardinals released their preliminary Opening Day roster.

The 2019 version of the S-Cards will feature many familiar faces from last year’s club on the pitching side, including eight returnees who saw time at Double-A last season.

The pitching staff opening 2019 will be more experienced than the group that struggled last season. TCN’s No. 17 prospect Evan Kruczynski will return and anchor the S-Cards’ rotation while No. 30 prospect Seth Elledge and No. 39 prospect Connor Jones should lead a much-improved relief corps.

On the other side of the roster, almost every position player is stepping up from high-A ball. The headliners are a pair of 20-year olds – TCN’s No. 4 prospect Elehuris Montero and No. 8 prospect Dylan Carlson.

“Anytime you are beginning something new, there is a lot of excitement around the ballpark,” Springfield manager Joe Kruzel said. “The players are really excited. Now, they get to where it starts to count. This is going to be a nice little ballclub. Once they start to get their spikes in the ground and start playing a little more, you will see a really exciting ballclub.”


Starters

All five starters in the tentative rotation accumulated innings at Double-A in 2018: Kruczynski, Anthony Shew, Casey Meisner, Austin Warner and Williams Perez – three right-handers and two southpaws.

Evan Kruczynski (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Kruczynski, a 24-year old, has the physical ingredients to stand out, including a workhorse-like 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame coupled with advanced pitchability, which allowed him to reach Double-A in just his first full season of professional ball.

At Springfield last year, Kruczynski had success in a six-start sample. He was called the most effective starter on Springfield’s pitching staff by former manager Johnny Rodriguez despite only being with the club for a full month.

Shew, a 25-year old, comes off a season in which he was named TCN’s Springfield 2018 Starter of the Year. Shew led the way with 114 innings hurled on the season for the club. The right-hander also missed the most bats (96 strikeouts) of any starter on the staff and issued the fewest amount of walks (32) while also having the best WHIP at 1.40.

Armed with a five-pitch mix, Shew throws a sinker, changeup, curveball, slider and cutter. His fastball/change combination has always been his bread-and-butter, but an area of emphasis was placed on refining his other secondary pitches this past season.

Meisner, a 23-year old and TCN’s No. 48 prospect, was quietly effective in a short time for Springfield last season, posting a 3.60 ERA in six starts. The tall, deceptive right-hander struck out 33 batters against 14 walks over 40 innings with the S-Cards.

Austin Warner (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

Warner, a 24-year old who the Cardinals signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2017, pitched across three levels last year – Palm Beach, Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. The lefty had a 5.34 ERA in six starts for the 2018 S-Cards.

Warner is an undersized hurler who competes with outstanding mound presence, according to scouts. He sits 91-94 mph with his fastball on his best days with an average curveball and changeup.

Perez started for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2017 and the Double-A Arkansas Travelers this past season. The Venezuelan native also appeared in 34 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2015 and 2016, logging a 5.18 ERA in 31 starts and three relief appearances.

Perez was released by Atlanta in December 2016 and by the Cubs last February. He has an array of pitches, featuring a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveball and changeup.

One name that is not listed on the Springfield roster, but was recently claimed off waivers from the Giants and assigned to the Double-A club is Merandy Gonzalez. The 23-year old made his major-league debut with the Marlins last summer and spent most of the 2018 campaign at their Double-A affiliate.

Gonzalez works mostly in the 93-95 mph range as a starter with an above-average curveball and feel for a changeup. His power repertoire should play up eventually as a bullpen arm as he faces questions with his command as a starter.


Relievers

The tentative bullpen includes seven right-handed arms and one left-hander. Funky lefty Jacob Patterson will be the lone southpaw in the bullpen. He will make his Texas League debut after spending all of last year at Palm Beach.

Patterson, 23, held a 3.64 ERA in 51 games with the Beach Birds. The Cardinals’ 2017 13th round pick out of Texas Tech also posted a 72-to-23 strikeout to walk ratio, converting four saves in seven chances.

The righty relievers include Elledge, Jones, Will Latcham, Jesus Cruz, John Fasola, Harold Arauz and Roel Ramirez.

Seth Elledge (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Elledge came to the Cardinals from Seattle in the Sam Tuivailala trade last summer. He was assigned to Double-A Springfield, where he posted a 4.32 ERA over 13 games. The 22-year old converted four saves in six chances, striking out 20 batters through 16 ⅔ innings pitched.

Elledge throws his lively fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and will mix in a hard breaking ball that grades out at major-league average.

Jones, a 24-year old, has some of the more extensive experience at Double-A among pitchers on the Springfield roster. He spent most of the 2018 season as a starter, but he found a role as a reliever late in the season and into the Arizona Fall League.

His stuff ticked up as a result with reports of his heavy sinker being thrown at 92-96, touching 98. His curveball, which Jones says was his most consistent pitch in 2018, is average but flashed above-average at times out of the bullpen.

In his first full season of professional ball, Latcham split the 2018 campaign between High-A Palm Beach and Springfield, compiling a 3.48 ERA in 44 games. He finished off the year with a stint at Triple-A Memphis in the playoffs and followed in the Arizona Fall League.

Latcham’s greatest asset is his arm strength. He throws 93-95 and mixes in a swing and miss curveball as his out pitch.

Jesus Cruz (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

Cruz, a 23-year old, is another newcomer. He signed with the Cardinals two years ago out of Mexico and split time between low-A Peoria and Palm Beach last year, posting a 3.27 ERA in 30 games (16 starts).

Cruz is expected to move back to the bullpen in 2019 where his fastball, slider and changeup all play best.

The Cardinals selected Fasola in the Rule 5 draft from the Rangers in December. The 27-year old has spent parts of the last two years in the Texas League with Frisco. He boasted a 4.05 ERA over 21 games last year.

Another new name, Arauz signed with the Cardinals as a minor league free agent this past offseason after being with the Phillies. The 23-year old spent the majority of 2018 at Double-A in 2018 where he went 9-7 with a 4.59 ERA over 24 starts.

Arauz first signed with the Astros 2012 before he was dealt to the Phillies three years later in a trade that sent Ken Giles to Houston.

The final bullpen arm is Ramirez, who joined the Cardinals in the Tommy Pham trade last summer. The 23-year old posted a 5.06 ERA in 10 games for Springfield last season after performing well out of the bullpen for the Rays’ Double-A affiliate.

Ramirez, who was a starter with a generic fastball with developing secondary stuff, made the conversion to relieving full-time in 2018. His fastball velocity spiked into the 95-96 mph range with a split-finger changeup and slider.


Catchers

Jose Godoy (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

The Cardinals will be carrying two catchers – Jose Godoy and Brian O’Keefe.

The duo should split time behind the dish for Springfield as they did last year at Palm Beach.

Godoy slashed .289/.381/.374 in 68 games for the Beach Birds in 2018 while O’Keefe hit .243/.358/.412 over 73 games.

Infielder Chris Chinea also has experience at catcher. He could step in anytime and don the tools of ignorance as well as cover first base.


Infielders

The six-man infield includes a mix of returning and fresh faces.

Elehuris Montero (Peoria Chiefs)

The obvious headliner of the group is Montero, who rates as TCN’s No. 4 prospect and comes off a season in which he was named Most Valuable Player in the Midwest League. He spent most of the 2018 season as a 19-year old, led the MWL in batting average (.322), slugging (.529) and OPS (.910).

Not only that, he became the Cardinals’ first MWL MVP since Albert Pujols in 2000. Montero will likely be the primary third baseman. With the bat to make a huge impact, he has a chance to make a name for himself on the national level this summer.

The roster also features former LSU star Kramer Robertson, up from Palm Beach. The 24-year old is looking to bounce back after an up-and-down offensive season in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Florida State League.

He will likely be the everyday shortstop for Springfield.

Irving Lopez (Peoria Chiefs)

Irving Lopez, who posted solid numbers between Palm Beach and Peoria last year, steps up to Springfield for the first time as well. The 23-year old slashed .280/.368/.395 over 110 games between both levels.

Lopez should be the everyday second baseman for the S-Cards.

Backing them up will be Alberto Triunfel. The 25-year old, who was with the Angels organization last year, came to the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft in December. He hit a combined .235/.293/.367 with six home runs and 45 RBI in 103 games in 2018.

At first base, Chinea and Stefan Trosclair should split duties. Both are returnees to the Springfield roster.


Outfielders

Including Shane Billings, Springfield has four outfielders on its initial roster.

The other outfielders will be the ones that will likely play every day – Carlson, Conner Capel and Scott Hurst.

Carlson will be the biggest name to watch. As one of the youngest players in the Midwest League and Florida State League, the 20-year old proved to hold his own and adjust against more advanced competition over the last two years.

He also was one of the youngest prospects to stick around in 2019 big-league camp.

Although he has yet to post eye-popping numbers at any level in his professional career, Carlson is a 2019 breakout candidate and has a chance to blossom in the hitter-friendly Texas League.

Conner Capel (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Capel, who is TCN’s No. 31 prospect, should also benefit with the promotion to Springfield. He did not dominate before the trade from the Indians to the Cardinals last summer and his performance dropped after joining Palm Beach.

Like with Carlson, perhaps a chance to perform in a more hitter-friendly environment will help him rediscover his power. The 21-year old collected 44 extra-base hits (22 doubles and 22 homers) at low-A Lake County just two years ago.

Hurst, who ranks as TCN’s No. 40 prospect, performed well in a 2018 season when available, but he was on the disabled list four times. Despite spending the majority of the season on the shelf, the 23-year old’s productive season and solid spring warranted him a promotion to Springfield.

The key this season for Hurst will be staying healthy.


Conclusion

So, that concludes our look at the new version of the 2019 Springfield Cardinals, a club with an experienced pitching staff and upside in its offense as they seek to zoom toward the first half title in the Texas League North Division.

Dylan Carlson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

It is safe to say the S-Cards are anxious to get started.

“I’m extremely excited to get going,” Carlson said. “We have a great group of guys. It is going to be a lot of fun. Great staff. I’m just ready to get out there. I heard a lot of great things about this city. I’m really excited.”

“I’m very excited and eager to be here,” Montero said with Springfield strength coach Dan Vega serving as a translator. “A lot of big-leaguers have come through here. I’m excited for the opportunity the team has given me.”

Though the Opening Day starting pitcher has yet to be announced, Springfield will open the season on the road against NW Arkansas (KC) on Thursday, April 4.

The first homestand of 2019 is scheduled to commence a week later on Thursday, April 11 versus the Naturals once again.


What is next

I will be back this season with my weekly notebooks from Hammons Field covering the Springfield Cardinals, running each Thursday. I also hope to contribute interviews on occasion, all for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Stay tuned for more full-season roster information over the next week here at The Cardinal Nation.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Minor League Movers and Shakers


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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 Minor League Spring Training Notebook – 3/24/2019

photo: Stanley Espinal (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Following are the highlights from the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday minor league action, games held at Roger Dean in Jupiter, Florida against the Miami Marlins full-season affiliates.

With the exception of Memphis, which broke camp, every affiliate had stats provided on Sunday. Palm Beach was the only team to come out victorious while Springfield and Peoria dropped their games.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Administrator of Minor League Operations Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another 10 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp. (Roster details here.)

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2019, their rankings are noted.

Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day – Jacob Patterson, Palm Beach

Jacob Patterson (Palm Beach Cardinals)

The lefty reliever tossed a scoreless inning to help Palm Beach defeat the Astros High-A affiliate. He struck out two and only allowed two hits on the day.

Patterson, who was the Cardinals 2017 13th round selection out of Texas Tech, boasted a 3.64 ERA over 51 games at Palm Beach last year. The funky southpaw throws his fastball in the 87-90 mph range with a slider tough on lefty bats.

Sunday’s Hitter of the Day – Stanley Espinal, Palm Beach

Stanley Espinal (Lowell Spinners)

The third baseman collected two hits, which were two long balls. He also scored two runs for the Beach Birds.

Espinal joined the Cardinals from Boston two years ago for international bonus pool money. This past season, the 22-year old was voted the State College Spikes Most Valuable Player, totaling team highs in average (.286), RBI (41), home runs (8) and total runs (41).

 Get the entire picture! The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees by working roster assignment and minor league spring training game schedules.

The full system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Springfield (4-3-1) 7, Corpus Christi 14

Springfield pitching:

  • N/A

Springfield hitting:

  • Conner Capel (CF) – 4-for-4, 2 R – Capel continues his hot-hitting after being TCN’s Saturday Hitter of the Day. Will the 21-year old open the year at Springfield?

Palm Beach (4-3-1) 5, Fayetteville 4

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Jacob Patterson – 1.0 IP, H, 2 K – Sunday’s Pitcher of the Day

Palm Beach hitting:

  • Stanley Espinal (3B) – 2-for-5, 2 R, 2 HR – Sunday’s Hitter of the Day

Peoria (4-4) 3, Quad Cities 9

Peoria pitching:

  • N/A

Peoria hitting:

  • Mateo Gil (SS) – 2-for-3, R – slick-fielding shortstop, who was the Cardinals 3rd round pick last year. Sleep to watch coming into 2019.

Peoria 2 / Quad Cities, no score provided

Peoria pitching: 

  • Fransisco Justo – 1.0 IP, H, R, 3 K – Cardinals 13th round pick from last summer. Former Juco standout, whose best pitch is his fastball that features late life.

Peoria hitting:

  • N/A

Tomorrow’s games: Monday’s minor league games are scheduled to be held in Port St. Lucie and Jupiter. Springfield travels to St. Lucie to play New York while Palm Beach and Peoria stay at Roger Dean and hosts the Mets lower-level minors clubs. Games start at 10 a.m. ET.

Check back here each evening for these reports for the remainder of minor league camp! While you are here, check out the other articles here at The Cardinal Nation. You will be glad you did!

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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 Minor League Spring Training Notebook – 03/23/19

photo: Austin Gomber (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Following are the highlights from the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday minor league action, which are games held at Roger Dean in Jupiter, Florida against the Miami Marlins full-season affiliates.

With the exception of Peoria, the St. Louis’ squads all won with pitching ahead of hitting, allowing a combined five runs across three games. Two of those games featured shutouts from Memphis and Palm Beach.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Administrator of Minor League Operations Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another 10 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp. (Roster details here.)

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2019, their rankings are noted.

Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day – Austin Gomber, Memphis

Austin Gomber (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

After being optioned out by the Cardinals on Wednesday, Gomber was solid in his first outing on the backfields Saturday. The southpaw fanned five batters over five shutout innings.

Gomber, who will start the season at Memphis and will remain stretched out in case he is needed at the major league level, made four Grapefruit League appearances this spring. Over 11 innings, he allowed 19 hits (including six homers) and 13 runs.

His main issue was executing his fastball command, but he certainly took steps forward against the Marlins.

Saturday’s Hitter of the Day – Conner Capel, Springfield

Conner Capel (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The outfielder collected three hits, including a triple, three RBI and he came around to score twice.

Capel joined the Cardinals from Cleveland along with Jhon Torres in the Oscar Mercado trade last July and made his organizational debut in the Florida State League. Though it was only 29 games, the 21-year old hit .248 with a homer and 19 runs driven in.

Will he advance to Springfield to open the 2019 season?

 Get the entire picture! The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees by working roster assignment and minor league spring training game schedules.

The full system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Memphis (3-3-1) 2, New Orleans 0

Memphis pitching:

  • Austin Gomber – 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 5 K – Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day.

Memphis hitting:

  • Brian O’Keefe (C) – 2-for-3, R, HR, RBI – 25-year old catcher, who has spent parts of the last three years at Peoria.

Springfield (4-2-1) 14, Jacksonville 5

Springfield pitching:

  • Genenis Cabrera – 4.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 K – power lefty, who struggled in big-league camp but still could make an impact out of the bullpen for the Cardinals at some point in 2019.

Springfield hitting:

  • Conner Capel (LF) – 3-for-5, 2 R, 3B, 3 RBI – Saturday’s Hitter of the Day.

Palm Beach (3-3-1) 3, Jupiter 0

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Edgar Gonzalez – 4.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 6 K – Cardinals 2018 sixth round pick out of Fresno State.
  • Roel Ramirez – 2.0 IP, H, BB, 3 K – Also apart of the Tommy Pham trade from Tampa last July.
  • Patrick Dayton – 1.0 IP, H, 2 K – 23-year old lefty, who sported a 0.78 ERA over 20 games at Peoria last year.

Palm Beach hitting:

  • Dennis Ortega (C) – 2-for-4, 2B – defensive-minded backstop, who is still looking to make traction with the bat.

Peoria (4-3) 2, Clinton 3

Peoria pitching:

  • Jacob Schlesener – 4.0 IP, H, 2 BB, 5 K – Unable to escape short-season ball yet, but his potential continues to show through.
  • Sebastian Tabata – 1.0 IP, 2 K – 21-year old Venezulean, who debuted with the DSL Cardinals Red last summer.

Peoria hitting:

  • N/A

Tomorrow’s games: Sunday’s minor league games are scheduled to be held in West Palm Beach and Jupiter. Memphis and Springfield travel to West Palm to play Houston while Palm Beach and Peoria stay at Roger Dean and hosts the Astros lower-level minors clubs. Games start at 1 p.m. ET.

Check back here each evening for these reports for the remainder of minor league camp! While you are here, check out the other articles here at The Cardinal Nation. You will be glad you did!

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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 Minor League Spring Training Notebook – 03/16/19

Welcome to day three of our 11th year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation. Again this year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are highlights from Saturday minor league action, which is the first games against external competition held against the Nationals. Memphis and Springfield hopped on the buses to West Palm Beach while Palm Beach and Peoria remained at the complex in Jupiter, Florida.

Pitching was once again ahead of hitting in the Cardinals’ minors action on Saturday with the exception of Triple-A Memphis, which went on to lose 12-7. Double-A Springfield and Low-A Peoria, though, took victories thanks to solid pitching while High-A Palm Beach dropped a 2-1 affair.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Administrator of Minor League Operations Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are mine. However, be aware that only minimal pitching and hitting results are being shared – what you see here. So to find those struggling, you will have to look for names missing or make some guesses.

Remember these working team assignments are fluid by the day. In addition, another two dozen players have yet to be cut from Major League camp. (Roster details here.)

When players are members of The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect List for 2019, their rankings are noted.

Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day – Evan Kruczynski, Springfield

Evan Kruczynski (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

After a brief cameo in big-league camp with the Cardinals, Kruczynski made his first official start of the spring, tossing three shutout innings against the Nationals Double-A affiliate Harrisburg. The big lefty struck out three and issued one free pass on the day.

TCN’s 2019 No. 17 prospect threw two scoreless innings in relief in his only outing in big-league camp. Kruczynski comes off a season in which he perhaps took the biggest step forward of any pitcher in the system in 2018.

He has backend starter potential at the major-league level and could open this year at Memphis after making a solid impression in the Arizona Fall League.

Saturday’s Hitter of the Day – Scott Hurst, Memphis

Scott Hurst (State College Spikes)

Hurst continues his strong spring with a homer in a two-for-two afternoon for Memphis. He has hit for the cycle in West Palm Beach games now, collecting a home run, a triple and double for the Cardinals in big-league camp earlier this spring.

TCN’s No. 40 prospect performed well, but was limited in a 2018 season during which he was on the disabled list four different times. He spent the majority of the year at Peoria while getting a taste of Palm Beach to finish the season.

Hurst should open next year at either Palm Beach or Springfield to open 2019.

Get the entire picture! The Cardinal Nation members can check out the full list of minor league spring training attendees and minor league spring training game schedules.

The full system view by level and position as last season ended with every transaction all year long is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation.

Memphis (2-1) 7 at Fresno 12

Memphis pitching

  • Connor Jones – 1.0 IP, BB – Sinkerballer made the transition to relief late last season and saw an uptick in velocity

Memphis hitting

  • Scott Hurst (CF) – 2-for-2, R, HR, 2 RBI – See Above
  • Chase Pinder (DH) – 2-for-4, R, 2B – TCN’s No. 49 Prospect, who should patrol center field at Springfield in 2019

Springfield (1-2) 1 at Harrisburg 0

Springfield pitching

  • Evan Kruzcynski – 3.0 IP, BB, 3 K – See Above
  • Sam Tewes – 2.0 IP, 2 K – 2016 eighth-round pick out of Wichita State looking to rebound after an injury-plagued 2018
  • Ramon Santos – 1.0 IP, 2 K – Dominican arm working to recover at Springfield after stumbling there last year.
  • Roel Ramirez – 1.0 IP, 2 K – Acquired in the Tommy Pham trade; relief arm who also saw a velo spike after making transition to bullpen.

Springfield hitting

  • Rayder Ascanio (SS) – 2 BB – Slick fielding shortstop acquired from Seattle in the Mike Leake deal in August 2017.

Palm Beach (2-1) 1 vs. Potomac 2

Palm Beach pitching

  • Kodi Whitley – 1.0 IP, H, R, BB, 3 K – 2017 27th rounder thrived as a multi-purpose arm for Peoria last year.
  • Jake Dahlberg – 2.0 IP, 2 K – Older lefty excelled in the lower levels thanks to guts and guile. Will have to prove himself against upper-level competition because of age.

Palm Beach hitting

  • Zach Kirtley (1B) – 1-for-2, HR, K, RBI – 2017 fifth-round pick spent the entire year at Peoria in 2018 as a utility-man.

Peoria (3-0) 4 vs. Hagerstown 1

Peoria pitching

  • Tommy Parsons – 2.0 IP, 5 K – Former Division III standout signed with the Cardinals last summer; had a successful pro debut at Johnson City and looks primed to make the full-season leap.
  • C.J. Saylor – 1.0 IP, 2 K – Righty with swing-and-miss stuff, but again, will have to prove himself against more age-appropriate competition ahead.

Peoria hitting

  • Malcom Nunez (3B) – 1-for-2, 2B, RBI – DSL Triple Crown winner picks up right where he left off from his pro debut. Will he open at Peoria?
  • Luis Flores (2B) – 2-for-2 – 22-year old looks to break into full-season ball after five years at the rookie levels.

Saturday’s games: 

The Cardinals minor league affiliates all return to the Jupiter complex on Sunday for camp games. 1 p.m. ET first pitches.

Check back here each evening for these reports for the remainder of minor league camp! While you are here, check out the other articles here at The Cardinal Nation. You will be glad you did!

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase the new 2019 Prospect Guide PDF for less than half price. In addition, out limited edition printed and bound Guides are going fast, so get yours today!

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 Welcome New Manager Joe Kruzel

photo: Joe Kruzel (Springfield Cardinals)

New Springfield Cardinals’ manager Joe Kruzel had a memorable first evening in town as he was introduced to the team and the area.

“I didn’t expect a tornado on my first day,” Kruzel said.

But when the St. Louis Cardinals first notified him that he would take over their Double-A club as their sixth manager in franchise history, Kruzel said he pulled over on the side of the road in his hometown of Hamilton, OH and screamed out of his car as farm director Gary LaRocque was on the other line.

Joe Kruzel and farm director Gary LaRocque (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

“It was a very emotional day for me,” Kruzel said. “It really was. To be in a situation where you have been in the lower-levels for all that time and to have the opportunity to be put in a position, I’m very grateful to Mr. DeWitt, Mo, Girsch and Gary to have entrusted in me to be the leader of this 2019 Springfield Cardinals.

“I’m humbled and I’m honored to be that person here this year.”

Kruzel was officially introduced as the 2019 skipper on Thursday night as part of a meet-and-greet event with the Springbirds Red Access Members, essentially season-ticket holders.

The Cardinals officially named Kruzel as their Springfield manager last month. He has a mark of 369-340 in seven seasons as a minor league manager, including six managerial seasons with the Cardinals and one with the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Kruzel said he is looking forward to managing at Double-A for the first time in his professional coaching career. He said his philosophy as a coach is to create an atmosphere for the players to enjoy coming to the ballpark.

Joe Kruzel (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

“We’re trying to prepare these guys to win in St. Louis,” Kruzel said. “We are trying to get them physically, emotionally and mentally prepared here so they can do the job in St. Louis to help the Cardinals win championships.”

Kruzel also understands that Double-A, especially the Texas League, is a different animal compared to the lower levels of the minor leagues.

There are fewer opponents, hitting considered to be more advanced and longer travel.

Kruzel said the biggest difference at Double-A is the players are going to have to start producing rather than just developing their skills.

Joe Kruzel (State College Spikes)

Asked to assess the talent that could come through Springfield in 2019, Kruzel assumes it will be very similar to years past. His expectation is they will feature some talented players that are developing and on the cusp of contributing in the big leagues.

Kruzel recalled advice he recently received from former Cardinals All-Star and now minor league hitting instructor Ryan Ludwick over dinner.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Be yourself,’’’ Kruzel recalled Ludwick saying. “I have watched you over the years and I keep my eye on you. He said, ‘Don’t go there and be someone you’re not. Just go there and be yourself.’”

Kruzel expects to report to Jupiter, FL on Feb. 15 to help out in big-league camp. He should also be among those in STEP Camp with the rest of the minor leaguers reporting soon after.

Springfield will break camp on March 30 and open the season on the road at NW Arkansas (KC) on April 4. Opening Day at Hammons Field is set for April 11 against the Naturals as well.


What is next

Derek Shore will be back for another season as The Cardinal Nation’s Springfield Cardinals beat reporter. Catch his in-depth team reports, exclusively for TCN members, posted each Thursday morning all season long.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Two Cardinals Minor Leaguers Move On


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 and printed book form.


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.

2018 Springfield Cardinals Team Review

photo: Tommy Edman (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

The Springfield Cardinals of the Double-A Texas League had one of their more down seasons in recent memory by the wins and losses, but certainly held their own considering a young team adapting to an advanced league and plenty of roster turnover in the process.

Despite not making the postseason for the second straight season, the S-Cards had many new arrivals earn a chance to develop at Double-A and the organization enhanced their depth in arms from trades that contributed at Springfield by the end of the season.

Not only that, but more importantly, Springfield played a big role in Triple-A Memphis’ current playoff run to the Pacific Coast League title.

A lofty 15 Springbirds from the 2018 season are on the Redbirds postseason roster. That number swells to 18 if you count injured Ryan Helsley, Landon Beck, and Andrew Morales.

Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez explained with all of the transactions at the top in St. Louis with the youth movement at the major-league level – many were pushed to higher levels to backfill despite not quite being ready for that next step of competition.

Ramon Urias (Springfield Cardinals)

“Some other guys took advantage of that and really took steps forward,” Rodriguez said, listing Tommy Edman, Ramon Urias and Edmundo Sosa as examples. “It’s a good (recipe). There is always a positive. We want to win, no doubt. But you want to create a winning culture at the low levels going up. As long as you have a continuity of development, players moving and playing at this level, learning how to play to this level and getting ready for the next level. Then you will always have a pipeline going right to the big leagues.

“You can see from (Harrison) Bader to (Tyler) O’Neill to (Paul) DeJong to (Dakota) Hudson, and (Austin) Gomber. They all are from the pipeline. You take a (few) out of the picture and they are all Cardinals. The continuity of developing players at each level to get to the next level is going to help our major-league club – and it shows.”

Team Summary

The 2018 edition of the Cardinals featured a lot of inconsistency, mostly due to their youth while playing in a league that this year was considered older, according to Rodriguez.

With a 33-37 first half and 27-42 second half, the club ended a combined 60-79 on the season, a dismal .432 winning percentage. That is the worst mark in the division and just a half-game from worst in the league.

On a positive note, the Cardinals finished only two games out in the first half, but still finished in last place. They played .500 ball at home (19-17), but struggled to grind out wins on the road (14-20).

The second half was a different story.

Springfield had losing records both home (15-18) and away (12-24), finishing 13 games out of first, in fourth/last-place.

“We were less experienced than the other teams in our division that play each other a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I thought there was a lot of positives from an individual standpoint. We didn’t have that bad of a year. I think we added some real good arms. A lot of players here that weren’t ready. Those players got some experience. It could have been worse, to be honest.”

By month

The Texas League is a full-season league made up of a 140-game regular season, which began April 5 and concluded on September 3. The eight-team league is divided into two divisions with the Cardinals Double-A club placed in the North.

Springfield got out of the gates strongly, taking 13 of 22 games in April. The offense led the way with a .282 average, but the pitching was exposed as its 4.82 ERA indicates.

The Cardinals offense slowed down to a .249 collective average in May and the club dropped 17 of 31 games, but still remained in first with a half-game lead.

Chris Chinea and Johnny Rodriguez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

But as the first half wound down, Springfield lost 11 of its final 17 games as they fell from first to last-place in the matter of three weeks. Arkansas won the first-half title.

“The first half with the bullpen we had – you look at Arkansas – they are all second year in this league and older guys,” Rodriguez said. “Same goes with Tulsa and Northwest (Arkansas). They kept their guys a long while and that hurt. “

As the records reset, Springfield could not find any early momentum, losing nine of its first 10 games in the second half. The Cards followed up a dismal June (7-19) with a much-improved July (16-14) as they entered the dog days of August in third-place with a 17-22 record, three and half games out of first in the second-half race.

The key behind their success was a more stabilized bullpen.

That said, the Cardinals lost that momentum again and finished with a disappointing 10-19 record over the final 29 games.

Lane Thomas (Springfield Cardinals)

“With all of our movement, I’m not going to look at the record,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to look at all the positives. We did continue to fight and continued to play hard. A lot of positives came out of (Lane) Thomas, Edman, Sosa, (Chris) Ellis, (Evan) Mendoza getting the experience here, and Andy Young.

“We held our own in a league that this year was older. We had a right-handed lineup. We didn’t have that bad of a year. I think we gave up leads towards the seventh inning – 17 or 18 (times). The bullpen hurt the team’s performance. When you blow over 20 games when you have the lead after the seventh, you split that and just blow 10 – I’m in first-place or a game and a half or two with three left playing (Tulsa) for the (second-half) championship.

“In the first-half, we blew more than the second half reliever-wise and we were two games out and we were right there the second to last game of the first half. So to me, you put all that into context and it is not a bad year.”

Age

In aggregate, Springfield was younger than most of its competition.

Of the eight teams in the league, both the Cardinals hitters and pitchers averaged out as the second youngest in the Texas League. Specifically, the position players were 23.5 years of age compared to the league average of 23.8.The hurlers averaged 23.6, a half-year under the TL average of 24.1.

The pitching

As an organization, the Cardinals have traditionally been known for their pitching. This year’s version of the S-Cards were led by the offense, however.

A key reason behind Springfield’s struggles in 2018 was the 4.58 team ERA, seventh in the eight-team league.

Anthony Shew (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

20 different pitchers started for Springfield in 2018, including Anthony Shew with 19, Connor Jones with 17, and Jake Woodford with 16. Big-league rehabbers Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha also started games.

The 2018 pitching staff, tutored by first-year pitching coach Darwin Marrero, logged the already mentioned ERA of 4.58. The league average ERA was 4.18.

Another negative about the Springfield pitching staff was the fewest amount of punchouts (991) in the league and couple that with the most free passes (505) does make for a good recipe for success on the mound.

With 70 hit by pitches, the Cardinals had the second-most in the league, trailing only Midland (OAK) with 79. They also served up the third-most long balls with 128 on the season.

In terms of baserunners, the Cardinals’ WHIP of 1.42 was sixth-worst in the Texas League. The league average was 1.36.

By contrast, Springfield’s starters (4.49 ERA) were much more effective than the relievers (4.70 ERA).

“I think even when we changed the starters – starters went five to six innings – the theme of the year was just the relieving core,” Rodriguez said. “We were not able to when were tied to hold it for us to go ahead. When we had the lead, we couldn’t hold it.”

The offense

Edmundo Sosa and Jobel Jimenez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Under second-year hitting coach Jobel Jimenez, the Cardinals offense was a powerful group, ranking second in the league with 149 homers.

Although, Springfield was sixth in runs per game (4.46), compared to the most prolific offense in the league at 4.94. The league-average was 4.59.

The Cards were just fifth in batting average at .260 and seventh with a .319 on-base percentage. However, they were second with a .408 slugging percentage and fourth with a .727 OPS.

In counting stats, the Cardinals were dead-last in doubles (205) and seventh with only 21 triples.

A shortfall across the entire system, including the big-league club, is stolen bases. Springfield stole just 69 bags, second-fewest in the league.

The defense

Fielding was a strong suit for the 2018 Cardinal,s an emphasis under the defensive-minded manager Rodriguez.

The club’s fielding percentage was tops in the league at .982 and they turned the third-most double plays with 332.

The catching was also a strength as Springfield had the third-fewest passed balls (nine). The catching corps threw out only 29 percent of attempted basestealers, though. That is only sixth in the league. The league average is 31 percent.

The roster

Andrew Knizner (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The 25 players on the active Opening Day roster included a whopping 14 returning players who spent time at Double-A last season.

From among those returnees, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Knizner, and Randy Arozarena headlined the initial roster. Although Arozarena spent much of the 2018 campaign at Memphis, Helsley missed a lot of the season with a shoulder issue and Knizner had two stints up at Triple-A.

Tommy Edman, John Nogowski, Connor Jones and Darren Seferina were also key returnees, though the latter was released after only 20 games due to a slow start.

The Cardinals Opening Day roster also featured 11 newcomers, led by Jake Woodford, Conner Greene, Sam Tewes, Hector Mendoza, Edmundo Sosa and Ramon Urias.

In addition, there were several brand-new Cardinals, including breakout star Lane Thomas, power-hitting outfielder Victor Roache, and Granden Goetzman, who was released in late June.

Johnny Rodriguez and Victor Roache (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

As the season went on, the Cardinals added a number of players from High-A who contributed – position players Evan Mendoza, Andy Young, Stefan Trosclair, Blake Drake, Johan Mieses and Chase Pinder. Pitchers Anthony Shew, Mike O’Reilly, Casey Meisner, Evan Kruczynski, Austin Warner, Junior Fernandez, and Will Latcham also joined the club.

Derian Gonzalez, who is on the Cardinals 40-man roster, joined the club after rehabbing from an injury with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

In-season acquisitions made an impact to the team’s success as well. Those joining Springfield through trades include Genesis Cabrera, Seth Elledge, Roel Ramirez and Elniery Garcia, all pitchers.

Others who contributed include Thomas Spitz (released), Jeremy Martinez, Chris Chinea and Luke Dykstra (released). Pitchers include Ramon Santos, Matt Pearce, Jacob Evans (released), Landon Beck, Estarlin Arias, Ian McKinney (released), Yeison Medina, Austin Sexton, and Colton Thomson.

In total, Springfield made 175 player transactions this season.

Team standouts

Tommy Edman (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Rodriguez noted a number of standouts on this year’s Springfield team.

The second-year manager admitted Edman stood out the most, “developing into a sound hitter and really made strides as an offensive guy.”

Another standout was Andrew Knizner.

“Knizner got so much better defensively,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a big positive. He can hit and is going to hit. He has got some things to clean up offensively, but he is going to hit. He got so much better defensively.”

Here were the rest of Rodriguez’s comments on standouts for this season.

“Sosa took advantage of playing a lot,” Rodriguez said. “Mendoza took advantage. Young played a lot. We have added some good arms in (Elniery) Garcia, (Roel) Ramirez, (Genesis) Cabrera, and (Seth) Elledge.

“We had a good addition in (Johan) Mieses. He is a kid that is still young and has some potential with the power. (Victor) Roache didn’t last the whole year. He could have had a better average, but showed some improvements.

“Lane Thomas was a really big surprise. He was solid year here and has done very good up in Triple-A. So has Edman and so has (Ramon) Urias. Urias was a nice addition. He is a guy that can help. His bat has potential. You have (Randy) Arozarena. Sosa held his own in Triple-A. He got called up and has done an adequate job up there as well.”

In conclusion

As a team, the 2018 Springfield Cardinals had a predominantly young team with an up-and-coming pitching staff, powerful offense, and superb defense. While the competition in the division proved to be older and wiser, the Cardinals held their own. From the development perspective, the club provided many battle-tested players to Triple-A who continue to help Memphis in their playoff run.

“The theme of it – a lot of positives,” Rodriguez assured. “Don’t look at the record – look at the players advanced and all the transactions. Players moved up that Triple-A needed to fill. We sent them up to Triple-A. They have been successful there.”

For more

Link to master article with all 2018 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Springfield Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation:

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 23 – Playoffs

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.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Latcham Brings Energy and Gets Mound Results

photo: Will Latcham (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Will Latcham is one of the more vibrant relievers you will find in the St. Louis Cardinals system.

He wants to carry all that energy with him on the mound.

“I try to just be a pound-for-pound guy,” Latcham said. “I am going to attack the strike zone at all costs and throw the ball as hard as I can whatever pitch it is – curveball or fastball. Throw it 120 percent. When I’m on that mound, it is my game. It is not theirs.”

Latcham has quickly emerged as a fast-rising late-inning relief prospect in the Cardinals organization, becoming only the second player taken from the 2017 draft to reach Double-A Springfield this season.

“It is definitely nice knowing that they almost trust me,” Latcham said. “But I’ve got to keep working. I don’t want to be satisfied being here (at Double-A). That doesn’t change anything. It is still the game of baseball. I still have to go out there and perform to stay here. It is not a given thing.

“There are people behind me trying to catch up, so that is how it is. It is just a dog-eat-dog environment.”

Relief weapon at Coastal Carolina

Latcham, a Briarcliffe, Pa. native, was a starting pitcher during his entire high school career, from his time on the mound at Cardinal O’Hara to his two-year stint in junior college.

Will Latcham (Coastal Carolina University)

When he joined Coastal Carolina in 2017 – the defending national champions – the coaching staff put him in the bullpen.

“They wanted me to close there,” Latcham said. “That was the best way to help them out, so I did that.”

But Latcham first had to earn the coaching staff’s trust as he was the team’s set-up man for a few appearances before he could take on the closer’s role.

Latcham adjusted well to being a reliever, going 3-0 with four saves and a 1.05 ERA at Coastal Carolina in 2017. He relishes pitching in high-leverage situations and doing whatever it takes to help his team win.

In fact, he has always had that competitive nature – dating back to when he was a kid.

“I used to play hockey back in my day,” Latcham said. “I guess that has a purpose in it. It is just my motivation, trying to keep climbing the ladder and be successful in this game.”

Fast-rise as a Cardinal

Latcham reaped the benefits of moving to the bullpen as he was drafted by the Cardinals in the 17th round shortly after his 2017 college season concluded.

He never pictured himself reaching this point, but it is the start of another dream. He made one dream by pitching at Coastal Carolina after spending two years at Cumberland County Community College.

“It’s something I will never forget,” Latcham said. “It was a special moment. It was a good thing for my family, friends, and all the people that supported me through it. It was just everything that I worked for paid off.”

Will Latcham (State College Spikes)

Latcham did not skip a beat in his pro debut, posting a 2.05 ERA over 18 games for Low-A (short-season) State College. The right-hander struck out 41 batters and converted four saves in five chances through 30 ⅔ innings for the 2017 Spikes.

“What’s really not to like about the young man?”, State College manager Joe Kruzel said. “He’s a very competitive young man. He’s got a plus fastball with a plus power curveball. He shows some signs of having a feel for a changeup and we wish he would’ve thrown it more. That is what I was trying to get him to throw late in the year – to throw his changeup more, which he started to do.

“He’s got three pretty nice pitches. That fastball’s firm and his curveball is close to a 12-6. It’s probably not exactly a 12-6 but it’s sharp and it’s late. He’s another guy that threw strikes. He may have got tired towards the end of the year but he threw strikes, competed, and attacked hitters.”

Added Latcham, “As soon as they step into that box, it is your box. As long as you attack and can control your pitches, I think you will be successful.”

Latcham came into this spring with a lot to prove and earned a day in big-league spring training.

“That was awesome,” he said. “To be put in front of the lights. I didn’t play obviously, but just the opportunity to get to watch the guys that are paid who are doing it and making all that money. It is just good to learn from those guys, talk to them, and see what helped them in their routes to get there.”

Will Latcham (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

Following spring training, the 22-year old opened his first full season at High-A Palm Beach, where he was once again the closer. Latcham had a 3.00 ERA in 34 games and notched nine saves in 13 chances, helping the team to a first-half title in the Florida State League South Division.

“(I’m) just sticking to my approach, attacking and trying to get ahead of hitters,” Latcham said as he reflected on his success with the Beach Birds. “Once you get ahead, just put them away and keep executing each pitch you have. Don’t give up and keep throwing as hard as I can every time I can.”

On July 5, Latcham was promoted to Double-A Springfield, where he helped shore up a floundering bullpen.

His presence was immediately noticed.

“(He has) makeup,” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “Not afraid of the situation. Not afraid of a challenge. Not afraid of a stressful inning. He can come in with the bases loaded and no outs, first and second one out, and he is the same guy. Not perfect always, but I love bringing him out when things are down when the ships are about to go on fire or everything is chaotic.

“He is a stabilizer.”

After going 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in 10 games at Springfield, Latcham returned to Palm Beach to help them out in their playoff run.

While scouts say he has the potential to be a solid major-league middle reliever down the road, Latcham wants improve the control of his secondary pitches for now.

“Just being able to control my secondary pitches – curveball and changeup,” Latcham said. “Being able to throw them in any count will really help me out towards the job.”

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Prospect Meisner has his Beard and Mojo Back

photo: Casey Meisner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

When St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Casey Meisner received word he was promoted to Double-A Springfield on July 27, he was excited for multiple reasons, including one that may be surprising.

“I’m going to let my beard grow out more now,” Meisner said, who had to adhere to the Cardinals policy of no beards until a player reaches Double-A. That is a rule that comes from the organization’s front office.

“You have to keep it clean shaven in High-A now,” he added. “Now, I have let it grow out, trimmed it up a little bit, and made it look nice.”

Joining the Cardinals

The New York Mets drafted Meisner, a high schooler at the time, in the third round of the 2013 draft, then traded him to the Oakland Athletics two years later in a deal for reliever Tyler Clippard. Meisner was only 20 years old and he said the move was a shock.

Casey Meisner (Stockton Ports)

The right-hander had scattered success with the Athletics and spent half a season with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds in 2017, posting a 4.12 ERA in 12 starts. On the last day of spring training this year, his bags were packed for Midland and he was getting ready to go to sleep around 10 p.m. at the team’s hotel in Mesa, Arizona when his phone rang.

The A’s traded him to the Cardinals for Josh Lucas. For the second time in his five years as a professional, he would be changing organizations.

“I didn’t really know much about the Cardinals,” Meisner said. “I didn’t know about any other organization, to be honest. I was kind of in shock. I didn’t know what to say or what to do. They told me some people were going to be calling me, so I waited on those calls.”

When Meisner received a call from the Cardinals, he was told he would report to extended spring training in Florida. Coaches studied him and decided to start tinkering with his mechanics.

“I had a slightly different arm slot,” he said. “My leg kick was a little different. My plant foot was off. Some small tweaking of mechanics. That was really it. They got me back on track. I have a lot of moving parts, so it is hard to keep them moving at the same time.”

Instead of sending him to Springfield right off the bat, the Cardinals opted to assign Meisner to High-A Palm Beach, where he compiled a 3.64 ERA over 15 starts.

Meisner said he worked with Palm Beach pitching coach Will Ohman on getting back to his roots from high school and where he was with the Mets earlier in his career.

“They showed me some video in high school and they told me, ‘We want you to be that guy’,” Meisner said. “We watched video and we started from the feet and went all the way up. We started with the feet, getting those in line and worked all the way back up. And then finally everything was clicking together.”

Not only did Meisner prove to adjust to his new team, but he changed his delivery so he can finish in a more athletic position, and smoothened out his leg kick. That led to him throwing more strikes and his velocity increased into the 89-94 mph range.

That paid off with a promotion to Springfield in late July.

Returning to the Texas League

Meisner made his Springfield debut on July 29, tossing six innings of three-run ball against NW Arkansas. He ended his second stint at Double-A with a 3.60 ERA through seven games (six starts).

“I pitched here (Texas League) last year and I didn’t change much,” Meisner said. “I think I’m a better pitcher now that my mechanics are back online. I have been throwing more strikes. I think my stuff is good enough to get hitters out. I got hitters out last year here. I didn’t have any different approach. I just went out there and did what I have been doing all year.”

But his size and unusual delivery piqued the interest of his new manager at Double-A, who saw him with Midland last year.

“Meisner has got some angle and he is a very tall guy,” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said.

At 6-foot-7, he is tied with three others as the tallest pitcher in the Cardinals organization. His delivery is over-the-top, which gives him plenty of deception against hitters.

“Having that longer stride and longer release point, it might be three or six inches closer releasing to the plate than any other pitcher,” Meisner said. “Hitters don’t really like that. I get a lot of swings and misses on high-fastballs because it might look like it is coming down but it never does, so it just stays up and they swing through it.

“That is really it. I would say it gives me deception.”

That deception helps his fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup mix play up. Meisner considers his slider his put-away offering, throwing it in any count for a swing and miss. His curveball remains a work-in progress because of his new mechanics. The fastball goes to both sides of the plate while changeup is his primary pitch to neutralize lefties.

Going forward, Meisner feels he has made the needed improvements over the course of this year. His biggest goal was to just finish the season strong.

That certainly resonated with Rodriguez.

“He doesn’t give in,” Rodriguez said. “He gives you seven innings if he has his stuff and if he doesn’t have his stuff. Very good demeanor. Very even-keel. Good mound presence. He competes. I could tell you a bunch of accolades on him. I love everything about what he does. His work ethic. His in-between preparation.

“That’s a great pickup.”

Now that he finished the year at Double-A, Meisner feels good about one thing in particular.

“I finally have the beard back,” he said.

For more – Catch Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, posted each Thursday morning all season long, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation August Player of the Month

This is the second part 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 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 August system-wide hitting leaders.

Nunez earns TCN’s top hitting honors

While a number of hitters in the Cardinals system had strong Augusts, one position player distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of hitting to help win a league Triple Crown.

Malcom Nunez (Jesse Sanchez/MLB/Twitter)

Our August Player of the Month is DSL Cardinals Blue third baseman Malcom Nunez, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month award.

Despite appearing in only 22 games in the already-completed DSL regular season, Nunez made the most of his time in the field and then some. He led the system with a .840 slugging percentage, .505 on-base percentage, 1.345 OPS, 16 extra-base hits (nine doubles and seven homers), 65 total bases, and a whopping 34 RBI (next closest 24 RBI from Johnson City first baseman Leandro Cedeno, who had 23 more at-bats) among hitters with at least 60 at-bats.

The 17-year old also was second in the organization with a .420 average (34-for-81) among qualifying hitters, helping him win the DSL Triple Crown for the season despite missing nearly half the schedule due to being a July 2 signing. He finished the year hitting .415 with 13 homers and 59 RBI.

Not only that, the Havana, Cuba native was the first DSL batter in at least 13 years to hit .400, and also the first to slug at least .650 in a season at that level.

The Cardinals signed Nunez for $300,000 just two months ago. He is viewed as a strong, physical player with plus raw power and a huge arm at the hot corner coupled with an exceptional track record for performance.

“We are pleased to sign a hitter of Malcom’s caliber and viewed his bat among the best available,” Cardinals Assistant General Manager Moises Rodriguez told MLB.com on July 2 after Nunez’ signing became official. “He has a track record of performing at a high level in both Cuban youth leagues and international competition, where he stood out among his peers.

“We thought he’d be a long shot given our signing (financial) limitations, but [director of international operations] Luis Morales, [Dominican Republic scouting supervisor] Angel Ovalles and local scouts did an excellent job of getting to know the player and putting us in position to sign him.”

In TCN’s recent monthly re-rankings of Cardinals Top 50 Prospects, Nunez debuted as our No. 38 prospect. He almost certainly should get a shot at playing state-side at age 18 in 2019.

Honorable Mentions

Runner-up to Nunez is Joerlin De Los Santos, who hit a system-best .439 with an impressive 1.175 OPS, including eight doubles, four triples, and eight driven in this past month The 17-year old center fielder also swiped nine bags for the DSL Cardinals Red and posted a solid strikeout to walk ratio of 8-to-7 over 66 at-bats.

Another worthy mention is GCL Cardinals outfielder Jhon Torres, who produced a robust slash line of .397/.493/.687. Torres, who is one of two prospects acquired by the Cardinals in the Oscar Mercado trade on July 31, launched four homers and hit the gaps for doubles six times while knocking in 14 runs in 63 at-bats.

Back at the Academy in the Dominican once again, DSL Cardinals Blue outfielder Darlin Moquete also put together a quality month at the dish with a .388 average, albeit with less impact as his peers above (.899 OPS) over 85 at-bats. Also, DSL Cardinals Red shortstop Franklin Soto hit .379 with a .941 OPS in 66 at-bats.

Two more DSL Cardinals Red position players with strong months are Francisco Hernandez (.351/.430/.473 in 74 at-bats) and Luis Montano (.344/.408/.541 over 61 at-bats).

At the other end of the system, Memphis had a pair of hot hitters from this past month in Rangel Ravelo (.339 average and .819 OPS despite finishing one at-bat short of qualifying to be considered) and Wilfredo Tovar, who hit .333 with a .847 OPS.

Johnson City was led by Cedeno, who slugged six homers and drove in 24 runs, which ranked second in the Cardinals system for August. He finished with a 1.036 OPS over 98 at-bats. JC’s Liam Sabino hit a sturdy .339 with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBI through 62 at-bats.


Update:

Once the Labor Day weekend was over, on Tuesday, September 4, the Cardinals organization announced their top player choices for August. Obviously, we agree!


Related article:

The Cardinal Nation August Pitcher of the Month

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation:

Cardinals Weekend Minors Transactions – September 1-2, 2018

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.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.