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

Cardinals add Budaska and Greer as New Hitting Coaches

photo: George Greer, Oliver Marmol, Jose Oquendo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Along with the dismissal of manager Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals relieved hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller of their duties Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, their replacements were announced – long-time minor league hitting gurus Mark Budaska (Triple-A Memphis hitting coach) and George Greer (minor league hitting coordinator).

Budaska and Greer, who are expected to join St, Louis’ coaching staff after the All-Star break, will be put to the task of improving the performance of a Cardinals offense that ranks near the middle of the pack in a number of major offensive categories, including batting average (.244, 16th in MLB), on-base percentage (.314, 20th in MLB), slugging percentage (.319, 19th in MLB), and wRC+ (94, 16th in MLB).

Mark Budaska (Memphis Redbirds)

Budaska, 65, has spent 11 seasons as hitting coach for the Redbirds. Before that, he spent six years in the Boston Red Sox system, including a three-year stint with Triple-A Pawtucket. He is well-regarded for his background in biomechanics and has helped mold a number of current and former Cardinals hitters, including Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Jon Jay, David Freese, Randal Grichuk, Daniel Descalso, Matt Adams, Stephen Piscotty, Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham.

The former switch-hitting outfielder played for 10 years in the Oakland Athletics organization, including stints with the big league club in 1978 and 1981. Budaska, who now resides in Hawaii, appeared in 13 games with the A’s, collecting six hits in 36 at-bats with three doubles and two RBI.

He began his professional playing career in 1973 with Lewiston in the Northwest League after signing as an amateur free agent, and made his major league debut on June 6, 1979.

This past season, Budaska was instrumental in helping Memphis to their first Pacific Coast League championship since 2009. That team was spearheaded by a high-powered offense which included Pham, Paul DeJong, Harrison Bader, and Luke Voit at various points. He also served as assistant hitting coach for the big league Cardinals for several weeks in the first half of 2017 while Mueller was on personal leave before returning to Memphis to finish the season.

Budaska, who studied kinesiology at a California college before baseball came calling, stresses the importance of “balance, “rhythm”, and “timing” to his hitters.

“I teach loads,” Budaska told the St. Louis Post Dispatch last summer. “It’s not swings. If you’re balanced, you have a good swing. If you’re not balanced, I don’t care how strong you are or what your bat speed is, you don’t have a swing. Let’s build a load and let the athleticism take them up from there.”

While Budaska has been credited for how the hitters perform in the minors and how major league hitters have done when they are sent to Memphis to reset in the past, Greer, 71, is the architect per se. He has been through it all inside the game of both collegiate and professional baseball over the last five decades.

George Greer (Johnson City Cardinals)

As a player, Greer topped out at the Cardinals Triple-A Tulsa Oilers, then managed by Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn. The outfielder and first baseman’s minor league playing career was highlighted by a 21-homer season in 1970 for the Modesto Reds (Cardinals High-A affiliate) and four years prior – Greer thrived in the Pan American Games to help the US National Team triumph over Cuban National Team for the first time in Games history.

After calling it a career in 1971, Greer began his first of over 30 years of coaching at the college level – beginning with the University of Connecticut-Avery Point in 1972. Greer then had stints with Davidson College from 1981 to 1987 and his final collegiate stop, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a program he led to 608-382-4 cumulative record over 17 seasons.

Ever since, Greer has worked in professional baseball, most recently for the New York Mets in a nine-year stint as a minor league hitting coach. He joined the Cardinals as minor league offensive strategist and also served as Johnson City Cardinals hitting coach in 2015.

A year later, Greer took the reins of minor league hitting coordinator, his assignment for the last three years. In his role, he has received praise from Cardinals officials for his work with a number of Cardinals hitting prospects, particularly with the resurgence of Oscar Mercado last year.

In one of his most recent cases, Greer has worked with Carson Kelly on his hitting, since the catcher was optioned back to Triple-A on June 4. Over the last few weeks, Kelly has been one of the hottest hitters in the organization.

During Sunday morning’s press conference, interim manager Mike Shildt disclosed that the bench coach position will be “fluid” rather than name his specific replacement. Cardinals President of Baseball Ops John Mozeliak cited Greer and Jose Oquendo as two who will likely help fill that void, even without the title.

“I am a hitting coach, but I am also a baseball coach,” Greer said in an interview with Memphis broadcaster Steve Selby last summer. “I have coached every position throughout the years. This has been a wonderful experience because as an offensive strategist, you really don’t have a lane. You have dots rather than solid lines, so you can cross over and people respect that because of my age.”

Greer broke down his job further when asked to elaborate.

“Well, what I have done is given us a plan of looking fastball and looking away, adjusting to the off-speed pitch and then doing all the mental things you were taught playing baseball,” he said. “Move the runner along. Get a good pitch to hit and drive a ball to center field with the bases-loaded, so you don’t hit into a double-play. All those kinds of little things that makes runs and causes run creation throughout the season.”

As of now, it is unclear who will replace Budaska as Memphis’ hitting coach. Double-A Springfield hitting coach Jobel Jimenez is among those who could move up and fill the vacancy or the organization could use its fourth coach to help fill the gap.

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.

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 13

Tommy Edman set a Springfield Cardinals record, Chris Chinea is the Texas League Player of the Week and Andrew Knizner keeps hitting, but continued team inconsistency led to a disappointing 1-6 week and last place in the second half standings.

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The Cardinal Nation June Player of the Month

photo: Rangel Ravelo (Memphis Redbirds)

This is the final 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 June system-wide hitting leaders.

Ravelo claims TCN’s top hitting honors

While a number of position players in the Cardinals system had strong Junes, one hitter distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of offense to get a portion of the St. Louis fan base clamoring for his call-up to the big leagues.

Rangel Ravelo (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Our June Player of the Month is Triple-A Memphis’ Rangel Ravelo, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization and the Pacific Coast League Player of the Month honors.

Despite appearing in only 19 games in June, Ravelo made the most of his time in the field with the Redbirds and then some, posting a system-best .463/.538/.806 slash line among hitters in the organization with at least 60 at-bats.

“He is a good corner guy, meaning first base and a corner guy in the outfield,” Memphis manager Stubby Clapp said of Ravelo last year. “Very versatile and he has got a good bat. Can hit the ball to all sides of the field. He pulled the ball better and used his size and his strength to the pull-side.”

The 26-year old Cuban also finished second in the system with 31 hits, behind only Springfield middle infielder Tommy Edman, who tallied 36 knocks in 35 additional at-bats.

Not only that, Ravelo provided plenty of punch in the middle of the order for Memphis in June, leading the system with six home runs. He was also the best run-producer in the organization with 23 RBI, topping even a number of big league hitters in Jose Martinez (21 RBI in 86 at-bats), Marcell Ozuna (21 RBI in 102 at-bats), Yadier Molina (15 RBI in 76 at-bats), and Matt Carpenter (15 RBI in 99 at-bats).

His bat-to-ball skills were impressive, as evidenced by his 4-to-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 78 total plate appearances.

Overall on the season, Ravelo carries a .321/.404/.536 slash line for a .940 OPS over 58 games. His results include 11 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, and 42 RBI. His 2018 strikeout to walk ratio sits at 24-to-22 over 196 at-bats for Memphis.

Ravelo was signed by the Cardinals as a minor league free agent last season due to Memphis being short on offensive firepower. He had been released by the Oakland Athletics after 2017 spring training and hasn’t looked back in terms of his performance at the plate.

While his offense is clearly his carrying tool, the Chicago White Sox’ 2012 sixth-round pick has split time between first base and left field this year. He also has experience in right field in the past.

Though scouts think Ravelo lacks the power to play first base every day, he could be a tough right-handed bat off the bench in the big leagues.


Late Monday afternoon, the Cardinals organization announced that Ravelo is their June Player of the Month, as well.

Honorable Mentions

Tommy Edman (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Runner-up to Ravelo is the aforementioned Edman, who ranks as TCN’s No. 33 prospect and broke the Double-A Springfield all-time record with a 33-game on-base streak on Friday, moving past former farmhand Aaron Luna in the record books.

Oh, and he had an outstanding month of June as well. Edman was the most durable player in the system, taking the most at-bats (102). The 23-year old was second among qualified hitters with a .353 average and OPS’d .803 over 25 games for the month.

“He is not a big guy, but he is very durable,” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said regarding Edman. “I would think he would be tired. He has shown some signs – I won’t say tired but it is just wear and tear and the grind of the heat. The long travels of this league.

“Well, guess what? He has picked up 30 points on his average. He has been really good – both sides of the plate.”

Another worthy mention was Dominican Summer League Cardinals Blue center fielder Diomedes Del Rio, who received strong consideration despite being at the lowest level of competition in the minors. In 20 games, Del Rio tore up DSL pitching, slashing .339/.494/.758 with 13 extra-base hits (four doubles, eight triples, and two homers) as well as 17 RBI. The 5-foot-10 left-handed hitter also has a robust 21-to-14 K/BB count through 62 at-bats.

In his third season at the Academy, Del Rio has finally found traction after a disappointing pro debut two years ago and less than stellar 2017. The 20-year old was a part of the Cardinals prestigious 2016 international signing class, signing for $200,000 out of Venezuela. He shows signs of a solid offensive approach and contact ability from the left-side, playing center field with above-average speed.

DSL Cardinals Red outfielder Joerlin De Los Santos also had a strong month of June, hitting .338 with a .918 OPS. The 17-year old, who signed for $250,000 last year out of the Dominican, collected seven doubles, one triple, and 12 RBI over 22 games this past month. A 70 runner, De Los Santos swiped 12 bags in 14 chances as well.

De Los Santos spent time in the infield and outfield as an amateur, but center field was the best match with his speed. He has solid barrel-to-ball skills as evident by his 13-to-16 strikeout to walk count in his first 77 pro at-bats and has the speed to leg out extra-base hits.

In addition to Ravelo, a handful of Memphis batters had solid Junes – outfielder Tyler O’Neill (five home runs in 69 at-bats and a .958 OPS), third baseman Patrick Wisdom (13 extra-base hits in 88 at-bats and a .940 OPS), and outfielder Adolis Garcia (10 extra-base hits in 76 at-bats and a .858 OPS).

Between Memphis and Springfield, TCN’s No. 7 prospect Andrew Knizner had a nice month, batting .295 with three doubles and a home run in 19 games, highlighted by a perfect 4-for-4 effort on June 23 all while continuing to improve his defense behind the plate.

Lane Thomas was up-and-down but was the primary power source for the S-Cards, leading the club with four homers and 17 RBI. The outfielder finished the month with a .287/.349/.468 slash line for a .817 OPS in 94 at-bats. Stefan Trosclair (.828 OPS in 58 at-bats) and Chris Chinea (.800 OPS in 78 at-bats) were productive in June for Springfield.

In the pitcher-friendly confines of the Florida State League, High-A Palm Beach was led by outfielder J.B. Woodman, who posted a .327/.473/.387 slash line with 10 extra-base hits and 10 RBI in 55 at-bats. Johan Mieses (.814 OPS in 69 at-bats), Andy Young (.808 OPS in 83 at-bats), and Dylan Carlson (.800 OPS in 76 at-bats) were also key contributors.

At Low-A Peoria, TCN’s No. 18 prospect Elehuris Montero continued his breakout season for the Chiefs, slashing .289/.372/.518 with five doubles, four homers and 17 RBI over 83 at-bats. The third baseman does not turn 20 until August 17. Matt Fiedler (.841 OPS in 67 at-bats), Scott Hurst (.804 OPS in 62 at-bats), Bryce Denton (.762 OPS in 73 at-bats), and Nick Plummer (.758 OPS in 55 at-bats) had good Junes as well for Peoria.

Related article: The Cardinal Nation June Pitcher of the Month – Dakota Hudson

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Draft Update and Weekend Transactions

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

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 11

The Springfield Cardinals can reset and refocus on the second half after a disappointing 5-14 finish dropped them into last place. Seven Cardinals are Texas League All-Stars, including infielder and leadoff man Tommy Edman, whose on-base streak is now 26 games.

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Cardinals Complete 2018 Draft with 30 Picks

photo: Chris Holba (East Carolina)

By Derek Shore, Scott Schook and Brian Walton

On Wednesday, June 7, the St. Louis Cardinals are making their final 30 selections in the third day of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft, covering rounds 11-40.

Though uninformed observers pay little attention to Day 3 selections, the reality is that many good major leaguers are sourced from these picks. In fact, the Cardinals have been especially successful, with a number of players currently on the major league roster once drafted in round 11 or later. They include former all-star Matt Carpenter and potential 2018 all-star Tommy Pham.

In Day 2 of the 2018 Draft, the Cardinals clearly focused on college hitters, using five of the eight picks. Of the seven collegians added in total on the second day, the first five were all juniors and just the final two are seniors, apparently leaving less opportunity to save money to overpay selected Day 3 picks.

The Cardinals are required to use a portion of their $7,968,400 pool allocation to cover bonuses for any of the Day 3 selections who receive more than $125,000 each in signing bonus.

Just one high schooler was taken on Day 3, the initial selection, third-rounder Mateo Gil. There is a considerable balance across positions in the second-day take, with two pitchers, two middle infielders, two corner infielders, an outfielder and a catcher.

However, the clear focus in this draft has been on offense (eight selections) over pitching (three) and on college (nine) over high schoolers (two).

For More

Link to The Cardinal Nation’s Draft Day 2 in-depth report – Cardinals Pick Eight on 2018 Draft Day 2

Link to The Cardinal Nation’s Draft Day 1 in-depth report – St. Louis Cardinals Take Prep 3B Gorman in First Round

View all Cardinals 2018 draftees here

Come back to The Cardinal Nation often on Wednesday as information about all St. Louis’ draft picks from rounds 11-40 will be posted shortly after they are made.

Again, as Wednesday progresses from afternoon into evening, this article will be updated as picks are made and information added, so please check back often.

St. Louis’ Day 3 selections

Chris Holba (East Carolina)

11th round, 333rd overall

RHP Chris Holba
East Carolina, Junior
6’3′, 190 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

After going heavy on position players in the first two days of the 2018 draft, the Cardinals went with a college junior right-hander from East Carolina with their 11th round pick in Holba to open Day 3.

This past season, the 21-year old put together his best collegiate season to date, posting a 2.99 ERA (ranked sixth in the American Conference) over 15 starts for the Pirates. Holba also had a 60-to-20 strikeout to walk ratio through 81 1/3 innings hurled.

Stuff-wise, the O’Fallon, Illinois native has four main pitches, including a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and slider. This selection marks the second consecutive year the Cardinals have drafted a pitcher from East Carolina. The last was lefty starter Evan Kruczynski, who is now at high-A Palm Beach.

Last month, Holba was also named to the Golden Spikes Midseason Watch-List. In addition, he played for Team Europe in the 2009 Little League World Series, hitting a grand slam against Canada. His father, Colonel Bob Holba, played baseball and football at the United States Air Force Academy.

Francisco Justo (Monroe College)

12th round, 363rd overall

RHP Francisco Justo
Monroe College, JC J1
6’4”, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals followed up their first pick of Day 3 with yet another college arm. This time, however, they went the JUCO route with Justo.

Justo, a 19-year old righty from Bronx, New York, went a perfect 10-0 with a 2.01 ERA for Monroe College, striking out a whopping 121 batters against 29 walks through 71 2/3 innings. That is an average of 15.20 strikeouts per nine innings (sixth in the country).

Not only that, Justo was the first Monroe JC Mustang to ever be selected to the Juco World Series All-Tournament Team. He was named to the NJCAA Division 1 All-Region XV Team as well.

Colin Schmid (Appalachian State)

13th round, 393rd overall

LHP Colin Schmid
Appalachian State (NC), 4YR JR
6’1”, 195 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

With their 13th round selection, the Cardinals selected their second southpaw of the draft in Schmid.

Schmid, a 20-year old, features a sinking fastball that sits in the 86-90 mph range. He also has a good curveball and an excellent changeup to boot. Schmid is said to be a strike-thrower and has shown the ability to compete when adversity arises.

He also ranked third in Appalachian State history with 224 strikeouts. In fact, Schmid struck out 11 against UNC-Wilmington which is tied for the most punchouts in a single game in a Sun Belt game in 2018.

In addition, Schmid excels with academics as he was named to the Dean’s List and is majoring in Construction Management with minors in Spanish and Business.


Brandon Riley (North Carolina)

14th round, 423rd overall

2B Brandon Riley
North Carolina (NC), 4-year Junior

6’0”, 170 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

With the 14th round pick, the Cardinals took North Carolina second baseman Brandon Riley (first position of Day 3 so far).

While not the most physical player on the field by any means, Riley stands out for his quality at-bats and defensive capabilities fitting the mold of Greg Garcia and Tommy Edman. Standing 6’0” and 170 pounds, he has a lean frame that he can easily add bulk to while in pro ball while still sustaining his athletic ability.

At the dish, Riley has quick hands and showcases an understanding of the strike zone. He is a disciplined hitter with above-average bat control, working the whole field and rarely chases pitches out of the zone. Though he doesn’t hit for much power, Riley often drives the ball in the gaps for extra-base hits.

Mike Brettell (Canadian Baseball Network)

15th round, 453rd overall

RHP Mike Brettell
Central Michigan (MI), 4-year Junior
6’3”, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals returned to pitching after their first position player in the 14th round, selecting Brettell.

Bretell, considered to be the workhorse of Central Michigan pitching staff, leading the team with 15 starts and 93 innings this season, including two complete games. He also had a 4.70 ERA with 70-to-32 K/BB through 93 innings.

That said, look beyond the stats with Brettell because he flashes quality stuff at times. His fheater runs in the 90-to-94 mph range with darting sink, maintaining that velocity throughout outings.  However, he gets hit hard when he leaves the ball up.

To round out his repertoire, Brettell plays a slider off his fastball with a changeup that floats too much.

Evan Sisk (College of Charleston)

16th round, 483rd overall

LHP Samuel (Evan) Sisk
College of Charleston, 4-year Junior
6’2”, 209 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

The Cardinals continued to go heavy on college pitching with their 16th round pick, taking a lefty from College of Charleston in Sisk.

Sisk, a 6-foot-2, 209 pounder, compiled a 10-3 record with a 2.96 ERA for the Cougars in his junior season. He also had a 78-to-24 K/BB through 91 1/3 innings hurled.

Sisk is a native of Chester, South Carolina and pitched four seasons at Lewisville High School in Richburg, SC as a prep. Named all-state as a sophomore, junior and senior. He posted a 0.97 ERA with 114 strikeouts in his senior campaign.

Kyle Leahy (Colorado Mesa University)

17th round, 513rd overall

RHP Kyle Leahy
Colorado Mesa University, 4-year Junior
6’5”, 200 pounds
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right

Another pick, another college junior pitcher the Cardinals drafted. This time, it is right-handed pitcher Leahy from Colorado Mesa University.

In his junior season, Leahy picked up second-team All-Region honors by the D2CCA after tying for the team lead in wins with seven. He also tied for the team lead with 85 strikeouts.

As a sophomore, he was 13-0 with a 1.41 ERA at Colorado Mesa, earning first-team All-American, first-team Academic All-American and was the South Central Regional Tournament MVP.

As a prepster, Leahy played at Erie High School in Colorado.

Cole Aker (North Carolina)

18th round, 543rd overall

RHP Cole Aker
University of Tampa, Junior
6’2”, 205 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals continue to fill up on college junior pitchers in the teens rounds.

Aker showed some ability in his time in high school with a fastball that touched 92 mph, but he decided to pursue his collegiate career. He spent two years at the University of North Carolina, where he put up a 2.93 ERA in 31 games, 5 of which were starts. In the summer of 2017, he threw 23.1 innings in the Cape Cod League, striking out 26 but walking 21.

After transferring to Tampa, Aker split time between the rotation and the bullpen, throwing 46 innings and putting up a 3.72 ERA. He continued to strike out hitters at a great clip with 47, but his command issues also continued with 23 walks.

Aker has a live arm, but control has always been his issue. His fastball sits in the low-90s, and his breaking ball has some potential but is too slurvy at this time. If he can tighten it up into a slider with command, it could be a plus pitch. He certainly has some potential, but a lot of mechanical issues are likely what lead to his command problems.

With the right coaching and a full-time move to the pen, Aker could get a little better velocity and better command of his pitches.

Josh Shaw (Cotuit Kettleers)

19th round, 573rd overall

2B Josh Shaw
St. John’s University, Junior
6’1”, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Shaw is not going to be any scouts dream or jump off the stats page, but he’s a dream for a Cardinals’ fan. Shaw is a gritty gamer who does all the little things right.

The infielder was selected to the First Team All-Big East Team for his sophomore season. He’s a solid defender at second base, with his coach, Ed Blankmeyer, calling him one of the better players he’s had and one of the best defenders he’s ever coached, and Blankmeyer coached the San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik. Shaw is also exceptionally tough to strikeout: he struck out in just 4.5% of his plate appearances this year and less than 6% throughout his college career.

However, he also doesn’t walk a ton: Shaw walked in 4.9% of his 2018 plate appearances and 4.7% in his career. Shaw has basically zero power as well. He put up his highest isolated power (ISO) this season at a meek .097, and he has just 5 home runs and 39 doubles in 164 games. He struggled mightily in the Cape Cod League, hitting .194/.293/.222 in 2016 and .283/.331/.299 in 2017.

Defensively, he’s confined to second base, though he has spent some time at third. He’s also on record saying he wants to earn his degree at St. John’s, where he’s majoring in sports management with a minor in finance, so Shaw may end up returning to school in the fall.

Parker Kelly (University of Oregon)

20th round, 603rd overall

RHP Parker Kelly
University of Oregon, Junior
6’1”, 235 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals’ run on college pitching continues but this time with a family tie. Parker is the younger brother of Cardinal prospect Carson Kelly. While the Cardinals were able to entice Carson away from Oregon, the younger Parker, whom they drafted out of high school in the 34th round in the 2015 Draft, continued his college commitment.

Kelly put up some strong numbers pitching out of the Ducks’ bullpen this year. In 47 innings, Kelly compiled a 3.26 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 53 strikeouts and just 15 walks, giving him a 3.53 K/BB ratio. Although his strikeout rate dropped some from his sophomore year, he cut his walk rate as well to compensate.

Kelly’s mechanics make him tough on righties with a hidden release point, and he needs that deception as he only throws in the 88-91 mph range. He throws an above-average slider in the mid-80s that breaks off the plate from right-handed hitters. He should be effective against righties in professional baseball, but he may top out before reaching the big leagues.

Michael Perri (University of San Francisco)

21st round, 633rd overall

SS Michael Perri
University of San Francisco, Senior
6’3”, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Perri spent most of last season at second base before moving over to shortstop this year. Perri started his collegiate career at Pepperdine University, where they tried to convert him to a pitcher. However, after 4 innings and a 13.50 ERA, that experiment was abandoned.

Perri found his stroke after transferring to conference rival San Francisco. He hit .312/.374/.460 last year before improving to .336/.382/.547 this season. In his two years with the Dons, Perri hit 39 doubles, 14 home runs, and stole 15 bases. His 2018 line was good enough for a 122 wRC+ according to Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network.

Former Don Grant Goodman said Perri is a strong physical guy with speed, power, and good hands. Perri will need to get his tools to translate to better pitching and a wood bat, but he could be a solid fit in the organization.

Kevin Vargas (Prospect Select Baseball)

22nd round, 663rd overall

SS Kevin Vargas
International Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico), HS Senior
6’1”, 175 pounds
Bats: R
Throws: R

The Cardinals waited until the 22nd round to take their first high school pick.  With the No. 663 overall selection, they go with upside in Vargas, who is a shortstop and Florida International commit.

Baseball America ranks Vargas as the prospect in this year’s draft class in Puerto which is considered to be down by many. Not only that, he is perhaps the most well-known Puerto Rican in 2018 due to his participation in the Under Armour All-America Game and Perfect Game All-American Classic in 2017, so could signability be a question mark?

Like the Cardinals previous shortstop drafted out of Puerto Rico in first-rounder Delvin Perez, Vargas has shown exciting defensive potential but his bat is rather light. Scouts who saw him prior to the draft thought his stock has backed up across the board, however.

After impressing last summer with solid defensive skills and above-average raw arm strength, Vargas didn’t standout in showcases this spring defensively and also struggled with the bat. If his defense has indeed regressed, he has a tough profile, especially with the bat needing improvement.

Ultimately, the raw tools alone are worth taking a flier on at this point in the draft.

Michael Baird (SIU-Carbondale)

23rd round, 693rd overall

RHP Michael Baird
Southern Illinois Univ.-Carbondale, Senior
6’5”, 210 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals have certainly loaded up on college pitching, but with the 23rd pick in the draft, they selected only their fourth senior thus far. Southern Illinois Carbondale righty Baird is the latest arm to be nabbed by the organization.

As a senior this season, Baird, who earned first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors in 2018, boasted a 3.16 ERA over 15 starts for the Salukis. He also held a 92-to-20 strikeout to walk count through 99 2/3 innings pitched.

Baird was SIU’s Friday night starter and rebounded well from a substandard junior year. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty threw two complete games for a 28-30 squad.

“Baird was really good and that slider is a pro pitch,” SIU head coach Ken Henderson told The Southern Illinoisan. “That slider will get professional baseball players out. A ton of people have asked about him. I would draft him on the slider alone, and the command. He’s going to get professional hitters out. That’s what it’s all about.”

Baird was ranked the 17th-best pro prospect in Illinois by Baseball America.

Eli Kraus (Kent State University)

24th round, 723rd overall

LHP Eli Kraus
Kent State University, Senior
6’1”, 190 pounds
Bats: L
Throws: L

Yet another college pitcher for the Cardinals and fifth senior in this draft. Lefty Eli Kraus is a small, leanish hurler from Kent State.

As a senior, Kraus compiled a 9-4 record with a 4.28 ERA in 16 appearances (15 starts). He posted a 82-to-27 K/BB over 88 1/3 innings hurled and had two complete game shutouts this year.

Kraus is also a two-time first-team All-Mid American Conference selection in 2016 and 2017. He is tied for second in school history with 26 wins.


Troy Montemayor (Baylor University)

25th round, 753rd overall

RHP Troy Montemayor
Baylor University, Senior
6’1”, 160 pounds
Bats: R
Throws: R

With their 25th round pick, the Cardinals took their 11th college pitcher on Day 3 with Montemayor from Baylor.

Montemayor, a closer for the Bears since 2016, has arguably been one of the nation’s top relievers in college baseball. Over his career with Baylor, the small righty has notched 37 saves through 74 innings (72 games). As a senior, Montemayor posted a 2.39 ERA with 11 saves in 23 games, striking out 24 batters to only five walks.

With a fastball that tops out in the high-80s, Montemayor was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 Selection in 2016 and 2017 and was second-team All-Big 12 in 2018.

“His confidence really kind of bred into that role,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez told “He accepted that role as the stopper and that translated into success.


Connor Coward (Virginia Tech University)

26th round, 783rd overall

RHP Connor Coward
Virginia Tech University, Senior
6’0”, 200 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals continue to stock up their lower-level minor league rosters with right-handed college pitchers. What Coward lacks in impressive skills or stats he makes up for in variety.

He doesn’t have a big-time fastball; his heater hangs in the 88-92 mph range and touches 93. He doesn’t have a projectable frame at just six feet tall. He doesn’t have great stats, either. This year for the Hokies, he threw 78 innings and put up a 5.19 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He struck out less than a batter per inning while walking 3.8 per 9 innings.

Despite that, he has a full contingency of offspeed pitches. He throws an above-average low-80s slider, an average mid-80s changeup, and a cutter that has impressed. His complement of pitches should give him some success in pro ball.

Perry DellaValle (Seton Hall University)

27th round, 813rd overall

RHP Perry DellaValle
Seton Hill University, Senior
6’0”, 185 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Another shorter right-handed pitcher goes to the Redbirds in the 27th round.

In 75.1 innings for Seton Hill, the senior gave up a 3.35 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. DellaValle doesn’t have flashy stuff, but he does have great command of his pitches. He had a 5.5 K/BB ratio thanks to striking out a new school-record 109 and allowing just 20 walks.

He has an upper-80s-to-lower-90s fastball and average potential offspeed pitches with a breaking ball and a changeup.

Justin Toerner (Cal State Northridge)

28th round, 843rd overall

OF Justin Toerner
California State Northridge, Senior
5’10”, 165 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

With another senior selection, the Cardinals added another position player with a penchant for getting on base.

The left-handed-hitting center fielder spent all four years at Cal State Northridge and consistently put up strong on-base numbers. In his final season, Toerner hit .279/.383/.487 with 6 homers and 31 RBIs, and those numbers are right in line with what he did throughout college. His career marks over 219 games are a .275/.371/.402 slash line with 11 home runs, 95 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases.

He’s an athletic kid, but he likely but doesn’t have many tools. Toerner has average speed out of the box and uses that speed to cover a good amount of ground in the outfield. He reads the ball well off the bat and is reckless in the outfield, sacrificing his body to make the play. He has an average to above-average arm. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but what he does have comes from strong hands and wrists that generate good bat speed. As he grows, his ceiling is likely a platoon player who yo-yos between the Majors and the Minors, but most likely he’ll be a solid organizational guy.

Alerick Soularie (San Jacinto College North)

29th round, 873rd overall

SS Alerick Soularie
San Jacinto College North, JC
6’0”, 175 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals took a turn away from the college pitchers by going with an enticing junior college player with some intriguing tools.

Soularie was a potential draft pick in the 2017 draft but instead went to junior college and dominated. Soularie hit .402/.513/.745 in 230 plate appearances over 59 games. He hit 10 home runs with 47 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. He spent time in the middle infield and the outfield.

Soularie is a good athlete with a quick bat that creates his power. His wiry frame has plenty of room to fill out as he matures, and he has plus speed that lends to his defense as well. He can legitimately handle any position you place him, and in high school he even played some catcher. He has great range in the outfield and gets good reads on the ball, and throwing from the outfield lets him show off his arm.

He does have a commitment to Tennessee, so he’ll have to be signed away from that education.

Kendrick Calilao (The First Academy)

30th round, 903rd overall

OF Kendrick Calilao
The First Academy (FL)
6’1”, 200 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

As is to be expected in the late rounds, the Cardinals are taking a flyer on a prep player they will try to entice from a college commitment.

Calilao is a two-way player for The First Academy as both an outfielder and a pitcher. He has a strong, athletic build with good present power, but he’s more suited to contact. His swing is simple and direct to the ball, he shows above-average bat speed already, and his swing is well suited for line drives. He showed he has no issues hitting mid-90s fastballs and drive the ball into the gaps. He can handle center field now but should move to a corner spot as his body grows and fills out.

Calilao has a strong hit tool, and it showed this spring as he hit .400 with 5 home runs, 5 steals, and 24 RBIs.

Calilao will be difficult to sign from his college commitment. He’s a Florida kid and has a commitment to the University of Florida.

Ty Cohen (Florida Tech)

31st round, 933rd overall

RHP Ty Cohen
Florida Institute of Technology, Senior
6’1”, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

And we’re back to the right-handed pitchers from college for St. Louis.

Cohen put up an underwhelming ERA, but his peripherals stats were quite strong for Florida Tech. The right-hander threw 97.1 innings and struck out 121 (11.2 K/9) and walked only 20 (1.8 BB/), giving him a 6.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Despite those strong peripherals, Cohen gave up 9 home runs and an ERA of 4.44 over 15 starts.

Cohen definitely has potential in the professional ranks, and he’s a brilliant player, having originally used baseball as a tool to get into Florida Tech to pursue an engineering degree.

Brandon Purcell (Georgia College and State University)

32nd round, 963rd overall

C Brandon Purcell
Georgia College and State University, Senior
6’1”, 205 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals added a prototypical college senior, but this catcher has some exciting offensive potential

Purcell has consistently hit well while at Georgia College posting batting averages of .306, .349, .327, and .383, and his power is no joke, either, with 26 home runs in his four years. The Bobcats’ catcher hit .383/.475/.566 this season with 5 home runs and 55 RBIs. But, don’t think of Purcell as just a slugger; this kid can run, too. He picked up 67 stolen bases in 73 attempts during college.

His professional potential will depend on his bat continuing to put up good numbers, but if he needs to move off catcher, he has the speed to handle other positions as well.

Chris Rivera (Long Beach State)

33rd round, 993rd overall

RHP Chris Rivera
Long Beach State University, Junior
5’9”, 175 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Don’t let his size fool you. River is dynamite on the hill.

The diminutive right-handed reliever was nothing short of excellent for Long Beach State in his college career and had his best season in 2018. Rivera notched 11 saves in 23 games (including 1 start) where he went 36.2 innings. He struck out 45 and walked only 5 batters all season. That gives Rivera an 11.1 K/9 rate, a 1.2 BB/9 rate, and a 9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

His 2018 season was just the icing on a great collegiate career for Rivera. In his three seasons with Long Beach State, River has a 3.41 ERA over 76 games with a 10.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.

Rivera is a bulldog on the hill who loves closing because of the pressure on him. He has drop-and-drive mechanics, but his arm is a little long for my liking, similar to Joe Kelly. His fastball has good armside run, and his slider has nice bite to it.

Benito Santiago (University of Tennessee)

34th round, 1023rd overall

C Benito Santiago
University of Tennessee, Senior
6’0”, 190 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Shockingly enough, Santiago is the son of former Major Leaguer Benito Santiago. In fact, he’s a spitting image of his father.

The catcher has a simple swing with a good path through the hitting zone and average bat speed. His hitting mechanics definitely need work, and that’s contributed to his high strikeout numbers. Santiago struck out in 30% of his plate appearances in college.

His power is below average, as he slugged .442 his junior year and .448 his senior season. Between the two years he popped 10 homers but just 21 doubles in 87 games. He has decent speed for a catcher, which is to say he has below average speed.

Santiago is still rounding into form as a catcher, but his arm is what will carry him. He’s got a plus arm behind the plate, and with the right coaching, should be an asset back there. With his bloodlines, he has some potential of reaching the bigs as a third-string catcher.

Liam Sabino (University of Pittsburgh)

35th round, 1053rd overall

3B Liam Sabino
University of Pittsburgh, Junior
6’0”, 191 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Sabino is an interesting case of potentially being a Paul DeJong-lite.

The good news about Sabino is he plays quality defense at shortstop and has above-average to plus speed with 18 steals this season. Also, he shows impressive power for a middle infielder. Sabino has 16 home runs and 17 doubles leading to a .595 slugging percentage to go along with his .286 batting average and .396 on-base percentage. As one can see from that on-base percentage, Sabino knows how to take a walk. He’s walked in 14.1% of his plate appearances this year.

The bad news is he strikes out a lot. Sabino struck out 30.9% of the time this year, and he is the very definition of a three true outcome player. He has walked, struck out, or homered in over 52% of his trips to the plate this year.

If he can harness those strikeouts to some extent, he has the physical capabilities to at least be a backup infielder with pop and on-base skills. His ceiling could be a power hitter with strikeout problems.

Cole Kreuter (UC Irvine)

36th round, 1083rd overall

3B Cole Kreuter
University of California-Irvine, Senior
6’0”, 175 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Kreuter has a high hand load to his swing, and that causes him to miss a lot of pitches as his bat can lag behind. He struck out 1 out of 4 times this season, and he has a career rate of striking out 23.8% of the time. He doesn’t draw a ton of walks with just a 7.9% walk rate this year, but I believe adjusting his hand load will allow him to get to the ball fast and generate better contact with a more level swing.

His offensive profile lends itself most to second base where he spent time this year and in 2016 where he was selected to the Big West Conference All-Conference Team. If he can stick at second, he should be a useful player as he develops, but probably never an impact guy.

Christian Caudle (Texas A&M Kingville)

37th round, 1113rd overall

C Christian Caudle
Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Senior
6’4”, 230 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Caudle shone brightest on the biggest stages for the Javelinas. He was named to the All-Tournament team for the Lone Star Conference Championships after hitting .700 in the tournament.

Caudle struggled offensively this year after a strong junior year. Last year, the Javelinas catcher hit .386/.547/.500 over 39 games, but this year his line plummeted nearly 100 points to .290./.427/.391 However, he walked twice as often as he struck out. Additionally, Caudle hit his first two college home runs this year.

Christian is a little stiff behind the plate and slow to pop out of his crouch, so he probably fits best at a corner spot or designated hitter. He could be capable of handling a backup catching role with enough work, but he seems to fit better out in the field.

Jaden Hill (Prep Baseball Report)

38th round, 1143rd overall

RHP Jaden Hill
Ashdown High School (AR)
6’4”, 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals selected someone Draft Analyst Scott Schook projected to go to them, they just decided to pick him up about 36 rounds later than mocked.

Hill has the benefit of low miles on his arm thanks to splitting time as a pitcher with time as a quarterback, where he is a three-star recruit and received many offers from mid-level college football programs. Unfortunately, after throwing for 14 touchdowns in his first four games of his senior season, Hill suffered a broken collarbone.

Hill’s fastball sits in the low-90s and touches 95, shows good life on it, and the pitch gets up on batters quickly. He adds in a surprisingly advanced changeup in the upper-70s to low-80s. He is able to throw that changeup with deceptive arm speed that make hitters look foolish, especially lefties, thanks to the arm side dive it takes. His breaking pitch definitely needs work, but he could have a solid curveball with enough work on it.

Hill finished his senior year with a 0.51 ERA while being selected as the Gatorade Arkansas Baseball Player of the Year.

Again, he has one of the Cardinals’ favorite attributes for a pitcher – athleticism. He will have to be pried away from his Louisiana State commitment, but the Cardinals have about $8 million in all to play with.

Zach Gahagan (North Carolina)

39th round, 1173rd overall

SS Zach Gahagan
University of North Carolina, Senior
6’1” 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Gahagan is a guy with defensive versatility. He has played all around the infield with North Carolina, and that ability should continue into professional baseball. He has average speed, and he possesses an athletic body. If he figures out how to hit, that versatility could carry him to the Major Leagues.

And that’s a huge if. While he has quick hands and can turn on an inside fastball well, he lacks overall contact skills. Gahagan hit .253 in college and .259 his senior season. However, he has a good enough eye to get on base at a decent clip. He walked in 12.6% of his trips to the plate this season and put up a .360 on-base percentage. He’s displayed precious little power with only one season, his sophomore year, cracking the .400 slugging percentage mark. In fact, in over 400 at bats between his junior and senior years, Gahagan had only 27 extra base hits.

Gahagan certainly feels like organizational filler, but with the right breaks in his offensive game, he could at least be a cup of coffee kind of player for an organization.

Andrew Warner (Columbia College)

40th round, 1203rd overall

OF Andrew Warner
Columbia College, Senior
6’2”, 225 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Cardinals end their 2018 Draft with one more senior selection who happens to be a Missouri kid at a Missouri school.

Warner dominated the NAIA the past two seasons. Last year, he hit .478 with a .872 slugging percentage which led to First Team All-AMC, AMC Player of the year, AMC Newcomer of the Year, NAIA Baseball First Team All American, ABCA/Rawlings First Team All-American honors, and 2018 NAIA Baseball Preseason All-America Team honors.

Warner received First Team honors again for his 2018 year where he hit .440 with a .887 slugging percentage and 18 home runs. Warner hit safely in 37 of the 49 games he played in and put up 24 multi-hit games. In his two years with the Cougars, Warner hit .460/.581/.879 in 339 at bats with 35 homers, 16 steals, and 31 doubles over 100 games.

Plus, he’s been able to sport an 80-grade mustache.

Your authors

As noted above, TCN draft analysts Derek Shore and Scott Schook are writing the player capsules and Brian Walton is filling in the rest.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Former Cards Scout Blood High on Gorman

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Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase our new 193-page 2018 Prospect Guide for less than half price. Our limited edition printed version is sold out.

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Molina Begins Short Springfield Rehab

photo: Yadier Molina (Springfield Cardinals)

It is not too often that an eight-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove Award-winning MLB catcher is in a Double-A lineup.

Yadier Molina (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Yadier Molina, recovering from a traumatic hematoma in the groin area, began the first of his two-game rehab assignment with the Springfield Cardinals on Saturday night.

“For me, it’s a great feeling (to have a prestigious MLB catcher behind the plate),” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t happen often when you can say, ‘Well, I managed a game that (Yadier) Molina caught.’ Many people can’t say that.

“It’s a great feeling not just for myself, but the players and the staff. He knows I’m all business. He’s all business. It’s just a great thing for all of us. It’s something you never forget.”

As expected, Molina played half the game for Springfield and took three plate appearances. The first time up, the right-handed hitter, who is looking to regain timing after missing nearly a month, whiffed at two fastballs before flying out to the warning track in right field. Molina batted for the second time in the third and took a 75 mph curveball off his tricep. He ended his night with a sac fly to right center in the fourth.

The next step for Molina before he completes his rehab is a full game on Sunday. If all goes well, he is expected to return and catch Carlos Martinez’s start on Tuesday against the Miami Marlins in St. Louis.

With the big league Cardinals this season, Molina is hitting .272 with six home runs and 17 runs batted in 30 games (of the team’s 55).

Below is a transcript from Molina’s media session conducted after he was lifted from the game on Saturday. In the presser, Molina details what it is like to be back and playing, recovery from a traumatic injury, and much more.

Media Member: How did it feel to be back out there tonight?

Yadier Molina: “Great, awesome. It’s good to be back and be on the field with the team. It felt great (to be back).”

MM: Already knowing that you are going to try to play Tuesday, what are you focusing on these two games in Springfield?

YM: “I’m just trying to get back in shape, like playing shape. I’m trying to see pitches and trying to get the feel back. That’s what I’m focused on and get that feel back.”

MM: You have rehabbed from injuries before, but what has this last month been like? How difficult has it been?

YM: “It’s been so difficult to watch the team on T.V. and you are in your bed and you can do nothing. It’s so difficult, but right now, I feel good. I feel almost 100%. I can’t wait to be back.”

MM: The recovery – from obviously a traumatic injury – was there a lot of pain for you along the way?

YM: “The first couple of weeks was like real pain. Like, I couldn’t move and anything. After the second week, it started getting better. Right now, I don’t feel anything right now. I feel 100%. I’m ready to go.”

MM: How much are you looking forward to your first game back being Carlos (Martinez’s) first game back?

YM: “I’m excited. I can’t wait. Obviously, Carlos is going to pitch on Tuesday. I’m going to try and make it. It’s not official yet, but I’m going to see how I feel tomorrow. I’m going to try and make it. I want to be there for him and the team.”

MM: The National League Central is really tough right now. How excited are you to get back up there and help out with the big league club?

YM: “Like I said, I’m excited to be back and try and help the team win. Obviously, we are win a tough division. Every team is playing good. I’m concentrated on getting back on the field and try to help the team win.”

MM: How did you feel at the plate tonight in terms of your timing?

YM: “Terrible (he said smiling). It is what it is. It’s a part of this (rehab). My first at-bat I felt terrible. The second at-bat I got better and better. Hopefully, tomorrow I feel better because the first at-bat was bad.”

MM: You guys were down here before last season to play the Springfield Cardinals – what is that ovation like before the game walking from the bullpen to the dugout with every fan on their feet?

YM: “Awesome, awesome. I love this place. Every time I come here – it’s good for me. I enjoy coming here. It’s great to see those fans. When I heard that ovation, it made me feel good.”

MM: What can you say about the catchers in St. Louis that have taken your place since you’ve been gone and how they have played?

YM: “I think they have done pretty good. (Francisco) Pena and (Carson) Kelly they have done a pretty good job for us so far. I’m good with that. Pena is good with studying the game. We have talked. One day on the road they called me and I called them. We are on the same page. I feel good when they do good for the team.”
MM: As the team continues to get more healthy, how good can that team up in St. Louis be?

YM: “We’re going to be good. I mean, no doubt about it. We are going to get better. Right now, we have a couple of guys offensively that have been up-and-down, but we just got too many guys hurt. I’ve got no doubt when we get healthy we are going to be in good shape.”

MM: Have you ever seen a month like this at the major league level – when 11 different players hit the disabled list?

YM: “First time. First time I have seen this in 15 years. That is what I can tell you about this organization. One guy goes down, there is another guy that shows up and do good for us. That is why this organization is on the top.”

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.

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 our new 193-page 2018 Prospect Guide for less than half price. Our limited edition printed version is sold out.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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


The Cardinal Nation May Pitcher of the Month

photo: Austin Warner (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the final 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 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 May system-wide pitching leaders.

Warner claims TCN’s top pitching honors

Austin Warner (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

While a number of starters in the Cardinals system had strong Mays, one hurler distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of pitching to get himself on the prospect radar.

Our May Pitcher of the Month is High-A Palm Beach starter Austin Warner, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization and the Florida State League Pitcher of the Month honors.

Among starters with at least 25 innings pitched, Warner led the Cardinals system with a minuscule 0.91 ERA, finishing second with a 0.84 WHIP and ranking third with 35 punchouts through 29 ⅔ innings hurled for the Beach Birds.

“He’s a hard-working guy who throws strikes,” Cardinals Minor League Pitching Coordinator Tim Leveque told “He commands his pitches, he gives everything he’s got every time he goes out there.

“However tall you are, however short you are, stuff is stuff. His fastball is upper-80s, low-90s, but he commands it. He’s got a good slider, good curveball and feel for the changeup. He definitely has more than just the fastball.”

Simply put, Warner is a feel-good story. If you haven’t heard it already, he is an undersized non-drafted lefty who was playing for the independent River City Rascals this time last year. The Cardinals signed him and he hasn’t stopped putting up terrific results.

After somewhat of a rocky April (5.66 ERA in four starts), the 23-year old allowed a combined three earned runs over his four starts in May, highlighted by a dominant nine-inning 10-strikeout performance on May 21.

“(I was just) dominating the bottom half of the zone, staying low in the zone (this month),” Warner told “Earlier in the year, I was not doing that. (I’m) using the fastball a lot and working off that with the changeup, curveball and slider. The curveball, I’ve been using that as a strike more, but not as an out pitch — that’s more the changeup and slider.”

Overall on the season, Warner has compiled a 3-1 record with a 2.86 ERA in eight total starts for Palm Beach. His 51-to-5 strikeout to walk ratio over 50 ⅓ innings stands out especially and it will be interesting to see if he will be able to maintain this pace going forward.

(Though it does not count here, Warner began June with seven more scoreless innings on Friday night.)

Honorable Mentions

Ryan Helsley (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Runner-up to Warner is TCN’s No. 8 prospect Ryan Helsley, who also had a strong case to be the organization’s top pitcher in May. Had it not been for his so-so start on May 5 with Double-A Springfield, Helsley might have been on the winning side of the spectrum. Regardless, the power armed righty thrived and seems to have ensured his third trip to Triple-A Memphis is the charm.

Following a relatively shaky April, Helsley put it together in May, posting a 2.16 ERA over 33 ⅓ innings pitched between Springfield and Memphis. He also had an impressive 40-to-9 strikeout to walk count with a system-best 0.75 WHIP over five starts.

Casey Meisner (Stockton Ports)

“I felt like I wasn’t pitching terribly (early on),” Helsley said prior to his promotion to Memphis on May 21. “It was a tough start, but I felt like I was executing pitches. There was tough breaks here and there. You just try to stay with the same mind-set. It is a long season. You just got to plug away and stay after it day in and day out. Stay on top of my arm care, stay healthy, and just take the ball every five days.”

TCN’s No. 25 prospect Casey Meisner, acquired in the Josh Lucas trade from Oakland as spring camp ended, had a nice showing in May for Palm Beach. The New York Mets’ 2013 third round pick posted a 1.27 ERA in five starts, striking out 22 batters against 10 walks over 28 ⅓ innings pitched. Meisner also had a 0.95 WHIP and held opposing hitters to a minuscule .168 batting average.

Warner and Meisner are two who could step up to Springfield in the near future, when the need arises.

Dakota Hudson (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Another arm worth mentioning is power sinker specialist Dakota Hudson, who ranks as TCN’s No. 7 prospect. Hudson boasted a 1.65 ERA through five starts with Memphis while showing more swing and miss stuff (28-to-15 K/BB in 32 ⅔ innings) in the process. The 23-year old could make for a true weapon out of the St. Louis bullpen, depending on the status of the 40-man roster.

TCN’s No. 20 prospect Daniel Poncedeleon continued to excel for Memphis following an outstanding April. The righty made six starts this month with a 3.13 ERA, leading the organization with 42 strikeouts over 31 ⅔ innings pitched and leads the Pacific Coast League in season ERA at 2.48.

A pair of low-A Peoria starters had strong months – Evan Guillory (3.08 with a system-best 38 innings pitched) and Zach Prendergast (3.38 ERA over 24 innings).

Kodi Whitley (St. Louis Cardinals)

At Springfield, TCN’s No. 19 prospect Jake Woodford was perhaps the top performing starter for the S-Cards. He owned a 3.41 ERA over six starts and held a 26-to-10 strikeout to walk in 31 ⅔ innings. His month was highlighted by eight shutout innings against Corpus Christi (HOU) on May 24.

Peoria swingman Kodi Whitley had a 1.69 ERA in eight games (two starts), posting a 17-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio over 21 ⅓ innings pitched.

Last month’s winner continues to perform very well. Former big leaguer and current Memphis closer Preston Guilmet gave up just one earned run over 13 innings (0.69 ERA) while converting six saves in as many May chances. He struck out 13 batters and walked only one in 10 games.

Earlier related articleThe Cardinal Nation May Player of the Month

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.

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, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Martinez Ready After Springfield Rehab Tune-Up

photo: Carlos Martinez (Springfield Cardinals)

Carlos Martinez returned to a familiar place for his rehab start on Thursday night.

Martinez was back at Hammons Field, home of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, where he made his first start since April 29, 2013.

Carlos Martinez (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

A year prior, Martinez was an integral rotation piece in the S-Cards’ 2012 run to their first and only Texas League title in franchise history.

“It’s so exciting to rehab with Springfield and see a lot of fans here,” Martinez said inside the Springfield clubhouse following his outing. “I appreciate all the fans here. I’m so excited and thank you so much to those fans.”

With a 65-70 pitch count set coming into the start, Martinez needed 63 pitches (44 for strikes) to get through four innings of two-run ball against the Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU). The Cardinals rehabbing ace struck out four batters and walked zero on the night.

“I felt pretty good (tonight),” Martinez said, who has been out since May 10 with a right lat strain. “I felt really good on the mound. I’m so excited to come back. I was working with all my pitches today. I felt great.”

Martinez made quick 1-2-3 work of the Corpus Christi offense in the first inning, mixing in an array of pitches that included a sinker at 91-93 mph, cutter at 89 mph, slider at 86 mph, changeup at 84 mph, and curveball at 77 mph.

Then the second inning happened.

The righty labored and served up opposite-field home runs to Randy Cesar and Stephen Wrenn, needing 28 pitches to navigate through the second. He was able to reach back for 96-99 mph heat and snap off several sharp sliders to get out of it. 

“In the first inning, I didn’t want to throw hard,” Martinez said. “I just tried to keep my ball down and in the zone. Just try to feel good with my arm and recover.”

In the third, Martinez worked around a one-out double with a pair of fly outs to avoid further trouble. However, a clean, eight-pitch fourth allowed him to go out and get a chance to go five innings at 60 pitches at that point.

After a leadoff double in the fifth, Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez made the walk out to the mound and lifted Martinez, who left to a standing ovation.

“They were so loud,” Martinez said. “I know they love me. I think when Yadi comes here – they will be loud and have more fans. When we come here, it is so exciting. We know they got a lot of fans here.”

Martinez, who has a 3-2 record with a 1.62 earned run average in eight major league starts this year, felt like he accomplished what he hoped as he is set to rejoin St. Louis.

“I’m so excited because it is my start after the injury,” Martinez said. “I feel (good) with all my pitches. My arm, I feel, really great. I just hope to be ready for the next start.”

Martinez expects that next start will be on a big league mound with the Cardinals on Tuesday against the Miami Marlins.

“I’m just waiting for another opportunity,” he said.

Other Martinez quotes

On his fast start with the Cardinals prior to the injury: “For me right now, it is being focused. It is being focused on home plate and on the mound. My mind is focused. Last year, I was a little bit down. Right now, I just try to listen to Yadi, be focused on the mound, and don’t care if something happened on the field.

“That has helped me a lot and helped the team. Just keep competing and pitch-by-pitch, I want to win.”

On Yadier Molina coming back: “I’m excited to see Yadi come back because he is the captain. He is the heart of the team. I just hope that he is going to be great again soon. I think he comes back on Tuesday. I hope that he is going to be ready for Tuesday.”

On all the injuries: “I just hope they are going to be ready soon and come back soon, too. I just saw something about Alex Reyes. I pray. I pray a lot because I want to see my guys come back.”

On the team going forward: “I think we are going to be good for September. I think we are going to be ready. When we got all the guys that are hurt (back and healthy), we will be good and ready for the postseason.”

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.

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