All posts by Derek Shore

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

Mayers Claims TCN’s June Pitcher of the Month Honors

(photo: Mike Mayers/USA TODAY Sports Images)

This is the first of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. 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 June system-wide pitching leaders.

Mayers claims TCN’s top pitching honor

While a number of starters in the Cardinals system had strong Junes, one hurler distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of pitching to land a big-league call-up before the end of the month.

Mike Mayers/USA TODAY Sports Images

Our June Pitcher of the Month is Memphis starter Mike Mayers, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization and the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Month honors.

Among starters, Mayers led the Cardinals system with a minuscule 0.72 ERA, finishing second with a 0.88 WHIP and 29 strikeouts through 25 innings pitched in June.

The Cardinals 2013 third round selection allowed a combined two earned runs over his four starts before receiving a call-up to St. Louis on June 25.

The past two months have represented an impressive turnaround for the righty (3.67 May ERA and sub-1.00 June ERA) after posting a horrendous 8.15 ERA in four starts (17 2/3 innings) start off the season in April.

Moreover, the adjustments were simple for Mayers, who was stinger with baserunners, driving down his opponents’ batting average (.395 April, .259 May, and .194 June) drastically in addition to his WHIP (2.15 April and 1.51 May).

Honorable Mentions

Mike O’Reilly (The Cardinal Nation)

Had it not been for one abbreviated outing that skewed his monthly results, Mike O’Reilly might have been on the winning side of the spectrum. Regardless, the control artist continues to open eyes following being a virtually unknown product in the organization entering the 2017 season.

“O’Reilly has been really good since he got here,” Low-A Peoria manager Chris Swauger told the Peoria Journal Star. “Once he moved from the bullpen into the rotation, he was comfortable — he was a starter in college. He’s a guy who needs to establish his fastball and mix in his slider and changeup, and when it goes well, he can turn over a lineup three times.”

O’Reilly followed up a terrific May (1.83 ERA) with a tremendous June, posting the system’s second lowest ERA (1.75) among starters. The righty had a remarkable 0.62 WHIP and held opponents to a .115 average through 25 2/3 innings.

Springfield’s Dakota Hudson did not feature the same swing and miss results as the others above. The sinkerballer did boast the third-lowest ERA with a 1.93 mark, and his 1.13 WHIP is nothing to sneeze at either. His average of 12.9 pitches per inning was also one of the lowest among starters, so he was extremely economical this past month.

Hudson’s June 22 start marked the longest outing of his career, as he navigated through eight shutout frames to extend his quality start streak to eight games. He should be in line for a promotion to Triple-A Memphis sooner rather than later.

Luke Weaver/USA TODAY Sports Images

While he dealt with another back injury for part of the month, Luke Weaver was effective when on the mound with a 1.59 ERA through four starts. The slender-built righty had a 22-to-7 strikeout to walk over 17 innings hurled.

Next up among our honorable mentions is another sinkerball in Jake Woodford, who had a 2.10 ERA in 25 2/3 innings at High-A Palm Beach. Woodford worked into the sixth inning in each of his four starts, including three into the seventh while showing promise with a 1.01 WHIP.

Also with the Beach Birds, the often overlooked Ryan Helsley went a perfect 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA (five starts, 28 innings pitched), including a 23-to-7 strikeout to walk count.

Starting pitching prospects Sandy Alcantara (Springfield), Marco Gonzales (Memphis), and Diego Cordero (DSL Cardinals) delivered 2.35, 2.55, and 2.63 ERAs, respectively.

What’s Next

Next up will be The Cardinal Nation’s June Player of the Month announcement as well as the Cardinals organization’s choices of their top performers in the third month of the 2017 season.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2017 Week 12

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.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 12

The Springfield Cardinals prepare for a second-half run with an evolving core, but Magneuris Sierra is a constant force atop the lineup. Manager Johnny Rodriguez likes what he sees in his Double-A club, even after several key promotions this past week.

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Without peers Sierra and Sosa, Alvarez Wanting To Make His Own Name With Springfield

photo: Eliezer Alvarez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)

If there’s one prospect in the Cardinals organization, overlooked and overshadowed by his peers, Double-A Springfield second baseman Eliezer Alvarez fits the bill.

Entering his first full season at Low-A Peoria last year, Alvarez, then-21, showed he was ready for the challenge, especially after being named a postseason all-star in the Appalachian League with the Johnson City Cardinals a year prior.

Except for Alvarez’s teammates and higher-rated prospects, Edmundo Sosa (shortstop) and Magneuris Sierra (center fielder) garnered the same accolade, pushing him to the backburner.

Based on his strong performance at Johnson City, the Santiago, Dominican native made the two-level leap with his peers to the Midwest League, and all three flourished in their first taste of 140-games.

Once again, though, Alvarez, who ranked among the MWL leaders in most of the major offensive categories, was overlooked as he saw his double-play partner Sosa promoted to High-A Palm Beach by July and Sierra claimed a postseason all-star nod by season’s end.

The table wasn’t completely bare as the Chiefs named Alvarez their 2016 team MVP as part of their annual internal team awards in an on field ceremony in September.

“Dude’s a special guy,” 2016 Peoria hitting coach Jobel Jimenez said last fall. “This guy has made a big improvement. One of the best hitters in the organization. Actually was one of the best hitters in the Midwest League.”

New challenge without familiar faces

To avoid being exposed to opposing organizations to the Rule 5 draft come the final day of Winter Meetings in December, the Cardinals added the three Peoria standouts to their 40-man roster in November.

And all three scored invitations to their first big-league spring training camps a few months later as well.

“It was a really good experience for me,” Alvarez said through translator Jimenez. “Learning from the guys in the big leagues. I enjoyed it a lot, but at the same time, I was trying to learn from those guys.”

Alvarez was cut from camp from on March 13 and spent the vast majority of minor league spring training with the Double-A club and according to his manager had an “okay” spring.

That’s said, the now-22-year-old was assigned to Springfield, making the proverbial jump over High-A to start 2017 and has officially been put on the fast track.

“I’m proud of the decision the Cardinals made,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be in Double-A. As soon as I knew the situation, I felt good, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

For the time since 2014 at the Cardinals lowest U.S. affiliate in Gulf Coast League, Alvarez will play at a level without Sosa and Sierra on the diamond or in the clubhouse.

“I felt really good about working with those guys (coming up through the system),” Alvarez said. “Now that I’m alone in this league it feels weird, but at the same time, it’s good to have the opportunity I have right now.”

Jimenez said two factors were involved in allowing Alvarez to make the jump as opposed to his peers.

“Maybe the position he played,” the Springfield hitting coach said. “I know he’s a guy that needs to work more defensively. He’s a little bit more mature than Sosa and Sierra. His bat has moved him up this quick.

“His hitting is a step ahead of most guys. I think that’s why he’s here.”

Baby steps

So far through the first couple of weeks in the Texas League with Springfield, manager Johnny Rodriguez has taken a very cautious approach to help Alvarez acclimate both offensively and defensively.

Particularly at a level which not only features eight teams but a league with pitchers that possess multiple pitches to throw in counts coupled with better pitchability.

“This is a different world,” Rodriguez said, who described Alvarez as a raw, tools-up player . “The guys know what your weaknesses are. They’re more experienced. They know how to find your holes.”

Offensively, Rodriguez has hit Alvarez mostly down in the order in the eight-hole to get a feel of Double-A first before hitting the ground running as the season progresses.

“It’s another guy we have to take baby steps with,” the skipper added. “Little by little and be patient. For his age, he’s 22, but mentally he’s younger. So I’d say it’s a good thing for him. That way he’s only worried about one spot. That way he can get his head. Usually when they don’t hit. When you’re struggling, just play second base.

“Right now defensively is what I’m more worried about. He wants to make the routine play. So he needs to adjust so he can slow down the game,” Rodriguez concluded.

Through 12 games, the left-handed hitter has a .263 batting average (10-for-39) with a RBI double, five walks, and three stolen bases for Springfield.

He also has two multi-hit games, too.

Alvarez listed two differences about the Texas League versus the Midwest League last year.

“The speed of the game is really fast,” he said through translator Jimenez. “The pitchers are more consistent in the strike zone. They got more control over their pitches. That’s what I’m trying to learn and make adjustments.”

Offense

Headlining his skill-set is Alvarez’s bat, a simplified left-handed stroke with average bat speed that produces leverage and strength, giving him average raw power. He has quick hands and strong wrists and rarely gets cheated by a fastball or off balance within his swing.

He commands the strike zone well, using the whole field with power and has proven to make consistent hard contact. While he’s not a pull-hitter, Alvarez likes to slash the ball to center to left-center field gap.

That swing produced a fourth-best average of .323 in the Midwest League last year, finishing with 36 doubles (second), a .404 on-base percentage (second) and a .476 slugging percentage (third).

“He will get plenty of chances to start at his level,” Jimenez said. “For sure, he needs to learn about this level. Understand the pitchers and pitch selection. He’s one of the guys that will have to make adjustments.

“At the beginning, it will be tough for him. I’m sure he can make adjustments and start to do the things he did last year in Peoria.”

One of the bigger improvements last year for Alvarez was his handling of same-sided pitchers. The lefty hitter boasted an impressive .347 average against southpaws in 98 at-bats for Peoria.

“It was tough for him last year, and he was struggling against lefty pitchers (at the start of the season),” Jimenez said. “He started doing drills, hitting curveballs off the machines and stayed focused. Stayed left-center gap and left-field.

“Tried to let the ball come deep in the strike zone. He’s got quick hands, but he does need to stay a little more on his feet. Stayed focused hitting the ball more middle away. That’s why he did a tremendous job last year against lefties.”

According to scouts, Alvarez’s hole is poor plate coverage with his swing up and in. That’s an area he will need to refine to adjust against Texas League pitchers, who are apt to exploit it.

“Sometimes he’s jumping too much,” his hitting coach said. “Sometimes he tries to do too much, and that will leave a hole a little middle-in. He’s been working on staying more inside the ball and use more middle of the field, especially against right-handed pitchers.”

With making a big jump to a new level, Alvarez will likely see his strikeout rate rise as it has so far into the young season. Last year, he struck out 96 times and recorded 53 free passes.

“It depends on how concentrated he is,” Jimenez said. “Like I said, he started to struggle last year, but as soon as he made the adjustment, it was pretty easy (cutting down the strikeouts) to him.”

Defense

At second baseman, Alvarez, who models his game after Robinson Cano, defense will be the main point of emphasis in 2017 as he committed 27 errors last year with Peoria.

According to Baseball America, the errors were as a result of “laying back on ground balls instead of charging for the best hop.”

In the spring, the right-handed thrower benefited from working extensively with the Cardinals former third base coach and minor league fielding guru Jose Oquendo.

“Basically, I worked more on my footwork with him,” Alvarez said. “Try to get quick to the ball, but at the same time, under control. Try to know the speed of the ball and try to get quick to it, but under control to make good throws.”

With Springfield, the club has Alvarez working to improve his backhand which so far he has shown flashes of progression with a handful of smooth utilizing it.

“He’s getting better on defense with his backhand,” Rodriguez said. “That’s where he struggled – with his backhand. He’s made nice plays and has got a plus-plus arm. I’ll say an 80-arm pretty much.”

When asked what he considers the toughest area of his game, Alvarez said succinctly his defense.

“I need to be more consistent (with my defense),” he added. “Every day on the field taking ground balls and same way taking ground balls to translate all that to the game.”

He projects as an average defender with fast hands, quick first step, and average-to-above-average arm and accuracy.

“I’m working to be consistent defensively,” Alvarez said. “I’m making adjustments to be consistent in both areas (offensively and defensively). At this point, I need to do both to be in the big-leagues.”

Base stealing ability

The last remaining of his five tools, speed.

On the base paths, Alvarez ran wild as he paced the Midwest League last year with a league-best 36 swipes in 51 attempts. He was successful 69 percent of the time he got the green light, and there’s no reason those numbers shouldn’t dwindle.

“To steal bases you need to stay on base,” he said. “I haven’t been caught very often. As soon as I get on base, I try to work on my jumps and try to steal.”

While his bat is his carrying tool, Alvarez receives 65 to 70 grades for his speed, per scouts.

Like most base stealers, he needs to learn to harness it better to become prolific in the craft of theft.

Jimenez thinks his base stealing will get better if his performance at the plate improves.

“First of all, he needs to stay more on base,” his first base coach said. “He has been working on pitch selection which is good. He needs to focus more on his on-base percentage. He’s still working on his jumps in the game.

“This level is different. Pitchers have more of an idea how to hold runners. They are more quick to home plate. Those things he needs to understand and work more in counts to get better chances to steal bases.”

No longer overlooked

After skipping a level entirely, Alvarez is on the radar on track to contribute at St. Louis at some point in the next few years.

In the meantime, he’s still learning the game like handling left-handed pitchers or mastering the backhand on defense and to speak the English language with assistance from his coaches Jimenez and Rodriguez along the way.

Alvarez has the right frame of mind.

“I feel really good about where I’m at right now,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I’m going to adjust and try to do my best to be myself no matter what they try to do to me.”

Jimenez, who was with Alvarez last year, is looking forward to work alongside him for another season.

“He’s still working,” he said. “He’s still learning because he’s a young guy. We will see for the first half. He’s going to show some improvements. He needs to stay healthy.

“If he’s healthy, no doubt, he will make some improvements and grow a little more defensively.”

He’s got plenty of goals to boot.

“I’m going to work hard this year in all phases,” Alvarez said. “Mentally. Physically. I want to work hard to send a message to the people in the organization that I’m prepared for the next level.

“Even to be in the big-leagues.”

 

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/26/2017

By Derek Shore

Welcome back to our ninth year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation Blog. This year, I am joined in these recaps by TCN writer Derek Shore.

Following are the highlights from the Cardinals minor league games held on Sunday against the Marlins, with all five games scheduled on the St. Louis side of the Jupiter complex.

On Sunday, the Cardinals had a camp day with Double-A Springfield besting Triple-A Memphis while Peoria and Palm Beach finished with a draw. Overall, the system is 14-21-4 in 2016, including 10-17-2 versus outside competition.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira shares highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are ours. 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 16 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

 

Dobz-p-200_5622Sunday’s Pitcher of the Day: Bryan Dobzanski, Peoria

The former amateur wrestler turned pitching project, who is coming off a decent year with the Low-A (short-season) State College Spikes last summer, should be advanced enough to move on to a full-season assignment in 2017. Don’t forget that this guy, who is nicknamed ‘Dobz’, is only 21-years old with big, athletic frame and he is not even three full years into giving baseball a complete focus as a profession.

 

Sunday’s Hitter of the Day: Nick Plummer, Peoria

After going under the knife twice and missing all of 2016 due to a broken hamate bone and wrist injury, Plummer by all reports is fully healthy and just needs to continue to get at-bats. The Cardinals former first round draft pick rehabbed all offseason at the Jupiter facility and it will be very interesting to see if he can recover enough lost time to make Peoria out of camp.

 

Springfield defeats Memphis, 3-1

Memphis pitching:

  • Mitch Harris – 1.o IP

Note: looking to become first to reach the big leagues after undergoing “primary” repair elbow surgery.

Memphis hitting:

  • Jacob Wilson (SS) – 1-for-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K

Note: drew consideration for Player of the Day, if not for the loss. Good to see he is playing some more shortstop to increase versatility.
Springfield pitching:

  • Sam Tuivailala – 1.2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K’

Note: had an impressive big-league showing in ST camp; seems to have ditched the cutter and gone back to fastball/curveball combo.

Springfield hitting:

  • Danny Diekroeger – 1-for-1, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB

Note: broken wrist costs him several months in 2016; could see Double-A time this year.

 

Peoria tied Palm Beach, 0-0

Peoria pitching:

  • Bryan Dobzanski – 4.0 IP, 1 H, 2 K

Note: see above.

Peoria hitting:

  • Nick Plummer (OF) – 2-for-3, 2 H

Note: see above

 

Palm Beach pitching:

  • Yeison Medina – 1.0 IP, 1 K

Note: effective lower-level reliever, looking to crack full-season club.

Palm Beach hitting:

  • Mick Fennell (RF) – 1-for-2, 1 H

Note: 2016 draftee who is known for his ability to back-flip.

 

Monday’s games: The games Monday will be against the Nationals. The Triple-A and Double-A clubs will travel to West Palm Beach and A clubs will host Washington’s lower level affiliates at Jupiter. Games are set for a 1:00 p.m. EST.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/22/17

By Derek Shore

We are now into day six of our ninth year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation Blog. This year, I will contribute from time to time in these recaps alongside TCN publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are Wednesday highlights of Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach, and Peoria against the Washington affiliates with the two upper-level clubs playing at the Jupiter complex at Roger Dean and the lower A clubs in action at the Nationals facility in West Palm Beach.

Collectively, the farm went 2-2 versus the Nationals with Springfield (2-3-1) and Peoria (1-4) coming away victorious against Harrisburg and Hagerstown, respectively. Memphis (4-2) snapped its three-game winning streak with a loss to Syracuse while Palm Beach (3-3) was bombed by Potomac.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are ours. 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 17 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

Alcantara-P-200_1508Wednesday’s Pitcher of the Day: Sandy Alcantara, Springfield

For the second time in the first week of doing these reports, Sandy Alcantara came out on top as a Pitcher of the Way. This time the Dominican ousted recently-optioned Luke Weaver (Memphis), who had been in the running for the fifth starter spot entering big-league camp.

While he proved to be raw and scuffled to put big-league hitters away, Alcantara has handled more seasoned minor league hitters smoothly, logging three strikeouts and allowing no baserunners in two perfect innings in Springfield’s win over Harrisburg on Wednesday. He seems primed to make the jump to the Texas League to start 2017.

(Brian Walton’s note: I was at the Memphis and Springfield games and took the above photo when Sandy was pitching. My observations about him, Tyler Lyons, Sam Tuivailala, Tommy Pham and many more are posted at the main site, The Cardinal Nation, for members. I also report on a Red-White scrimmage in which Johan Oviedo pitched. Join TCN today!)

Wednesday’s Hitter of the Day: Matt Davis, Peoria

Despite it being an exhibition contest where statistics aren’t official, Matt Davis had perhaps the most productive game of his pro career on Wednesday. The middle infielder, who has apparently added left field to his versatility, drove in nearly as many runs (three) as he had over 32 games (five) through stints with State College, Peoria, and Palm Beach last summer.

Davis, 22, was signed as a non-drafted free agent in July and transitioned to the New York-Penn League following a three-year career at Virginia Commonwealth University. As a collegian, the right-hander slashed .300/.383/.423 with 14 homers and 104 RBI before struggling in his intro to pro ball to the tune of a .190 batting clip.

 

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the complete list of minor league spring training attendees (updated on Tuesday) and full minor league spring training game schedules.

Also exclusively for TCN members is Walton’s annual series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explain why. St. Louis was posted Wednesday, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, seven-day free trials are always available.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

 

Memphis 5, Syracuse 8

Pitching:

  • Luke Weaver – 2 2/3 IP, H, ER, 4 K

Note: Was tentative in his St. Louis cameo last year; looking to get back to his strength of filling up the strike zone.

  • Zach Phillips – 1 IP, 2 K

Note: minor league depth signing from the left-side; could see the majors at some point in 2017 if the need arises.

Hitting:

  • Blake Drake (CF) – 2-for-4, R, 3B, K

Note: glove ahead of the bat, but he has sneaky power and the wheels to take extra-bases.

  • Anthony Garcia (LF) – 1-for-3, R, 2B, BB, K

Note: make or break year for the polarizing hitting prospect.

 

Springfield 3, Harrisburg 2

Pitching:

  • Sandy Alcantara – 2 IP, 3 K

Note: see above

Hitting:

  • Danny Diekroeger (3B) – 1-for-2, R, 2B

Note: broken wrist sidelined him for three months last year in Palm Beach; battling for a spot at Double-A this spring.

 

Palm Beach 3, Potomac 12

Pitching:

  • N/A

Hitting:

  • Luke Dykstra – 2-for-4

Note: lone position prospect from Jaime Garcia trade; solid all-around skill-set with no power and looks to be the successor for Darren Seferina at second base for the Beach Birds.

 

Peoria 6, Hagerstown 2

Pitching: 

  • Estarlin Arias – 2 IP, 2 K

Note: TCN’s 2016 Johnson City Reliever of the Year; closer for the Appy League champions last summer.

  • Yeison Medina – 1 IP, 2 K

Note: effective lower-level reliever, competing for a bullpen spot at Peoria.

 

Hitting:

  • Matt Davis (LF) – 2-for-3, 2B, K, 3 RBI

Note: see above

  • Shane Billings (CF) – 3-for-4, R

Note: 2016 13th rounder out of Wingate University.

 

Thursday’s games: The Astros are the Thursday opponent with four games slated to be played. Memphis and Springfield will host Houston’s Triple-A and Double-A clubs while Palm Beach and Peoria will travel to West Palm Beach to face off against the Astros respective A clubs as well.

 

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/20/2017

By Derek Shore

We are now into day five of our ninth year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation Blog. This year, I will contribute from time to time in these recaps alongside TCN publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Following are Monday highlights of Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach, and Peoria against the Houston affiliates with the two upper-level clubs playing in West Palm Beach and the lower A-clubs in action at the Cardinals complex in Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium.

Collectively, the farm went 2-2 versus the Astros with Memphis (4-1) winning its third consecutive game while Palm Beach improved to 3-2 with a win over Buies Creek. Springfield (1-3-1) suffered another loss, and Peoria (0-4) remains without a win in the early part of the spring.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are ours. 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 19 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

 

Katz-ab-200_4765Monday’s Hitter of the Day: Mason Katz, Memphis

Another round-tripper from the hot-hitting Stefan Trosclair was not enough to beat out Mason Katz’ complete day at the plate for a Memphis offense which plated 10 runs against Fresno. Katz knocked in three runs via a home run and double while coming around to score twice. He drew a walk as well.

Katz, 26, is yet another prospect on the elder side after being limited to only 19 games last year between Springfield and Palm Beach due to a hamstring injury. That said, this is the kind of day that is a general reminder of why he was drafted in 2013 – his bat.

 

Monday’s Pitcher of the Day: Ross Vance, Palm Beach

Ross Vance easily had the most impressive outing on Monday, yielding two hits in Palm Beach’s 5-3 win over Buies Creek. The lefty logged a system-high five strikeouts over three scoreless innings pitched for the Beach Birds, topping fellow farmhands Matt Pearce, Ryan Helsley, and Juan Perez, who did not miss nearly as many bats as Vance.

After signing as a non-drafted free agent last summer, the former University of West Virginia product dominated much younger competition in the Appy League as a then 24-year old. Vance fanned 54 batters against eight walks, posting a 2.48 ERA over 14 games (three starts for 40 innings) for Johnson City. He netted a championship ring in the process, but he will need to prove he is able to pitch in higher levels quickly given his older age.

Coming from a sweeping side-arm motion, Vance has an unorthodox delivery with a high leg kick which gives him deception as he finishes his pitches. His slider is his best pitch, but his overall stuff is underwhelming.

 

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the complete list of minor league spring training attendees (updated on Tuesday) and full minor league spring training game schedules.

Also exclusively for TCN members is Walton’s annual series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explain why. St. Louis was posted Wednesday, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, seven-day free trials are always available.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

 

Memphis 10, Fresno 3

Pitching: 

  • Matt Pearce – 3 IP, BB, K

Note: Florida State League All-Star in 2016 with another consistent year, looking to find his place in the higher minor leagues.

Hitting:

  • Mason Katz (2B) – 2-for-3, 2 R, BB, 2B, HR, 3 RBI

Note: likely will return to Springfield as a utility guy.

 

Springfield 2, Corpus Christi 6

Pitching: 

  • Ryan Helsley – 3 IP, BB, 2 K

Note: underrated right-hander with high-90s velocity, who could have won the Midwest League ERA title had he stayed healthy.

Hitting:

  • Craig Aikin (CF) – 2-for-2, R, HR, RBI

Note: left-left outfielder, who spent last year with Peoria.

 

Palm Beach 5, Buies Creek 3

Pitching:

  • Ross Vance – 3 IP, 2 H, 5 K

Note: see above

Hitting:

  • Stefan Trosclair (1B) – 2-for-4, R, HR, RBI

Note: made a solid bid for Hitter of the Day. Has three homers already this spring.

 

Peoria 1, Quad Cities 5

Pitching: 

  • Juan Perez – 3 IP, 3 H, 2 K

Note: split time between relief and starting for Peoria last year.

Hitting:

  • Yariel Gonzalez (3B) – 2-for-3

Note: 22-year old non-drafted free agent signee is fighting for a full-season spot.

 

Tuesday’s games: Like the parent-club, the Cardinals minor league affiliates will have a day off.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/19/17

By Derek Shore

We are now into day four of our ninth year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation Blog. This year, I will contribute from time to time in these recaps alongside TCN publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Our notebook on the main site will feature eyewitness commentary from Walton. These more specific spring training reports will be available Sunday evening to members of The Cardinal Nation.

Following are Sunday highlights with Memphis, Springfield, and Palm Beach all hosting the Marlins affiliates on the Cardinals side of the Jupiter complex at Roger Dean. In the meantime, Peoria played Peoria, but results from that contest will be posted in the more in-depth subscriber article on TheCardinalNation.com.

Collectively, the farm went 1-2 versus the Marlins’ top three affiliates with Memphis (3-1) claiming the only win for the second consecutive day. Palm Beach (2-2) and Springfield (1-2-1) suffered losses.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira is sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are ours. 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 22 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.


Baker-200_1792Sunday’s Pitcher of the Day: 
Corey Baker, Memphis

While Jordan Hicks might have garnered more interest among backfield spectators for his triple-digit velocity on Sunday, Corey Baker had the most effective outing for the system’s only winning team in Memphis and did not allow a runner to cross home plate. Baker tossed 2 2/3 one-hit innings, punching out three hitters in his first outing back from the World Baseball Classic for Team Israel.

After gaining plenty of advocates from his strong WBC performance for Israel, Baker returned to baseball reality on Sunday and will look to secure a bullpen spot with the Redbirds – likely in a long man or middle relief capacity. With his versatility, the sinkerballer could also join the arms on the I-55 shuttle this summer as well.

(Brian Walton’s note: What the line does not show is that Baker inherited a bases-loaded situation and drew an inning-ending ground ball on his first pitch. Impressive, but Hicks would have been my Player of the Day. More on that on the main TCN site.)

 

Sunday’s Hitter of the Day: Hunter Newman, Palm Beach

Despite dropping a one-run game, the Beach Birds received a solid performance at the dish from first baseman Hunter Newman. Newman collected two hits, including a two-bagger, RBI, and scored a run for the most balanced offensive day among Cardinals minor league hitters.

Newman, 23, was drafted by St. Louis in 2015 via the 22nd round out of Trevecca Nazarene University. He split time between the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (21 games) and Johnson City (15 games) last summer, posting a .289/.359/.430 batting line with three homers and 22 RBI. Given his age, it appears the Cardinals will push him to a full-season club in 2017 to have him face age-appropriate competition for the first time in his pro career.

 

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the complete list of minor league spring training attendees (to be updated on Monday) and full minor league spring training game schedules.

Also exclusively for TCN members is Walton’s annual series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explain why. St. Louis was posted Wednesday, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, seven-day free trials are always available.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

 

Memphis 3, New Orleans 1

Pitching:

  • Corey Baker – 2 2/3 IP, H, BB, 3 K

Note: ground-ball machine hoping to stick at Memphis

Hitting:

  • Blake Drake (LF) – 2-for-2, R, 2B

Note: possible sleeper if he can hit; defense rivals Magneuris Sierra as being the best in the system

 

Springfield 2, Jacksonville 8

Pitching:

  • Cody Schumacher – 1 IP, H, K

Note: multi-purpose reliever, who should open at Springfield

Hitting: 

  • Eliezer Alvarez (2B) – 2-for-3

Note: One of the more consistent Midwest League bats last year. Might jump over Palm Beach to start 2017.

 

Palm Beach 5, Jupiter 6

Pitching: 

  • Jordan Hicks – 2 2/3 IP, 2 H, ER, 3 K

Note: According to TCN’s Brian Walton, Hicks had multiple triple-digit readings on Sunday while touching as high as 101. With him pitching at Palm Beach in camp, it seems he could be earmarked for Peoria in 2017.

Hitting:

  • Hunter Newman (1B) – 2-for-4, R, 2B, K, RBI

Note: scored championship rings with GCL Cardinals and Johnson City Cardinals thanks to his dependable bat between the two clubs.

 

Monday’s games: The Astros are the Monday opponent with Triple-A and Double-A clubs traveling to the new West Palm Beach complex. The Cardinals’ A-clubs host the Astros’ lower full-season affiliates in Jupiter. First pitches are set for 1 p.m. EST.

Cardinals Minor League Spring Training Notebook: 3/18/17

By Derek Shore

We are now into day three of our ninth year of providing results and much more from St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training games here at The Cardinal Nation Blog. This year, I will contribute from time to time in these recaps alongside TCN publisher and editor Brian Walton.

Our notebook will also include eyewitness commentary following Walton’s arrival in camp on Friday. Even more specific spring training reports will be available Saturday evening to members of The Cardinal Nation.

Following are highlights from the second day of Cardinals games against external competition on Saturday with the top two full-season clubs (Memphis and Springfield) hosting the Mets upper-level affiliates in Jupiter, where Walton was today. In the meantime, the Class-A teams (Palm Beach and Peoria) hopped the bus and commuted to Port St. Lucie.

Collectively, the farm went 1-2-1 versus the Mets affiliates with Memphis (2-1) claiming the only win on the day. Palm Beach (2-1) and Peoria (0-3) suffered the system’s losses with Springfield (1-1-1) having the tie.

Once again this spring, Cardinals Baseball Operations Coordinator for Player Development Tony Ferreira will be sharing highlights from minor league spring training contests.

The raw data is his, but the comments and awards are ours. 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 30 players have yet to be cut from Major League camp.

 

Alcantara-P-200_1508Saturday’s Pitcher of the Day: Sandy Alcantara, Memphis

It can be argued that Blake McKnight’s scoreless effort for Springfield should have warranted the pitcher of the day, but the standout pitching prospect in big-league camp, Sandy Alcantara, was on the winning team at Memphis and went further than McKnight while also facing more advanced competition. Alcantara went three shutout frames, striking out three batters in his outing.

Coming off making a terrific first impression in big-league camp with his electric stuff, the tall, formerly string-bean right-hander has apparently added 20 pounds of muscle since 2016, is currently vying for a rotation spot at Double-A Springfield. With more outings like this one, he should have no problem solidifying a spot.

 

Saturday’s Hitter of the Day: Casey Grayson, Memphis

As the Memphis offense put up a seven-spot, Casey Grayson was a big factor, driving in two runs with a 2-for-3 day at the dish, edging out a home run from his teammate Thomas Spitz and two hits by Chris Chinea.

A first baseman with little versatility, Grayson has a limited overall profile coupled with below-average power. That said, he was voted by his peers as the Florida State League best defensive first baseman last year and has excellent plate discipline which has been his carry tool up the Cardinals ranks.

 

For more, The Cardinal Nation members can check out the complete list of minor league spring training attendees (to be updated this weekend) and full minor league spring training game schedules.

Also exclusively for TCN members is Walton’s annual pre-camp series in which he predicts the opening rosters for all four full-season minor league affiliates and explain why. St. Louis was posted Wednesday, with the others to follow. The St. Louis roster prediction article is free for all readers.

If you are not yet a member of The Cardinal Nation, seven-day free trials are always available.

The entire system view by level and position as last season ended is available via the Roster Matrix, always free, right here at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

 

Memphis 7 , Las Vegas 2

Pitching:

  • Sandy Alcantara – 3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K

Note: high-octane thrower’s first minors spring start; is he AA bound?

Hitting:

  • Thomas Spitz (RF) – 2-for-3, HR, RBI

Note: versatile outfielder, who reached Double-A last year.

  • Chris Chinea (1B) – 2-for-2, 2B

Note: TCN’s #50 prospect has live bat and continues to play first to expand versatility.

  • Casey Grayson (1B) – 2-for-3, 2 RBI

Note: TCN’s Palm Beach Cardinals 2016 Player of the Year has disciplined bat which is Double-A ready.

 

Springfield 2, Binghamton 2 – tie

Pitching: 

  • Blake McKnight – 2 IP, 1 H, 3 K

Note: sinkerballer, who should shift to bullpen this year.

Hitting: 

  • Joey Hawkins (SS) – 2-for-2

Note: only farmhand to have at-bats at four different levels last season.

 

Palm Beach 2 at St. Lucie 3

Pitching:

  • Colton Thomson – 1 IP, 2 K

Note: valuable GCL reliever last year;  nicknamed ‘Stones’.

Hitting:

Anthony Ray (CF) – 2-for-3, 2 R, 3B

Note: toolsy outfielder, who should open with full-season club.

 

Peoria 5 at Columbia 8

Pitching: 

N/A

Hitting:

  • Delvin Perez (SS) – 2B, 2 RBI

Note: top draft pick last year showing good extra-base pop in the early going.

 

Sunday’s games: The Marlins are the Sunday opponent for the first time this spring with three games (Memphis, Springfield, and Palm Beach) set to be played plus a Peoria on Peoria scrimmage on the Cardinals side of the Jupiter complex at Roger Dean Stadium.