All posts by Jeremiah Graham

2018 Memphis Redbirds Team Review

photo: Memphis Redbirds

The Memphis Redbirds finished their 2018 regular season campaign with a record of 83-57, giving them an 11-game advantage over the second-place Nashville Sounds. This is one year after going 91-50 in 2017. The combined win total of 174 marks the most the franchise has had in a two-year stretch since 1933-34.

In clinching the Pacific Coast League title Saturday night over the Fresno Grizzlies, the Redbirds won back-to-back titles for the first time in franchise history, capping off a playoff run full of late-game heroics. The Triple-A National Championship rematch against Durham of the International League is all that remains.

Stubby Clapp (Memphis Redbirds)

Many changes, same result

The Memphis pitching staff had numerous players – including their entire opening rotation of Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, John Gant, Daniel Poncedeleon and Dakota Hudson – receive call-ups to St. Louis but kept playing consistently, thanks to the watchful eye of second-year manager and back-to-back PCL Manager of the Year, Stubby Clapp.

A franchise record 66 different players appeared on Memphis’ roster this season. Only three active players from 2017 were still on the roster at the close of 2018 – Wilfredo Tovar, Tommy Edman (back from Double-A) and Kevin Herget. From Memphis’ 25-man Opening Day roster in 2018, only nine players remained.

Tommy Edman (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Key Highlights

  • The first achievement for Memphis is obviously the PCL title. As mentioned earlier, it is the first time the franchise has won back-to-back championships.
  • Outfielder Randy Arozarena and infielder Tommy Edman were named co-MVPs of the PCL Playoffs. In seven postseason games, Arozarena hit .348 (8-for-23), with two home runs, and seven RBI. Edman appeared in all eight games, hitting .469 (15-for-32) with six runs, three doubles, one home run, and six RBI.
  • After an up and down season, starter Jake Woodford was outstanding in the closeout clincher. The 21-year old right-hander threw 7 1/3 shutout innings and allowed three hits and one walk, while striking out six batters.
  • Saturday’s title-clincher came 18 years to the day after Albert Pujols hit a walk-off home run to give the Redbirds the PCL 2000 crown.
  • Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Patrick Wisdom were named to the PCL All-Star Team. Hudson was the game’s starting pitcher and Wisdom competed in the Home Run Derby, the first player in franchise history to do so.
  • The Redbirds had two players on the exclusive PCL post-season All-Star Team. Hudson was selected as the league’s Pitcher of the Year and outfielder Tyler O’Neill was also recognized.

By Month

The 16-team PCL is divided into two conferences, the American and the Pacific. Each conference is split into two divisions – Northern and Southern.

The season began for Memphis on April 5th, with a road victory over the Round Rock Express. They came out of the gate hot, winning nine of their first 10 games. The Redbirds finished the month with 17 wins total and a 4.5-game division lead.

In May, Memphis had a bit of a rough patch to begin the month. The team went 5-7 in their first 12 games, including two three-game losing streaks. Toward the end of the month, the team began to bounce back, winning five of their last six games and expanded their lead to 5.5 games.

June once again had a slow beginning, as Memphis won just four of their first 10 games out of the gate. They ended the month on a three-game win streak, outscoring their opponents by a combined margin of 25-9 and when June ended, Memphis had doubled its division lead to 11 games.

July was a good month for the Redbirds, as they finished with a mark of 19-8. The month included two four-game winning streaks and culminated with a 15.5-game edge.

August marked a bit of an up and down month for Memphis. After winning six of their first ten contests, they went on a four-game losing streak, during which they were outscored 27-11. They finished the month with a record of 13-16, their first losing month since 2016. Still, the division lead was 10 games.

After splitting their final series of the season with Nashville, the Redbirds began postseason play by clinching their series with Oklahoma City, two games to one. The series was dramatic to say the least, as it included two walk-off wins. In their next series against Fresno, Memphis had more late game heroics, winning in walk-off fashion to take Game 3. After clinching the PCL title, the Redbirds will travel to Columbus, Ohio to play the Durham Bulls in the Triple-A National Championship Game Tuesday night at Huntington Park.

Pitching led the way

The Memphis pitching staff was the backbone of the team during the 2018 campaign. They led the 16-team PCL in ERA (3.54) and WHIP (1.28). They were also third in shutouts (11) and strikeouts (1160).

Offense

The Redbirds offense was solid throughout the year. Overall, they complemented the dominant pitching staff with timely hitting, as evidenced by their walk-off dramatics in the postseason. During the regular season they were ninth in both batting average (.269) and slugging percentage (.418) and tied for sixth in home runs (142). They were eighth in RBI (650).

Daniel Poncedeleon (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The Pitching Staff

For most of the season, the Redbirds starters were headed by the one-two punch of Daniel Poncedeleon and Dakota Hudson. Hudson was 13-3 with a 2.50 ERA and Poncedeleon led the PCL in ERA with 2.24, coupled with a 9-4 mark. The two were however called up to St. Louis as the season went into the home stretch and the team heavily relied on the efforts of other starters, including Kevin Herget and Chris Ellis.  The latter two finished with a combined record of 15-15. Ellis had a 3.76 ERA with a WHIP of 1.18. Herget’s ERA was 4.76.

Tyler O’Neill (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The Hitters

The Redbirds relied on the offensive talents of many, including outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Adolis Garcia.  Both ended up being called up to St. Louis because of their efforts. O’Neill still led the team in home runs with 26. Garcia was second with 22. As July ended, stalwarts Luke Voit and Oscar Mercado were traded away. As they departed, the Redbirds received offensive jolts from others, including Tommy Edman and Randy Arozarena. As mentioned earlier, the latter two were named co-MVPs of the postseason.

Jake Woodford (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Top Prospects

Among the end-of-season Redbirds ranked in the most recent monthly top 50 prospect list compiled by The Cardinal Nation are #6 Andrew Knizner (late promotion), #7 Ryan Helsley (injured), #12 Randy Arozarena, #14 Genesis Cabrera (late), #15 Justin Williams, #19 Lane Thomas, #20 Max Schrock, #21 Jake Woodford, #24 Andy Young (late), #25 Tommy Edman (late), #26 Edmundo Sosa, #36 Conner Greene and #44 Ramon Urias.

Already with St. Louis are #2 Tyler O’Neill, #3 Dakota Hudson, #5 Carson Kelly, #9 Austin Gomber, #10 Adolis Garcia, and #18 Daniel Poncedeleon.

For more

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

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation:

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 23 – Playoffs

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Follow Jeremiah Graham on Twitter @JGraham_95.

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

Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 23 – Playoffs

The division-champion Triple-A Redbirds defeated Oklahoma City in four games in the first round of the Pacific Coast League playoffs. In the finals. Memphis split the first two in Fresno with the final three games (if needed) at AutoZone Park this weekend. Infielder Tommy Edman is batting .500 in the post-season.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 21

The division-clinching Triple-A Redbirds went 4-3 on the week as they prepare for their return to the Pacific Coast League playoffs. It was a big week for individual honors as Stubby Clapp, Dakota Hudson, Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas were all recognized for their 2018 accomplishments.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 18

As the roster continues to turn over, the first-place Triple-A Redbirds finished a 3-4 homestand before winning at Oklahoma City Thursday night. First baseman Rangel Ravelo has a 14-game hitting streak while batting .392, but the revamped pitching staff has been inconsistent, yielding 45 runs during the 3-3 week.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 15

St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate won three of four in Omaha and three of four at home over Iowa, going 5-2 on the week and extending their division lead to 14 games. PCL Pitcher of the Week Daniel Poncedeleon has a 20-inning scoreless streak while lowering his season ERA to 2.15, second in the league.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 14

St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate only played four games, winning all four, in a week that was highlighted by the Triple-A All-Star Game. Catcher Carson Kelly is heating up at the plate, batting .400 over his last 10 games, including seven multi-hit outings.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 13

St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate swept the Iowa Cubs over five games in Des Moines but lost their first two at home to sub-.500 Omaha. Memphis’ division lead is 11 ½ games. First baseman Luke Voit remains in a zone at the plate but without Tyler O’Neill, the outfield is struggling offensively.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 12

At 5-2, the first-place Triple-A Redbirds had another successful week. Though neither were named Pacific Coast League All-Stars, Rangel Ravelo and Tyler O’Neill are swinging very hot bats while All-Star Game starter Dakota Hudson continues to be the best pitcher in the league.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 8

St. Louis’ Triple-A club finished a 7-2 homestand before hitting the road to protect its 5 ½ game division lead. Patrick Wisdom has extended his hitting streak to 16 games and the rotation’s 11-game quality start streak just ended.

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Alex Reyes Stellar in Final Rehab Start

photo: Alex Reyes (Memphis Redbirds)

Alex Reyes put on a show on the mound in his injury rehab start for the Memphis Redbirds Thursday night at AutoZone Park, striking out 13 and giving up just one hit in seven innings in a 7-4 win over the Oklahoma City Dodgers.

The 23-year old struck out nine-straight at one point from the third-through-sixth innings, setting a new Pacific Coast League record for most consecutive strikeouts. With velocity ranging from 99 mph fastballs to 79 mph breaking pitches, Reyes demonstrated an ability to get all of his offerings across the plate. Of his 90 pitches total, all thrown to rehabbing Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly, 62 were strikes. Reyes’ performance included fanning the side in the second, fourth, and fifth innings.

“It feels good to go out there, to be able to execute pitches and just compete at a high level,” Reyes said in the clubhouse afterward.

It has been a long rehab journey for Reyes, with Thursday’s appearance being his fourth and likely final tuneup start after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the 2017 season. In his four injury rehab appearances, the right-hander struck out 44 in 23 innings and did not allow a run. Opponents batted just .048 against him.

Reyes made his major league debut in 2016, leading to 12 appearances, including five starts. Reyes was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 46.0 innings with the Cardinals, striking out 52.

Despite his strong performance for Memphis Thursday, the young righty is still unsure when he will make his way back to the majors. He becomes eligible to be removed from the 60-day disabled list on Monday, with his next day to pitch on a five-day schedule being Tuesday. Among those in attendance Thursday evening were Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque.

“I’m hoping I will be up there pretty soon,” Reyes said. “Whenever the time is right it will happen.”

For Reyes, there were many “bumps along the road” during his rehab stints, but all in all, he is relieved with the progression he has continued to show on the mound.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun to go out there and work and be able to perform.”

Reyes was previously in Memphis before making his debut with the Cardinals in 2016. In 14 starts with the Redbirds, he was 2-3 with a 4.96 ERA in 65 1/3 innings and had 93 strikeouts. The No.1 prospect said he saw a difference in himself compared to the last time he took the mound at AutoZone Park.

“The confidence I was able to get in the big leagues in 2016 plays a huge part and being able to execute my pitches down in the zone consistently is something I’ve learned to do,” Reyes said.

Whenever Reyes does make his way back to the show, he believes he is “100 percent” ready and confident in his ability to make an immediate impact for the Cardinals.

“I’m excited to go out there and pitch when my name is called.”


For more – Catch Jeremiah Graham’s in-depth Memphis Redbirds Notebook, posted each Friday 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 edition is sold out.

Follow Jeremiah Graham on Twitter @JGraham_95.

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

Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2018 Week 5

The offense of the Triple-A Cardinals affiliate slumped, leading to a four-game losing streak. The Redbirds rebounded with three straight wins before falling again to top off the 3-4 week. Shortstop Yairo Munoz is carrying a 10-game hitting streak for first-place Memphis.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2018 Week 4

As the roster changed almost every day in a week with 14 player transactions, the Triple-A Redbirds cooled, going 3-4. They still hold a six-game division lead. Shortstop Wilfredo Tovar is red-hot at the plate and pitcher Austin Gomber racked up two awards.

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Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2018 Week 2

A balanced attack enabled the first-place Triple-A Redbirds to log a 5-2 week. Along with promoted Tyler O’Neill, Max Schrock and Oscar Mercado have been pacing the high-powered Memphis offense. Jack Flaherty leads the pitching staff.

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