Four Cardinals Honored as 2018 GCL All-Stars

photo: Brian Pirela (Joseph Freiday Sr.)

Gulf Coast League press release

Andrew Warner (Bret Jacomet photo)

The Gulf Coast League today (Thursday, September 13) announced its 2018 All-Star Team, Most Valuable Player and Manager of the Year.

The Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays each had three players named to the 12-man All-Star squad, which features six teenagers and players from four different countries.

Cardinals outfielder Andrew Warner was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. In 31 games, Warner batted .342 with 16 doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 27 RBI before a July 31 promotion to Johnson City. The Cardinals selected Warner in the 40th round of the 2018 First Year Player Draft out of Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri.

Erick Almonte (Palm Beach Cardinals)

Cardinals manager Erick Almonte was named Manager of the Year after guiding the Cardinals to a league-best 40-16 mark in his first full season as a manager. Almonte played professionally for 17 years before serving as the Cardinals hitting coach in the Dominican Summer League for three years (2014-16) and the hitting coach for the Palm Beach Cardinals in 2017 before being named manager of the GCL Cardinals on July 31, 2017. Almonte now has a career record of 53-29 (.646).

The Gulf Coast League Tigers topped the Gulf Coast League Cardinals two games to one to win the Gulf Coast League championship on Aug. 29.

2018 Gulf Coast League All-Star Team

Pos. First name Last Age Organization Birthplace
1B Russ Olive 22 Tampa Bay Chelmsford, MA
2B Nicolas Torres 18 Philadelphia Puerto Cabello, VZ
3B Kaleo Johnson 22 Tampa Bay Alameda, CA
SS Luis Garcia 17 Philadelphia San Pedro de Macoris, DR
C Juan Aparicio 18 Philadelphia Maracaibo, VZ
DH Andrew Warner 22 St. Louis Lee’s Summit, MO
OF Juan Carlos Abreu 21 Boston Altamonte Springs, FL
OF Antonio Cabello 17 New York (AL) Puerto Ordaz, VZ
OF Jack Herman 18 Pittsburgh Voorhees, NJ
RHP Brian Pirela 20 St. Louis Zulia, VZ
LHP Jose Lopez 19 Tampa Bay Santo Domingo, DR
RP Edgar Escobar 21 St. Louis Ciudad Habana, CU

Brian Walton’s take

Three Cardinals among the 12 GCL all-stars covering 18 teams is very impressive. In fact, it is the best showing for the Cardinals organization in the last three years. In 2017, only third baseman Elehuris Montero was recognized, while the 2016 Cards were shut out of these honors.

Brian Pirela (Dominican Summer League)

In our GCL Cardinals Team Review, posted this Tuesday, I noted the team’s .714 winning percentage (40-16) is the best of any Cardinals minor league affiliate at any level since 1974. Almonte and his staff deserve part of that credit, including pitching coach Giovanni Carrara and hitting coach Joshua Lopez.

Especially for a 40th-rounder, any MVP award is a tremendous honor. On the other hand, Warner is 22 years old competing in a league where the average pitcher is aged just 20.7 and the average position player is 20.4 years old. In his defense, he native played where he was assigned by the Cardinals organization. However, it is also fair to note that Warner batted just .214 in 21 contests with Johnson City to close 2018.

Edgar Escobar (Joseph Freiday Sr. photo)

Brian Pirela had a record-breaking 2018. The 20-year old led the league in innings pitched (69 1/3), starts (11) and wins (10). In fact, the right-hander’s victory total tied the all-time GCL record, set in 1992. Pirela finished with a 2.71 ERA and his club won all 12 games in which he appeared. The July 2nd 2015 signing from Venezuela was also a Dominican Summer League All-Star in 2016.

Edgar Escobar may be the player to watch closest from this group. A relatively low-profile international signing in late May of this year, the 21-year old Cuban native led the league in appearances (19), games finished (16) and saves (nine in 11 opportunities). The right-hander logged a 1.21 ERA in 22 1/3 innings, allowed only 13 hits and four walks and struck out an impressive 33.

More on all three honorees will be shared in The Cardinal Nation’s Gulf Coast League Cardinals Relief Pitcher, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year awards, coming soon. Details here:

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2018


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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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