photo: Yariel Gonzalez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)
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 for July. 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 July system-wide hitting leaders.
Gonzalez claims TCN’s top hitting honors
While a number of hitters in the Cardinals system had strong months of July, one hitter distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch to carry Double-A Springfield’s offense to first-place in the Texas League North Division.
Our July Player of the Month is Springfield three-hole hitter Yariel Gonzalez, who should have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Texas League Player of the Month honors.
Among hitters to qualify with at least 75 at-bats, Gonzalez tallied the most hits (35), total bases (60) and RBIs (30) in the Cardinals system for July. He finished with the third-highest batting average (.358), slugging percentage (.612) and had the fourth-best OPS (1.029) among qualifiers.
Springfield manager Joe Kruzel uses one word to summarize his three-hole hitter.
“Consistency,” Kruzel said. “He has been able to go up there and maintain his plan and approach. He stays within himself. He has put himself into a good hitting position and giving himself a good chance to put a good swing. He has had some really positive results with that.”
The versatile infielder finished with 11 extra-base hits (four doubles and seven homers) through 98 at-bats for Springfield. In that span, he established a solid 13-to-9 strikeout to walk ratio as well.
The 2018 Peoria Chiefs mid-season and post-season All-Star’s month was highlighted by him being named Texas League Player of the Week on July 14. Overall with Springfield, Gonzalez is slashing .317/.368/.525 with five doubles, eight homers and 34 runs drive in over 36 games.
While many scouts view Gonzalez as upper-level organizational depth, some Cardinals prospects tend to end up being better than most think, ala Luke Voit. He certainly has a chance to be a big-leaguer, especially if he keeps hitting.
Gonzalez has set both short-term and long-term goals going forward.
“I’m trying to move up,” Gonzalez said. “I’m trying to keep going for my goal. All my life I just want to get to the bigs. I’m pretty sure that is every player’s goal. If I stay (at Springfield), I just want to get a championship. I want a ring. I want to celebrate with my boys and have a great time.
“That is all that matters right now.”
Runner-up is Memphis outfielder Randy Arozarena, who finished the month with a .378 batting average. The 24-year old Cuban native also had an impressive 1.047 OPS in 27 games for Memphis in July.
The Cardinals organization’s reigning Player of the Month from June collected 14 extra-base hits (10 doubles, one triple and three homers), drove in 17 runs and swiped three bags in six chances. His month was headlined by hitting for the cycle in five innings on July 26th.
After perhaps the most robust month of his professional career, Arozarena is buliding his case to make his major-league debut at some point in 2019.
“He could help our major league club in a lot of ways,” Memphis manager Ben Johnson told the media. “He brings a lot of skill to the table. With that being said, our big league club has a lot of talent there, too. But I think at some point, if the fit were right, Randy could definitely go up and help our Major League club without a question.”
Another who received consideration was outfielder Lane Thomas, who slashed .347/.388/.667 in 20 games for Memphis this month. He had second-best OPS of anyone in the Cardinals system with a 1.054 mark. The 23-year old slugged six homers and recorded 19 RBIs for the Triple-A club before being promoted to St. Louis.
At Low-A Peoria, third baseman Brendan Donovan had a month to remember, slashing a system-best .390/.489/.675 but in 20 fewer at-bats than Gonzalez and Arozarena as well against lesser competition. The 22-year old posted the best OPS (1.164) in the system with as many extra-base hits (14) as RBIs for Peoria this month.
Donovan is a name to keep an eye on if he is able to sustain his production as he moves ahead to higher levels.
Back to Springfield, 20-year old sensation Dylan Carlson continued his breakout year and proved in July that his first half was not a fluke. The switch-hitting outfielder slashed .301/.389/.602 in 23 games. Of his 28 hits for the month, 14 of those went for extra-bases. He also had his most powerful month of the 2019 season, slugging seven homers in July for the S-Cards.
Down at short-season Rookie Johnson City, second baseman Chandler Redmond continued to be a valuable middle-of-the-order bat for the Appy League Cardinals. His OPS was .882 in 24 games and hit five home runs while driving in 16.
Randy Arozarena (@memphisredbirds) has been named the Minor League Player of the Month.
.360 AVG. | 1.018 OPS in July
Michael YaSenka (@JC_Cardinals) has been named the Minor League Pitcher of the Month.
0.64 ERA in July pic.twitter.com/QZaoZqHLaz
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) August 2, 2019
Next up will be The Cardinal Nation’s July Pitcher of the Month announcement as well as the Cardinals organization’s choices of their top performers in the fourth month of the 2019 season.
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