photo: Ivan Herrera (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
The St. Louis Cardinals will be sending eight minor leaguers to the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase for 2019, led by Memphis outfielder and no. 1 prospect Dylan Carlson and the second-youngest player in the league, catcher Ivan Herrera.
Carlson’s Memphis teammates will be right-handed relievers Seth Elledge and Kodi Whitley. From the left side of the Double-A Springfield infield are third baseman Elehuris Montero and shortstop Kramer Robertson and Palm Beach is represented by pitcher Griffin Roberts and catcher Ivan Herrera. The Cardinals will name their eighth participant, a pitcher, later.
For 2019, the Cardinals will be a part of the Glendale Desert Dogs of the West Division, joining prospects from the Reds, Dodgers, Brewers and White Sox. Their home park is Camelback Ranch, the spring home shared by the Dodgers and Sox. Springfield hitting coach Brandon Allen will be part of the Desert Dogs’ coaching staff.
AFL Opening Day is Wednesday, September 18. The Fall Stars Game will be held on Saturday, October 12 with the title game on Saturday, October 26.
Earlier this month, I made my annual predictions of which Cardinals would be invited to the AFL (members article). So far, I have correctly pegged four of the seven.
Also in the table below are the selectees’ respective rankings on The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 Prospect List (Rk) for August.
|Pitcher||Griffin Roberts||PB||30||Angel Rondon||Spr|
|Kramer Robertson||Spr||NR||Ramon Urias||Mem|
|Ivan Herrera||PB||12||Justin Williams||Mem|
Springfield’s Angel Rondon is a top-20 pitcher in the system (ranked 18th), while Roberts had been as high as 12th to open the season, but has slid to no. 30. Given Roberts missed the first 50 games of the season due to suspension, it makes sense to get the 43rd overall pick in the 2018 draft more work.
Roberts has accrued just 60 2/3 mound innings this season compared to Rondon’s 157, as the latter continues to pitch deep into Double-A games every fifth day. Rondon, just 21 years of age, may be better off with rest this fall.
It is worth noting, however, that part of the reason Roberts’ inning count is so low is that he is averaging just 4 2/3 innings per start this season. His season ERA is 6.82, with walks a major problem – 34 against just 30 strikeouts. Florida State League hitters are hitting a collective .310 against the former Wake Forest standout.
Further, Roberts’ results in the high-A FSL have not improved as the season progressed. Here are the 23-year old’s ERAs by month:
- June 6.91
- July 5.30
- August 8.78
When you consider the caliber of hitters in the AFL are more advanced than Roberts has been seeing in the Florida State League (guys like Carlson and Montero, for example), one can see that the Cardinals are taking some risk by sending Roberts. Based on his bumpy season at Palm Beach, I didn’t think they would chance it.
Elledge, 23, joined the Cardinals in the Sam Tuivailala trade with Seattle last June and remains a solid relief prospect, having earned a promotion from Springfield on June 25.
Whitley moved even faster in 2019, having started the season at Palm Beach. (Derek Shore recently profiled Whitley for TCN members.)
The inclusion of Montero was a slam dunk since the third baseman missed two months with a power-sapping hamate bone injury in his hand. Our no. 3 prospect can accrue another 80-100 plate appearances and partially make up for lost time.
Though I had mentioned Robertson as a possibility in my predictions, I guessed 40-man infielder Urias instead. Part of the reason is that I suspect Urias, our no. 33 prospect, will get squeezed out of a September St. Louis call-up and part is that Urias is much better offensively than Robertson.
The latter has not hit well at Springfield (.227) or in two Memphis trials (.235), which together were longer than his time spent in Double-A this season. On the positive side, Robertson has a combined .355 OBP and is versatile defensively. (Shore also wrote about the infielder recently.)
While 12th-ranked Ivan Herrera has tremendous potential and is just 19 years of age, the catcher was just promoted to Palm Beach a month ago, so he is on the low edge of both age and experience among Cardinals AFL assignees. For those reasons, I did not project the organization would send the catcher, or anyone else at his position.
If Herrera performs well in the desert, it would be quite a feather in his developmental cap. And if he doesn’t, we should not be overly concerned, as this is stretch assignment, in my view.
To that end, Herrera is the second-youngest player invited to the 2019 AFL (Seattle outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez is five months younger) and only one of three in the league to have been born in 2000 or later.
Texas League Player of the Year Carlson is another easy selection. The only concern I can think of is the 20-year old’s possible fatigue level. After a red-hot start with Memphis, Carlson is just 2-for-18 (.111) with one walk in his last five games. The switch-hitter has already logged 540 plate appearances between Springfield and Memphis in 2019.
In my predictions, I had mentioned Carlson’s Memphis outfield teammate Justin Williams as another injury-recovery player who could benefit from more playing time.
However, the 24-year old, acquired from Tampa Bay as part of the Tommy Pham trade, has been tearing the cover off the ball since rejoining Memphis 30 games ago (1.113 OPS and 23 RBI). Perhaps so much that the Cardinals could be considering using the left-handed batter off the bench in St. Louis in September instead of sending him to the AFL. In reality, Herrera got that spot.
We will have all the details and analysis from the 2019 AFL campaign here at The Cardinal Nation, including daily Desert Dogs game recaps.
Others may talk about it, but we have been on the ground in the AFL every year for each of the last 15 years and will again bring you our exclusive coverage from Glendale in October.
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