photo: Alec Burleson (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)
It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This covers play during May across the St. Louis Cardinals’ four full-season minor league affiliates.
As opposed to the farm system pitching, which struggled across the board, the offenses across the system performed closer to expectations.
With a strong combination of batting average, power and production across two levels, Springfield outfielder Alec Burleson is our choice as the Player of the Month for May.
In addition to the accomplishments of the winner, I will note other offensive standouts during the month, as well.
Please remember, this is NOT the “Player of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here, either.
To qualify, a player must have had at least 60 plate appearances in May. That narrowed our population from the 80 players who stepped up to the plate during May (including pitchers) down to 31.
To make the list of five finalists, an OPS over .800 was required. Just to show how decisive this line is, all five finalists have OPSes of .924 or higher, while none the 25 who fell short came in above .800.
We will take two views of the data. First look will be at counting stats, followed by rate stats. Names are listed in the same sequence in both tables, in descending OPS order.
Counting stats – finalists
While Burleson was one short of the most plate appearances in the entire system in May, his counting stats more than reflect it. The 22-year-old, the youngest finalist in age and least experienced professionally, launched seven long balls, two more than any other hitter in the system. His 19 RBI tied just-promoted-to-St.-Louis non-finalist Jose Rondon for the most in the organization.
Just two RBI behind the co-leaders and second in the system overall is Peoria infielder Chandler Redmond, who is the reigning Player of the Week for the High-A Central League (May 24-30).
Utilityman Juan Yepez collected nine extra base hits in May, tied with Rondon just one behind his Springfield teammate Burleson.
But the strongest contender to the winner is now-injured Memphis outfielder Lars Nootbaar. In a solid all-around performance, the first-year Triple-A player drew an impressive 10 walks against 12 strikeouts.
Rate stats – finalists
Burleson was second among our finalists and the entire system with his .317 batting average and first with a .610 slugging percentage. His 1.003 OPS was also second among finalists.
Nootbaar put in his strong case for Player of the Month honors with his system-leading .333 average, .435 on-base mark and an OPS of 1.021. A downside to his candidacy is his current injury, which limited him to 69 plate appearances and has kept him on the shelf since May 26.
Springfield’s Nick Plummer and Peoria’s Chandler Redmond both hit .300 or better with OPSes comfortably above .900. Despite batting just .270, Yepez belongs beside the two based on his solid .571 slugging mark.
The Player of the Month
On May 17, Burleson (no. 15) made the fast rise from High-A Peoria to Springfield and the 2020 draftee is continuing to hit Double-A pitching at a very high level.
In his initial action for Peoria, his first 11 games as professional, Burleson went 12-for-42, including four home runs and 10 RBI. The outfielder also fanned 15 times. His slash line was .286/.367/.595/.963.
Not only was Burleson promoted to Springfield, he was deposited in the cleanup spot in manager Jose Leon’s lineups – and is performing even better than at Peoria.
In his first 11 games in Double-A, the left-handed batter has a slash line of .350/.422/.625/1.047. Burleson has already gone deep three times and plated nine runners.
The 22-year-old debuted this winter as The Cardinal Nation’s 27th-ranked prospect, but his strong first month as a professional propelled him into the no. 15 spot in the system. In doing so, Burleson became the first member of his draft class to reach Double-A
The former East Carolina two-way star was selected by St. Louis in the second compensation round, 70th overall, of the 2020 First-Year Player Draft. The Cardinals received that pick as compensation for Marcell Ozuna’s departure as a free agent.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s May Player of the Month, Alec Burleson.
Other stat leaders of note
Leading the system in two-base hits during May with eight is Peoria outfielder Jhon Torres, a good sign of more power to come. His teammate Malcom Nuñez is just behind with seven.
Palm Beach shortstop Masyn Winn topped the organization in both walks (15) and stolen bases (11-for-11), but only collected 16 hits for a .190 batting average and a .324 OBP.
Standout hitters who fell short of our plate appearance criteria include Memphis’ Max Moroff (1.762 OPS), Palm Beach first baseman Todd Lott (1.016) and third baseman Jordan Walker (1.074). Moroff and Walker are currently injured.
What is next
The Cardinals organization should announce its corresponding May Pitcher and Player of the Month winners this week, as well.
June 3 update
The Cardinals agree with our selection.
Our Minor League Player of the Month is OF @alecburleson9 👏
The 22-year-old 2020 second round pick out of East Carolina combined for a .317/.394/.610/1.003 slash line with 7 HR, 19 RBI, 13 R and 2 SB in 21 games between Peoria (A+) & Springfield (AA). pic.twitter.com/mpT6ucrgQT
— Cardinals Player Development (@CardsPlayerDev) June 3, 2021
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