photo: Patrick Wisdom (Memphis Redbirds)
The Cardinal Nation’s top May award for St. Louis Cardinals minor league position players goes to Memphis third baseman Patrick Wisdom, currently working on a 16-game hitting streak.
This article explains how the selection was made as well as other candidates considered.
Welcome to May edition of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly awards, recognizing the top performers across the St. Louis Cardinals system each month. Today’s focus is the best offensive player during the prior month. The top pitching performance will be recognized on Saturday.
Like the spring flowers, the bats were in full bloom across the organization during May, as 12 players with at least 50 plate appearances hit over .300.
The top batting average in the system in May was logged by third baseman Evan Mendoza, who batted .349 in his first six weeks at Palm Beach, earning a promotion to Springfield mid-month. The 2017 New York-Penn League batting champion is off to a hot Double-A start as well, with a .326 mark through a baker’s-dozen contests at his new level.
Six of the 12 are currently with Memphis, led by Patrick Wisdom and Alex Mejia, at .352 and .345, respectively. Yairo Muñoz earned his return to St. Louis and both Randy Arozarena and Ramon Urias worked their way back to Memphis after being sent down to Springfield for a time. Redbirds leadoff man Oscar Mercado may be one of the quietest success stories of 2018.
Springfield boasts two rebounders in shortstop Edmundo Sosa, back from an extended slump, and outfielder Granden Goetzman, a much-improved hitter after a return to extended spring training in Florida to work on his swing.
Back at Palm Beach in 2018, outfielder Shane Billings hit .333 last month. Honored with a big-league spring camp invitation, Peoria catcher Dennis Ortega has been productive for Peoria, as has the club’s no. 3 hitter, corner infielder Yariel Gonzalez.
Our next look is at slugging percentage. An ideal line would be .300/.400/.500 or better, so let’s view May’s .500 sluggers.
The list is shorter, with just six names. Not surprisingly, those also among the batting average leaders also make up two-thirds of May’s top sluggers, highlighted in the following table.
Everyone in Cardinals Nation knows about Tyler O’Neill by now. The hard-hitting outfielder made hay in the time during the month he was not in St. Louis, with an organization-best .650 SLG while assigned to Memphis.
The other new name indicates how strong offensively the Peoria catching tandem is. 20-year old Julio Rodriguez knocked eight of his 15 hits last month for extra bases while sharing time with Ortega.
I also included plate appearances in the prior table to help break any potential ties. Note that Wisdom and Arozarena excelled over a greater quantity of time played.
Next up is home runs. I drew the line at one per week and continued to bold the carry over names.
Newcomer Victor Roache swatted six long balls in April and another eight in May for Springfield, at one time leading all of Minor League Baseball. The outfielder signed with St. Louis as a free agent over the winter. The former first-round draft pick of Milwaukee is prospering with a more compact swing.
Right behind was O’Neill, who knocked seven balls out of Pacific Coast League parks in May before homering in three consecutive games for St. Louis.
At four home runs each were Wisdom, Arozarena and another recent Cardinals acquisition, Johan Mieses. The latter, an outfielder, joined the organization at the end of spring training in a trade with the Dodgers for Breyvic Valera and is manning center field for Palm Beach.
A number of well-known Cardinals prospects were among the doubles leaders last month, led by Springfield infielder Tommy Edman with nine. Next at eight is second baseman Irving Lopez, a strong contributor in his Midwest League debut.
Among the group at six doubles is our remaining survivor, Wisdom, the only player to appear on all four lists.
For extra credit, I will include the most exciting play in baseball, the triple.
As there were only 11 three-base hits across the entire system last month, all are noted here.
Can you believe it? Wisdom even found his way onto this list!
In all fairness, though not a regular occurrence, neither is it unheard of. A good baserunner, Wisdom now has 20 career triples and a 78.3 percent success rate in steal attempts (36-of-46) in his six-plus seasons in the Cardinals system.
About the winner
Wisdom, 26, is red-hot, having ended May with a career-long 16-game hitting streak while hitting .418 (25-for-59). The streak is the longest for any Redbirds player this season, and the fifth-longest in the Pacific Coast League in 2018. It is also the third-longest current streak in the Triple-A league. His .424 average since May 14 is the second-best in the PCL, as well.
For the month, Wisdom plated 18, scored 19 runs and even stole three bases in four attempts. His May slash line was .352/.395/.543/.938.
However, his immediate shot at the majors is hampered by a number of other players at his positions – third and first base – as well as the lack of a 40-man roster spot.
The California native was taken with the 52nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, after Michael Wacha and Stephen Piscotty, but before Carson Kelly. Despite recognition that includes TCN’s Memphis Player of the Year and All-PCL Team honors in 2017, Wisdom was not selected in either of the last two Rule 5 Drafts. The right-handed hitter will be eligible for minor league free agency this fall if not added to the roster first.
Congratulations to Patrick Wisdom, The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month for May.
Last month’s selection
It was a move from the penthouse to the disabled list for the consensus April Player of the Month, Juan Yepez, selected by both the Cardinals organization and TCN.
Then Peoria’s first baseman, Yepez dominated the Midwest League in April, which earned the 20-year old a promotion to the Florida State League on May 7. In his initial 15 games with Palm Beach, the right-handed power hitter had two home runs and seven RBI, but has yet to draw a walk and struck out in 25.9 percent of his plate appearances. The Venezuelan’s slash line at Palm Beach is .175/.190/.333/.523, and he was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Wednesday.
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