Taking Stock of the Flock

If you have spent any time browsing the Conclave or any of our sites before the merger, none of my posts the next month will come as a shock. Just in case you stumbled upon this one in any number of various ways, thanks for reading and pull up a chair – you are gonna be here awhile.

As a baseball fan, there truly isn’t a part of the year where nothing happens. Sure you can ignore the month of October if your team fails to make the postseason but even then, the games are exciting and thoughts of how to get to that level are never-ending. At the very same time, everyone has a favorite part of the season as well and that time has arrived for me!

A few weeks from today, three more teams will begin play for the Cardinals, starting their path to the Arch. The logistics of how we get to that point are fascinating to watch unfold, and this year I have decided to share my thoughts along the way. So buckle in, grab your favorite adult or caffeinated drink, and let’s see where the 2018 campaign will take us.

Much has already been written about the current state of the top affiliate for St. Louis, although injuries have diminished the quality of play in Memphis. I will leave the recaps to Daniel but optimistically, something needs to happen sooner rather than later to turn around a troubling trend in the National League Central. Thankfully, the Redbirds have been blessed with an absurd amount of talent, with more than a few possibly getting trading to help push the Cardinals into a postseason series.

Three positions in the upper minors are absolutely stacked for the Birds on the Bat, quite honestly making it a priority to be as heavily involved as possible in any talks before August. This isn’t just a way to make the Major League club better, however, since for a number of productive players – a trade might be the only way to get a promotion. While tracking Alex Reyes’ start down in Memphis, it became even more apparent that some changes need to be made this summer or the 40-man issue won’t be pretty starting in December.

Starting pitching rightfully gets most of the attention as St. Louis features an insane amount of options. Look how deep the roster is now, and then take a gander at who hasn’t been called upon yet. Austin Gomber was briefly a big league option who would be in many rotations every fifth day and was possibly the fifth starter in Memphis to open the year. Dakota Hudson and Ryan Helsley formed two thirds of the Triple H law firm this spring with some kid named Hicks, and they quite possibly could be battling for the top prospect spot as well as a September call-up when everything is said and done this summer.

Springfield and Palm Beach have also seen the benefit that a logjam of pitching offers and as Memorial Day approaches, don’t forget Peoria in the conversation either. Even with all the injuries and moving pieces, each rung of the Cardinal ladder has performed. If you don’t believe me, just check the standings and see that no affiliate for St. Louis is below .500 with more reinforcements to come.

It would be easy to stop right there and say a package with a few top arms has to be enough to get a bat, but that’s not even close to being the complete story. As good as the starters have been across the board, I would argue that it is the play of the outfielders that should be getting just as much attention. Oscar Mercado was added to the 40-man roster last Winter and truly needs to get his shot in the Majors. But unless the entire starting outfield for the Cardinals lands on the disabled list, it will take a trade to make it happen.

Mercado has watched Bader and O’Neill leave their flanked positions next to him as well as watch Randy Arozarena get more love in the prospect rankings. Before Adolis Garcia took a step back offensively, he was getting looked at for a promotion given his tools. For the former shortstop, the only thing that Mercado can do now happens to be exactly what is needed and other teams will come calling. One of his current teammates isn’t on the 40-man roster but needs a change of scenery just as badly.

Patrick Wisdom should never have returned to Memphis after leading the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League title last fall, and the Cardinals even tried to help it happen by not protecting him in the Rule 5 draft. All Wisdom has done is rake at a level where he has nothing left to prove and no promotion to be had. Some team surely could use a power bat that can handle either corner infield spot, but that team sadly won’t be St. Louis it appears.

Last but not least by a wide margin, the most important position for the Cardinals also has the greatest amount of depth. Wait, wasn’t the starting pitching depth and absurd amount of outfielders already covered you say? The spot I am referencing is behind the plate, where two of the best ten catching prospects in the sport are looking up to a future Hall of Famer who won’t be retiring until he is good and ready.

Carson Kelly just was activated off the disabled list and that means Andrew Knizner probably heads back to Springfield even though the Texas League has proved to be no match. Once Yadi Molina returns then the real questions will start, especially as the trade deadline quickly approaches. There can be only one heir apparent, and Knizner has the bat to challenge Kelly’s glove. In a perfect world, both could share the duties, but prospects who sit on the shelf too long never age well.

This summer is shaping up to be an increasingly crazy time, and we haven’t even touched on the draft yet! But have no fear, I have plenty of time to cover all the angles that the Cardinals may go as well as looking at how Johnson City and State College fill out their rosters. Enjoy the long weekend, as it appears the Holland experience won’t be celebrating the holiday after all.

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