Josh G.

For a few weeks now, the goal has been trying to decide when to start the postseason previews for Memphis, Springfield, and the rest of the squads gearing up for September. At the same time, however, the Cardinals have been doing their best to keep the drama and suspense alive and well just about every day since the calendar flipped to August.

And I don’t know about you, but this week just give us a good comedy instead of a cliffhanger.

San Diego and Tampa Bay should be just the cure St. Louis needs for the dog days but wouldn’t you know nothing has gone to plan this season. Beginning tonight the rotation has Luke Weaver, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha in nearly permanent marker before the real fun begins. With the bullpen already running on fumes, another move is expected today just to get to the weekend when nobody knows what to think.

Memphis and Springfield both have possible answers to the Mike Leake riddle, but every option comes with post-credit questions and a laundry list of contingencies. Instead of waving the white flag, everyone knows the front office will continue to battle but at just what cost? It would make more sense at this point to trade for an established major league starter (even a rental) just to keep the minor league rotations intact.

Since it is a safe bet that at least a pair of moves will be made by Saturday, let’s break it down a few different ways. Check out these stats in case you were wondering why the easy answer has suddenly become a huge question mark.

Short-term

Unless an injury allows Mike Mayers a return trip (unlikely he would get the call), John Gant appears to be the latest Memphis recall winner for multiple reasons. Fully stretched out now, Gant can cover any innings limit and also happens to be on the 40-man roster.

In theory Sean Gilmartin or Rowan Wick also could be in play or both may simply be DFA candidates depending on how the needs are met the next 24 hours. Josh Lucas threw two more innings last night and his cup of coffee now empty, he would figure first in any demotion plan barring news on Trevor Rosenthal.

2018

One of the many things that has always fascinated me about the game of baseball doesn’t even occur while games are being played. Teams have a very small window after the season to determine who gets protected before the Rule 5 draft in December. One of the game’s best reporters has a must-read piece here, but the Cards have some decisions to make now. Two rotation options included in Goold’s story are on my list of potential call-ups that need a hard look simply because other teams won’t pass up the chance to grab either one this winter.

Austin Gomber and Matt Pearce have more positives than negatives but they both can help St. Louis in different ways and since they were drafted out of college in 2014, the pair needs 40-man protection this offseason. Gomber has been on fire as of late and surely would be in Memphis if not for anchoring a Springfield staff primed to go deep into the postseason. The southpaw also has plenty of innings left in the tank, currently sitting at 130 for the season after hurling 160 a year ago.

Pearce will be the most under-the-radar option but also has the best major league quality given he doesn’t walk batters. In 37 innings at Memphis, the RHP has given up the same number of home runs as he has issued free passes (7). Across the three highest levels of the minors last year, Pearce gave up only 26 walks in 160 frames, something every bullpen could use. He was promoted to AAA following the Marco Gonzales trade but could be the next one in line wondering his next stop if the Cards run out of 40-man spots.

Long-term

This is where things get tricky not only for the rest of this season but also why the DFA question has to be brought up with any other move. With the 40-man roster again full and no apparent move to the 60-day DL happening yet, an option such as Jack Flaherty remains a long shot in my opinion. While Gomber and Pearce face some bit of uncertainty for the next campaign, only a trade takes Flaherty out of the St. Louis system. He was selected out of high school in the same 2014 draft and doesn’t need 40-man protection this winter.

Two completely different schools of thought will determine what actually happens, though, since the Cardinals promoted Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong earlier this season looking for a spark. They were both position players who could impact the roster daily but neither needed to be added until after next year. That isn’t the main reason to take things slow with Flaherty even though many are hoping to see him start under the arch as soon as Saturday.

He has already reached a career-high for innings thrown and hasn’t worked out of the bullpen, something that may give the advantage to Dakota Hudson in case a limit has been ordered for either important piece of the future. It is extremely easy to say just call him up and go start-by-start but all that does is put yet another hole in the rotation at Memphis, which has been breaking long-time marks all year.

With this many moving pieces, the only thing anyone knows for sure has to be make sure your seat belt is fastened and tray table is stowed in the upright position. The Memphis merry-go-round has just begun the matinee portion of the show with the encore a must-see event!

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Today’s offering has been percolating for quite awhile now, as it is time to come clean on a few matters. The lack of moves at the trade deadline caused things to take a sinister tone via social media. It was time to unplug from Twitter as well as breaking my sleep schedule in hopes of catching the turnaround. A seemingly lost series in Cincy made all the difference and now everyone hopes the tank can be refilled.

No one who follows the Birds on the Bat can argue that not losing for over a week is anything but a blessing. With the 2017 Cardinals, however, it could very well count as a miracle.

Yes, not losing has to be more fun but are we just getting our hopes up for an eventual September stumble to remember? Initially, the calendar seemed to smile on St. Louis after the grueling August schedule although that could merely be a mirage on the horizon. Any West Coast swing proves daunting, especially when you are facing a pair of teams with nothing to lose.

The Cardinals will need a San Francisco treat in order to take that series before jetting down the coast to Petco Park for a Labor Day matinee that I had previously marked as a do-or-die spot around the trade deadline. San Diego offers much more than just nice weather, but that four game stretch offers the final chance to make up any ground outside the National League Central.

Twenty-three straight divisional games fill out the remainder of the schedule, with four teams fighting for the postseason and the Reds playing the spoiler role. Any timeline allowing for wiggle room between now and September has been outdated with the standings proving just how crucial even a two-game swing can make a difference this week.

The pit-stop in Boston is fun for the fans and even more vital given how well the Red Sox have been playing. One nice break for St. Louis will be no Chris Sale and also no chance of playing short-handed. The front office has enough weapons stashed away in Memphis to field another team, so that 10-day disabled list surely will come into play if Jedd or anyone else needs a breather before the calendar flips.

Most of the attention has been on the two NL Central front runners this summer and for good reason. Chicago and Milwaukee are going to be solid competition for years to come with their youthful rosters and smart GM’s calling the shots. That’s why everyone has all but written off the Pirates, and they are the team that everyone should not discount. Including the all-important four game set this weekend, Pittsburgh only sees the Dodgers next week outside of the division for the next month.

Playing 27 of your next 31 games against divisional opponents can turn the race upside down in a hurry, something the Pirates are no stranger to in recent memory. They would love nothing more than to catch the Brewers and then the Cardinals by Sunday and build up plenty of momentum before hosting LA. With the standings as close as ever, the only team St. Louis fans can actually root for are the Reds who can become everyone’s best friend very soon.

With the playoffs right around the corner for Memphis and Springfield, time will tell how the final chapter gets written for the Birds on the Bat. Oh, there are so many literary works that could be used so choose your favorite and keep both hands and feet inside the ride at all times – this roller coaster is just beginning!

 

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So this is going to be a great baseball day, right? The Cardinals can’t win or lose on the field, but 24 hours from now what makes the headlines in St. Louis? A better question may just end up being was it enough depending on how you look at the National League this silly summer.

The Cards technically have made a deal already, and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see very little done in the next six hours. It matters very little that the Baby Bears are gutting their farm system, since winning without dealing off your 25-man roster is how the Birds on the Bat stayed relevant a decade ago.

No, the only question that matters now and honestly for the next two months has to be this — can any deal help put St. Louis in position to make noise in October? Surely the optimist would argue that a move can always be found to help the team. This probably is true for the Cardinals as well, especially for that yearly bullpen arm or possibly a bench bat.

Now as I am not someone who is overly pessimistic, the past 18 months of following the club under the Arch have been anything but pleasant. There have been good moments of course with more to come but for the first time in recent memory, the only smart play is to sell. There won’t be a massive rebuild and does anyone really think there should be?

Alex Reyes will be a force next season and sets up for a more imposing rotation that should bring fear to anyone in the Central. Yes, that means a spot needs to be opened but look at the ready-made option already in place. Lance Lynn has always been a good soldier and deserves his payday, end of story. The money just won’t be coming from St. Louis as there are plenty of options and other needs.

Let other teams fight it out to lose to the Dodgers, Astros, or hot team to be determined. Lynn can make a difference down the stretch and has the playoff pedigree to help his future income even more. It makes too much sense for the Cards to capitalize and flip the starter before only getting back a second-round draft pick.

At the same time, there is a much more crucial position that needs clarity before things get put in Mike Matheny’s hands. Stephen Piscotty at last check was due back tomorrow, and Dexter Fowler in a couple weeks unless they are very cautious. While Harrison Bader can go back to Memphis for the playoff run, the elephant in the room goes by the initials of RG.

This situation has all the familiar tones of another deal that was also made to bring the needed ‘culture change’ that the front office has brought up on a few different occasions. When Craig and Kelly were moved at the deadline in 2014, it was to make room in the outfield. The same problem needs to be addressed today, and Matheny has proved to be incapable of making those calls.

Buckle up and stand by as the rumors will be flying in every direction this afternoon, as the dominoes fall into place. It is an exciting time for sure, but really we fans just hope to have something to cheer about other than what the Redbirds are doing in the PCL.

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Confused by the Cardinals

The days of having to check to make sure I got the Gonzales part right with Marco are officially over. In what can only be described as an interesting first deal this month, the Cardinals acquired the one thing they seemingly didn’t need. Tyler O’Neill represents yet another top-100 type prospect who provides power for a Memphis outfield that was already stacked.

In dealing Marco to the Mariners, however, it does free up a spot on the 40-man roster while returning Gonzales to a place he knows well. And after his last hurrah in St. Louis all but spelled the end of the line under the Arch, it was time for the former first round pick to get a real look. Injuries played a role in keeping the southpaw out of the rotation, but it really came down to other options taking away opportunities.

The Cardinals did well on paper with the return, since O’Neill has done nothing to hurt his reputation in the Seattle system. Rated as the #29 prospect by MLB heading into the 2017 campaign, the Canada native has put his slow start in the PCL behind him with a torrid stretch that caught the attention of the Birds on the Bat. While this deal opens up the ability to make other moves, it really just raises more question marks.

If the theory of more is better plays out for Memphis, scouts need to plot their GPS starting this weekend. Harrison Bader was already knocking on the door, but that creates more issues on the big league roster. At last count playing more than three outfielders seemed like an odd strategy so what’s next for the St. Louis front office?

By my quick count, there are already a pair of Redbirds outfielders and a trio in Springfield fighting for promotions. It seems to reason another move would be made sooner rather than later then to capitalize on one or more teams trying to get younger. The obvious target with plenty of unanswered questions shares a home every March with the Cardinals. But to be honest, no one has a clue what the Marlins are up to which makes for a tricky dance partner.

While I wish O’Neill well as with every new addition to the St. Louis family, it sure appears as if it could be a short stay. Look for another transaction or three as the craziness kicks into full gear as soon as the all-important series with the Baby Bears concludes Sunday night.

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Today marks the beginning of a sprint three months in the making. All of the rookie league squads are in full swing looking to repeat with this afternoon the deadline to sign draft picks from last month. Different reports have one possible name in play, but Seton Hall RHP Shane McCarthy may just go down as one to watch instead of being a future St. Louis farm hand.

By far the more important story for 7/7 is how the Cardinals finish the first half and what that means the next three weeks. Look, it is forever saved for future reference that trading prospects has never been an idea this scribe supports. Dating back nearly a decade now, pick any trade from Matt Holliday to Zach Duke with the price of admission seemingly on trial.

Whether or not you believe in market size, St. Louis arguably has not fared well lately in the Free Agent game. Dexter Fowler plays the game better than most but was overpaid. Same story for Brett Cecil and Mike Leake but honestly, that just might have to be the way to get talent to sign without missing out. The days of selling the Arch and history and Red Jackets left when Albert skated out the door.

That leaves drafting and promoting which will always be the more difficult path when the Cardinals are never going to be picking in the top 10, at least without a rebuild which appears unlikely. Delvin Perez could be the SS for the decade starting in 2020, but he is currently experiencing struggles in Johnson City which probably caused a drop in the most recent prospect lists.

Baseball America has jumped the gun and released the updated look with recent picks adding to the fun. While not a shock, it appears losing a season for surgery has not cooled the appeal for Alex Reyes. He still tops all pitchers on the list and unfortunately will be at the center of all trade discussions leading up to the deadline. If there were ever a place for an untouchable list, my hope is Reyes stays there.

On the positive side of things, three teammates from Memphis are right in the thick of things as well, with trade talk surrounding the trio more and more every day. Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver basically traded spots on the BA list but are front and center for a possible blockbuster deal. And to be honest, this is a crucial time for the organization with likely franchise pieces in play around the league.

With Kelly and Weaver both already on the 40-man roster, that will factor into any discussions with Jack Flaherty the wild card in the entire mix. Flaherty smashed the Texas League and is headed for the Futures Game in Miami for even more publicity. As crazy as it sounds, Flaherty still is only 21 years old and will never have higher value than now.

Who your pick is for a power bat to lengthen the order depends on who you ask. And buckle up for a crazy ride leading up to the deadline as no one knows what the new GM will do!

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Happy to report Father’s Day was very relaxing, even if the Cardinals were on TV when we got to the restaurant. As most of you already know, focus going to be on new players to the organization at least until the trade deadline passes. Randy Flores has restocked via the draft and thankfully there are about to be three other teams to follow outside of St. Louis.

State College kicks off the rookie league schedule tonight as defending champs, something Johnson City and the GCL Cards know quite a bit about. That success becomes vital moving up the ranks, but there will be plenty more time in the upcoming months for a hopeful postseason outlook. In order to finish off our Conclave draft coverage, one last area needs some more attention.

Now that the Spikes have an initial roster, the shuffling will not stop until everyone has signed. Johnson City will get the younger players from the draft as well as the GCL, but State College has a couple of exciting players right out of the gate. Keep your eyes on Evan Mendoza, who might just be my favorite pick of the entire draft. There are multiple reasons for this, with the main one being his past success in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Mendoza fits the mold perfectly as an athlete first, someone who could move to the mound if things don’t work out in the field (mainly with the bat). One thing that did catch my attention is that the Cape had his position as IF/C which brings to mind Carson Kelly from a few years ago. Of course it is entirely too early to know what the Cardinals have planned, but it is a great pick in the 11th round who will not turn 21 until later this month.

One curious name missing from the recent signings as well as the Spikes’ roster was Shane McCarthy. He also excelled on the Cape before returning to Seton Hall and was taken in the 18th round. There could be multiple reasons for this so will withhold judgment until we actually see how things turn out. In the absence of that RHP, there is one who was taken last year that has started to make Flores look very smart already.

The draft-and-follow model hasn’t existed for more than a few years now, but St. Louis has found another way to use the current draft rules to their advantage. When Sam Tewes was drafted out of Wichita State, it was already known that surgery would push back the hurler to the 2017 season. Tewes had a great start to his pro career out of the Palm Beach bullpen and then was sent to State College with a purpose. He will be the Opening Day starter for the Spikes, who will be a fun crew to follow in the NYPL all summer.

In case you were wondering, the Birds on the Bat may have to make a roster move sooner than at least the player would like. Scott Hurst and his CSU Fullerton squad just went behind again in an elimination game in Omaha. There were rumblings of a deal already in place, so if the Titans are not able to complete a comeback expect an announcement possibly even before the Cardinals return home.

Get your MILB app updated and ready for the excitement that is about to be seven teams all fighting to still be playing into September! To me there is no greater part of the schedule, and I’m glad you are along for the ride.

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Welcome to your Saturday afternoon pregame reading! With the Cardinals on the road and storms all over the Midwest, it feels good to get back in the rhythm that is baseball. I have The Rookie on as a soundtrack to the second part of our look at the recently completed MLB Draft, as both State College and Johnson City kick into high gear next week.

The finale will go up just in time for the Spikes’ Opener on Monday, since only one pick has ‘officially‘ signed as of this posting. That isn’t unusual for St. Louis, however, given a press release is sure to come out just as soon as I hit send. Most likely they have the rosters in place for all three of the rookie league teams, with the GCL Cards kind of a catch-all at least to start.

Most of the talk after the draft was completed centered on the few High School players likely to sign and with good reason. There will be plenty of time for those picks to bear fruit so to speak and that leaves me to hit my favorite two parts of every draft. Both are equally important and show Randy Flores learned some solid drafting traits from those still in the organization.

The Triple-S

While the Cards are not alone in finding special players who excelled below D1 baseball, there are always a couple of selections that jump off the page. There were two especially in this draft that count as Small School Sleepers to watch, one pitcher and one hitter. If the name Jake Walsh doesn’t jump off the page you are not alone, but how about Brett Tomko?

St. Louis snagged Walsh in the 16th round out of Florida Southern College, and more than a few had this to say. The Mocassin RHP was a finalist for the Tomko DII Pitcher of the Year and dominated to say the least his junior season. Walsh finished 12-1 on the year with a sub 1.00 WHIP and K/9 of 9.39 to show that starters can be found at every level.

On the hitting side of the ledger, one of those ‘unofficial‘ signings turned heads all the way to All-American honors. Brandon Benson, to put it plain and simple, could not have had a better senior campaign for Georgia College. Not to say he ever struggled in college, but Benson tallied 21 HR and 110 RBI combined his first three years as a Bobcat.

The 20th round pick then knocked 22 over the fence just in 2017 alone, driving in 79 RBI while scoring 74 times. Benson also just celebrated a birthday on the 13th, making it a week he will never forget. I expect him to start on the SC roster as one of the older selections of the St. Louis class but was drafted as an outfielder which means the bat will dictate where he ends up this summer.

If the Cards are able to add even a couple from this draft, it will be a success for years to come. Monday will be all about the Cape Cod impact, as those wood bats never lie! Enjoy the games this weekend with a big round of applause to all fathers who hopefully get an extra nap in along the way.

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Breaking down the draft takes years to fully decide if it was productive or not as a whole. While the first few rounds get most of the attention, it takes the grinders moving up one rung of the ladder each year that establish an organization. The Cardinals have been blessed with success from the top down, but that begins with the teams where everyone starts on the same level.

Days one and two of the draft typically involve the big money decisions, just because you are handling nearly all of the players who hold the leverage. High School and Junior College athletes 99% of the time have D1 offers in hand well before getting drafted with new rules cutting down on the negotiation period.

This makes having a solid strategy even greater, something St. Louis scouting directors have seemingly perfected. Randy Flores took over just last year and couldn’t possibly have had a harder situation to walk into not only from the team but baseball operations altogether. Once Flores stopped playing, he went back to school at USC and started a successful business before things turned upside down under the Arch.

And what does Flores do with his very first pick running the show? He takes a potential franchise altering shortstop who had flunked a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs right before the draft. So yes, Flores proved he was up to the challenge right away but last year was nothing compared to 2017.

The only thing that needs to be said now about the hacking scandal thankfully is that everyone can put it to bed. Draft picks exchanged hands, the Cardinals paid the price and then some, and baseball will continue as it should. Flores wasn’t even part of the front office then, so in some way that gives him a pass even with a full year to navigate the deep waters.

What I am going to do now that the draft is over and before the signings begin will be broken down over the next few days right up until Johnson City and State College take the field. No one has applauded St. Louis or Flores for a job well done, and surely that goes without saying. All parties knew how difficult playing on an uneven field would be and truthfully, I really didn’t expect to be blown away this much.

The Cardinals had 38 picks and selected only eight from the High School ranks. I looked at each of the past five drafts, and that number is the lowest. They also passed up every JUCO player available, instead looking for a specific type that fills a need now. Given the bonus pool constraints, there shouldn’t be many issues getting them signed and on the field where the real fun begins.

And to be honest, it has been a real tough calendar year for St. Louis fans when you think about it. We all could use some positive motivation, and the 2017 draft will certainly go down as a historic one for the Birds on the Bat. Enjoy your Thursday everyone and stop back by Saturday for Part 2!

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As much fun as yesterday was to see new faces become future Cardinals, the real challenge now starts with finding the hidden gems in Rounds 11-40 of the MLB Draft. The usual strategy for St. Louis and other teams in the recent past has been trying to entice some of the tougher signs with strong offers to see what amount may make the difference. It would be a surprise, however, to see too much of that from the Birds on the Bat this time out.

The bonus pool has to be considered as does filling out the rookie league rosters, especially on the pitching side of the ledger. Scouting Director Randy Flores has not been able to dodge many potholes in his little over a year on the job but the high character picks already in the books tell a bigger story. It would do no one justice to say the type of player in the organization needed to change, so let’s just go with selections that have more than physical skills fit the criteria.

Two-way players are all the rage right now, but the Cardinals have always drafted the athletes that could eventually switch job titles. Expect more of the same, as the early Day 3 picks are bound to be multi-faceted before transitioning into what sets St. Louis apart from nearly everyone else in the game. The small school picks like Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, and Kevin Siegrist no doubt are the stories scouts love to tell, all of which leads to another intriguing day of selections.

Enjoy the ride and will be back tomorrow with reactions to the overall depth that is added to an already strong system!

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In what can only be described as a wild ride, the Cardinals navigated their Day 1 of the 2017 Draft in admirable fashion. With a tiny budget and zero room for error, St. Louis added another LHP to the mix with Brett Seeburger from San Diego State.

The former All-State performer in California adds even more depth to the mix as State College and Johnson City need full rosters within a week to get the summer truly kicked off as the Prospect Preacher only wakes up when every team is fighting for a championship.

Thanks for stopping by and come back for recaps of tomorrow’s picks as long as I don’t need sleep!

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Brett Seeburger, LHP San Diego State

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There will be a new Scrabble in the St. Louis organization in the very near future. This lefty may very well move fast as a reliever, but Evan Kruczynski starred at East Carolina as their best starter in 2016. The Senior southpaw didn’t have the encore season he hoped, but the Cardinals are counting on a return to his junior year form.

Kruczynski carried ECU to the Super Regionals in 2016 and couldn’t be swayed from his plans to return for one more shot at the CWS. Time for the Birds on the Bat to take advantage of the 9th round return and see how fast this Ski can skate up the ranks.

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