Rusty Groppel

Way back at the end of April, over at the Redbird Daily, I took a quick look on the first month’s return on the Cardinals winter trades. Now that we have reached the All-Star break, a symbolic half way point (though the season is technically 58% over), it’s a good time to revisit this topic and see how the situations have changed. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Trade #1 – Diaz to Toronto

Cardinals Get:

J.B. Woodman, OF: (A+) 60 Games, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 7 2B, .259/.333/.396

Blue Jays Get:

Aledmys Diaz, SS: (MLB) 70 Games, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 11 2B, .240/.277/.393, wRC+ 79

Review:

Woodman is looking like the solid organizational depth piece that we assumed he was upon being acquired. He is showing just a touch more HR power than he previously has, being just one shy of his career high of 7, set in 96 games last season. Considering that the Florida State League suppresses offensive numbers, he looks okay. Still, at 23 years old and never being much of a prospect, expectations are low.

Diaz is who we thought he was. His average and OBP are a little behind where he was in 2017, but his SLG, K% and (barely there) BB% are nearly identical. His overall offense is well below average. When not on the DL, he has been the primary SS, making 64 starts. He currently is at -1 Defensive Runs Saved, which is much better looking than his -10 mark in 2017, and more in line with his -3 from 2016. So he’s not much of a hitter and a little below average at SS. If Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t been injured all season, Diaz would likely be in the utility role that he profiles for.

Win or Loss? The Cardinals aren’t missing Diaz, even considering that DeJong missed significant time, because Yairo Munoz has been a better offensive player and is probably close to equal defensively. It also freed up a 40-man roster spot for team that has seen those become precious. Toronto got a serviceable MLB player at a position of need. As boring as it is, this is probably a wash.

Trade # 2 – Piscotty to Oakland

Cardinals Get:

Yairo Munoz, SS: (MLB) 165 PA’s (55 Games), 16 R, 5 HR, 23 RBI, .285/.339/.417, wRC+ 105

Max Schrock, 2B: (AAA) 83 Games, 35 R, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 7.4 K%, .272/.314/.362, wRC+ 76

A’s Get:

Stephen Piscotty, OF: (MLB) 88 Games, 43 R, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 24 2B, .264/.326/.457, wRC+ 115

Review:

Munoz has spent most of the season with the big club, but did spend 26 games in Memphis. The rate stats between the two levels are almost identical, outside of K%, which is 6% higher in the majors. At 24%, it could come down, but overall he has held his own as a part-time major leaguer. He can occupy multiple positions on defense, though his skill at the positions varies. Still, the ability to play the positions at all gives him valuable versatility and a little bit of power makes him a nice option to have on the bench. He may never be a starting-caliber player, but his Johnny-Peralta-Lite profile makes him a nice player to have.

After a hot start that made many fans clamor for Max Schrock to replace Kolten Wong, he has cooled considerably. His greatest skill is contact, evidenced by a stunningly low 7.4% K%. Reports are that he has done fine defensively and he has been getting some looks at 3B to increase his versatility. He has logged some innings at SS in lower levels, but those days are likely behind him. Still, his future lies somewhere in the Greg Garcia, Daniel Descalso area as a solid left-handed hitting utility man.

Piscotty has returned to being the solid all-around hitter that we expected him to be. 2017 was, unfortunately, just a lost season for him. Across the board his numbers have normalized to pre-2017 levels. It’s great to see that he is back to business as usual. The defensive metrics have not been kind. After being being a +12 in defensive runs saved over the last 2 seasons in RF, he is a -14 this year. Those metrics can be fluky, so it’s hard to say what exactly is going on.

Win or Loss? This one is tough to peg because of the circumstances that led up to it. Piscotty was the clear winner in the trade. On the field, the Cardinals look like they have a couple solid bench players, they freed up some modest future salary, and opened up room in a crowded outfield situation. Still, when you consider the outfield production the Cardinals have had this year, Piscotty looks even better. Right now, Oakland wins this trade by a hair, but it could look different in a year or two.

Trade # 3 – Ozuna from Miami

Cardinals Get:

Marcell Ozuna, LF: (MLB) 90 Games, 38 R, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 9 2B, .268/.309/.385, wRC+ 89

Marlins Get:

Sandy Alcantara, P: (AAA) 85.0 IP, 3.71 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 6.78 K/9 ; (MLB) 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 K’s, 5 BB

Magneuris Sierra, OF: (AAA) 82 Games, 46 R, 16 RBI, 14 SB, 20.4 K%, 3.7 BB%, .260/.289/.336, wRC+ 61

Zac Gallen, P: (AAA) 17 Starts, 91.0 IP, 4.05 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 8.90 K/9, 3.46 BB/9

Daniel Castano, P: (Rook., A) 34.0 IP, 3.44 ERA, 10.32 K/9, 0 BB ; (A+) 57.1 IP, 5.65 ERA, 5.81 K/9, 3.45 BB/9

Review:

Marcell Ozuna has been a disappointment. He was a gamble coming off of what seemed like a breakout season in 2017, and because of the order in which the Marlins wanted to move their OF’s and the Cardinals determination to get one, they jumped on Ozuna rather than waiting out the superior overall Christian Yelich. The cost would have been higher for Yelich, but the building blocks for the package were likely the same. That’s one aspect that makes the results of this trade disappointing.

Ozuna could have negated that part of it with a studly performance, something he has not given at all. His defense, in a word, has been questionable. Offensively, outside of a blazing hot 2 week stretch, he has been a singles hitter with poor pitch selection at the plate. He is 2nd on the team in RBI, simply because he has been immovable from the cleanup spot. His .385 SLG ranks 9th out of 13 hitters on the team with more than 100 AB’s this season. That is nowhere near the slugging ability that is needed to maximize run scoring opportunities in the middle of the lineup. He is there to drive in 2-3 runs at a time, not pick up an RBI on a ground-out. Overall he has been a below average hitter. I want to believe that going forward, interim manager Mike Shildt will place him in the lineup based on his actual results, rather than the perception of what he is supposed to be.

On the Marlins side, Alcantara did ascend to the majors this year, making one start before finding himself on the DL. He put up ok numbers in AAA, though he was getting plenty of help from his defense. His strikeout rate is still far too low for a pitcher that can hit 100 mph and he walks his fair share. It remains to be seen if his future is as a starter or reliever.

Sierra continues to look like Billy Hamilton-lite, which is the same offensive and defensive profile, without the elite basestealing ability. In his first turn at AAA, Sierra is striking out too much and not walking enough for a player with his skill set. His glove may get him to the majors, but he will have to develop on-base skills in order to maximize his speed and stick around. At 22 years old, he’s reaching the age where tangible signs of development need to show.

Zac Gallen has not been spectacular in AAA, but he hasn’t been awful in his first full season at the level either. He is still just 22 and has just now reached 2 years of service time in professional baseball. His rates are solid and he will likely settle in and move towards being the back-of-the-rotation arm that he projects to be.

The last piece, Daniel Castano, has seen time at 3 lower levels. The results are a mixed bag. He looked solid in the lowest levels, but hasn’t had the same strikeout punch in an extended look at A-Advanced. He will be 24 in September, so he is old for the level he is at. He was always a throw-in/lottery ticket-type for Miami with low expectations.

Win or Loss? It’s a wash right now. Miami has gotten very little from the return to this point, and the true upside of those players can be questioned. On the flip side, Ozuna has been an 8th spot quality hitter. If Ozuna sets the world on fire in the 2nd half and in 2019, helping the Cardinals reach the playoffs, it probably outweighs whatever long-term benefit Alcantara gives Miami and the Cardinals win. If Ozuna continues to do what he has and the Cardinals have to eventually trade him for a modest return, then the Marlins win, even if its just by having Zac Gallen be a solid 5th starter for a few years.

Trade #4 – Grichuk to Toronto

Cardinals Get:

Dominic Leone, RP: (MLB) 15 Games, 13.0 IP, 4.15 ERA, 10.38 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 87.0% LOB

Conner Greene, P: (AA) 48.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 7.95 K/9, 5.92 BB/9 ; (AAA) 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 6.32 K/9, 8.62 BB/9

Blue Jays Get:

Randal Grichuk, OF: (MLB) 63 Games, 28 R, 11 HR, 28 RBI, 11 2B, 25.9 K%, 6.8 BB%, .206/.273/.427, wRC+ 88

Review:

Did you forget about Dominic Leone? After a hit-and-miss start to the season, he’s been on the DL since early May with a nerve issue. He is just another player that hasn’t worked out as expected this season. The jury is still out and we hope to see him contribute in the 2nd half and in 2019.

Conner Greene was the long-term get in this trade. He effectively replaced Sandy Alcantara in the system with his 100 mph heater, but he also throws a plus curve to go with it. Command is the major issue. After being a starter at AA, the Cardinals moved him to relief and promoted him to AAA. The reason is two-fold. 1) His future is almost certainly out of the bullpen, so he was going there eventually, and 2) the Cardinals big league bullpen has been a mess all season, so accelerating the conversion to relief and testing him against a higher level of competition gives the Cardinals an idea on whether he is an option in 2018.

I said this earlier with Diaz, but Grichuk is who we thought he was. We always wished for more, but it was not meant to be. He hits with power, strikes out a lot, and will never hit for a high average or OBP. He saw his season average drop below .100 on June 2nd. Since then, he’s hit .266 with an .866 OPS and provided the bulk of his season’s production. That’s pretty much par for the course. He should have about one more cold stretch and hot stretch in him if the last 2 seasons are any indication.

Win or Loss? The last month plus of production and a few highlight reel catches by Grichuk gives Toronto the win right now. However, considering the Cardinals have seen almost no return to this point, it didn’t take much. The wild card is Conner Greene. If he turns into a stud reliever for 4 years or so, and with the Cardinals unlikely to truly miss having Grichuk, it probably swings the trade in our favor. All of that remains to be seen, though.

Last Minute Trades:

These trades occurred right before Opening Day as players were DFA’d to clear spots on the 40-Man Roster for Francisco Pena and Jordan Hicks (Note: Greg Holland’s spot was created by moving Reyes to 60-Day DL).

Josh Lucas to Oakland for Casey Meisner

Lucas: (MLB) 14.1 IP, 6.28 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 8.79 K/9 ; (AAA) 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 8.50 K/9

Meisner: (A+) 78.1 IP, 3.45 ERA, 4.91 FIP, 6.78 K/9, 3.56 BB/9

Review:

Lucas had an impressive 3 inning relief appearance in April that made fans think we made a mistake, considering the struggles of the bullpen at the time. Since then he has been pedestrian. Small samples each way, but comparing his MLB and AAA numbers, he has the look of a Quad-A pitcher.

Due to full rosters, Meisner ended up pitching in A-Advanced this season, a level lower than he finished 2017 in the A’s system. He has pitched okay in a pitcher friendly league. He probably sees AA at some point, if a spot opens.

Win or Loss? There is no winner or loser here. The A’s got high-level depth and the Cardinals got low-level depth. Wash.

Breyvic Valera to the Dodgers for Johan Mieses

Valera: (MLB) 5/34, 4 RBI, .172/.273/.172. ; (AAA) 55 Games, 6 HR, 8 2B, 25 RBI, .279/.347/.431, wRC+ 103

Mieses: (A+) 65 Games, 33 R, 10 HR, 40 RBI, .251/.311/.424, wRC+ 108 ; (AA) 57 PA’s, 2 HR, .148/.179/.278

Review:

Valera’s potential tops out as a utility player. Being a switch hitter was intriguing, but he had no future here. He is depth for the Dodgers, and considering their middle infield situation and lack of production at 2B, the fact that he hasn’t gotten a little more of a look says it all.

Mieses is intriguing. He has a lot of power. He reached AA in 2017, but the Cardinals returned him to High-A this year. He continued his power display and managed to cut his K% by 10% compared to the same level last year. He was recently promoted to AA and has struggled initially.

Win or Loss: This is another depth move, though the Cardinals did grab a lottery ticket in Mieses. This is a bad comp to do, but his lower level profile is similar to that of Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar was able to eventually get his K% under 20% and really blossom at a later age. At 23, Meises could do something similar, but likely to a much lesser extent, and that is why the Cardinals grabbed him, for the potential. If he makes the major leagues at all, this is a clear win for the Cardinals.

Wrap-Up

In the end, the Cardinals trades mostly served to clean up the roster more than provide them with production. Ozuna could change that, Leone could change that, and Greene could change that. But for the most part the trades, which had the potential to really address significant needs, have been busts. Luckily, the Cardinals didn’t give up anything that will hamper them down the road.

Thanks for reading!

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If you go to Google News, click on to the full coverage of the Matheny firing, and scroll through all the available headlines; you’ll find 18 different articles on who may fill the position of Cardinals manager in 2019. Social media is abuzz with fans throwing out different candidate names, each one convinced that their choice is the right choice.

Post-firing on Saturday night, Bob Nightengale of USA Today immediately tweeted out (his opinion) that Joe Girardi was the favorite for the job. That’s been the most common name, because its the biggest name currently available.

However, if there is a “favorite” on July 16th, it’s the guy that was just handed the keys as interim manager. Mike Shildt. And it’s not simply because he is the interim, he’s as qualified as anyone.

National Perception…

Shildt gets mentioned in the articles regarding potential managers, but it’s more in passing. It’s more of a, “this guy is the interim for the remainder of the season so he’ll have a shot, but…” situation, than serious consideration. Let’s be honest, the writers and bloggers are penning these articles because they want to push the Girardi idea, or present a dark horse or more creative candidate like Mark DeRosa, Carlos Beltran, or even current Reds interim Jim Riggleman. Saying that Shildt is the favorite, or even a top 5 contender, is boring.

Bob Nightengale threw out the most dismissive statement I’ve ever seen:

“Mike Shildt is the interim manager, but he may not even be managing the Cardinals by the time they resume the season next Friday after the break, perhaps promoting Triple-A manager Stubby Clapp for the rest of the season.”

First of all, the Cardinals resume play on Thursday. But moving on. Listening to Mr. Nightengale on the Bernie Miklasz Show on Monday, his dismissing of Shildt seems to be based in a (false) perception that because Shildt was the bench coach for Matheny, he is part of the ongoing issues and his failed leadership, and would bring nothing new. There are two reasons that is wrong. 1) Mike Shildt has only been the bench coach for 3 months, whereas Matheny’s serious issues have been growing since the end of 2015 (if not earlier), and 2) Shildt was not brought in by Matheny, so he is not an extension of the manager. It’s a lazy take that shows a lack of knowledge of who Shildt is and how this coaching staff was assembled.

It also ignores that Matheny’s style seemed to suffocate the voices of his staff. Mark Saxon of the Athletic went as far as reporting that Matheny had recently become “an island” and was no longer receptive to input from others.

I don’t mean to just rip on Nightengale, but I think that his perception could be common for national writers and audiences that know very little about Mike Shildt. So I want to quell that fire. He is a relative unknown, a non-player that spent 15 years rising in the Cardinals system. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the man for the job.

So Who Is Mike Shildt?

Simply, a smart and interesting baseball man. There is an interview with Shildt at Scoops with Danny Mac that I encourage all fans to listen to. Most of what I document below is in that interview.

He is not a former player, though he did play in college. He got into professional baseball through scouting, hired by then Scouting Director, John Mozeliak in 2003. At the time, his interest in scouting was already fading as his real interest was in player development. Mozeliak agree to give him some opportunities in player development in addition to scouting duties. Slowly but surely he gained prominence and in 2006, Mark DeJohn agreed to take over the manager’s position in Johnson City on the condition that Shildt become his assistant full-time. From there he would take on other coaching positions in the organization and eventually manage for 8 seasons between Johnson City, Springfield, and Memphis prior to joining the major league team. He won two championships in Johnson City and one in Springfield. In 2009, while with Johnson City, he was named both the Cardinals Minor League Manager-of-the-Year, and the Appalachian League Manager-of-the-Year.

Shildt also has kerataconus, the rare eye condition that is now widely known of in Cardinals circles because of Tommy Pham. It has nothing to do with his managerial abilities, but it is interesting that two members of the team have it, considering it’s rarity.

Shildt was lucky enough to be directly influenced by legendary organizational man, George Kissell. Documented in this Derrick Goold article, Upon George’s passing in 2008, his family had replicas of his trusted book of baseball notes made and presented a copy to Shildt. It’s a reference Shildt uses to this day. A past winner of the organizations George Kissell Award for “excellence in Player Development”, this is a man that is engrained in the Cardinal Way.

So Why Is He A Fit?

Buy-In: When he was brought to the big league staff in 2017, he was touted as a liaison between the Front Office’s analytics team and the dugout. He is receptive to new numbers and new ways of doing things. He is a nice combination of old and new schools of thought. He’s shown that during his ascent through the system. He buys in to the organizational philosophy, a stark difference after years of Matheny’s resistance to change.

Communication: All reports that I have heard or read in regards to Mike Shildt and his relationship with players are positive. According to MLB.com’s Jen Langosch while on air with the Kevin Wheeler Show, she stated that she had never heard a negative word, on the record and off, in regards to Shildt.

His immediate message in the introductory press conference was to be “open and honest” and his personality and openness to explanation were refreshing in his first post-game press conference. He is low-key, but he doesn’t seem dry or boring. We’ll see what he looks like after a loss, but he seems to value some semblance of transparency.

He also stated that he would be contacting each player individually over the All-Star break, seeking to talk over direction and expectations. He used the word “inclusive” to describe the culture he wants. For a clubhouse that has been described as having cliques and clubs over the last few years, and various reports that allude to some divisiveness, “inclusive” would be a major change.

Experience: He has extensive managerial experience, with 8 season in the minor leagues. That’s more managerial experience than Mike Matheny had at the time of his dismissal. The Cardinals gambled that they could develop a manager when they hired Matheny. He seemed like he had the tools, but the years showed that it wasn’t the case. Names like Mark DeRosa and Carlos Beltran are intriguing, but I just can’t see them going that direction again. Shildt is an organizational man that has actually held the position, and had success in it. Add to that, he was tasked to run the entire minor league spring training in 2008, which was the largest spring group in franchise history. He has experience across the board.

Coaching Staff: If experience is a factor, you have to consider that a veteran manager, such as Joe Girardi, would want to install his own coaching staff, or at least have some say in it. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the current Cardinals coaching staff was assembled by the Front Office, not by the manager. The hitting coaches were the last positions held by “Matheny guys”, prior to Sunday, but have now been filled by highly regarded instructors Mark Budaska and George Greer. The internal promotions or the last two years and the hiring of Mike Maddux have given the Cardinals an impressive coaching staff that was hand picked by Mo.

To make an outside managerial hire you would risk losing some, if not all of your coaches. Now, I don’t think they would hire a manager without compromising on staff, but I also don’t see them wanting to break up this group. With Shildt, they wouldn’t have to.

The Next 3 Months

I can’t sit here and tell you that Shildt will be a good big league manager. He’s had 1 game. However, if you do your research and know his story, you’ll see that he has been being groomed for this opportunity for years. After years of managing, the team created a “Quality Control” coach position simply to find him a big league spot, and then promoted him to bench coach. He was in-house to replace Matheny if the move was ever needed. It was.

I believe that as we sit here on July 16th, the Cardinals Front Office wants very much to see the results that will allow them to lift the interim tag, either later this season or in October. I believe that he is currently the top contender and that they THINK he is absolutely the right man for the job.

He has been given 3 months to prove it.

Dream about the other candidates all you want, but don’t sleep on Mike Shildt.

 

Thanks for reading!

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This episode involves extensive discussion on the Cardinals managerial change, talking over the final days of the Matheny era and looking towards the 2nd Half with Mike Shildt.

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Credits:

  • Press Conference Intro: Audio courtesy of KPLR 11, St. Louis ; Music – Bye, Bye, Bye by NSYNC
  • Theme: Audio – “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” (FOX) ; Music – Summer Song by Joe Satriani
  • Segment: Audio courtesy of KPLR 11, St. Louis ; Music – Manana (Is Close Enough For Me) by Jackie Davis
  • Outro: Music – Cool Change by Little River Band

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This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #1, Alex Reyes.

1. Alex Reyes – RHP

Signed in 2011 as amateur free-agent
Entering age-23 season
2016 FIP: 2.67

Standard Pitching
Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards
2016 21 STL-min AAA 2 3 .400 4.96 14 14 0 0 0 0 65.1 63 38 36 6 32 0 93 4 1 7 291 1.454 8.7 0.8 4.4 12.8 2.91 MEM PCL
2016 21 STL NL 4 1 .800 1.57 12 5 3 0 0 1 46.0 33 8 8 1 23 1 52 0 1 3 189 261 2.67 1.217 6.5 0.2 4.5 10.2 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/28/2018.

What I Like

Watch what Alex Reyes can do with a baseball. It’s amazing.

He can ramp the fastball up to 101 miles-per-hour. His changeup, which sits 88-90, has nasty downward tilt. The crazy thing is, he doesn’t slow his arm down at all and it’s nearly impossible for the hitter to pick up.

They didn’t show it in the video above, but his breaking ball is nasty too. In early 2016 it was a big curveball, but it evolved into a slider/cutter. You can see it in the video below.

The curveball? He threw that, too, at 78 mph with a foot of downward movement. (If you’re keeping score at home, thats a 78-101 range of offerings. Good luck.)

Reyes produced 1.4 WAR over just 46 innings pitched in 2016. That’s ludicrous. He struck out 27.5 percent of the hitters he faced. His fastball averaged over 97 miles-per-hour. His changeup sat around 88 and hitters whiffed over 23 percent of the time.

Words don’t do Alex Reyes justice. He’s the type of player who’s dominance can really only be understood by seeing his opponents’ reactions to his pitches.

As a Cardinals fan, how can you not love that? Javier Baez is, in my humble opinion, the most overrated player in all of baseball and Alex Reyes made him look like a complete fool. For that, he deserves a red jacket. (Okay, not really.)

That’s really all there is to it. I could nitpick and say he walked a few too many guys, or his strand rate isn’t sustainable. Someone asked if I considered making Flaherty my number one overall prospect. Answer: yes. Then I watched Alex Reyes pitch and was reminded how beautifully filthy he is on the mound.

What I Don’t Like

Nothing. Except that he had Tommy John surgery and missed all of last season.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

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This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #2, Jack Flaherty.

2. Jack Flaherty – RHP

1st Round – 2014 Draft
Entering age-22 season
AA FIP: 2.29; AAA FIP: 4.10

Standard Pitching
Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards
2017 21 STL-min AAA,AA 14 4 .778 2.18 25 25 0 0 0 0 148.2 120 36 36 12 35 2 147 0 0 5 581 1.043 7.3 0.7 2.1 8.9 4.20 MEM,SPD PCL,TL
2017 21 STL NL 0 2 .000 6.33 6 5 0 0 0 0 21.1 23 15 15 4 10 1 20 1 0 0 94 68 5.27 1.547 9.7 1.7 4.2 8.4 2.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/28/2018.

What I Like

What separates Jack Flaherty from every other pitcher on this list is the depth of his repertoire. Think about some of the better pitchers in the system. Hicks is a fastball-curveball guy. Hudson is best known for his slider and mid to upper 90’s fastball. Flaherty, on the other hand, threw five different pitches while in the majors last year: fastball, sinker, curve, slider, and a changeup.

While his repertoire is deep, his slider is among the games best according to Joe Schwarz of The Athletic and Birds on the Black. Joe isn’t the only one, either. Eno Sarris, formerly of Fangraphs and now of The Athletic, pointed out the similarities between Flaherty’s slider and Clayton Kershaw’s. In terms of whiff rate, they’re absolutely right: hitters swung and missed at 28.7% of the sliders Flaherty threw last year.

While in Springfield, Flaherty was as in control as a pitcher could possibly be. In 63 innings he had a 1.42 ERA and stuck out 25.6 percent of the hitters he faced. At the start of the season, he shared a rotation with Sandy Alcantara, Austin Gomber, and the aforementioned Hudson. Last April, in my opinion, Flaherty was the least exciting of the four. He proved me wrong when, in the first Springfield game I attended, he went 7 2/3 shutout innings while striking out nine.

My scorecard from the night shows how dominant he was and precisely how few baserunners he allowed. (Notice Max Schrock batting seventh and playing second base. He actually hit one of the harder balls off Flaherty when he lined out to left in the 5th.)

His final strikeout, which came against Paz, was classic Flaherty. He used his slider and breaking ball to get ahead, and attacked with his fastball with two strikes until, eventually, he got one by the hitter. His velocity, which at one time was only projected, became reality last season and is why he’s made an enormous jump up lists this year.

What I Don’t Like

There’s little that I don’t like about Flaherty. Most of it has to do with his struggles in five starts covering 21 1/3 innings in the majors last year. To briefly recap, he had a 6.33 ERA and walked over 10 percent of the hitters he faced while his strikeout rate dipped from his minor league norm. Remember, though, that Luke Weaver really struggled in 2016 before being dominant for a stretch last year.

What separates Flaherty from where Weaver is now is fastball command. Go back and watch the video of the at-bat against Paz. Flaherty gets ahead 1-2 and throws a fastball down the middle, but it’s fouled back. In the majors, those pitches aren’t fouled off. They get hit, and hard. After his promotion to St. Louis, opponents hit .333 with a .455 slugging percentage against his four-seam fastball, and .400 with a .700 slugging percentage against the sinker.

Flaherty’s stuff is undeniable, but he has to be more precise with where he puts his fastball. After all, opponents hit .250 or below against his slider or curve. That’s a really good place to start, and if he pairs that with a more effective fastball, especially one that can get easy outs early in counts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he holds on to a rotation spot all season long.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow is Opening Day and we’re revealing the number one prospect on the list (I bet you can’t guess who it is). Thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball for the content they contributed, and don’t forget to check out Kyle’s reports at Birds on the Black.

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

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This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #3, Carson Kelly.

3. Carson Kelly – C

2nd Round – 2012 Draft
Entering age-23 season
AAA wRC+: 120; MLB wRC+: 25

Standard Batting
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2017 22 STL-min AAA 68 280 244 37 69 13 0 10 41 0 2 33 40 .283 .375 .459 .834 112 11 3 0 0 0 MEM · PCL
2017 22 STL NL 34 75 69 5 12 3 0 0 6 0 0 5 11 .174 .240 .217 .457 23 15 3 1 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/27/2018.

What I Like

Despite the prospect fatigue that has undoubtedly set in with regards to Carson Kelly, he’s still an elite defensive catcher. According to MLB Pipeline, he’s still the number 46 overall prospect and the second-best catcher. I have certain disagreements with how Pipeline ranks prospects, but in this case, the 30,000-foot perspective is insightful.

No, Kelly hasn’t hit yet at the major league level. Consider, though, that he got just 75 plate appearances in three months in the big leagues, and 28 of them came in the last week of the season. It’s hard enough to hit major league pitching, but throw in inconsistent playing time and the mental and physical demands of catching, and struggles are at least understandable.

Defensively, Kelly is as advanced as they come behind the plate. He won the minor league Gold Glove Award back in 2015 (when his offensive numbers were swallowed whole by the FSL), and has continued to improve. His receiving is exceptional; I wrote about it extensively in January and compared him to both Andrew Knizner and Yadier Molina.

It’s astonishing, but Carson Kelly threw better than Yadi last year according to Statcast. On average, Molina’s throws to second (28 attempts) were 83.3 miles-per-hour and average pop time to second base was 1.97 seconds. Kelly’s throws (only two attempts) were harder, at 84.1 miles-per-hour and his average pop time was 1.96 seconds. Accuracy is far more important than that hundredth of a second, but being in the same range as one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time is a good place to start.

In the words of John Mozeliak, Kelly had a “robust” offensive year in Memphis. His strikeout and walk rates of 11 and 14 percent respectively were well above average. Mix in ten homers and a .283 average and you have a player 20% above average in a hitter-friendly league.

What I Don’t Like

Carson Kelly would be the starting catcher on a lot of major league teams. I have mixed feelings on Molina’s extension only because I’m so confident Kelly will be a productive player in the big leagues. (On the other hand, I grew up with Molina behind the plate and want him to retire a Cardinal. Why do things have to be complicated?)

At some point, Kelly needs to hit in the majors, in an everyday role or not. With Molina, who prides himself on playing 174 games a year (a seemingly arbitrary number until you consider 162 regular season games, one All-Star Games, and 11 postseason games to win the World Series), the manager won’t sit Molina for the sake of Kelly’s development. He needs to force his way into the lineup with hits.In his week of starts last September, Kelly didn’t do much to instill confidence. He hit .148/.179/.148 in an obviously way-too-small sample size to really matter, but it’s the most consistent data set we have to work with.

Even though the Cardinals demoted Kelly, he’ll be in St. Louis this season. If I had to guess it’d be before the All-Star break. If you watched the exhibition in Montreal last night, you saw that Francisco Pena isn’t half the catcher Carson Kelly is. He dropped several would-be strikes, cost Lyons a strikeout by assuming it’d be a called strike three, and didn’t communicate with Greg Garcia on a foul pop up that dropped.

Molina has caught over 130 games in each of the last three seasons. I don’t know what exactly the probability is that that trend continues, but I can’t imagine it’s very high. Kelly will get his chance, and I hope he makes the most of it.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #4, Tyler O’Neill.

4. Tyler O’Neill – OF

3rd Round – 2013 Draft (Seattle)
Entering age-23 season
wRC+: 110

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2017 22 -4.4 2 Teams PCL AAA SEA-STL 130 557 495 77 122 26 3 31 95 14 2 54 151 .246 .321 .499 .820 247 8 3 0 5 0
2017 22 -4.4 Tacoma PCL AAA SEA 93 396 349 54 85 21 2 19 56 9 2 44 108 .244 .328 .479 .807 167 7 1 0 2 0
2017 22 -4.4 Memphis PCL AAA STL 37 161 146 23 37 5 1 12 39 5 0 10 43 .253 .304 .548 .852 80 1 2 0 3 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/26/2018.

What I Like

Power. Tyler O’Neill has by far the best power of any player in the Cardinals’ system. He really broke out in 2015 and 2016, when he hit a combined 56 homers with the Mariners Class-A and Double-A affiliates. There, his offensive game was diverse: he walked in 6.5 percent and 10.8 percent of his plate appearances in ’15 and ’16, respectively.

In Memphis last season, his walk rate depreciated but the power remained. He slugged an astronomically-high .548 with 12 homers in just 37 games. Obviously, the PCL is hitter friendly, but the man’s ISO (SLG%-AVG) of .295 was way higher than his batting average of .253.

The power shouldn’t be surprising. After all, he’s the son of a former Mr. Canada bodybuilder. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as O’Neill is probably the strongest player on the 40-man roster (a title he inherited from Randal Grichuk, and Matt Holliday before him).

Defensively, O’Neill is intriguing. He can play center field, but it’s definitely not his strong suit. Logic would suggest, then, that he could be above average in one of the corners, probably right, where both his arm and speed project as slightly above average according to Fangraphs.

What I Don’t Like

Maybe it’s the fact that Randal Grichuk didn’t work out, but I see a lot of risk with O’Neill. For one, he strikes out a ton. His K% has never been below 25% at any stop in his development, ever. That’s concerning.

I don’t like the perception that O’Neill is injury prone simply because he’s a strong guy. He played 120 games last year and 130 in 2016. That’s not iron man territory, but it’s not fragile either.

O’Neill’s path to playing time isn’t clear. Ozuna, Fowler, and Pham are locked up for at least the next two years. Harrison Bader, our number six prospect, outplayed him this Spring (one of the reasons O’Neill was demoted so quickly was a hamstring injury). Jose Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena had tremendous Springs. JAG has had success at Triple-A and Arozarena will certainly be there by the second half.

With that being said, I think O’Neill will be ready for the majors at some point this season. Over a long six-month season, it’s likely that he’ll make his debut. My concern is that he won’t get the amount of playing time necessary to continue his development. It’s the same reason folks are (rightly) concerned about Carson Kelly and I don’t want to see that happen again with O’Neill.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #5, Andrew Knizner.

5. Andrew Knizner – C

7th Round – 2016 Draft
Entering age-23 season
wRC+ – Peoria: 124, Springfield: 133

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
2017 22 -0.6 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-A STL 95 393 361 45 109 23 1 12 51 1 2 23 49 .302 .349 .471 .820 170 13 5 0 4 1
2017 22 -2.0 Springfield TL AA STL 51 202 182 27 59 13 0 4 22 0 1 14 27 .324 .371 .462 .833 84 7 2 0 4 0
2017 22 0.8 Peoria MIDW A STL 44 191 179 18 50 10 1 8 29 1 1 9 22 .279 .325 .480 .805 86 6 3 0 0 1
2017 22 -0.5 Surprise AZFL Fal 17 72 67 8 24 3 0 3 12 0 0 4 11 .358 .403 .537 .940 36 4 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2018.

What I Like

You would be hard-pressed to find two bigger fans of Andrew Knizner than my friend Kyle Reis and me. Last season, he ascended. He hit .319 in his first professional season at Johnson City, so he didn’t exactly struggle. But, the Appy League is a step below the ACC (it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Knizner’s fellow NC State product Evan Mendoza), so it was difficult to put too much stock in his 2016 numbers.

Last year, he hit, and hit, and hit. In 44 games in Peoria, he hit .279 with eight homers and downright earned a promotion to Springfield at midseason.

While in Springfield, I saw him play several times and was consistently impressed. He showed an advanced feel for the strike zone for someone in his first full pro season. Most impressively, he used the whole field. On July 6, he smoked an opposite-field, walk-off homer to beat the RockHounds. It was a beautiful swing, made even better by the fact that it came so early in his time in Springfield.

He did such a good job going the other way, when he went to the Arizona Fall League, I wanted to see him beat elite velocity. He did just that. All three of his homers (which came in a mere 17 games) were to either left or left-center.

Defensively, Knizner is one of the most improved players in Cardinals camp this year. Mike Matheny raved about his improvement behind the dish, telling the Post-Dispatch it was one of the most positive developments of the Spring. Knizner’s arm is strong enough — he’s thrown out 45 percent of would-be base stealers in his minors career. His framing, at times one of the weakest aspects of his game, isn’t as good as Carson Kelly‘s but, as Matheny saw in camp, keeps getting better.

What I Don’t Like

That he’s blocked. Yadier Molina still has three years left on his contract, which is an absolute eternity when we’re talking development. Carson Kelly is also ahead of him, although the Molina situation affects Kelly’s development more than Knizner’s.

I think the club understands the caliber of hitter Knizner is and can be. While Kyle was in Jupiter, he only saw Knizner working at first base. That’s a huge development for a couple reasons. First, it would (theoretically) allow Knizner to be assigned to Memphis to start the season. He hit well enough in Springfield; more time there would be redundant.

Most importantly, though, it raises the bar for Knizner as a hitter. According to wRC+, first basemen are, on average, 18 percent better than the league. That means he’d have to hit significantly better than Jedd Gyorko did in 2017 just to be an average first baseman.

Honestly, as much as I like Knizner as a hitter, I don’t know that he has enough power to be an everyday first baseman. He profiles a lot like David Freese. He’s a line-drive hitter who consistently hits the ball to right field. Let’s put it this way: relative to the position, for Knizner to be as above average a first baseman as he would a catcher, he’d have to hit like 2012 David Freese, who hit 20 homers and had a 132 wRC+.

It’s a stupid high standard to hold a prospect to, but Knizner has earned that privilege by being one of the best and most consistent position players in the organization since the day he was drafted.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #7, Jordan Hicks.

7. Jordan Hicks – RHP

3rd Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-21 season
FIP: 4.38

Register Pitching
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA RAvg G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2017 20 -2.2 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-A+ STL 8 3 .727 2.74 3.34 22 19 3 0 0 1 105.0 96 39 32 3 45 0 95 15 2 2 452 1.343 8.2 0.3 3.9 8.1 2.11
2017 20 -3.1 Palm Beach FLOR A+ STL 0 1 .000 1.00 1.00 8 5 3 0 0 1 27.0 21 3 3 0 6 0 32 2 0 1 106 1.000 7.0 0.0 2.0 10.7 5.33
2017 20 -1.9 Peoria MIDW A STL 8 2 .800 3.35 4.15 14 14 0 0 0 0 78.0 75 36 29 3 39 0 63 13 2 1 346 1.462 8.7 0.3 4.5 7.3 1.62
2017 20 -3.5 Surprise AZFL Fal 0 2 .000 6.32 7.47 9 1 1 0 0 0 15.2 20 13 11 2 6 0 16 1 0 1 70 1.660 11.5 1.1 3.4 9.2 2.67
Minors (2 seasons) Minors 14 5 .737 2.82 3.64 34 31 3 0 0 1 165.2 154 67 52 4 74 0 137 22 2 9 717 1.376 8.4 0.2 4.0 7.4 1.85
All Levels (2 Seasons) 14 7 .667 3.13 3.97 43 32 4 0 0 1 181.1 174 80 63 6 80 0 153 23 2 10 787 1.401 8.6 0.3 4.0 7.6 1.91
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/18/2018.

What I Like

Any scouting report about Jordan Hicks is going to start with his fastball. According to Baseball Census, Hicks’ fastball touched 99 miles-per-hour in the Arizona Fall League. Not only that, but they noted that he was “free, easy, and absolutely pumping with little max-effort and a repeatable delivery.”

I wrote in January that Hicks isn’t a one-trick pony, as some have characterized him this offseason. I encourage you to read the article, especially for the video of all his pitches. In addition to his high-octane fastball, Hicks throws a cutter, a changeup, and curveball. Based on what I’ve seen of Hicks, his curveball is his best offspeed pitch and it’s not really close.

Before I really dove into the video for the article in January, I thought of Hicks as a fastball-curveball guy. After all, that’s the book on him. What I saw, however, was the potential for three plus pitches and possibly four average or better pitches. Now, I may be watching Hicks with rose-tinted glasses. Even though the Arizona Fall League is more advanced than anywhere Hicks has been thus far, we haven’t seen his secondary stuff against major league hitters yet.

Anyways, here’s video of his cutter and his changeup.

Speaking of the Arizona Fall League, his performance there went exactly as Kyle an I expected. He struggled early. After all, he has only thrown 27 innings above Low-A. He finished strong, with three one-hit innings with four strikeouts over four appearances. So while that 6.32 ERA in the Fall League doesn’t look great, the fact that Hicks ended on a positive note is huge.

What I Don’t Like

The fact that he was, reportedly, sent to minor league camp for being late to the meetings. Mike Matheny said he needed to “work on some things,” when he was sent out. In a chat on stlToday.com, a reader asked Derrick Goold what exactly those “things” are, to which Goold replied something along the lines of “being on time would be a good start.” That’s the extent of my knowledge of the situation, and I don’t want to trash a player when I don’t know the whole story so I’ll leave it at that.

In Peoria, he didn’t’ strike out very many hitters. He only K’d 18% of the hitters he faced in Peoria, roughly the same rate as Dakota Hudson in Springfield. Rightfully, there’s concern with Hudson. I would be equally as concerned with Hicks, but for the fact that he blew hitters away in Palm Beach. In 27 innings, he struck out 30% of the hitters he faced and his ERA was a minuscule 1.00.

Those 27 innings would be such a huge plus for me if they didn’t come out of the bullpen. When you couple that with the organization viewing him as a “one-trick pony”, you could see how they rush him into a bullpen role instead of allowing him to fully develop. As I mentioned back in January, Hicks’ development could wind up being the biggest casualty of the front office’s inability to adequately address the bullpen.

It feels like everyone expected Hicks to be so utterly dominant this Spring the Cardinals would be forced to put Hicks on the roster. That was never going to be the case. As dominant as those offspeed pitches look in the clips, he doesn’t throw them that well often enough. As bright as the future looks for Hicks, he still has some things to work on.

(P.S. I really, really hope he starts in Springfield.)

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

It’s all the same, only the names will change. Every day, it’s seems the Cards are wasting away…versus lefties, at least. It’s become normal, and expected, that when the Cardinals face a lefthanded pitcher the results probably aren’t going to be very good. We can’t explain it. The hitters change, the pitchers change, but the struggles remain. And it’s been this way forever.

At least that’s the way it seems.

So, on the heels of a no-run performance against Chicago LHP, Carlos Rodon, I decided to dig into the numbers and find out; does perception match reality?

Over the last few years…

It’s been all over the place. The following chart shows the team record in games started by a LHP (and MLB rank), and their wRC+ vs. LHP (and MLB rank) going back to 2002.

To keep things simple, I’ll just use one stat, wRC+, which is a catch-all offensive stat and is weighted relative to the league, so it keeps things in perspective. I went back to ’02 because that is how far back Fangraphs provides the vs. L split for teams. Thanks to Fangraphs for the split tool and Baseball-Reference for detailed historical standings.

Year | wRC+ (Rk) | Record (Rk) | Year | wRC+ (Rk) | Record (Rk)
2018 | 92 (17th) | 11-13 (18th) | 2009 | 80 (29th) | 28-21 (7th)
2017 | 104 (6th) | 19-16 (8th) | 2008 | 100 (14th) | 27-29 (20th)
2016 | 99 (17th) | 20-24 (24th) | 2007 | 98 (19th) | 29-27 (12th)
2015 | 84 (25th) | 25-18 (3rd) | 2006 | 89 (24th) | 23-34 (26th)
2014 | 104 (9th) | 21-18 (12th) | 2005 | 103 (10th) | 32-20 (1st)
2013 | 86 (22nd) | 19-23 (20th) | 2004 | 110 (3rd) | 26-13 (2nd)
2012 | 113 (2nd) | 31-17 (2nd) | 2003 | 122 (2nd) | 19-17 (11th)
2011 | 113 (5th) | 19-20 (20th) | 2002 | 102 (8th) | 21-16 (8th)
2010 | 96 (15th) | 26-28 (19th)

Here’s how that summarizes:

Starting with wRC+, the Cardinals have been Top 10 in MLB vs. LHP 8 times in the last 17 years. They have been 14th (nearly middle of the pack) or lower 9 times, including 4 times in the bottom 10. Now, 4 of those Top 10 seasons occurred from ’02-’05, seasons in which the MV3 was together and healthy, and supplemented by very good RH hitters, like Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders.

Fittingly, league average wRC+ is 100, and that has typically fallen right around 15th every year. So if we just look at the last 13 seasons, 4 have seen Top 10 finishes in wRC+ vs. LHP (above average), with the other 9 years ending with the Cardinals in the bottom half of baseball (exactly average or below).

In nearly 70% of the seasons since ’06, they haven’t hit LHP very well, as a team.

Now to the records. Since 2002, the Cardinals are a collective 413-354 (+59) in games started by a LHP. If we again take away those peak MV3 years, they are 315-288 (+27). So they have won more games started by LHP than they have lost. But not by much, averaging a hair more than 2 games over .500 in that category over the last 13 years. 7 of the last 13 have had records below .500.

There is some correlation between how they hit collectively and their record, but there are also a couple major outliers each way. 2009 and 2015, in particular, were great pitching years so it makes sense that they overcame poor offensive performance and posted good records. Still, typically they win when they hit well and lose when they don’t, as you would expect.

And as I said before, over the last 13 years, they’ve hit poorly and had a losing record the majority of the time.

So, going back to my original question…Does perception match reality?

Yes.

It’s not just fan exaggeration, the Cardinals actually have a track record of mostly being not-so-good vs. LHP, over the last dozen years.

But should they be bad in 2018?

Collectively, the team is currently below average with a 92 wRC+ (17th in MLB), and their 11-13 record vs. LH is ranks 18th in baseball. However, many key players have above average numbers vs. LHP this year.

Running down the list by wRC+ we have: Jedd Gyorko-172, Harrison Bader-148, Matt Carpenter-129 (some fans probably can’t believe that he hits LH well), Tommy Pham-112, Jose Martinez-102, and Marcell Ozuna-98. That’s 6 players you can start that are (nearly) average or better against lefties. The two that aren’t are Dejong and Molina, who have a .208 and .200 BABIP, respectively, vs. LHP. That’s unsustainable and unlucky. Even so, 6 average-to-above hitters should be enough to find success.

I attribute some of the struggles to bad timing. When Pham was hitting LHP early in the year, Carpenter wasn’t, Gyorko was hurt, and Bader had yet to take on a platoon role with Fowler. Then those things flipped. The offensive pieces have never been healthy or clicking at the same time all year.

Jose Martinez should be doing more as well. Last season he had an insane 240 wRC+ and .847 SLG against lefties. This year its a modest 102 wRC+ and puny .361 SLG. Pham has also dropped 164 points off of his SLG compared to last year. And it’s well documented that Fowler has just 4 hits from the right side this year, which is almost unfathomable for a guy that is a career .290 hitter against LHP. Ozuna should also be doing better than just below average, which is the theme for his season. Still, against LH the last two years he’s had a wRC+ of 143 (’16) and 112 (’17).

This particular team should not be bad against LHP, but they are.

Same as it ever was.

For whatever reason, not hitting LHP well is just a Cardinals thing.

Thanks for reading!

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #6, Harrison Bader.

6. Harrison Bader – CF

3rd Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-24 season
wRC+ – AAA: 111, MLB: 70

Standard Batting
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2017 23 STL-min AAA 123 479 431 74 122 18 1 20 55 15 9 34 118 .283 .347 .469 .816 202 3 10 1 3 0 MEM · PCL
2017 23 STL NL 32 92 85 10 20 3 0 3 10 2 1 5 24 .235 .283 .376 .659 72 32 1 1 0 1 1 8/79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2018.

What I Like

Think back to Harrison Bader’s MLB debut. He lined a double down the left field line, advanced to third, and scored on a shallow fly ball to right field. That game, in a nutshell, describes the type of player Bader could be if he reaches his peak.

Bader is the type of position player prospect the Cardinals have been extremely successful in developing: a college player, right-handed, with the potential for plus power. Bader’s power began to manifest itself in Double-A in 2016, where he went deep 16 times in 82 games. His plate discipline profile, 7 percent walk rate and 26 percent strikeout rate, have been relatively steady throughout his development. In Springfield, however, he started putting the ball in play hard and had success.

Last season, at Triple-A Memphis, Bader’s numbers mirrored his 2016 numbers in Springfield. He slashed .283/.347/.469 in Memphis and .283/.351/.497 in Springfield two years ago. He struggled after a mid-2016 promotion to Memphis, but after adjustments, he had just as much success in Memphis last year as he did in his breakout 2016 in Springfield.

In some ways, Bader is the perfect fourth outfielder. He plays hard. Like, really hard. Last year, it was a breath of fresh air for a fanbase that had seen a slip in fundamentals over the last two seasons. He has enough power to hit a few homers (I didn’t realize he hit three last year), enough speed to steal a base, and was +3 in defensive runs saved in 188 innings.

What I Don’t Like

Like many Cardinals prospects, Bader strikes out too much. He’s struck out in over 26 percent of his plate appearances in his professional career, and there’s been little to suggest that will change anytime soon. After a hot start in his first stint with the big league club, Bader’s propensity to chase off-speed pitches out of the zone was exposed and the Cardinals were forced to demote him. I highly doubt Bader will be able to cut his strikeout rate into the “above average” category of 16 percent, but “average” (about 20 percent) is certainly possible and should be a goal of his this season. Likewise, his walk rate is also below average but if he cuts his strikeout rate his walk rate would almost certainly rise.

I love Bader’s style of play and think he’s a great fourth outfielder, but I have questions about how it will effect his development. He only made the necessary adjustments to Triple-A pitching after getting plate appearances every day.

There’s a chance Bader could get plenty of at-bats. Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham have extensive injury histories, and Marcell Ozuna can’t play every day. But Jose Martinez, one of the most productive hitters on the Cardinals roster last year, could start in right field in a pinch. Consistent at-bats are the most important thing for a player’s development, especially when they’re at a new level. It’s why we had such a problem with Carson Kelly‘s lack of playing time, and assigning him to Triple-A was the right move.

Bader is almost certainly ready for the majors. We saw it in his spurts of success in 2017. I just hope he plays enough to be a little bit better, but most importantly a little bit more consistent.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

0 comments

This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.

In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #8, Dakota Hudson.

8. Dakota Hudson – RHP

1st Round – 2016 Draft
Entering age-23 season
AA FIP: 3.64, AAA FIP: 4.57

Register Pitching
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA RAvg G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2017 22 -2.7 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA STL 10 5 .667 3.01 3.42 25 25 0 1 0 0 152.2 147 58 51 7 49 1 96 8 0 14 643 1.284 8.7 0.4 2.9 5.7 1.96
2017 22 -4.6 Memphis PCL AAA STL 1 1 .500 4.42 4.66 7 7 0 0 0 0 38.2 36 20 19 2 15 0 19 0 0 4 161 1.319 8.4 0.5 3.5 4.4 1.27
2017 22 -2.1 Springfield TL AA STL 9 4 .692 2.53 3.00 18 18 0 1 0 0 114.0 111 38 32 5 34 1 77 8 0 10 482 1.272 8.8 0.4 2.7 6.1 2.26
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/16/2018.

What I Like

The first thing anybody brings up when they talk about Dakota Hudson is his slider. Going into last season, it was one of the best pitches in the organization, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case in 2018. Hudson’s slider doesn’t have a big, sweeping break like Luke Gregerson‘s. It’s more like a cutter because it’s thrown hard and the break is sharp and late.

As you can see, it’d be easy to mistake Hudson’s slider/cutter for a fastball, especially the 2-1 pitch that generated a swing and miss. Fangraph’s even calls the pitch a curveball, but it’s definitely a slider and a nasty one at that.

Hudson’s fastball, which can reach the upper 90’s, complements his slider. He made a concerted effort to create more movement with his fastball last season, and it paid off to the tune of a 57% ground ball rate across Double-A and Triple-A.

Hudson made a concentrated effort to get ground balls and go deep into games last year because he wants to be a starter. Most of the time that would go without saying. In today’s game, where bullpens play a much larger role than in years past, and pitchers with high-velocity fastballs and wipeout sliders usually end up in the bullpen. I wrote specifically about Hudson in the bullpen last year, and I still think that’s where he’ll fit best. But I love that Hudson is fighting back against that perception.

What I Don’t Like

The fact that Hudson struck hitters out at such a low rate last year is both concerning and surprising. In Springfield, punched out 16% of hitters, definitely below average for a prospect of his caliber, and in Memphis, that number dropped to 11.8%. It’s perplexing, especially when you watch the video above and it’s obvious that his slider is a plus pitch with the potential to be a plus-plus pitch.

What separates Hudson from Flaherty is that Hudson’s repertoire isn’t as deep as Flaherty’s. Flaherty can throw everything including the kitchen sink at a hitter: fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. Besides his fastball and slider, none of the other pitches Hudson throws have shown the potential to be above average. It’s why the general consensus is that he’ll end up in the bullpen, no matter how frequently he induces ground balls.

Other than that, there’s way more to like about Hudson than not. He was healthy in his first full pro season and made every start asked of him. His ERA was superb in Springfield, and although he got hit around a little bit in Memphis, even making it to Triple-A the year after being drafted is quite an achievement. He’ll start 2018 in Triple-A, and he needs to show that he’s able to strike out hitters at the highest levels of the minors before I’m comfortable with him on the major league roster, whether that’s in the ‘pen or the rotation.

Thanks for reading!

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

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