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Minors Update: Week of June 25

Hudson, Lilliquist, and Wacha

Memphis

It’s been a while since I provided a minors update, so let’s jump right in.

The biggest story out of Memphis this week was the decision not to promote Dakota Hudson and stick with John Gant. On Thursday night, when the Cardinals played one of the most embarrassing games in recent memory, it was easy to think the Cardinals were settling. After all, Gant’s 4.39 MLB ERA doesn’t exactly jump off the page.

Essentially the decision boiled down to an unwillingness to add Hudson to the 40-man roster… yet. This afternoon Michael Girsch mentioned that Hudson has the chance to force the organization’s hand if he continues to dominate the Pacific Coast League. Hudson has a 2.04 ERA on the season, but that’s a bit misleading (as is Gant’s 4.39 ERA in the majors. More on that later). Only 1.6% of the flyballs Hudson has allowed have left the park, an unsustainably low number. And, while Hudson has increased his strikeout rate since last season,  he’s only punching out 17.8 percent of the hitters he’s faced.

Meanwhile, Hudson isn’t yet on the 40-man and won’t have to be protected this offseason. The last few years, 40-man roster decisions have cost the Cardinals and their caution here is understandable.

Coupled with the fact that Gant’s FIP is 2.63 and his xFIP is 3.72, Hudson isn’t the clear-cut choice traditional stats paint him to be. Factor in the 40-man complications, and it’s obvious that the path of least resistance isn’t necessarily the worse route.

Springfield

Two weeks ago on Prospect To Be Named Later Kyle and I talked about the disappearance of Andrew Knizner‘s power.  He’s added a double and a homer over the last couple days, obviously a welcome sight. The homer was his first since April 26. His slugging percentage dipped to .406 on just a week ago, but that’s back up to a healthy .451 now. Knizner’s offensive game continues to be well rounded, and I don’t think anyone was seriously concerned about his power output.

Austin Warner, the minor league free agent signed out of DII Bellarmine last year, made his Double-A debut on June 24. He allowed six earned run in six innings, hardly a dominating performance. Simply reaching Double-A after being passed over be 30 teams in last years draft is an enormous success. As Kyle pointed out on PTBNL, Warner could go anywhere from here. He could make it all the way to the big leagues, or we could never hear from him again.

Palm Beach

Junior Fernandez has yet to allow an earned run in 4 2/3 innings out of the Palm Beach bullpen. The peripherals, however, aren’t good. He’s allowed seven hits, walked two, and only struck out one. Needless to say, those numbers don’t indicate future success. Fernandez just returned from a prolonged absence with a shoulder injury, so some time to settle in could be just what he needs.

Dylan Carlson is meandering his way through the system. That’s not a slight. After all, he’s just 19-years-old and already at High-A. On the other hand, he hasn’t had a period of sustained success in professional baseball. To Carlson’s credit, he’s handled it admirably. He’s a coaches kid and his baseball IQ is off the charts. Despite his low average he’s continued to grind out at-bats. At some point you’d like to see him get his feet under him and put up the numbers the organization presumably thought he was capable of when they drafted him in the first round back in 2016, I just don’t think that will happen in the Florida State League.

Peoria

I can’t get over the struggles of Johan Oviedo and Alvaro Seijas. In each of my posts on the minors this year (which admittedly hasn’t been as many as I’d hoped) I’ve mentioned their lack of success.

For his part, Seijas has had a strong June. His 3.04 ERA is over a full run better than any previous month. That being said, he only struck out 14 hitters in 23 2/3 innings. The last month was a step in the right direction, but there’s still room to improve.

Oviedo has a decent June as well. His 3.48 ERA was also the best of any month in 2018, and he mixed over a strikeout per inning for good measure. The Cardinals have a gap in their system with the graduation of Gomber, Hicks, and Flaherty. Seijas and Oviedo, along with Fernandez in Palm Beach, could go along ways towards filling that void.

State College

Truth be told, I’ve wanted to talk about Delvin Perez more than anyone else in this post. He’s not hitting. His season average sits at .172 after a 1-for-4 tonight. The bast hit broke an 0-for-12. That being said, I’m extremely pleased with what I’ve seen from the first round pick.

First, Delvin is playing hard. Generally, I wouldn’t praise a prospect for doing what every baseball player, at any age, is expected to do. But Delvin is different because he has a history of not playing hard. Last season he was demoted because of behavioral and/or effort issues, and that’s the last thing an organization wants to do with any player, let alone their first pick in the 2016 draft.

Second, Delvin’s defense is for real. No, he’s not polished (yet), but the range is there. The strongest part of his defensive profile is probably his arm strength, which looks much better than Paul DeJong‘s arm, and his is definitely above average. This evening, Delvin charged a slow roller and threw out a runner that, frankly, I didn’t think he had a chance to get. That promoted the State College broadcasters to call him the best defensive shortstop they’ve ever seen, which, however premature, speaks to Delvin’s talent.

Finally, I’m not super worried about his batting average because he’s clearly trying to do too much. He often yanks a foul grounder down the third base line before chasing an offspeed pitch in the dirt. He’s clearly trying to do too much, and instead of being patient and hitting the ball up the middle, he’s trying to pull the ball for doubles or homers. It’s a common problem and one I’d imagine most players go through at the beginning of their careers.

Johnson City

I don’t have much to say about Johnson City. Kyle talked about Nolan Gorman on PTBNL last night, and I’ll post that below.

Extra Bases

This afternoon, I took a half day at work to go to Kauffman Stadium (I’m based out of Kansas City this summer) to see Mike Trout and yes, Albert Pujols. Trout didn’t do much of anything on the day as the Angels were dominated by Brad Keller. Pujols, however, did several things to help the Angels.

He was involved in a backpick of Hunter Dozier that got Tyler Skaggs out of an early jam, and if there’s anything Cardinals fans know about Pujols that others may not is that he plays in an integral part in those kinds of plays. He also worked a long at-bat for a walk and singled in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate. The advanced metrics don’t love him, and with good reason. But after watching closely today, I think Pujols brings a lot to the ballpark that the numbers don’t necessarily pick up on.

Oh, and Scioscia didn’t have a reliever backing up Hansel Robles in a one-run game, with Trout set to leadoff the ninth. Bad bullpen management isn’t specific to Mike Matheny.

As I tweeted out earlier this week, Allen Craig is having a resurgent season in Triple-A for the Padres.  He hasn’t been in the majors since 2015 but he’s hitting .288/.354/.514 for a 123 wRC+. Unfortunately, my tweet may have jinxed him as he’s struggled since.

Thanks for reading.

Colin Garner
@colingarner22

Colin Garner
Colin is a catcher at Drury University who's a big fan of pitch calling, bullpenning, and Game of Thrones. Gets very frustrated with nonsense from people around him while attending games.
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