The starting rotation for the Springfield Cardinals was the talk of the team when rosters were announced earlier this month. This was not without merit as the rotation features four of our Cardinals top 12 prospects in Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Austin Gomber. So far Flaherty has been absolutely brilliant (4-0/0.33 ERA/0.66 WHIP), while Hudson, Gomber and Alcantara have shown flashes but also struggled. The rotation has been fun to watch, but I have been extremely impressed with another piece of the Springfield team, the outfield. Composed of Cuban signee Adolis Garcia, converted shortstop Oscar Mercado, veteran minor leaguer Nick Martini, and defensive wiz Blake Drake. The outfield has been turning heads both offensively and defensively.
I’ll start off with the newest member of the outfield to the organization in Adolis Garcia. The younger brother of Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, Adolis signed with the Cardinals in February and received a $2.5MM bonus. He has done nothing but hit in his first taste of pro ball in the US, especially catching fire as of late. Over his last 10 games he is hitting .385 with three home runs and six RBIs. For the season he has posted a very strong slash of .321/.419/.566. Garcia has also played very well defensively in right field. He has displayed good speed, range and ability to track the ball. He has also shown a strong and accurate throwing arm. If he keeps playing at this current pace, I do not think it will be long before he earns a promotion to AAA Memphis.
Mercado has seen an offensive resurgence this season in his debut at AA. Considered by many, including myself to be a bust heading into 2017. He has firmly placed himself back in the prospect discussion thanks to his scorching start. He has cooled off a bit recently, yet is still posting a solid .308/.366/.477 slash through 16 games. The Texas League is notoriously hitter friendly, but a retooled swing appears to be paying dividends for Mercado. He also has five stolen bases and two home runs to go with the solid average and on-base percentage. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Mercado has been extremely impressive since moving to the outfield. Playing center field primarily, his natural speed and quick reactions make him a defensive weapon.
The veteran of the outfield, and usual left fielder Nick Martini is also off to a nice start in his fourth season with Springfield. A 7th round pick out of K-State in 2011, Martini has also spent parts of the last two seasons with AAA Memphis. He is slashing .286/.392/.444 overall while hitting .316 in his last 10 games. Martini does not possess the prospect pedigree of Mercado or Garcia, but is a solid outfielder and nice depth piece to have in the organization.
The final member of the Springfield outfield rotation is Blake Drake. One of the best defenders in the system, he has seen time in the outfield as well as at designated hitter. He is off to a slower start offensively than the others, but has shown an improved approach over last year and has a few starts in the middle of the Springfield order. Drake is slashing only .220/.304/.390, but does have two home runs and a stolen base. Known primarily for his defense, he will be an interesting player to watch going forward if he can put it all together offensively.
Springfield is off to a 10-8 start, and currently sits first in the Texas League North. They have won two of their last three games against Northwest Arkansas, but were rained out today. If the outfield continues to play with their current pace, and the rotation reaches its’ full potential, Springfield could be well on their way to a first half division title.
Thanks for reading!