With the annual Double-A Texas League All-Star game kicking off tonight in Frisco, Texas. Let’s take a look at the Springfield Cardinals who were selected to the north division roster. Please note, not all players selected will be appearing in the game due to promotions to Triple-A.
Flaherty’s first season in Double-A went better than most (maybe all) could have predicted. Following up a successful, but unspectacular season in High-A it seemed likely he might struggle initially with the hitter friendly Texas League. This prediction could not have been further from the truth. Using his dominant command, ability to throw any pitch for a strike in any count, while limiting free passes, Flaherty was nothing short of dominant. In ten starts with Springfield he went 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and a .205 batting average against. As the calendar turned to June. Flaherty received a promotion to Triple-A Memphis where he has held his own, albeit not with the same dominance as in Springfield. Flaherty certainly improved his prospect status and could be in-line to receive a promotion to St. Louis if the need arises.
The second member of the highly regarded Springfield rotation to be named a Texas League All-Star is Dakota Hudson. Unlike Flaherty, Hudson struggled initially out of the gate in 2017, but quickly righted the ship and has been excellent over his last ten starts. During that stretch he is 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA and 44 strikeouts. Hudson has vastly improved his ERA from the 4.37 mark in April as it currently sits 2.66 on the season. Coinciding with his ERA drop has also been a significant decline in his WHIP (1.50 – April, 1.30 – May, 1.11 – June). Hudson has solid stuff and can be dominant when controlling the count and zone. If his current production keeps up, I would expect a promotion to Memphis sooner rather than later.
The third and final member of the Springfield rotation to be named an all-star is a name many fans are likely unfamiliar with. Pearce does not get the prospect recognition of his fellow rotation mates, but all he does is produce. He has a career ERA of 2.96 through 73 games, and that trends continues in 2017. As the forgotten man in a prospect laden rotation, he got off to a rocky start in April before absolutely dominating in May. Pearce was 5-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 0.79 WHIP that month. June has again been a bit of a struggle as he endured three straight starts of giving up four earned runs. His last outing was much better though, and lowered his season ERA to 2.98. Pearce projects as a back of the rotation, or middle innings bullpen arm at the major league level.
A late addition to the north division roster, Baker has been a dependable arm this season out of the bullpen for Springfield. Following a surprise run in the World Baseball Classic with Team Israel. Baker returned to Springfield where he has a 2.70 ERA and is three for three in save opportunities. A 49th round pick without much of a prospect pedigree, Baker has made the most of his opportunities this season. His underlying numbers of a 1.44 WHIP and .296 average against do not support the low ERA however, and are better indicators of his ceiling.
My favorite part of covering the Springfield Cardinals this season is without a doubt the emergence of Oscar Mercado. A second round pick in 2013 out of a Florida high school. Mercado was labeled a bust by many prior to this season. The athleticism, speed, and tools were always there, but could never be harnessed. That is, until now. What appeared as a last chance effort in moving Mercado to the outfield, now looks like a career saver. Alleviating the pressure of playing shortstop, combined with a retooled swing has enabled the breakout. Mercado is currently slashing .320/.375/.459 with seven homers and 27 steals. In addition to the offensive production, he is playing gold glove caliber defense in center. His career slash of .246/.311/.335 still leaves much to be desired, but I for one am buying the breakout. His plate discipline and ability to control the zone are vastly improved. He is spraying the ball to all fields and bunting to capitalize on his speed. And, did I mention his defense in center? Watching Mercado and Magneuris Sierra in the same outfield and lineup is something truly special.
The new Memphis Redbird has enjoyed a successful first campaign in affiliated ball in the States. Signed as a free agent in the off-season, the younger brother of Adonis Garcia began the season in Double-A. Playing mostly in right field, Garcia displayed a strong arm and good instincts in the outfield. His hitting profile has been pretty consistent throughout the season. He is streaky, has good bat speed and power, can crush a fastball, but struggles with off-speed offerings. His season slash of .284/.342/.432 shows success, but also room for improvement as the Texas League is very hitter friendly. He has six home runs and nine stolen bases on the season. Prior to his promotion to Memphis, Garcia was on fire hitting .371 over his last ten games.
The seventh and final member of the Springfield Cardinals selected to the all-star game is infielder Alex Mejia. Like Garcia and Flaherty, Mejia is also now a member of the Memphis Redbirds. A 2012 fourth round pick out of the University of Arizona. Mejia has split much of the past few seasons between Springfield and Memphis. He is what some would describe as a “ballplayer”. He doesn’t have any exceptional tools, but goes out and grinds at-bats, and plays hard everyday. Likely organizational depth at this point in his career, Mejia does have the ability to play all over the infield and has handled shortstop on an everyday basis in the minors.
Thanks for reading!