April has come to a close, and with it closes the first month of both the Major and Minor League season. The Cardinals four full-season affiliates had a combined record of 47-43 during April. While that might not seem like a record to wow you, there have been a lot of trends at the minor league level to get excited about.
The Short Stop Depth Is Good
Paul DeJong, Edmundo Sosa, and Tommy Edman have been as good of a positional-threesome(come back out of the gutter you perverts) for their respective full-season clubs as you could have hoped for. And, for a second, think about where each one of these kids were from an evaluation perspective entering the season:
DeJong was a 3rd baseman playing SS to optimize his versatility so that he could be ready for a big league assignment when called upon or to entice another team in trade discussions.
Edmundo Sosa was a falling star; a former top 5 prospect that had a sub-par 2016 which caused many to question his standing as a prospect.
Tommy Edman was your typical polished college player having a very successful Junior season at Stanford . He was never going to be a top 100 draft pick, but his stock was falling down the draft boards a little bit because he was viewed as too light of a hitter to play second and range in the field that wasn’t good enough to keep him at short.
Well, here we are on May 2nd and Paul DeJong has played a defensive short stop that is getting better everyday while slashing 304/329/874 with 4 HR in 79 April AB(He hit #5 on Monday). DeJong is never going to walk and he is always going to strike out, but he makes the plays he needs to make and he mashes. And, by the way, he’s out performing Bader and Kelly.
I’ve been told by one of my Palm Beach spies that Edmundo’s defense is better than it’s ever right now, which is saying a lot about the potential plus defender. He is hitting, as well. A little more power would be nice, but his April slash line of 293/354/727 is right where it needs to be. What I really like to see is that he only struck out 11 times in 75 AB, good for a strike out percentage of a little under 15%. That’s down 5% from 2016.
Then there’s Tommy Edman. Edman has been hitting so well for Peoria that he’s recently been moved from the top of the order to the middle of the order. His 44 total bases are the second most in the organization Behind Luke Voit‘s 51. All of that is great, but something has transformed Edman defensively. All indications are that he has turned the corner and that he now profiles as an average/above defensive SS. Edman will fly through the system if that level of effectiveness continues. He’s David Eckstein, but with a better arm.
To have three players performing so well at such an important position is such a great sign. Four more months of that, please.
The Outfield Depth Is Strong
I’m not going to go over the OF depth player by player because, wow, there are a lot of outfielders making a positive impression this early in the season. It’s almost as if every OF in the system is competing to try to “one-up” each other.
For real, Harrison Bader has been solid at the plate for Memphis, but his defense in center has shown signs of improving. That’s awesome. Springfield has a pair of outfielders that are doing really well in Adolis Garcia and Oscar Mercado. , who enters May with a 15 game hitting streak (He extended the streak to 16 on Monday). They’re two different types of players, but their early season success has been great to see, especially because one year ago none of us knew who Adolis Garcia was and those of us who knew who Mercado was were pretending like we didn’t.
After getting off to a slow start for Palm Beach, Randy Arozarena has flashed all of his tools while filling in admirably in CF for Mags Sierra while Sierra was on the DL(concussion). Now, Sierra is back and doing exactly what he was doing before going on the DL: anchoring the top of that order. He is a superstar defensively in CF and if he hits this way at the next two levels he has the WAR potential of Ender Inciarte written all over him.
All of this position player depth is extra encouraging because the Cardinals’ system is one built on it’s arms. To grow this kind of depth, and to do it quickly, will allow the Cardinals’ to supplement the big league club in a timely manner, whether that be by call up or trade.
Next Tier Starting Pitching Has Impressed
You’ve heard the names of the top two starting pitching-tiers in the organization ad nauseam. Names like Alcantara, Flaherty, Weaver, Reyes, Fernandez and Hudson. And while those names have performed well (at least the healthy names) it’s the next tier of SP prospects that have been really impressive.
If you start at Memphis, the name that you can’t look over is Daniel Poncedeleon, our 30th rated prospect in the system. He was supposed to start the season at Springfield and was only promoted after Luke Weaver and John Gant were hurt. All that he’s done at Triple A is hold hitters to a batting average against of .187 while sporting a 1.64 ERA and 20 K’s in 22 innings.
At Palm Beach, 2016 3rd round draft pick Zac Gallen has also been impressive. Gallen was thought of as a “control first” pitcher when he was drafted, but through four starts the RHP has struck out 29 over 23 innings and he hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of those starts. He’s doing it while holding hitters to an average against of .224.
Gallen’s rotation mate Ryan Helsley, apart from one start in which he couldn’t get through the second inning while surrendering 7 ER, has had three spectacular starts. All indications are that his mid-to-high 90’s fastball is playing well with his curveball and changeup.
Another 2016 pick, RHP Connor Jones has mimicked his senior season production at Virginia. While he hasn’t been dominant exactly, he’s been really good.
It’s great to see the stars of the system performing, but it’s even better to see that there is a next wave to support the system when the stars make the majors.
-Advanced aged Triple A-ers Patrick Wisdom and Luke Voit have helped to anchor the big three prospects of Paul DeJong, Harrison Bader, and Carson Kelly at Memphis. Luke Voit has easily been the best bat in the system during April.
-JACK FLAHERTY JACK FLAHERTY JACK FLAHERTY. OTHER WORDS THAT TELL YOU HOW GREAT, not just good, GREAT JACK FLAHERTY IS. He’s raised his ceiling to a number 2 starter and his floor to that of a number 4 starter in my book. That’s no small accomplishment. As Lord Vader would say “Impressive. Most Impressive”.
-Each level has at least one surprising bullpen arm shining bright. Memphis has John Brebbia, Springfield has Tyler Bray(who started in Palm Beach), Palm Beach has Ian McKinney, and Peoria has Brady Bowen. Follow the links to learn about this group of under-the-radar arms.
-Finally, only one of the four teams entered May under .500, the 9-13 Peoria Chiefs. That might sound like an easy task, but it is anything but.
Who do you think has had a great start to the season? Who did I leave off? Let us know!
Thanks For Reading!!!