Every Saturday (and some Fridays, like today, when my schedule allows it) until the end of the minor league season we will present you with the awards for the past weeks top pitcher and position player at each affiliate. We will include a capsule at the end of each list on an under the radar performer that has had a very good week. The stats will run from Friday through Thursday. The stats are a reflection of that weeks success.
WEEK 11 (June 16th – June 22nd)
*Author’s Note: Starting next week I will have a little rundown of sorts on the Short Season clubs, State College and Johnson City in particular. Just a heads up
MEMPHIS (44-28) 1st Place, 8 Games Up
Hitter Of The Week – Randal Grichuk: OF, Age 25 – 27 AB, 1 Double, 4 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 8 SO, 296/345/778/1.123
As I type Grichuk’s name, all I feel is disappointment.
I’m disappointed in myself for picking him, even if he did have a great week. I’m disappointed that no other hitter at Memphis outperformed him. But mostly, I am disappointed that this is where Randal’s career is at.
Normally I wouldn’t even mention Grichuk since he isn’t a rookie and he shouldn’t qualify, but I wanted to talk about a time when he was and compare that to where he is at currently.
In late April of 2014 at the age of 22, Grichuk was promoted to the majors for the first time from Memphis. At the time he was hitting 310/351/529/880 with 12 XBH in 87 AB, including 3 HR. He was a raw athlete full of potential that, whether you want to admit it to your 2014-self or not, earned a promotion over Oscar Taveras.
It’s been FOUR F-ING years since then, and absolutely nothing has changed with Mr. Grichuk. He isn’t as good at the plate or in the field as he should be. He’s teased us with his ability to mash and exhausted us with his ability to slump.
After being sent down to Palm Beach to refine his approach at the plate, he has followed hitting guru George Greer to Memphis. He is still striking out way too much, but at least he is striking the ball with authority when he does make contact. Hopefully this is the step towards sustained success that Grichuk needs.
Pitcher Of The Week- Mike Mayers: RHP, Age 25 – 1 Start, 1-0, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. Game Score of 85
This week Mike Mayers turned in nothing short of a brilliant start. There are zeroes in all of the correct places and fancy numbers in all of the right places.
What I’m most impressed with about this start is that he did it against a Round Rock (Rangers) lineup sprinkled with guys who have all had strong tastes of the majors: Jurickson Profar, Ryan Rua, Travis Snider, and Will Middlebrooks. Sure, all of those guys are under-achievers and failed prospects (FIGHT IT JURICKSON), but those are the kind of hitters that help to expose a pitcher that isn’t yet a “Four A” pitcher but is caught between the majors and minors while being successful.
After struggling early in the season Mayers has settled in nicely. Over his last 10 starts he’s held hitters to an average against of .232 and an OPS against of .631. He’s struck out 52 over 59.1 innings over those 10 starts and he has pitched at least 6 innings in seven of those ten games.
I know that I said it last week when Mayers placed on the list, but I’d really like to see what he could do out of the bullpen for the Cardinals when it’s all said and done. I’m not sure how successful he’ll be, but I’d love to see if he has it in him
Springfield (35-35) 2nd Place, 4 Games Back
Hitter Of The Week – Magneuris Sierra: OF, Age 21 – 30 AB, 5 Doubles, 1 Triple, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 0 BB, 5 SO, 367/387/600/987
What Sierra and Oscar Mercado offer at the top of the Springfield lineup appears to be what all the Whitey Herzog-philes have been clamoring for at the major league level all season: Speed, plate discipline, hustle, good defense, and the ability to manufacture runs. That was on display Thursday night when they were involved in a double steal in the 1st inning. A double steal that included Sierra stealing home. It was incredible to see.
I firmly believe that the Texas League will give us a great understanding of how Sierra’s game is going to play in St. Louis over an extended period of time. There are going to be a lot of doubles as his confidence and understanding improves. There is going to be some fun baseball for all to see, as well. I do worry more now than I ever have about his ability to hit HRs, though. His only HR on the season was an inside the park-job and, honestly, I would have ruled it an error on the CF who came in and dove at a ball that he didn’t need to.
However, Sierra will be just fine if he can continue to take a solid AB and learn to slap the ball around like Jon Jay. He’s been working tirelessly to refine his base-stealing ability, and if that refinement should click then we might be in store for a truly unique, truly dynamic player. However, I would like to see him command the strike zone enough to walk just a little bit more>
Pitcher Of The Week – Dakota Hudson (Pictured): RHP, Age 22 – 2 Starts, 2-0, 15 IP, 14 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0.60 ERA, .241 Average Against. Game Scores of 67 & 66
As we get close to turning the page on the month of June, it appears that Hudson is starting to turn the page on Double A.
Dakota Hudson is a very polished pitcher.
The first two months of the s season weren’t easy for Hudson, but he has adapted beautifully and he is starting to round out into the total package of a pitcher that we all hoped for. Where early on in the season his ability to generate ground-ball outs was the only trick from this pony, Hudson is now starting to strike batters out more. He’s also lasting deeper into games. He’s gone at least 6 innings in his last 8 starts and he’s lasted at least 7 innings in 4 of those starts.
He’s rounding into fine shape and on Thursday night he went 8 innings without allowing a earned run, marking the longest outing of professional career. There has been some very good pitching at Springfield this season, but Hudson appears to be in line for the next promotion to Memphis.
Much has been made about his delivery and it’s sustainability over a long season, but he’s retooled it enough since his college days that it’s no longer the issue that it was.
PALM BEACH (41-27) 1st Place, 3 Games Up
Hitter Of The Week – Randy Arrozarena (Pictured): OF, Age 22 – 16 AB, 4 Doubles, 1 Triple, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 3 SO, 438/438/813/1.250
I AM BIASED AND YOU WILL DEAL WITH IT.
Honestly, I didn’t even look at the stats of any of the other PB Cardinals players. It was a waste of time. Sure, Blake Drake was on “Cycle Watch” and Andy Young hit his first HR in his FSL debut week, but that doesn’t even matter a little bit.
Not only did Randy have a very solid week, but he did it while playing in the FSL All-Star Game. You know what else he did the day of the All-Star Game? He won the damn homerun derby, that’s what he did.
If you had the chance to talk to any scout or coach that has had the pleasure of seeing Arozarena play this season you’ll hear the same things: Athletic. Gap power. Easy, short swing. Strong arm. Potential five-tool player. Arozarena has the 33 XBH and 3 OF assists to prove that it’s all headed in the correct direction.
The Cardinals don’t have many of those.
In the very near future Arozarena will be patrolling the SPR outfield, and you’ll want to make a trip to Hammons Field when that happens. To me, the only thing more exciting than an OF of Mercado, Sierra, and Jose Adolis Garcia is an OF of Mercado, Sierra, and Arozarena.
Pitcher Of The Week – Ryan Helsley: RHP, Age 22 – 1 Start, 1-0, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Game Score of 65
It could be argued that Jake Woodford should be this weeks Palm Beach representative with 6.2 IP, 4 H, 3 K performance, but I went with Helsley because of the extra K and the zero walks.
But other than the zero walks, what I love most about Helsley’s outing is that this type of performance has become pedestrian for him. And that is how we know that he has jumped the hurdle from being a promising young pitcher to being a legitimate prospect.
In 9 of Helsley’s 12 starts this season he’s allowed 2 runs or less. In 8 of those starts he’s allowed 1 run or less. In 6 of his 12 starts, IN HALF OF HIS STARTS, he’s allowed 0 runs. That’s not just “good” it’s “dominant” and there aren’t many pitchers in the Cardinals system that can even come close to doing what Helsley has done so far in 2017.
The next promotion for Helsley will be to Springfield and the hitter friendly Texas League. It’ll be a test, and a test on the near horizon. I’d bet he struggles at first, but by the beginning of next season he’ll be dominating the Texas League like he has the Midwest and Florida State Leagues.
Peoria (31-39, 1-0 In 2nd Half)
Hitter Of The Week – Shane Billings: OF, Age 22 – 10 AB, 1 Double, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 1 SO, 300/364/700/1.064
With Andy Young getting promoted to Palm Beach over the last Redbird Daily week, it would appear that it’s time for someone else to take over this list on a regular basis.
I don’t expect Billings to be that guy.
But, hey, that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate his great week. OK, sure, it was mostly pedestrian, but he did hit the first homerun of his career since being drafted in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. So, there is that!
Billings is the kind of “fundamentals first” organizational depth piece that every organization needs. He’s the kind of player that the more talented prospects on the team should flock to in an effort to learn from him.
Plus he can make contact, as his 14 game hitting streak entering Friday illustrates. He’s had 5 multi-hit games over that span, too. There is nothing flashy or fancy or exciting about Billings. He’s just a good old fashioned baseball player.
Pitcher Of The Week – Max Almonte: RHP, Age 25 – 2 Appearances, 1-0, 3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.
First, Almonte is Wayyyyyyyy too old to be pitching for Peoria.
Second, the Peoria rotation was all jumbled up because of the All-Star Break mid-week.
Third, Austin Sexton had a Jekyll and Hyde week over his two starts, so that basically grants the award to a pen arm by default.
But all qualifiers aside, it’s been a very good season for Almonte. He started the season on State College’s roster but was holed up at the Cardinals extended spring training facility in Jupiter. He was called upon on May 15th to join the Peoria bullpen and he’s been good since entering the mix. Over 17.1 IP he’s allowed only 3 ER while walking a robust 8 hitters and striking out a lowly 11. However, he has held batters to an average against of .172 and he has cut the walks down to 3 over his last 10 IP.
There is a very good chance that this is one of the last times that you’ll hear Almonte’s name. He’s that kind of prospect. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts!
PREVIOUS AWARD WINNERS
Thanks for reading!