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St. Louis Cardinals: Recapping Week Three Of The Arizona Fall League

*Picture of Sandy Alcantara courtesy of the incomparable @cardinalsgifs. FOLLOW THIS MAN ON TWITTER*

Oscar Mercado has been this weeks headliner in the AFL. He’s starting to generate a ton of buzz. Every week I’m going to try to update you on how everyone is doing in the AFL, along with how a few others are doing in some of the other offseason leagues.

If you’d like to see the complete breakdown of Cardinals stats during the Fall/Winter, you can follow THIS LINK HERE.

It’s October, the Cardinals aren’t in the playoffs, yet there are still plenty of reasons to keep on an eye on future Cardinals Players.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

PITCHERS

RHP Sandy Alcantara: 4 Starts, 11 IP, 5.73 ERA, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 HR Allowed, 8 BB, 10 K, 1.64 WHIP. .244 BA Against

I’ve been following Sandy extremely close for the last two season and I still have no idea what he’s capable of on a regular basis. Or, rather, what he’s most capable of on a regular basis.

His first start this week wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t as good as it should have been. He only lasted two innings because his pitch count got too high. That has to stop. Still, you can’t be too upset that he only allowed 1 run. I like that he struck out two, as well. Still, something is so off about Alcantara.

This was also the first week that Alcantara received two starts in a week, as he pitched both Monday and Saturday. He had a nice little start in regards to strikeouts, but he still allowed 3 ER over 4 innings. Two of those runs came on a 2-run HR to Giants catching prospect Aramis Garcia. All three of the runs he let up came in the 2nd, and it’s nice to see that all of the damage against him came in one inning, I guess. He pitched well in the other 3 innings. At least there’s that. And his 7 strikeouts over 4 innings double his total of 3 that he had gained over his prior 7 innings pitched. Love those K’s. The only problem is that he walked two batters over those 4 innings.

It always seems to be a “take the good with the bad” situation with Alcantara, even here in the fall league. For as promising as 2017 looked for Alcantara it’s turned out to be kind of a statistical disaster. At least he’s already made the majors!

 

RHP Jordan Hicks: 5 Appearances, 8.2 IP, 11.42 ERA, 16 H, 11 ER, 2 HR Allowed, 4 BB, 8 K, 2.31 WHIP. .421 BA Against

For as critical as I’ve been about Alcantara’s performance so far, I’ve been the opposite about Hicks’ performance, even though he hasn’t been very good. To complicate the hypocrisy even more, the age difference between the two is only, almost exactly, one year. It’s probably unfair that I’m being so dismissive of Hicks struggles while shining such a bright light on Sandy’s.

That being said, Sandy has appeared in 72 minor league games as well as the majors and Hicks has only appeared in 34 minor league games, and that’s what I mean when I talk about the inexperience that Hicks brings into the AFL. That lack of seasoning is why I’m not investing too much into his struggles.

However, my concerns with Hicks are starting to surface a little bit more than I would have thought at this point. He’s still throwing too many balls and he’s letting up too many XBH. There is still plenty of time left in the Fall League for him to figure it out, but his stuff is too good for hitters to be driving the ball so hard off of him. I think this is a confidence issue with Hicks. I don’t believe that he’s trusting his stuff right now and he’s nibbling around the zone, as he knows the potential danger in throwing to advance hitters.

I’ll keep saying it, though; Hicks will be fine. I guarantee it.

RHP Josh Lucas: 6 Appearances, 6 IP, 4.50 ERA, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 HR Allowed, 1 BB, 5 K, 1.33 WHIP, 1 Save. .318 BA Against

Every week I’m going to keep it as simple as possible with Lucas. He’s only walked one guy. He’s only allowed 1 HR. He’s almost striking out a hitter per inning, and was at a hitter per before his appearance on Saturday night that saw him pitch an inning of 1 hit, 0 run, 0 strikeout baseball. If he keeps that pace up then this fall will be a success for him. The BA against is alarming to me, but 6 innings isn’t nearly enough to use that to evaluate.

Still, because I’m selfish, I’d like to see more K’s. There’s no reason to think that he isn’t capable of more with a slider that good. I want to see him throwing that thing at least 50% of the time.

There’s is no reason not to.

RHP Arturo Reyes: 6 Appearances, 8 IP, 4.50 ERA, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 HR Allowed, 1 BB, 8 K, 1.25 WHIP. .281 BA Against

Arturo has allowed runs. I repeat: Arturo has allowed runs.

Sure, it took two weeks for it to happen, but it’s finally happened. The 3 ER in one inning over a two strike out performance will drag down his stat line, but make no mistake; Arturo has been very good. However, like with many control/command pitchers, the trick now becomes the ability to make sure that he isn’t exposed over the long term following a one-appearance exposure. Of course, he followed up that appearance on Saturday by allowing another run and two hits while walking one and striking out two. The walk came back to haunt him, as they often do, but it’s nice to see him rack up two strikeouts during this performance, at least.

POSITION PLAYERS

C/1B Andrew Knizner: 10 Games, 41 AB, 14 H, 1 Double, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 21 TB, 2 BB, 8 SO, 341/372/512/884

In a weird turn of events, Knizner sat for the first three days of the week after winning the Arizona Fall League Player Of The Week award for week two. I thought that he might be nursing an injury at first, but all indications are that he was fine and that Surprise was just getting other players needed work.

When Andrew returned to the lineup on Thursday he showed just how effective his presence in the middle of a lineup can be. While playing 1B on Friday he drove in runs with 2-outs. He also played 1st on Thursday and DH’ed on Saturday. Knizner has a hit in every Arizona Fall League game that he has appeared in and he is also averaging an RBI per game through 10 starts. The fact that he’s starting to play more 1st than catcher is something that is in need of notice.

CF Oscar Mercado: 11 Games, 41 AB, 13 H, 3 Doubles, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 16 TB, 9 BB, 9 SO, 4 SB, 0 CS, 317/440/390/830

Last  Sunday he participated in the Bowman AFL Hitting Challenge and, while he didn’t advance or place exactly, he opened eyes with his fluid swing and bat speed. Earlier in the week Keith Law was raving about what he saw from Mercado, which is a good sign that scouts are talking about him(although I caution you that Keith Law is notorious for his poor ability to evaluate around the industry. Please keep that in mind). I’ve also seen a ton of Mercado’s batting practice video circulating on Twitter from scouts and that’s another good sign that he’s being talked about industry wide.

Mercado had a great week at the plate, aside from an 0-5 performance on Saturday. He entered Saturday 6 for his prior 12 with a double, four stolen bases, seven walks, and 3 strikeouts over the four games that led up to Saturday.

I keep saying it, but what a great 2017 season/year it has been for Mercado.

SS/3B/2B Edmundo Sosa: 9 Games, 33 AB, 9 H, 1 Triple, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 11 TB, 0 BB, 9 SO, 273/314/333/648

A good week for Sosa! Sosa recorded his first extra base hit, a triple, in Friday’s game versus Glendale. His ability to field is what is garnering all of the attention so far, which is exactly what my college Colin Garner and I were looking for. I’ve even seen it written that he’s the best defensive middle infield in the AFL. Often scouts get caught up in the moment and are prisoners to hyperbole, but this is a good sign any way that you cut it.

Getting his batting average around the .270 mark is great, now we just need him to get that OBP into the .350’s and we’ll have something exciting to talk about at the plate for the relatively soft hitting Sosa. Take a walk, Edmundo. It’ll really help you. Promise.

1B/LF/DH John Nogowski: 4 Games, 14 AB, 4 H, 3 Doubles, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 7 TB, 2 BB, 2 SO, 286/375/500/875

Well, Nogowski’s streak of a double per start ended at three, but his contact skill has been on impressive display during limited AFL action. There really isn’t much to say here other than he’s made consistent contact, often for extra bases, and he’s been DH-ing mostly. I don’t know if he’s capable of it or not, but I’d love to see Nogowski do some “swinging for the fences”. That just doesn’t appear to be his game.

OTHER LEAGUES

RHP Jesus Cruz: 3 Starts, 14.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 13 H, 4 ER, 1 HR Allowed, 4 BB, 10 K, 1.16 WHIP. .241 BA Against

Cruz is an interesting prospect. He was signed by the Cardinals at the onset of the 2017 July 2nd International signing period at the age of 22, which is old for that signing period but is a product of some of the changes that have come with the new collective bargaining agreement.

The 22 year old Mexican native has pitched really well so far in the Cardinals organization. He pitched lights out in a small taste of the New York Penn League out of State College’s bullpen at the end of the season, and it’s important to note that the Cardinals thought enough of him to get him to that level before the season ended. Even at his advanced age, it’s rare that an international signee makes it to that level in the same season that they sign.

While he pitched exclusively out of the pen in 2017, he’s been starting exclusively in the Mexican League. That’s interesting. You can never have enough pitching. I’d imagine that we’ll hear a lot more from Cruz during the season. He might be sleeper status.

OF Randy Arozarena: 15 Games, 63 AB, 16 H, 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 15 SO, 2 SB, 2 CS, 254/309/413/722

It was a tough week for Randy. He is 1-19 with 5 strikeouts and all indications are that he is pressing at the plate. Sure, it hurts my soul but it’s nothing to be worried about. He’s still playing CF frequently and he’s been pretty good there, from all indications. Let’s take the week and reevaluate, shall we?!

 

Thanks to the great @cardinalsgifs for the great picture of Sandy Alcantara above. If you don’t follow @cardinalsgifs on twitter then you are missing out on the best Cardinals account on that social media platform, bar-none!

Thanks For Reading!

-Kyle Reis

@kyler416

Kyle Reis

Kyle is a South City St Louis born and raised. He is 30 years old and grew up at old Busch Stadium. His favorite Cardinals player of all time is Ray Lankford.
Kyle is an overly simple person who loves countable baseball statistics, following minor league baseball, and friendly discourse.
He tends to not take people seriously that refer for the team that they root for as “we” instead of “them”.

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