Every Friday 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 14 (July 7th – July 13th)
MEMPHIS (57-33) 1st Place, 14.5 Games Up
Hitter Of The Week – Breyvic Valera: IF, Age 25 – 17 AB, 8 H, 2 Doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 SB, 2 CS, 471/500/765/1.265
It turned out to be a very solid week statistically for Valera, but sometimes this is about more than just the raw numbers.
On back to back nights Valera was responsible for driving in the winning run late in a game for Memphis. The crowning achievement of the week for the system came on July 8th when Valera hit a solo HR in the top of the 10th inning that ended up being the winning run. I love it when a guy that doesn’t hit home runs ends a game with a homer. It was only Valera’s second of the season. That’s the kind of magic that only happens on H.B.O.
It’s been a weird season so far for Valera. He was passed over for a promotion to the majors by Alex Mejia. Also, Valera is on the 40 man roster, and if the Cardinals needed to make room for an acquisition or promotion there’s a good chance that Valera would be DFA’ed to make room tor that player. Keep an eye on that. I do love to see that he’s performing well right now.
It might not have been the best offensive week in Memphis, but it was certainly the most satisfyingly dramatically.
Pitcher Of The Week- Marco Gonzales: LHP, Age 25 – 1 Start, 1-0, 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. Game Score of 70
Another day, another great start at Triple-A Memphis for Gonzales.
I’m not going to waste too much of your time here. You know Marco. If he is able to get deep enough inside on right handed hitters he’s good. If his curve ball is biting and he’s mixing it in with his fastball and change he can be dominant. If any one of the things that I just mentioned is off then he’ll get hit around a little bit.
After letting up two runs in the first inning of his start on Thursday he proceeded to set down 17 straight at one point. I love to see that kind of in-game recovery, especially from a pitcher returning from Tommy John Surgery. I don’t know what the future holds for Gonzales, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll be filling the stat sheet similar to this as long as he’s down in Memphis.
Springfield (46-44, 11-9 In 2nd Half) 2nd Place, 2 Games Back
Hitter Of The Week – Randy Arozarena: LF, Age 22 – 24 AB, 9 H, 1 Double, 1 Triple, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 SO, 375/432/625/1.048
Arozarena has only spent ten games in Double-A and he is already starting to beat around it’s pitching like he did in the Florida State League.
I can’t emphasize it enough, Randy “Arousal” Arozarena is a total-package athlete. He possesses a great amount of speed, power, and instincts in his 5’11 frame. I watched him turn a sure double hit to the left center field gap into a stand up triple. You don’t see that too often. Pitchers have tried to work Randy inside because he stands very close to the plate and at first that was effective. But Arozarena has adjusted. He is now picking it up and he’s back to doing what he does best at the plate, which is hitting the ball for extra bases.
Arozarena is really good. If I could do it all over again I think that I would put him in my top 10. Maybe swap him and Magneuris Sierra on the list. This type of prospect is a rare find and I hope that Arozarena stays on this path to stardom. He has the potential to be a catalyst at the top of a major league lineup at some point.
Pitcher Of The Week – Chris Ellis: RHP, Age 24 – 1 Start, 1-0, 5 IP, 4 H, 1ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Game Score of 63.
In case you are trying to remember where you’ve heard Ellis’ name before, he was one of two players not named John Gant that the Cardinals acquired from the Braves for Jaime Garcia in the off season. This is the first time that Ellis has found his way onto the list, I believe. So, there’s that.
Ellis started the season in the Memphis rotation and he was really bad, so the Cardinals demoted him to Springfield.
And he hasn’t been very good there, either.
Alas, a good week is a good week is a good start, and Ellis was the cream of the rotation-crop this week. Ellis doesn’t miss enough bats to keep much of an eye on. He has struck out almost one batter an inning, but his batting average against is .289 on the season which tells me that Ellis has virtually no staying power as a prospect, at least as a starter.
But a good week is a good week!
PALM BEACH (50-37, 10-10 In 2nd Half) 4th Place, 5.5 Games Back
Hitter Of The Week –Blake Drake: OF, Age 24 – 20 AB, 6 H, 1 Double, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 5 SO, 1 SB, 300/300/500/800
It was a relatively poor offensive week for the Palm Beach roster. I wouldn’t say that Drake had a great week, but the week was very solid. Andy Young, frequent member of this weekly list, came close to passing Drake, but he just couldn’t get over the hump.
Drake is defense-first outfielder that is plus at all three outfield positions. Blake started the year at Springfield but was demoted 12 games into the season after he struggled to slash 220/304/390/695. He hasn’t been much better for Palm Beach, as he’s slashed 269/309/419/728 since his demotion.
I do find Drake’s bat curious. He strikes out a lot, but not so much that you lose faith in his ability to take a good AB. He doesn’t walk all that much. There is a lot of pop in his bat these days, but it hasn’t manifested itself consistently yet. He does have the power in there to hit 15-20 HR, but it just doesn’t seem like he is putting all that he has into every swing. There is just something there that won’t let him progress beyond Palm Beach and Advanced-A.
Another great organizational depth piece, Drake is a lot of fun to watch patrol the outfield.
Pitcher Of The Week – Ryan Helsley: RHP, Age 22 – 1 Start, 0-0, 6.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. Game Score of 77
WHY IS THIS GUY STILL PITCHING IN PALM BEACH?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Good. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I have to ask: “Why haven’t they promoted this guy yet?”
Wait, that’s the same question just a different way? Damn. Sometimes I just get caught up in the excitement of dominance. Let me course correct.
Alright, back on track. From a scouting perspective, what you really like about Helsley is…………
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH FREAKING PROMOTE THIS KID AND DO IT NOW.
Oh, I give up. Click on any of the number of other weeks that I’ve written about Helsley. He’s holding hitters at Advanced-A to a batting average against of .219 and an OPS against of .584 on the season. He took a no hitter into the 7th this week. He never lets up runs. He strikes out a lot of guys. Also, he’s gotten better as the season has gone on.
Put the kid where he deserves to be: Springfield.
Peoria (43-47, 13-8 In 2nd Half) 2nd Place, 3 Games Back
Hitter Of The Week – Kramer Robertson(Pictured): SS, Age 22 – 26 AB, 9 H, 1 Double, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 6 SO, 346/346/615/962
Robertson places on the list just as much for the game he had on Wednesday night as he does for how he’s been able to spark the top of the Peoria lineup. Since joining the team on the 7th Robertson has gotten a hit in 5 of the 6 games he’s played in.
First, Robertson has done a great job leading off for the Chiefs, but he is not a lead off hitter in the traditional sense. Robertson is a free swinger and on two, maybe three, occasions this week he has swung at the first pitch he saw to start a game. I personally love that aggressiveness, but that won’t work for lead off. He’s a prototypical 6 hitter, maybe a 2 as he develops more patience, but I’m good with the Cardinals hitting him 1st to hone his hitting and recognition skills while maximizing the number of AB’s he gets. Trust me, this guy is only going to get better from here.
Robertson had an amazing night at the plate on Wednesday during his home debut for Peoria. Robertson went 4 for 5 with his first 2 professional home runs and 3 RBI. Have a day, kid.
What I’ve been most impressed with in regards to Kramer is his defense at short. He has average/plus range there. His arm is good but it isn’t exactly strong, which is a bit of a concern. At least right now it looks like it’ll be good enough to stick at short.
Robertson is a taller, stronger, more flashy, more athletic, less in-control, and less-developed version of Cardinals prospect Tommy Edman. Edman is a better defender at short stop, as well. That bodes well for Robertson’s future, as Edman is one year removed from his draft year and he is already at playing at Springfield.
Robertson has all of the trappings of a fast mover.
Pitcher Of The Week – Mike O’Reilly(Pictured): RHP, Age 22 – 1 Start, 1-0, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K. Game Score of 104
This is easily the most improbably dominant season from a Cardinals minor league pitcher in my lifetime.
He’s taken a perfect game into the 7th, a no hitter into the 9th, and he’s thrown two complete game shutouts.
It seems like I write about O’Reilly every week, so I’m going to try to avoid sounding like a broken record. It’s really simple: he’s victimizing the Midwest League. He deserves a promotion to Palm Beach. I hoped that it would have come this week, but the more toolsy and projectable pitcher Jordan Hicks received the promotion over the more polished O’Reilly. Still, I hope a promotion is in the his near future.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes O’Reilly so good, aside from his pinpoint command of the strike zone. I truly believe that he is aided by an ear-to-plate arm slot that sees him throw from a similar release point to former Cardinals closer Jason Motte. It’s close to the slot that a catcher is taught to throw from. When you add that type of deception to his 88-90 MPH fastball and his solid slider and change up you end up with a pitcher that is just too good for the league that he is at. Every pitch he throws comes out of the same slot. It’s true deception.
O’Reilly is a lot of fun to watch. That game score this week of 104 shouldn’t even be a real number. To compare, Edinson Volquez has the highest game score in the majors this season with a score of 95. O’Reilly made that look like a good-but-not-great start. That’s nothing short of incredible.
**SHORT SEASON PITCHER AND PLAYER OF THE WEEK**
*Writer’s Note* – With the short season clubs in full swing, I’ll be highlighting one pitcher and one hitter over the four short season affiliates that I believe is worth mentioning. It won’t always be the best player out of those affiliates for the week. I’m not doing it level by level because these kids are FAR away from the majors. They deserve to be looked upon with a little bit of distance.
Short Season Player – Brandon Benson, State College: OF, Age 23 – Season Stats – 49 AB, 14 H, 0 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 8BB, 11 SO, 1 SB, 286/390/449/839
I am really intrigued by the Cardinals 20th round selection in this years draft. Benson was a monster at the plate for Division 2 school Georgia College. He found himself leading or at the top of nearly every D2 offensive category. He won awards and was placed on various different achievement lists at the end of the D2 season.
More importantly, Benson hasn’t disappointed since being drafted. As a matter of fact, he’s been even more impressive than anyone could have imagined.
On July 6th, just outside of the purview of this weeks awards, he tied a State College record when he drove in six runs during a four hit effort. His last hit of the night was a grand slam, State College’s first of the year.
I like that Benson is at State College and that he is producing there, but at the ripe age of 23 he’s probably doing it against a league too low for his age/skill level. He should find his way to Peoria by the end of the season to see if/how his skill set is going to project.
Benson has a solid frame and swing for power. If there is one guy in the 2017 draft class that I could see taking the Matt Adams road from unknown, late-round draft pick to a major league roster it’d be Benson.
Short Season Pitcher – Brett Seeburger, Johnson City: LHP, Age 22 – 1 Start, 0-0, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Game Score of 72.
It’s been a great start to the season for the 2017, 10th round pick out of San Diego State. Sure, he’s wayyyy too advanced of a pitcher to be pitching for Johnson City (his skill level is closer to that of State College), but I’ll take the production over struggle from a kid that has only been in the system for a month.
Seeburger was signed as a senior out of college, so he had zero leverage when negotiating his contract, so he signed for $129,000 under his draft slot. Guys like Seeburger and his rotation-mate Evan Kruczynski are what made the signing of Terry Fuller, Wilberto Rivera, and Zach Jackson possible.
Seeburger is a hefty-lefty with a solid mix of pitches that might be a name to watch as a potential bullpen arm as he progresses through the minors. More importantly, it’s nice to see another pick from the 2017 draft paying early dividends.
PREVIOUS AWARD WINNERS
No Prospect Awards For Week 13
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