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St. Louis Cardinals: Week 18 Prospect Awards

Every Friday (and some Saturday’s when I’m too busy to get it out on 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 18 (August 4th – August 10th)

 

MEMPHIS (78-40) 1st Place, 21.5 Games Up

Hitter Of The Week – Breyvic Valera: IF, Age 25 – 30 AB, 10 H, 2 Doubles, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SO, 2SB, 1 CS,

So it wasn’t the most powerful or run-producing week for Valera, but he’s steadily seen his average rise and he’s taking good at-bats and working counts while getting hits. Sometimes, it’s just that easy.

Also, I wanted to mention just how good Valera has been since Mark Budaska has taken over as hitting coach for the Memphis Redbirds.

Budaska was part of the coaching shuffle that affect both the major and minor league coaching staffs on June 10th. He reported to Memphis that day and he’s been working his “Hitting Buddha” magic ever since.

Since we know that June 10th holds special meaning now, I went back and tracked how Valera has progressed since that day. Entering play on June 10th, Valera was slashing 266/319/347/666 with 9 XBH, without a HR, in 173 AB. Now, in 165 AB since June 10th, Valera is slashing 382/438/533/971 with 17 XBH including 4 HR.

Valera walked it off for Memphis for the second time this season on Thursday night as part of a 2-6 effort. It was the third time this season that Valera was responsible for driving in the winning run in the 9th inning or later so far this season. There’s a little bit of clutch built into this guy, and you can never have enough of that. The four multi-hit games this week were a nice touch, as well.

Just two months ago Valera was in danger of losing his spot on the 40 man roster. Now he’s a month and a Memphis playoff race-away from making his major league debut.

Also, #FreeBudaska

 

Pitcher Of The Week – Jack Flaherty: RHP, Age 21 – 1 Start, 1-0, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. Game Score of 85

More of the same old, same old from Flaherty. As I mentioned on Twitter, my favorite thing about this start from Flaherty is that it wasn’t even his best start of the season. Glance back up at that line. Soak it in. Soak in it’s dominance. Soak in it’s brilliance. Soak in it’s probability of major league success. Then remember that THIS WASN’T EVEN HIS BEST START OF THE SEASON.

As I mentioned the last time he was on the list, Flaherty struggled at first upon his promotion to Memphis. As you might have expected, that didn’t last long. In his last 6 starts over 33.1 IP he’s K’ed 34, walked 8, held hitters to an average against of .202, and an OPS against of .538 while throwing 63% strikes and getting ground balls 43% of the time.

Flaherty is a top of the line starter who is dominating the toughest level of the minors in one of the most hitter-friendly leagues. He can throw five pitches whenever he wants to. Even with Alex Reyes returning to the Majors in 2018 after Tommy John Surgery, Flaherty has the potential to be the most exciting and highest-ceiling pitching prospect to start a game for the Cardinals other than Reyes in a very long time. They do it differently, but both Reyes and Flaherty could anchor a rotation for years to come.

 

Springfield (65-52, 30-17 In 2nd Half) 1st Place, 1 Game Up

Hitter Of The Week – Randy Arozarena: OF, Age 22 – 17 AB, 6 H, 2 Doubles, 1 HR, 2 BB, 2 SO, 1 SB, 0 CS, 353/421/647/1.068

On Saturday night, Randy hit a walk off HR in extra innings and that pretty well cemented his spot in this week’s award presentation. Maybe that’s fair, maybe that’s not. I don’t know. What I do know is that Arozarena is an absolute monster that isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

I spend a lot of time on twitter talking about Randy. So, instead of going on and on about what Arozarena is capable of and how good he is, I’m just going to repost some of the more important tweets.

 

Arozarena might not have “star power”, but he has all of the makings of an above average major leaguer. He’s the most exciting outfielder in an exciting crop of outfielders and the fact that people still call and holler for Magneuris Sierra and Harrison Bader is almost comical when you see first hand how true is potential for making a major league impact is.

 

Pitcher Of The Week – Austin Gomber: LHP, Age 23 – 2 Starts, 2-0, 14 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, Batting Average Against of .111, OPS Agains of .311. Game Scores of 83 & 73.

Welp, it appears that Austin Gomber is back and in full control. It’s been a good week for some of my personal favorite prospects, but none of my faves have been as good as Gomber has been.

Gomber’s ERA as he entered his first start of the weeks was a disappointing 4.27. After his first start it was down to an even 4.00. After his second start his ERA was down to 3.76 on the season. That’s a pretty strong turn around in 2 starts. It illustrates just how good he was this weeks, but it also illustrates just how volatile of a stat ERA is.

Gomber has started 22 games this season and in his first 18, while recovering from an injury and organization-mandate mechanical issues, Gomber held hitters to a BA against of .256, an OPS against of .752 while walking 36 and striking out 84 in 91.2 IP.

Good, but not great.

But In Austin’s last 4 starts, all at 100% and all while pitching with comfortable mechanics, Gomber has held batters to an average against of .146, an OPS against of .416, while walking 8 and striking out 24 in 26 .1 IP. THAT is great.

THAT is more along the lines with the pitcher that we know Gomber to be. Let the man pitch.

 

 

PALM BEACH (63-50, 23-23 In 2nd Half) 5th Place, 5 Games Back

Hitter Of The Week – NOBODY: Position: EVERYWHERE

I can’t do it anymore. I’m sorry. For the last month or so Palm Beach has almost certainly failed to produce solid offense, or defense for that matter, and week after week I have to pick a player that sticks out in the pack.

Well, that didn’t happen this week. So, I’m not picking a player. Chris Chinea went deep, but that was about it. Andy Young worked to raise his batting average over .010 points, which is good. Luke Dykstra had a timely hit or two. Some other players did some other good things, but no one did anything well enough to earn this accolade.

This could simple be a product of the effect that Roger Dean Stadium and the Florida State League has on hitters, but I think that it’s more likely that their is just a lack of legitimate prospects currently at Palm Beach. be aware of that. Watch that. That is not a good sign for the organization.

Sorry to cop-out on this one, but getting that message across is more important to me than giving some random player this award.

 

Pitcher Of The Week – Ramon Santos: RHP, Age 22 – 1 Start, 1-0, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. Game Score of 85

Well, if you had Ramon Santos tying Jack Flaherty as the pitcher with the 2nd best game score of the week then go ahead and collect your prize at the window.

While it might seem like I am picking on the hitters at Palm Beach for being sub-good, I’m going to go ahead and pick a otherwise below-average pitching prospect who pumped in a great performance to illustrate just how willing I am to give praise to good performances regardless of the prospect-standing of the player that puts up the performance.

Santos was signed in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic as an International Free Agent. He’s never been great, but he’s been good so far in his minor league career. He was pretty good pitching out of both the Palm Beach and Peoria bullpen’s before finding himself starting for Palm Beach. Ultimately, he should find his way back into the bullpen, but it’s nice to see this young man surging and putting it together late in the season. You just never know when International Free Agents are going to peak.

 

 

Peoria (56-59, 26-20 In 2nd Half) 2nd Place, 5 Games Back

Hitter Of The Week – Stefan Trosclair: 1B/2B, Age 23 – 20 AB, 9 H, 1 Double, 1 Triple, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 5 SO, 450/542/750/1.292

I know that I categorized Trosclair as a “1B/2B”, but, realistically, he’s best suited for 1st base. Offensive he profiles more as a second baseman, but defensively he’s a first baseman through and through.

It’s been a good season so far for the University of Louisianna-Lafayette (more from this University to come later on the list) product. He has an advance feel for the strike zone, as his .395 OBP and 52 BB in 328 AB illustrates. Of course, some times when you are that aware at the plate you end up sacrificing some of your slugging percentage. Naturally, that was exactly the case with Trosclair. As a matter of fact, it took Stefan 45 games and 164 AB after registering his 3rd HR of the season to record his 4th HR of the season. That’s a long time, but the good news is that he also walked 37 times during that 164 AB period.

The slugging has been better for Trosclair as of late. In the 26 games since, and including, recording his 5th HR of the season, Trosclair has slashed an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING 341/496/612/1.107 with 6 HR, 3 of his 14 doubles, 21 BB, and 25 K’s in a meer 85 AB.

If Trosclair keeps on that pace he’ll move his way from a fringe player to a prospect in no time. Now to do it at a level better suited for his level of strike zone awareness.

 

 

Pitcher Of The Week – Austin Warner(Pictured): LHP, Age 23 – 1 Start, 1-0, 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K. Game Score of 86

Well this is just fun now.

Warner is a “former” at a lot of different things/titles. He’s a former D2 standout. He’s a former player in the Frontier League in Independent Baseball. He’s a former Rive City Rascal, the team located in O’Fallon, MO, not all that far away from Busch Stadium, really.

He is not, however, a “former” best performer of the week just yet, which is what he will be next week after his start this week. This dominant start edges the great starts by Flaherty and Santos and it’s the best start out of a Peoria SP not named Mike O’Reilly this season.

Speaking of O’Reilly, the smart money is that Warner will continue to do well against the Midwest League similarly to how O’Reilly did. Warner’s story is great and it’s fun to watch this kid pitch so well, but control-first pitchers do exceedingly well in this league against over aggressive youngsters. I do worry how he will look if he were to get a promotion to Palm Beach, but, honestly, you have to feel happy for the success that he has had so far. Good for him.

 

**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 – Bryce Denton(Pictured), State College: OF, Age 20 – 23 AB, 10 H, 1 Double, 1 Triple, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 4 SO, 438/458/565/1.024

I LOVE writing Denton’s name on this list. He’s earned it, even if the “how” of how he got to this point is less than flattering.

So far, it’s been a disappointing season for Bryce that started with a nasty case of Appendicitis that cropped up during opening day for Peoria. That cost him the first month or so of the season and he never really recovered for Peoria. That’s a tough thing to come back from.

Denton was removed from Peoria to get a little work and regain strength at the Cardinals extended spring training center in Jupiter, Florida, and he was there until the State College season started in mid-June. He got off to a tough start for State College, but I’m here to tell you to ignore all of that and spend a little bit of time looking at what he’s done lately.

Since July 8th and spanning 23 games entering Thursday night’s action, Denton has slashed an impressive 351/390/479/869 with 3 doubles, 3 triples, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 5 BB and 26 strike outs in 94 AB. That K number is a too high, but I’ll take it, as he posted it while working his way out of such a bad stretch. What I like most about this is that Denton has a history of getting hot along with the hot weather down the stretch. In 2016, over his last 19 games, he slashed 325/395/479/875 in 73 AB. It took him even longer last season to get hot, so I find it mega-encouraging that he’s getting hot almost a full month earlier than he did in 2016.

Denton is a great kid, a really good fielder, a Cardinals’ fan, and a prospect on the rise. This next month is extra important for him andI  totally expect him to rise to the occasion. He’s been in the system for so long now that it’s easy to lose track of the fact that he has only been 20 for barely over a week. Time and patience is still needed.

 

Short Season Pitcher –Evan Guillory, Johnson City: RHP, Age 21 – 1 Start, 1-0, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO. Game Score of 84.

The right handed pitching prospect out of Louisiana-Lafayette is going to be an interesting name to keep an eye. Drafted in the 23rd round of this season’s draft, Guillory stands an imposing 6’3, 210 lbs and he could end up being a sleeper prospect in the very near future.

I say that because Guillory is a true junior(meaning that he never received a red-shirt) who started for Louisiana-Lafayette during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He never reached the level of dominance that you expect a 3rd year draftee to attain, so he was moved to the bullpen for his junior season. He was good in the pen, even if he wasn’t great. But between his frame, make-up, and the ability to command three pitches, he ended up being a pretty highly thought of draftee.

Guillory has a little corkscrew to his delivery that is reminiscent of former Major Leaguer Kevin Brown with an arm angle and finish that is similar to Stephen Strasburg. In 31 IP since being drafted he’s K’ed 28 and walked 5 while holding hitters to a batting average against of .210. I’m really interesting in Guillory, and while I do think he’s probably too advanced for Johnson City, I also think that he is best served by staying there for the rest of the season. If he keeps pitching at this pace he might work his way into the discussion for a spot in Peoria’s 2018 starting rotation.

 

PREVIOUS AWARD WINNERS

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

Week 12

No Prospect Awards For Week 13

Week 14

Week 15

Week 16

Week 17

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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