Now that the minor leaguers have about 15 games under their belts, let’s take a look at possible future Cardinals off to a hot start, and some who haven’t quite gotten it going.
Memphis Redbirds (8-8, AAA)
The Cardinals chose to take a conservative approach with many of their top prospects to begin the season, so Memphis currently hosts a roster filled with underperforming former major leaguers, and career minor leaguers without much of a pedigree. Jeremy Hefner is a good example of this, as he continues to attempt a return at the majors after two Tommy John surgeries. Hefner has turned in three solid starts so far, going 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning (16 K in 15.2 IP). Should a starting pitcher go down, it’s possible the Cards could turn to Hefner to fill a spot in the rotation or pitch in a long relief role.
On the other side of the ball, Greg Garcia has torn it up in Memphis since his return to Triple-A. Garcia has six hits in his first sixteen at bats since Ruben Tejada‘s return from the DL pushed him back to the minors. Charlie Tilson (Cards #9 prospect according to MLB.com) got off to a bit of a slow start, but has seven hits in his last eighteen at bats (.389 AVG).
Springfield Cardinals (9-7, AA)
Springfield comes home for a nice homestead looking to wrap up a winning opening month of the season. Among key contributors for the Cardinals in April is starting pitcher Mike Mayers, a 3rd round draft pick in 2013. Mayers has a 1.90 ERA through his first four starts, and though he wasn’t listed on any top prospect lists before the season, that may soon change if he keeps it up.
Terrific outing for Mike Mayers tonight. After injury-troubled 2015, Mayers is candidate to regain prospect luster this summer. #STLCards
— Derek Shore (@D_Shore23) April 8, 2016
Yadier Molina is off to another good start, but he’s not going to catch forever. Carson Kelly (Cards #13 prospect according to MLB.com) looks to have the best shot at some day replacing Molina. Kelly is only 21 years old, which is almost 3 years younger than the average AA player, which may explain why he’s looked a bit overmatched to start the year. He’s hitting just .245, but also has yet to draw a walk in 49 plate appearances.
Palm Beach Cardinals (10-8, High-A)
After the major leaguers took off for St. Louis at the end of March, some players in the Cards organization stuck around the spring training complex to begin the 14th season of Palm Beach Cardinals baseball. Palm Beach is currently home to the Cardinals’ #2 overall prospect, RHP Jack Flaherty. Flaherty, a 20-year-old 1st round draft pick in 2014, once again, is young for the league. However, he’s not anywhere close to another quick promotion after getting off to a 6.46 ERA in four starts for the Cardinals.
Outfielder Michael Pritchard has flown under the radar since going undrafted out of Nebraska, but he has consistently put up solid numbers at each level of the minors. He’s hitting .319 so far, but his 14 walks in 16 games have his OBP at an impressive .484 clip. Pitch selection is a skill that can lead to real, sustainable growth at the plate. If Pritchard continues to keep a good eye at the plate, he could become something more than just depth at the minor league level.
Peoria Chiefs (8-9, A)
Peoria hosts a ton of raw talent on their roster to begin the season, and it’s hoping that the maturation of those players will lead to another successful season like last year. Their most highly rated player is outfielder Magneuris Sierra (Cards #4 prospect according to MLB.com), a 2012 international free agent from the Dominican Republic. Sierra struggled in the second half of last season after being called up to Peoria, but seems to have worked out some of the kinks on his way to a respectable .286/.292/.365 line. Like any young player, Sierra could use to be more selective at the plate, as he’s only drawn one walk in 67 plate appearances.
Starting pitcher Junior Fernandez (Cards #15 prospect according to MLB.com) has certainly attracted his fair share of attention after earning a promotion to Palm Beach at the incredibly young age of 18 last season. Understandably assigned to Peoria to start the 2016 season, Fernandez has put up a 2.57 ERA in three starts while flashing an upper nineties fastball that scouts have been drooling over.
Photo Captured by Scott Rovak – USA Today Sports