With much movement at the top of the Cardinals farm system, it could be easy to forget about the new guys. Almost two months after the draft, let’s check up on this year’s top choices.
For the average fan, prospects are only relevant when they crack an organization’s top 10 list, or something of the sort. Past that, following players’ minor league developments becomes too tedious, a boring endeavor compared with a tight stretch-run in the National League central.
On the one hand, such an attitude is perfectly understandable. People have lives, and really don’t have the time to look past the Big League club. Besides, there is nothing to play for at the Minor League level. Teams don’t matter, individuals do. In this way, I think the grand majority of fans enjoy rooting for a team, not one or two individuals. Teams come with cultures, tradition, camaraderie. Individuals just cannot compete.
To the contrary, though, the Minor leagues remain incredibly important. To follow prospects is to see improvements, to watch players iron out weaknesses and turn into big league studs. In my mind, keeping an eye on the farm system fosters a deeper allegiance to the organization, an understanding and appreciation for the intricacies of putting together a successful franchise. In a different way, paying attention gives you a glimpse of the future.
On a more micro level, following a player throughout his minor league journey gives you an appreciation for the grind. Making it through is an impressive, daunting task. Seeing the slumps, the demotions, and the sheer volume of playing time all builds an appreciation. Should a player finally “make it,” it does not solely implicate things to come, but also carries the pains and joys of a long haul.
With all this being said, let’s check in with the Cardinals first 5 draft choices.
A product of Cal State Fullerton, Hurst began his career in short season A ball, playing in the New York-Penn league. So far, he has been incredibly solid, slashing .295/.364/.423 over his first 19 games. Hurst has slugged 6 doubles along with 3 triples, driving in 6 along the way.
After a grueling, yet successful season at CSUF, I am impressed with Hurst’s ability to carry on into the Minor League grind. Hopefully as his career progresses, Hurst will be able to hit for more power, perhaps upping his home run production.
After captaining a run to the College World Series for the LSU Tigers, the Cardinals sent Kramer Robinson, a fourth round pick, to full-season A ball. As a member of the Peoria Chiefs, Robinson has been decent – not bad, but not incredible. To be exact, he has 75 registered at-bats over 16 games, slashing .253/.273/.347. Quite the jump from college baseball, perhaps the quick promotion to Peoria can explain Robinson’s lackluster beginning.
On a more general note, Robinson is a sparkplug, not known for his physical talents, but rather the spirited manner in which he plays the game. With that being said, he’ll need to see his .273 OBP rise sharply. To be effective, he’ll need to be on base a lot, pressuring pitchers and inciting rallies for his team. I expect an adjustment to come quickly. A veteran, mature player, it seems that Robinson has the mental strength to weather the storm and improve.
A product of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, Kirtley has struggled to begin his professional career with the Cards. Stationed in the New York-Penn league with Hurst, Kirtley has scuffled in his first 21 games. He is currently slashing .178/.344/.274, with just 13 hits over his first 73 at-bats. Of course, it is still very, very early, but these numbers are pretty low for a 5th round selection. After collecting a signing bonus of $317,000, I’m sure the front office would have liked to see a better start.
On a positive note, Kirtley has an early opportunity to show his resolve. In a game defined by adjustments, the pressure is on to make his very first.
The first high-schooler selected by the Cardinals in 2017, Johnson has yet to debut for any of the Cardinals affiliates. A huge, physically talented catcher, it seems the Cardinals want to take the time in instructs to sharpen up his defensive skills. Incredibly young, such a move could really pay off down the line. If Johnson can ever connect his massive 6’5″ frame with the intricacies of the catcher position, he will be a hot commodity.
A four year senior out of Clemson, Pinder is currently playing for the Johnson City Cardinals in the Appalachian league. Of the first 5 draft picks of 2017, he is performing at the highest level. Specifically, he is slashing an extremely solid .318/.434/.432, having hit 7 doubles. An extremely solid and polished player, it is truly paying off in Rookie ball for Pinder.
Brother of Chad Pinder, who has seen solid time for the Oakland Athletics this year, perhaps the family pedigree is coming into play. Having a resource that truly understands the lived experience of Minor League baseball is very valuable, a resource that should work to Pinder’s advantage for the remainder of his development.
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