Last week, I took the time to offer progress reports for the 4 Cardinals prospects participating in the Arizona Fall League. Naturally, then, we will now turn to offense, evaluating the performance of the remaining 4 youngsters getting a chance in the AFL.
First and foremost, if you did not get a chance to read about the Cardinals pitching performance thus far in the Arizona Fall League, check out the first half of this article-pairing here.
To offer a bit of a summary, the organization sent 8 players to the Arizona Fall League, a list containing 4 pitchers and 4 field players. Regarding pitchers, Sandy Alcantara, Jordan Hicks, Josh Lucas, and Arturo Reyes have been toeing the rubber for the Saguaros. So far, their performance has been underwhelming statistically.
However, these pitchers, as my previous article outlines, are at a serious disadvantage for two reasons. First of all, they are simply tired, having pitched a ton of innings in the 2017 minor league season. Second of all, the hitting talent in the AFL is relatively elite, showcasing some of the best A and AA talent MLB organizations have to offer.
Now moving onto the field players, the Cardinals sent 4 players, each of which I will briefly evaluate in the body of this article.
Originally an outfielder in college, Knizner converted to Catcher during his freshman year. Since that point, he has thrived. In fact, in my mind, he has begun to enter the conversation regarding possible heirs for the great Yadier Molina, directly challenging the coveted Carson Kelly.
So far in the AFL, things have been no different. For the Saguaros, Knizner has been the second-best offensive performer, slashing an impressive .328/.381/.517. Along with that line, Knizner has smashed 2 doubles and 3 homeruns. Showing power and consistency, the converted catcher earned himself a spot in the AFL all-star team. Picking up where he left off after a stellar 2017 (combined .302/.349/.471), Knizner has cemented himself as a top prospect within the Cardinals organization.
After hitting .285 in advance A ball during 2017, Sosa, like Knizner, has also improved statistically during his stint in the AFL. Specifically, he is currently slashing .292/.333/.333, having hit 1 triple along the way. While Sosa has not showcased much power or lift from the plate aside from this triple (0 HRs and 0 2Bs), he plays solid defense and performs steadily at the plate.
While such a resume does not necessarily translate into today’s game, one seemingly gaining more and more focus on the “three true outcomes,” Sosa’s performance has been good nonetheless. Hopefully these extra reps will help him up those power numbers heading into 2017.
Perhaps the best known prospect of the four, Mercado has been just ok during his playing-time for the Saguaros. Compared to his 2017 slash line of .287/.341/.428, he has dipped slightly in performance. To be exact, through 64 at-bats in the AFL, his line stands at .266/.385/.313. While his average is obviously down, he is still showing tremendous patience and efficiency at the plate, getting on base at a higher clip than before.
For a player with tremendous physical tools at the plate and in the outfield, such maturation is extremely encouraging. With such a small sample size, don’t worry about the average, but focus on the aforementioned improvement. Furthermore, Mercado has hit 3 doubles, a solid number, but one we would like to see bolstered in his remaining time in Arizona.
A 34th round pick back in the 2014 for the Oakland A’s, it is a surprise in the first place that Nogowski is even in this position, playing amongst the Minor league’s best. After an incredibly steady, perhaps surprising 2017 campaign in AA (.295/.378/.382), Nogowski has slumped a little bit in the AFL. More specifically, he is slashing .250/.333/.417, with only 10 total bases to his name. Keep in mind, though, Nogowski has significantly less at-bats than the previously named prospects, having stepped up to the plate only 24 times for the Saguaros.
With this in mind, it is truly difficult to offer and viable sort of evaluation, for the sample size is simply too small. Moving forward, though, I expect Nogowski to turn it around, especially given his tremendous ability to adjust and overall experience with AA talent.
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