With the offseason having truly arrived, one would think that nothing important is happening within the Cardinals organization. Much to the contrary, the Fall League season is in full swing, and 4 Cardinals pitching prospects are working to prove themselves.
After taking a little time to digest that unbelievably wild World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, it seems like a vacation from baseball is certainly in order. For fans and players alike, the offseason seems especially necessary after the wild, homerun filled 2017.
While such a desire for a break is understandable, the life of a Minor League prospect knows no such thing. The dream is omnipresent, and the work never stops. Players take the offseason to get stronger, sharpen mentally, and improve upon weaknesses. While the arena for such work may vary, its a lifestyle that every baseball player with which all players can identify.
For some lucky players, the arena for offseason improvement is a little more competitive. Specifically, a select few from each MLB organization have the honor of playing in the Arizona Fall league. Though its a short season, the AFL provides the ultimate chance to prove oneself as a legitimate prospect. Playing amongst the best of the best from (usually) the AA level, the competition is fierce.
While it may seem as if the AFL is not that important, just look at this way. By keeping up, you may have a chance to peer into the future, to see some of the stars of tomorrow. For example, George Springer, the 2017 World series MVP (in impressive fashion, at that), was a standout for the Mesa Solar Sox way back in 2012.
Now moving to the Cardinals, let’s take a look at their 2017 participants. The organization sent 8 players to the Surprise Saguaros , a list containing 4 pitchers and 4 others. From here, the article will briefly check up on each pitcher, with the second round of offensive evaluations coming in the near future.
Having started 4 games for the Saguaros, the highly touted prospect has been a tad underwhelming so far. After 11 innings, fourth most on the squad, he is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA, with 8 walks along the way. While you’d like to see a little more dominance out of Alcantara, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First of all, pitchers are at a severe disadvantage, having pitched a ton of innings during the preceding regular season. For Alcantara, the story is no different. He threw over 130 innings in 2017, so he is no exception. Second of all, and building off this first point, the AFL is full of elite Minor League offensive talent. Overall, this arena is tough for pitchers, no matter the talent level.
The second pitcher sent by the Cardinals, Hicks is having a tough time in relief so far in the Fall League. In 11.2 innings out of the pen, Hicks has a 8.49 ERA, having allowed 17 hits and 11 earned runs. After posting an 8-2 record in A ball this year, it seems that the increased competition has offered a rude awakening to the youngster. At the very least, this will offer solid motivation for the remainder of his offseason, for he now has a solid idea of the level necessary for success in the future.
A 26 year old Minor Leaguer, the former 21st round pick had an incredible year for the AAA Memphis Redbirds. Posting an 8-1 record and earning a cup of coffee in the big leagues, it would seem that Lucas is well-fit to thrive in the Fall League. Unfortunately, this has not been the case thus far. With a 6.43 ERA through 7 appearances out of the pen, Lucas has given up 6 runs in 7 innings pitched. Hopefully he can turn it around in the remaining games of the AFL season.
Unfortunately, Reyes is not an exception in the somewhat underperforming group of Cardinals prospects. In 9 innings of relief, Reyes has yielded 12 hits and 6 earned runs. On the positive side, however, Reyes has had some good stuff, striking out 8 batters during his AFL tenure. Of the four pitchers sent, it seems to me that Reyes had the lowest expectations, having performed only decently in AAA during 2017. More specifically, he posted a 5-5 record for Memphis, starting 6 games but mainly pitching in relief. Originally a 40th round pick out of Gonzaga, it’s honestly impressive that Reyes has even made it this far. A true underdog, I truly hope that he can put together some solid performances before the season’s end.
Although the performances have not been stellar thus far, please take the results with a grain of salt. As I have previously mentioned tired arms and solid offensive are two of many disadvantages pitchers face in the fall league. What truly matters is the experience, the chance to show their stuff and throw against top-notch competition from around the league.