While the big league team is off to a great start, it’s important to keep track of the kids on the farm. Heading into the season, the Cardinals featured a highly-ranked minor league system. The team has a lot of depth at the pitching position, including elite arms like Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, and Carlos Martinez. The team also featured Oscar Taveras, but what it lacks in other elite offensive options, it makes up for in depth. Today I will look at how the team has looked thus far and each Saturday there will be a recap of the following week.
The Redbirds are off to a sluggish start. With a 4-11 record, they are in third place in the American Northern division. They’ve seen expectedly strong play from Matt Adams, who has hit three home runs through the first 15 games. His OPS sits at .997 and his .440 wOBA is good for 14th in the Pacific Coast League. With an unsustainable .429 BABIP, his numbers could come down, but it is encouraging that he has started the season so strong. Unfortunately, he’s the only offensive contributor showing positive results. Two interesting players to look at are Bryan Anderson and Zack Cox. They’ve both been awful to start the season, producing wOBAs of .110 and .196 respectively. However, Anderson has a BABIP of .071, while Cox’s sits at .188. These both hint at strong improvements from both players. The biggest issue for the Redbirds offense has been strikeouts. Every starter but Adron Chambers and Cedric Hunter have a K-rate over 20%. On the flip-side, only Chambers and Anderson have walk-rates over 10%. The Redbirds will need to be more patient at the plate to turn things around.
The pitching has produced mixed results. In the rotation, Brandon Dickson and Joe Kelly have started the year exceptionally well, but top prospect Shelby Miller’s control has been questionable. He is still putting up strong strikeout totals, but he is walking too many players in the young season. The bullpen is showing signs of being able to produce good depth for the major league team in the event of an injury. Chuckie Fick, Nick Greenwood, Barrett Browning, and RJ Swindle have been especially effective, with all three producing sub3 ERAs. Fick and Swindle have also produced LOB% of 100%.
The Springfield Cardinals have started a little better than their AAA counterpart. Their 8-6 record has them sitting in second place in the Texas League Northern division. Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras, and Rainel Rosario have been off to great offensive starts, with all three posting OPSes over 1. Wong, Rosario, Xavier Scruggs, Niko Vazquez, and Greg Garcia have put up tremendous walk rates, all over 10%. Scruggs, Vazquez, Rosario, Garcia, and Nick Derba have put up shoddy K-rates over 20%.
John Gast and Scott Gorgen have come out strong in the rotation. They both have ERAs under 2.75 and K-rates over 8.75. The rotation in general has been very adept at striking opposing hitters, with only Michael Blazek failing to top the 8 K mark. The bullpen has been phenomenal. Jorge Rendon, Sam Freeman, Keith Butler, Jesse Simpson, and Eric Fornataro have ERAs under 2.25, with Rondon and Fornatoro not allowing any earned runners so far. Every member of the bullpen has an exceptional LOB% aside from Scott Schneider. If the pitching staff stays strong, the Springfield team looks to put together a great season.
The Palm Beach Cardinals have had a bad start to the season. With a 5-8 record, they sit in last place in the FSL Southern division. The offense is pretty poor with the exception of Chris Edmondson and no one has abnormally low BABIPs so it appears that everyone is playing to their ability. Starlin Rodriguez, Patrick Elkins, Mike O’Neill, and Chris Edmondson have put up quality wOBAs so there is definitely a hope for an offensive turnaround.
The pitching staff has been pretty solid overall. Richard Castillo, Seth Maness, and Carlos Martinez have ERAs under 3 and Martinez and Drew Benes have K/9 rates over 10. The bullpen doesn’t appear to have any potential major leagues, but everyone aside from Zach Russell have exceptional FIPs.
The Quad Cities River Bandits are off to the best start of the minor league affiliates. They have a 10-5 record and are currently in first place in the Midwest League Western division. Every offensive starter with the exception of Luis Mateo and Roberto Reyes have OBPs over 3. Designated hitter Colin Walsh has been fantastic across the board. He’s walking in 12.3% of plate appearances and striking out in the same amount His OPS ists at .874 and his low .222 BABIP shows that he could actually improve on his numbers.
The starting rotation has three great starters in Hector Hernandez, Sam Gaviglio, and Tyrell Jenkins. Jenkins has only pitched in five innings as the Cardinals are obviously playing it safe with the young hurler. With Heath Wyatt, Danny Miranda, and Logan Billbrough, the Bandits have three relievers who haven’t allowed any earned runs. Relievers Ethan Cole and Brandon Creath have added to the bullpen effectiveness with ERAs of 0.73 and 1 respectively.
We’ll check back in next week and see how the teams progress. Until then, we can watch and hope that the major league team continues its hot start.