St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Countdown: Two Days

michaeldavidmiles
facebooktwitterreddit

We are down to only two days until pitchers and catchers report to St. Louis Cardinals’ Spring Training; anyone else excited?

While my goal has been to examine one player per day who excites me for the upcoming season in Memphis, I want to splurge a little here with this final post before I craft a recap post for the players examined in this countdown series.  Please don’t make effigies of me in the town square for this post but please do allow me to examine three names who will climb the pitcher’s mound in 2016 in Memphis.

Tim Cooney, LHP, 25 years old

First up, I simply couldn’t create a countdown post without examining the great Tim Cooney. Like Marco Gonzales before him, the big question surrounding Cooney is whether he will make a roster spot in St. Louis out of spring training or if he will start in Memphis.  My bet is with Memphis. Cooney was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Wake Forest in the 2012 draft.  He has been exclusively with the Cardinals organization in his career and has appeared in all levels of the organization.

Quick stats:

AA (2013)- 118.1 innings, 7 wins, 10 losses, 3.80 ERA

AAA (2014, 2015)- 246.2 innings, 20 wins, 10 losses, 3.21 ERA

MLB (2015)- 31.1 innings, 1 win, 0 losses, 3.16 ERA

Mar 2, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Tim Cooney (66) during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Tim Cooney (66) during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Cooney commands a 90.35-92.90 MPH four-seam fastball which is a respectable pitch.  He owns a respectable 65.3 percent of pitches for strikes showing that he isn’t afraid to go after batters.  This has helped him average only 2.93 pitches per plate appearance.  In other words, batters swing and put the ball in play against him. All of this seems to indicate that 2016 would have him in the “bigs,” and while this might well be true, there are some red flags.  First, Cooney pitches better at home than on the road 3.00 ERA at home compared to 3.48 on road (not too bad but…).  Also, he is much better facing right-handed batters (1.73 ERA) than left-handed batters (10.13 ERA).  These facts would indicate the need for some additional refinements in Memphis.

John Church, RHP, 29 years old

Feb 26, 2014; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets John Church poses during media day at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2014; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets John Church poses during media day at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports /

According to Baseball America and Derek Shore with The Cardinal Nation blog of Scout.com, the Cardinals signed John Church to a minor league deal on February 9, 2016.  Church comes to the Cardinals from the Mets and is set to add to Memphis’ pen.

When I first read this signing, I was actually really excited by it.  I see a guy who could benefit from a new start and one that could lead to him contributing to the majors when rosters expand.

Quick stats on this perennial pen pitcher:

AA (2013, 2014)- 59.2 innings, 4 wins, 4 losses, 3.32 ERA

AAA (2013, 2014, 2015)- 133.0 innings, 11 wins, 6 losses, 3.92 ERA

Church has yet to make his major league debut.  It appears that Church needs to work on his earned runs allowed (58 in AAA) and needs to cut down on walks (40 in AAA).  If he can do these things then perhaps Church could be a stamina addition in September.

Dean Kiekhefer, LHP, 26 years old (will turn 27 this season)

Mar 11, 2015; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Dean Kiekhefer (78) throws a pitch during a spring training baseball game at Champion Stadium. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2015; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Dean Kiekhefer (78) throws a pitch during a spring training baseball game at Champion Stadium. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Out of the University of Louisville, drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2007 and then again by the Cardinals in 2010 (36th round), Dean Kiekhefer has served the organization steadfastly as a minor league pitcher and one that I have watched personally.

When I first saw Kiekhefer, I honestly did not like him.  I didn’t like his command, I didn’t like his demeanor on the mound, and I felt like this kid was a bust.  What I didn’t know was that Kiekhefer was dealing with injury all while attempting to solidify his delivery.  I believe now that he is on an upward trajectory.

Quick stats:

AA (2013, 2014)- 31.0 innings, 0 wins, 4 losses, 4.06 ERA

AAA (2014, 2015)- 116.1 innings, 4 wins, 4 losses, 2.48 ERA

Kiekhefer has yet to make his MLB debut.  I am not yet inclined to think that he will make this debut in 2016.  This is not an indictment against him but I just don’t see it happening this season even after rosters expand.

More from St Louis Cardinals Prospects

The above statement stands, yet again, in opposition with our very own Steven McNeil’s Prospect article which predicts Kiekhefer as the heir to the LOOGY title vacated by Randy Choate.  If we go with this line of thinking, then Kiekhefer needs to keep batting averages to .195 against LH batters to match Choate.  Currently Dean’s performance against LH batters is sitting at a batting average of .267 which, to me, indicates a need of work in Memphis.

While I dislike mitigating any statement I make, should Kiekhefer lower his LH BA to a closer neighborhood to that of Choate then I could definitely see him breaking into the roster.  To that end, however, a stay in Memphis will help attain this goal if the logjam in the pen thins (see Landon Clapp’s roster article).

Thank you for allowing me to cheat and talk about three pitchers that I long to see in Memphis this season.  I think we will all be thrilled to watch them, and others, both in spring training and in Memphis or above.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals' Affiliation with Memphis

Follow me on twitter and look for my summation article to this whole countdown series to drop tomorrow.

facebooktwitterreddit