The St. Louis Cardinals have had a number of quality prospects in double-A Springfield through the first month of the season. Some are looking forward to a possible promotion, while others are off to a horrid start. This is your guide to the Springfield Cardinals first month of the season.
The expectations for the St. Louis Cardinals double-A affiliate were high when the rosters were originally announced. Considering that four of the team’s five starting pitchers are ranked in the top fifteen of organizational prospects, the expectations are justified.
Some minds thought that the offense would struggle as it was sort of pieced together with guys that were not quite good enough to make the Memphis team and guys who saw promotions through other prospects rising through the organization at a quick pace. However, the offense has been the least of concerns in 2017 so far.
The Springfield Cardinals rank in the top three in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, and on-base percentage through the first month of 2017. I guess this may not be too surprising due to the proven minor league hitters they have. However, there have been multiple players who have seen positive development in their careers early on this season.
Outfielder Oscar Mercado (.328/.400/.534, 4 HR, 13 RBI): Mercado was highly touted after being drafted in the 2013 MLB June Amateur draft. Out of Gaither high school in Tampa, Florida, Mercado has seen his fair share of struggles through five years in the minors.
An amazing turnaround season has people mentioning Mercado as a possible promotion candidate. Unfortunately for him, there seems to be a log jam of outfielders ahead of him, but at 22-years-old there is plenty of time to keep developing. He is neck-and-neck with Magneuris Sierra in defensive ability, which is a huge compliment.
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Starting Pitcher Jack Flaherty (5-0, 0.69 ERA, 40 K, 0.737 WHIP): Unlike Mercado, this first-round draft pick has seen success at every level he’s been at in his young career. Flaherty has been the most dominant player in the Texas League this season and should be a sure fire all-star. He is averaging right at a strikeout per inning, with his best outing coming from his last start. Flaherty struck out 12 NW Arkansas Natural batters en route to the victory, also only allowed two hits. The St. Louis Cardinals front office is licking their chops with Flaherty waiting in the wings.
Shortstop Alex Mejia (.291/.325/.427, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 13 2Bs): Mejia is a player I have been critical of over the last season watching Springfield Cardinals games. He had a slash line of .218/.274/.276 in 44 games so there is obvious improvement early on this season.
Mejia has been an XBH machine leading the Texas League in doubles (13). His glove has also been super impressive making a number of highlight plays.
Starting Pitcher Sandy Alcantara (2-2, 6.27 ERA, 1.576 WHIP, 6 HR allowed): Oh, Sandy. The golden child of St. Louis Cardinals Twitter. There is obvious talent there, but can we hold up on calling him the next big thing.
The jump to double-A has not fared well for Alcantara through the first month. A large amount of runs given up with numerous high pressure innings due to lack of control. His worst two outings have allowed runs of seven and six, but there have been flashes of brilliance.
Second basemen Eliezer Alvarez (.241/.337/.367, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 30 K): When I saw the Springfield roster, I was excited to see Alvarez. In his last three minor league seasons, he has hit at least .314 in each season proving himself as a run producer.
This year has been disappointing, both offensively and defensively for Alvarez. A strikeout percentage of 23.7 is bad enough, but top that off with eight errors lands Alvarez on this cold list.
Pitcher Trey Nielsen (6 appearances, 8.2 IP, 6.23 ERA, 6 HR allowed, 1.385 WHIP): It was extremely difficult to pick a relief pitcher for this spot. I considered labeling the entire bullpen as cold, but that would be unfair to Corey Baker and Kevin Herget.
Last season, Nielsen was a bright spot for Springfield as a starter. However, he has to figure out the whole bullpen thing though. Six home runs in nearly nine innings is not okay at any level. I would not be surprised to see team manager Johnny Rodriguez start Nielsen if one of his starting pitchers sees a promotion.
Springfield currently sits at second place in the Texas League North division. If they want to repeat as first half champions, they badly need the bullpen to come around. Will the offense hold up their great performance through next couple months? That’s another area that needs to keep progressing for this team to compete.