Memphis Redbirds are due for a successful 2024 season

After years of bringing up the rear in the Pacific Coast League and International League, the Redbirds could see great success this year.

Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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After seeing great success in the late 2010s, the Memphis Redbirds' past few seasons have been uninspiring. The St. Louis Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate lost in the Pacific Coast League Championship in 2017, and they won the league's championship in 2018. Both teams were led by Stubby Clapp, the Cardinals' current first base coach.

One would imagine that due to the Redbirds' success in 2017 and 2018 that those players would now be contributing to the St. Louis Cardinals and leading them to success. Those teams were led by batters such as Harrison Bader, Luke Voit, Patrick Wisdom, and Carson Kelly. Pitchers like Dakota Hudson, Zac Gallen, Ryan Helsley, Luke Weaver, and Sam Tuivailala carried the pitching unit.

Of that collection of regulars in Memphis in 2017, very few of them helped the St. Louis Cardinals succeed. All but Ryan Helsley are currently on another roster, and only Bader, Kelly, and Hudson played multiple seasons for the Cardinals.

The Memphis Redbirds have failed to finish better than 11th in their league since 2019 (the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID). The Redbirds moved to the International League, a league with 20 teams in total, in 2022. They have yet to place better than 5th in the division since the turn of the decade. Their .479 winning percentage is disappointing to look at.

While minor league success doesn't always translate to major league success, an organization's developmental affiliates should still aim for triumph. Creating a winning culture starts at the top of an organization, but if young players can experience success, they'll hunt for it in the majors.

Last year, plenty of individual players saw success in Memphis; Ivan Herrera had the best season of his career, Luken Baker smacked 33 home runs, and Masyn Winn put together a strong enough campaign to warrant a late-season call-up to the big leagues.

The pitchers, meanwhile, left a lot to be desired. In 134.1 innings, Michael McGreevy pitched to a 4.49 ERA with 160 hits allowed and only 107 strikeouts. Gordon Graceffo, the organization's #9 prospect according to MLB.com, threw 86 innings with a 4.92 ERA. He, too, struggled to strike out more than 1 batter per inning, a quality the Cardinals need in their starters.

A lack of talented pitchers at the high levels of the minors has plagued the Cardinals in recent years, but it has primarily bedeviled the Memphis Redbirds. The pitchers were the highlight of the 2017 and 2018 teams; that talent has been absent these past 3 seasons in Memphis.

The script for 2024 could be different. With cuts occurring on a weekly basis at Spring Training, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of who will be on the Memphis roster in 2024.

Once again, Luken Baker will play first base in Memphis. The remaining infield spots will be filled out by Cesar Prieto, Thomas Saggese, and Jared Young. Baker, Saggese, and Prieto could easily play in the majors right now, but the Cardinals' infield depth at that level squeezes them out of spots. Prieto is known for his contact skills and strong defense. Saggese will be spread around, but expect him to play third base often in Memphis. Baker will man first base, and one can assume that he will continue to mash offensively. Behind this assortment of infielders stands Jose Fermin, a player with MLB experience who has been tearing it up this spring.

In the outfield, one of the Cardinals' best prospects, Victor Scott II (#4 prospect per MLB.com), will handle center field. Scott, 23, narrowly missed making St. Louis's Opening Day roster. In addition to the speedy Scott, the Redbirds will employ Moies Gomez, a true power threat, in the corner outfield.

The pitching staff will likely include Gordon Graceffo and Michael McGreevy again, but the remainder of the staff will largely be filled with players whom the Cardinals acquired last offseason. Sem Robberse, Adam Kloffenstein, and Drew Rom will all see time in the rotation. Connor Thomas will fill in. Once Sonny Gray returns from injury, either Zack Thompson or Matthew Liberatore are at risk of joining Memphis, only deepening the rotation at this level.

Altogether, the Redbirds should see better results next year. There are several players who will be starting in Memphis but stand a chance of making the major league roster. These talented players will carry the team. Also, for as "cheaty" as this sounds, the Cardinals have several key players who are hurt right now (Sonny Gray, Lars Nootbaar, and Tommy Edman); these regulars will have to get some rehab games in, and there's no better place for that than Memphis, Tennessee.

After half of a decade of poor output from the St. Louis Cardinals' top minor league affiliate, it's time for the Memphis Redbirds to see some success. The team was once a goldmine of talent that led to success. Hopefully, the 2024 script is written similarly to those of 2017 and 2018.

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