Welcome to the second installment of why Future Redbirds' Daily Farm Reports are still worth checking. Last week's post covered the top three levels of the system, so we'll deal with the bottom half today. I'm basically highlighting players who are the most intriguing to me on the Peoria, State College, and Johnson City rosters. For that reason, you won't find any comments about Marco Gonzales or Rob Kaminsky here even though they could push their way onto one of these rosters before the end of the season. Because very little data exists for most of these players, we're forced to operate on upside rather than performance, so it's harder to legitimize the talent at these levels. I've inevitably overlooked some players, so please discuss them in the comments section.
Peoria's outfield features a couple of toolsy players in C.J. McElroy and Charlie Tilson, both of whom the Cardinals signed above slot following the 2011 draft. Tilson was taken in the second round while McElroy was selected in the third. Tilson lost all of 2012 to shoulder surgery but has handled the majority of playing time in center field lately. Tilson strikes out much less (14% K-rate) than the average Midwest Leaguer (19%), but he also walks less (5%) and struggles to elevate the ball, leaving him with power numbers that closely resemble Mike O'Neill. With nearly sixty percent of his batted balls being grounders and a .328 BABIP, I'd guess that his reasonable batting average (.286) has been maintained by a sizable amount of infield hits. McElroy, meanwhile, has generated more fly balls but not many of them have resulted in extra bases. Both players are still just twenty years old, so they could turn a corner at any point.
In December, I argued that Patrick Wisdom should have been one of our top-20 Cardinals prospects based on his excellent defensive reputation and impressive power. Wisdom has somewhat justified my ranking since then by continuing to hit for power even though his strikeouts have increased by five percent and his numbers are less impressive relative to his league. It's hard to convince myself that his numbers are being unjustly dragged down by a .284 BABIP when he's missing so often (26% K-rate) and hitting so few line drives (12%).
McElroy, Tilson, and Wisdom might have the better name recognition, but Jacob Wilson has been the superior player. Wilson has combined above average walk (10%) and strikeout rates (13%) with decent pop (.193 ISO ranks 10th in Midwest League), making him Peoria's best hitter. He's performed at a level that's 23% better than league average (123 wRC+) while handling most of the innings at second base.
Samuel Tuivailala and Robert Stock are trying to make good on their conversion to pitching from third base and catcher, respectively. Tuivailala's process is looking better than his results at this point as demonstrated by his 6.43/2.77 ERA/FIP in 21 innings. Stock, conversely, had a 2.30/3.77 ERA/FIP in 15.2 innings before being promoted to Palm Beach on July 7th. They are both generating strikeouts (>25% K-rate) but fighting control issues (>10% BB-rate).
Something happened to Silfredo Garcia in 2012 when he jumped from the Venezuelan and Dominican summer leagues to the states. Previously, Garcia had struck out fewer than 20% of the batters he faced, but that number increased to 28% in 66.1 innings split between the GCL and Johnson City rookie teams. His outstanding control (2% BB-rate) and worm-killing ways (62% GB-rate) made his stats all the more impressive. Despite peripherals that have trended in the wrong direction, Garcia has still struck out almost three times as many batters as he's walked. It's strange that he has already hit nine batters in 46.1 innings this season given his otherwise elite control. Keep tabs on Garcia to see if he can reclaim some of his bat-missing ability.
State College Spikes
Offensively, Carson Kelly and Mason Katz are State College's obvious headliners. Still raw at just 19-years-old (as of July 14th), Kelly's power hasn't been on par with his rookie ball performance. Nevertheless, I remain encouraged by Kelly's ability to make contact and slightly improved patience. Mason Katz's professional career is just getting under way. He has two extra base hits - both doubles - in fourteen games played, but apparently has legitimate power with the caveat of a long swing.
Jimmy Bosco, a 5'9'' outfielder drafted by the Cardinals in this year's 13th round, has already hit for the cycle and owns a .403 wOBA. That's the good news. The bad news is that he has struck out 25% of the time and has only stepped up to the plate ninety-five times, so he needs to do this for awhile longer to be taken seriously.
Cesar Valera, signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, has already exceeded his extra base total from 2012 in half of the chances (100 plate appearances), which is enough to turn heads when you play shortstop and are just old enough to drink alcohol. Valera hasn't walked much (4% walk-rate) but his improved contact (16% K-rate) and extra base hits (1 HR, 9 doubles, and 3 triples) have made him State College's most productive (.438 wOBA) player thus far.
State College's pitching staff includes this year's sixth and ninth round draft picks in Jimmy Reed and Nick Petree. Reed has only allowed two earned runs in thirteen innings that have included twelve strikeouts and just one walk. Petree has already appeared four games. He's lasted four innings in each of them and will take fifteen strikeouts and four walks into his next outing.
Johnson City Cardinals
The position players who intrigue me the most at this level are Steve Bean and Lance Jeffries. Bean, a 19-year-old left-handed hitting catcher, walked (15%) and struck out (28%) quite a bit in 154 plate appearances split between the GCL and Johnson City last season. Even though he is listed as an active player on JC's roster, he has not taken any at-bats since June 20th. I'm not sure what the reason is for that, but hopefully he'll return to action soon.
Lance Jeffries, a toolsy outfielder who is still just 20 years old, has looked overmatched so far in his professional career. In 350+ plate appearances, he has struck out at a 35% clip, a rate that does not appear to be improving over time.
Kenneth Peoples-Walls, a fourth-round pick from 2011, has the discussion threads buzzing because of a .433 wOBA. Rational minds will point to the 88 plate appearances and .458 BABIP as reasons for pessimism, but for those of you who prefer optimism, Peoples-Walls is still just 19 years old and has already hit as many home runs (2) and more doubles (6) than he hit all of last season in half of the plate appearances.
The headliner of Johnson City's pitching staff might be Alexander Reyes, an 18-year-old who was signed by the Cardinals out of the Dominican Republic last December. Only four games (and 16.1 innings) into his minor league career, Reyes has posted decent overall numbers (3.86/3.69 ERA/FIP) with exciting strikeout potential (31% K-rate) but lackluster control (16% BB-rate). It will be fun to see if he can put together more outings like the one on June 26th when everything seemingly clicked, resulting in one hit, one walk, and eleven strikeouts in six scoreless innings.