Memphis Redbirds (AAA)
Memphis climbed to only one game back of the Omaha Storm Chasers with a couple of wins over the weekend. Memphis has five games remaining with the Storm Chasers between 8/16 and 8/20, their only home games for the rest of the season.
WIth a league-high thirteen shutouts and fourth-ranked ERA (3.97), pitching is Memphis' strength. The rotation for the stretch-run won't include Michael Wacha, however, as he is being converted to St. Louis' bullpen. That will leave Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons as the team's best starting pitchers with the rest of the rotation rounded out by Boone Whiting, Nick Additon, and Scott McGregor.
Offensively, the team couldn't get back Oscar Taveras soon enough. Rick Hummel has good news on that front, by the way. Of the other five guys performing above league-average, only Kolten Wong (119 wRC+) is under 27 years old. It'll help having Brock Peterson (146 wRC+) back in the lineup, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets called back to St. Louis at some point, as the Cardinals still haven't found someone to become that right-handed power bat off the bench. In a small sample, Mike O'Neill has held his own (110 wRC+). True to form, all of O'Neill's hits have been singles and he's walked more than he's struck out.
Springfield Cardinals (AA)
Springfield is in a three-way tie for the second-half standings. The last ten games of their season will be played against the two teams they are battling for the division lead, Tulsa and Arkansas.
Even though Springfield has just the fourth best ERA (3.72), they are the cream of the Texas League crop when it comes to issuing walks and striking out batters. That's partially because of players like Kevin Siegrist and Keith Butler who have since been promoted, but Tim Cooney (25% K-rate, 4% BB-rate) can also take some of the credit.
Springfield has a pretty decent offense, being one of three teams to score 500+ runs. Some of that can be attributed to Springfield's run environment, but nevertheless, they are second in home runs, walks, and OPS. They'll be without two of their top batsmen (Thomas Pham and Mike O'Neill), so they'll have to rely on three true outcome hero, Xavier Scruggs (139 wRC+, 55% TTO) and a solid supporting cast of James Ramsey (126 wRC+), Stephen Piscotty (119wRC+), and 30-year-old Ruben Gotay (126 wRC+) to keep putting runs on the board.
Palm Beach Cardinals (A+)
Palm Beach is tied in the second-half standings thanks to an eight game winning streak that had taken them from under .500 to 26-and-18 before losing on Friday. Of course, that eight game streak was preceded by a six game losing streak and now they've lost three more games in a row, so they haven't been a model of consistency. Charlotte and St. Lucie are the two teams challenging Palm Beach, so they'll have to fend them off for eleven of the remaining twenty-one games.
Palm Beach doesn't look to dominate the league in any category, but it does have two players performing fifty percent above league-average in Jonathan Rodriguez (154 wRC+) and David Popkins (150 wRC+). Since 2006, Palm Beach has only had three other players with 300+ plate appearances enjoy that kind of success: Allen Craig in 2007 (146 wRC+), Daryl Jones in 2008 (152 wRC+), and Mike O'Neill in 2012 (150 wRC+).
While Palm Beach's pitching isn't flashy, it does have a stingy Joe Cuda (career 5% BB-rate) and newly promoted Marco Gonzales to throw at the opposition. In his first two starts for Palm Beach, Gonzales has allowed two runs on seven hits, two walks, and six strikeouts over seven innings pitched.
State College Spikes (A-)
At eight games above .500, State College is two games back of the Jamestown Jammers, a Pittsburgh affiliate they will play six more times before the end of the season. If State College can't win the division, they can still enter the playoffs as a wild card team as they are currently a half game up on the Lowell Spinners.
State College is a solid team that leads the New York-Penn League in OPS (.722) on the strength of tons of doubles and few strikeouts. They have a whole slew of hitters performing well but the marquee names include Carson Kelly (122 wRC+) and Mason Katz (129 wRC+). With only four home runs in 350+ minor league plate appearances this year, Kelly hasn't flashed as much power but continues to make strong contact, which would seem to be a positive sign for such a young player.
State College also leads the league in ERA (2.53) despite being in the middle of the pack in terms of walks and strikeouts. Nick Petree (0.97/2.90 ERA/FIP) and Jimmy Reed (1.97/2.92 ERA/FIP) have been outstanding (before Reed was roughed up on Sunday). While Petree has struck out more batters, Reed has the superior strikeout-to-walk ratio because of better control. Both pitchers have kept the ball on the ground more than fifty percent of the time.