First of all, yesterday's performance by Braden Looper. Simply amazing. He has been the team's MVP of the season. His 1.33 win probability added is tops on the team by a good margin. That says a lot about him and also says something to the regrettable season long slump that has killed this team. Without Braden Looper, this team is about three games worse in the standings. He's certainly been the best story of the year to this point.
In case you haven't noticed, the Springfield Cardinals are loaded with some pretty exciting talent. Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia, Chris Perez, Tyler Greene, Jon Jay and this Joe Mather guy who's leading the Texas League in OPS by a good margin. A couple weeks ago I emailed beat writer Kary Booher of the Springfield News-Leader asking about some of these guys. Originally I had planned this interview to appear at Future Redbirds, but Kary and I both decided we'd like to see a few more Springfielders get to know VEB, and likewise VEB readers an idea of what is the haps down in Springfield.
So how has Springfield reacted to the Cardinals? It seems like a match made in heaven having the AA affiliate there.
Yes, it is Shangri-La. Springfield was always considered a Cardinal stronghold,with ties to the big-league club as early as 1930 when a Class D affiliate began a 12-year run here in the city. As you can imagine, Springfield fans have gone nuts supporting the team here. On Wednesday, May 9, they passed the 100,000 mark in attendance and there are still more than 50 home games to go, and there could be play offs down the road, too.
Colby Rasmus is there with the AA team at the young age of 20. What have you seen that makes him such a special prospect?
When you emailed me this, he was struggling. Since,he's caught fire. Season batting averages can be so misleading. I wrote about his recent tear this past week, you can find that story here.
You can tell why Rasmus is a legit prospect. At the plate, he is as disciplined as anyone in the league, and that is saying something for a guy barely removed from high school in a circuit that has always been pretty tough. He had a 13-pitch at-bat in early April and ended up doubling on a liner over the right-fielder's head. He really recognizes the strike zone.
Chris Perez has had an interesting debut. What have you seen that is so dominating about the way he pitches?
His slider. Perez can bring it with that heater of his, and it gets up to about 95, 96 on most nights. But he also throws a hard slider that buckles right-handed batters, and it's a great set-up pitch.
Joe Mather is tearing the cover off the ball. I think I heard either you or (play by play announcer) Mike Lindskog say this spring that he could be this season's Terry Evans. What could you attribute to his success so far?
Maturity, and that was pretty much the same story line as Evans last year. It wasn't that they were immature in nature, just young as pro baseball players. Fans should remember that Mather was signed out of high school and Evans after junior college. Like most players, it took time to get acclimated to pro-ball and have finally begun to showcase all of their tools. Most of Mather's success has been on home runs, but he also is showing some discipline at the plate. I also think he is comfortable now at his new position, first base, and that has allowed him to play very relaxed throughout.
Jaime Garcia has struggled some with command, but has had no trouble getting strike outs. What exactly has been his issue so far?
Jaime had a very good start a couple of Saturdays ago against Tulsa's Franklin Morales, a hard-throwing lefty that is highly thought of in the Rockies organization. But Jaime has 17 walks after his Wednesday night start, and that is half as many as he had all of last year. Part of it is a mechanical flaw in his delivery. He has a tendency to fall off toward the third base bag and that leaves his arm up, with the pitches unable to consistently be thrown for strikes. When he gets back to his old self, he should be fine, and that may not take too long. Jaime is as motivated as they come.
Some fans have been disappointed in 2004 #1 draft pick Chris Lambert's performance so far. What has been the issue with him that has prevented him from taking it to the next level?
When you emailed this in, it was April and Lambert was still here. But he has since been promoted to Memphis and will work out of that bullpen. I recently wrote a story on him and how he said and others in the organization felt he had learned to make adjustments. Instead of trying to blow everybody away with his fastball, which actually had lost some zip since his college days, he went back to relying on his change-up to set up everything and uses the fastball more as an out-pitch.
What's the fastest you've ever seen Dennis Dove clock on the gun last year?
I believe it was 97 MPH. The radar gun here is a little generous, but some have told me that Dove does get it up there. He's a great story because he has come from being a so-so starter in A-ball to a potentially solid shut-down reliever with a big-league fastball.
Do you have any idea at what point Cody Haerther will be back? And when he comes back,where will he play?
I spoke with Haerther, as well as the farm director recently and it appears Cody will join the Springfield club at some point on the next road trip that begins May 13. Springfield manager Pop Warner also is leaning toward playing him in right field in order to keep one of their better defensive outfielders, Jon Jay in left.
Bryan Anderson has been red-hot at the plate so far. We know he can hit. How would you rate him behind the plate?
He has a great release on his throws to second base. And it's hard to believe that this guy is only 20. There is much to like, with his bat and arm, however something that stood out to me on Wednesday night. He was catching Jaime Garcia, who threw a wild pitch that Anderson thought he should have stopped. The ball got by him and, by the time he located it, the runner from second base had come all the way to score. Anderson was very upset with himself. Some guys will play that off as if there was nothing that they could do about it. Anderson took it personally, a great sign from a guy that will be in a leadership position soon.
Anyone else that has really caught your eye?
Yes, I really like the way right-handed reliever Matt Scherer pitches. The guy got hit hard this a few Sundays ago (4/29), but that was one of his few bad outings. He's got great sink of his fastball and really pounds the lower-half. He may not get the strikeout numbers that he had last year in Palm Beach, but he's got the pitches that will get the ground-outs and that is an obvious preference in the Cardinals system.
Thanks to Kary for asking my questions, I hope that give y'all an idea of what's going on down there from a eyewitness perspective. For another eyewitness account, lboros has the health update for Memphis and tomorrow looks like he will have some info to share, as he was there for last night's 5-4 loss to Colorado Springs.