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How are St. Louis Cardinals prospects performing in the Arizona Fall League?

Now that the 2014 campaign is over it's time to look towards the future of the Cardinals organization.

Sam Tuivailala
Sam Tuivailala

The Arizona Fall League has long been a litmus test for the future stars of the game to get some extra baseball into their offseason schedule against good competition. The Cardinals have generally used their AFL designations to work out players who might have missed some time the previous season or to test out AA players who might get a non-roster invite to Jupiter come February.

The 2014 group is mostly players who had solid 2014 campaigns and are likely to see time with the big league club this spring but haven't seen much action above the A+ or AA levels of the minors up to this point:


Tyrell Jenkins (SP)

Mitch Harris (RP)

Chris Perry (RP)

Sam Tuivailala (RP)


Position Players:

Jacob Wilson (2B)

C.J McElroy (OF)

Breyvic Valera (2B)

Cody Stanley (C)


Charlie Tilson was slated for McElroy's spot before a foot injury the last week in August ended his season and McElroy has taken some advantage of being his replacement, mostly by drawing 5 walks in his 20 plate appearances. The strikeout rate is a concern for a guy who basically can't hit anything but singles, but McElroy's game is speed: if he can figure out a way to reach base in an A.J. Ellis-esque style (read: somehow draw a crazy amount of walks without being able to hit a lick) his defense is enough to provide some value.  I'm just not sure that he's ever going to amount to much and his struggles with Peoria this year.

Sam Tuivailala got a cup-of-coffee with the big league club in September before reporting to Arizona -- apparently Mozeliak and company wanted to see if his 102 mph heater could help them at all come October. The experiment didn't go well for Sam and he's continued to struggle in the AFL, getting hit pretty hard thus far in his 5 innings of work for the Javelinas. He's allowed a baserunner per inning thus far (4 hits and 2 BB) while striking out just 2 hitters -- not exactly what you want to see from a guy the Cardinals will be auditioning for a bullpen role come March.

Chris Perry has a stellar 2014 in the low minors, but has also struggled with command in the AFL, walking 5 of the 21 hitters he's faced in 4.2 innings while striking out just 2 hitters over that span. If the Cardinals were hoping that one of these two were going to help fill out the bullpen in 2015, this is not the type of performance you would want to see from them in the AFL.

Mitch Harris is not a name familiar to many F-R readers, despite being drafted in 2008. That's due to a stint in the Navy after graduating from the Naval Academy. The 28 year old was solid across three levels of the minors in 2014, ending with a short stint for playoff bound Memphis at the end of the year. He's got a solid pitch mix and has pitched a bit better than the previous two relievers so far in the AFL, striking out 5 against 2 walks and 3 hits facing 17 hitters over 4.2 innings of work. Harris' dominance across multiple levels is similar to that of Lee Stoppelman last year -- hopefully his 2015 season starts off better than Stoppelman's 2014 campaign did.

The two Cardinals making the most of their AFL stints so far are Tyrell Jenkins and Jacob Wilson. Joe wrote about Jenkins' first start a couple of weeks back, and his second start was just more of the same: Flashing 92-95 on the radar gun with a hard two seamer with sinking action and good command of all his offerings. In 8.1 innings over two starts, Jenkins has an a 9 strikeouts and just a single base on balls while scattering 8 hits and allowing 2 unearned runs, both in his second start. As Joe stated, he's likely to start the 2015 season in AA and if he continues to shine like he has in the second half of 2014, the former top 50 selection will certainly be making some big league noise in the not-so-distant future.

Jacob Wilson has continued to rake as he did all season in both the Florida State and Texas league.  The 24 year old was a fairly unheralded prospect coming into the season but is just another in a long line of infielders to come out of nowhere in the Cardinal system the last half decade. He hit .305/.366/.519 with Springfield in the second half of the season and has continued to stay hot in the AFL: .367/.424/.533 in 33 PA's to lead the entire league in hitting. It's hard to say whether he's a potential regular at the big league level, but Wilson's ability to play both 2B and 3B at an average level defensively could make him a potential 4th infielder should he continue to hit.  If the club finally decides to cut ties with Descalso that will likely open up a spot for regular playing time in Memphis for Wilson in 2015 with the possibility of a cup of coffee late next year should his bat transition well to the AAA level.

The other interesting infield prospect among this group is Breyvic Valera, who can play multiple infield positions like Wilson, as well as all three outfield positions, while demonstrating an uncanny ability to avoid strikeouts thus far in his professional career. A slappy hitter like McElroy, Valera doesn't have C.J.'s strikeout problems, has elite bat to ball skills, and his utility on defense makes him a pretty valuable player regardless of whether he's ever able to hit for power. Imagine a speedier Jon Jay who can play 7 of the 9 positions on the field without embarrassing himself and you have a glimpse at Valera's ceiling as a player.

Cody Stanley came out of nowhere offensively this season, having finally figured out an approach that works for him at that plate. He hit .283/.340/.429 on the season with Springfield, splitting his time between catching and DHing for most of the season, likely keeping his legs fresh for later in the year. He's got just 4 singles in 19 PA's in the AFL, but struck out just once. By virtue of being a left handed hitting catcher who is average defensively, Stanley should get a long look at Memphis this year as a potential backup to Yadi during his sunset years but doesn't really profile as much more than a backup unless his offensive outburst at lefty friendly Hammons Field continues into 2015.

We'll be doing a full wrap up on the AFL when it concludes in a week or so, looking at who got a bounce going into the winter months and who still has some work to do.


Editor's Note:

All Future Redbirds content will be moving to a new posting schedule starting this week: F-R posts will run Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Future Redbird posts will no longer run as VEB Daily content and will instead run as standalone posts in an attempt to drive more prospect talk in the comments section.  If you have any questions or post ideas of the F-R editors feel free to email me at the email listed on my profile page.