This week, I've called on Cardinals fans to submit their minors related questions in a new mailbag-type article. The minor league season is winding down (about 3 week left) and we need to start thinking about late season promotions, players of the year, etc. All things covered in this edition.
The rules for the Rule 5 draft are somewhat confusing as a player younger than 18 when signed becomes Rule 5 eligible on the 5th Draft after he signed, while a player 19 or older when drafted becomes eligible on the 4th draft after he signed. So it appears we are looking at high school draftees in 2011 and college draftees in 2012. There are a couple of notable names, including Charlie Tilson, Patrick Wisdom, and Jacob Wilson. Tilson may be more appealing because of his speed. C.J. McElroy would also be eligible, but I believe he is too far away from the major leagues. I believe Wilson will be added to the 40-man roster in September, to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
@CardinalsFarm Trying to think of best way to ask, but what is the outlook for Kiekhefer? Do you think he's got the stuff to make it up?— Casual Observer (@Apartment_2F) August 18, 2015
Dean Kiekhefer is an intriguing left handed arm who could make his case for LOOGY next season (as long as that position is not eliminated by Rob Manfred) with a possibility of a September call-up this season. For the Memphis Redbirds this year, Kiekhefer has limited lefties to a .586 OPS. Here are his ERA's over the last 4 seasons: 2.24, 3.43, 2.92, and 2.39 this year. Randy Choate is a free agent after this season which could open the door for Kiekhefer.
The Peoria Chiefs are loaded with talent, but the best investment autograph would be Jack Flaherty. Flaherty is now probably the Cards #3 prospect behind Alex Reyes and Stephen Piscotty and has a very high ceiling. Over 75 innings this season, he has a 2.52 ERA and 74 strikeouts. Austin Gomber, Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, and Oscar Mercado aren't bad choices either.
@CardinalsFarm I'd love for you to handicap the org's offensive player of the year during the mailbag— Kyle Reis (@kyler416) August 18, 2015
On the mound, Luke Weaver may have just pulled ahead, thanks to a strong July that has spilled over to August. Since July 1st, Weaver is 5-1 with a 0.65 ERA and 39 strikeouts compared to 4 walks in 41 2/3 innings. On the season, Weaver is at a 1.78 ERA and just 15 walks. Of course, Alex Reyes will get a look, too. Over 19 starts between three levels, Reyes is 3-6 with a 2.51 ERA and a 13.5 K/9 rate.
@CardinalsFarm Is there a position player you think will switch to the mound in the next year a la Tuivailala?— Chris Jackson (@chrisjack_son) August 18, 2015
This may be an unpopular opinion, but Carson Kelly could be the next to make the switch. While his defense behind the plate as been solid according to reports, his bat has yet to come around at Palm Beach. After a strong July which saw him slash .257/.289/.429 (easily his best month), he is back to .167/.189/.250 for August. He pitched in high school and could become the next project, along with Rowan Wick and Gerwuins Velazco (two former catchers who are now pitching).
@CardinalsFarm Is Magneuris Sierra still the highest upside OF in the system? Compare Sierra-Plummer-Tilson?— Chris Jackson (@chrisjack_son) August 18, 2015
If you are going by upside, I think it is still Sierra. Although his slugging isn't where you might want it, Sierra has a .796 OPS for the Johnson City Cardinals this season after struggling to have a .466 OPS for Peoria earlier this year. Plummer isn't far behind in the upside category, while Tilson is a "safer" pick. Tilson's floor appears to be as a fourth outfielder, while his ceiling may be a starting center fielder.
More glaring weakness in organizational depth, SS or C? https://t.co/3gpGJZzY8T— Art Lippo (@ArtLippo) August 18, 2015
While SS may be weaker at the higher levels, there are a couple of intriguing options lower, like Edmundo Sosa and Oscar Mercado. With that said, Aledmys Diaz has rebounded quite nicely and has a.925 OPS since July 1st. Behind the plate, the struggles of Carson Kelly were noted above and there really isn't a high upside back stop in the system. Steve Bean hasn't progressed much, while guys like Brian O'Keefe, Chris Chinea, and Jesse Jenner are solid catchers, but limited in their future.
I would say Round 1 of the Minors Mailbag was a success! Thanks for those who asked the great questions and look for this segment to return maybe once a month. On Thursday, I will try and give you a preview of players who could see time in the 2015 Arizona Fall League.
Thanks for reading!