The 26th annual Arizona Fall League will begin Tuesday, October 10, as all six teams will be in action. For one of those teams, the Surprise Saguaros, eight of its 37 players will be hailing from the Cardinals organization.
Of the eight Cardinals who will be playing for the Saguaros this fall, there are four pitchers — Sandy Alcantara, Jordan Hicks, Josh Lucas, and Arturo Reyes — catcher Andrew Knizner, outfielder Oscar Mercado, and infielders Edmundo Sosa and John Nogowski.
Alcantara and Lucas made their Major League debuts this season, each working briefly out of the bullpen for St. Louis. Alcantara, rated as the ninth-overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, pitched in eight games for the Cardinals. Alcantara allowed four earned runs across 8 1⁄3 innings but enjoyed a span of five scoreless appearances from September 12-25. At Double-A Springfield this season, Alcantara worked in 25 games (22 starts), logging 125 1⁄3 innings with a 4.31 ERA and 106 punchouts.
The 26-year-old Lucas pitched in 40 games for the PCL Champion Memphis Redbirds this season, converting 17 saves in 20 chances. Lucas performed to a 2.85 FIP in 60 innings with the Redbirds and logged in 7 1⁄3 innings out of the big-league bullpen. Lucas’ most important outing for St. Louis came in the final series of the season, when he tossed two scoreless innings in an outing against the Brewers.
Hicks, the seventh-rated pitching prospect in the system, combined to go 8-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 105 innings of work between Class-A Peoria and High-A Palm Beach. With Peoria in the first chunk of the year, Hicks was named a Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star. With Palm Beach for eight games (five starts), Hicks whiffed 32 batters and maintained a 1.83 FIP.
The lesser-known Reyes who has been working at the higher levels of the farm system for recent seasons, Arturo went 5-5 in 22 games with the Redbirds in 2017. The 2017 campaign was the first season where Reyes worked primarily as a reliever, as the 25-year-old made just six starts. Reyes did a fine job keeping the opposition in the ballpark, with only five long balls hit off of him in 63 1⁄3 frames.
Knizner, a 22-year-old backstop drafted in 2016, advanced all the way to Springfield this year. After slashing .279/.325/.480 in 44 games with the Chiefs to begin the season, Knizner maintained a 133 wRC+ with 13 doubles and 14 walks in 51 games at Double-A.
The 22-year-old Mercado has been in the Cardinals’ organization since 2013 and ranks as the club’s 18th overall prospect. As a member of the Springfield squad in 2017, Mercado worked to a .346 wOBA in 523 plate appearances. Mercado swiped 38 bases for the Cardinals and hit a career-high 13 home runs in 120 games.
St. Louis’s sixth-rated, position-player prospect is Sosa, whose season was limited to 58 total games — 51 at Palm Beach — by a broken hamate bone in his hand that required surgery. While in High-A, Sosa slashed .285/.329/.347 with 25 runs scored and 14 RBIs in his age 21 season.
The eighth and final Cardinal who will represent the team for the Saguaros is Nogowski, who spent 59 games at Double-A Springfield. Nogowski, 24, hit .295 with 12 doubles and a .352 wOBA in 2017.
The first AFL game for the Saguaros will be at home (Surprise Stadium) against the Salt River Rafters on Tuesday at 11:35 AM Central time.
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