The Cardinals will wrap up their Spring Training season this Wednesday before a stop in Memphis to face the Redbirds on Thursday. Then on Friday, the big-league squad will visit Hammons Field for a date with the Springfield Cardinals, the subject of today’s season preview after last week’s look at Peoria and Palm Beach.
2016 overview: 75-65 (.536) — first-half Texas League North division winner; fell in four games (1-3) best-of-five semifinals to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals
With three — Carson Kelly, Harrison Bader, and Paul DeJong — of the team’s top-ten hitting prospects set to begin the year at Triple-A Memphis and another trio — Magneuris Sierra, Eliezer Alvarez, and Edmundo Sosa — at High-A Palm Beach, the Double-A level is caught in an offensive standstill; what the level lacks in the batter’s box, however, is made up for on the mound.
So, we’ll make today’s preview all about the arms.
Ranked as the fourteenth MLB.com prospect and the seventh by Viva El Birdos, left-hander Austin Gomber will kick off his 2017 campaign as a member of the Double-A Cardinals, fresh off his pleasant stint in big-league camp this spring. Gomber, who turned 23 in November, started 21 games between High-A (seventeen) and Double-A (four) last season, maintaining a collective 2.69 ERA between the two levels.
In the Arizona Fall League last fall, Gomber impressed many with his fine faring as a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs. In 33 2⁄3 innings across seven starts, Gomber went 5-1 with an 8.82 K/9 and surrendered eight earned runs.
On the lesser-known end Springfield’s pitching spectrum for this season, you can find (well, probably find) Daniel Poncedeleon, one of the seventeen under-the-radar prospects to watch in 2017. Upon jumping from State College to Peoria and then to Palm Beach by the end of the 2015 season after his fourth-round selection the year prior, Poncedeleon logged the entirety of his 2016 season in Double-A, where he skidded a bit, in terms of the high bar he raised for himself through his first season-and-a-half in the St. Louis farm system.
Last year, the right-handed Poncedeleon started 27 games for Springfield and posted a 3.84 FIP in his 151 innings. Poncedeleon saw an uptick in his whiff rate — up from 6.58 K/9 in 2015 to 7.27 the next year — but subsequently saw his the rates of walks and home runs trend unfavorably, reaching 3.34 BB/9 (2.27 in ‘15) and 0.60 HR/9 (.38), respectively.
Gomber and Poncedeleon may be deficient in prospect hype, but the final player we’ll be looking at today certainly is not: Cardinals 2014 first-round selection Jack Flaherty.
The 21-year-old Flaherty, ranked as St. Louis’s eighth prospect by MLB Pipeline, spent his 2016 campaign in High-A and solidly performed. In 24 games (23 starts) at Palm Beach, Flaherty garnered 134 frames and preserved a 3.20 FIP and 68.6 LOB percentage.
Flaherty’s 2016 showing led to an invitation to Major League camp, and the young righty did not disappoint. Over seven innings, Flaherty allowed a mere two earned runs and whiffed ten batters.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds!