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Pacific Coast League Championship Preview

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This is your DFR. Kind of.

St Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres
Breyvic Valera is back from St. Louis to try to help the Redbirds capture the PCL title
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Memphis had to postpone Game 1 of the PCL Championship Series due to the remnants of Irma, so there is no Daily Farm action to Report today. So instead of a regular DFR we’ll take a quick glance at the schedule for the 5 game series and who the likely starters will be for the Redbirds.

All times are CDT

Game 1

7:05 PM Wednesday, September 13th at AutoZone Park

Dakota Hudson

Hudson, a 2016 supplemental first round pick, has flown through the system all the way up to AAA in his first full year of professional baseball. His 2016 season was extremely brief due to his college workload, but he has pitched 152 innings this year between AA and AAA. Hudson’s sinker/cutter combo has induced a ton of weak contact this year. He led the Texas League in GB% and was just 0.4% away from leading in HR/FB as well, and those numbers have both remained virtually unchanged in the PCL. His primary problem at both levels has been walks, and his walk rate ticked up slightly upon his promotion to Memphis. The Redbirds will need the version of Hudson who pounds the zone, draws harmless contact and eats up innings, because the bullpen may be busy on Thursday.

Game 2

12:05 PM Thursday, September 14th at AutoZone Park

Kevin Herget

Herget was the 1175th overall draft pick in 2013. From Spring Training 2014 until this past month he has been used almost exclusively as a reliever, and moved slowly up the chain all the way to Memphis. The Redbirds needed innings after the trade of Marco Gonzales and the promotions of Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty, and Herget stepped into the breach. The results have been...not great. His ERA as a starter has been near 5.00, and he’s only worked 5+ innings twice in 9 tries, and has yet to go deeper than 6 innings. Having a rested bullpen ready for Game 2 will be nice, because Stubby Clapp may have to dip into it early.

Game 3

8:05 PM Friday, September 15th at Southwest University Park

Ryan Helsley

rb, Josey and I all had Ryan Helsley down as a sleeper this spring. He was another late addition to the Memphis rotation, and has climbed all the way to AAA largely on the strength of a gigantic fastball that touches triple digits. The secondary stuff has been a work in progress, and that led to more walks than you’d like to see in Springfield, but the fastball was good enough to completely overpower AA hitters. The focus in the MiLB playoff shifts from development to winning, so it will be interesting to see if the Redbirds turn Helsley loose on the Chihuahuas. In his lone start the previous series he couldn’t finish the 5th inning, but that was a game at altitude that featured 31 combined runs.

Game 4

8:05 PM Saturday, September 16th at Southwest University Park

Zac Gallen

Like Game 1 starter and fellow 2016 draftee, Dakota Hudson, Zac Gallen has moved quickly through Cards’ system. He began the year by dominating the Florida State League for 9 starts, which earned him a promotion to the Texas League. He had a brief, successful, cameo in the Memphis rotation before settling back in down in Springfield. The difference between the Palm Beach and Springfield versions of Gallen tracked pretty closely to rb’s assessment of him this past winter: he has three above-average offerings that play up due to his command, but no real put-away pitch as of yet. He remained stingy handing out free passes in AA, but his K% rate plummeted. He was still able to pound the zone with impunity, however, the pitches that were generating empty swings in Palm Beach were generating weak contact in Springfield. That isn’t a fatal flaw to be sure, but something worth keeping in mind heading into next season.

Like Ryan Helsley, Gallen was knocked around a bit in his lone start last series, which probably wasn't a totally unexptected outcome for a guy who lives in the zone pitching in a ballpark at over 6,500 feet of elevation. Hopefully, the Redbirds get the guy who mixes his pitches, avoids mistakes and who can turn a lineup over multiple times this time around.

Game 5

7:05 PM Sunday, September 17th at Southwest University Park

Matt Pearce

With the postponement of yesterday’s game the series is condensed to 5 games in 5 days, which means Memphis will need all five of their starters, so Matt Pearce will draw the Game 5 assignment. Pearce has moved slowly and steadily through the minors since being drafted in the 13th round in 2014. His numbers haven't been flashy at any stop, but he has managed to limit both walks and homers over his 500+ inning professional career which is a more than enough to keep a job in the minors.

If he stuggles early you'd imagine Clapp will have a quick hook in an elimination game and with a full bullpen (and maybe even Dakota Hudson) to throw out there.

Lineup

Memphis was the class of the PCL this year, due in part to a deep lineup that provided plus offense from almost every position. However, most of those guys will be in Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field for this series. But even with the parent club raiding their roster, the Redbirds’ lineup has held up, and there are still some familiar names.

Pat Wisdom and Tyler O’Neil provide thump in the middle of the order. They tied (along with Willie Calhoun) for 4th in the PCL in homers with 31 apiece...Breyvic Valera is back from St. Louis after his cup of coffee. He had a huge second half, batting .352/.410/.533, doubling his career home run total up to that point, and swiping 8 bags along the way...Aledmys Diaz has been, uh, less good. He showed some life in September, and he had big series against Colorado Springs, but this has been a lost season for him...And speaking of lost seasons, catcher Jeremy Martinez was not able to build on the fantastic pro debut he had in State College, and spent most of this season trying to regain his footing in Palm Beach. He gets the call behind the plate this series with both regular Memphis catchers now in St. Louis, although that seems odd given the season fellow catcher Andy Knizner had in AA...Organizational soldier Nick Martini got an opportunity with all of the turnover in the Memphis outfield this year, and he made the most of it. He had a career year at 27 and maybe a chance at an NRI next spring in Jupiter or elsewhere...Adolis Garcia had a solid stateside debut in Springfield this year, and held his own for 150+ at-bats in Memphis. He went off against Colorado Springs in the last series, batting .474 with a pair of homers.

Possible Callups

Per Derrick Goold’s chat on Monday, it sounds like any callups the rest of the year will come from players currently on the 40 man roster. Which is disappointing - we’d love to see Patrick Wisdom or Tyler O’Neill as a bat off the bench, or Dakota Hudson in the bullpen - but understandable given the roster crunch. So any boost to the big league roster after this week will probably be a familiar face like Breyvic Valera or Josh Lucas.

On a final note, since this series is scheduled to run through Sunday, barring any surprises this is my last DFR. I have a couple of ideas for off-season posts I'm kicking around that I hope to actually put together this year, and I'd be happy to offer my input again when rb posts his prospect rankings. But if I end up procrastinating again this winter, well, it's been real.