The Memphis Redbirds were one of the premier teams in all of Minor League Baseball this year. With 91 regular-season wins (the most in franchise history), the Pacific Coast League title, and a being within one win of the Triple-A crown, the 2017 Redbirds, fueled by a perfect blend of relentlessness at the plate and on the mound, are a team worth reliving.
Perhaps the most notable offensive performance of the season as a whole belongs to Patrick Wisdom. A team-topping 31 home runs shattered Wisdom’s previous career best (15, in 2013) and proved to make him a real anchor in the Memphis lineup. Wisdom did not receive a call-up during the year, despite the power surge, but instead - along with acquired teammate Tyler O’Neill - were tied for third in the PCL in big flies, trailing only A.J. Reed, Christian Walker, and Renato Nunez.
Luke Voit, whose performance landed him a big-league promotion in July, was a team leader in several of the Redbirds’ offense categories. Voit boasted a club-best 152 wRC+ over 307 plate appearances with a .407 OBP., also a team high. Voit’s 13 home runs ranked third, trailing Wisdom’s 31 and Harrison Bader’s 20 long balls.
It’s difficult to predict how things may have shaped up - for Memphis and St. Louis alike - if Paul DeJong hadn’t been promoted in June. The 23-year-old DeJong slugged .571 in 190 plate appearances for the Redbirds prior to his Major League assignment, with a .385 wOBA in 48 games. With contributions from the lesser-known ‘baby birds’, however, DeJong’s vacated presence in the batting order was quickly filled.
Beyond Wisdom, Voit, Bader, and DeJong, you’ll find Breyvic Valera, Wilfredo Tovar, Nick Martini, and Jose Adolis Garcia. Valera’s meager 7.2 K% was the lowest by nearly six percent, Tovar led the Redbirds with 19 steals in 26 attempts (73%), Martini ranked third with a .363 BABIP, and Garcia slashed .301/.342/.478 in 40 games down the stretch.
To go 91-50 and make a postseason run, the Redbirds needed durability on the pitching side, and that was found from the top of the rotation to the back of the bullpen.
Pitching prospects Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty each spent time in Memphis on their way to the show this season. Weaver went 10-2 in 15 starts for the Redbirds, working to a 76:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a staff-best 3.04 FIP over 77 2⁄3 frames. Flaherty logged 85 1⁄3 innings in 15 starts, holding opponents to a .232 batting average and grinding for an 85.5 LOB%, the highest rate among Redbirds hurlers by over 10 percent.
Josh Lucas served as the Redbirds’ closer during the season and saved 17 games in 20 chances and worked often enough to earn eight wins along the way. Lucas boasted a 10.20 K/9, the largest mark among Memphis hurlers with at least 60 innings pitched.
John Gant led the Redbirds with 18 starts, subsequently logging a club-high 103 1⁄3 frames. Gant, who was acquired in December in the Jaime Garcia trade, topped the Redbirds with 0.87 HR/9 and 2.18 BB/9 rates. Mark Montgomery served as viable long reliever, recording 66 2⁄3 innings in 46 appearances. Montgomery limited batters to a collective .190 batting mark, the lowest by any Redbirds hurler with at least 60 innings pitched.
That does it for our Memphis Redbirds review. Next time, we’ll look back on the Springfield Cardinals.
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