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System Sundays: Season in Review Three — A Ball

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Covering Low and High A affiliates in the Cardinals’ system.

St Louis Cardinals Photo Day Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Morning. Happy no more daylight savings bullshit day, everybody. Stupid railroad timetables. Or farmers. Or whatever dumb thing it was. I don’t remember AP History. (Sorry, Mr. Anderson.)

Has anyone ever noticed how much George Jones and Jim Jones look alike? That seems weird, right? Maybe it’s just that all men who wear creepy serial killer glasses indoors look sort of alike, but I don’t think that’s all of it.

Fun alternate timeline: switch George and Jim Jones, and suddenly the Jonestown death tapes become much more fun. Jim Jones giving one of his weird end of life Dusty Rhodes-esque jivey sermons at the Grand Ole Opry, and George Jones singing If Drinking Don’t Kill Me to a room full of people just having a nice glass of Flavor-Aid.

And yes, in case you didn’t know, the Jonestown suicides were carried out with poisoned Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, so everytime you accuse someone of drinking the Kool-Aid, you’re perpetuating both a factual falsehood and a vicious, slanderous miscarriage against the delicious, totally didn’t kill a bunch of cultists Kool-Aid brand. Also, you’re probably an asshole. Just saying. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone who wasn’t an asshole seriously bust out the ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ bit to attack someone.

Now that I’ve probably insulted several of you, let’s look at some minor league stuff.

This week we will be looking back at the seasons of the Cardinals’ single A affiliates.

Peoria Chiefs — Midwest League (Low A)

Season Record: 76-63, 3rd place in Western Division

The Chiefs of 2018 were a solid team, but not a great one. If one were to go to the Peoria Chiefs’ web page and scroll down to the ‘team leaders’ section, it would become pretty apparent who the most important name to watch from the club was this season, as it reads like this:

Batting average: Elehuris Montero — .322

Runs: Elehuris Montero — 68

Home Runs: Elehuris Montero — 15

Runs Batted In: Elehuris Montero — 69

Stolen Bases: Nick Plummer — 10

Okay, so that last one doesn’t really fit with the pattern, but you get the point, right?

Peoria actually began the season with one of the biggest breakouts in the system in the person of Montero, and finished with the most exciting Cardinal draft pick in a long time in Nolan Gorman. Those weren’t the only two names worth paying attention to, but they tended to overshadow most of the other players who called Peoria home this season. The talent was a little deeper on the pitching side, but the only breakout stars were hitters.

Notable Names: Elehuris Montero, 3B; Nolan Gorman, 3B; Luken Baker, 1B; Nick Plummer, OF; Angel Rondon, RHP; Andrew Summerville, LHP; Johan Oviedo, RHP; Edgar Gonzalez, RHP; Patrick Dayton, LHP; C.J. Saylor, RHP; Zack Prendergast, RHP

As I said, the two real star names of Peoria this season were both third basemen, with Montero and Nolan Gorman bracketing the season. Actually, though, that’s a bit of a misnomer, as I think Montero is probably destined for first base and Nolan Gorman was actually kind of bad with Peoria. Still, the mere fact he was pushed that aggressively says something about how the organisation views him. As for Montero, he was promoted to Palm Beach about two thirds of the way through the season, and kept his head above water. He didn’t excel, but he survived his first taste of the Florida State League, which is never easy for a hitter.

Luken Baker was a big college first baseman who was pushed quickly to full-season ball after laying waste to the GCL, and he put up a solid performance straight out of school. He didn’t hit for a ton of power in the Midwest League, and actually looked a little tired the few looks I got at him, but his overall numbers weren’t bad at all. If I were a betting man, I would say I think he actually probably was a little fatigued, playing tougher competition later in the year than he ever really had before.

Nick Plummer, on the other hand, continued to flounder. The slashing bat speed monster of his draft year seems to be a thing of the past at this point, whether the victim of a wrist injury or simple attrition I cannot say. His contact rates are horrid, far worse than I ever would have guessed in my most pessimistic view of him, and the only thing keeping him afloat at this point is a remarkable penchant for taking walks. Still, I just don’t think that’s going to be enough to keep him moving up the ladder much longer.

On the pitching side, Peoria may have had the greatest concentration of intriguing future relief arms in the entire system this year. Andrew Summerville, a soft-tossing lefty out of Stanford I never would have viewed as anything but a starter, pitched exclusively out of the ‘pen and struck out 20 in 13.1 innings. He also walked the world and missed two months with arm trouble, but you take the good, you take the bad, you take the rest and then you have the facts of pitching. Patrick Dayton, another lefty, was ungodly good as a reliever, striking out 51 in just 34.2 innings, and he did it without any walk issues. C.J. Saylor was unbelievable, striking out 76 batters in 50 innings. (Secret downside to Saylor: his MiLB.com profile picture makes him look both a dozen years older than he actually is, and also possibly auditioning to be the spokesman for the 1983 model year Chevy Camaro.) Zack Prendergast has middling stuff, but great command and just enough funk in his delivery he might be able to keep striking hitters out all the way up the ladder.

On the starting side, there was much less talent at Peoria. Johan Oviedo was probably the biggest name coming into the season, but he went backward this year, struggling with both his command and holding his stuff together, as his velocity notably declined late in the season, as well as late in many games. Angel Rondon is extremely young and still very raw, but has a very lively arm and an easy athleticism that I think bodes well for his future. He’s all projection still at this point, but Rondon is a guy I’m watching heavily in 2019.

Palm Beach Cardinals — Florida State League (High A)

Season Record: 75-58, 1st Place in FSL South Division

Palm Beach was a fantastic team in the first half this season, and then deeply mediocre in the second. It was also a fairly strange good club, in that they really only had one big-time prospect in the lineup most nights (Dylan Carlson), but still managed to put together a solid showing offensively most nights. Actually, saying Carlson was the only big time prospect in the lineup most nights may be selling Andy Young short, who had a really excellent season. The pitching was nothing to write home about most nights either, although like Peoria Palm Beach featured some really interesting relief-type arms this year.

Notable Names: Dylan Carlson, OF; Andy Young, IF; Conner Capel, OF; Bryce Denton, OF; Scott Hurst, OF; Kramer Robertson, SS; Juan Yepez, 3B/1B; Bryan Dobzanski, RHP; Griffin Roberts, RHP; Jacob Patterson, LHP; John Kilichowski, LHP; Alex Fagalde, RHP

Dylan Carlson deserves more attention than he receives, but I think that’s going to change next year when he gets to Double A. He very quietly improved himself as a hitter in 2018, but saw most of his numbers swallowed up by Roger Dean Stadium and the FSL as a whole. When he gets to the Texas League, look out. The power numbers are going to take a huge step forward, I think. Andy Young had one of the more intriguing breakout performances in the Cards’ system this year, as he substantially improved his contact rate in High A ball, then moved up to Springfield and went on a ridiculous power tear for the last month and a half of the season.

Conner Capel struggled after coming over in a deadline trade with the Indians. Bryce Denton continued to hover around mediocrity, and is probably facing a season in 2019 in which he will have to either show some real progress or face some tough truths about his chances of making it back to future impact talent status. Kramer Robertson is extremely intriguing for his ability to handle shortstop and a strikeout to walk ratio that hovers right around even. He shows no real power as of yet, but the discipline is something to behold.

On the pitching side, Bryan Dobzanski had an excellent season, beating up on Low A hitters and then moving up to High A, where he had only marginally less success. It was Dobzanski’s first season working out of the bullpen, and it seems to fit his repertoire and approach well. His natural sink and power arm could push him to the big leagues as a Joe Kelly type. Griffin Roberts appeared only briefly at Palm Beach, but I wanted to get his name in here because I like him so much. Jacob Patterson was a solid, but unspectacular, lefty reliever. John Kilichowski has, unfortunately, struggle the last couple seasons, as it seems as if his back problems have become chronic, at least to the point of disrupting his pitching. I’m not sure we’re ever going to see the Kilichowski of Vanderbilt again, sadly. He still has very good strikeout stuff at times, but you don’t know which version of him is going to show up most days, it seems.

Alex Fagalde was a quietly effective starting pitcher for Palm Beach this year. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done, and the Cardinals have made a habit of finding guys like Alex Fagalde in the middle to late rounds of the draft the past decade. I personally think he profiles as an interesting relief conversion candidate, where an already solid fastball might play up to something pretty special.

We can definitely see a bit of a shadow at Peoria and Palm Beach this year from the lost draft picks the Cards suffered from the Chris Correa debacle and the Dexter Fowler signing. The guys drafted in the first and second rounds in 2017 would have probably been right around the High A level this season, or maybe in Peoria had they been a little younger or more raw. We have no idea who the Cards would have taken with those hypothetical picks, of course, but it’s easy to look at Palm Beach this season and feel like there should have been one more name player there had things not gone off the rails.

Nonetheless, there was a solid collection of talent in A ball this past season for the Cardinals. Lots of future relief arms, I think, which is interesting, if maybe not the very best news one could hope for. A couple of potentially very exciting hitting prospects really highlight the group, and we’ll have the most interesting player in the system to watch at Peoria (most likely), in 2019 as Nolan Gorman returns there to begin his campaign.