Editor’s note: Mr. Ratliff will be producing coverage of the Redbirds every two weeks (perhaps more often!), loaded with notes on the team’s top farm team. If you follow the Minors, you won’t want to miss his reports. - Josey
Welcome to your bi-weekly (or more?) look into what’s going on approximately 284 miles South on Interstate 55 at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee.
The 2017 Memphis Redbirds won a club record 91 games, a Pacific Coast League Championship, Manager of the Year honors for Stubby Clapp, and narrowly missed out on winning the AAA National Championship. That loss in the title game apparently is all the motivation needed for this year’s Redbirds team as they’ve gotten out to a 14-4 start.
So where do the Redbirds go from here??
Memphis currently has 6 of the Cardinals’ top 30 non-pitching prospects on their roster and had 7 on the Opening Day roster before the call up of Tyler O’Neill, a member of the Cards’ spring training roster last week. Another player from that spring training roster to watch, Oscar Mercado. Oscar is continuing to improve year over year, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see him up on the Cardinals’ roster at some point this year. Mercado is hitting at a career best rate across the board in every offensive category. So far on the season, Oscar is hitting (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) .311 / .391 / .475 / .867 which when you add his 29 total bases, his, 19 hits, and his 9 stolen bases, Mercado leads or is second in every offensive category.
Who is the other player you might ask? Max Schrock. Max is the #19 overall prospect in the system right now, having come over to the Cardinals’ organization in the trade that sent Stephen Piscotty to Oakland last year. Schrock is the real deal. Max could be getting the call up sooner than later, especially if Kolten Wong continues to struggle at the plate.
On the mound, the Memphis starting pitchers have been outstanding, especially Jack Flaherty. With Adam Wainwright heading to the DL, I had figured Jack may get the call up, but did not. Flaherty’s ERA (2.25) doesn’t put him among the leaders but his 22 strikeouts (5th) and 0.75 WHIP (3rd) are both top 5 in the PCL right now. The Memphis starting staff is 11-1 with 9 quality starts, a 2.66 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and 87 strikeouts.
Jack Flaherty was for @memphisredbirds:— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 20, 2018
7 IP (complete game)
2 R (1 ER)
6 K@MLB's No. 38 prospect is No. 2 on the #STLCards' Top 30: https://t.co/zGqqpcVnte pic.twitter.com/132qcX6vlf
Seriously, where is this going?
The Redbirds have all of the talent to make a run like last season, perhaps even culminating in the AAA National Championship that eluded them. Ultimately, the better that Memphis is, the better St. Louis is. But, the team from the top down all said the same thing at the start this season. They want to win the PCL again.
Memphis Redbirds outfielder Patrick Wisdom on winning the PCL last year and the prospects of doing it again this season. pic.twitter.com/i8CpulLVvA— Greg Ratliff (@GregRatliff) April 3, 2018
Along the way, hopefully a few guys get called up. Maybe Patrick Wisdom, the PCL Championship Series MVP will get his shot. There’s also Alex Mejia and Luke Voit that both spent some time up with the Cards last season. All in all, its shaping up to be another great season of baseball in Memphis. Last season was all about breaking records, this season if the Redbirds win, they’d be one of only two active teams with 4 PCL Championships (Sacramento River Cats) and behind only the Tacoma Rainiers who have 5.
Stubby Clapp has said that he knows that the Redbirds are. A safety net for the Cardinals. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that but also staying positive and goal oriented. The Redbirds are once again going to get the “next generation” of Cardinals the last bit of seasoning before moving up to the bigs or a bit of a rehabilitation for someone a little down on their luck. I’m excited for this season, and you all should be, too.