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Weekly Farm Recap 6/3-9: Balestrieri’s No-Hitter, Mieses’ Three Homers

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The bats were alive for the Cardinals’ affiliates

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A no-hitter, a six-game win streak, and close division races make up the highlights of the past week on the farm. Additionally, a pitching prospect who stood out in 2017 made his return to the mound after a stint on the restricted list. You can find all the daily recaps here, as well as Greg Ratliff’s most recent installment of the Happenings Down South series, providing a deeper look at Memphis.

Memphis Redbirds - Week: (2-4), Year (37-26)

Memphis is the only Cardinals affiliate not entrenched in a tight division race; they’re in a much better situation, holding a comfortable 5.5-game lead over the Nashville Sounds in the PCL American Southern division. The bats weren’t exactly thrilling, putting up more than three runs in a game just twice, but the pitching wasn’t as sharp as we’ve come to expect from Memphis, either. The Redbirds will look to salvage the remainder of a four-game set against Reno, having lost the first two.

Pitcher of the Week

Dakota Hudson (RHP): 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K

This spot would’ve likely gone to Kevin Herget with his seven-inning, 10-strikeout, shutout performance on Friday, but he was shelled last Sunday for shelled for four runs in his start last Sunday. Hudson was one of the few Memphis starting pitchers to put up a solid outing over the past seven days, going six in what would be a 6-0 win over the Tacoma Rainiers. Hudson’s 2.44 ERA over 11 starts is the second-lowest in the Pacific Coast League, second only to his teammate, Daniel Poncedeleon. His 66.1 IP is the sixth-most thrown by any PCL pitcher this season. What’s more, in that time Hudson has given up only one home run. His sinker has been effective this year, as he’s netting 2.29 groundballs for every flyball.

Player of the Week

Tyler O’Neill (OF): .438/.550/.563, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, SB

There isn’t much to say about O’Neill that you wouldn’t already know. What’s intriguing about this week’s performance from the slugger is that he wasn’t really slugging at all. He collected seven hits over his 16 at-bats, with just two of those being doubles. O’Neill showed some surprising plate discipline with four walks, reaching base 11 times in his 20 PAs. He also picked up a stolen base, a category in which he’s been lacking in 2018. After collecting double-digit steals in the previous three seasons, O’Neill has just two across 52 games this year.

Springfield Cardinals - Week: (2-4), Year (30-31)

Another week, another 2-4 performance from Springfield. The Cardinals fell below .500 and out of first place with their poor performance, largely the fault of the pitching staff. Springfield pitchers gave up six or more runs in four of this weeks’ games — the other two run totals conceded were three and five. The offense averaged just over five runs per game, keeping the contests close and putting on quite a show. The Cardinals are now a game behind the Arkansas Travelers in the Texas League North, tied with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals for second place. The latter portion of this week will feature a four-game series against the Naturals in Springfield.

Pitcher of the Week

Matt Pearce (RHP): 2 GS, 10 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 9 K

Pearce made his first two starts of the season this week after coming off the restricted list. He was suspended in late March due to a positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program; the drug in question wasn’t disclosed. He seems to have settled in well in his first appearances of the year, with his last outing going six innings including two earned runs, no walks and five strikeouts. Pearce had logged 10 starts with Memphis at the end of 2017 but was instead assigned to Springfield to begin this season. Last year, he led the entire system with 164 IP and 27 starts.

Player of the Week

Lane Thomas (CF): .381/.435/.714, 4 R, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB, 6 K, SB, HBP

Thomas is staying hot, netting a second consecutive appearance in this spot. The first-year AA player has hit four home runs over the past two weeks, raising his total to 13 over 242 PAs. The power has definitely shown up this year, as his .242 ISO in 2018 is the highest he’s posted at any level with more than 100 PAs. He’s showing decent plate discipline as well, currently holding a 10.3% BB% and 23.6% K%. Another promising stat is his stolen base total of 10, already matching his ending amount in 2017. Given that he was picked up from Toronto for international bonus pool money the Cardinals couldn’t fully utilize anyway, he continues to look like a fantastic addition.

Palm Beach Cardinals - Week: (6-0), Year (35-21)

It wouldn’t be a week in the Gulf Coast League without postponed games, but luckily the Palm Beach Cardinals only had to deal with one. They went on an absolute tear this week, currently holding a six-game win streak. Most of that is thanks to the offense, who averaged seven runs per game over that span. Due to their stellar performance, Palm Beach now sits a half-game ahead of the Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League South.

Pitcher of the Week

Austin Sexton (RHP): 2 G, 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K

Austin Warner has been dethroned. Palm Beach was hit for quite a few runs this week, but Austin Sexton wasn’t responsible for any of them. He pitched 2.1 innings on Monday, getting Palm Beach out of a messy situation he didn’t create and striking out three. His three-inning start on Saturday included four Ks and the one hit he allowed this week. Sexton struggled out of the gate this season but seems to have found a rhythm over his last three appearances. His 3.58 FIP indicates he’s pitched better than his 5.30 ERA would imply, but a 6.27 BB/9 is hard to overcome. His 16.1% BB% is abnormally high given his previous career totals, never before exceeding 8%.

Player of the Week

Johan Mieses (RF): .414/.452/.793 9 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, SB

Mieses is another example of shrewd minor transactions paying off for St. Louis. He was netted in the deal that sent Breyvic Valera to the Dodgers in early April. This week was a show of contact and power by Mieses, going 12-for-29 and knocking five XBHs, three of which were home runs. His 10 homers this season are tied for fourth-most in the GCL, which is even more impressive given he plays most of his games in the power-sapping Roger Dean Stadium. It’s nothing new, though, as he hit 28 dingers in 2016 and 24 in 2017.

Peoria Chiefs - Week: (4-2), Year (35-27)

Peoria had a solid week, mainly backed by strong showings from the bats (averaging 5.5 runs per game). The week wasn’t without an excellent pitching performance, though, including the 10th no-hitter in Peoria’s history. The team currently sits a half-game behind the Clinton LumberKings in the Midwest League Western division.

Pitcher of the Week

Paul Balestrieri (RHP): 1 GS, CG, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K

The only thing keeping Paul Balestrieri from perfection was an error in the first inning by Yariel Gonzalez. Beyond that, the 2017 26th-rounder was absolutely dominant. He finished the night with exactly 100 pitches, striking out six along the way. This was Balestrieri’s first start going more than 4.2 innings this year. He was sent down from Palm Beach on May 14 after giving up four earned runs in 3.2 innings of relief (over five games), but seems to have found his footing with Peoria.

Player of the Week

Zach Kirtley (1B): .381/.435/.571, 6 R, 4 2B, 1 RBI, BB, 6 K, HBP

Kirtley was drafted as a second baseman but has been limited to first in his first full season. He’s struggled to show power in his 81 professional games but flashed a bit of it this week with four doubles. His BB% has fallen significantly and his K% has risen since 2017, which may be something to keep an eye on. Though his .706 OPS is at first glance an improvement over last year’s .655, he’s relying on a .364 BABIP this season, much higher than the .272 he experienced last year.