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Weekly farm recap 4/8-14: Robertson shows power potential

The first full week of minor league action is in the books.

The first full week of play may not be complete, but we’ve now seen the first weekend of minor league baseball for the 2019 season.

As the year goes on, we’ll be looking at the performance of each of the Cardinals’ minor league affiliates over the last seven days, including standouts on the mound and at the plate.

With four games in the books, here are the results across the Cardinal farm:

Memphis Redbirds

Week: (2-5) | Overall: (4-7)

The Redbirds are off to a very rocky start, especially for a team that has dominated the Pacific Coast League the past two seasons. Still, they’ve experienced quite a bit of roster turnover as promotions have sent many to St. Louis.

Both promising and frustrating, three of the Redbirds’ losses came in one-run games, two of which were walk-offs.

The offense has been potent, with 36 runs over those seven games, but the pitching staff has fallen flat, surrendering 44 runs in that same span. Not a number you want to see from the level that’s supposed to be harboring the team’s pitching depth.

Hitter of the Week: Tommy Edman, 2B/SS

Stats: 6 G, 28 AB, 7 R, 12 H, 2 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, BB, 3 K, SF, 3 SB

Edman finished 2018 with Memphis and put up above-average numbers. He’s improved on that to start this season, carrying a .359/.395/.487 slash line in his first 44 PA.

More of a gap hitter, Edman had 23 doubles and four triples in his 2018 campaign. He has three and one, respectively, to start 2019.

Edman also swiped all three of his stolen bases this season this week, which is a good sign to start the year. He stole 30 bags last season.

If Edman’s contact-driven, gap-power approach stays constant and combines with that speed on the basepaths, he’s a very valuable middle infielder.

Pitcher of the Week: Jake Woodford, RHP

Stats: 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K

Woodford makes a repeat appearance for Memphis. He put up one of the only solid starting pitching performances the Redbirds saw this week, going five innings and giving up one unearned run on one hit.

The command that had been an issue earlier but showed promise last week was again a bit of a concern, as his walk and strikeout totals matched at 4.

Springfield Cardinals

Week: (4-3) | Overall: (4-7)

Springfield’s week on paper doesn’t seem excellent, but the progression offers a bit more optimism.

They were swept in a three-game series against the Tulsa Drillers to start the week, including a 2-3 walkoff loss, but swept the NW Arkansas Naturals over four games to end the seven-game stretch.

They take on Tulsa again, this time at home, starting today.

Hitter of the Week: Kramer Robertson, SS

Stats: 6 G, 18 AB, 8 R, 7 H, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 3 K, SB

Kramer Robertson was a fourth-round pick out of LSU in the 2017 draft and quietly put up solid numbers in his first two professional seasons. After a strong campaign with Palm Beach, he began this year with Springfield.

Part of what’s so appealing about Robertson to me is his low strikeout rate and how close his walk rate is to that number. In 538 PA for Palm Beach, his BB% and K% were 9.1 and 9.7, respectively. To this point in 2019 they’ve both gone up, but remain constant, at 15% each.

A surprising development to start the year is the power output. Robertson had three home runs across his entire 2018 campaign, with five in his career. Through 10 games this season, he already has three. Four of Robertson’s nine hits have gone for extra bases, with a double thrown in with the dingers.

Robertson’s slash line is .281/.400/.594 to this point. The power increase will be something to watch as we move into the summer.

Pitcher of the Week: Anthony Shew, RHP

Stats: 2 G, 2 GS, 11 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 12 K, 1 HBP

Anthony Shew has been one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers on Springfield’s staff to start 2019.

He’s made three starts for 15 innings total in 2019, giving up five earned runs in that time. He really flashed the strikeout potential this week, with 12 in his two starts.

The performance that really put Shew on this list was a six-inning, one-run start in which he struck out six and walked two.

Shew spent most of 2018 with Springfield, pitching to a 4.50 ERA and 4.28 FIP in 114 innings. Combined with a high ERA, the wealth of young pitching at AAA kept Shew blocked from advancing.

At some point this season, the Memphis call-ups are going to start. If Shew can continue to pitch to around a 3.00 ERA and show decent command and stamina in the offense-heavy Texas League, he might be one of the first in line to head up to AAA.

Palm Beach Cardinals

Week: (6-1) | Overall: (9-2)

Palm Beach is off to the best start of all the Cardinal affiliates at 9-2, and that’s largely thanks to this week where they took three of four from the Daytona Tortugas and swept the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

They outscored opponents 40-16 over the last seven games and have put up at least five runs over their last four.

Hitter of the Week: Justin Toerner, RF

Stats: 6 G, 20 AB, 10 R, 9 H, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 8 BB, 3 K, HBP

Toerner is back again and still showing his outstanding on-base ability, but this time with increased power output.

Toerner’s OPS is now a whopping 1.356 through 48 PA this season. He’s hit five of his 10 hits for extra bases, but the impressive number is his walk rate: 29.2%.

His strikeout rate is 10.4%. Just to write it out, because it seems ridiculous, his K-BB is -18.8%.

Drawing 14 walks in 10 games seems very unsustainable, but it does point to the competition being pretty overmatched at this point.

Pitcher of the Week: Angel Rondon, RHP

Stats: 2 G, 2 GS, 10 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K

Rondon was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in early 2016 after just turning 18.

After two seasons with various rookie affiliates, he went through State College and Peoria last season and found himself with the High-A Palm Beach club to start 2019.

He made his first two starts of the year this week and was fantastic at limiting solid contact and suppressing runs.

The struggle early on for Rondon has been command, with a 4.50 BB/9 out of the gate. That number over 88 innings in 2018 was just 2.45, so if he can right the ship but continue to give up less than two hits per start, that’s a recipe for success.

Peoria Chiefs: 1-3

Week: (3-3) | Overall: (4-6)

It was a better week for Peoria than the first four games, as they went .500, winning the series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers but dropping the next against the Kane County Cougars.

Pitching continues to be volatile for Peoria, who gave up just over five runs per game in this week’s contests. That did include two shutouts, showing promise, but also some volatility when contrasted with the five times the team has given up nine runs or more to the opposition this season.

Hitter of the Week: Nolan Gorman, 3B

Stats: 6 G, 22 AB, 4 R, 7 H, 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K, SF

Here he is again.

This week, Gorman decided to start showing his out-of-the-park power, and did it in bunches. He hit his first two home runs in the same game and collected two more across the six he played.

Through 10 games and 43 PA, Gorman’s 2019 A-ball slash line is .395/.442/.868.

He finished the season with Peoria last year, accruing 107 PA over 25 games, but he’s already nearly matched or exceeded his counting stats in the short 2019 season.

Perhaps most promising is the improvement in his on-base skills. Gorman’s walk and strikeout rates at Peoria to end 2018 were 9.3% and 36.4%, respectively. This season, those numbers are 7% and 25.6%.

At this point, Gorman is raking and has an ISO of .474. If A-ball pitchers can’t figure him out, we might see a faster rise to Springfield than anyone expected.

Pitcher of the Week: Tommy Parsons, RHP

Stats: 1 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K

Both spots are repeats for Peoria, as Tommy Parsons built on his first start to deliver a commanding performance on the mound.

He continued showing that great command we discussed last week, allowing no walks and just four hits in his eight innings.

The strikeouts stayed low, as is also part of his profile, but that’s fine when you’re getting a BABIP of .139. Parsons is actually increasing his low ground ball rate he posted in his first professional season, now at 45.7% over the 39.1% of 2018. He’s yet to give up a home run over his first 13 innings.