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Weekly Farm Recap 6/17-23: Nogowski an on-base machine in Memphis

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The first baseman also threw a scoreless inning in relief for the Redbirds.

Photo courtesy of thecardinalnation.com

Welcome back to the weekly farm recap. The short-season squads are getting going and the second half of many of the leagues is underway, with All-Star Games having come and gone.

You can read this week’s daily farm reports from Andrew St. John and Austin Ward at the previous links, as well as this week’s edition of System Sundays from A.E. Schafer.

Memphis Redbirds

Past week: (3-3) | Overall: (32-44)

Division: 3rd, 10 GB

The Redbirds snapped a five-game losing streak, consisting of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Las Vegas Aviators (41-35) and a loss to the Oklahoma City Dodgers (30-44), by taking the next three against the Dodgers at home.

The losses were ugly, with the Aviators averaging nearly 13 runs per game in the final three of the series. But the Redbirds have turned it around for the time being, having outscored OKC 27-9 in their past three games.

Memphis will finish the five-game set with Oklahoma City today, then head home to play four games against the Nashville Sounds (30-45) and the New Orleans Baby Cakes (42-34).

Hitter of the Week: John Nogowski, 1B

Stats: 6 G, 22 AB, 4 R, 10 H, 5 2B, 3B, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K, 3 HBP

Nogowski is a 26-year-old first baseman who has been in the Cardinals’ system since 2017. He, like recap-frequenter Rangel Ravelo, spent time in the Atheltics’ farm before coming to the Cardinals.

St. Louis really likes those Oakland first basemen.

Nogowski never had a problem hitting a little above average, but his bat really woke up since coming to the Cardinals. His wRC+ through 248 PA with Memphis is 126. He’s been an on-base machine, with a slash line of .309/.419/.471.

The impressive thing about Nogowski’s approach is that his walk rate is actually much higher than his strikeout rate. He’s walking at a clip of 13.7%, while striking out 9.7% of the time.

A sub-10% strikeout rate with a walk rate approaching 15% is wild at Triple-A. He’s doing so while having 16 doubles, a triple and five home runs under his belt, as well.

Nogowski has never seen major-league time, but he definitely should if he continues to hit like this.

Pitcher of the Week: Jake Woodford, RHP

Stats: 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K

I thought about putting Nogowski here for fun as well, because he threw a scoreless inning in relief this week for Memphis, notching a strikeout. In fact, it was his third outing of the year for the Redbirds.

But Jake Woodford actually delivered a great performance on the mound, as he’s been known to do for Memphis this year.

Woodford leads the Redbirds in several pitching categories, having made 15 starts spanning 87.2 innings this season. That comes out to just under six innings per start.

The 22-year-old righty’s walk rate has climbed a bit, up to 12.5% over the 9.5% he posted in his first taste of Triple-A in 2018. But the same can be said about his strikeouts, up to 20.5% from 15.9% the year prior.

Aside from his stint in the Texas League, Woodford has been excellent at limiting the longball. He’s averaged under 1 HR/9 for his entire career, currently at 0.72 this season.

Springfield Cardinals

Past week: (2-5) | First half: (30-40) Second half: 1-5

Division: 4th (last), 4 GB

Springfield started the Texas League Second Half this week but got off to a very rough start, riding a five-game losing streak before snapping it with a win against the Corpus Christ Hooks (3-3) last night.

The Cardinals lost the other three games of the four-game set against the Hooks and dropped two of three to the Midland RockHounds (3-3) to open the week.

Today marks the start of the Texas League All-Star Break, and Springfield has two players on the roster: outfielder Dylan Carlson and pitcher Austin Warner.

The Texas League action will pick back up on Thursday, when Springfield starts a four-game series against the NW Arkansas Naturals (3-2).

Since the first half came to a close, we’ll look at the hitter and pitcher of the half. Unsurprisingly, they also were the two ASG representatives.

Hitter of the Half: Dylan Carlson, OF

Stats: 311 PA, .280/.363/.493, 10.6% BB, 18.3% K, 53 R, 15 2B, 6 3B, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 11 SB, 129 wRC+

Carlson was listed on the Fangraphs 2020 Clicks to Pick list, meaning he was a choice to make the 2020 Top 100 Prospects list.

He arrived a bit early.

Carlson is now ranked 98th by Fangraphs, sitting third on the Cardinals’ prospect list. He’s 97th on the MLB.com rankings.

The 20-year-old outfielder had shown flashes of power with Peoria in 2018, but it waned a bit when he headed to Palm Beach. That wasn’t a problem for his overall batting line; Carlson’s OBP has sat in the .340-.360 range since the start of 2017. His wRC+ at Palm Beach last year was 112.

This season, though, Carlson has put on a bit of a show. His slash line is .280/.363/.493 and he’s shown an excellent combo of power and speed, with 31 XBHs (10 of which are home runs) and 11 SB.

Carlson was listed in the “corner OF power bats” section of Fangraphs’ 2020 Clicks to Pick, but he’s logged most of his innings in center field this season, only making his profile seem that much better.

Pitcher of the Half: Austin Warner, LHP

Stats: 15 G, 14 GS, 82.1 IP, 24.9% K, 7.1 % BB, 1.09 HR/9, 3.83 ERA/4.07 FIP/3.66 xFIP

Warner turns 25 in just three days, meaning he’s a little older than a lot of his competition in the Texas League. Still, he’s put up excellent numbers, with one of the best performances of any pitcher in the offense-heavy league.

Warner actually had seven starts spanning 35.1 IP for Memphis last season, but his 4.33 ERA/6.12 FIP, combined with strikeout rates nearly four K/9 lower than his career average, showed he could use a bit more time in Springfield.

That’s no slight on him, though. He began 2018 with Palm Beach and earned the Memphis promotion after 32 innings as a Springfield Cardinal. His numbers at Double-A in 2018 weren’t what they are now, as he’s striking out one out of every four batters he sees and doing a solid job of limiting runs and averaging over 5.2 innings per start.

Palm Beach Cardinals

Past week: (1-5) | Second half: (1-5) | Overall: (36-34)

First-half standings: 6th (last), 4.5 GB

It’s a very different feeling in the second half than it was the first for the PB Cardinals, as they’ve gotten off to an extremely slow start.

They lost the first two games of the half to the Jupiter Hammerheads (4-2) and won the first game against the Dunedin Blue Jays (4-2) before dropping the last three of the series.

This rough patch has stretched the past month for Palm Beach, as a team that once held a multi-game lead on the FSL South now sits at the bottom for the half and in 5th place overall.

Palm Beach will hit the road for a three-game series against the Florida Fire Frogs (2-5), then head home for three games against the Charlotte Stone Crabs (4-3).

Hitter of the week: Nick Plummer, OF

Stats: 6 G, 21 AB, 7 H, 1 R, 3 2B, 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K

The former first-round pick hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations since his drafting in 2015. He raked in his 2015 short season debut before injuries sidelined him for the entire 2016 season.

He was able to get his bat back up to an above-average area in 2018 with Peoria, but has struggled mightily with the adjustment to the Florida State League.

Nearly half of Plummer’s plate appearances end without a ball in play, with a 12.3% walk rate and 36.4% strikeout rate. This week the strikeouts were still there, but he put the ball in play and showed some gap power with four extra-base hits.

The power hadn’t been there for Plummer this season, as those four XBHs actually doubled his total for the year. But it was still a promising showing from a player who’s still just 22 years old.

Pitcher of the week: Diego Cordero, LHP

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

Cordero has been in the Cardinals’ farm system since the 2015 season, but he had played at the rookie level exclusively until he began skyrocketing in mid-2018.

The 21-year-old lefty started last season in the Gulf Coast League and made the jump all the way to Palm Beach. He pitched well on paper, with a 1.46 ERA, but had a 5.02 FIP and identical K/9 and BB/9, at 2.19. He was sent to State College after, where he pitched to a 4.70 ERA and 3.73 FIP, averaging over six innings per start.

Cordero began 2019 with Peoria and made 12 starts spanning 70.1 IP, with an ERA/FIP of 3.45/3.79. The strikeout numbers began to climb back up to the place where they were in rookie ball, with a 16.3% K and 7.3% BB.

Cordero made his first 2019 start with Palm Beach this week and pitched pretty well, allowing just over a baserunner per inning and one run over five solid innings.

Peoria Chiefs

Past week: (2-2) | Second half: (2-2) | Overall: (32-41)

Divison: T-4th, 1 GB

The Chiefs haven’t gotten off to an excellent start, but they’re within striking distance of the top in this very young second half after splitting a series with the Cedar Rapids Kernels (2-2) to open play.

Peoria will play four games on the road against the Clinton LumberKings (1-3) before returning home for a three-game set against the Burlington Bees (1-3).

Without a full week of play under their belts, we’ll instead look at the individual performances from the Midwest League All-Star Game:

  • 3B Nolan Gorman was 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored.
  • 1B Brady Whalen went 0-for-2.
  • RHP Edgar Escobar pitched a scoreless 7th inning, notching two strikeouts.
  • RHP Alvaro Seijas tossed a scoreless 9th, walking one and striking out one.

State College Spikes

Past week: (5-3) | Overall: (6-4)

Divison: T-3rd, 1 GB

State College got rolling quickly this week, kicking it off with wins in both games of a doubleheader on Monday. They followed with a three-game sweep of the Williamsport Crosscutters (2-8), but got swept themselves by the West Virginia Black Bears (6-4) over the past three days.

The Spikes have a chance to easily close the gap between them and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (7-3) as they take them on at home over the next three days, followed by another three-game home series against the Auburn Doubledays (2-7).

Hitter of the Half: Dariel Gomez, 1B

Stats: 6 G, 21 AB, 4 R, 6 H, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB, 4 K

Gomez was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in December 2013. He’s less than one month away from his 23rd birthday but in his fifth professional season in the Cardinal system. Something he’s done consistently is hit.

Gomez played his first two seasons in the DSL, spent 2017 with the GCL Cardinals, and last season with Johnson City. The lowest wRC+ Gomez has posted is 108, which was in the Gulf Coast League in 2017.

Last year, Gomez finished with a .270/.389/.454 line through 185 PA with Johnson City, hitting eight doubles, a triple and six home runs.

His on-base ability was very impressive. Though he struck out 23.2% of the time, Gomez had a walk rate of 15.1%. Those numbers reflect his career averages almost perfectly, and he’s putting up very similar numbers to start the year with State College.

Pitcher of the Half: Hector Villalobos, LHP

Stats: 3 G, 1 SV, 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Villalobos came to the Cardinals’ system from the Mexican League in mid-June 2018. He began with Johnson City but played most of last season at State College, where he pitched 25.2 innings across 14 appearances and carried a 3.16 ERA/3.13 FIP. He had a strikeout rate of 23%, while walking batters at a rate of 7.1%.

This season, Villalobos has started strong in his first three appearances. He’s sat down seven of the 15 batters he’s faced on strikes through his first 4.1 IP, walking none and allowing just two hits.

Johnson City Cardinals

Past week: (3-2) | Overall: (3-2)

Divison: 2nd, 0.5 GB

The Johnson City Cardinals have started their short season well, a half-game back only because the division-leading Kingsport Mets (4-2) have played one game more and took home a win.

The JC Cardinals split the first two games against the Pulaski Yankees (3-2) before the third was cancelled due to weather. They followed by taking two of three from the Danville Braves (3-3).

Johnson City will travel to Greeneville for a three-game set against the Reds (3-3) before getting three games at home against the Mets.

We’ll have a pitcher and hitter of the week next week when a full week of action is under the Cardinals’ belts.