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Minor League Update: Rookie Leagues

And some updates on recent stats from 40 man roster players

MLB: AUG 23 Cardinals at Cubs Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Time has gotten away from me. I fully intended to do a minor league update earlier than now. But things have accidentally worked out. I was going to do my normal hitters and pitchers update, but then I realized: the season is almost over. In the case of the rookie leagues, it literally is over. It ended in late August. This upcoming Sunday, the A ball leagues end. The week after, AA ends and a little bit after that, AAA ends. So consider this part one of a three-part end of year minor league update. Part one is the rookie leagues, part two will happen on Monday covering both Low A and High A, and I’ll cover AA and AAA together after the AAA season ends.

But first, because you may be a little curious, with the recent promotion of Alec Burleson, I thought I’d cover some 40 man guys. Basically, give you updates on someone who may be promoted before the end of the year, and the likelihood they will be promoted based upon their performance. Burleson was covered yesterday, so we’ll skip him.

Steven Matz, LHP

Rehab Appearance: 1.1 IP, 3 Ks, 3 BBs

Given it was his first appearance, choose to focus on the strikeouts and not the walks. That kind of strikeout potential in the bullpen would be appreciated.

Ivan Herrera, C

Since 7/30: 66 PAs, .241/.364/.259, 15.2 BB%, 19.7 K%, .019 ISO, .310 BABIP, 81 wRC+

One confusing aspect of Herrera’s development has been the Cardinals unwillingness to play him in the majors..... while constantly bringing him up to be on the taxi squad. Herrera got 441 PAs last year. He will fall way short of that this year, with just 227 PAs so far and only 66 in the second half. Seems to be a good approach in the 2nd half, the power hasn’t been there though.

Juan Yepez, OF/DH

Since 8/18: 57 PAs, .327/.421/.735, 14 BB%, 29.8 K%, .408 ISO, .385 BABIP, 197 wRC+

Juan Yepez is a victim of circumstance, because he rehabbed in the minor leagues, got to be a big leaguer for a few days while Nolan Arenado became a father for the first time, and then got sent down. When the September callups came, 10 days hadn’t passed yet. And when he could have been called up, he just... wasn’t. The team concluded Alec Burleson, a left-handed hitter, would probably play more. I wondered if it was Yepez’s performance, but as you see in the numbers, he’s been hitting the hell out of the ball. Just strange timing on the Burleson promotion to be honest.

Kramer Robertson, SS

Stats (AAA): 430 PAs, .240/.398/.367, 17.2 BB%, 20.2 K%, .126 ISO, .295 BABIP, 117 wRC+

Since Robertson has AAA stats split between three different teams, I’d thought it might be more useful to see what his stats look like overall, which isn’t really provided on Fangraphs. Amusingly enough, he has a 117 wRC+ since he got claimed by the Cardinals. Nearly every stat is pretty damn close to the season stat above.

Dakota Hudson, SP

One AAA start: 8.2 IP, 8 H, 8 Ks, 2 BBs

You can see the strikeouts below. Personally, I’m not trying to throw cold water on a good performance, but at least from the highlights of the strikeouts, I really feel like these strikeouts are “AAA hitters are bad” more than “wow Hudson was good” but good for him.

Matthew Liberatore, SP

Since 7/17: 8 GS, 38.1 IP, 7.51 ERA/6.29 FIP, 20.3 K%, 11.3 BB%, .324 BABIP

I’m looking at these stats, and maybe I’m just feeling generous, and I’m certainly a homer, but.... I propose a theory that Liberatore and his pitching coaches are making a conscious effort to work on his weaker stuff, which is obviously affecting his stats. I picked this date, because it’s really the first date where it became clear that Liberatore was not going to make an MLB impact this year. He got his first taste of the big leagues, made three not particularly promising starts, got sent down, got called up 12 days later and had a genuinely good start against the Pirates. He got sent back down, made two starts in AAA, and got called back up and ended up facing the Phillies, Braves, and Dodgers - which is a ridiculous gauntlet. He wasn’t great. And 7/17 was his first start after that trio in AAA. Anyway, just a theory that maybe they aren’t as concerned with on-field results in AAA and more concerned with working on his weaker stuff. Generous perhaps? Sure. It’s important to remember though that teams aren’t necessarily concerned with minor league stats, they’re concerned with how stuff will play in the big leagues and he’d be in the exact situation where they really wouldn’t care about his AAA stats. And remember, still 22, most guys his age are in A ball.

Packy Naughton (LHP)

Since 8/30: 2 IP, 2 Ks, 2 H, HR, 1 ER

He’s allowed a homer in one of his two innings. I don’t even think he’s down for performance though, just that JoJo Romero took his role.

Genesis Cabrera (LHP)

Since 8:30: 3 IP, 3 Ks, 2 BBs, 3 ER, HR

Weird set of appearances Cabrera had in AAA. He faced six batters in both appearances. In the first, he hit the three true outcomes and didn’t have a ball in play: 3 strikeouts, two walks, one homer allowed. In the 2nd appearance, he threw two innings with all of them being balls in play, but all outs. I have no idea what to make of this, but at least he finally struck somebody out.

Freddy Pacheco (RHP)

Stats (AAA): 20 G, 26.1 IP, 32.4 K%, 7.8 BB%, 34.5 GB%, 2.39 ERA/2.51 FIP/3.84 xFIP

Pacheco was what you call a forced 40 man inclusion. Here’s what I mean: while players are added to the 40 man because they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft like Pacheco, most seem to be added while also being in AAA and with the understanding they will reach the majors. Not the case with Pacheco. I don’t think the Cards ever had any intention of him reaching the majors this year. He had not great stats in AA - he struck out 34.7%, but also walked 13.6% and got very few groundballs. But they promoted him and his stats have improved in every way. So he should be a factor in next year’s bullpen, even if not at the beginning of the season. He isn’t really young though, he’s going to be 25 next year. Matters way less when it comes to bullpen but still necessary context.

Jake Walsh (RHP) has been injured since June 8th.

Kodi Whitley (RHP)

Stats (since 8/3): 11.2 IP, 20 K%, 14 BB%, .291 BABIP, 0.77 ERA, 4.70 FIP

Whitley is actually why I chose to do this update like this, because everyone has forgotten about Whitley. He quietly returned from the injured list in AAA and has been pitching for over a month. He has two walks and no strikeouts in his last two appearances, so the last time I looked at him, he looked like a much more promising candidate to be promoted, but probably not happening at this point.

That actually took way longer than I anticipated, but here is what the post is ostensibly about: the rookie leagues.

Jonathan Mejia (SS, 17-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 208 PAs, .267/.418/.479, 15.9 BB%, 23.1 K%, .212 ISO, .348 BABIP, 145 wRC+

He actually landed 13th on Fangraphs top prospect list - and while FG seems to overvalue prospects in the rookie leagues in my opinion (they’re just too far away, I think they just want to be early on the guys who hit), nonetheless nothing but good news from these stats. Given his age, we probably won’t actually have many useful stats on him until 2024 when he is in Low A.

Anyelo Encarnacion (2B, 18-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 138 PAs, .323/.496/.485, 23.9 BB%, 21 K%, .162 ISO, .437 BABIP, 171 wRC+

These are fun video game stats. More walks than strikeouts. A nearly .500 on-base percentage. I’m pretty sure his stats would still look good with a more normal BABIP. This is his second attempt at the DSL. He hit for a 87 wRC+ at 17-years-old last year.

Yancel Guerrero (1B, 18-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 154 PAs, .267/.448/.379, 19.5 BB%, 31.2 K%, .112 ISO, .439 BABIP, 140 wRC+

One valuable thing listing these players does is: tempers expectations for Mejia. Because it appears that teenagers pitching in the DSL have zero control. Who knew? The strikeout rate at that level probably means he’s the longest of long shots.

Luis Rodriguez (C, 17-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 101 PAs, .301/.347/.473, 5.9 BB%, 24.8 K%, .172 ISO, .369 BABIP, 117 wRC+

The walk rate/strikeout rate combo is definitely not the most encouraging at a league like the DSL, but I listed Rodriguez because 1) he’s a catcher 2) he’s 17 and 3) pretty good pop. Someone worth paying attention to I think.

Jose Suarez (OF, 17-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 162 PAs, .248/.327/.496, 9.9 BB%, 28.4 K%, .248 ISO, .315 BABIP, 113 wRC+

One particular stat probably jumped out at you, if you read the stats before you read my words anyway: .248 isolated power. Slugging minus average. Just a ton of power. He actually played in the DSL last year at 16, and had a 131 wRC+, but it came with virtually no power and a huge BABIP. Ton of talent though since he had a 131 wRC+ at 16-years-old last year. That’s insane.

Carlos Carmona (OF, 17-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 119 PAs, .255/.378/.372, 11.8 BB%, 15.1 K%, .117 ISO, .282 BABIP, 110 wRC+

Another player who debuted last year at 16. He was less successful than Suarez. He has improved in virtually every way with more experience and at an older age. He cut his strikeout percentage from 27.1% to 15.1%. He walked more at the same time, with a 9% BB rate last year. More power. Lower BABIP, but barely.

Leonel Sequera (SP, 16-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 11 GS, 36.1 IP, 26.1 K%, 6.8 BB%, 38.8 GB%, 3.47 ERA/3.10 FIP/3.56 xFIP

The top three xFIPs on the DSL Cardinals were all 19-years-old and nobody who is going to be mentioned in this post. In fourth place was Sequera. He has the second best FIP and in first place is one of those same 19-year-olds. 39.6 swinging strike%. He did turn 17 in August, but still. This is ridiculous for a 16-year-old. Feel like he might be on a prospect list next year.

Nelfy Ynfante (SP, 17-years-old)

Stats (DSL): 11 G (8 GS), 41.1 IP, 22.3 K%, 10.9 BB%, 41.8 GB%, 1.96 ERA/3.84 FIP/4.35 xFIP

This is the only other “interesting” pitching prospect in the DSL. Ynfante and Sequera were the only under 18 crowd. And I’m certainly not listing any relievers in the DSL.

Won-Bin Cho (OF, 18-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 100 PAs, .211/.400/.316, 20 BB%, 27 K%, .105 ISO, .313 BABIP, 118 wRC+

One of those lines that could only be produced at the rookie level. He also got hit by 4 pitches. The approach is there, just need some power.

Randal Clemente (SP, 20-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 18 G, 21 IP, 22.6 K%, 12.3 BB%, 45 GB%, .413 BABIP, 9.00 ERA/4.25 FIP/4.87 xFIP

He is listed here because he made Fangraphs Top 33 prospects. I have no idea why, his stats in the DSL as a 19-year-old weren’t good. He got converted to relief and they still aren’t particularly good.

Alec Willis (SP, 19-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 6 G (4 GS), 11.1 IP, 34.8 K%, 4.3 BB%, 42.9 GB%, .192 BABIP, 1.59 ERA/2.94 FIP/2.28 xFIP

Well, he didn’t get to pitch many innings - he was hurt most of the year - but what innings he did pitch were as good as you could hope for. If it wasn’t for innings, I’d say he’s a lock to be in next year’s Low A rotation. He might get the Tink Hence treatment.

Samil De La Rosa (3B, 18-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 165 PAs, .241/.345/.447, 7.9 BB%, 20 K%, .206 ISO, .272 BABIP, 121 wRC+

He may have shown enough to start next season in Low A, and a 19-year-old in Low A is almost a prospect by default. Depends on how much the Cardinals think that BABIP is deserved or unlucky, and I’m sure they have the numbers handy.

Joshua Cordoba (OF, 19-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 125 PAs, .236/.336/.425, 12 BB%, 26.4 K%, .189 ISO, .286 BABIP, 112 wRC+

Nothing too exciting, though he did take a big leap from last year. In the DSL last year he had just an 86 wRC+. He nearly doubled his walk rate and while his strikeout rate went higher, so did his power.

Lizandro Espinoza (SS, 19-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 121 PAs, .240/.322/.394, 9.9 BB%, 24 K%, .154 ISO, .312 BABIP, 99 wRC+

Espinoza actually got a cup of coffee in Low A and... was not ready. He struck out in 24 of his 64 PAs and had just 10 hits overall. He finished the year in the complex league so I’ll be curious what they do with him next year.

Luis Piño (OF, 18-years-old)

Stats (Complex): 112 PAs, .216/.321/.361, 10.7 BB%, 31.3 K%, .144 ISO, .305 BABIP, 96 wRC+

Just felt worth mentioning given his age.

And that’s pretty much it. There are a few players I didn’t mention, one really notable one, because they have since been promoted to Low A and their season is still ongoing. Really just about any semi-interesting starting pitcher got promoted which is why you see so few pitchers in here.

And that’s part one. Part two will be on Monday, though I guess will be missing whatever happens on the last game of the year, which is Sunday, so when I write Monday’s post, Sunday’s stats won’t be included. Just happens to be my day to write. I will at worst mention what players did on Sunday and at best figure out how to incorporate the Sunday stats into the post. Depends on time/how much they’d affect the stats. Part three comes at the end of the month, whenever the best time after the AAA season is when I’m not writing a series preview.