Dominican Summer League Cardinals
Three Year Park Factor: 93 (Pitcher friendly)Record: 22-48, 9th of 10 teams in Boca Chica South
Player of the Year:
David Oca, 19, LHP
The 2012 signee out of Venezuela pitched for the DSL affiliate a year ago at age 18 and put up a 3.52/3.04 ERA/FIP with a similar K rate. The big difference for him this seasons was command: He was able to reduce his BB% from 8.8% a year ago to just under 5% in 2014 which bodes well for a pitcher who is just turned 19 years old in July. Oca's 2.08 FIP was the 4th lowest in the DSL for pitchers with more than 50 innings.
At just 5'10, 165 pounds, Oca likely does not profile as a starting pitcher as he moves up in the farm system but his mid-90's fastball could play well out of the bullpen, especially if his 1.89 FIP and .203/.250/.230 line against lefties continues as he moves up.
Players of Note:
Luis Bandes, 18, COF
Slashed .286/.327/.471 with 6 homers and a .185 ISO in just 150 PA's while striking out just 20 times (13.3 K%). Possible candidate for moving stateside to the GCL as the players there move up to the Low-A short season affiliates in 2015.
Allen Cordoba, 18, SS/3B
Also in his second season in the DSL, Cordoba's .336 wOBA is nothing to write home about -- we're dealing with potential here: He's 6'1", 175 pounds, and looks as if he could stick as an average SS with plenty of room to fill out his frame. He swiped 14 bags with a 74% success rate, demonstrating good speed on the basepaths. Certainly a player to watch if he can improve his contact rate and add some power.
Overall, a pretty lean year in terms of position players in the DSL. The Cardinals have focused more on arms among the IFA crowd lately and it shows here. Lots of live arms on this squad and a couple with some real potential heading into next year, if they can find a way to get their heads above the water and avoid drowning in the sea of high quality arms the Cardinals have at the lower levels of the minors.
Gulf Coast Cardinals
Three Year Park Factor: 102 (Neutral)
Player of the Year:
Magneuris Sierra, 18, CF
The left handed Sierra picked up where he left off at the end of last season, outperforming his more highly touted DSL teammate Edmundo Sosa and being the catalyst for a Cardinal roster that scored 299 runs. Very much a gap hitter with a bit of home run pop, Sierra could be a nice prospect if he can stay in CF (and batting left handed doesn't hurt either), although his gaudy numbers were based on a .444 BABIP that is almost assuredly an outlier. He doesn't pop the ball up much and doesn't hit a ton of fly balls either (just 27.4% IFB+OFB per minorleaguecentral.com) so a .360+ BABIP for a player with his speed (13 SB's @ 81.3% success rate) is not unrealistic throughout the minor leagues.
Regardless, Sierra's season was a bit out of nowhere for most followers of the Cardinal farm system. I'd gather he would have been a 50-1 long shot to be the POY on this GCL squad in June given the amount of talent this roster has. Certainly a F-R Top 20 candidate heading into 2015.
Players of Note:
Malik Collymore, 19, 2B
A close runner up to the POY, Collymore slahsed .333/.403/.480 in his second stint in the GCL after a 19 game debut a year ago. Collymore was profiled in the Hatchlings series last year as a player to watch in the low minors due just to his considerable athleticism and five tool potential -- and this is as good an indication as any of what kind of player he can be. By all reports his defense was above average at the keystone, and even with a .430 BABIP and 25% LD rate propping up his batting average, he ended up with 16 extra base hits, including 8 triples, over his 201 PA's, a .147 ISO. That's solid for a middle infielder at this stage of his career, still adjusting to playing baseball full time and figuring out how to apply his elite athletic ability towards developing baseball skills. I like Collymore a lot and I think he's one of the higher ceiling position players the Cardinals have in the minors right now.
Edmundo Sosa, 18, SS
Sosa's .352 wOBA and defense was enough to earn him a promotion to State College at the end of the year for a 2 game cup-of-coffee in the league where he'll likely start his 2015 campaign. As I alluded to in the mid-season review, Ben Badler likes Sosa's bat a lot and thinks he can stick as a SS with at least average defense. Many of the same opinions were couched in reports from the B-P stringers throughout the GCL season: Good enough defensively, must improve to stay at SS, but the bat will likely play at 2B or 3B if he has to move off the position. Don't scout the slash line here (.271/.336/.372) even though there's quite a bit to like there from an 18 year old kid in his first taste of stateside baseball: Struck out just 12.4% of the time while drawing a walk in 7.7% of his PA's. The power is lacking right now (.101 ISO) but may yet come as he matures a bit, but the .352 wOBA is certainly good enough for a player his age in the lower minors. Would not be at all surprised to see him on some top 10 lists in the spring given the lack of high impact bats in the Cardinals system currently.
Frederis Parra, 19, RHP
The pitching riches in the Cardinals organization currently resemble the gold coins in Scrooge McDuck's vault, and they just keep stockpiling more at the lower levels. Parra has excellent stuff, as B-P's Jeff Moore pointed out nearly every time he took the mound this summer, and his pitchability as an 19 year old is as highly rated as any young pitcher in the system not named Ian McKinney. The 3.18 FIP isn't anything special and neither is the 17.5% strikeout rate. Nearly half of the balls in play against him were on the ground, however, and he allowed just 10 extra base hits and 1 home run in 46 innings.
I wouldn't be surprised if he jumped all the way to Peoria to start the 2015 season just to see if he can handle a full season league.
Ronnie Williams, 18, RHP
The 68th overall selection in the 2014 draft, Williams signed immediately, drove to Jupiter, and started pitching less than a month after the draft. He acquitted himself pretty well for a kid right out of high school, registering a mid-90's fastball that touches 97-98 and a sporting a very good breaking ball with excellent depth -- drawing a lot of comparisons to Chris Archer, who moved quickly through a pitching rich Tampa Bay farm system just a few seasons ago. Fast arm, good mechanics, and an athletic delivery that has to impress Red Baron.
The nick in his armor coming into the draft was command, but his 5.7% walk rate this season in 36 innings doesn't throw up any huge red flags just yet. Just another power arm to add to the stable, which is currently undergoing renovations that will double it in size due to pitching prospect overflow.
Jack Flaherty, 18, RHP
Jack Flaherty did what over-slot, top 50 pitchers are supposed to do in rookie ball: Dominate. 28 strikeouts to just 4 walks (one of which was intentional), and opponents slashed only .209/.269/.314 against him in his 22 inning pro debut. Hard to say what the Cardinals have here until he faces some better competition and logs some more innings. After Kaminsky jumped to Peoria in his second pro season this past year, there's certainly a pathway for Flaherty to do much the same thing. He's all potential at this point, but the Cardinals haven't missed on a top 100 arm in quite a while so either this is the time the dice come up seven or we have another, more polished, Shelby Miller ready to vaulty into full season ball early next season.
It was once said that Dean Smith didn't believe in rebuilding his basketball teams at North Carolina, he believed in reloading: Five All-Americans out, next five All-Americans in. That certainly seems to be the case with pitchers in the Cardinal organization since Mozeliak has taken over the GM role. The graduates of the farm system that are in the big leagues aren't even in arbitration yet and the club has basically restocked the lower levels with all kinds of high upside talent on the bump.
As good as the pitching is (and believe me I'd rather have a lot of young arms given the attrition rate of pitchers than the other way around) what this system really lacks here is a potential for a top 20 bat anywhere near the lower levels. Sierra might be that guy, Collymore or Sosa might be too, but I wouldn't bet on it. Those guys are valuable because of their ability to play difficult defensive positions and their tools -- they aren't the next Lankford, Drew, or Matt Carpenter, at least at this point.
A lot can change in a year.