Tag Archive | "Bryan Anderson"

Who are the backups to the St. Louis Cardinals backstop?

The St. Louis Cardinals are all in training camp and preparing for the 2012 season! Those are sweet, sweet words for Cardinal fans all over the world. This is the time of year where every team has hope for the upcoming season, and the joy of baseball fandom is at its highest. As has been much discussed on this site, there are a lot of questions the Cardinals face as they approach a new season: new manager, new pitching coach, no Albert Pujols at first base, ace pitcher (Adam Wainwright) returning after a missed year following Tommy John surgery, Yadier Molina entering final year of his contract, Lance Berkman moving to first base, David Freese trying to stay healthy for a full season, Tyler Greene trying to win the second base job, Allen Craig trying to get back on the field, Shelby Miller and Matt Adams trying to crack the big league roster, Carlos Beltran first season with the Birds, Holliday moving into the 3 spot in the batting order…have I left anything out?

News broke out of Jupiter earlier this week that the Cardinals and Yadier Molina are very close on a 5-year extension for a reported $70-75 million. As of the writing of this article, the deal has yet to be completed or finalized. Molina’s contract situation begs the question of just who would replace Molina should he leave after the 2012 season? Would it come from within the organization or outside the organization? This article will look at the three catchers in the Cardinal system that would be next in-line should Molina leave, or perhaps more importantly (based on news of a deal being close for Molina), which guy could provide serviceable backup starts when Molina needs a rest.

Bryan Anderson is a 25-year old catcher that was drafted by the Cardinals in the 4th round of the 2005 amateur draft. Anderson made his big-league debut in 2010 and has seen only 32 at-bats. He has played time at the AAA level all the way back to 2008. His batting average in the minors is .281 and he has hit between 3-12 home runs each season. While not a home run hitter, he does swing a pretty good bat with gap power that can produce a lot of doubles. Scouts say Anderson is athletic with good bat-speed and plate discipline. He has a quick release from behind the plate but only average arm strength. His blocking and receiving also need some work before he is major-league ready. He certainly has the right coach to help him in manager Mike Matheny, but he appears to be a guy that could get squeezed out of an MLB opportunity. He’s  not a good enough defender (yet) to play catcher but not enough of a power bat to become a DH.

Tony Cruz is also a 25-year old catcher. He was signed by the Cardinals in the 27th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Like Anderson, Cruz does not have many major league at-bats. Unlike Anderson, he was not drafted as a catcher. Cruz was drafted as a 3B, but was moved behind the plate because of his strong arm. His only time up in the big show came in 2011 when he accumulated 72 plate appearances in 38 games. Cruz stayed in the low minors longer than Anderson. He did not reach the AAA level until 2010.

Part of his development will be improving his slow release behind the plate (if only we could combine Anderson’s release and Cruz’s arm strength). Unfortunately, Cruz is a mediocre offensive weapon. His minors slash line is .264/.319/.414 and his AAA slash line is .232/.295/.389. He is a singles hitter that struggles to make consistent contact.

Koyie Hill was signed by the Cardinals to a minor-league contract during the 2012 off-season. Hill is 32 years old, was drafted by the Dodgers organization in the 4th round of the 2000 draft. He played sparingly at the big league level from 2003-2008. Then he played in 83, 77, and 46 games during the 2009-2011 seasons. Most of his playing time was received when Geovany Soto went down with injuries.

Hill was given playing time for his defensive abilities much more so than his offensive capabilities. Hill struggles to make contact, has a ground ball rate over 50%, and does not have a good eye at the plate (quite the combination). His best major league year season at the plate was 2009 when he hit .237 with with 2 HRs and 24 RBIs in 253 plate appearances. 2009 also marked the most plate appearances Hill has seen in a season to this point in his career.

A deeper look at these catcher’s skill sets and numbers makes it understandable why the Cardinals are willing to throw the years and dollars at Molina that is being reported. I did not even touch on all the intangibles a catcher brings to the team outside of the sheer numbers. The way Molina handles pitchers will ease the transition from Duncan to Lilliquist. The way he throws runners out and keeps runners from attempting to steal will keep many runs off the scoreboard. He is the guy you want behind the plate to groom Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and others in the coming seasons. Those who would call a five-year contract to Molina foolish must not fully understand all the intangibles he brings to the team that truly make a difference in the standings at the end of the year.

Another exciting aspect to Molina is that 2011 was his most productive season at the plate. For whatever reason, a lot of catchers are late bloomers offensively, and Molina was no exception. In 2011, Molina batted .304 with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs. He has excellent discipline at the plate, drives the ball well to the opposite field, and makes contact over 90% of the time. His numbers are trending in such a way that I would not put a .300-20-80 season beyond him in any of the next three seasons.

There is one last factor to take into consideration. In this age of advanced metrics, we sometimes reduce a players worth to numbers on a page. It has been a long time since I have seen a Cardinal play the game of baseball with more passion than Yadier Molina. The Cardinals need him in the clubhouse if for no other reason than that. Passion is contagious.

If for some reason, the deal does not get done with the Cardinals and Molina, you have to believe the club would look outside the organization for a starting catcher. At 25, Anderson and Cruz have time to continue to develop, but nothing they have done to this point in their careers lead you to believe they would be the long-term answer.

This writer hopes Molina wears the Birds on the Bat for years to come. Let’s make it happen Mo!

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Ship McClellan To The Padres

It does seem odd that the St. Louis Cardinals are willing to send do-everything pitcher Kyle McClellan somewhere else.  He’s a local boy.  He moved through the ranks as a starting pitcher but willingly switched to the bullpen to help the big club, becoming a dependable late-innings guy.  Last season, after Adam Wainwright went down, he willingly switched back to the rotation and was very effective as a starter before getting hurt.

In this day and age, selfless players are hard to come by.  So why give that up?  Maybe because he’s the most expensive pitcher in the bullpen, and other than JC Romero he’s the closest guy to free agency (McClellan’s last arbitration year is next year).  It’s hard to believe a team that saved $210 million this off-season would need to cut payroll, but here we are.

Reporting on interest in McClellan has named Baltimore, San Diego and Arizona as potential suitors.  Since the Cardinals reportedly are not looking to take on any salary in a trade for Kyle, he would have to be moved for prospects.  With that as the goal, St Louis should send him to San Diego for a minor-league catcher.

San Diego has Nick Hundley starting, and although he’s not Johnny Bench he’s not Bob Uecker either.  Hundley, coming off a breakout season in 2011, is not going anywhere other than behind the plate at Petco.  For the last few years the Padres have suffered from a dearth of catching depth in their system.  They have been aggressive in fixing that over the last 12 months.  They grabbed Austin Hedges, widely considered the best defensive catcher in last year’s draft, in the second round.  Hedges has some work to do at the plate but his defense is close to major league ready now.  The club also insisted Cincinnati include Yasmani Grandal in the Mat Latos trade.  Grandal, a Cuban emigre, has plus power behind the plate; he rose rapidly through the Cincinnati system in 2011.  Suddenly the Padres are very deep behind the plate; recently Fangraphs called Grandal and Hedges the #2 and #5 prospects, respectively, in the San Diego system.

Back to the Cardinals.  Who do they have behind Yadier MolinaThe depth chart currently lists Tony Cruz as his back-up, and Bryan Anderson shows up on the 40-man.  Anderson has been with the organization since the 2005 draft, but has only made a cup-of-coffee appearance with the big club (2010).  Why Anderson has spent the last 4 years in AAA can partially be explained by a perceived unwillingness on Tony LaRussa’s part to play him.  With Don Tony retired Anderson may get another chance.  Cruz has been in the St Louis organization two fewer years than Anderson and has almost twice as many plate appearances, all of which came last year.  He proved he can hit major league pitching down the stretch as the Cardinals charged into the playoffs.  However I don’t believe we can call either of them the long-term solution behind the plate; they may ultimately be a stop-gap to get the Cardinals to their next catcher.

Grandal is 23 and Hedges 18.  Either of them would be an excellent long-term replacement behind the plate for Molina, and neither one is expensive.  St Louis should trade McClellan to San Diego.

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I-70 Minor League Affiliates Attempt To Write History

Baseball is a funny game. On any given day, history can be made, records can be broken, and players can etch their names permanently into stone. Regardless of a players career, or lack thereof, one game can immortialize them forever.

Courtesy of Minda Haas

That is what every player strives for. A game for the history books. A game that can etch their name into the stone history of America’s Pastime. Such a game happened this week in a Triple-A showdown between the i70 teams. The Memphis Redbirds took on the Omaha Stormchasers in Memphis and Luis Mendoza would take the mound for the Royals minor league affiliate from Omaha. But before the night was over Mendoza would see the unthinkable happen as his name would be erased from the “permanent” record books as quickly as it was etched.

His night was not perfect, he would open the night with a walk to Redbirds leadoff man Jim Rappaport. He would walk Bryan Anderson in the fifth and eight innings as well as Matt Carpenter in the later frame. The bottom of the ninth would bring a moment that has every baseball fan on the edge of their seats. Tyler Greene would hit a line drive to deep left field that would go off left fielder David Lough’s glove and richochet off the base of the wall. As fans, players, and media held their collective breath, the scorekeeper would rule the play an error. The end of the inning would arrive and find the Stormchasers celebrating the first nine inning no-hitter for an Omaha franchise since 1988.

It was five days prior to this no hitter that Mendoza took another into the eighth inning against Oklahoma City. Over the course of a week, the Royals prospect has rattled off back-to-back dominant performances and on this night in Memphis, had put the finishing touches on one of baseball’s elusive moments.

Then again, I did say baseball is a funny game.

Within minutes of the final out, the official scorekeeper reviewed that hard hit ball in the ninth and overturned the error. Greene was awarded a hit and Mendoza would have his second straight one hit outing. Funny how you can etch your name in stone and the baseball gods can find a way to erase it, no matter how permanent you thought it was.

Then again, baseball has a funny way of doing business.

News broke recently that the Memphis coaching staff has filed an official appeal with the league office concerning the scoring decision in the ninth inning. Per league rules, a decision from the league office will be received within 24 to 48 hours. Should the league reverse the scorer’s decision, the game will once again be declared a no-hitter. Should they refuse, the record books will stand with a one hitter for the Royals’ prospect.

Mendoza may see his name etched into stone, erased, and then put back within a matter of days. Time will tell if the player will have his no-hitter reinstated.

Like I said, it is a funny game.

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Cardinal Farm Report

Bryan Anderson
AAA-Memphis Redbirds
23 years old
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted by Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2005 MLB Draft
Just like every week here on i70baseball, the Cardinal Farm Report spotlights one of the prized Cardinal minor leaguers. This week, it’s one of the most interesting prospects I have ever studied, Bryan Anderson.

At the start of the 2010 MLB season, Anderson was a non-roster invitee to Cardinals Spring Training for the first time in his career. While he did not make the team and was optioned to AAA Memphis, Anderson was called up to the big leagues and made his Major League debut with the Cardinals on April 15th due to an injury to back-up catcher Jason LaRue. Anderson’s stint in St. Louis didn’t last long but he certainly made an impact. Appearing in four games, he was 2-for-7 with one run and one RBI. His shining moment came against Atlanta when his pinch-hit double brought in the tying run. The Cardinals later went on to win by a score of 4-3.

Even though the team isn’t quite ready to see him at the MLB level, Andreson is putting together a fine season with the Redbirds as their starting catcher. In 191 minor league at bats, he is batting .283/.353/.461 with 9 home runs, 31 RBI, and 19 walks. Those numbers are not bad by any means, but this is actually a down year for Bryan.

After being drafted in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Anderson spent his first four minor league seasons crushing the ball at a .306 clip. At the start of the 2008 campaign, Baseball America put Bryan Anderson in their Top-100 Prospects list at #85. In 2007 and 2008, Anderson represented the St. Louis Cardinals in the annual Futures Game. However, in 2009, the prospect backstop suffered a strain to his non-throwing shoulder. Fortunately, the injury does not appear to be limiting him in any way. He only played 58 games last season and many people totally forgot about him as a prospect. The fact is, he’s still only 23. A 23-year-old starting catcher that is doing well in AAA should always be considered a prospect.

Anderson projects as a high-average MLB player with potential to hit the long ball at a pretty good rate. The problem for the Cardinals is that he has also been described as a “true disignated hitter”. There is no doubt that he can hit the ball, but his defensive ability behind the plate is rough. Of course this can be worked on, but ideally he is a future first baseman or DH in the Majors. I think it’s pretty obvious that the Cardinals need neither of those. That is why many fans believe Anderson is one of the Cardinals main trading chips as we approach the trade deadline.

If we don’t plan on trading him, it may be time to give him another shot with St. Louis. After all, neither of the Cardinal’s catchers are hitting. Yadi is batting a whopping .226, and LaRue’s average is even worse at .205. Molina needs a rest every once in a while but LaRussa is obviously uncomfortable starting LaRue (three starts in the past month). TLR has also expressed that he would like to add a left-handed hitter to the bench. Bryan Anderson is left-handed. To me, calling him up makes sense. Why not?

AAA-Memphis Redbirds
Memphis was visiting Round Rock earlier in the week and managed to win the seven game series 5-2. Lance Lynn led the way on Sunday with six strong innings of work to get the win and take the fourth game of the series 2-1. Ruben Gotay also had a productive day, going 2-for-4. Monday was much different however. Instead of the pitching duel, it was a slugfest that Round Rock ended up winning 11-6. Allen Craig blasted a grand slam to cut the Round Rock lead to one, but it wasn’t enough. Much like Sunday, Memphis inched out Round Rock again on Tuesday night with a 5-4 victory anchored by a huge game from Kevin Howard. Howard went 3-for-4 with one run, a double, a triple, and two RBI. P.J. Walters seemed to find his groove again as he pitched six beautiful innings only allowing one earned run while striking out nine. Round Rock’s luck changed a little on Wednesday, beating the Redbirds 7-2. While there weren’t many positives on the Memphis side of things, the recently called-up Mike Folli went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Thursday was the beginning of a new series as the Redbirds took on Nashville in a five-game set. Chuckie Fick took the mound and seemed to control the opposition for five solid innings, only allowing four hits and zero earned runs. Memphis shutout Nashville in game one, 3-0. The team had a double-header on Friday due to a rain-out in June. Memphis dropped game one by the score of 6-4. Bryan Anderson went 2-for-3 and, despite scoring four runs, was the only player to record two hits. Game two didn’t exactly go to plan as the ‘Birds had to watch their 4-0 lead disappear. Nashville scored two runs in the top of the sixth to take a 6-5 lead that they would hold on to for the victory. Next week, the Redbirds finish off the series with Nashville on the 11th before they enjoy a nice four-day vacation. They will then pick it back up in New Orleans for a four-game set.
AA-Springfield Cardinals
This was a pretty simple week for the Cardinals as they only played four games. Sunday was the start of a new series with Midland and one that the Cards won behind a fine performance from Nick Additon. Nick logged five innings of three-hit ball while the offense put up three runs to win 3-2. The roles seemed to reverse Monday as Springfield lost a tough one 3-2. Brian Broderick’s five shutout innings didn’t stop Midland from hitting the bullpen. Probably the best pitching performance for Springfield came on Tuesday as Ryan Kulik pitch a very efficient seven innings, only allowing two earned runs on six hits. Andrew Brown provided the offensive punch going 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI. The Cards then took two days off thanks to a rain postponement on Thursday following an off-day on Wednesday. The postponed game on Thursday was supposed to be the start of a series against Frisco. Instead, game one was on Friday but it didn’t look like the two days off helped any. Scott McGregor got beat up, giving up six runs in four innings of work. The final scored ended up being 7-4. Next week, Springfield will continue their series with Frisco on Saturday (double-header), Sunday, and Monday. They will then take on Midland once again on the 11th-13th, and then cross the border into Arkansas for a four-game series.
A-Palm Beach
Much like Springfield, it was a pretty easy week for the Single-A affiliate. It started with a 5-3 lost to Bradenton on Sunday. The offense was pretty dead, but Jerred Bogany had a 2-for-4 day with an RBI. The Monday night game was cancelled due to “wet grounds”. The off-day must have been very beneficial for Bradenton because they came out on Tuesday and dismantled the Cardinals, 9-0. Palm Beach learned their lesson though. The offense was clicking on all cylinders and led the team to a 9-3 win against Jupiter on Wednesday. Alex Castellanos went 2-for-4 with one run, a triple, and two RBI. Luis De La Cruz also had a two-hit night with a double and two RBI. Not to mention, Richard Castillo pitched another good game, going seven innings and only allowing three runs. The bats were at it again on Thursday and Jupiter could not keep up. D’Marcus Ingram, Chris Swauger, Niko Vasquez, and Alex Castellanos all had an excellent game at the plate to beat Jupiter, 8-1. Brett Zawacki may have pitched his best game of the season. He allowed four hits and zero runs in seven innings of work. The Cards continued their ways on Friday night in another blowout win, 7-0. The hitting and pitching were, once again, great. Kyle Thomas struck out six in five shutout innings and Alex Castellanos kept riding his hot-streak, going 3-for-4 with one run and two doubles. Next week, Palm Beach will play Bradenton at home for three games, and then travel to Lakeland for a four-game set.
Niko Vasquez, 3B, Palm Beach
.421 AVG (8-for-19), .500 OBP, .789 SLG, four runs, two doubles, one triple, one home run, ten RBI, three walks
Believe it or not, Vasquez was recently called up to the Single-A squad and wasn’t even having a very good season to begin with in Quad Cities. On the year, Niko is only hitting .251 but does have 52 RBI.
P.J. Walters, SP, Memphis
Six innings, six hits, one run, one walk, nine strikeouts
There were several pitchers who had good weeks (Salas, Fick, Lynn, Kulik, Zawacki), but Walters was pretty dominating on Tuesday. This season, Walters is 2-2 with a 3.21 ERA and 52 SO in 47 innings.

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and his blog, Cardinals Front Office, that is also dedicated to Cardinal baseball.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here.

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