Tag Archive | "Farmhand"

Wacha Wacha Wow

The St. Louis Cardinals have shown offensive prowess over the last week, racking up the run support and showing midseason form at the plate.  The offense was impressive, but may have been overshadowed by the presence of pitching prospect Michael Wacha.

MichaelWacha

Wacha took the mound behind starter Lance Lynn on Wednesday against the Mets.  The young prospect was making his second appearance in a Spring Training that has had many Cardinal officials raving about his work.  On the heels of Wednesday’s performance, I doubt the hype will be dying down anytime soon.

Mets announcers seem to be uttering the same phrase repeatedly in that highlight, “Oh Boy” seemed to be the order of the day.

The Cardinal farmhand took over for Lance Lynn to start the third inning and went right to work striking out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada.  Superstar David Wright would follow with a base hit, the only blemish on Wacha’s day, before Ike Davis and Marlon Byrd would send fly balls into left field for an easy inning.

If the third inning was easy, the fourth was borderline dominant.  Lucas Duda and Justin Turner would both strike out, the former looking and the latter swinging, before John Buck would ground out weakly to second baseman Daniel Descalso.

The fifth inning would be more of the same with different names at the plate.   Matthew den Dekker, who’s name is familiar thanks to his home run robbing catch earlier in the week (seen below), would watch strike three while Mike Baxter would take his chances swinging even though he would come up empty.  Ruben Tejada, seeing the Cards right hander for a second time, would also ground out to Descalso, though the Cardinals infielder had moved across the diamond to third base.

Wacha seemed dominant, at least on paper, but watching the young man pitch made it obvious that he was pitching smart.  His fastball was in the lower 90′s, but it was also in the lower part of the strike zone.  His changeup was pinpointed and seemed to keep guys off balance while his “third best pitch” as the Mets’ announcers pointed out, his breaking ball was sharp and kicked up dirt.  He truly stepped on the mound to pitch, not throw, and it was clear by the outcome that he was successful.

Most impressive might have been his efficiency.  Wright’s base hit was the only ball struck hard, and even that one was not crushed.

Fans have been hearing for some time now that this is a great farm system.  Spring training gives them their first chance to see this first hand.

Michael Wacha is the future of the organization.

The future looks really, really good.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, MinorsComments (0)

Cardinals Farmhand Aims To Help Troops

Vance Albitz is a minor league infielder in the Cardinals organization who makes his offseason home in Torrance, California.  There is a good chance this is one of the first few times you have heard his name.  Thanks to the team, the upcoming Winter Warm Up, and his own challenge to help out the troops of our country, you will probably hear much more about him in the coming months.

Gloves4Troops

This is not to say that Albitz will not be on the Cardinals’ radar in the near future.  The young man has performed well at various levels in the organization.  He is not a flashy player and when asked about the part of his game that is his strength he replies with a one word answer: “defense”.

Albitz took a few minutes of his offseason to answer a few questions for us here at i70.  He took time to talk about himself, his career, and his desire to provide something to troops of the United States Armed Forces that are stationed abroad.

I asked Albitz about his expectations for the season ahead and got a very professional sounding “I have no idea what is in store for the 2013 season for me.  I am looking to help the organization any way I can, any place they need me.”

I got a glimpse of the young man’s personality when he opened up about his favorite player growing up.  Albitz replied, “David Eckstein.  He once told me, “You have to prove yourself every single day.”  He practiced what he preached and I respect him for that.”

Ask him about his best friend in baseball and you’ll find a man that loves the game, and his teammates, to the fullest extent. “My best friends in my life have come from baseball.  I still keep in touch with my best friends from baseball in college.  The Cardinals have a number of guys in the organization that I enjoy being around.  There are literally too many to choose just one.”

Most impressively, and the reason you will hear more about him in the next few weeks, Albitz undertook a very special project this offseason.  While reading an article, Albitz discovered a conversation with a solider:

“What would you like people back home to send you?”

“Baseball gloves and a baseball,” he said.  “So much of our tasks are hurry up and go, followed by waiting.”

That inspired Albitz to go to work.  He set a goal for himself to reach out to as many people as he could.  His goal?  To send 1,000 baseball gloves to troops stationed overseas before the first day of Spring Training.

“My grandparents served and I have a number of friends serving right now.  My objective in starting this was to send the game of baseball to our soldiers who are doing so much for our country”, Albitz told me.  He has currently collected 250 gloves and expects the next month to pick up steam, thanks in part to the Cardinals asking fans to help contribute at this year’s Winter Warm Up.

The team will have donation bins setup this weekend at various locations around the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch during their annual Winter Warm Up celebration.  Fans are urged to donate new or gently used gloves by dropping them off at these bins.  Thanks to the club and Rawlings, Albitz hopes to greatly increase the number of gloves he has already collected.

The best way for people to help is to send me a used baseball glove, new baseball, or cash donation.  All the information on the website,www.gloves4troops.com.  What I would appreciate just as much if somebody doesn’t have those items is a thank you letter to a soldier (I can put these in the gloves).  The information can be found on the website.

I took a moment to ask Ablitz to share with our fans his favorite baseball movie (For Love Of The Game) and to also share with our fans if he was a collector of baseball cards growing up.

My brother and I collected baseball cards like crazy when we were younger.  I always remember the time my brother tricked me into trading him my Mike Piazza Bowman Rookie Card for Joel Skinner.  I still haven’t gotten over that.

If you are going to Winter Warm Up, grab that old glove out of the closet and drop it in a bin for a soldier.  If you are not, head over to the website and learn how you can help.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

Posted in Cardinals, MinorsComments (0)

A Succinct Case For Edgar Gonzalez At Second Base

When the Cardinals acquired Ryan Theriot from Los Angeles, the initial analysis placed Theriot at shortstop and Brendan Ryan on the trade block. Ryan was indeed on the trading block, and the Cardinals discussed trading him to San Diego and a few other teams.

Ryan was not dealt at the winter meetings, so St Louis has some alternative courses of action. They can continue to try and deal Ryan. They can keep Ryan, play him at short, and move Theriot to second, or vice versa. They can use Ryan as a late-game defensive replacement and go with Theriot and Skip Schumaker as their middle infield.

I’m sure the team would like to move on from Schumaker manning second base. Skip should get a ton of credit for being willing to shift positions, working diligently to become a good second baseman, and manning the position for the past 2 seasons. But although he was slightly better in 2010 than 2009 (he cost the Cardinals 2 fewer runs in 2010 as calculated by Dewan plus/minus), he will never be anything but a below-average defensive second baseman. His hitting also took a pretty big dip in 2010, as he posted an OPS+ of 83 (as compared to 102 the year before).

Assuming Theriot is the everyday shortstop, what do the Cardinals do at second? The free agent crop at second is nothing to write home about. There’s Orlando Hudson, and then a ton of has-been’s and never-will-be’s. Let’s think out of the box. What about Adrian Gonzalez’s older brother Edgar?

You’ll probably recall Edgar was once a Cardinal farmhand; he played at Memphis in 2007, posting a .308/.377/.447 line in 519 plate appearances (PA). He played the next two seasons in San Diego, and spent 2010 in Japan (for the Yomiuri Giants). The middle Gonzalez brother could always hit, as his 2007 minor league season will attest. Those two seasons in Petco Park depressed his numbers a bit (.255/.312/.381 in 522 PA), but who’s numbers aren’t affected by that ballpark? OK, perhaps not his brother (who may hit 50 HR playing half his games in Fenway next season), but everyone else seems to take a hit. Just ask Ryan Ludwick.

Edgar Gonzalez’s road SLG was higher than his home by almost 30 points during those seasons. Gonzalez’s 2010 line in Japan (.263/.342/.457) is Schumaker’s (.265/.328/.338) but with a lot more power.

Defensively it’s no contest. Schumaker was -11 in runs saved in 2009; Gonzalez was -2 in limited playing time. In 2008, the season Edgar played 111 games (and started 71), he played 560 innings at second and was +1.

From below average to average defensively, with no drop in offense. The Cardinals should determine if Edgar Gonzalez is available and interested.

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