Tag Archive | "Jeff Luhnow"

Oscar Mercado: A Regression in Drafting Philosophy?


The philosophy for the Cardinals while drafting under Jeff Luhnow was always “best player available”. Don’t worry necessarily about specific needs or who is already filling what position on the big league club, but rather create a good problem by having too many players for a certain position. That has created situations where The Cards have both Allen Craig and Matt Adams ready to be big league starters at first. And the idea that it’ll all work itself out was exemplified with the transition of Matt Carpenter to second base, where his fielding has been adequate (enough) and allowed that impressive bat to hit lead-off.

But the philosophy of drafting for need may have permeated itself back into the Cardinals since the departure of Luhnow. I want to focus on the Cardinals 2nd round pick (57th overall), Oscar Mercado. The Cardinals chose Mercado, possibly with pressure to fill the need they have at SS with underachieving Pete Kozma filling the role now and uncertain Ryan Jackson in the minors. Mercado, who was ranked relatively high by Baseball America, was selected over other players who they even ranked higher (and from some analysts and scouts, they believe Baseball America ranked him too high.) Higher ranked players available at the time of Mercado being drafted included RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP Alex Balog and LHP Hunter Green.

Every report on Mercado states he provides basically no offense at all. The 2nd round seems to be awfully high to select a player solely on defense. He is stated as being able to possibly develop a “solid swing” that could lead to high-average, though minorleagueball.com states he COULD, with added strength, have a slash line up .280/.330/.400. But that is implied to be a ceiling for Mercado.

What else is troubling is the contention Mercado is highly overrated at defense. Scouting reports will comment on his skill at defense, including a recent  Post-Dispatch article which quotes from the scouting report at BA claiming him to be a “smooth, fluid defender whose glove will give him a chance to survive as a pro while his bat develops and strength catches up.” But his abilities has been questioned by other writers and scouts who have seen him in person, including Keith Law, who wrote:

Shortstop Oscar Mercado from Gaither HS in Tampa was similarly disappointing when I saw him over the weekend, playing a low-energy game on Saturday that featured two throwing errors to first on routine ground balls and a sloppy uppercut swing that helped him work his way out of hitters’ counts in two of his trips to the plate.

Mercado’s reputation in this draft is that he’s one of the only shortstops who is a lock to stay there, but he didn’t show the hands or the arm for that on Saturday and he certainly didn’t show the effort level, even in pregame warm-ups. He looked better last summer, but another scout who’s seen Mercado this spring said what I saw was representative of his showing so far this spring.” 

2nd Round picks do not always transfer to good major league players, in fact they rarely do. Looking at the Card’s 2nd round picks during the 2000s, with the exception of Dan Haren, who was an all-star pitcher, most of the others never made it up or just had a cup of coffee in the majors. But I fear the draft of a shortstop who is only optimistically projected to have an OPS barely over .700 due to absolutely no slugging, is a predetermined destiny to begin with. And when you add possible holes at defense, which is his strength, it may all signal to a regressive philosophy of drafting on needs and desperation in spite of talent.

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Saying final goodbyes

This weekend marks the last weekend for seven more months that we won’t have at least some Major League Baseball to enjoy.  Of course, the season has already started, but MLB is balancing on the fence between “we’re excited to play games in Japan, and give those fans something to enjoy” and “we still want to make Opening night between the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins a huge event”.  Another spring full of meaningless games has almost come to an official close, and the next chapter will begin in a matter of days.

The same is true for our beloved St. Louis Cardinals.  Well chronicled are the events of this past offseason, and departures for various reasons: retirement, free agency, re-prioritizing things in life, as well as moving on to other organizations (in the National League Central…for now) to name the most commonly recognized ones.  Since the Cardinals won their 11th World Championship five months ago, no fewer than three Hall of Fame-caliber people have left the organization, you could easily argue a higher number.  That doesn’t even count losing Dave McKay, Jeff Luhnow, and Barry Weinberg, among others.

Let’s see: Back, Gone, Gone, Back but still injured from this night, Gone, Back, Gone

New roles have been filled by new faces–some faces are new to the major-league level, and some are new to a non-player role, but few (if any) are new to the Cardinals organization. So, as the redbirds head into the 2012 season to defend their World Championship title, they’ll be doing so with a very different look of leadership in that dugout, that bullpen, and even on the field. But that is not news to you or I, or at least, it shouldn’t be.

It’s time, as we go into this final weekend without meaningful baseball games, and reflect on the Cardinals’ recent past, be thankful for what we, as fans, were able to enjoy.

And then, friends, it is time to move the hell on.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m likely to mention Tony LaRussa and/or Dave Duncan in future articles and conversation here & there, but it’s time for all of us to get past what has been, and get excited about what’s about to be!

Albert Pujols?  He’s gone, ok?  But I’ve said before that, just like basketball or golf, baseball is not a game where one player can dramatically impact the outcome as much as in some other sports.  He was one man, he’s gone, and the Cardinals are still a very, very strong team if you’d not noticed.  Whether you wish him the best, wish him the worst, or something other than either of those, you’ll have to do so from halfway across the country, starting most nights at 9:10pm Central Daylight Time.  He’s not a Cardinal anymore–let’s respect what he accomplished while wearing the birds on the bat, and move on.  Berkman’s solid, Craig is more than adequate, and Adams looks very very promising.  There’s no “hole” at first base for this team.

LaRussa’s gone too, and sure, a large portion of the fanbase is still hungover from the huge party they threw when he announced his retirement.  But, love him or hate him, he won baseball games, and there are two more World Championship flags that fly over Busch today than were here when he arrived.  He revolutionized the way bullpens are used in the game today, and I suspect there’s no shortage of relief pitchers (and agents of these relief pitchers) who are grateful for the changes he brought to the game.  There will be things about his management style that will be missed, just as there are things that won’t.  But, he’s gone.  Mike Matheny is the new skipper, and he’s the one Cardinal nation needs to get behind and support–not blindly defend his every decision, but support him in his role as the leader of this ballclub.

Duncan may very well be the first pitching coach elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Plenty of others have said that, including some of the national media folks, so it isn’t just me drinking the Kool-Aid.  This man is a once-in-a-generation type, and will sorely be missed.  Lilliquist is more than capable, and you know what?  He’s going to have to be, because the Deacon is no longer around.  His priceless expertise, the books upon books upon books he’s known for keeping, the calming spirit he brought, and the magic he bestowed on the Woody Williamsessesess’ of the league are great memories of the past, but will not be a part of the future.

Many thought Walt Jocketty could do no wrong during his tenure at the helm as General Manager in St. Louis.  He moved on, and things worked out just fine.  St. Louis is a city (and a fan base) that loathes change of any kind–it makes the entire area very, very nervous.  The guys over at Joe Sports Fan have countless examples of fans who are walking around “the 314” TODAY wondering why Bo Hart & Stubby Clapp aren’t on the 40-man roster.

“Bring back ________” is a common mantra, because there’s such a strong aversion to letting go of the past.  I CLEARLY recall the day the old arena near highway 40 (I live here, I don’t have to call it “Interstate 64”:) and Hampton.  Traffic stopped on 40 when they were getting ready to bring “the old barn” down.  Protests were held.  Tears were shed.  Listen, I’m not saying it didn’t hurt a little bit inside when that last section of Busch II fell to the ground, but you can’t keep up and stay competitive in this business if you don’t grow…and growth, without change, is impossible.

So, peace out, Albert, Tony, Dave and others.  Thanks for what you gave to this city, the Cardinals franchise, and the memories we have because of the things you did.  Thank you for the best years of your lives, and for living lives that allow us to pass stories and lessons on to our children–the next generation of Cardinals fans.  We might not exchange Christmas cards, but hit us up on Facebook, and we’ll probably like a photo or a comment here & there to stay in touch.  But, since I root for the name on the front of the jersey before rooting for the name on the back, I’ve gotta let you go.

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Staple Remover

Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, Dave Duncan, Joe Pettini, Jeff Luhnow, and Dave McKay.  Talk about a serious number, those six people have been a part of the St. Louis Cardinals organization for a combined 4,263 years.  And not one of them will be back with the club in 2012.  Those are just the names that pop to the top of your head when you start listing the personnel this franchise has parted with since clinching their 11th World Championship.

A little less than a year ago, I wrote about how if Albert Pujols didn’t sign an extension with the Cardinals, that they’d still be just fine.  The St. Louis Cardinals have a very rich and storied history, and one person does not make or break the team by themselves–this isn’t golf.  They won before Pujols came into the fold, they’ll win now that he’s gone, and lucky for us, they won a couple times while he was in St. Louis.

That’s the thing, fans, about rooting for the name on the front of the jersey before rooting for the name on the back — your allegiance should remain with the team.  I’m not saying you can’t remain a fan of an individual, heck, we all do it.  Sometimes it’s hard to be a “team first” fan, let’s not kid ourselves.  Easy to see Matt Morris leave?  Not at all.  Right move for the ballclub?  Sure was.  Anybody throw a “Yippee, we finally got rid of Ryan Ludwick” party at the 2010 deadline?  Nobody in St. Louis, that’s for sure!  Curious what he’s done since?  The Pirates let him go, if that tells you anything.  I wrote about that too, actually, and since the time of that article, he’s declined further.

Many of the long-time staples of the Cardinals franchise have moved on to other things this offseason

But, dude.  Seriously.  This isn’t just one player we’re talkin’ about here.  The Cardinals have parted ways with::

  • Their future Hall of Fame manager of sixteen years, who led them to the World Series three times, including two Championships.
  • Their future Hall of Fame first baseman of eleven years who <fill in the blanks of all the things that make him one of the greatest players ever to play the game>
  • Their pitching coach, who may very well be the first-ever pitching coach to get into Cooperstown
  • Their Vice President, master of scouting & player development, and 71%* of the reason Jocketty left (both of whom now compete with the Cards in the National League Central)
  • One of the most resepected bench coaches in the game today.  Think bench coaches don’t matter?  How about the fact that it took Jeff Luhnow all of one month to bring Pettini over to Houston?
  • Dave McKay, whose first base coaching career was more than just raising a son to have  cup of coffee in the major leagues and reminding (now hitting coach) Mark McGwire to “touch first” on the night of September 8, 1998.

On the other hand, it’s the “name on the front” argument.  This team has been around for a long time…like, 1892 “long”.  Sidebar: The cubs most recent World Series Championship took place one Tony LaRussa Cardinals era (a new measurement of time) after the Cardinals were brought into existence.  An organization that’s been around that long, with a winning history is strong enough to withstand significant personnel losses, though it may not be without “feeling it” at least a little bit.

Look, I’m not here to blow smoke you-know-where.  But no one can look at the major pillars of this team that have been lost over the past couple of months, and expect the smoothest of transitions, now that they’re gone.  One, maybe two of those positions turn over during the off season, and sure, maybe the continuity remains in tact for the most part.  Let six of the most important people in your franchise roll out, and see if you don’t find yourself asking rhetorically if you’ll need “Vaseline or Preparation H?”.

I’m not saying I fully expect a #12in12 season or anything (of course, I’d be ecstatic, should it come to fruition), but given the new chemistry & dynamic in that clubhouse, I’d deem a return to the postseason a “successful season”.  Let’s face it: Depending on the outcome of some scheduling of postseason games, wildcard slots, and other various factors that impact the situation, the Cards should be expected to reach the 2012 playoffs.  A World Series Championship repeat may not be a realistic expectation, but to miss the playoffs in a division like the National League Central, particularly when A) you’re the defending World Champions; and B) There may be a 2nd Wild Card playoff spot coming into play this year…there’s little excuse not to see October baseball at Busch again this year.

*Totally pulled this number out of thin air.  It’s based on nothing at all.

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The Luhnow Legacy

Somewhere in the whirlwind that is known as the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals off-season, a very key piece of the organization left the club without much fanfare. Events quickly moved from World Series parade, to Tony LaRussa’s retirement, to the Albert Pujols negotiations, to Dave Duncan’s leave of absence, to the Winter Warm Up. I can not think of another team that had so much turnover  immediately following a World Championship as the Cardinals experienced. In the midst of the flurry of off-season activity it is certainly understandable how a key move made but a small splash.


Cardinal Nation barely had a chance to catch its breath from World Series Game 7 before Tony LaRussa announced his retirement. In the following weeks Albert Pujols, Joe Pettini, and Dave McKay all moved on to other clubs. Cardinal pitching coach Dave Duncan announced that he would take a leave of absence to be with his wife as she continues her battle with cancer.  When the Cardinals take the field against the Miami Marlins on April 4, 2012, Jose Oquendo will be the only uniformed coach that has been with the team since 2009.

Despite all of the turnover within the club, there is great optimism within the Cardinals front office, the team, the coaches, and a majority of the fan base at the prospects for the 2012 season. Before completely shifting focus to 2012, I want to reflect on a 2011 departure that gets less attention, but has tremendous organizational impact. On the very same night the Los Angeles Angels were finalizing a deal to sign Albert Pujols, the Houston Astros named Jeff Luhnow their new general manager.

Jeff Luhnow was the head of the Cardinals scouting and drafting department. He established a strong presence in Latin America for the team, and brought the Cardinals into a new era of player development that used both scouting and analytics.  He worked for the team from 2003 until this past December. Since 2005, Luhnow turned the Cardinals farm system from one of the worst in baseball to arguably one of the top five in the league. This was done in spite of the fact the Cardinals never had a top ten pick during any of the drafts he oversaw.

Luhnow is not a “baseball insider” that worked his way up through the ranks. He was more comfortable with spreadsheets than with scouting reports when he was hired by the Cardinals. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in economics and engineering, and earned his MBA at Northwestern University. Prior to joining the Cardinals in 2003, he worked in mechanical and chemical engineering, spent five years in management consulting, did entrepreneurial work, and served as a vice president of marketing for Petstore.com.

In the early part of the last decade, teams had to quickly adapt to the new emphasis on analytics brought about from the release of the book “Moneyball”. The book highlighted the Oakland Athletics success, despite an incredibly small payroll, using advanced statistics to find market inefficiencies in player evaluation. Luhnow was one of the early baseball analytics experts given a front office job. He was hired to make sense of the new analytics and improve the Cardinal’s international scouting. He quickly integrated database analysis into personnel decisions.

Said more simply, Luhnow drafted and developed enough talent to allow the Cardinals to win two World Series titles in six years. He leaves the club well positioned to compete in 2012 and beyond. The Cardinals can not pay top dollar for more than four or five players every year, due to being a bottom-third market city. To have Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, and Carlos Beltran, they must find production from young, cost-controlled players to have a competitive team year in and year out.

Beyond just analyzing numbers on a page, Luhnow implemented “bio-mechanics” within the Cardinals player development process. Pitchers were taught the mechanics, rhythm, and tempo that aid them in remaining injury free. Former big-league pitchers worked with young Cardinal pitchers on the mental aspects of the game needed to be able to compete at the highest level. Hitters worked with video not only as a means to scout opponents, but to improve their swing and approach at the plate. This does not seem to be such a big deal in 2012, but not many other teams were using video to this level in 2004.

Luhnow was hired by Bill Dewitt against the wishes of then GM Walt Jocketty. It was a front-office riff that would eventually lead to Jocketty’s departure following the 2007 season. Little did Jocketty know at the time just what Luhnow was building between 2005 and 2007. The 2005-2007 drafts produced Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Jaime Garcia, and Jon Jay. Also in those drafts were players used in the trades for Matt Holliday, Rafael Furcal, Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepcynski, as well as Luke Gregerson and Chris Perez.

There are an abundance of prospects in the system that project to be impact players: Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras, Tyrell Jenkins, Carlos Martinez, Matt Adams, Ryan Jackson, Kolten Wong, Zach Cox, Trevor Rosenthal, John Gast, Jordan Swagerty, and Joe Kelly, among others.

As the 2012 season fast approaches, there will be a lot of new faces for Cardinals fans to get used to. One of those faces is the man hired to replace Jeff Luhnow, Dan Kantrovitz . If he performs his jobs well, Cardinals fans won’t feel the loss of Luhnow. He has big shoes to fill. Matheny has already made clear that he will place a large emphasis on advanced scouting and metrics.

Any success Kantrovitz has will be built upon the foundation of integrating scouting and analytics that Luhnow brought to the organization. Luhnow should be remembered as a key piece to a great era of Cardinal baseball. I am glad the Cardinals will not have the Astros as division foes but for another year. Although they are a very bad baseball team at the moment, I fully expect them to be a force to contend with under Luhnow’s leadership.

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The Immediate Post-Duncan Era

The St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason continued its roller coaster ride this week after Thursday’s announcement that longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan was leaving the team indefinitely to focus on caring for his wife, who has been battling brain cancer. Obviously, personal lives and relationships always trump everything else, and Duncan’s priorities seem to be in order. But the pitching staff he leaves behind has to find a way to do its job without him, and a number of those hurlers have never had a different pitching coach at the Major League level.

It seems like these stories pop up every other day since the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. First Tony La Russa retired, and then Albert Pujols bolted for greener pastures. Jeff Luhnow is gone. Dave McKay is gone. All these names Cardinals players and fans have seen as mainstays for so many years have disappeared from the register.

Duncan looked like one of only a few holdovers from the old regime. His contract covered him for the 2012 season, and he had an option for 2013. But he has more important things to attend to right now, and his time wearing the Birds on the Bat has come to an end as well. Now the longest-tenured coach on the Cards’ staff is Jose Oquendo. Number two is Mark McGwire.

Duncan’s importance to the Cards’ pitching staffs over the years is impossible to overstate. And many nails will be no doubt bitten down to the nub wondering if that magic he worked on so many Cardinal hurlers over the years is gone forever. But it may not be that way at all.

For the last 12 seasons, the Cardinals have listed exactly two starting catchers at the top of their depth chart: Mike Matheny and Yadier Molina. Now Matheny is the team skipper, and Molina is still behind the plate. Both are among the most highly regarded in their abilities to call a game and handle a pitching staff. Duncan is largely the reason. And when Papa Dunc had to leave the team near the end of August to be with his ailing wife, recently appointed Cards pitching coach Derek Lilliquist stepped in to take his place. All he did was preside over the staff while they were helping to orchestrate the greatest regular season comeback in baseball history. Even Chris Carpenter has stepped in for some coaching opportunities…remember when he found that flaw in Adam Wainwright’s delivery, just before Waino went on a tear to nearly win the Cy Young Award a couple years back? Certainly Carp didn’t wake up one day in tune to every other pitcher’s mechanics. That’s the hallmark of Dave Duncan, and he’s passed his wisdom on to a number of people in the Cards’ organization.

Perhaps we’ve seen the last of the days where a Kent Bottenfield or a Woody Williams find new life under Duncan’s direction. But maybe the Cardinals no longer need that “dumpster-dive” mentality. They have a full pitching staff now, and all those guys know how to get the job done. And the depth in the minor leagues certainly offers a lot of promise as some of the veteran free agents cycle out of town. Plus it’s impossible to know what the future holds. The Cards seem to have a pretty good grasp on player development these days. That makes it a lot easier to take surer bets rather than the projects Duncan specialized in.

It hurts to lose Duncan, and the reason why is even sadder. The Cardinals cannot possibly replace him; the guy should probably be the first coach to go into the Hall of Fame. But he has left this team in capable hands…hands into which he put the tools to succeed. And after all, the coach can only do so much. Execution still has to take place on the field, and that’s true no matter who sits in the dugout.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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Cardinals Farm Report

Shelby Miller
Starting Pitcher
A-Quad Cities
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted by the Cardinals in the 1st round (19th pick) of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft
Just like every Saturday here on i70baseball, the Cardinal Farm Report spotlights one of the prized Cardinal minor leaguers. This week, it is Shelby Miller, the best prospect pitcher the Cardinals have had since Rick Ankiel.

I was trying to hold this one off as long as possible, but I can only do prospect profiles for so long until I spotlight this guy. To put it very simply, Shelby Miller is the top prospect in the Cardinals farm system, and one of the best pitching prospects the organization has ever had.

Miller was the 19th overall player to be selected in the 2009 MLB Draft and was considered by some to be the best prep arm in the draft. At the very least, his fastball was certainly the best. While he usually has it around 93-94 mph, his MLB-ready fastball tops out at 98 and reaches 97 consistently. Not only does it light up the radar gun, it also has amazing, late, natural sink to it that makes it virtually unhittable to minor league batters.

The rest of his repertoire includes a good, biting slider, a plus curve with natural 12-6 movement on it, and a decent changeup. His slider may be his best secondary pitch at the moment, but from what I have heard, Miller’s curveball could be brutal to hitters if he can control it. It comes in at 77-80 mph and, if pollished, could be fooling hitters for the next several years.

Like most first round pitchers that are drafted out of high school, Miller is a very raw talent but has all the talent anybody could ask for. The Cardinals organization believes he’s the first potential ace selected under Jeff Luhnow. The kid has the upside to become a 5 WAR starting pitcher (staff ace), his skill-set just needs to be refined.

Drafting any player, especially a pitcher, out of high school is extremely risky. Because of that, the Cardinals are going to be VERY careful with him. Miller has pitched all season for the mid-level Single-A Quad Cities River Bandits, and I would expect him to stay there for the remaining month. Depending on how things go, I think we could see Miller finish up the season with Double-A Springfield. The earliest Cardinal Nation would see him take the mound in St. Louis will likely be 2013. I would expect him to make his debut then, if everything goes to plan. Come 2014 however, Miller very well could be a regular in the Cardinals rotation.

Quad Cities has Miller on a very strict pitching schedule this season, and a very unique one at that. Basically, the team wants Miller to work on his secondary pitches during games. Which means Miller’s 6-5 record, 3.84 ERA, 11.7 SO/9 is being acheived without him using his best pitch, the already MLB-caliber fastball. That is pretty impressive.

That’s not the extent of it though. The club actually has Miller limited to a 70-80 pitch count (roughly five innings) so he can pitch more in-between starts to keep his dominating fastball where it has been.

Not throwing his fastball during starts and relying on his breaking pitches is the main reason his ERA has been a little higher than what fans want to see (if you can call a 3.84 ERA “high”).

The Cardinals have been hit-and-miss with prospects in the past, but I can assure you that Shelby Miller is the real deal. He’s the classic big, strong, tough-minded, competitive Texas athlete that everybody falls in love with. The big thing he needed to work on this season was his command, and his 4.23 SO/BB ratio proves that he has improved on that.

AAA-Memphis Redbirds
Record to date: 65-55, second place in the PCL American North, 3 games behind Iowa.
This past week: 3-3, highlighted by a fantastic rehab start by Kyle Lohse.
Transactions: Kyle Lohse was promoted to Memphis from Springfield (1-4, 5.89 ERA, 25 SO, 47 1/3 IP in MLB)

Coming up: The Redbirds will finish off their series against Colorado Springs on Monday before hosting Salt Lake Tuesday through Friday.

AA-Springfield Cardinals
Record to date: 25-22 in the second half (63-54 overall), third place in the TEX North, 5 games behind NW Arkansas.
This past week: 4-2, won the Tulsa series 3-1 and won the Corpus Christi series 2-1.
Transactions: Nick Derba was promoted to Springfield from Palm Beach (.202, 13 R, 11 RBI, 104 AB in A+), Steven Hill was promoted to St. Louis from Springfield (.280, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 361 AB in AA), Tony Cruz was placed on the 7-day DL (.295, 25 R, 20 RBI, 166 AB in AA), Charles Cutler was promoted to Springfield from Palm Beach (.292, .368 OBP, 23 R, 154 AB in A+)

Coming up: The Cardinals will host San Antonio for a three-game set before traveling to Corpus Christi for another three-game series that will run through Friday.

A-Palm Beach
Record to date: 27-19 in the second half (66-50 overall), first place in the FSL South.
This past week: 7-0, eight game win streak… ’nuff said.
Transactions: Tyler Greene assigned to Palm Beach for a rehab stint (.265, .360 OBP, 10 R, 68 AB in MLB), Nick Derba was promoted to Springfield from Palm Beach (.202, 13 R, 11 RBI, 104 AB in A+), Luis De La Cruz was promoted to Palm Beach from Batavia (.231, .464 SLG, 6 R, 26 AB in A-), Kevin Moscatel was promoted to Palm Beach from GCL (.277, .359 OBP, 18 RBI, 83 AB in RK), Charles Cutler was promoted to Springfield from Palm Beach (.292, .368 OBP, 23 R, 154 AB in A+)

Coming up: The Baby Birds will finish up a three-game series with St. Lucie before heading to Bradenton for four games for a fight for first place.

Matt Carpenter, 3B, Springfield
.412 AVG (7-for-17), .615 OBP, 5 runs, 1 home run, 4 RBI, 9 walks, 1 stolen base
Yes, you read that right. In six games, Carpenter was walked nine times. That may be why his on-base percentage is through the roof. On the season, Matt is hitting .324/.437/.494 with 82 runs, 27 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 60 RBI, and ten stolen bases in 407 at bats.
Kyle Lohse, SP, Memphis
W, 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
This may be cheating. Is it? Either way, this was by far the most dominating pitching performance of the week. Well done, sir. In nine starts in the Majors this season, Lohse is 1-4 with a 5.89 ERA and 25 SO in 47 1/3 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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Cardinals Farm Report

Pete Kozma
AA-Springfield Cardinals
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted by the Cardinals in the first round (18th pick) of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft
Just like every Saturday here on i70baseball, the Cardinal Farm Report spotlights one of the prized Cardinal minor leaguers. This week, it is Pete Kozma, the first round draft pick of 2007 who has yet to live up to the expectations.

When Kozma was drafted as the 18th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, there were certainly a handful of critics. It definitely was not a “sexy” pick by the Cardinals, but he did have the skill set. Coming out of high school, Kozma was compared to the Texas Rangers shortstop, Michael Young. He has always been scouted as doing everything well, but nothing incredibly well. He has all-around average MLB tools, but no standout tool.

Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals VP in Player Operations, says Pete Kozma has the potential to be a top 15 Major League shortstop. He fields his position well, he has decent power (10-15 HR in MLB), but has never finished a minor league season with a batting average over .300. That is odd because, when Pete was drafted out of high school, his best tool was hitting for contact. Ben Badler of Baseball America believes that Kozma could very well be a .270/.350/.430. If he can post those numbers on offense, and be a good defensive shortstop, that makes Koz a very valuable prospect.

I believe his bat is still there, he’s not a lost cause, but he has had his fair share of tough times at the dish. In May of this year, Cardinal fans got a taste of the type of hitter Kozma can be. In 26 games, the young shortstop batted .327 with three home runs and 20 RBI. To put that into perspective, if that was his April in the Majors, he’d be on pace to drive in 124 runs.

The problem is, his consistency at the plate is sub-par to say the least. While his power numbers have improved, Kozma’a ability to find the gap has been questionable at best. The kid has very good tools, even on the offensive end, but just hasn’t produced like the club thought he would. Some blame this on management. Kozma was promoted to Double A-Springfield in only his second full minor league season. He was 21-years-old at the time and, with only 165 minor league games under his belt (in which he only hit .252), that could have been a little premature.

So far this season, Kozma is batting .234/.305/.357 with 44 runs scored, eight home runs, 43 RBI, and 10 steals in 88 AA games.

The potential is still there. Some have given up on Kozma, but I actually think he has improved a ton this season. If he can develop a somewhat consistent bat, and still play good defense at a premium position, he may just pan out to be the player we thought he would be in 2007.

AAA-Memphis Redbirds
Record to date: 52-47, third place in the PCL American North, 2 games behind Iowa.

This past week: 3-3
Behind another great start by P.J. Walters last weekend, the Redbirds took game four before losing the final game to New Orleans. The team then traveled back home to take on Omaha starting on Monday. The ‘Birds lost game one, won games two and three, then dropped the final game of the four-game set for a series split. Last night’s game against Oklahoma City was postponed due to a power outage in downtown Memphis.

Transactions: P.J. Walters was promoted to St. Louis from Memphis (4-2, 2.79 ERA, 63 SO, 61 1/3 IP in AAA), Allen Craig was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis (.139, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 36 AB in MLB), Ryan Ludwick was assigned to Memphis for a rehab stint (.273, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 264 AB in MLB), Ryan Kulik was promoted to Memphis from Springfield (7-2, 3.08 ERA, 45 SO, 76 IP in AA), David Kopp was optioned to Springfield from Memphis (0-5, 8.62 ERA, 12 SO, 24 IP in AAA), Evan MacLane was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 0 SO, 1 IP in MLB), Fernando Salas was promoted to St. Louis from Memphis (17 saves, 2.10 ERA, 35 SO, 30 IP in AAA), Mark Hamilton assigned to Memphis from the disabled list (.296, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 115 AB in AAA)

Coming up: The Redbirds will finish up their series against Oklahoma City this weekend. There will likely be a double-header thrown in somewhere (Sunday?) to make up for last night’s postponed game. They will then travel back down to New Orleans for another four-game series that will go through Friday.

AA-Springfield Cardinals
Record to date: 12-14 in the second half (50-46 overall), third place in the TEX North, 7 games behind NW Arkansas

This past week: 6-2
Springfield had the best week that any of the Cardinals minor league teams have had in a while. They started off last weekend finished up the NW Arkansas series with a double-header on Saturday, which was spilt, and game three on Sunday. The Cardinals then were the host to Tulsa for a five-game set. Springfield took four of the five games to inch a little closer to the league leader. Last night, the Cards began another series with Northwest Arkansas by taking game one 9-8 in extra innings.

Transactions: Ryan Kulik was promoted to Memphis from Springfield (7-2, 3.08 ERA, 45 SO, 76 IP in AA), Arquimedes Nieto was promoted to Springfield from Palm Beach (8-5, 3.36 ERA, 65 SO, 99 IP in A+), Gary Daley was released by Springfield (3-11, 6.70 ERA, 62 SO, 88 2/3 IP in AA)

Coming up: There won’t be much traveling this upcoming week thanks to the fine people that scheduled Springfield to play NW Arkansas, Arkansas, then NW again to wrap up the month of July. The Cards will continue with the NW Arkansas series tonight through Monday. They will then take on Arkansas for a three-game set before facing off with NW again starting Friday.

A-Palm Beach
Record to date: 15-14 in the second half (53-45 overall), third place in the FSL South, 2 games behind St. Lucie

This past week: 2-5
Palm Beach started the week with a loss to Lakeland and that theme stuck with them for most of the week. Thanks to a magnificant start by Nieto, the Cardinals took the first of four games against Brevard County. Palm Beach would then lose two before winning the fourth to earn a series split. The winning stopped there though as Tampa won Thursday and Friday night’s games.

Transactions: Deryk Hooker was promted to Palm Beach from Quad Cities (5-4, 2.83 ERA, 88 SO, 70 IP in A), Ryde Rodriguez was promoted to Palm Beach from Quad Cities (.274, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 274 AB in A), Ryan Jackson was promoted to Palm Beach from Quad Cities (.272, .366 OBP, 47 R, 302 AB in A), Ted Obregon optioned to Quad Cities from Palm Beach (.174, 11 R, 5 RBI, 69 AB in A+), Oliver Marmol was released by Palm Beach (.221, 19 R, 12 RBI, 104 AB in A+), Devin Shepherd was released by Palm Beach (.171, 3 R, 4 RBI, 35 AB in A+)

Coming up: The Cardinals will play the final two games of the Tampa series today and Sunday before heading to Daytona for a four-game set that will run all the way until Friday.

Alex Castellanos, RF, Palm Beach
.500 AVG (12-for-24), .583 OBP, three runs, two doubles, two home runs, five RBI, two walks
Castellanos is a part of that Palm Beach offense that often punishes the opposition. He was tearing the cover off the ball this week. On the year, Alex is hitting .269 with 36 runs scored, five triples, five home runs, 43 RBI, and 15 stolen bases.
Arquimedes Nieto, SP, Springfield
W, 8 2/3 innings pitched, 3 hits, 0 runs, seven strikeouts
It says Springfield next to his name because that is the team he is currently on. When he pitched his near-complete game, it was with Palm Beach. This is the second consecutive week that Nieto has been award PITCHER OF THE WEEK. This season, Nieto is 8-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 65 SO in 99 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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