The St. Louis Cardinals add to their organizational depth at the outfield position by adding Jose Alberto Martinez from the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations. Martinez will be designated to the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds.
According to Baseball America, Martinez was ranked as the Royals 24th best prospect after last season ended, which he probably garnered mostly from his .384 batting average that helped him win the Pacific Coast League batting title. His career numbers are as follows: .296 BA, 53 HR, 354 RBI, .357 OBP, .433 SLG, 17K%, and 63 stolen base.
Martinez has been in the minor league ranks since he was 17 back in 2006, in the Chicago White Sox organization originally, and has been with the Royals for only last season and the first two months of 2016. He stands at a whopping 6’6, 215 lbs. and has received much attention for his great arm back when he was part of the White Sox. Formerly a top ten prospect for the White Sox, he received the “Best Outfield Arm” award in the White Sox organization, according to Baseball America, for four of the seasons that he was there.
What does this mean for the Cardinals? Probably not much, but what immediately came to my mind was that if Martinez can continue hovering around the .300 batting average mark, he could be a candidate for a September call-up, but also this may inhibit class AA Springfield outfielder Harrison Bader from being called up to AAA anytime soon, which is not a bad thing.
Fun fact: This is the second Jose Martinez that the Cardinals have acquired from the Royals in the past 6 months, as former big league backup catcher, Tony Cruz, was traded to Kansas City for an infielder named Jose Martinez in the off-season.
In the above tweet, you can also see that relief pitcher Mitch Harris was placed on the 60 day disabled list, which makes room for the outfielder Martinez on the 40-man
For more Cardinals news, be sure to follow me on Twitter @DrewC1420 and feel free to mention me if you have any comments or corrections. Statistics are courtesy of Baseball
As it was after the first month of the season, the Cardinals are flirting around a .500 winning percentage, while still getting production from its youngsters. How they perform through the rest of May and June weighs heavily on the outlook of the rest of the season.
Aledmys Diaz Surging
Before the season started, I knew of Aledmys Diaz, however I honestly could not have told you how he spelled his first name, now it is etched in my brain. Diaz has had one of the hottest starts to a major league career this season and is an early candidate for the National League rookie of the year.
If you take a glance at some of the top hitting categories for the National League, it would not take long for you to notice Diaz’s name at the top of several categories. For starters, he and Daniel Murphy of the Nationals have been switching back-and-forth between the leading hitter, according to batting average. Murphy is currently in the lead at .395, but Diaz is not too far behind in second at .376. His hot hitting is not just bloopers through the infield, but often have been line drives into the gaps of the outfield, and it shows as he is second in slugging percentage (.648), Yoenis Cespedes (.656) recently took over the leading spot, and leads the NL in OPS (1.051), and is only second in the MLB behind MVP candidate Jose Altuve (1.058) of the Astros. Diaz is also among the top ten in four other hitting categories among the National League (hits, runs scored, total bases, and doubles). If you are a sabermetric guy, he is also leading the NL in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), currently at 2.0.
Despite his hot bat, his play at shortstop has left something to be desired, being a large contributor to the Cardinals disappoint defensive showing nearly two months into the season. He is leading the way with 10 errors, all made at shortstop.
Jhonny Peralta Update
Recent news has been released that has Cardinal shortstop Jhonny starting his rehabilitation assignment tomorrow in single-A as he strives to return from a March thumb surgery.
What does this mean for Diaz and the rest of the roster? In an ideal world, whenever Peralta is ready and healthy enough to return to St. Louis, I would like to think that could spell the end for Ruben Tejada’s place in the organization, and would not mind to see him designated for assignment. For Diaz, he is going to have to keep up his hot hitting if he wants to consistently be in the starting lineup. I could see him moving over to second base, and being used in a platoon system with Kolten Wong.
Peralta was arguably the best hitter for the Cardinals last season, for a overall sluggish offense. With him returning to one of the league’s best offenses, Cardinals fans should be giddy with excitement. He hit .275, 17 HR, 71 RBI, .745 OPS, and posted a 1.8 WAR in 2015.
Major League Roster Moves
Seth Maness placed on 15 day disabled list, with right elbow inflammation
Dean Kiekhefer recalled from AAA Memphis
Outfielder Tommy Pham sent to AAA Memphis after recent rehab assignment
These three transactions were the main headlines in Cardinals news throughout the organization. Bringing up left handed relieve Dean Kiekhefer is interesting due to the major league club already having lefties Tyler Lyons and Kevin Siegrist in the bullpen, but through his first two games of work, he has looked impressive. The only knock on him was a solo home run off the bat of Dodgers rookie Corey Seager. He has also has five strikeouts through 2.2 innings of work.
Credits: USA Today Images
The reasoning for leaving Tommy Pham in the minors, according to John Mozeliak, was that he needed more at bats and the best place for that was Memphis. The Cardinals outfield is certainly crowded with Piscotty, Holliday, Hazelbaker, and Grichuk rotating as the main starters. However, bringing Pham back to St. Louis would give the Cardinals the chance to play Holliday at first base more, which has been disappointing with the performances of Matt Adams and Brandon Moss. Pham would also boost the outfield’s defense with him patrolling center field.
Farm System Spotlight
Occasionally, I will post some blurbs about the farm system. I have the opportunity to work the Springfield Cardinals (AA) games this season as a pitch clock operator, so the main focus of these will be from my judgement off of watching those games but I hope to include some insight on some players from the other minor league affiliates. In no way do I have any insider information or do my opinions reflect the organization’s. This section will focus on outfield Harrison Bader, for the AA ball club.
The former third round draft pick out of the University of Florida, looks like the complete package thus far. Before this recent home-stand, he was up hitting above .370, but a slight slump has him down to .351 (I know, how terrible right?). He has also hit seven home runs with 21 runs batted in, and also sported a seventeen game hitting streak during his hot start. He has mainly hit from the lead-off spot.
Bader went straight from low-A in Peoria straight to AA in Springfield after being drafted in last June and has recently received some praise from John Mozeliak as a player that the front office will be keeping an eye on. He has shown some skills that has him looking like a 5-tool player, flashing his glove and speed in center field along with his power at the plate.
A slight concern that I have early on, is his plate discipline. I think this stems from his hot start, that he has gained such great confidence in his abilities which has caused him to swing at some poor pitches in some at-bats, so I’ll be looking to see if he can improve upon that part of his game in coming weeks.
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Inconsistency. That is the key word to describe the Cardinals pitching through April, mainly about their pitching staff. A year after having by far the best ERA in baseball, they rank just barely in the top half of the league with a 3.88 ERA through the first month of the season. All eyes are on Adam Wainwright, due to his ballooned ERA and struggles locating pitches, but he is not the Cardinals only problem. Key free agent signing, Mike Leake, also sports an earned run average in the six-range, along with a 0-3 record.
The rest of the problems lie within the bullpen, in which the Cardinals have two young pitchers that have been excellent in past seasons struggle early on. Seth Maness and Tyler Lyons have pitched the least amount of innings on the pitching staff outside of the team’s closer, Trevor Rosenthal, yet have the highest ERAs out of the bullpen. Maness (5.79 ERA) has been great in his career at inducing ground balls that turn into double plays, for the most part, but has not had that same success early on. Some say that his luck seems to be running out, which is not out of the realm considering he is giving up a whopping 15.4 hits per nine innings. Lyons (5.40 ERA) has not performed much better than Maness, but his role on the team in the past is almost the opposite. He usually performs the long relief duties, but the redbirds have not been able to count on him in that role thus far, as he has pitched just ten innings yet has allowed three home runs out of the ten hits given up.
How the Cardinals address these issues will be up to Matheny, and depend on how the struggling players adjust. Wainwright has commented about how he feels amazing physically, the best he has ever felt, and that it is just the mechanics that he is struggling with and pitch location. Both Waino and Mike Leake will get ample opportunities to prove themselves to the Cardinals coaching staff. The bullpen guys however, may have a shorter leash. Maness has been around for a few years, so may get the Matheny favorable treatment and get a few more chances to show his worth. A guy like Sam Tuivailala may be someone the Cardinals look at, despite his struggles so far in AAA this season, for the sole fact that he has some major league experience.
This article is not supposed to be completely negative, as the Cardinals do have some guys flourishing early on. Both Wacha and Martinez have put up sub-three ERAs and are a combined 6-3. Through five starts, Martinez has only allowed 23 hits which is a good sign for him to get back to good form after being sidelined with an injury towards the end of last season. The fifth starter that has yet to be mentioned is Jaime Garcia. He has had some impressive outings, most notable the one hit complete game shutout against Milwaukee in the second week of the season, where he accumulated 13 strikeouts on the Brew Crew. With a ERA under four, Garcia could afford to improve his consistency and he should do just that, judging by his history (if he stays healthy).
For the rest of the bullpen, two pleasant surprises stand out to me early on. Seung Hwan Oh, otherwise known as the Stone Buddha for his calmness, has had an impressive start to his major league career. Formerly a dominant closer overseas, Oh has been the most worked pitcher out of the ‘pen with 15.2 IP, only allowing 8 hits, and striking out 20 batters. The other surprised has been wile veteran Jonathan Broxton. I have to admit that I was not a fan of the organization bringing him back, but it has paid off so far with him leading the team for lowest ERA.
There is definitely some room for improvement from this staff, but most followers of baseball built this staff up to such high esteem, that they were bound to disappoint eventually. If Wainwright figures out his mechanical problems, and Leake can be somewhat decent, the St. Louis Cardinals should be in fine shape to remain a contender in the NL Central.
**All stats courtesy of baseball-reference. Picture credits go to USA Today**
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