Results tagged ‘ St. Louis Cardinals ’

We knew him when: Kolten Wong

With the amount of contributions from rookies the Cardinals are getting, I suppose we could stay with them throughout the rest of their run. Given Kolten Wong’s ninth-inning heroics in Game 2, and the fact that we’ve spoken with the rookie second baseman a TON since his draft year in 2011, he was the obvious choice. Let’s take a look:

  • It started with a pre-Draft story on Wong, who was coming out of the University of Hawaii and ready to show that his size really didn’t matter.
  • He had a huge junior season with the bat and we ranked him No. 25 on the Draft Top 50 in 2011.
  • Wong really wanted to attend the Draft in 2011, but a family illness kept him from making the long trip to MLB Network. Instead, he joined the broadcast via phone:
  • He had a huge first full season in the Minors, going straight to Double-A and spending the whole season there. He was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game. We spoke to him when he first arrived:
  • And he was mic’ed up during the Futures Game itself:
  • At the end of that first full season, Wong was ranked No. 49 on our Top 100 went to the Arizona Fall League. He was the focus of our AFL Team Report for the Cardinals:
  • He performed well in the AFL, not surprisingly, and I named him the No. 9 prospect in the Fall League that season.
  • In January before the 2013 season, Wong attended the Rookie Career Development Program:
  • I got to write about the second baseman one last time recently, as he was my pick in a Pipeline Perspectives that debated the question: Which prospect/rookie will have the largest impact in September and October? I went with Wong, while Jim went with Yordano Ventura. Guess we were both right:

When we knew them: Marco Gonzales

I didn’t want anyone to think that was a one-and-done series. I was just waiting for a good opportunity, and one that was non-Royals after the Mike Moustakas retrospective. Don’t worry, KC fans, I’ll have no problem opening the vault in the ALCS and beyond.

Marco Gonzales hasn’t been a professional pitcher for long enough for us to have the same kind of library as we did with Moose.

The first time I had the chance to talk with the lefty was at FanFest at the 2013 All-Star Game in New York. Gonzales was on hand to accept the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award for his work on the mound and in the batter’s box during his junior year at Gonzaga.


Of course, we had written about Gonzales plenty during his time as an amateur:

  • Back in the summer of 2012, he was part of USA Baseball’s College National Team participating in the Prospect Classic, with the college players and high school players from the 18 and Under trials roster mixing together. First, he tossed four scoreless innings in Game 1 (Broadcast by myself and Pete McCarthy):
  • In this broadcast of the second game, Gonzales went 3-for-3 at the plate.
  • He outpitched Scott Frazier in an early Friday night matchup during his Draft year (2013) and broke it down in Draft Watch.
  • He was ranked No. 14 overall on our Draft Top 100 found on our 2013 Prospect Watch.
  • He went No. 19 overall in that June’s Draft:

I got to catch up with Gonzales in Palm Beach, Florida, during his first Spring Training (and first big league camp). He was the subject of our “Three Questions With…” part of our Spring Training Reports. He’s ranked No. 3 on our Cardinals’ Top 20 and No. 99 on our overall Top 100.

I knew he’d be a quick to the big leagues type, but I can’t say I knew for certain it would be in his first full professional season. Seeing him not only make the postseason roster, but pitch three shutout relief innings and pick up two wins in the NLDS as a result, has been impressive, to say the least.


Cardinals camp extras

The Cardinals prospect package is up now. You can read the Spring Training report, peruse the Top 20 list, take a look at Bernie Pleskoff’s take and watch the video here:

I had a lot of extra good stuff from my time in Jupiter with the Cardinals. Some of that has to do with how generous with his time Cards farm director Gary LaRocque was and how well-spoken 2013 first-round pick Marco Gonzales was.

First, here’s more from my chat with Gonzalez, the lefty who came in at No. 5 on the St. Louis Top 20:

There’s often a jump for two-way guys when they focus on one skill. Have you noticed anything different? Do you feel any different?

Gonzales: I feel like I have a little more stamina already just with the PFPs we do every day, the conditioning. My body is just not as worn down. I don’t feel like an old man anymore like I did in college. I don’t know if I’ve noticed a velo jump. We haven’t been paying attention to velo yet. As far as overall body care and the way I feel, it’s a lot better already.

How important do you think it is, especially about to hit your first full season, that you were able to dedicate yourself to preparing only for pitching every five days?

Gonzales: That’s going to be the most exciting thing. Preparing the whole offseason to build my legs and core has been huge for me. Not playing every day, especially the combination of hitting and pitching on the same day, it just wears on you. I’m excited to focus and get in a routine and see how it goes.

The college season has started up. Have you been keeping up with Gonzaga (his alma mater)?

Gonzales: I was texting a bunch of my teammates and was on the phone with them before their opening weekend. I was saying it felt like I should be suiting up with those guys. So much has happened in the past year, it’s kind of crazy to look back and see where you’ve been. I’ll always miss playing for those guys, but I’ve got a good thing going on here.

LaRocque had some really great things to say about the culture and the philosophy the organization tries to foster. Rather than set up his comments, I’m just posting because they are pretty self-explanatory.

LaRocque: If you look back at over these last two years, we had 20 players plus move up from the system to the big leagues and contribute, which is really the big thing. From that standpoint, you’re right. The next group has to get the at-bats and the innings to be ready for the next wave of guys. We do think we have some players who can become the same type of contributors in the big leagues. That’s what we have to do; our system is crucial to us. You have to be ready for the next wave. I think it’s very typical of most player development systems, we have to look at it for the next 2-3-4 years. We have to make sure players go from projection to production or performance as they go to the high levels. We have a share of players who went to Quad Cities and then skipped a level, skipped high A and went to Double-A right away . To their credit, they went into Double-A and they played at the level of the league right away. Knowing your own system is crucial.

Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong [all did that[. It’s important that we’ve had that level of success with those players. They  played to the league right off. When we send a player to a league, you find the players you can move or keep accelerating. We’ve found with these players, by July and August, they move ahead of the league. We tell them: April is important, but what matters is where you are in July and August.

Every day our Minor League players walk down the hallway to get to the clubhouse. Lining that hallway is a picture of every guy who is in St. Louis right now who was a Minor Leaguer. They see them, they know it can happen.

For my One More Guy candidate, I’m going to let Jim Callis do the work. He did the Top 20 and just blogged his picks for 21-25 in the system. For whatever it’s worth, I’m kind of a Greg Garcia fan.

Who’s Next: The RHP list

Prospect ranking season is upon us. It started on Monday with our 2013 Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects list. Each day, we’ll be revealing another Top 10 by position list, until we’re ready to unveil this year’s Top 100 on Jan. 29 (Top 50 show on MLB Network and streamed on at 9 p.m. ET). Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday: Left-handed pitchers
Wednesday: Catchers
Thursday: Third basemen
Friday: Shortstops
Saturday: Second basemen
Sunday: First basemen
Monday: Outfielders

You may have noticed a new twitter handle introduced – @mlbpipeline — that we’re using to announce these lists. You may also have noticed that there have been some technical difficulties with it. We’re hoping those will be resolved soon and that can be THE place to find out about prospect info from us on Twitter. So keep trying if you were trying to follow and couldn’t.

In the past, when the Team Top 20 lists have launched (Week of Feb. 4, for those curious), I’ve posted something I called OMG — One More Guy. That, basically, is who would potentially be No. 21 on the list. I thought I should do something similar for the position lists, especially when seeing reaction from some about who is/isn’t on the list.

With that in mind, here are the RHP who would be 11-15, if we were to go that deep:

Julio Teheran, Braves — Star has faded a bit, but still very young and ready for another shot.

Carlos Martinez, Cardinals — Sometimes known as “Little Pedro,” he has electric stuff in smaller pitching frame

Kyle Zimmer, Royals — 2012 first-rounder could move very quickly through the KC system

Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays — There are those who think he has the most upside among all those young Jays pitchers (current and former)

Kevin Gausman, Orioles — LSU star who went No. 4 overall in last June’s Draft, should join Dylan Bundy in Baltimore in the near future

I’ll be back soon with Who’s Next for the lefties….

AFL and Rookie of the Year success

I’m back in Arizona, watching the final night game here at Scottsdale Stadium, and started thinking about alumni from this league and how they fare during awards season. So I did some digging…

While one was unanimous and one was close, it really shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were this year’s Rookie of the Year Award winners.

It also shouldn’t shock anyone that both are Arizona Fall League alumni. For six years in a row now, at least one of the Rookies of the Year played in the AFL previously.

The Trout-Harper perfecta isn’t even that unusual. In five of the last seven seasons, starting with Huston Street and Ryan Howard’s ROY Awards in 2005, both winners cut their teeth here. The other dynamic duos:

Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Braun, 2007
Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto, 2008
Andrew Bailey and Chris Coghlan, 2009
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, 2012

Trout and Harper have something in common with Street and Howard. In both cases, the Rookie of the Year tandems both played in the AFL the year prior to winning the top rookie honor. Not only that, in both instances, the award winners were AFL teammates. In 2004, Street and Howard were Phoenix Desert Dogs. Last year, Trout and Harper played in the same Scottsdale Scorpions outfield.

There have now been 24 Rookies of the Year who once called the Arizona Fall League home.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at Cy Young Award winners.

In case you missed them, here are two more AFL team reports:

The Yankees report focuses on Mark Montgomery. Their video report takes a look at Montgomery, Slade Heathcott and Dellin Betances:

Gary Brown is the focus of the Giants report. In the video report, Brown, Joe Panik and Chris Dominguez are featured.

Finally, Stars of the Day for Monday and Tuesday:

Monday: We’ll go with Kevin Siegrist of the Cardinals, for his four-inning, one run performance. The lefty gave up four hits, walked one and struck out eight. He’s now 10th in ERA (2.37) and second in strikeouts (27).

Tuesday: The aforementioned Slade Heathcott gets the nod after going 4-for-5, including his first homer of the fall. He drove in two and scored a run. Heathcott is now fifth in the league in batting average (.371) and second in OPS (1.084).

NLCS stirs college memory

Not from my own college experience, mind you, but that of one of the players on a postseason roster.

It was 2008 and I was covering the SEC tournament in Alabama. It’s something I’ve done a few times over the years for pre-Draft coverage. It’s such a loaded conference that you can find a whole bunch of potential first-round picks in one place.

In that conference that year, in fact, was Pedro Alvarez, Gordon Beckham, Justin Smoak, Josh Fields and Reese Havens, all of whom were taken in the first round of that 2008 Draft. But the guy I’m thinking of was a supplemental pick that year, taken No. 39 overall by the Cardinals.

At the time, Lance Lynn was the ace of the Ole Miss staff, though he was coming off a so-so junior year. But he had a terrific tournament, helping his school make it to the finals (losing to LSU) and being named to the all-tournament team.

I remember having a conversation with someone at the tournament, someone who followed the team closely. That year, Ole Miss had more than just Lynn who was attracting scouts. There was another starter in the rotation, who went a little later in that draft. That pitcher, by all accounts, had better pure stuff than Lynn. By a lot. But he didn’t have a good year, either.

The biggest difference was how they performed under pressure. Lynn stepped up and was fantastic in the tournament. This other guy, not so much. In fact, we were watching this other guy pitch during this conversation. This unnamed pitcher was under the weather and, if memory serves, came out of the game fairly early as a result. I’m not saying this guy wasn’t sick, but it was what this Ole Miss observer said that really stuck with me.

We were talking about Lynn and how competitive he was on the mound. This conversation-mate said that if it was Lynn who was sick and it was his turn to pitch, he’d simply walk off behind the mound, throw up, then get back on the mound and keep pitching.

Disgusting? Maybe. A little too graphic? Perhaps. But you get the point. There was a certain amount of — to borrow a phrase from old colleague Billy Sample — intestinal fortitude with Lynn. So it’s not a surprise at all to me that he’s thrown three shutout innings across three appearances in the NLCS, even getting a win in Game 2. This after not having pitched since Aug. 9 and being left off the NLDS roster (oblique injury).

The setting wasn’t going to faze him. Success or failure, after seeing him in that SEC tournament, after having that conversation about his toughness on the mound, I knew Lynn would face that kind of challenge without fear.

I don’t know if Lynn is now permanently a reliever. His success in relief might point to that. He certainly has the right mindset.

Oh, and that other guy? He’s had some injury problems… and has yet to make it above Double-A.


Quick update on the postseason review front… You can now read the Houston Astros prospect review. Mariners review should be running later today and I’ll pass that link along when it’s live.





OMG: St. Louis Cardinals

Here’s the Cards’ Top 10 and, as always, OMG (One More Guy) from their system:

Sanchez.jpgEduardo Sanchez, RHP: Signed out of Venezuela in December 2005, Sanchez spent his first three seasons moving slowly, but in 2009-2010, he’s picked up the pace, pitching at two levels in each season (he went back to Double-A last year after finishing there in 2009).

Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Sanchez doesn’t look like much, but then you see him throw. He’s got a power arsenal perfect for the back end of a bullpen. He can get his fastball up into the upper-90s and he’s got a pretty nasty power slider to go with it. He’s struck out 9.9 per nine innings in his career (9.8 in 2010, but 10.3 once he moved up to Triple-A). Right-handed hitters didn’t stand a chance against him last year, hitting just .157 against him, thanks largely to that slider (Lefties hit a much more robust .293).

He’s shown he doesn’t flinch in pressure situations and calmly retired the side in order at the Futures Game last July. His biggest issue has been command/control as he’s given up a few too many walks over the course of his career. At his size, people will always worry about his endurance and durability. He’s had a good spring and is still sort of in contention for one of the open bullpen spots. Even if he goes down to Triple-A Memphis, where he could get some more closing experience, he should be ready to help out in St. Louis at some point this season.


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