Five things about the Marlins Series

The Cardinals’ four game series against the Marlins started out well, with them winning the opener 14-2, but quickly fell off the rails as they were able to come away with only a split of the series. They find themselves 41-44 with three games remaining before the All Star break and 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

They will welcome the Mets to town in the hopes of completing a three game sweep to head into the break with a .500 record.

Voit mashes

Luke Voit continued the hot start to his big league career as he had two hits in each of the Cardinals’ wins in the series. Those two hits in each were a home run and a double. He had 7 RBI total in the series and is hitting well enough that it should create a difficult decision for the Cardinals when it comes to the return of Kolten Wong which is expected later this month. There would seem to be no room at the inn for one of Voit, Wong, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, and Jedd Gyorko.

Gyorko continues to have traction

I keep waiting for the clock to strike midnight on Jedd Gyorko’s season. By all accounts, I expected it months ago. In fact, when the organization elected to release Jhonny Peralta, I was convinced that it had already started. And then he rebounded. He started just two of the four games against the Marlins after having problems with leg cramps but went 4-for-6 with 2 walks.

In fact, in the 28 games since Peralta was released, Gyorko has played in 27 of them and hit .310/.404/.560 with 5 home runs.

Garcia coming out of his slump?

Greg Garcia got three starts in this series due to Gyorko’s cramping issues, and went 3-for-10 with a home run in Tuesday’s game. Over the past 10 games he is slashing .308/.419/.423. He had been hitting .167 in May and June and saw his batting average on the season dip below .200 as recently as June 28th.

Cecil turns it around

When Brett Cecil signed a 4 year, $30 million deal in free agency and then got off to a bad start this season, it was easy to panic. He looked lost on the mound, whether that was over use or struggling mechanics or both, the numbers weren’t pretty. But he allowed three hits over 1.2 scoreless innings in Thursday’s game and it was the first time he had allowed a hit in 7 appearances.

That means that since his appearance on May 19th, Cecil has a 1.77 ERA and 0.69 WHIP in 21 appearances.

2012 was a good year

This series saw four of the Cardinals’ draft picks from the 2012 draft make appearances. Michael Wacha was taken with the Cardinals’ first pick of that draft and allowed 2 runs over 5.2 innings and picked up his sixth win of the season in the series finale. Fellow first rounder Stephen Piscotty went 3-for-14. Fourth round pick Alex Mejia appeared as a sub in all four games, going 1-for-4.

And seventh round pick Kyle Barraclough pitched two scoreless appearances in relief for the Marlins, and has easily been one of their best relief pitchers. Barraclough was traded to Miami for Steve Cishek in 2015 and made his MLB debut later that season. In three years in the big leagues, he has a 2.84 ERA over 139 appearances.

Second round pick Carson Kelly could be on his way to the big league club at some point in the second half after John Mozeliak indicated that his time is coming. And we’ve all seen what third round pick Tim Cooney did before getting injured last year and claimed off waivers by the Indians last winter.

Not a bad haul at all.

Weaver returns as Mayers gets optioned

The St. Louis Cardinals have optioned right handed pitcher Mike Mayers to Memphis and recalled right handed pitcher Luke Weaver for the first time this season.

Mayers will return to Memphis having once again struggled to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard in the Majors. He allowed two earned runs over 4 innings of work between two appearances, allowing an earned run in each. Though it should be noted that in his most recent appearance, he made it through two scoreless innings before allowing a run in his third inning of work.

Weaver, a former first round pick of the Cardinals, is expected to make his 2017 big league debut out of the bullpen. He holds a 1.93 ERA and a 7-1 record in 11 starts for Memphis this season.

He had recently been named to the Pacific Coast League All Star team and was the PCL’s Pitcher of the Month in May.

During his debut with the Cardinals last year he made eight starts for the big league Cardinals with a 4.54 ERA but averaged just 4.5 innings per start. He made one relief appearance, allowing 5 earned runs over 0.2 innings of work.

I campaigned heavily for Weaver’s call up last year, because I liked that he was dominating at every level he hit. But I’ve been uncertain about his promotion this year since he demonstrated he still had developing to do. But he has improved and should likely be able to be a good piece for the St. Louis bullpen.

Five things about the Nationals Series

The Cardinals marked their second straight series victory against a division contending team, which provides some opportunity for excitement. They took the first two against the Nationals before being shut down by Max Scherzer while Carlos Martinez had an off night. But either way there were some pluses to take away from this series.

The Cardinals are now 39-42 and find themselves 2.5 games back in the division at the official halfway mark of the season. They will play seven games against the Marlins and the Mets before the All Star Break and seem to have a good opportunity to enter the break as a .500 ballclub.

Mejia powers Saturday’s victory

Alex Mejia hadn’t had a stellar debut on Thursday night, but he made up for that by providing all the Cardinals’ offense on Saturday. First he drove in Luke Voit with a single to center field. Then with a 1-0 lead and hearing Trevor Rosenthal was due to enter the game in the 9th, he hit a solo shot to open up the 8th inning to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

That run proved necessary as Rosenthal allowed a run, but was able to hold the lead as the Cardinals won.

The case for Grichuk

Including Saturday’s win, the Cardinals are now 11-0 when Randal Grichuk bats 4th or higher in the batting order this season. On the flip side, they are 15-23 when he starts in the back half of the lineup. That seems to even bear out in his hitting statistics.

Batting 4th or higher in the order, Grichuk is hitting .291/.314/.563 with 3 home runs, 11 RBI, and a 27.4% K rate over 11 games.

Batting 5th or lower in the order, Grichuk is hitting .201/.263/.357 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI with a 31.1% K rate over 43 games.

It’s not really new either. Cardinals were 16-7 when Grichuk started and batted 4th or higher last year, 46-42 when he batted 5th or lower.

Maybe we see a different Grichuk when he has the protection of better hitters? It’s something worth considering, I would think.

Pinch hitting Voit

Luke Voit has only started two games, but he’s still made his presence felt on this Cardinals’ squad in the week he’s been here. Since his call up on June 25th, he has made four pinch hitting appearances and gone 3-for-3 with a HBP. In two of those pinch hit appearances he scored runs.

Leake rebounds

Mike Leake threw 8 innings and allowed just a single run as he posted his best start since May 24th. Following that May 24th start, Leake’s ERA this season was 1.91, and in the six starts in between he posted a 5.15 ERA and he posted an 0-4 record in decisions. His season ERA now stands at 2.97 with one more start remaining before the All Star break. One could argue that he was deserving of an All Star nod this season, given his start and where he currently stands even after a rough June.

Molina’s hitting streak ends

Yadier Molina‘s 16 game hitting streak came to an end on Sunday night as he went 0-for-4 in the series finale. Over the course of the 16 games he hit .333/.354/.492. On the season, Molina is still struggling with a .268/.303/.412 batting line.

Cardinals option Diaz, call up Mejia

The St. Louis Cardinals have optioned shortstop Aledmys Diaz to Memphis and purchased the contract of infielder Alex Mejia. In a related move, they also moved right handed pitcher Alex Reyes to the 60 day disabled list.

After a strong offensive rookie season last year, Diaz has experienced a sophomore slump posting just a .260/.293/.396 batting line with 7 home runs and an 81 OPS+ in 71 games. Last season he was second on the Cardinals with a 134 OPS+.

He is also struggling on defense, having posted a -3 defensive runs saved at shortstop last season, but already has a -9 defensive runs saved there this season in about 400 fewer innings.

And with the strong showing of Paul DeJong, hitting .319/.327/.617 with 4 home runs since returning to the big leagues, to go along with a +1 defensive runs saved at shortstop, Diaz’s playing time was at risk. So Diaz will be the latest Cardinal to get a mid-season trip to the minors to get his head, and bat, straight.

The infielder taking his place will be Alex Mejia. A former fourth round pick of the Cardinals in 2012, he becomes the sixth member of that Cardinals’ draft class to reach the Majors. He has hit .253/.309/.355 with 3 home runs and 18 doubles in 74 games this season between Memphis and Springfield and was recently named a Texas League All Star at shortstop, where he has played 68 of his 74 games.

Five things about the Pirates Series

The Cardinals dropped two out of three against the Pirates, winning on Sunday night to avoid a sweep. However, they still haven’t won a series against anyone except the Phillies in over a month. Thanks to the Brewers doing their part, the Cardinals remain just five games back in the NL Central at 34-40, but are now in fourth place behind the Pirates.

The Cardinals will play a make up game tonight in St. Louis against the Reds before heading out to Arizona for a three game set against the Diamondbacks.

Seeking an energy change

John Mozeliak told the Post Dispatch that he was seeking an energy change on Sunday and with the callups of Randal Grichuk and Luke Voit is hoping to have done that. Grichuk went 2-for-5 on Sunday night with a home run to open up the inning that the Cardinals tied up the game and Voit took seven pitches during a pinch hit appearance before being hit.

Time will tell if that’s what happened, but the Cardinals played one of their most complete games of the season offensively on Sunday. Every player who came to the plate last nigh reached base at least once.

Voit gets historic HBP

As I noted, Luke Voit was hit by a pitch in his first MLB plate appearance. With that he joins Xavier Scruggs, Dmitri Young, Jerry Buchek, and Austin McHenry as the fifth Cardinal to be hit by pitch in their MLB debuts.

But Voit is probably the first Cardinals player to ever be hit by pitch in his first MLB plate appearance.

Only McHenry remains a possibility, but there is not play-by-play data for 1918, so all we know is that he went 0-for-2 with a HBP in his debut.

Cecil back on the horse?

Brett Cecil struggled mightily to open up the season, but in the Pirates series he made two appearances and allowed zero baserunners over the 1.1 innings he pitched. He has now not allowed a run in 15 of his last 16 outings and has a 0.68 WHIP.

Over his last 8 appearances since he allowed four runs to the Reds, Cecil has thrown 8 innings and allowed just three hits and no walks.

His season ERA is down to 4.08 and with another scoreless inning, will drop below four for just the second time all season.

Waino is bueno… at home?

Adam Wainwright started the season opener on Friday night and pitched seven strong innings, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. In the midst of the worst season of his career there is a statistical oddity. In 8 home starts this season, Wainwright is 5-1 and has a 2.64 ERA. Compared to his performances on the road where he is 2-4 with a 9.48 ERA in 7 starts, that’s a radical difference.

Yadi’s streak continues

Yadier Molina‘s hitting streak was extended to 11 games as he’s battled some nagging injuries and only played in one game of the Pirates series. He extended it in authoritative fashion though, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and scoring all three times he reached base. He is now batting .333/.333/.556 with 3 home runs over his 11 game streak.

Grichuk and Voit up as Cardinals make flurry of moves

The St. Louis Cardinals had an active Sunday afternoon as they recalled outfielder Randal Grichuk and right handed pitcher Mike Mayers, as well as purchased the contract of first baseman Luke Voit from Memphis. The corresponding moves were Chad Huffman being optioned while outfielder Dexter Fowler and left handed pitcher Kevin Siegrist went to the disabled list.

Fowler suffered a quad injury on June 21st against the Phillies during “Star Wars Night” in Philadelphia and there was fear that it might result in him hitting the disabled list. He played in just one game since, but officially he is being placed on the DL for a right heel spur. The loss of Fowler is a blow to a stagnant offense as he has been one of the Cardinals’ hottest hitters over the past two weeks, batting .324/.405/.676 with 4 home runs.

Siegrist has been diagnosed with a cervical spine strain as the reason for his disabled list stint. He has struggled this season, posting a 4.28 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 27.1 innings, but has had a mostly successful June. His last appearance was on Thursday where he allowed two unearned runs on a walk and a hit in an inning of work.

Huffman returns to the minors more because he happens to have options rather than being performance related. In 12 games for the Cardinals he has hit .286/.333/.429 with a triple, including 3-for-10 as a pinch hitter. He has a 100 OPS+ which is good for league average on a team that doesn’t have a ton of league average bench pieces.

Leading the return is Randal Grichuk, who is in the lineup and batting cleanup tonight. Grichuk was demoted earlier in the month in an effort to get his bat back on track. His homework was to get a better handle on the strike zone, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

In the first two months of the season in the Majors he had a 29.8% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. During his stint in the minors, he had a 29.9% strikeout rate and 4.5% walk rate. He did mash though, batting .270/.313/.603 with 6 home runs in 14 games with Memphis.

It’s possible that his return to the Majors has more to do with Fowler’s DL trip and needing another outfielder than anything else.

The Cardinals also purchased the contract of Luke Voit who is now set to make his MLB debut. Voit has hit .322/.406/.561 with 23 doubles and 12 home runs this season with Memphis.

The downside for Voit is that, like Matt Adams, he is a first baseman only. So to get him into the lineup on a regular basis means moving Matt Carpenter back across the diamond to third base. That’s something I’m okay with as I think he’s better than most make him out to be, but I wrote a week ago that they should call Voit up.

And finally, Mike Mayers will return to the Majors for a second chance after a disastrous cup of coffee last season. In his debut for the Cardinals, he started the game and didn’t make it through two innings before he had allowed nine runs. He made three relief appearances following that start, but only kept the opponents off the board in one of them.

He has, however, once again pitched well for Memphis, posting a 5-6 record with a 3.74 ERA. Over his last five starts, Mayers has a 0.87 ERA. It’s not entirely clear what role Mayers will have for the Cardinals. He was called up to replace a reliever, but there has been rumblings that the team is considering pulling Michael Wacha from the rotation, at least temporarily. Having Mayers up would give them that option.

Rumor Check: Adeiny Hechavarria

Yesterday the news broke that the Miami Marlins were shopping shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that MLB executives expect that Hechavarria could be traded in the coming days. The Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer reported that the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals have asked about acquiring the shortstop.

If you’re unfamiliar with Hechavarria, he is 28 years old and was once a highly regarded Cuban signing. He is earning $4.35 million this year and has one more year of arbitration in 2018 before hitting free agency.

He is a career .255/.291/.337 hitter with a 74 OPS+. His best season came in 2015 when he hit .281/.315/.374 with a 92 OPS+, which was essentially league average compared to other shortstops.

While the bat has never come around he is widely considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. Over the past two seasons he has +18 defensive runs saved along with a +17.7 UZR/150 in 2015 and +8.5 UZR/150 in 2016.

Knowing what it would take to get Hechavarria isn’t very easy to figure out, so I’m not comfortable throwing out names but trading Andrelton Simmons netted the Braves a top-100 pitching prospect as the focal point of his return a year and a half ago. However, Simmons is better on both sides of the ball and had five years remaining on his contract.

Hechavarria is also on the disabled list with a left oblique strain though he is currently on a rehab assignment.

The Cardinals’ interest would be that it reinforces John Mozeliak’s stated goal of improving the roster’s defense and athleticism. Hechevarria is a rangy shortstop with a great glove.

The Cardinals do currently have Aledmys Diaz at shortstop, and if Diaz were hitting like he did last season this might end the conversation right there. However, he is batting .262/.296/.404 with an 82 OPS+ this season so Hechavarria would not represent a marked downgrade offensively except maybe in potential.

And on defense, Hechevarria has been 20 defensive runs saved better than Diaz since the beginning of the 2016 season.

So what happens to Diaz if this trade is made? The Cardinals have toyed with the idea of moving him to left field, but you could also see him picking up time at third base where he played some in Cuba with Gyorko returning to normal off from his early season hot streak. He might also have some interest to the Marlins as he is under team control through the 2021 season.

It’s also been pointed out by fans that the Cardinals have Delvin Perez, who they drafted 23rd last season and was a consensus top-100 prospect this spring, coming through the system. But Perez was drafted just last season, is 18 years old, and is playing short season rookie league in Johnson City this season. He is still multiple years away from even being considered an option at the Major League level, so there is no reason to consider him as a reason to not acquire a shortstop like Hechevarria.

For a team that needs offensive help more than anything, it’s a little puzzling at first as to why the Cardinals would be asking about Hechavarria, but according to Derrick Goold it’s not the first time they’ve asked about him. And historically Mozeliak likes to ask about anyone who hits the trade market which makes it difficult to gauge interest.

But when you consider who he’d be replacing at shortstop, he isn’t a big downgrade offensively and is far superior defensively so I think you can still consider an upgrade for the team.

I think the interest in Hechavarria from the Cardinals is real, however, I don’t see them as motivated as other teams in the pursuit may be, especially Baltimore who is without J.J. Hardy until mid-August.

The move fits with the direction Mozeliak wants to take the Cardinals in, but it all depends on what it costs to acquire him.

It would also create the opportunity to use Hechavarria’s range to help cover for a move of Matt Carpenter back across the diamond to third base, which would let them call up Luke Voit for an opportunity at first base.

For years I’ve been talking about how difficult it is for Mozeliak to get a good value on a player in the trade market and I’ve wondered if it wouldn’t be the time to go big to get the best level of value. It would be a lot of talent swapping sides, but perhaps you could find a deal that would bring Marcell Ozuna (who the Cardinals have asked about before) or Christian Yelich to St. Louis in addition to Hechavarria.

I guess we’ll see what happens, but I don’t expect this one to go anywhere.

Five things about the Phillies Series

The Cardinals won the series, but anything short of a sweep against one of the two teams that have been worse over their past 30 games entering this series should be a massive disappointment for the team. They find themselves 33-38 in 3rd place in the NL Central, 5 games back.

They remain within striking distance if they were to put together a strong week or two, but that window is slowly closing and may close altogether if the Brewers or the Cubs figure it out first.

The Cardinals are headed home for three against the Pittsburgh Pirates starting tonight at Busch Stadium.

More Pham please

Tommy Pham went 5-for-14 with three home runs in this series, including two on Wednesday night. On Wednesday night his first home run in the 5th put the Cardinals on the board and his second tied up the game in the 9th inning. He became the first Cardinal and one of 14 players to ever hit two home runs and have two outfield assists in the same game. Yet in the post game interview with Jim Hayes on FOX Sports Midwest, Pham was visibly mad. The reason? He struck out three times.

We don’t often see that level of emotion out of Cardinals players post game. Let alone frustration at their failures when the team won and they were one of the key reasons why the team won.

I get the distinct feel that Pham has reached the point in his career that he’s tired of playing the game, and I don’t mean the one on the field. Two months ago he nearly walked away from the sport, but was encouraged to stick it out and here he is and his .285/.371/.514 batting line is still the best on the club. His intention is to just make it difficult for the club to come up with a valid reason to put him on the bench and so far it’s been working.

Maybe some day he’ll actually get to hit ahead of the two guys who typically bat in front of him and haven’t been good at getting on base for him.

Comeback Cards

In each of the first two games of this series, the Phillies struck first and it was the Cardinals that chipped away to eventually win the games. It’s nice to see that from this team and wins are better than losses, however, let’s remember that it is the Phillies and they probably should never have been behind to them in the first place.

Bullpen continues to be strong

The Cardinals bullpen threw 13 innings in this Phillies series thanks to extra innings and an early exit by Michael Wacha, but only allowed just a single earned run courtesy of Seung-hwan Oh in a game they won. They worked five scoreless innings on Tuesday night and following that up with six innings allowing just Oh’s run on Wednesday night.

Molina’s hitting streak

Yadier Molina is currently on a 10 game hitting streak but has just a .300 OBP over that stretch. It is easily one of the worst on base percentages during a hitting streak of that length over the last several years when I went looking, but he has actually done one better. Back in May, he had a 16 game hitting streak where he had a .282 on base percentage.

Wacha continues to stumble

The season started out so promising for Michael Wacha. Through 7 starts he’d gone at least 6 innings and had a 2.74 ERA. Since then the wheels have fallen off with a 8.17 over 6 starts and he’s made it through the fifth inning just once. He allowed 9 hits and a walk over 4 innings on Wednesday that saw him allow 5 runs, though only two of them were earned.

There’s been talk that they’re considering other options, but for now they seem to be content running Wacha out there while Marco Gonzales, Luke Weaver, and Jack Flaherty continue to excel in Memphis.

Mozeliak mentioned during the Q&A during the UCB game that it was a difficult discussion to have with a player, but that’s why he and Mike Matheny are employed by the organization. To make these decisions and have exactly these kinds of discussions.

Five things about the Orioles Series

The Orioles were 10-20 entering this past series at Camden Yards and with a series against the Phillies coming up next, the Cardinals seemed poised to put some wins on the board. But that would not be the case in this series. After blowing out the O’s by 9 runs on Friday night, the Cardinals were outscored by 11 runs over the remaining two games of the series. The result was another lost series and a missed opportunity.

The Cardinals now find thesmelves 31-37 and 5.5 games back in the NL Central. They get a day off before heading to Philadelphia for a three game set this week. Since they won a series against the Cubs on May 14th, the Cardinals have won just one series, the one last weekend against the Phillies.

If not leadoff, then…

When the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler to a 5 year, $82.5 million deal this winter, it was to have him bat leadoff and move Matt Carpenter to the third spot. But after 56 games, the Cardinals pulled the plug on that experiment and moved Carpenter back to lead off. Since then though, Fowler’s bat has come alive as well.

In 11 games since being moved to the second spot in the lineup, Fowler his batting .395/.465/.842 with 5 home runs and 14 RBI. He has hit a home run now in four straight games to bring his season total to 13, which is what he hit all of last season for the Chicago Cubs. He is on pace for 31 home runs, which nearly doubles his previous career high of 17.

One has to wonder if Fowler, who has talked about how Barry Bonds has indicated that he could be a #3 hitter, might actually be the middle of the lineup threat the Cardinals have wanted. He has the tools and apparently has the power.

DeJong comes back strong

After slumping to the tune of a .154 batting average over his final seven games with the Cardinals before being sent back to Memphis, Paul DeJong turned the corner when he returned. Speaking of being a bit overwhelmed by his first trip to the Majors, the two days back in the minors before being recalled after Kolten Wong hit the disabled list again provided him an opportunity to take a breath.

In his second game back and first game of the series, DeJong went 3-for-4, with three runs scored, a home run, and 3 RBI. He backed it up going 1-for-3 with another two run homer on Saturday along with his first career MLB walk. Over the three game series he went 4-for-11 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI along with 4 runs scored.

Cecil changes his numbers

After spending eight seasons in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays, one could say that Brett Cecil is comfortable at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. He also might have been a little more comfortable after slipping into his new #27 jersey, making the change after the number recently became available following the release of Jhonny Peralta.

Cecil would post back-to-back perfect outings of 1 inning on Friday and Sunday, just the second time this season he’s posted back-to-back perfect outings of at least 1 inning pitched.

He was also one of two Cardinal pitchers to pitch in the series and not allow a run. The other was Trevor Rosenthal.

In the last month, Cecil has a 3.09 ERA and 0.77 WHIP over 12 appearances and 11.2 innings pitched. His ERA is backed by four earned runs, all of which came in a disastrous June 7th appearance against the Reds. After a horrendous April and an even more horrendous start to May, he seems to be turning the corner.

Wainwright’s problems continue

Adam Wainwright posted a 6.37 ERA through his first seven starts this season and then put together a four start stretch that saw him allow just a single earned run over 26 innings of work for a 0.34 ERA. He seemed to be on the verge of putting it together and the timing coincided with a strong run he put together last season through the summer, but those seem to just be pipe dreams.

Wainwright allowed 9 earned runs without making it out of the second inning on Saturday, the second time in three starts he has been tagged for nine earned runs. Over his last three starts, opponents are batting .408/.500/.796 against him. Yes, that’s right, they’re getting on base 50% of the time.

Martinez is having a good year

Carlos Martinez went 6 innings and allowed just 1 run while striking out 8 during the Cardinals win on Friday. That puts him at a 2.86 ERA through 94.1 innings of work this season. He also has a 149 ERA+ and 2.8 Wins Above Replacement.

His 149 ERA+ is the 14 in baseball right now among starting pitchers who have started at least 10 games, and his 2.8 WAR is good for 10th. He has the 5th most strikeouts and faced the 11th fewest batters per inning.

He is on pace for 33 starts, 222 innings, and 252 strikeouts.

Those 252 strikeouts would be the most for a Cardinals pitcher since Adam Wainwright struck out 219 back in 2013. You have to go back to Bob Gibson in 1970 for the last time a Cardinals pitcher had more than 252 strikeouts in a season.

Column: Is it time to get a look at Luke Voit?

It doesn’t seem like a season goes by any more without Twitter clamoring for a slugging first baseman from Memphis. The names have changed over the years from Mark Hamilton to Xavier Scruggs to Brock Peterson. The current fixture of this obsession is Luke Voit.

The 26 year old Voit is a local product. Born in Wildwood, Missouri, attended Lafayette High School, and then attended Missouri State University. He was even drafted out of high school by the Royals in 2009 before going to college and drafted in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft by the Cardinals. Best of all, Luke is a nickname. His legal first name is Louis.

So if there is a person for whom the stars have aligned better to be the savior of a Cardinals’ season, I haven’t found one.

In 2016, Voit had his first real head turning season in the minor leagues. Over 134 games for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, he put up a batting line of .297/.382/.477 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI to go along with 20 doubles and 5 triples. That .297 batting average even won the Texas League batting title.

That got him a promotion this season to Triple-A Memphis where he, through 63 games so far this season, is batting .326/.402/.583 with 12 home runs to go along with 21 doubles and 1 triple.

I’m not some super knowledgeable prospect guy who talks like a scout, but there are things I like to see from players as the progress through the minors. I like seeing doubles. I like players who walk. I like players who perform at every level. I like players who aren’t too old for their level. Voit seems to check all my boxes.

For the terms of this article though, let’s take a look at Voit and compare him with another Cardinals’ minor leaguer who made his debut this season and has played much of the past two seasons with Voit and likely provides us the most apples-to-apples comparison of what we could reasonably expect. That’s Paul DeJong.

DeJong was a fourth round pick by the Cardinals in the 2015 draft as a senior out of Illinois State Unviersity. Last season in Springfield as Voit’s teammate, he hit .260/.324/.460 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI over 132 games along with 29 doubles and 2 triples.

This season while he’s been in Memphis, he has hit .299/.339/.571 with 13 home runs and 34 RBI over 48 games along with 9 doubles.

The on base percentage is the most obvious and striking thing I notice right away. And then the 144 strikeouts for DeJong last season in Springfield while Voit struck out just 83 times in just six fewer plate appearances.

So DeJong strikes out. A lot. And doesn’t really walk either. That has continued into the Majors where, through 45 at bats, he has yet to walk. And has struck out 33.3% of the time.

Comparing their seasons in Memphis, DeJong has a 24.2% strikeout rate, a 4.7% walk rate and a 11.6% extra base hit rate. On the other side, Voit has a 18.0% strikeout rate, a 8.4% walk rate, and a 13.0% extra base hit rate.

So Voit strikes out less, walks almost twice as often, and has more power than DeJong. I already like what I’m seeing.

Steamer’s projections for Voit in the Majors this season show the expectation for a .263/.324/.410 line with a 97 wRC+. That’s pretty average, but for a team with vast underperformance up and down the lineup, average would be a sight for sore eyes.

DeJong’s Steamer projection entering this season was .242/.286/.392 which seems to be about where he’s trending at .244/.244/.378 right now. And I mostly refuse to consider DeJong as a potential everyday player until he takes at least one walk.

Unfortunately for Voit, much like Adams, the lack of positional flexiblity is his biggest stumbling block in the Cardinals’ organization. Any promotion for him would mean a move back across the diamond for Matt Carpenter and, while I’m bullish on Carpenter’s defensive abilities at third base compared to many other fans, it’s clear that the organization prefers to keep him at first base.

However, now would seem to be as good a time as ever as it looks like Jedd Gyorko is fading fast. After a hot start that has him hitting .295 on the season, he has cooled off significantly over the past month, hitting .244 over the last 28 days, .195 over the last 14, and .118 over the last week. And if Gyorko’s bat heats up again, yet another reason to try him in left field as I suggested yesterday.

Meanwhile Carpenter is heating up in the leadoff spot and the Cardinals are desperate for a guy who can pack a consistent punch in the middle of the lineup. Voit is likely the Cardinals’ best internal option at being that guy.

Another option would potentially be to play him in left field (*ducks*) where he played 12 games for Springfield last season, but from what I’ve read a Matt Holliday level left fielder may be his ceiling out there and even that may require more experience to get to. His best position will always be first base, but if he were producing offensively, I don’t think too many people would complain right now.

He would need a spot on the 40 man roster, but I don’t think that would stand in the way of a move. Ideally the Cardinals could have called him up today where you have three games in an American League ballpark with the DH to get a taste of what he could provide the big league club.

Of all those slugging first basemen, Voit seems to be the first worth a chance. And right now, they probably should give him one.