Cardinals call up Harrison Bader

The St. Louis Cardinals placed outfielder Dexter Fowler on the 10 day disabled list with a left forearm strain and purchased the contract of outfielder Harrison Bader from the Memphis Redbirds.

Fowler takes his second stint on the disabled list this season, the previous coming for a right heel spur issue. In the three weeks he’s been back with the big league club he hit .224/.321/.306 with just two extra base hits in 14 games. Before his previous DL stint he appeared to be hitting his stride, having hit .286/.390/.600 with 6 home runs in 21 games in June before his injury.

Bader, 23, is a former third round pick of the Cardinals and is rated as their #6 prospect by MLB.com. This season in Memphis he has hit .297/.354/.517 with 19 home runs in 97 games. He will wear #48 with the Cardinals and is in tonight’s lineup, playing center field and batting seventh.

He is one of the leading players on the Memphis team that is crushing the Pacific Coast League this season, despite losing Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong, Luke Voit, and more recently Carson Kelly to the big league club.

In Memphis, Bader has a 23.6% strikeout rate and 6.0% walk rate to go along with a 10.0% extra base hit rate. That compares favorably to DeJong who had a 24.2% strikeout rate, 4.7% walk rate, and 11.5% extra base hit rate.

The Cardinals wouldn’t have brought Bader to the big leagues to start his clock unless they were sure that he would get an extended opportunity to play. We have seen them use Magneuris Sierra in shorter stints this season. So it’s possible that they expect Fowler and Stephen Piscotty to miss more time than the minimum 10 days with their injuries.

Cardinals trade Gonzales for Mariners’ prospect O’Neill

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded left handed pitcher Marco Gonzales to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill today.

Gonzales, 25, missed last season after Tommy John surgery and has a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Memphis this season. He made a spot start for the big league club this season, allowed 5 earned runs in 3.1 innings. The former first round pick owns a career 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings at the big league level over 7 starts and 3 relief appearances.

O’Neill, 22, is currently hitting .244/.328/.479 with 19 HR in 93 games for Triple-A Tacoma this season. He hit 56 home runs over his previous two seasons in Double-A and High-A ball. A former third-round pick, he is rated as the Mariners’ #2 prospect according to MLB.com.

Before the 2017 season he was a consensus top-100 prospect, coming in 36th at MLB.com, 38th at Baseball America and 53rd with Baseball Prospectus. He fell off the midseason lists as he struggled early in the season, batting just .218/.287/.381 with 6 home runs through June 15th. In a little over a month since, he is hitting .303/.406/.697 with 13 home runs.

If you’d asked me a week ago what this club needed, I’d have answered with a power hitting corner outfielder who likes to strike out. Okay not really, butsome have compared him to Grichuk, unjustly I think. Yes, so far this season O’Neill has struck out 27.3% of the time. But his numbers also show that he knows how to walk too, walking 11.1% of the time. Compare that to Randal Grichuk‘s best season in AAA which revealed a 5.9% walk rate.

The Cardinals do have a glut of outfielders. The big league club has Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty signed long term, Tommy Pham hitting up a storm, and then Harrison Bader, Magneuris Sierra, Adolis Garcia, Randy Arozarena, and Oscar Mercado coming along in the minors. Now add O’Neill to the mix as the best of them and you have to wonder if a move is coming.

Another indicator of a potential trade coming is that the move of Gonzales didn’t just add O’Neill, it opened up a spot on the 40 man roster which now stands at 39.

The move of Gonzales also opens up a spot on the 40 man roster which now stands at 39. That could also serve as an indicator that another trade to deal out of that outfield prospect depth is on deck with a space now open without requiring a 40 man player be sent out in the same move.

Cardinals call up Carson Kelly as Grichuk and Duke are activated

The St. Louis Cardinals have called called up catcher Carson Kelly and activated outfielder Randal Grichuk and left handed reliever Zach Duke off the disabled list. To make room for them, the Cardinals optioned right handed reliever Sam Tuivailala to Memphis, outfielder Magneuris Sierra to Springfield, and designated catcher Eric Fryer for assignment.

Kelly, 23, was hitting .283/.375/.459 with 10 home runs in 68 games with Memphis this season after going homerless in 32 games with Memphis last season. Kelly appeared in 10 games last season for the big league Cardinals and hit .153/.214/.231. It seemed that his promotion may be coming when Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak indicated that his opportunity was coming.

The former gold glove catcher has been viewed as Yadier Molina‘s heir apparent behind the plate, but just how the two will co-exist on the roster is still yet to be determined. When discussing Kelly, Mozeliak indicated that the two would share time. Fryer, Molina’s backup prior to today, had started 15 of the team’s 95 games behind the plate. That would leave Molina on a pace to start 136, the second most in a season in his career.

How much time they split likely will fall back on how well Molina is playing. He finished off June with a 16 game hitting streak, but so far in July is hitting just .259/.293/.370. Those should be achievable numbers for Kelly.

The Cardinals also recalled Zach Duke who they received in a trade last July from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Charlie Tilson. Duke pitched well to finish out the year, posting a 1.93 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 28 appearances, but had to undergo Tommy John surgery after the season. The club held onto him and he returned to the mound earlier this month. He has thrown 9 scoreless innings and allowed just 4 hits and 1 walk in 9 rehab appearances.

Randal Grichuk is also back with the club and will be starting tonight. Grichuk has struggled to find his groove this season, hitting just .215/.270/.408 with 9 home runs in 61 games. After a nearly month-long stint in the minors, Grichuk returned in late June and batted .196/.250/.500 with 5 home runs in 15 games until he was placed on the disabled list after returning to the club after the All Star break.

Going down will be outfielder Magneuris Sierra, much to the disappointment of fans who enjoy his style. Sierra has gotten good results, batting .365/.400/.365 through his 13 career games over now three cups of coffee in the big leagues, however he still lacks the polish necessary. All 19 of his hits have been singles as he will need to develop more gap power to become a player that can be worth playing for his bat and not just his glove. At 21 though, he has time on his side. He will return to Springfield where he is batting .293/.326/.403 this season.

Also down is right handed reliever Sam Tuivailala, which I think is a shame. In 21 innings of work this season, Tuivailala has a 2.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. His WHIP ranks third in the bullpen behind John Brebbia (0.77) and Matthew Bowman (1.07). Regardless, Tuivailala could not break into more important innings, going nearly two weeks between his last two outings. Since his last recall, Tuivaila had allowed just 1 earned run over 10 innings of work for a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

And the club may say goodbye to Eric Fryer who has been designated for assignment. Fryer joined the last last season as a catcher for Memphis, but was pushed to the big leagues after injury to Brayan Pena. He would be designated for assignment last summer by the Cardinals as well, being picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His first game with Pittsburgh was against the Cardinals where he went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and the Twitter hashtag #FryersRemorse was born.

After they released Pena over the winter, the club signed Fryer to serve as Molina’s backup this season. He has started 15 games and appeared in 19 others, batting .155/.277/.197 for the Cardinals.

Piscotty goes to the DL; Sierra recalled

The St. Louis Cardinals placed outfielder Stephen Piscotty on the 10 day disabled list today with a right groin strain and recalled outfielder Magneuris Sierra from Double-A Springfield. Sierra will not arrive in time for tonight’s game against the Pirates, however should be ready to play on Sunday.

Piscotty has struggled this season to find his footing, hitting just .236/.348/.371 with 6 home runs in 69 games for the Cardinals this season. His 95 wRC+ is a career low, a full 20 points lower than it was last season.

Following his mother’s diagnosis with ALS in May, Piscotty looked to be turning his season around, hitting .286/.373/.540 over the next 20 games, but then his performance once again began to tail off. But has hit just .200/.307/.246 over the last 20 games.

His injury is believed to be minor, but it will take some time for it to completely heal. So the organization decided to recall Sierra for his third cup of coffee in the Majors this season.

Sierra is hitting .375/.429/.375 as a big leaguer this season with hits in 8 consecutive games to begin his MLB career, a Cardinals record. He was last up in early June for Jedd Gyorko’s paternity leave and went 1-for-2 with a walk in his one game. Since that game, he has hit .301/.342/.413 over 35 games with Double-A Springfield.

Martinez back up as Grichuk heads to DL

The St. Louis Cardinals placed outfielder Randal Grichuk on the 10 day disabled list, retroactive to July 10th, for a lower back strain. To take his place, they have recalled outfielder Jose Martinez from Memphis. Martinez had recently been optioned to Memphis on July 7th, but had yet to appear in a game.

Grichuk had been sent to the minors at the end of May to work on his pitch recognition and plate approach before being recalled on June 25th when Dexter Fowler went on the disabled list. Since his return, Grichuk has hit .196/.250/.500 with 5 home runs in 15 games, striking out 33% of the time.

Martinez is batting .280/.321/.464 with 5 home runs in 50 games for the Cardinals this season, including .281/.329/.531 in the last month. At the time of his demotion, it was a little puzzling as he had been one of the Cardinals’ best hitters over the previous 28 days. Due to the All Star breaks, Martinez did not appear in a game for Memphis during his brief time in the minors.

Grichuk will be eligible to come off the disabled list on July 20th.

Siegrist gets activated

To complete the roster moves made the other day, the Cardinals will activate left handed pitcher Kevin Siegrist from the 10 day disabled list. The reliever had been on the DL since June 23rd for a cervical spine sprain.

Siegrist had a 4.50 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 27.1 innings for the Cardinals this season before his disabled list trip this season, including a 4.15 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over his last 10 appearances.

He made a pair of rehab appearances at Double-A Springfield where he pitched 2 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk.

It had been speculated that left handed reliever Zach Duke would get the call to return today. He had Tommy John surgery last fall and has thrown 5 scoreless outings across three levels of the minors during his rehab stint.

Weaver, Mejia optioned; Wong returns

The Cardinals made a handful of roster moves yesterday. First they traded outfielder Todd Cunningham to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations. Then they optioned right handed pitcher Luke Weaver and infielder Alex Mejia to Memphis. And finally they called up Kolten Wong from his rehab assignment. There will still be one move to be made since this leaves the Cardinals’ active roster at 24 players, but it’s expected that it will be left handed reliever Zach Duke.

Cunningham, 28, was signed to a minor league deal before the season and has hit .270/.401/.400 with 4 home runs in 76 games for Memphis this season. Likely left out in a roster squeeze in Memphis between prospects, this is a minor deal as Cunningham was unlikely to play for the big league club.

Luke Weaver pitched two scoreless appearances in St. Louis during his short cup of coffee as he will return to Memphis where he has a 1.93 ERA and 7-1 record over 11 starts.

Alex Mejia hit .214/.214/.429 with a home run in his brief time with the Cardinals. His playing time tailed off at the end when the Cardinals elected to try Matt Carpenter at second base to get Luke Voit in the lineup, but he will always have July 1st against the Nationals where Mejia single-handedly provided the offense in a 2-1 victory.

This brings Kolten Wong back to the big league roster and into an interesting lineup situation, which I discussed a little in a column today. Wong had a team best .301 batting average and .393 on base percentage when he hit the disabled list in mid-June.

The transactions leave the Cardinals with a 24 man roster and it’s expected that the final spot will go to left handed reliever Zach Duke. Duke was acquired last summer for Charlie Tilson and had a 1.93 ERA over 23.1 innings out of the Cardinals’ bullpen down the stretch. Unfortunately, Duke underwent Tommy John surgery after the season.

Duke has made five rehab appearances in the minors, posting five scoreless innings allowing 3 hits and a walk.

Fowler activated as Martinez is optioned

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have activated outfielder Dexter Fowler from the 10 day disabled list today and optioned outfielder Jose Martinez to Memphis to make room for him on the active roster. Fowler is in tonight’s lineup against the New York Mets playing center field and batting third.

Fowler has missed 12 games while on the disabled list for a right heel spur. It disrupted his season just as he appeared to be getting on track. After a slow start that included a few hot streaks, Fowler had finally gotten sustained success, batting .286/.390/.600 with 6 home runs and 19 RBI in 21 games in June before his injury. He was the hottest hitter on the roster when he hit the disabled list.

Because of the play of Tommy Pham in center field while Fowler was out, there had been talk about Fowler playing left field upon his return from a foot injury.

Meanwhile Martinez is heading back to Memphis. Martinez is batting .280/.321/.464 with 5 home runs over 50 games this season as a bench player for the Cardinals. Of the four outfielders on the roster during Fowler’s absence, Martinez has been the best hitting of the four. He has hit .275/.320/.507 since June 1st and had started the past two games, going 3-for-8 with 3 runs scored.

Martinez had options remaining, meaning the club can send him back to Memphis without risk. Greg Garcia, who is hitting .172/.324/.224, does not have any options remaining and therefore stays for now. It creates an interesting roster situation for the Cardinals when Kolten Wong is ready to return potentially later this month.

 

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.

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.