News: Jack Flaherty leads September callups

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Sandy Alcantara, and C Alberto Rosario as well as called up OF Harrison Bader and IF Alex Mejia. To make room on the 40 man roster, LHP Sean Gilmartin was outrighted.

The story. The Cardinals made their first wave of September callups today. We already knew about Flaherty, as he had already been announced as today’s starting pitcher against the Giants, however, the rest were unknown but not unexpected additions.

The numbers. Jack Flaherty, 21, is a former first round pick of the Cardinals from the 2014 MLB Draft. Through the minors, he has been dominant, holding a 2.77 ERA over 400 innings in four seasons and five different levels of the minors. This season, he started the year posting a 1.42 ERA in 10 starts for Double-A Springfield before a promotion to Triple-A Memphis where he posted a 2.74 ERA in 15 starts.

He has thrown 149 innings so far this season and is likely going to be pushed as far or a little further than the club would like to, but it is a heavier workload for a minor league starting pitcher than I can remember in recent years. For comparison, the most Carlos Martinez ever threw in a season in the minors was 104 innings. For Alex Reyes it was 109.

Sandy Alcantara, 22 next week, was an international signing by the Cardinals. He had a 4.31 ERA in 22 starts and 3 relief appearances for Double-A Springfield. Alcantara boasted a 11.2 K/9 in two stops last season, but it has tumbled to 7.6 K/9 this season. The Cardinals are hoping he can be 2017’s Alex Reyes and turn that electric fastball into a quality bullpen arm.

Alberto Rosario, 30, has hit .247/.291/.279 in 50 games in Triple-A Memphis. He joined the club as a minor league free agent in December 2014. He spent time on the club’s 40 man roster last season, hitting .184 in 20 games with the big league club.

Alex Mejia, 26, will be the fourth member of the Cardinals’ 2012 draft class on their roster this September. The shortstop is up for his second stint with the big league club, having spent a couple weeks with the team hitting .214 in 10 games with the club including almost single-handed winning a game by himself. He has hit .291/.341/413 with 7 home runs in 118 games between Springfield and Memphis this season.

Harrison Bader, 23, was a third round pick of the Cardinals from the 2015 draft. He spent a week with the big league club earlier this season and hit .286/.348/.381 including scoring the walk off game winning run in his MLB debut. He hit .283/.347/.469 with 20 home runs in 123 games for Triple-A Memphis this season.

The impact. 8/10. Normally I wouldn’t consider September callups to be all that important to the club, but this is a unique place for the Cardinals to be.

They traded away Mike Leake to create an opportunity for Flaherty in the rotation. He is penciled into the 2018 rotation at this point and a good showing will go a long way towards helping the Cardinals made a run at this wild card.

Additionally, Alcantara could be an intriguing boost to the bullpen. He has the electric fastball, but also struggles with command. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. If, like Trevor Rosenthal and Alex Reyes before him, he can harness it and put in some quality innings, that can be a big impact for a bullpen that has struggled in important innings most of the season.

The addition of Bader could be intriguing for an offensive mix that really only has Tommy Pham as a consistent contributor. Dexter Fowler has a nagging injury, Randal Grichuk is streaky, and Stephen Piscotty has had a rough season. But he will have to hit the ground running in his early starts to elbow his way into additional playing time.

I don’t foresee Mejia or Rosario in a position to give the club much impact, but those three, if the club makes an unlikely run at the Cubs or a Wild Card spot, the three guys I mentioned probably played a big role.

Piscotty activated from the DL

The Cardinals activated outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the disabled list today and optioned outfielder Harrison Bader to Memphis.

Piscotty returns to the team after exiting the first game back after the All Star Break with a right groin strain. He went 3-for-15 with two doubles in five rehab games with Single-A Peoria.

The former top-100 prospect has struggled to find his footing this season, his second full season with the club. He is hitting just .236/.348/.371 with 6 home runs this season. His 95 wRC+ is 20 points lower than the 115 wRC+ he put up last season in his first full season in the big leagues.

He had a relatively successful June, hitting .258/.377/.452, and it seemed like he might be turning the corner. However, in the 10 games before he hit the DL, he slashed a paltry .171/.216/.200.

In the corresponding move, Harrison Bader will return to Memphis where he is putting together a solid season. In six games for the big league club, Bader hit .286/.348/.381 with a 95 wRC+ and scored the game winning, walk off run in his debut.

Five things about the Rockies Series

The Cardinals completed their first sweep of since June 9-11 when they swept the Philadelphia Phillies at home. They won the past two nights in small part due to the young guys they’ve brought up providing a nice spark of energy. The Cardinals now find themselves 3.5 games behind the Cubs and now back in third place. They have not been this close to first since play wrapped up on July 3rd.

Bader’s Mad Dash

For his first Major League hit on Tuesday night, Harrison Bader ripped a double to left field and raced around the bases. He was bunted over to third by Greg Garcia and then chipped home by Jedd Gyorko. Bader’s dash home was clocked at nearly 30 feet per second according to FOX Sports Midwest last night and that’s Billy Hamilton territory according to Statcast’ Sprint Speeds leaderboard. I see now why the Cardinals think he can play center field.

But that wasn’t the only dash he had to make. On Wednesday he legged out two infield hits. Overall he went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk and a strikeout and put together a more complete game than I’ve seen from a Cardinals prospect in quite some time. For example, it took Paul DeJong 50 plate appearances to take his first walk.

The cavalry showed up

Wednesday night’s 10-5 victory marked the sixth time this season that Carlos Martinez has allowed 4 or more earned runs, but the first time that the Cardinals managed to win the game. When he allows 3 or fewer, the Cardinals are 9-6.

It’s the young guys that are driving this team right now. Paul DeJong hits a home run in the first inning to tie the game back up after the Rockies got to Martinez in the top of the first.  Tommy Pham goes 2-for-2 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored. Randal Grichuk goes 4-for-5. Harrison Bader goes 3-for-4. Kolten Wong goes 0-for-3, but walked twice, scored twice and drove in a run.

There are so many glimmers of what this team could be. They are a very different team with a very different energy with the group of guys they had last night. You almost don’t want Dexter Fowler or Stephen Piscotty to come off the disabled list for fear of messing it up.

Youth movement

One thing I’ve mentioned a lot is the energy this Cardinals’ team is playing with right now and much of that carried on by the younger players. Guys like Paul DeJong, Randal Grichuk, and Tommy Pham who are all tied for the team lead with 14 home runs despite none of them having spent the entire season with the big league club. Pham and Grichuk have both missed a month and DeJong has been up about two months at this point. Those three combined to hit four home runs in the series.

I consider the “young” guys to include those short on MLB experience and perhaps guys who just aren’t established players yet. Guys like DeJong, Pham, Grichuk, Bader, and Wong. In that Colorado series, those five guys hit .436 with 3 doubles, 4 home runs, 11 RBI, and 12 runs scored. Of the 24 runs that the Cardinals scored, 19 of them were scored or driven in by one of those five players.

Molina still bats fifth

I pointed this out on Twitter the other day, that Yadier Molina had the worst OPS of any player in that day’s Cardinals’ lineup. But wait, it gets worse. After being pushed to dig for more advanced stats I discovered that Molina has been the Cardinals’ worst hitter this season by wRC+ and wOBA of all their position players. Only Carson Kelly has been worse, and he has just 6 plate appearances this season and has been up a week.

Oh, yeah

Seung-hwan Oh made an appearance last night, throwing a perfect 9th with two strikeouts. That makes his second perfect appearance in a row as he looks to get back on track. He’s probably not ready to be thrown back into the fire yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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 land four players on midseason Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospects

Baseball America published their midseason update to their Top-100 prospects list and it featured four Cardinals prospects. Here’s who we’ve got.

#2 – RHP Alex Reyes

Alex Reyes was ranked #7 by Baseball America before the season began, and his numbers aren’t quite what most likely expected. Though the prospect list makers still like him, Reyes has a 4.35 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 9 starts for Triple-A Memphis since returning from his 50 game suspension for marijuana in May. While he struggled through June, he had his best start of the season on Monday, allowing just 1 run and striking out 9 over 6 2/3 innings of work.

#75 – RHP Luke Weaver

Luke Weaver was unranked before the season began and, after a late start to the season following a broken wrist, has come out and excelled in Double-A Springfield. The 22 year old Weaver, who was the 27th pick of the 2014 draft by the Cardinals, has a 0.83 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 7 starts for Springfield. His walk rate and strikeout rate have both improved over last season. Weaver was the Cardinals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June.

#88 – RHP Jack Flaherty

Another 2014 first rounder (34th pick) by the Cardinals is 20 year old Jack Flaherty. Flaherty was ranked #80 before the season began so he has fallen a few spots. In his second full professional season, Flaherty has a 3.82 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 14 starts for High-A Palm Beach. Over his last five starts though, Flaherty has a 1.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.

#89 – OF Harrison Bader

A third round pick from the 2015 draft, Harrison Bader quickly established his bat last season, hitting 11 home runs in 61 games between Low-A State College and Mid-A Peoria. He got a promotion to Springfield this season and got off to a hot start, hitting .379 with 7 home runs in his first 30 games this season and was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Month in April. He has struggled since, but his overall slash line still sits at a respectable .283/.346/.485 with 13 HR and 12 doubles in 75 games. He was promoted this week to Triple-A Memphis and is 2-for-10 in two games.