News: Cardinals recall Magneuris Sierra

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals recalled outfielder Magneuris Sierra from Triple-A Memphis and optioned infielder Breyvic Valera to Memphis.

The story. With the returns of Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong to the Cardinals’ lineup this weekend there was a reducing need to have Valera on the roster in St. Louis, but there was still the potential that he could get playing time and help the Redbirds pursue the Pacific Coast League title. But with the knee injury to Dexter Fowler this weekend, the Cardinals elected to add some outfield depth in the form of Sierra.

The numbers. Breyvic Valera made his big league debut last week for the Cardinals as a veteran of 800 minor league games. Overall in three games for the big league Cardinals, he went 1-for-5 at the plate with a walk while playing nine innings at second base.

On his way up is 21-year-old Magneuris Sierra who returns for his fourth stint with the Cardinals this season. After starting the season in single A, he had been on Triple-A Memphis’ playoff roster but had yet to appear for them. Sierra has hit .365/.400/.365 in 13 Major League games this season. He holds the franchise records for the most consecutive games with a hit to open up a big league career at nine games.

The impact. 4/10. With Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk in the St. Louis outfield, there just isn’t much opportunity for Sierra to elbow his way into some playing time here. Where he stands to see the most utility for the Cardinals and Mike Matheny is as a late game defensive replacement and pinch runner. Matheny has previously used guys like Pete Kozma and Adron Chambers very effectively in that role and Sierra is an even better option than them.

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.

Five things about the Pirates Series

The Pittsburgh Pirates quickly strangled any hope of coming out of the break with some momentum as they managed not one, but two come-from-behind, walk-off victories against the Cardinals this weekend at PNC Park to win the series. As much as I want to say it was a surprise, since most expected the Cardinals to come to Pittsburgh and handle their business, it really wasn’t. Since the Pirates became relevant again, they have consistently given the Cardinals fits in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals now find themselves 6.5 games back in the division and in third place. They head to New York for a four game set against the Mets.

“Closing time, one last call for alcohol…”

Or so the lyrics to the song go, but its hard for Mike Matheny to figure out who should take him home when everyone seems to be crashing. Seung-hwan Oh started the season as the closer before about three weeks ago Matheny said he was making a change and going with Trevor Rosenthal. Then he went back to Oh on Friday, who blew the save. Then on Sunday afternoon he pulled out Brett Cecil in the 9th to close up the game.

It’s a bad look when none of the three highest paid relievers in your bullpen can’t be trusted to close out a game and I don’t think we can add #4, Kevin Siegrist, in there either.

In my opinion it’s time to mix Sam Tuivailala into late innings situations. Tuivailala has a 2.25 ERA over 20 innings of work this season and carries a 1.20 WHIP. In Memphis he carries a 1.65 ERA over 16 innings of work. And yet he continues to be relegated to mop up duty in Matheny’s bullpen, having thrown the least out of all the relievers over the last 14 and 28 days. Over those last 28 days he’s thrown 6 scoreless innings in five appearances.

In fact, Tuivailala, John Brebbia, and Matthew Bowman have combined to allow just a single earned run over the last 28 days. No other reliever on the roster has less than two. They’ve earned a right to get an opportunity in higher leverage situations, especially when the guys who are there aren’t getting the job done.

Some of Tony La Russa’s greatest successes came by acknowledging the way he was using his bullpen wasn’t working and switching things up. It’s time for Matheny to follow that lead and mix things up.

Sierra returns triumphant

With injuries to both Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, Magneuris Sierra gets another cup of coffee with the big league club and comes throguh, going 4-for-4 in his return. Now through 9 games of his MLB career, he’s got at least one hit in all of them and multiple hits in five of them. He is the 154th player in MLB history to go 4-for-4 inside his first 10 career games.

Of course, the cries for Sierra to be an everyday player from here on out were there. We seem to be at peak Sierra, similar to where we were in May when everyone was complaining about how the Cardinals let Allen Cordoba go in the Rule 5 draft when he was hitting .300 in San Diego. Since June 1st, Cordoba has hit .131 and those complaints have gone quiet. Eventually Sierra will reach that point too and when he does, it won’t be pretty.

Sierra has sixteen hits in his first 9 MLB games. All singles. His speed making up for a lack of punch.

As The Intrepid STL’s Zach Gifford tweeted last night, Sierra still has much to develop on the offensive side of the ball. His contact rate and chase rates are worse than Grichuk. His .571 BABIP makes him look good. He’s projected to have a 61 wRC+ to finish out the season according to Fangraphs. That’s 49% worse than an average player.

Wong returns from DL

Kolten Wong returned almost a month to the date of his headed to the disabled list for a second time and went 0-for-4. After his customary night off on the second night, Wong returned on Sunday afternoon and went 2-for-4. With Paul DeJong and Magneuris Sierra in the lineup, Wong batted sixth, which is the highest he’s been in the lineup all season. Which is borderline laughable considering he led the team in batting average and on base percentage a month ago.

Pham returns from the break hitting

It seems like Tommy Pham just has no desire to give up playing time in the outfield, even while that continues to be a talking point. Pham went 5-for-12 in the series with a pair of doubles in the Pirates series. Over the Cardinals’ last 20 games, he has hit .347/.427/.514. He has been the Cardinals’ best outfielder and their third best hitter overall by wRC+ (behind Paul DeJong and Luke Voit) in that span.

Another wasted Martinez start

The Cardinals lost on Sunday with Carlos Martinez going 7 innings and allowing just two runs for his 13th quality start on the season. That tied him with Mike Leake for the team lead in quality starts. It was the team’s fifth loss when Martinez turns in a quality start and third straight.

It was their third loss this season when Martinez turned in a QS+ or “Gibby” (defined by Derrick Goold as going at least 7 IP and allowing 3 ER or less).

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.

Sierra returns as Gyorko goes on paternity leave

The St. Louis Cardinals called up outfielder Magneuris Sierra today before their game against the Chicago Cubs. Third baseman Jedd Gyorko remained in St. Louis with his family after his wife had a baby earlier in the week. He is planning to return to the team on Sunday.

Sierra returns for his second cup of coffee with the club, having hit .367/.406/.367 over 7 games with the Cardinals in his first cup. When he went back down, he was promoted to Springfield where he has played 10 games and hit .263/.268/.368.

He joins the Cardinals with a 7 game hitting streak to open up his Major League career, which is tied for a franchise record. A hit on Friday will set the record and he is in the lineup, batting 8th and playing left field.

I don’t see a scenario where he sticks around after these two games, but it’s obvious that he made an impression while he was up before and gets another opportunity. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the nice bump in paycheck for a few days either.

As far as the Gyorkos, welcome to the world, Brooklyn!

Five things about the Marlins Series

The Cardinals closed out a sweep of the Marlins last night to go to 6-0 on the road trip as they head home to take on the Chicago Cubs. They do so with a one game lead in the NL Central. They are 19-14 and on pace to win 93 games this season. Suddenly my 92 win prediction is not looking so unobtainable.

The Cubs meanwhile find themselves in fourth place in the NL Central, 2.5 games out of first place after getting swept by the Yankees and then losing two of three to the Rockies. They have not been getting the same kind of pitching performances that they got from their rotation and their defense has struggled a little bit as well.

For the Cardinals this is an opportunity to see if their success over the last couple weeks has been the result of poor opponents or whether they can continue their stand against a team that is supposed to be the class of the division.

Give me more Sierra

Magneuris Sierra is hitting .353 over the first four games of his career. He has been on base 8 times. And come around to score on 7 of them. It’s been a pretty amazing start for the guy who a week ago was playing in Single-A. He is a small glimpse at the future, and it’s pretty exciting. He can apparently hit, he can run, he can field, and he has good instincts. It will eventually come to an end when the league starts to figure him out, but I am willing to enjoy it while it lasts.

My favorite part about watching Sierra play has been that the moment has never seemed too big for him. He hasn’t looked outmatched or out of place. Something I imagine it would be easy to give in to in his situation.

His performance has also given the Cardinals the opportunity to take it slowly with Dexter Fowler, rather than push him back into service. That ability could pay dividends down the road for this team. He is 2-for-3 with 3 RBI in pinch hitting appearances since he was cleared to swing a bat. Drove in the game winning run on Tuesday night and a go-ahead run on Wednesday night. So he’s making an impact when he gets the opportunity.

Not a fireman

It was a role that Seth Maness and Matthew Bowman both excelled in over the past few seasons, coming in when another pitcher got in trouble and put out the fire. Over the offseason, the Cardinals signed Brett Cecil to a 4 year, $30 million contract and it feels a lot like Mike Matheny has been trying to justify that contract by pushing Cecil into high pressure situations. And Cecil has not come through for him.

Cecil has inherited 16 runners this season and allowed 9 of them to score, good for 56%. Only two other Cardinals relievers have inherited more than three baserunners this season. Bowman has allowed just 2-of-11 to score and Seung-hwan Oh has allowed just 1-of-5 to score. Early in this season, Cecil has been the worst reliever with runners on base and he just keeps getting opportunities.

Cecil is currently tied for the third most inherited runners in baseball this season and of relievers who have more than 10, Cecil has the 5th worst rate of keeping them from scoring. Bowman, for example, has the 7th best. Over the past few years, Cecil is fairly middle of the road when it comes to allowing inherited runners to score so he has nowhere to go but up, theoretically.

Now, I’m sure that Cecil will have the numbers at the end of the season to demonstrate that he was a quality reliever, which means that his overall effectiveness for the Cardinals will come down to one thing: role. And finding the proper role for a relief pitcher has not been one of the manager’s strong suits.

But Cecil should probably not see anything other a clean inning for awhile. For the sake of my sanity, please?

Leave no man on base!

During the Marlins series, Cardinals’ #3 hitter Matt Carpenter left nobody on base. That’s right. Every time he came to the plate with men on, he reached base himself. He may have only had two RBI in the series on a triple that scored Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong, but the other three times he came to the plate with runners on, he took a walk to load the bases.

If you’ve been around Redbird Dugout for awhile, you know that I like looking at RBI rate. In that department, Carpenter currently leads the team, driving in 25% of runners on base when he comes to the plate. The next closest position player on the team is Stephen Piscotty at 17%. The next closest healthy position player on the team is Matt Adams at 16%.

Carpenter has long been one of the Cardinals’ best at driving in base runners, and it’s one of the reasons why moving him back in the lineup, was one of the best changes the organization could make to their offense this winter.

Take a walk

Something that I noticed while working on this was that in the 8th inning of Tuesday night’s game with runners on second and third and a 13 game hit streak on the line in what would finally be his final at bat of the night, Kolten Wong kept his approach, stayed patient at the plate and took four straight pitches for a walk.

He would get another at bat in the 9th, but came up empty, ending his streak at 13 games. Over those 13 games he hit .353/.441/.510 with 6 doubles and a triple. He scored 10 runs and drove in 5 as he hit well enough to take over the leadoff spot with Dexter Fowler out of the lineup.

He has hit just .179 while batting leadoff over the past six games, but it didn’t seem to be an issue as the Cardinals went 6-0.

It’s been awhile

The Cardinals have now spent four days alone atop the NL Central this season after having spent none there last season.

Bonus: Win a pair of tickets to Pitch Talks

Pitch Talks is happening in St. Louis at Delmar Hall on May 18, 2017. In attendance will be plenty of writers who cover the St. Louis sports and the Cardinals specifically. Tara Wellman, who you may know if you’ve clicked on any of her Bird Seeds video blogs (and if you haven’t, you should!), is having a contest to give away a pair of tickets to the event.

All you have to do to enter is go to her most recent post over on her blog at CardsConclave and leave a comment with your all-time favorite baseball tale. That’s it! Easy, right? So do it!

Cardinals option Sierra as minor league games begin

Cardinals outfield prospect Magneuris Sierra was optioned to Single-A Palm Beach today as minor league spring training games begin. The move trims the Cardinals Major League spring training roster to 54 players, including those playing in the WBC. With about two weeks until Opening Day and minor league games starting, roster moves should pick up shortly.

The 20-year-old Sierra entered this spring as a player to watch. After struggling in 2015, he rebounded in 2016, hitting .307/.355/.395 for Single-A Peoria. MLB.com responded by putting him #7 on the Cardinals’ Top-30 prospects list. More importantly, the Cardinals responded by putting him on the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Most consider Sierra ready to play in the Majors from a defensive point of view. The speedy outfielder is capable of manning all three positions. But the bat still needs work.

The question for the organization is where Sierra will start. He was optioned to the Palm Beach roster, but that can change. With Harrison Bader (MLB.com’s #5 Cardinals prospect) and new signee Adolis Garcia expected to start the season with Memphis, there would seem to be an opportunity in Springfield and the Cardinals have had players skip Palm Beach before. However, being just 20 years old, Sierra has time on his side still when it comes to moving through the system. And the organization, with Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk in the Majors for the foreseeable future as well as Bader and Garcia ahead of him, aren’t under pressure to produce him to the Majors.

But one thing is clear, the Cardinals love his skill set.

He, along with fellow outfield prospect Bader, have really been given an opportunity to play a lot early this spring with the big league club and have responded. It creates some interesting scenarios for the team going forward as to figuring out how Sierra, and really even Bader, fits on the big league team.