The decision of the St. Louis Cardinals to call up several top prospects isn’t only a reward for their efforts this season in the minor leagues.
The team is proving to be more competitive with the kids in the lineup than it was earlier in the year. But giving the youngsters also is helping the Redbirds sort out a complicated roster puzzle for next season and helps to showcase young talent that could be used as trade bait this offseason.
Luke Weaver was maligned by pundits and Cardinals fans alike as a non-prospect for the last year or so, dating back to last season when a couple of bad bullpen appearances marred his major league statistics. They didn’t seem to be impressed when he dominated this year in Class AAA Memphis. But maybe it caught the eye of critics as he dominated major league hitters three starts in a row.
Weaver has piled up the strikeouts and kept baserunners to a minimum in his stretch filling in for injured veteran Adam Wainwright. While the sailing may not always be this smooth, it seems Weaver has definitely illustrated that he’s got the stuff to retire big league hitters.
Harrison Bader was another guy who some questioned. Unfairly, some folks seemed to disregard him when Magneuris Sierra was summoned to the big leagues from Class A Palm Beach while Bader seemed to be first in line as an outfield fill in. But that was because Sierra was on the 40-man roster, not because he was the more major league ready player.
Bader put up impressive numbers in Memphis and when he got his chance to play in the majors he didn’t disappoint. In his first short stint, he flashed impressive speed to win a key game. This time around, Bader has cracked a pair of homers off of two impressive big league hurlers to help his club.
Some were disappointed when Jack Flaherty only made it through four innings in his major league debut. But he impressed me with the way he worked through an early jam, keeping his composure in a situation that would have caused some veteran pitchers to crumble and head for an early shower.
While he was a little bit inconsistent, throwing a couple of poor pitches at inopportune times to allow five runs in his outing, he made a lot of good pitches, too. I know that if it was my MLB debut, I’d probably be too nervous to function. So, I am very interested to see how the 21-year-old kid functions in his second, third and fourth appearances.
Finally, Sandy Alcantara had a rough start to the minor league season, seemingly derailing his opportunity to climb from Class AA Springfield to the majors this season.
The Cardinals surprised the lanky hurler by promoting him anyway. He gave up a home run in mop up duty. But he got a strikeout to get his feet beneath him a little bit. I think it shows other teams that the Birds believe Alcantara is close to being ready for prime time by starting his free agency clock with a September call up.
We’re past the trade deadline, so nothing is going to happen with these guys this season. But the Cardinals will have to move some of their young pitching and some of their outfield prospects because of a 40-man roster crunch in those positions. Hopefully, by calling up a few of the young guns now, the team can figure out which ones are the keepers — and up the value of the ones it decides to trade for help in other areas.