Over the first two months of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals minor league season, the four full-season clubs have featured pitching that has been ahead of their hitting overall, sometimes by a considerable margin.
Pitching headliners like The Cardinal Nation May Pitcher of the Month Shelby Miller and Dominican teenage sensation Carlos Martinez have been not only in our headlines across the Cardinal Nation, but are generating significant national attention. Other young arms are garnering more notice as well.
Despite that imbalance, a number of Cardinals minor league hitters seem to be warming up with the early summer weather.
Normally, I don’t list all the Player of the Month contenders’ numbers side-by-side as I am doing here, but I needed to do it to make my difficult selection. In turn, I will share my thinking with you.
Our April Player of the Month here at The Cardinal Nation, Springfield outfielder Alex Castellanos, serves as the benchmark - setting the bar his competitors must cross. Castellanos’ May numbers, listed on the left in the table below, were very comparable to his winning first-month showing, but at least three others stepped up their games even more. They are Zack Cox, Matt Adams and Andrew Brown.
(leaders in bold)
The newest member of the Springfield offense is a most highly-touted player, third baseman Zack Cox. The Cardinals’ first-round selection in the 2010 draft began the season with Palm Beach, where he hit for average, but didn’t take walks or demonstrate consistent power.
The 22-year-old improved markedly in both areas this month, to the point he was promoted to Double-A six games ago. The numbers above represent Cox’ aggregate May results, including his 19 games with Palm Beach.
Though Cox had the lowest power output of the group, it should be noted he played the majority of his games in the more pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Cox still paced this group in batting average and tied for tops among them with 23 runs scored.
Castellanos’ and now Cox’ teammate, Double-A first baseman Matt Adams, had a powerful May. The 22-year-old topped this group with 17 extra-base hits, including nine home runs, and the associated and impressive slugging mark of .761.
Adams drove in 25 runs before missing most of the five final games of the month due to an oblique injury. Had that bad break not occurred, Matt might have been in line to accumulate enough stats to topple the winner.
Our selection as The Cardinal Nation May Player of the Month is Memphis’ outfielder Andrew Brown. Coming off a disabled list stint after a horrendous April collision with teammate Shane Robinson, Brown did not miss a beat.
Brown batted .364 in May, just 10 points fewer than Cox, and drew 22 walks, which gave him an impressive .468 on-base percentage. Brown entered the month in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak and later added a 12-game run. The 26-year-old is the current Pacific Coast League Player of the Week.
The difference-maker for me in making this selection was run production. Brown tied Cox with 23 runs scored and he added three stolen bases. The former University of Nebraska star plated the most in the system, generating 27 RBI in 28 Texas League contests during May.
Palm Beach’s Rainel Rosario matched his former teammate Cox with a 2011 Cardinals system-best 15-game hitting streak of his own. Unlike Cox, however, Rosario had only four multi-hit outings all month and just three of his 24 hits went for extra bases. As a result, his May line was a non-competitive .258/.324/.312.
One might suspect that Memphis first baseman Mark Hamilton became a bit rusty during his recent stint with St. Louis. After all, the 26-year-old had just three hits in 15 at-bats (.200) over 16 MLB games between April 19 and May 19.
Instead, it must have rested him as Hamilton averaged more than one RBI per PCL game. In 12 Triple-A outings upon his return last month, the left-handed hitter had a home run, 14 RBI and a very, very impressive line of .452/.528/.643/1.171.
Alas, when all is said and done, this award is not for the longest hitting streak or for a half-month.
Previous winners: Click on the highlighted links to be taken to earlier articles about the monthly selections by both The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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