With usual suspects like Mark Hamilton and Andrew Brown spending much of the month of June in St. Louis and top prospects and hot hitters Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras missing considerable time on the disabled list, a new group of contenders for our Player of the Month award emerged.
Our selection as The Cardinal Nation June Player of the Month is Palm Beach first baseman Xavier Scruggs. The 23-year-old seemed a long shot selection as recently as 30 days ago.
Scruggs began the 2011 season on Springfield’s disabled list, but the strong Double-A debut of fellow first sacker Matt Adams led to Scruggs’ return to the Florida State League to play every day after his April 18 activation. The right-handed hitter settled into a long funk, batting just .197 through his first 34 games as June began.
Something clicked in June for Palm Beach’s cleanup hitter, as he reached base in all 25 games in which he appeared during the month. Scruggs’ streak of reaching base in consecutive games began on May 26 and ended July 2 at an even 30 games, the third-longest streak in the pitching-oriented Florida State League.
During the June part of the stretch, Scruggs posted a line of .333/.406/.602/1.008. He launched five home runs, drove in 16 and scored 20 times last month.
Update: Scruggs attributes his turnaround to Palm Beach hitting coach Jeff Albert. "My swing was playing hide and go seek. We found it," the first baseman tweeted after learning of this award.
Many of those runs scored by Scruggs were plated by the number five hitter for Palm Beach, outfielder Rainel Rosario, who had 28 RBI in 24 games played during the month. The 22-year-old recorded at least one RBI in 13 of his last 16 June outings and finished the month with more runs driven in than any other player in the FSL. The right-handed hitter’s line during June was .341/.398/.516/.915.
Catcher/first baseman Steven Hill was not activated until May 25 as he recovered from knee surgery. Returning to Double-A Springfield for the fourth year, the 26-year-old hit eight home runs, leading to his promotion back to Memphis for the final three games of the month. Hill homered in each of his first two games in Triple-A for a total of ten in the 30-day period. His June line was .302/.362/.674/1.036.
Like Scruggs, Memphis outfielder Adron Chambers had a Jeckyll and Hyde two-month period. Coming off a brutal May during which he batted just .210, the 24-year-old put it together in June. His line last month was .333/.374/.595/.969. The left-handed hitter blasted six home runs and both drove in and scored 16 for the Triple-A club.
Since short-season play got underway during the month, I did not consider players from those clubs for the full-month award. However, several hitters have gotten out of the gate well and will bear watching during July.
Gulf Coast League Cardinals. Outfielder Jem Argenal batted a cool .400 (8-for-20). The 19-year-old Nicaraguan homered and drove in five over six games. Fellow outfielder Victor Encarnacion posted a line of .353/.400/.588 and plated six in six contests.
Johnson City Cardinals. Shortstop Matt Williams hit like Ted Williams, batting .406 in June (13 hits in 32 at-bats). The 15th-round draft pick smacked two home runs, drove in seven and walked six times. His OPS was 1.156. Free agent signee, infielder Neal Pritchard went nine for his first 27, walked four times and plated six. His June line was .333/.471/.370/.841. Second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla, the 30th-round selection, batted .306 in seven games and had an OPS of .976.
Batavia Muckdogs. Returning outfielder Mike O’Neill went 16-for-49 (.327) and drew nine walks as well for a June line of .327/.441/.408/.849. Third baseman Jeremy Patton, taken in the 38th round of the draft, batted .306 (15 hits in 49 at-bats) and plated eight in 12 games last 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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