Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook: Week 7

Sam Tuivailala is 12 for his last 23

St. Louis' entry-level US club is alternating pairs of wins and losses. Our on-site Jupiter reporter recaps last week's play as well as provides four in-depth scouting reports on 2011 draftees.

Standings

GCL East  W  L  PCT  GB 
GCL Marlins 29 10 0.744 -
GCL Cardinals 22 17 0.564 7
GCL Mets 20 19 0.513 9
GCL Astros 14 26 0.35 15.5
GCL Nationals 13 26 0.333 16
 

Since the Cardinals' won six in a row from July 18-24, they have lost two, won two, lost two, won two and lost two. Five of those 10 games were decided by one run, with the Cardinals going 2-3 in those. At 22-17 (11-9 at home, 11-8 on the road), they have fallen seven games behind the division-leading Marlins, but are two games ahead of the third-place Mets. If the season ended today, the Marlins, Yankees and Orioles would be division winners, with the Cardinals claiming the wild card spot in the postseason.

 

Comings and goings

LHP Chase Reid came to the GCL Cardinals from Springfield (Double-A Texas League) on a rehab assignment and gave up a run in one inning of work Saturday. … 2B Breyvic Valera, whose slash line in the GCL this season was .255/.328/.364, was promoted to Johnson City (Appalachian) by the Cardinals, who passed over Ildemaro Vargas, who is a year older than Valera and is hitting .346. … 3B Phil Cerreto, who came to the GCL on a rehab assignment (Class A-Advanced Palm Beach), went 4-for-32 in nine games and was then re-assigned to Batavia (New York-Penn). … LHP Justin Wright, who threw one scoreless inning on a rehab assignment from Palm Beach, was returned there.

 

Weekly Recap

 

Monday, lost to Marlins 17-5 in Jupiter: Tied at four going into the 8th, the Marlins put up an 11-spot, fueled mostly by seven walks in the inning, to blow the game open.

Cardinals highlight: Vargas had two hits, a single and a double.

 

Tuesday, defeated Nationals 5-3 in Jupiter: Trailing 2-1 in the sixth inning, Anthony Bryant turned the game around with a three-run home run, following singles by Sam Tuivailala, the second of his three hits, and Lance Jeffries. Brad Watson allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win. Angel Tapia and Willy Paulino closed the door.

Cardinals highlight: Bryant's first home run of the season.

 

Wednesday, defeated Mets 5-4 (14 innings) in Port St. Lucie: Rehabber Phil Cerreto walked to lead off the top of the 14th, then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. With one out, Gerwuins Velazco singled on a line drive to right, scoring Cerreto with the go-ahead run. The Cardinals trailing 4-2 in the seventh when C.J. McElroy ignited the rally with a leadoff single and advanced to second on Ildemaro Vargas' line single to left. After Cerreto walked to load the bases, Michael Knox grounded a single up the middle that scored McElroy and Vargas.

Cardinals highlight:  After the Mets scored four runs off starter Ramon Ulacio, five Cardinals relievers – Tyler Melling, Brandon Creath, Fermin Montanez, Cesar Aguilar and Willy Paulino -- combined to hold the Mets to no runs (scattering three hits and two walks) over the last nine innings, allowing the offense to catch up and then win the game.

 

Friday, lost to Astros 3-2 in Jupiter: Trailing 3-0 going to the last of the sixth, the Cardinals scored two runs on an RBI double by Sam Tuivailala and a ground out by Lance Jeffries, but it wasn't enough as the Astros held on.

Cardinals highlight: Tuivailala had two hits, including the RBI double.

 

Saturday: lost to Marlins 9-0 in Jupiter: In what was probably their worst all-around game this season, and unfortunately was against the first-place Marlins, the Cardinals made four errors that made two of the Marlins' runs unearned. The Cardinals managed only two singles in two innings off the Marlins starter, rehabbing major-league reliever Ryan Webb, and then nothing the rest of the way.

Cardinals highlight: None.

 

Who's Hot/Not

 

2B Ildemaro Vargas has continued his hot hitting, going 17-for-41 (.415) in his last 10 games, with five walks to only three strikeouts and his first two stolen bases of the season. 3B Sam Tuivailala is 12-for-23 over his last seven games. … CF C.J. McElroy went 7-for-15 in a four-game stretch, but is 1-for-18 since then. … Though RHP Cesar Aguilar walked 10 in nine innings over his last seven appearances, he allowed only three hits and one run in those games. … RHP Cole Brand's streak of not allowing a home run as a professional ended Monday at 37-1/3 innings when Mayobanex Soto of the Marlins took him deep in the ninth inning of the Cardinals 17-5 loss.

 

A Closer Look at …

 

By the end of the GCL season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears in a GCL Cardinals game. This week, we look at two position players and two pitchers the Cardinals selected in this year's draft. Most of these analyses are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco and pitching coach Dernier Orozco.

 

Michael Knox: A 22-year-old, right-handed 1B selected in the 41st round, who hit a total of 47 home runs in his last two seasons at Mt. Olive College (N.C.), Knox made a splash when he hit three home runs against the Marlins in his second pro game, but has hit only one more in 27 games since then. His average is only .213, but with 17 walks Knox has a decent .339 on-base percentage, though his strike-zone recognition "comes and goes," Turco said. A dead-pull hitter, Knox needs to learn to "utilize more of the field to have success, even at this level," Turco said. "It's hard to be a one-field hitter and have success and move up." Turco said he has hopes that Knox will turn the corner. "He's an intelligent kid who understands what he needs to do, but executing his plan is where he's struggling right now." At first base, Knox's glove work is fine – "He's made some great picks," Turco said – but he needs to improve his footwork around the bag.

 

Lance Jeffries: The 10th-round pick wore No. 5 at McCluer High School in Florissant, a St. Louis suburb, because he is an Albert Pujols fan. The 18-year-old Jeffries has above-average tools, but at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds he is probably not going to develop power like the 6-foot-3 Pujols. Speed is Jeffries' game, though, and he has plenty of that. A plus-plus runner, Jeffries has stolen nine bases in 12 tries so far. Turco said Jeffries' has an above-average arm and has been improving on his reads, jumps and routes in the outfield, though he is playing more in right field than center since C.J. McElroy arrived. At the plate, Jeffries must cut down on his strikeouts (33 in 88 at-bats with 10 walks). "He's made some strides in making contact," Turco said, adding that a 4-for-4 day on July 3 boosted not only Jeffries' batting average but his confidence. "When he's put the ball in play, he's had some success."

 

Brad Watson: The 37th-round pick from Wartburg College in his native Iowa, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound right-handed Watson turns 22 on Monday. His sinking fastball sits at 88 mph and touches 90, and he also throws a changeup with tailing action and a slider. The stat that jumps out from Watson's line after 31 innings over eight appearances, the last five as a starter, is THREE walks and 26 strikeouts. Watson also has yet to cough up a gopher ball. "He's been very good for us," Turco said. "When his sinker is working he can be dominating at this level and I can see him doing it at higher levels." Turco said Watson is a tough competitor with more poise than is usually found is pitchers at Watson's experience level. "Consistency is the key to his effectiveness, staying down in the zone with his sinker and slider," Turco said.

 

Tyler Melling: The 39th-round pick from the University of Miami (Ohio), the 6-foot-1, 170-pound lefty Melling picked up wins in his first two pro outings and has four wins now in only eight appearances. In 21-1/3 innings, Melling has allowed only 14 hits and four walks (0.84 WHIP) against 19 whiffs. Melling is "sneaky quick" with his fastball, which sits at 85 and touches 87, Turco said. Melling is a finesse lefty "who does a nice job of keeping hitters off balance," Turco said. "He's got good secondary stuff (a sharp curve and a changeup), which makes his fastball more effective," Turco said. Orozco said that in Melling's two most recent outings, both against the Mets, he needed only 42 pitchers for a four-inning stint and then 25 pitches in a three-inning appearance, allowing a total of one hit and one walk for one run.

 

On deck

 

Monday, vs. Mets; Tuesday, no game; Wednesday, at Astros; Thursday, vs. Marlins; Friday, vs. Nationals; Saturday, at Mets; Sunday, no game.

 

 

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