The Florida State League has a well-deserved reputation as a pitching-oriented circuit. Of any of the stops in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, the Palm Beach Cardinals is the level fast-rising players often skip over.
Despite the Cardinals’ ranking as having the best farm system in all of baseball, their A-Advanced club is playing below-.500 ball for what would be the third consecutive season.
Against that backdrop, it is somewhat surprising that two primary contenders for The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month award come from the Palm Beach outfield – Anthony Garcia and David Popkins.
Garcia is an unusual case. Named our ninth-ranked prospect in the Cardinals system during the off-season, the 21-year-old did nothing in the early going to reinforce that selection. The right-handed hitter struggled mightily in his first two months in the Florida State League, batting just .187 (29-for 155) with 49 strikeouts through May.
Then, just after hitting his stride at the start of June and being named FSL Player of the Week, the Puerto Rican native had to go onto the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Garcia missed 12 days.
Upon his return, Garcia has been the hottest hitter in the system, logging a currently-active eight-game hitting streak, including four multi-hit outings. During this most recent stretch, Garcia is 14-for-31 (.452), including five doubles, two home runs and four RBI. To close out the month, Garcia was named the FSL Player of the Week again.
In 17 June contests, Garcia had a line of .385/.437/.862/1.298. 16 of his 25 hits went for extra bases, including seven home runs. He drove in 14, scored 14 and swiped a pair of bases.
Garcia’s teammate Popkins also bounced back from a rough May (.171) to put up a stellar June line of .413/.450/.598/1.048. The switch-hitter launched three home runs and plated 13. Popkins has hit in 24 of his last 26 games, with 12 of the 24 being multi-hit performances.
The only debate about Garcia winning this award is whether his missed time should count against him. I find his recent performance too compelling to pass up. Therefore, Anthony Garcia is The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month for June.
Another very consistent performer has been first baseman Brock Peterson of Memphis. The 29-year-old is among Pacific Coast League leaders this season in home runs, doubles, total bases, RBI, slugging and OPS. In June, the right-handed hitter logged a line of .321/.405/.642/1.047. Peterson hit nine home runs and drove in 27.
A third Palm Beach player also had a nice May. Colin Walsh’s line was .320/.435/.505/.940. The left-handed hitter drove in seven, scored 24 times and was 4-for-4 in steals in 27 contests.
Peterson’s Memphis mate, outfielder Chad Huffman, is another free agent addition doing his job to help keep the Redbirds competitive. The 28-year-old put together a line of .308/.377/.519/.896 in June to go with three home runs and 13 RBI.
At the other end of the system, down in the Dominican Summer League, outfielder Bladimil Franco had a very strong 19 games. Before being sidelined on June 25, the 19-year-old logged a line of .397/.427/.616/1.043. The right-handed hitter launched two home runs and drove in 16.
As playing less than a full June is already on the table in the case of Garcia, it seems only fair to note some of the newcomers in the system off to fast starts in short-season leagues which began mid-month.
State College outfielder Jimmy Bosco’s 12 outings included a cycle game, but the 13th rounder did more. Nine of his first 17 professional hits went for extra bases on his way to a line of .340/.400/.640/1.040.
Speaking of 13th rounders, the Cards’ pick in that round in 2012 was Johnson City second baseman Brett Wiley. The former Jefferson (MO) College player has nine hits, nine walks, eight RBI and a .992 OPS in his first nine Appalachian League contests.
Last month’s winner
How did the May Player of the Month fare in June? The Cardinal Nation and the St. Louis Cardinals organization agreed that Memphis’ Kolten Wong was the top player system-wide during May.
The 22-year-old had a much quieter June, with a .276/.366/.391/.757 line that included seven RBI, four steals and 12 runs scored in 25 games.
On Tuesday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals announced their official winner of the organizational Player of the Month for June. It is Garcia.
Previous winners: Click on the highlighted links to be taken to earlier articles about the monthly selections by both The Cardinal Nation and the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Coming soon: Our monthly update to the Cardinals prospect rankings from one through 40 along with the explanation why, exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation will follow our selection as The Cardinal Nation Pitcher of the Month for June.
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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. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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