Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Maikel Cleto

Sparks from the Farm: My Top 7 Cardinal Prospects List

In September, the UCB (United Cardinals Bloggers) combine their efforts once again, this time to determine the top 7 Cardinal prospects.  We were each invited to select our Top 7 candidates.

How does one rank a prospect?  Well, I am taking the liberty of using my female fan intuition (for the fellas, that would be “gut instinct”) along with whatever stats tend to back me up.  Honestly, my rankings favor the guys I’ve followed more closely, the guys in AA and AAA.  And granted, some of them earned bonus points for that elusive quality of “being more fun to watch” or having that extra spark of personality, but all are players I’ll be keeping an eye on over the coming years.  So, here are my top seven Baby Bird prospects.  (okay, I have 12. But really…  How was I supposed to pick just 7?!) 😉

Shelby Miller

#1- Shelby Miller.  So far Shelby’s arm has lived up to the hype surrounding the Cardinals’ 2009 first-round draft pick. Pitching in AA Springfield this season, Shelby earned a 9-3 record with a 2.7 ERA.  Miller made headlines in August when off-field drama resulted in a one-week suspension for his violating team policy in an alcohol-related incident, but Shelby shut the book on 2011 with an impressive 8 innings of shutout baseball and 9 strikeouts during his final appearance on September 2nd.

#2 – Matt Adams.  Matt played first base for AA Springfield this season, raking 32 homeruns with 101 RBI and ending 2011 batting .300 and slugging .566 with an OPS of .923 (stats compliments of baseball-reference.com.)  Matt snagged high honors too, voted Texas League Player of the Year for 2011. The question for 2012: Can Matt maintain that power in AAA and translate it into big league success?

#3 – Carlos Martinez:  Martinez, the highly anticipated right-hander from the Dominican Republic, signed with the Cardinals last Fall.  Still a teenager (he turns 20 this month), Martinez is a true flamethrower (mid to upper 90’s) with a curveball, slider and possibly a changeup (by some reports) to supplement his primary fastball .  The Cardinals are understandably drooling over the potential of this young arm.  Martinez started the 2011 season in A level ball in Quad Cities (2.33 ERA, 8 games) and was promoted to high-A Palm Beach (5.28 ERA, 10 games).

Tony Cruz

#4 – Tony Cruz.  Tony logged playing time in 34 Major League games this season, establishing a hold on the backup-backup catcher position.  However, Cruz’ versatility was also on display earlier in the season when he covered 1B, 2B, 3B and outfield as needed.  Plus Cruz did throw out a respectable 50% of base-stealers during his MLB service (small sample size alert.)  Versatility.  Strong, accurate arm.  Backup catcher batting .258? (.262 with 4 HR in AAA Memphis during 2011)  What’s not to like?

Brandon Dickson

#5 – Brandon Dickson.  Made his first Major League start on September 1 in Milwaukee and pitched into the 4th inning, striking out 3 but giving up 2 homeruns in an eventual Cardinal win against the Brewers (8-4).  Dickson has a strong resume in the farm system including a 2009 ERA (AA) of 3.78,  2010 ERA (AAA) of 3.23 and 2011 ERA (AAA) at 3.95.  He’s put in the time, showing consistency and effectiveness. I expect Dickson to be a solid contributor from the Cardinal bullpen in 2012.

#6– Matt Carpenter. You may remember, Matt had a brief (but lackluster) stint in St. Louis for a week in early June. However, Matt did hit .300 (OPS .880) with 12 HR and 70 RBI for Memphis this year.  Matt’s name continues to pop up in top prospect lists all over Cardinal Nation, and I’m giving him a spot in mine because 1) the baseball gurus believe in him and 2) I’m still curious to see what he’s got.  Granted, in the few games (small sample size alert) that I’ve been able to watch Matt firsthand, his bat wasn’t popping.  Maybe I’m bad luck?  Nah…. 😉

#7 – Zack Cox First round draft choice in 2010, Zack moved up from Palm Beach to AA Springfield this year where he ended the season batting .306 with 13 homeruns (A+ and AA combined).  Even those of us with intense loyalty to our current 3rd baseman cannot deny that Zack Cox has potential written all over him.

Honorable Mentions:  Because an even dozen is even better than just 7.

* Kolten Wong:  Highly touted 2011 first-round June draft pick.  Wong plays 2B and batted .335 with a .911 OPS for Quad Cities this year.  In a recent interview, Wong’s love for the game was not only obvious, but inspiring.  There’s nothing quite as wonderful as watching a ballplayer who truly ENJOYS being on the field and SAVORS the opportunity.

Adron Chambers

*Adron Chambers.  Cardinal Nation got their first glimpse of Chambers at Busch Stadium on September 6th when he made his Major League debut as a pinch runner. On September 9th, again pinch-running, Chambers tore into 2nd base in an aggressive slide, taking out Dan Uggla, in an admirable and bullish attempt to break up the double play. Chambers batted .277, playing centerfield for AAA Memphis this year and stole 22 bases.  If he can trim down his strikeouts and improve his OBP, Chambers could be an entertaining menace on the basepaths for the Cardinals.  Adron does get bonus points for his extreme likeability.  Whether you’ve met him in person or just heard reports of his character, you can’t help but cheer for Chambers.

*Maikel Cleto:  The remnant of our Brendan Ryan trade.  Thankfully, Cleto has some upside.  He can throw hard and FAST, reaching triple digits at times.  Cleto sped through the system this year, starting in Palm Beach (2.48 ERA), to AA Springfield (3.93 ERA) and then AAA Memphis (4.29 ERA).  Cleto was rushed to the Majors briefly in June (after injuries had depleted the Cardinal bullpen) with disappointing results but returned this month with a much better result:  4 batters faced, 1 hit, 2 Ks and no earned runs to close the 9th in the Cardinals 4-1 loss to Milwaukee. If Cleto continues to improve his command and control as well as develop his secondary pitches, he may be a valuable arm in the pen.

*John Gast:   Drafted in 2010, Gast moved from Palm Beach to Springfield this year with a 4.02 ERA. He impressed the Cardinals during his first Spring Training, earning the right to stick around far longer than most expected.  Praise for Gast’s killer pick-off move is hedged with worries about command. However this lefty hurler, who had TJ surgery out of highschool, remains an alluring prospect, especially for a team that values their LOOGYs.

*Heath Wyatt:  Drafted in June 2011, Wyatt pitched in relief for the Johnson City Cardinals (A), earned a 3-1 win/loss record as a reliever and a 3.24  ERA with a ratio of 30 strikeouts to 7 walks (25 innings).  Okay, okay…. None of that is important as the primary reason he’s on my list.  Heath’s a SUBMARINER – and that’s a guaranteed Gold Glove for “watchability” in my opinion.

Want to read more about the sparks in the Cardinal farm system?  Check out who made the Top 7 Prospect lists of the other UCB members here.

Lynn, Cleto and our Baby Birds

To say I enjoy watching a ballplayer make his Major League debut would be an understatement.  Whether a Cardinal or not, a player stepping to the plate in the big show for the first time mesmerizes me.  The nerves, the excitement, the once-in-a-lifetime intensity – all that (and more) combine to create that rare thrill.

Thursday night, Lance Lynn got his moment of glory, taking the mound as starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Lynn was off to a tremendous start, retiring the first ten batters he faced.  The Baby Bird was pitching like a pro and the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead heading into the 4th inning.  I couldn’t have been more proud.

But then….

If you watched the game or saw the box score, you know the result wasn’t a picture-perfect debut by Lance Lynn.  The defense let him down.  The defense…. Yes, the Cardinals’ 2011 defense remains a sore subject with me.  And yes, I’m again pointing a finger at a couple of our boys playing down the middle of the field.

Which brings me to Baby Bird Debut Numero Dos for last night, Maikel Cleto.  Cleto came from the Mariners when the Cardinals decided to dump the brilliant defensive glove of shortstop Brendan Ryan.  (insert my trademark Brendan Ryan trade protest here)  Cleto was called up, fresh from AA Springfield yesterday, hopping over AAA to make his first appearance out of the St. Louis bullpen in the 7th inning.  Unlike Lance Lynn, Cleto failed to impress me.  He walked his first two batters, gave up a double and then back-to-back homeruns before finally getting his act together and striking out the final two batters to end the nightmare. (In his defense, Cleto managed a 1-2-3 8th inning and Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.)

Two Baby Bird debuts plus a field of Cardinal youngsters made last night’s game a must-see for those of us who follow the minors as well as the big boys.  2010 Memphis mentionables playing last night included Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, Tony Cruz (catcher, starting at 3rd base!  But that’s another story…) and pitcher Lance Lynn; Pete Kozma (spent last year in AA Springfield) and as mentioned, Maikel Cleto (low A last year).

A few more fleeting thoughts…

  • Even if the camera adds 10 pounds, I say Lance Lynn still packed on an extra cheeseburger or 50 since I watched him strikeout 16 batters in his PCL Championship game last September.  Noticeably heftier. (I’m a dietitian. I notice this stuff.)
  • Maikel Cleto can throw hard and fast.  Great.  But in my opinion, he should be refining his control back in Memphis.  He didn’t look ready.  My nerves were shot from watching his 7th inning.  Someone remind me, why he was called up so quickly?     note: after I wrote this and before it was posted, moves were made by the Cardinals that included optioning Cleto back to AA Springfield.  Cleto skips Memphis on his way back as well?  I will just be content to be confused on the whole Cleto promotion idea.  onward…
  • our defense…..  *sigh*

On a happier note:   This weekend the Memphis Redbirds are heading my way to play a 4-game series against the Oklahoma City Redhawks. *happy dance*  I keep trying to convince my family how amazingly wonderful this is – the chance to see the young guys on the verge of breaking into the Majors, to watch them play in a more relaxed environment, the opportunity to begin building early baseball memories of these players.

….They just pat me on the head and give me an understanding smile.  But they do go to the games with me.  Win/win.  😉

It’s ok though.  Even if they aren’t quite the baseball fanatics that I am, I plan to keep dragging them to the ballpark. And someday soon, when we are again watching another baby bird make his Major League debut, they’ll feel that special excitement that comes from remembering these AAA games.

Viva El Baby Birds!….and Go Cardinals!

Welcome to the Bigs, Kid. Good Luck With This.

Could someone explain to me when Tony went from the one that doesn’t trust rookies and young guys to the one trying to kill pitchers arms and spirits a la Dusty Baker?

First of all, the Cards have got an inordinate amount of infielders (or outfielders being used as infielders) on this team. So why is the backup catcher starting at third base? Why on a team boasting 7 guys that have played infield this year (and 4 of which have started or played third) was that at all necessary? This was one of those starting lineups that Tony pulled out of a hat, wasn’t it?

Poor Lance Lynn. Making his major league debut starting on just 3 days rest. He was actually very efficient, throwing only 64 pitches in his 5 1/3 innings of work. However, when he was getting lit up in the sixth, and the crack team doing play by play for Fox Sports Midwest kept repeatedly stating that there was no one warming up in the bullpen, I got frustrated again. Now, I know I ranted yesterday about how the starting pitchers are having issue lately getting deep into games, and the bullpen looks worn out. That issue has obviously not changed since then. So the team says, “Hey, let’s bring up another arm and have 13 pitchers, thereby allowing guys to get a breather!’

Solid idea, right? Well, I’m actually never on board with having 13 pitchers on the roster. Ever. However, in the last seven games…

Brian Tallet has 4 appearances and 3 innings pitched.

Eduardo Sanchez has 3 appearances and 3 2/3 innings pitched.

Fernando Salas has 3 appearances and 3 1/3 innings pitched.

Ryan Franklin has 3 appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched.

Jason Motte has 3 appearances and 4 innings pitched.

Miguel Batista has 3 appearances and 5 1/3 innings pitched.

Trever Miller has 4 appearances and 2 2/3 innings pitched.

Individually it doesn’t seem like a lot, but add it up. Over 7 games the pen has taken on 27 2/3 innings, and that doesn’t even include the 2 that Maikel Cleto took on last night (I’ll get to him). So the pen has handled almost 30 of 64 innings (counting extras) over the last seven days. I can understand the feeling of needing an extra arm for a few days. So what does the team do?

Call up Maikel Cleto. Force a kid to skip AAA and run straight to the bigs despite the fact that there are 4 arms in AAA that are on the 40 man, including 2 (Mitchell Boggs and Jess Todd) that have big league experience. Makes perfect sense. The book on Cleto is simple – he throws the ball fast. Caveman style. Me throw ball fast. He has no idea where it’s going, and, when he’s at all worked up, excited, or even just thinking about what kind of food is going to be on the postgame spread, he has even less of a clue. He just winds up and throws it. Fast.

Hey kid. In the bigs? They can hit fastballs.

It was setting him up for failure in a big way. I don’t like it. He showed us something big in being able to calm down and come out for a solid second inning, but wow, was I cringing to see him get run back out there.

This makes two posts in two days from me… both of the ranting variety. I should cut it out or you’re all going to think I a) like writing and b) need to get out more.

Thankfully we are finished with the Giants for the year. Up next are the boys from the north side – the Cubs. The boys in blue have lost their last three (to the hapless Astros no less) and are 3-7 in their last ten games. Old friend Ryan Dumpster Dempster takes the mound for the Cubbies, while Jaime Garcia looks to bounce back from arguably his toughest start of his career. Gametime is at 7:15. Go Cards! 🙂

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