Monday, May 6, 2019

Rising Redbirds

Posted By on Mon, May 6, 2019 at 10:01 AM

The Memphis Redbirds return to AutoZone Park this week after a lengthy (13-game) road trip. Good time for a refresher on a few rising stars as the club seeks a third consecutive Pacific Coast League championship.
click to enlarge ADOLIS GARCIA
  • Adolis Garcia

Adolis Garcia — The 26-year-old Cuban is blocked by an abundance of outfielders with the parent club in St. Louis. Which means Garcia will likely anchor the batting order for manager Ben Johnson throughout the Triple-A season. Through Sunday, he leads the club with eight home runs and 25 RBIs. The one thing that might compromise Garcia's impact for Memphis this season? A trade. A lesson we learned a year ago when the Cardinals dealt Oscar Mercado to Cleveland: extra outfielders are easily moved for more coveted commodities (pitching or low-level prospects).

Daniel Ponce de Leon — There's no commodity in baseball more valuable than starting pitching and the Cardinals are blessed in this area. Having fully recovered from a skull fracture suffered during the 2017 season, Ponce de Leon won nine games for Memphis last season and started four games for the Cardinals. With Michael Wacha briefly on the injured list, St. Louis promoted the 27-year-old righty for a start against Milwaukee on April 23rd. He earned the win, striking out seven and allowing but one run in five innings, only to be demoted to Memphis to make room for Wacha's return to the rotation. "Ponce" is 2-1 with a 3.57 ERA for the Redbirds. There are big-league teams for whom he'd be starting every fifth day. They just don't call Busch Stadium home.

Andrew Knizner — Catching prospects in the Cardinal system tend to find themselves eventually making a living in other systems. Carson Kelly appeared to be the man to finally succeed the ageless Yadier Molina in St. Louis, only to be shipped to Arizona in the deal that brought Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals. The eighth-ranked prospect in the Cardinals system, Knizner is the latest to carry "heir apparent" status behind the plate for Memphis. The 24-year-old Knizner is a better hitter than Kelly, currently slashing .329/.391/.456 for the Redbirds. He comes equipped with a strong arm and has time to develop his catching skills at Triple-A, with former All-Star Matt Wieters currently backing up Molina in St. Louis.

Tommy Edman — The PCL has long been a hitter's league. Edman's .333 batting average barely places him among the circuit's top 20. But the infielder's bat is proving to be a top-of-the-order spark plug for the Redbirds, his versatility — as a second-baseman or shortstop — expanding Johnson's options when putting together a lineup card. Edman starred in last year's PCL playoffs, hitting .432 over the Redbirds' nine-game run to the Triple-A national championship. Keep that performance in mind as the 23-year-old Californian finds his way. There's no intangible for a professional baseball player like confidence.

Austin Gomber — Like Ponce de Leon, Gomber has already established major-league credentials. The 25-year-old lefty went 6-2 in 11 late-season starts for St. Louis last season, helping the Cardinals climb within a short winning streak of a playoff berth. (That winning streak, alas, didn't happen in September.) He's off to a 4-0 start for Memphis this season, with a 2.97 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. The Cardinals are currently functioning with no left-hander in their rotation and only two pitching out of the bullpen. It stands to reason Gomber will get a call for the trip up I-55 this season. Only a matter of when.

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