As much as the starting pitching has been a disappointment to date for the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals, the power hitting output from the offense has been as pleasant as it was generally unexpected.
The most recent display of game-altering slugging came Monday night at Busch Stadium, as Matt Adams’ two-run pinch-hit blast in the seventh set up Randal Grichuk’s walkoff solo shot to power the Cardinals over the visiting first-place Cubs, 4-3.
With 61 home runs through 45 games, St. Louis is a surprising second in the National League in long balls, just two behind the Mets, and ranked fourth among all 30 clubs in Major League Baseball.
That is not the same story in the Cardinals minor league system, however, as indicated in the table below.
|Level||League||Team||Record||Division||Homers||Lg rank||#1 team||Lg average|
|Triple-A||Pacific Coast||Memphis||17-24||4 of 4||23||14 of 16||45||33|
|Double-A||Texas||Springfield||24-20||1 of 4||43||2 of 8||55||38|
|High-A||Florida State||Palm Beach||20-25||6 of 6||10||12 of 12||39||23|
|A||Midwest||Peoria||21-22||5 of 8||10||14 of 16||23||15|
In fact, the lack of homers is fairly alarming. At three of the four full-season levels in the organization, the Cardinals are among the bottom dwellers in long balls. Perhaps not surprisingly, the three are all second-division clubs in the standings, including two last-place squads.
In the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and Class-A Midwest League, the top teams have roughly double the number of home runs as the Cardinals affiliates. In the Class-A Advanced Florida State League, the league leader has almost four times the quantity of long balls as the Palm Beach team in aggregate.
Of course, there are other ways to win games than to out-homer the opposition, but getting runs in bunches can be very beneficial. Without dependable power, however, the Cardinals are generally more likely left to scratch out runs where they can.
The lone exception is the Springfield Cardinals. The Double-A club is holding down first place in its division while ranking second in the Texas League in home runs. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but those long balls are clearly not hurting.
Imagine how much worse this story would be had the Cardinals not added a pair of polished college hitters in the early rounds of the 2015 draft.
The two – outfielder Harrison Bader (eight) and third baseman Paul DeJong (seven) – have 15 of the S-Cards’ homers between them. They rank second and tied for third, respectively, among all home run hitters in the Cardinals system to date in 2016.
The 15 from the two is 150 percent of the team totals for Palm Beach and Peoria and represents over 17 percent of all homers in the system this season.
Last year at this time, they were still playing collegiate ball at Florida and Illinois State, respectively, but are now raking at Double-A, a possible phone call away from St. Louis.
The continuing long ball gap across the system suggests a potential focus for the organization in the upcoming 2016 draft. Finding more Baders and DeJongs could provide additional instant offense for a Cardinals system clearly in need.
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