Though the Cardinals were last in
the Florida State League's South Division in the first half, they are still in
contention for the second-half title. At 26-22 (14-10 on the road), the
Cardinals trail first-place
no question that LHP Tyler Lyons' seven-inning no-hitter in the nightcap of
Tuesday's doubleheader puts him at the top of the hot list, but
A Closer Look at …
After seeing the Cardinals while filling in as official scorer for their six-game home stand that ended Thursday (and featured the first no-hitter in the nine-year history of the Palm Beach team) I had conversations with Palm Beach Cardinals manager Luis Aguayo and pitching coach Dennis "El Presidente" Martinez about which players currently on the roster have made the greatest improvement this season. Here are capsules in alphabetical order summarizing their responses:
Kyle Conley: The
Cardinals' seventh-round pick in 2009, the 24-year-old
a rather unimpressive five-game rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League, Conley has
blossomed since joining the
Aguayo said he likes the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Conley's short stride and short stroke at the plate and has seen improvement lately in his plate discipline. "He hits to all fields with strength," Aguayo said, adding that like almost every player at this level, Coney needs to improve his recognition and hitting of breaking balls. "No one hits the good breaking pitches, except to foul them off, but the good hitters hit the mistakes," Aguayo said. Conley's defense and throwing is good in either corner outfield position.
Eric Fornataro: Selected in the sixth round
of the 2008 draft out of Miami-Dade South, the fourth-year pro not only leads
Greg Garcia: Selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Hawaii, the 6-foot, 175-pound lefty-hitting second baseman has been the most consistent producer on offense since moving up from Quad Cities on June 4, Aguayo said. Garcia's .399 on-base percentage couples with a .436 slugging percentage for on OPS of .835, outstanding for a middle infielder and No. 2 hitter.
"He has an idea of what to do at the plate and is an aggressive hitter," Aguayo said. Garcia has been solid at second base, making only two errors in 46 games. Aguayo said he is working with Garcia to get him more comfortable at shortstop, too. Garcia's arm strength is a little lacking for shortstop, but Aguayo said they can compensate for that with positioning and getting Garcia to throw from a longer throwing position rather than the short-arm style many second baseman employ. The increased versatility will make Garcia more valuable to the organization, Aguayo said, because Tony La Russa puts a higher premium on that than most major-league managers. "It's a good philosophy for an organization to have," Aguayo said.
Tyler Lyons: The
Cardinals ninth-round pick in 2010 out of
as a free agent after his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays was voided after
he failed a physical,
the switch-hitting Dominican has impressed Aguayo with his play on both offense
and defense. "He came here swinging well from the first day," Aguayo said. "He
can hit the fastball, but like many players he still has some trouble
recognizing the breaking ball." Like most players from the
Aguayo, who played 10 years in the majors as a middle infielder, said Rodriguez has become more consistent making the plays at second base since his June 27 promotion from Quad Cities. "He still has a lot to do to improve his turn and pivot, but he's willing to put in the work to get better," Aguayo said. Rodriguez, 22, is a bit shy, but does what he's told and is starting to emerge from his shell, Aguayo said.
Rainel Rosario: Signed by the Cardinals in 2006, the 22-year-old Dominican is a toolsy player who still struggles to avoid chasing breaking pitches, which has resulted in a strikeout in 25 percent of his at-bats. The team leader in hits, runs scored and RBI, Rosario has made progress, Aguayo said.
Jordan Swagerty: The Cardinals' second-round pick last year out of Arizona State, Swagerty also made his pro debut this season, starting in Quad Cities before being moved up to Palm Beach on May 7. Swagerty, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-hander, dominated in five Midwest League starts and has continued that dominance in the Florida State League, as a starter and then a reliever.
a fastball that sits at 93 and touches 96, along with a "great changeup and a
Cardinals head to
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