The Cardinal Nation July Player of the Month

Palm Beach outfielder Mike O'Neill is our choice as the top position player across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system last month.

There were a number of worthy candidates considered in selecting The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month of July, from Triple-A Memphis all the way down to short-season rookie level Johnson City. Seven are new this month – with just one holdover from June's list.

The eight include outfielders Adron Chambers and Mark Hamilton of Memphis, shortstop Greg Garcia and outfielder Oscar Taveras from Springfield, Palm Beach outfielder Mike O'Neill, Batavia second baseman Breyvic Valera, along with two 2012 draftees manning the corner infield positions at Johnson City, third baseman Carson Kelly and first baseman Jeremy Schaffer.

O'Neill isn't the biggest physically of this group at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, nor is he a top prospect, rushed up from level to level. The former USC star isn't a centerfielder but doesn't have the power one expects from a corner. The former 31st-round draft pick is 24 years old, still playing at A-Advanced Palm Beach.

But remember this isn't about any of that. This is recognition of the player who put together the best July in the system at the level to which he is assigned. Period.

O'Neill is that man - though he narrowly edged Garcia for this award.

What stands out most from an impressive July line from O'Neill is his out-of-this-world on-base mark of .480 - though his .350 batting average is very, very good as well. Though he did not hit a home run in the pitching-strong Florida State League, the left-handed batter did log 11 extra-base hits, including a trio of triples.

O'Neill can handle the bat
Though the first three months do not figure into this consideration, O'Neill's July was not a flash in the pan. Another standout stat is that he struck out only seven times all month – in 100 at-bats. Amazingly, that raised his full-season strikeout rate to a still-microscopic 6.23 per 100 ABs. O'Neill has been hitting and getting on base all along too, as the Florida State League all-star and league's leading hitter has a full-season line of .348/.448/.431.

Garcia fell short of O'Neill in batting average, by 31 points, and in on-base and OPS, though not by as much. He had more home runs and RBI than O'Neill and topped the group in runs scored, but overall, O'Neill's month bested his.

Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation July Player of the Month, Mike O'Neill.

Now, let's look at the numbers logged by all eight candidates, listed from highest level of play to lowest.

Chambers Mem 0.349 22 83 14 29 5 1 1 16 11 17 1 0.423 0.470 0.893
Hamilton Mem 0.299 24 77 14 23 4 0 4 17 19 23 1 0.434 0.506 0.941
Taveras Spr 0.316 25 95 19 30 5 2 3 20 11 7 0 0.400 0.505 0.905
Garcia Spr 0.319 27 91 21 29 4 0 4 15 23 25 4 0.456 0.495 0.951
O'Neill PB 0.350 27 100 20 35 8 3 0 11 26 7 4 0.480 0.490 0.970
Valera Bat 0.352 27 108 15 38 4 2 1 14 4 10 4 0.374 0.454 0.828
Kelly JC 0.279 22 86 12 24 5 0 7 13 4 17 0 0.311 0.581 0.893
Schaffer JC 0.347 25 95 13 33 9 1 5 25 5 22 0 0.387 0.621 1.008

Other honorable mentions

Memphis' leadoff man Chambers had a very nice month average-wise but his on-base percentage, while good, was only in the middle of this exclusive pack. Chambers has stopped running (only one stolen base attempt all month) and his runs scored total wasn't as competitive.

Chambers' teammate Hamilton has reversed a dreadful start that had some questioning his immediate future in the organization. The first baseman-turned outfielder picked up his home run and RBI production nicely. While he had a nice July overall, it doesn't stack up.

It seems like this report is not complete without Taveras being included. The 20-year-old has been so consistent that a .316 average, 19 runs scored and 20 RBI is just a par-for-the-course month for the organization's top position player prospect.

Still a teenager last month and celebrating his 20th birthday today, August 1, is Breyvic Valera. The second baseman logged the highest July batting average of the group at .352 and also swiped four bases for short-season Class-A Batavia. His time will come, though not now.

Johnson City teammates Kelly and Schaffer have been swinging hot bats. Kelly, who was just 17 years old during the first half of the month, makes this list because of his seven home runs and impressive .581 slugging mark. Shaffer had the best power/production month of the group, with 25 RBI in 25 games, a .621 SLG and 1.008 OPS.

How did last month's winner fare?

Springfield first baseman Xavier Scruggs took home The Cardinal Nation top player award for June. This month, he had a solid line of .290/.372/.490 with four home runs and 23 RBI. The Cardinals organization had named Scruggs' teammate Taveras as their top player in June. His July numbers are documented above.

Previous winners: Click on the highlighted links to be taken to earlier articles about the monthly award selections by both The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization.

Player of Month   Pitcher of Month  
2012 The Cardinal Nation Cards organization The Cardinal Nation Cards organization
April  Oscar Taveras Oscar Taveras Seth Maness Seth Maness
May Colin Walsh Colin Walsh Richard Castillo Trevor Rosenthal
June Xavier Scruggs Oscar Taveras Ryan Sherriff Ryan Sherriff
July Mike O'Neill      

Looking ahead: Next will be The Cardinal Nation Pitcher of the Month, followed by our monthly Cardinals Prospect Rankings. The latter, exclusively for subscribers, is sure to see some big changes this month.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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