Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook: Week 7

More scouting reports plus all the news from the back fields of Jupiter, Florida about the St. Louis Cardinals' Gulf Coast League club. Brett Wiley, Amauris Capellan and Jose Gomez are among this week's featured players.

Comings and goings

RHP Hansel de los Santos, apparently a fast healer, returned to action Saturday, three weeks after a facial bone was broken when he was hit on the left side of his upper jaw by a throw from Marlins first base coach Lenny Harris.

C Steve Bean, a first-rounder from the 2012 draft, was sent down from Johnson City.

C Adam Ehrlich was promoted to Johnson City and made a grand entrance, getting four hits and three RBI in his first game.

RHP Anderson Gerdel was promoted to Palm Beach.

RHP Cole Brand was promoted to Johnson City and pitched a perfect inning in his first appearance.

RHP Chris Thomas and OF David Popkins were promoted to Batavia.

RHP Kurt Heyer, the Cardinals' sixth-round pick in the June draft, made his pro debut. Because of Heyer's heavy workload this spring leading the University of Arizona to the College World Series championship, the Cardinals say they will be careful with him for the rest of this season.

LHP Ryan Copeland returned from Batavia for more rehab after surgery in early April to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. In Batavia, Copeland made one appearance with the New York-Penn League team, but said he did not feel well...

LHP Matt Rein, on Batavia's disabled list, was sent to rehab in Jupiter.

Bill James
Weekly Recap

In the 1983 Baseball Abstract, the seventh in the groundbreaking series, revolutionary baseball statistician and analyst Bill James first described The Law of Competitive Balance: "There develop over time separate and unequal strategies adopted by winners and losers; the balance of those strategies favors the losers, and thus serves constantly to narrow the difference between the two."

In a 2005 interview with Rich Lederer, James said, "It relates to how you would analyze everything. People are astonished that our elections tend to wind up 50/50 or 51/49 but it's just the Law of Competitive Balance. When a political party is ahead, they get arrogant and start to overreach. When they are behind, they tend to compromise and gain. It's just the Law of Competitive Balance working itself out."

The Law of Competitive Balance affects teams in individual contests, over the course of a season and from one season to the next. The affect in baseball shows up more over seasons rather than individual games, where perhaps it is more pronounced in basketball, and to a lesser extent in football. In basketball and football, for example, there is a more obvious tendency for teams to sit on leads, while trailing teams make runs or employ riskier strategies to catch up.

The Law of Competitive Balance that James describes, though, applies to Major League Baseball. Losing teams work harder to get better -- by making trades, increasing dedication or any number of other methods -- than winning teams.

There is also a minor-league corollary to the Law of Competitive Balance: The better a team plays and the more it wins, the sooner its best players are moved up to higher levels.

The Cardinals (28-14 overall, 14-7 both home and away) hold a 7-1/2 game lead over the second-place Astros with three weeks (18 games) remaining in the Gulf Coast League season. They have the best record in the entire GCL, but since teams do not play outside their division, that fact is rather meaningless.

The Cards built their lead by winning the close games. They are 4-4 in blowouts decided by six runs or more, but 11-6 in games decided by two runs or less, 17-8 in games decided by three runs or less and 23-9 in games decided by five runs or less.

Perhaps the biggest reason they won so many of the close games was their late-inning relief corps: Anderson Gerdel, Cole Brand, Chris Thomas, Josh Renfro, Norge Paredes and Johnny Polanco have a combined record of 8-2 with 16 saves. In total, they have pitched 89-1/3 innings in relief, allowing only five earned runs (0.50 ERA), 57 hits and 19 walks (0.85 WHIP) while striking out 87.

During the past week, though, Gerdel, Brand and Thomas were promoted. Polanco has been working mostly as a starter. Also moving up were two of the team's more productive hitters – OF David Popkins and C Adam Ehrlich.

To win their first GCL East Division title, all the Cardinals have to do is play .500 ball for the remaining three weeks, manager Steve Turco said this week.

They should be able to do that, but will other pitchers step up to fortify their bullpen in the postseason?

Thanks to a seven-run fifth inning in the second game of the Saturday doubleheader with the Marlins, the Cardinals went 4-2 this week. Though the Cardinals and their opponents each totaled 47 hits for the six games this week, the Cardinals made better use of theirs, outscoring opponents 36-22.

Cardinals batters also drew 22 walks while their pitchers handed out 19 free passes. Two of those walks, by Jose Gomez and Daniel Barbuena, ignited the big rally that got the Cardinals a split of the doubleheader and made the difference between 4-2 and 3-3 this week. Gomez also capped the rally with a three-run double that snapped an 0-for-13 skid.

In the first game of Saturday's twin bill, SS Kenny Peoples-Walls hit his first career home run in his 193rd at-bat as a professional.

Earlier in the week, RHP Kender Villegas tossed the GC Cardinals' first complete game of the season, though he had some help from Mother Nature when rain shortened the game against the Nationals to six innings.

A Closer Look at …

By the end of the GCL season, we will have at least one report on every player who appears on the GCL Cardinals roster. This week, we look at three players who are new to the GCL Cardinals this season. These assessments are based on interviews with Cardinals manager Steve Turco.

Wiley

Brett Wiley: The 20-year-old Indiana native was the Cardinals' 13th-round pick in June out of Jefferson Community College in Hillsboro, less than an hour from Busch Stadium. Though the 5-foot-11, 175-pound lefty hitter played shortstop in college and has enough arm for the position, Turco sees him more as a second baseman as a pro. "He's getting better at the pivot because he's worked hard at it," Turco said.

A left-handed hitter, Wiley "stays in well against left-handed pitchers and gets good at-bats," Turco said. The results (.160 average vs. LHs, .269 vs. RHs) are not yet on par with his effort, but his strike zone discipline has improved in the past couple of weeks. In his first 16 games, Wiley struck out in 22 percent of his at-bats and walked seven times, but has cut that strikeout rate in half in his last 10 games. Turco rates him as a below-average runner, but notes that Wiley "understands the game and plays the right way."

Amauris Capellan: The 19-year-old Dominican outfielder has been streaky so far this season after making a strong showing last year, his second season in the Dominican Summer League. The right-handed hitter "struggled at first, then started to figure it out and went on a tear," Turco said. But Capellan "has kind of come back to reality," with five hits in his last 26 at-bats.

Though Capellan strikes out too often (24 percent), he has shown the ability to draw walks, compiling a .365 on-base percentage despite a .231 batting average. "He has some strength in his bat and when he stays in the middle of the field he's a dangerous hitter," Turco said. Though Capellan doesn't run well, he catches what he gets to in the outfield and throws well.

Jose Gomez: A 20-year-old Venezuelan, the 5-foot-11, 183-pound catcher has played sparingly, first because of 2011 6th-rounder Adam Ehrlich and now 2012 1st-round pick Steve Bean and 2012 9th-rounder Rowan Wick getting most of the playing time behind the dish.

Gomez has some tools, Turco said. "He receives well, blocks well and has some mobility," Turco said. "He has the ingredients to be a decent catcher, though his biggest problem is occasional lapses of focus and concentration." As a hitter, "when he stays within himself and doesn't try to do too much, he'll hit line drives," Turco said.



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