2013 Gulf Coast League Cardinals team review

The St. Louis Cardinals entry-level rookie league club in the US finished in third place, 25 ½ games out, but had a number of individual highlights.

Gulf Coast Cardinals (rookie-short season) at a glance

- Record: 24-35 (.407).
- Third place in East Division, 25.5 games behind the eventual league champion Nationals and one game behind the Marlins.
- Second-worst record in the seven-year history of the St. Louis Cardinals' participation in the GCL.

The Start

Rafael Medina, one of the holdovers from last year's GCL division-champion squad, started the season like a house afire. The third baseman was hitting .357 in the eight games of June and .313 through July 29, when the Cardinals were a respectable 18-15.

By then, however, the Cards were already 8.5 games behind the surging Nationals, who were a remarkable 26-6 just past the season's midway point.

Because the Cardinals had won four of their first seven meetings with the Nationals, there was still reason to believe they were not out of the race. That belief evaporated over the next two weeks.

The Streak - in Reverse

On July 29, the Nationals had won two consecutive games, then reeled off 15 more. Meanwhile, the Cardinals lost nine in a row and 13 of 15 to freefall out of contention.

At the halfway point last year, the Cardinals were 21-9, including a 10-game winning streak from June 30 through July 9 that essentially won them the division title.

Several times during the 2012 season, GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco said he thought he had a .500 team. Except for that 10-game winning streak, he was right. Exclude that streak and the team was 24-24.

This season was similar - in a way. Except for the nine-game losing streak, which contributed to a 7-20 second half, the Cardinals were 24-26.

The Bullpen

A key factor in the Cardinals' division-title team in 2012 was the bullpen. The relievers were merely average this season, especially after Kyle Grana (1.69 ERA) and Ismael Brito (1.73) were promoted to Johnson City in mid-July.

Last season, for example, the Cardinals had a league-leading 19 saves spread among six relievers. This year, in part because of fewer opportunities, three relievers earned a total of just eight saves.

Star Power

First-round pick Marco Gonzales and third-rounder Mike Mayers, both collegians, were with the team briefly before being promoted to Palm Beach and Peoria, respectively. While both showed some skills and promise, neither demonstrated the stuff or command of 2012's top pick, Michael Wacha, who rocketed to the big-league club less than a year later.

Single-digit-round picks Rob Kaminsky, Ian McKinney, Oscar Mercado and Chris Rivera – all high schoolers – were with the team the entire season and performed well. McKinney, who even pitched well against the Nationals juggernaut, stood out with a 0.89 ERA.

The Cardinals had no players chosen to the 13-team GCL All-Star Team. The Nationals, with the best winning percentage of any domestic team in minor league history at .845, led the team with four selections plus the Manager of the Year, Patrick Anderson. Phillies first baseman Wilmer Oberto was named Most Valuable Player.

Jake Stone performed well prior to injury
Top Hitters

The performance of 27th-round pick, first baseman Jake Stone, was probably the most pleasant surprise, though it was not quite up to the level of surprise that David Popkins gave the Cardinals in 2012.

The development of outfielder Anthony Ray from being overmatched at the start of the season to an offensive force that Turco felt comfortable batting leadoff in August was also somewhat unexpected. Turco said Ray, taken in the 26th-round from a Chicago-area high school, was the player who showed the most improvement during the season.

Medina, who led the team in RBI, was the Cardinals' most consistent run producer. Luis Cruz was first in the slash stats, but played in just 17 games after starting late and ending early due to injury.

2013 GCL Cardinals team stats

Offense # rank of 4   Pitching # rank of 4
BA 0.243 2nd   ERA 3.73 3rd
Runs 234 3rd   Ks 499 1st
Ks 439 3rd   Walks 214 3rd fewest
Walks 167 4th   WHIP 1.34 3rd
OBP 0.311 3rd   Shutouts 2 4th
OPS 0.647 2nd   HR allow 20 Tie for 3rd
2B/3B 103 2nd   Saves 8 4th
HR 19 2nd   Unearned runs 59 3rd most
Steals 48 3rd        

Individual hitting and pitching leaders
(* minimum 50 plate appearances/20 innings pitched)

Offense Batter #   Pitching Pitcher #
BA* L. Cruz 0.321   ERA* McKinney 0.89
OBP* L Cruz 0.391   Strikeouts Escudero 41
SLG* L. Cruz 0.536   Saves Grana 4
OPS* L. Cruz 0.926   Wins Flores 5
Steals Mercado 12   WHIP* Villegas 0.92
2B/3B Stone 13   Walks / 9 IP* Brito 5/26.0 IP
HR Rivera 5   Innings Salazar 41.1
RBI Medina 24        
Walks Medina 19        
Runs Medina, Pina 29        

Did you know?

Mariano Rivera's ERA of 0.17 in 1990 is the lowest ever recorded in this incarnation of the Gulf Coast League, which dates from 1966.

Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the GCL Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

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