Gulf Coast League Cards Notebook: 2014 Week 6

The 1st-place Cardinals dodged weather and their opponents last week. Derek Gibson, Joshua Lopez, Julian Barzilli are profiled. Exclusive injury news on others.

Weekly Overview

Weather played havoc with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals’ schedule early in the week, but they managed to win two games from the Marlins, one of them the completion of a game suspended from July 12, as two other games were postponed. The Cardinals (20-10) then salvaged the finale of a three-game set with the Nationals, preserving their four-game lead over the Nationals and Mets in the Eastern Division halfway through the league’s 60-game schedule.

For a Rookie-level team, the Cardinals are pretty stingy on defense. Their pitching staff has allowed only 66 free passes (walks and hit batsmen), by far the lowest total in the league. The next-lowest total is 104 by the Red Sox, and the league average is 126. And while the defense has made its share of errors, the team has allowed only 13 unearned runs, the second lowest in the league and well below the 27.3 league average.

Transactions & Injuries

2B Jake Gronsky, who signed last week as an undrafted free agent out of Monmouth (N.J.) College, made his pro debut Friday by drawing a walk as a pinch-hitter, and followed that by going 3-for-5 Saturday in his first start.

Catcher Joshua Lopez was returned from Class-A Advanced Palm Beach, and catcher Frankie Rodriguez was loaned to the Florida State League team for a few days until Dante Rosenberg came back to the Palm Beach team after a 10-day stint with Memphis.

RHP Davis Ward, the very last selection overall in this year’s draft, is out for the rest of the season with a strained ulnar collateral ligament. Though his first five appearances spanning 16 innings, Ward had pitched about as well as anyone on the staff, allowing 19 hits and no walks while fanning 10.

RHP Jorge Rodriguez, who has a sore shoulder, missed his start this past week and will miss one more. In Rodriguez’s last outing, a 5-0 win over the Nationals on July 16, he allowed one hit and one walk in 5-2/3 innings for the first complete-game shutout in the GCL since 2012.

2B Malik Collymore returned to the lineup Saturday after missing three games because of a sore foot.

Highlights of the Week

Tied 1-all in the top of the ninth inning Saturday against the Nationals in Viera, the Cardinals once again took advantage of their opponent’s mistakes to win.

Josh Lopez drew a walk to lead off the inning and Edmundo Sosa also walked. Magneuris Sierra’s single to left loaded the bases. Michael Pritchard was hit by a pitch to force in the tie-breaking run. After Malik Collymore’s grounder forced Sosa at home and Derek Gibson popped out, Elier Rodriguez lined a single to center to score two insurance runs. Jake Gronsky then got his first RBI as a pro with a ground single to left to score Collymore.

Who’s Hot & Not

Magneuris Sierra went 3-for-5 Saturday to finish the week 4-for-13 in three games. Though that dropped his batting average to .368, he easily held onto the GCL lead. Sierra and Edmundo Sosa was first and second in the GCL in hits with 39 and 35, respectively.

Derek Gibson was 6-for-15 without striking out, raising his average to .303.

Michael Pritchard’s 11-game hitting streak was snapped Saturday when he went 0-for-3. The last game Pritchard had at least one official at-bat without getting a hit was July 9.

A Closer Look At

These capsules are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco:

Derek Gibson: The 23-year-old lefty swinger was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Southeast Missouri State, where the Cardinals had previously found Kerry Robinson in 1995. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound outfielder is from Bonne Terre, Missouri, a small town in rural St. Francois County about 80 miles south-southwest of St. Louis.

“Derek plays with lot of heart and a lot of energy,” Turco said. “He is hard on himself and his expectations are very high.” Gibson runs well, as evidenced by the fact that the first three of his six extra-base hits so far were triples. Gibson’s batting average has been steadily climbing, and he has handled left-handed pitching fairly well. Defensively, Gibson has an average arm, but catches the balls he gets to, Turco said.

Joshua Lopez: Only a few months past his 18th birthday, the Venezuelan native has the tools to be a solid catcher, but needs to improve his focus and energy, Turco said. At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Lopez has a good catcher’s arm, receives the ball well and is adept at blocking pitches --when he’s tuned in. Lopez hit only .173 last season in the Dominican Summer League, his first year as a pro, so his hitting lags behind his defense so far. But Turco said he is seeing signs of improvement. “He’s had some good at-bats lately,” Turco said.

Julian Barzilli: The 23-year-old Los Angeles native out of Whittier College was the Cardinals’ 31st round selection in the 2014 draft. Barzilli hit the GCL running, batting .300 in his eight games in June. The 6-foot, 185-pound right-handed hitter leads the team in walks, but hits have been hard to come by in the past few weeks. Though he has tailed off at the plate, he has continued to provide solid defense at third base. Predominantly a pull hitter, Barzilli needs to use more of the field and make more consistent contact, Turco said.

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