Gulf Coast League Cards Notebook: 2014 Week 9

The first-place GCL Cardinals had their worst week of the season, but still hold a four-game lead. New scouting reports on Jack Flaherty, Ronnie Williams and Yeison Medina included.

Weekly Overview

Despite going 1-5 in their worst week of the season, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (29-20) still hold a four-game lead in the GCL East over the Nationals and 4.5 games over the Mets. The suddenly resurgent Marlins, who swept four from the Cardinals during a 7-0 week, are nine games back.

Because of a rainout Saturday in Viera, the Cardinals and Nationals each have 11 games remaining, while the Mets and Marlins have 10 to play. The Cardinals’ magic number to clinch their second division title is eight.

Apart from their 11-0 win Thursday over the Nationals, the Cardinals were outscored 19-8 and outhit 32-30 in their losses. Their seven errors resulted in only three unearned runs.

The Cardinals hit .246 for the week, but only .213 in the five losses. The team’s batting average fell from .283 to .278, but that still leads the league, as does their .363 on-base percentage. The pitching staff’s 2.17 walks per 9 innings remains the lowest in all of affiliated professional baseball, helping them to tie for the GCL-low WHIP of 1.18.

Transactions & Injuries

Memphis reliever David Aardsma started a rehab assignment and pitched one scoreless inning on Friday.

Highlights of the Week

Though he did not figure in the decision in a 1-0 loss in the opener of Monday’s doubleheader, Jack Flaherty had his best and longest outing of the season, allowing only one hit and no walks while fanning four in four innings.

Jery Then, the 14th pitcher to start a game for the Cardinals, allowed three hits and no walks while striking out six in three scoreless innings of a 2-1 loss in the second game Monday.

Bryan Dobzanski followed his worst outing of the season on Aug. 7 with his best so far on Thursday, allowing one hit and one walk in five scoreless innings in the Cardinals’ 11-0 shellacking of the Nationals, the league-leading seventh shutout by the pitching staff. Dobzanski was the first Cardinals starting pitcher to earn a win since July 30 when Frederis Parra tossed five scoreless innings.

Who’s Hot & Not

Magneuris Sierra cooled off a bit, going 4-for-17 (.235) for the week, but his .373 average still leads the league, comfortably ahead of Malik Collymore, who went 6-for-18 (.333) to fall to .352. Sierra and Collymore are also first and second in the league in hits. Sierra’s 34 runs scored and 83 total bases are league highs, while Collymore leads the GCL with eight triples and his 31 RBI is tied for third.

Michael Pritchard was 6-for-22 (.273), but his .329 average for the season ranks fourth in the GCL. Pritchard also has 19 walks and only eight strikeouts in 146 at-bats.

Ricardo Bautista is hitting only .261, but his team-high 20 walks, compared with 18 strikeouts, gives him a robust .404 on-base percentage.

A Closer Look

These capsules of three pitchers are based on interviews with Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator Tim Leveque:

Jack Flaherty: The Cardinals’ second first-round pick in June and the 34th overall selection is a native of Burbank, California and the third first-round pick in three years out of Harvard-Westlake High School in nearby Studio City.

The 18-year-old right-hander has a strong, athletic body on a 6-foot-4 frame with a 89-92 mph fastball, a slider, curveball and changeup. Flaherty was an impressive two-way player as a pitcher and a fast, strong-hitting infielder at the Perfect Game USA showcase, but says he likes the control of a game he gets as a starting pitcher. “He was a polished high school pitcher, composed and mature for his age,” said Leveque, who like Flaherty also grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. “He’s even-keeled and in control, confident.” Leveque said. Flaherty’s slider is his best secondary pitch, ahead of his curve or change, but at this point in his career Flaherty will be allowed to develop both breaking pitches, Leveque said.

Flaherty allowed two runs in his one-inning pro debut on July 5, but since then has been nearly untouchable. In his next five appearances covering 11.2 innings, Flaherty has posted an outstanding 0.79 ERA, allowing only 10 hits and two walks while fanning 16.

Ronnie Williams: The Cardinals’ second-round selection in June, the 68th overall pick, was a high school phenom. The 18-year-old right-hander struck out 11 with no walks in a complete-game masterpiece in the state championship title game for American High School of Miami.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has a low-90s fastball and good feel for both his curve ball and changeup, though the change may be a little ahead of his curve, Leveque said. A good athlete, the speedy right-hander was also a good-hitting outfielder in high school and another who made a big splash at the Perfect Game USA showcase. “He has a good attitude, good tools and is gaining experience and command,” Leveque said.

As a pro, Williams is 0-4 with a 5.87 ERA with a 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 1/3 innings, but has pitched better than those numbers. Throw out his worst start, when he gave up six runs in three innings, and his ERA is 3.86.

Yeison Medina: Signed in November 2012 out of the Dominican Prospect League, the Dominican native put up some good numbers in the Dominican Summer League last season and is making his first appearance in the U.S. this summer.

Now 21 years old, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander “has a good live arm” with which he throws a low-90s fastball with some life, Leveque said. “He’s still learning the intricacies of commanding his fastball, and could use his changeup more,” Leveque said, adding that Medina is also starting to use his hard slider “to put away guys.”

So far, Medina has been effective, holding opponents scoreless in 12 of his 15 appearances and converting three of four save opportunities. In 24 innings, he’s allowed 24 hits (no home runs) and six walks while collecting 20 strikeouts.

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