Here in the fourth phase of our annual recaps of the top players across the St. Louis Cardinals system, we move from starting pitchers to position players, beginning with the entry classification, the Dominican Summer League.
The DSL Cardinals suffered through a dismal 22-48 season in which they finished in ninth place in their division. Injuries, youth and minimal depth, leading to a lack of a consistent offensive attack, is a key reason why. In most categories, the hitters were near the bottom of the 36-team league and the Cardinals as a team declined in most categories from year to year.
Under first-year hitting coach Erick Almonte, the team batting average fell to .211 from .219 last season, second to worst in the league. 35th was also the Cards’ position in arguably the most important category, runs scored, as they averaged just 3.6 per contest.
The 2014 Cards were dead last in OPS at .568 while finishing 33rd in doubles and 35th in triples. The stolen base total of 75 landed them in a tie for 29th. 24 home runs in 70 games was actually a bright spot, as the Cardinals tied for sixth-most in the league.
Following are the individual hitters' stats, listed in descending batting average order.
|DSL Cards hitters||AB||R||2B||3B||HR||RBI||BB||SO||SB||AVG||OBP||SLG||OPS|
|Joaquin De La Cruz||158||9||1||0||1||8||16||51||0||0.127||0.213||0.152||0.365|
Bandes, 18, led the way with a .286 average and tied for the most home runs despite missing a month due to injury. The 6-foot-1, 195 pounder improved dramatically at the plate, raising his batting average 101 points over his rookie performance in 2013.
Cordoba was the Cardinals leader in runs scored and was second in stolen bases, though his total of 14 pales in comparison to the 70 swiped by the DSL leader. He also committed 27 errors at the hot corner.
Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez has seen these players compete numerous times and was impressed with Cordoba’s progress.
“What was encouraging about Allen this year is that he came in stronger,” Rodriguez said. “He took his offseason coming into this summer very seriously. He bulked up, worked on his legs. Physically, he was just a lot stronger.
“Average-wise, he was about the same as last year, but got more extra-base hits. We focused on his base stealing – to be a little more aggressive on the bases – to a fault. He got injured a couple of times trying to steal some bases. Overall, the step he took forward was very positive,” the director noted.
Rivera, 17, a signing from Panama last November, had a solid first summer as a professional. The right-handed hitter paced the Cards with 12 doubles and tied Bandes for the team lead in home runs. That also tied them for seventh overall in the DSL.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Rivera excelled at run production, with his 40 RBI doubling the total of the next-closest Cardinal. That placed him in the top 15 of the league and perhaps contributed to his selection to the DSL All-Star team as the Cardinals’ only offensive representative.
All players have areas in which they could improve and Rivera is no exception. He showed rookie impatience, drawing just six walks in 258 at-bats and striking out at a 27.5 percent rate.
“When you look at the players on that team, Jonathan is one of those who came in with the most game experience,” Rodriguez observed. “The youth baseball structure in Panama has allowed Jonathan to play baseball for a long time. When we scouted him, that was one of the attractive things - competing in a lot of game situations. That helped him to come in and perform.”
And perform he did. Congratulations to Jonathan Rivera, The Cardinal Nation Dominican Summer League Cardinals Player of the Year for 2014.
Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our upcoming selections as the Cardinals rookie Reliever, Starter and Player of the Year.
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