Cardinals 2014 Arizona Fall League Recap

Eight St. Louis Cardinals prospects competed in the 2014 Arizona Fall League. We look back at their results.

After a 3-10 start, the Peoria Javelinas finished strongly, winning the Arizona Fall League West Division title on the final day. The 15-14-3 club fell in the league title game to the East champion Salt River Rafters.

Eight St. Louis Cardinals prospects competed in the 2014 AFL – four pitchers and four position players. We will briefly look at how each performed.

Peoria Team Leaders

With a .333 average, second baseman Breyvic Valera led the Javelinas with catcher Cody Stanley (.292) fourth and second baseman Jacob Wilson (.289) fifth. All three had finished the regular season at Double-A Springfield.

Outfielder C.J. McElroy was a late assignee to the AFL, replacing injured Charlie Tilson. As a low-A player, it is not surprising that the switch-hitter struggled at the plate to the tune of a .200 average. On the positive side, his on-base mark was .357 and he showed his speed, placing first on the club with seven steals in nine attempts. In an odd stat line, he had almost as many walks (six) and steals (seven) as hits (eight).

Valera’s .400 OBP was tops among all Javelinas, with Stanley third at .363, and a tie at fifth between Wilson and McElroy at .357.

Wilson’s seven doubles were second on Peoria and his 13 RBI tied for the team lead. Stanley was next on the club with six doubles and 12 driven in.

On the pitching side, Sam Tuivailala’s 1.29 ERA, five saves and nine game finishes led Peoria. Palm Beach’s Tyrell Jenkins’ 2.22 ERA was best among the six pitchers who started games while his modest total of two wins tied four others for tops on the Javelinas.

Mitch Harris’ fall was a mixed bag. The reliever, who reached Memphis to close the regular season, fanned 12 and walked just three in 12 2/3 innings. However, the 29-year-old was victimized by a team-high three long balls, which helped elevate his ERA to 4.26.

Stepping up in competition, Palm Beach’s Chris Perry was dealing with shoulder soreness that limited his effectiveness. The right-handed reliever was shut down early after yielding seven earned runs in 7 2/3 innings on nine hits and 10 walks. Perry struck out three.

Link to Peoria team stats.

League Leaders

As a Wednesday/Saturday-only taxi squad player, Valera fell short of qualifying for the league batting title. With enough at-bats, the switch-hitter would have placed second in the batting race by five points and eighth in OBP.

McElroy tied for sixth in the AFL in steals. Wilson tied for eighth in doubles and 14th in RBI.

Tuivailala’s five saves topped the entire league and his ERA was eighth-best. Jenkins’ ERA was fourth-best among all league starting pitchers.

Link to AFL leaders: batting and pitching.

My observations

When I saw him, Jenkins’ fastball was in the 91-93 mph range, touching 94, though I understand he may have upped his velocity a tick later on. What was more impressive to me, however, was that the tall right-hander was using his off-speed pitches almost half the time. That extended his innings a bit, but I considered the diversity a good sign.

Though he received credit for touching 100, in the three times I watched him in person, Tuivailala’s fastball was generally between 94 and 97 miles per hour. He did not throw his off-speed offerings often, but on one pitch, an 80 mph curve, Cubs/Mesa first baseman Dan Vogelbach was fooled. In fact, he was fooled so badly that the bat flew out of his hands and landed in the stands on the fly all the way down the first baseline past the dugout. He walked on the next pitch, however, serving as a reminder that all these players are still working on their game.

Harris threw 94, touching 95, but his fastball seemed hittable at times. His most impressive offering was an 88 mph cutter that garnered him a number of strikeouts.

McElroy did not hit the ball particularly hard, with just one extra base hit during the AFL, but his speed, rated at 80 by scouts, forced several mistakes from the defense. Even with McElroy being closer to first from the left side, scouts commented that the 21-year-old seemed a bit slow out of the box, however.

Wilson stroked the ball with authority and did an especially good job shortening up his swing with two strikes, taking the ball to right on numerous occasions.

Valera seems to have promise as a top of the lineup hitter, often going deep into the counts in his at-bats. In a very good indicator, during the AFL he drew more walks, five, than strikeouts, just three.

Perhaps surprisingly for a catcher, Stanley is an aggressive and smart baserunner, with a triple and two steals without being caught to his credit. It is not a fluke, as Stanley was 13-for-15 on the basepaths with a pair of three-base hits with Springfield this season.

Valera took a lot of balls at shortstop in defensive drills, while Wilson appeared in game action at first, second and third. Stanley saw a fair amount of duty at designated hitter, but also worked to diversify by learning first base. This can only help them all going forward.

League Awards

First baseman Greg Bird of the Yankees and Scottsdale received the league's Joe Black MVP Award to go with his Fall Stars Game MVP honors. Bird led the AFL in home runs and runs scored while finishing second in hits, RBI and total bases, third in extra-base hits and slugging and sixth in batting average.

Patrick Kivlehan, infielder/outfielder from Seattle and Surprise, was announced as the recipient of the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, given to the AFL player who best demonstrates teamwork and leadership.

What is Next?

While this is a wrap on our 2014 Arizona Fall League game coverage, there is even more ahead. In the upcoming days, The Cardinal Nation subscribers should look for interviews with every one of the eight Cardinals who participated in the AFL this fall.

On Monday, we will publish our annual Rule 5 predictions, the actual results of which could directly affect the Cardinals future of a number of these players. Just after Thanksgiving, our annual Cardinals Top 40 Prospect List countdown will begin.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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