Here in the third 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.
Dominated in recent years by pitching with a lackluster offense, the 2015 DSL Cardinals featured a more balanced attack.
In fact, the Cardinals offense had arguably its best showing ever. The team was 17th in runs scored with 372, up 123 runs from 2014, when they were second to last. While the Cards were 20th in batting average this summer, the .253 mark was a whopping 42 points higher than the year before. It is also the team’s best BA since joining the league.
The Cards were just one double short of a share of the DSL lead at 130. They tied for fourth in home runs in 30. In OPS, they were fourth at .370. All are new highs for the Cardinals in their 11 DSL seasons.
When they did reach base, the Cards were not standouts. They stole just 46 bases, dead last in the league. On top of that, their success rate was just 55.4 percent.
In three-base hits, the power in the bats overcame the apparent lack of speed with the team’s total of 36 three-baggers ranking seventh in the circuit.
Here's how the individuals stacked up.
There is a pretty noticeable gap in slash line performance between the top two players and the rest of the roster. First baseman Carlos Rodriguez and center fielder Wadye Ynfante both batted .311, the only Cardinals above .274.
The two represented the Cardinals as 2015 DSL All-Stars, along with Brian Sanchez. Outfielder Sanchez had an outstanding first half, but slowed after the break. He led the club in home runs and RBI, but batted just .233 for the season, knocking him out of contention.
Both Rodriguez and Ynfante can make a case for this award.
Rodriguez showed more power, finishing third on the team in homers, while Ynfante was second in doubles, on the way to ending first and second, respectively, on the roster in slugging. Rodriguez struck out more frequently, while Ynfante was third on the club in runs scored.
Both hitters had very high BABIPs (batting average on balls in play), with Rodriguez higher at .393, a huge jump from his .259 mark the year before. Ynfante was 20 points lower at .373 in 2015, up from .304 last year. Improved quality of contact and speed could be factors in their favor as much as luck.
Rodriguez was 18 years of age during the entire season, while Ynfante celebrated that birthday with just one week remaining on the schedule. Both players are currently participating in the Cardinals instructional league program in Jupiter, Florida.
Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez likes what each brought to the field this summer.
“Carlos Rodriguez, who we signed on July 2nd 2013, had a rough year last year,” Rodriguez said. “We knew he had some power potential, some bat potential. Signed him as an outfielder, played him mostly at first base. Long term, he could continue to develop power and profile as a first baseman coming through the system. It was nice to see him put together a nice offensive season.”
Though I mentioned the home runs, Moises Rodriguez (no relation), saw more in how Carlos Rodriguez approached his plate appearances.
“He was among the leaders in home runs, but more than anything, he had good at-bats,” the international director said. “He struck out less (down to 25.8 percent from 30.6 percent the year before), improved defensively and overall, we were very happy with his progress.”
Rodriguez introduces us to Wadye Ynfante.
“We initially signed him as a shortstop, second base, middle infielder and we decided last year to move him to center field,” Rodriguez said. “He’s got a little speed. Also, a kid that in 2014 he struck out a lot, really struggled. He was a 16-year-old for most of his first season. This year, just like Carlos, he took a big step forward.”
Ynfante cut his strikeout rate from 37.3 percent of his 2014 at-bats to 19.8 percent this season.
“He played real solid defense in center field, hit over .300, showed some power,” said Rodriguez. “He is a really wiry kid that started to fill out a little bit physically. Very young. He played most of this year at 17 and just like Carlos, put together a nice offensive season and he will be one we will see next year in extended (spring training, starting in April),” Rodriguez concluded.
Being younger and playing at a premier defensive position in center field breaks the deadlock for me in favor of Ynfante, in a photo finish.
Congratulations to Wadye Ynfante, The Cardinal Nation Dominican Summer League Cardinals Player of the Year for 2015.
Link to master article with all 2015 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selection of the system-wide Rookies and Players of the Year.
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