The 2015 Gulf Coast League Cardinals scored the most runs in the rookie-level league (287), with Nick Plummer (43) and Allen Cordoba (40) finishing one-two. For most of the season, the Cardinals led the league in hits, with Cordoba (60) and Bladimil Franco (65) standing one-two there.
At the end, the Cardinals were second in hits (508) and third in average (.260) and on-base percentage (.360).
They started the season near the league’s bottom in walks, but improved on that during the season to finish seventh with 194. That total included league-leader Plummer’s 39 (next was 32).
Plummer’s desire for walks may have worked against him sometimes. He also was tied for third in strikeouts (56), many of them on called third strikes. As Plummer, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in June, became more aggressive at the plate later in the season, his walk frequency decreased but his batting average rose. He had 24 walks but only 18 hits through his first 28 games, then had 23 hits and 15 walks in 23 games in August.
The Cardinals were also last in the league in one notable category – strikeouts (345, far fewer than the next team with 382). “We teach two-strike strategies, but it’s up to the players to employ it,” said minor-league hitting instructor Derrick May, who suggested four hitters for consideration as top hitter.
In the season’s first half, Luis Bandes led the league in hitting, not merely the Cardinals. The 19-year-old Venezuelan first baseman/outfielder, who spent the past two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, started 2015 like a house afire, going 25-for-60 (.417) in his first 16 games. In his next 12 games, Bandes slowed to 14-for-58 (.241), and in the last 10 games before his season ended abruptly with a dislocated elbow on a play at first base, he was 5-for-33 (.152). Still, he finished the season at .319, tied for the team lead in home runs (four) and tied for second in RBI (24).
Between the time Bandes cooled off and Dylan Becker caught fire, perhaps it is no coincidence the Cardinals were 5-8.
Becker, a non-drafted free agent from Missouri State University, did not make his professional debut until July 11, when the Cardinals were 8-8 amid a seven-game win streak. Becker played second base in college, but mostly first and third base with the Cardinals.
In his first 19 games, Becker was a sluggish 10-for-48 (.208) with six driven in, but in his last 17 games, he was 23-for-61 (.377) with 10 RBI and only two strikeouts. Becker, a 22-year-old native of Kansas City, Missouri, was also the only Cardinals player with more than 40 at-bats who had more walks (13) than strikeouts (12). The lefty swinger didn’t give anything away against lefty pitchers, posting a .300 average vs. lefties and .303 vs. righties.
Fourth in the league in RBI and the team leader with 29, wing outfielder Bladimil Franco was more consistent, though he did much of his damage in a 20-game stretch that began with three hits on July 6, the third game into a 10-game hitting streak. The 21-year-old Dominican was 34-for-79 in those 20 games, with at least one hit in 18 and 13 multi-hit games. He also had 17 of his RBI, with five walks while fanning only five times.
After that 20-game stretch, though, Franco cooled off, hitting .255 the rest of the way.
The most consistent and best hitter through the season was shortstop Allen Cordoba, whose .342 average made him the Cardinals’ second consecutive GCL batting champion. The 19-year-old Panamanian followed an opening day 0-fer by going 7-for-13 in his next three games and never looked back. Second in at-bats among GCL shortstops, Cordoba’s 69 hits led the league. Unfortunately, he also led the league in errors (20).
Cordoba, who also paced the team with 11 stolen bases, had at least one hit in 40 of his 53 games. He had 22 multi-hit contests, including seven with three hits. The right-handed hitter ran off a 10-game hitting streak that began June 30, during which he was 18-for-39 (.462) while the team was 7-3.
Cordoba never went more than three games without a hit. He was at his toughest in close-and-late situations, in which he was 11-for-23 (.478), and was the ideal No. 2 hitter for manager Steve Turco because with one runner on, at any base, Cordoba went 34-for-64 (.531).
Cordoba’s performance has netted him The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Year nod for the 2015 Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
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Link to master article with all 2015 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that includes our selections as the GCL Cardinals Reliever and Starting Pitcher of the Year.
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