It is only appropriate here on 'Back to the Future Day' that the choice of The Cardinal Nation’s Position Player of the Year across the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization seems very familiar.
Just one year ago, a teenager from the Dominican Republic academy made his US debut in the Gulf Coast League. Magneuris Sierra opened eyes by leading the rookie-level league in batting average as well as a number of other categories, earning him the league’s Most Valuable Player award and later, the Minor League Player of the Year honor from the Cardinals organization and TCN.
Here in 2015, it is Allen Cordoba who followed Sierra’s blueprint to success. The 19-year-old, a native of Panama, is this year’s GCL batting champ after hitting .342 over 202 at-bats. Cordoba followed with the Cardinals’ second consecutive MVP award from the circuit. No other player in St. Louis system at any level received that recognition of being his league’s very best.
The right-handed hitter also led the GCL in hits, was fourth in both on-base percentage at .401 and OPS at .822. His 11 steals in 14 attempts paced the rookie-level club. Defensively, Cordoba plays a premium defensive position, shortstop, though he is also receives some work at second and third base to increase his versatility.
Across the system, Cordoba’s .342 batting average outpaced the second-place finisher, Jeremy Hazelbaker of Springfield and Memphis, by 19 points and his GCL teammate, Bladimil Franco, by 20. Among all Cardinals minor leaguers, Cordoba’s .401 on-base mark was second to State College’s Casey Grayson.
In a recent interview, exclusively for TCN members, Cardinals minor league hitting coordinator Derrick May commented about Cordoba’s season.
“When Allen first got here from the DSL, we didn’t really know what to expect. He just kept getting better and better. We had him here in April (in extended spring training) and we kept him here. He worked very hard with (GCL hitting coach) Roberto Espinoza, who should receive a lot of credit.
“He stayed consistent with his approach and turned into a really nice player and had a really nice season.”
Selecting a short-season player - one who is still a teenager - as our Player of the Year does not change the fact there is a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of development ahead before he could even be thought of as being ready to contribute in St. Louis. And as we saw with Sierra in 2015, some corrections are likely ahead.
May sees Cordoba being squarely on the right path, with a good combination of hitting prowess and on-base acumen.
“He shows a very good eye. You look at him (listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds) and he is going to be a lot stronger,” May said. “One of the things you anticipate is that he is going to be able to drive the ball. To get on base and drive the ball – to do those things – makes him a pretty exciting player.”
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s 2015 system-wide Player of the Year, Allen Cordoba.
Runner up – Jeremy Hazelbaker
Had Hazelbaker been in the Cardinals system the entire season, he could have won this award. Signed as a free agent in mid-May after being released by Texas, the 28-year-old led the Springfield offense before stepping up his game even further with Triple-A Memphis.
Despite playing in just 98 games as a Cardinal - fewer than most full-time full-season players - the outfielder tied for fourth in the entire system with 66 RBI. As noted above, Hazelbaker batted .323 between Memphis and Springfield and also finished just behind Cordoba with a .399 on-base mark. The right-handed hitter has punch in his bat, leading all St. Louis minor leaguers with a .557 slugging percentage. That is a whopping 72 points higher than the next-best player, Johnson City’s Edmundo Sosa.
System hitting leaders
Here are the Cardinals 2015 season leaders in a number of offensive categories.
|Allen Cordoba||GCL||0.342||Charlie Tilson||Spr||159|
|Jeremy Hazelbaker||Mem-Spr||0.323||Luke Voit||PB||126|
|Bladimil Franco||GCL||0.322||Rafael Ortega||Mem||125|
|Eliezer Alvarez||JC||0.314||Jonathan Rodriguez||Spr||125|
|Casey Grayson||SC||0.308||Dean Anna||Mem||121|
|Casey Grayson||SC||0.414||Luke Voit||PB||77|
|Allen Cordoba||GCL||0.401||Jacob Wilson||Mem-Spr||77|
|Jeremy Hazelbaker||Mem-Spr||0.399||Michael Ohlman||Spr||69|
|Nick Martini||Mem-Spr||0.392||Bruce Caldwell||Spr-PB||66|
|Anthony Garcia||Mem-Spr||0.391||Jeremy Hazelbaker||Mem-Spr||66|
|Jeremy Hazelbaker||Mem-Spr||0.557||Jacob Wilson||Mem-Spr||18|
|Edmundo Sosa||JC||0.485||David Washington||Spr||16|
|Anthony Garcia||Mem-Spr||0.477||Dan Johnson||Mem||15|
|Eliezer Alvarez||JC||0.451||Xavier Scruggs||Mem||14|
|Dan Johnson||Mem||0.449||Patrick Wisdom||Spr||14|
Jacob Wilson got out to a fast start in the power categories with 15 home runs and 49 RBI before the break before slowing to just 3/28 afterward. Still the second baseman led the power-starved system with 18 long balls and tied for the most runs batted in with 77.
Palm Beach first baseman Luke Voit delivered consistent production in a tough hitters’ league, finishing second in hits and tying Wilson for the system RBI lead.
Springfield leadoff man Charlie Tilson had a healthy season, leading all Cardinals in at-bats and hits. The outfielder’s 539 at-bats was 67 more than Peoria’s Oscar Mercado. The two were tops in the system in stolen bases, with Mercado at 49 edging out Tilson at 46. Both were caught 19 times.
In a nice comeback campaign, outfielder Anthony Garcia ranked in the top five in the system in both on-base percentage and slugging, earning a promotion to Memphis.
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 selection as the organization’s minor league Manager of the Year, up next.
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