Danny Diekroeger (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter for the final week of the 2016 regular season.

Palm Beach went 4-1 on the final week of the 2016 season, but finished sixth (last) in their division in the second half after a fifth place showing before the break. Infielder Danny Diekroeger batted .412 over the last five games.

Previously eliminated from post-season consideration, the Palm Beach Cardinals played out a rough 2016 campaign during which they slid from fifth place in the first half to sixth/last place afterward. The Beach Birds finished in the South Division cellar, sitting 13 games out of first with a 26-43 (.377) second-half record.

However, the Cardinals played better ball at the end, going 7-3 over their last 10 and 4-1 in their final week, including a final series sweep. It was only Palm Beach’s second sweep of a series of three or more games this season, with the other way back in early April. It was that kind of a year.

This report covers the period of Wednesday, August 31 through Sunday, September 4.

Wednesday, August 31: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Fort Myers Miracle 2 (7 innings)

Palm Beach Cardinals 0, Fort Myers Miracle 1 (7 innings)

The Beach Birds split a Wednesday double-header with the Fort Myers Miracle at Roger Dean Stadium.

In the opener, starter Brennan Leitao pitched four innings, allowing one run with two strikeouts against one walk. Will Anderson gave up a run in 2/3 of an inning, then Daniel Bard walked two, but managed to get the third out of the fifth. Landon Beck pitched the final two innings, with two strikeouts in his scoreless effort.

The Cardinals spread around 10 hits to collect five runs. Oscar Mercado went 2-for-4 with his 32nd stolen base and two runs scored. Danny Diekroeger singled, drove in one and scored. Casey Grayson went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly. Thomas Spitz went 2-for-2 with a walk and Dylan Tice doubled for two RBI.

In Game 2, the Palm Beach offense reverted to form, managing just three hits. Oscar Mercado singled, Thomas Spitz doubled and Andrew Brodbeck singled and stole a base. Casey Grayson drew the only two Cardinals walks.

Sandy Alcantara pitched masterfully in the loss. The right-hander went all seven innings, striking out 10 against just three walks and three hits. The only mistakes were a pair of third-inning doubles leading to the one run. Alcantara threw 102 pitches, all to rehabbing St. Louis catcher Brayan Pena (0-for-3).

 

Thursday, September 1: Palm Beach at Charlotte Stone Crabs - cancelled  

The first of four scheduled games between the Cardinals and Stone Crabs and the only one at Charlotte was cancelled due to weather. Since both teams had already been eliminated from postseason contention, the game was not rescheduled.

 

Friday, September 2: Palm Beach 4, Charlotte 2

Jack Flaherty tossed seven innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on five hits. His performance was aided by eight strikeouts and no walks.  Flaherty earned his fifth win of the season. Dakota Hudson pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn his third save.

St. Louis backup catcher Brayan Pena, playing at first base, continued his rehab with two hits in four at-bats with two runs driven in. Dylan Tice was also 2-for-4 with an RBI.  Casey Grayson was 3-for-4. Jose Fernandez plated a run on fourth inning sac fly.

 

Saturday, September 3: Palm Beach 6, Charlotte 5 (10 innings)

The Cardinals edged the Stone Crabs in extra innings on a walk off single by Dylan Tice. Danny Diekroeger went 3-for-4 with an RBI.  Thomas Spitz plated two on an eighth inning double.  Juan Herrera was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.  St. Louis shortstop Aledmys Diaz played in his first rehab game for the Cardinals, and was 0-for-3 with a walk.

Junior Fernandez pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs, one earned on two hits.  Landon Beck handled the next 1 2/3 innings, surrendering one run on three hits.  Daniel Bard, Cody Schumacher, and Kyle Grana combined for the remaining three scoreless innings of relief with   Grana receiving the victory.

 

Sunday, September 4: Palm Beach 3, Charlotte 1

In the season finale, Palm Beach downed the visiting Stone Crabs for the three-game sweep.

Andrew Brodbeck and Steve Bean each went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Brodbeck doubled and drove in one.

Jacob Evans blanked Charlotte on three hits, a base-on-balls and two hit batters over five innings. Will Anderson was shaky in 1 1/3 innings, yielding a run on two hits and two free passes.  Daniel Bard recorded the final two outs in the seventh, leaving two of Anderson’s runners aboard. Michael Heesch fanned two in the eighth, allowing a hit. Landon Beck used a double play to erase a one-out single for his seventh save.

 

Who’s Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/154575-danny-diekroeger?s=321

Danny Diekroeger. The infielder, who missed much of the season due to injury, teased us as to his capabilities, going 5-for-12 (.417) on the week, including two doubles, a walk, three runs scored and an RBI.

Thomas Spitz. The outfielder went 4-for-11 (.364), including a pair of two-base hits, drew a walk, plated two and scored once. Spitz was 1-for-2 in stolen base attempts.

http://www.scout.com/player/181847-juan-herrera?s=321

Juan Herrera. The shortstop had a 3-for-9 week that included two triples, three runs scored, a walk and an RBI.

Sandy Alcantara. The slender righty finished his season strongly, allowing just one run in seven innings on three hits and three walks, fanning 10.

http://www.scout.com/player/175632-jacob-evans?s=321

Jacob Evans. Back from the DL, the lefty tossed five scoreless innings on three hits and one free pass during the final week.

 

Who’s Not

Andrew Sohn. The infielder fanned five times in nine hitless at-bats, but added a walk for a .100 OBP last week.

Will Anderson. Another pitcher recently off the DL did not fare as well as teammate Evans. Anderson retired just six of 13 batters faced, charged with two runs on three hits and four walks in just two innings of work.

 

St. Louis Rehabbers

Aledmys Diaz. The Cardinals shortstop went 1-for-6 in two games but also drew two walks. St. Louis moved Diaz’ rehab to Springfield when Palm Beach’s season ended.

Brayan Pena. St. Louis’ backup catcher had one single in eight at-bats with two strikeouts. Pena also caught one seven-inning game before being returned to the Major League roster on Monday.

 

FSL Season Leaders

Jack Flaherty finished 10th in the league in ERA at 3.56 and third in Ks with 126.

Though he completed the season at Memphis, Matt Pearce’s 126 2/3 innings with Palm Beach were enough for him to rank second in the FSL ERA race at 2.37.

Jacob Evans’ total of 12 home runs allowed tied with three others for sixth-most in the circuit.

Lefty Ian McKinney, who finished with Springfield, walked 50 with the Beach Birds, 11th-most in the FSL.

With his on-base mark at .391 for the season, Casey Grayson moved up to second in the league. (At .267, Grayson’s batting average remains the highest among qualifying Cardinals at 21st among the leaders in the FSL.)

Despite not playing for the final seven weeks, Darren Seferina finished fourth in the league with 32 steals with a stellar success rate of 84.2 percent.

Oscar Mercado passed Seferina to tie for second in the FSL with 33 steals but was caught 20 times, the most in the league, for a 62.3 percent success rate.

 

Team Stats

It was too little, too late to reverse a season’s worth of struggles, but it is more than fair to note the across-the-board improvement in hitting and pitching stats over the final week.

Offense Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
BA .235 / 11th .233 / 11th
OBP .317 / 8th .315 / 8th
SLG .306 / 11th .304 / 11th
OPS .624 / 11th .619 / 11th
Runs/game 3.3 / 11th 3.3 / 11th
Walks 513/ 1st 493/ 1st
Steals 137 of 206 / 2nd 132 of 199 / 2nd
     
Pitching Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
ERA 3.44 / 5th 3.51 / 6th
Strikeouts 950 / 10th 911 / 11th
Walks 406 / 3rd fewest 388 / 3rd fewest

Transactions

The roster changes continued to the end as one Beach Birds hitting leader was promoted to Springfield while the backup catcher carousel went round and round. A second outfielder went onto the disabled list in the last two weeks.

8/29: IF Cole Lankford from Palm Beach to Springfield

8/29: IF Andrew Brodbeck off Palm Beach seven-day DL

Springfield needed an infielder as the result of Dean Anna being placed on Memphis’ DL, so Lankford received the call. Brodbeck had been out since July 22nd.

9/2: OF Orlando Olivera to seven-day DL.

One of the club’s hotter hitters with a .281 average over his last 10 games, the outfielder was placed on the DL with an unspecified injury that ended his season. Olivera was not replaced on Palm Beach’s active roster for the final series.

9/3: C Chris Rivera from Palm Beach to Memphis

9/3: C Erik Garcia from Johnson City to Palm Beach

With Carson Kelly moved up to St. Louis, Memphis needed another catcher for the final series of the season, so Rivera received the call. Designated catching backup Erik Garcia temporarily rejoined Palm Beach.

9/6: C Erik Garcia from Palm Beach to Johnson City

With Palm Beach’s season over, Garcia was returned to Johnson City, still active in the Appalachian League playoffs. In this most recent stint with the Beach Birds, Garcia did not appear in game action.

 

Injuries

The Beach Birds’ infirmary list finished at five with the return of Brodbeck and the move to the DL by Olivera this past week. Just one pitcher remained on the shelf at season’s end: Silfredo Garcia, with the other injured position players middle infielders Darren Seferina and Edmundo Sosa and outfielder Michael Pritchard.

 

Up Next

Starting on Monday, September 12 will be The Cardinal Nation’s annual series with in-depth recaps of every minor league team in the organization, followed by our Players, Starting Pitchers and Relievers of the Year by each level, plus system-wide awards, too. That includes four Palm Beach-specific articles.

 

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

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