In one way, this is an easy article to write. In another, it is a bit of a challenge.
I don’t want to belabor the point, but the 2016 Palm Beach Cardinals were a very bad team in terms of wins and losses. In fact, their .423 winning percentage is the worst record posted by any St. Louis Cardinals’ full-season affiliate in over a decade.
The consistent lack of hitting was the primary culprit, as Palm Beach finished second to last in the 12-team Class-A Advanced league in almost every major offensive category.
However, that does not mean the individuals were not working hard every day to get better. Through a combination of roster turnover and injuries, of the 38 players to step up to the plate for Palm Beach this season, just nine had 200 or more at-bats.
Those nine serve as our potential Player of the Year population. Names are listed in descending order by OPS, with the highest on top.
As I noted above, the winner is clear. First baseman Casey Grayson topped Palm Beach in hits, walks, RBI, on-base percentage, and OPS. In fact, Grayson was one of two Cardinals to draw more walks (94) than strikeouts (91) – an impressive feat over a full season at any level.
Grayson’s walk count was 20 higher than any other player in the Florida State League, so despite a so-so .267 batting average, his .391 on-base percentage was second in the entire FSL.
To be fair, compared to his teammates, even Grayson’s batting average stood out as the best on Palm Beach among league-qualifying hitters (2.7 plate appearances per league game) – though it was just 21st in the FSL overall.
While the 25-year-old left-handed hitter’s 44 RBI may seem a relatively modest total considering his 126 games played, no other Beach Bird drove in as many as 30 this season. Grayson was also the team co-leader in runs scored with 50.
Congratulations to Casey Grayson, The Cardinal Nation Palm Beach Cardinals Player of the Year for 2016, hands down.
Outfielder Michael Pritchard (like third baseman Danny Diekroeger who managed just 170 at-bats) could have been a contender had he been able to remain healthy. Instead, the former Nebraska star appeared in just under half Palm Beach’s games, 65. Still the left-handed hitter was the other Beach Bird in addition to Grayson with more free passes than strikeouts, with a very sizable edge of 42 to 26. Pritchard was also second to Grayson on the team in both OBP and OPS.
Cole Lankford was a valuable utilityman, playing both corner infield and corner outfield positions as well as second base. With the bat, the 24-year-old led the club in batting average and slugging before his late-season promotion to Springfield.
Orlando Olivera struggled overall, but the outfielder’s 29 RBI is the second-highest count on the club. Further, his six home runs were double that of the next-closest teammate on a roster that managed to hit the paltry total of 33 long balls in 137 games.
Darren Seferina did not play after July 15 due to injury, but prior to that point, was leading the FSL with 32 stolen bases (against six caught stealing) for a stellar success rate of 84.2 percent
Though Oscar Mercado committed 32 errors on the way to a mid-season conversion from shortstop to center field, he made his few hits count. Despite batting just .215, Mercado did collect a team-best 23 doubles.
Mercado tied 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. Mercado tied Grayson for the team lead with 50 runs scored.
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. That will include our selections as the system-wide Rookies and Players of the Year, coming after the Players of the Year for Springfield and Memphis.
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