The Memphis Redbirds are off to a hot start in their 20th season serving as the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate. Thanks to their power hitting, Memphis is a league best 6-2 after five games versus the New Orleans Baby Cakes and three against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Through Week 1, Memphis leads the Pacific Coast League with 15 home runs and 20 doubles. In fact, the 15 long balls lead all of Minor League Baseball. The extra base hits have mostly come in bunches, with the club scoring five or more runs in five of the first eight games and launching home runs in seven of the games.
In pitching, the Redbirds are seventh in the 16-team PCL with a team 3.84 ERA on 32 earned runs. The pitching success has been spread out between starters (3.63 ERA) and relievers (4.02) this far. Early in the year, pitching stats can get very inflated very quickly, and a few hurlers have been the victim of giving up multiple runs.
Memphis started its season on April 6 with a five-game road series in New Orleans, where they took four games. Then they took the train to Memphis for a four-game series starting on the 11th. Through Thursday, the Redbirds won two of the first three contests with one remaining.
April 6: Memphis 5 at New Orleans 4 (13 innings)
In their longest Opening Day contest in team history, Patrick Wisdom hit a two-run home run in the top of the 13th to propel Memphis to the one-run win. Luke Weaver, the Cardinals No. 2 prospect, had to come out of the game, eventually to be placed on the 7-day DL due to back stiffness.
Kurt Heyer came in to pitch the bottom of the third, and gave up three runs in 1 2/3 innings, but the rest of the bullpen picked up the slack, pitching 9 1/3 innings and giving up one unearned run. John Lucas earned the win.
Wisdom was the main offensive weapon with a double, home run and two RBI. The third baseman also scored twice. Harrison Bader started off the season with a home run in the Redbirds’ very first at bat.
April 7: Memphis 5 at New Orleans 1
The pitching staff threw a solid game in the Redbirds’ only contest to date without a home run. Tyler Lyons started and pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his first rehab outing from St. Louis. Arturo Reyes and Rowan Wick handled the remainder of the mound duties. Reyes picked up the win, giving up two hits and one run in 3 2/3 innings.
Paul DeJong and Wilfredo Tovar each doubled and drove in two. Three runs in the first inning put the Redbirds in position to win, and they never looked back.
April 8: Memphis 3 at New Orleans 9
In Memphis’ only loss of the series, Tommy Pham shined. The outfeilder homered twice and drove in all three runs. However, the rest of the lineup combined for just four hits.
Starter Chris Ellis threw five innings, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk. Thomas Lee received the loss, allowing four runs in 2/3 of an inning.
April 9: Memphis 8 at New Orleans 4
Mike Mayers started and struggled some, giving up three runs in five innings. But the Memphis bats were solid the entire game.
The offense manufactured runs in six different innings with 16 hits. Memphis kept up their long ball ways, adding two more on the night, by Pham and Luke Voit.
Zach Phillips and Josh Lucas looked good coming out of the bullpen, allowing no runs on one hit in three combined innings.
April 10: Memphis 7 at New Orleans 6
Memphis was up 4-0 and 5-2 before starter Josh Zeid allowed two more runs to tie the game in the fourth inning. Then John Brebbia and Ryan Sherriff stepped in for a combined scoreless three innings.
With the game tied at five, the Baby Cakes took a one-run lead going into the ninth against Rowan Wick. But Luke Voit saved the day with a two-run home run to center to set Memphis up for the win.
April 11: Memphis 5 vs. Col. Springs 1
Memphis impressed all around during the home opener. Daniel Poncedeleon, who was called up from Springfield due to Weaver’s injury, threw 5 1/3 innings and gave up only two hits and a run. He walked one batter and struck out eight in his Triple-A debut.
The bullpen followed Poncedeleon’s lead as Mark Montgomery, Zach Phillips and Josh Lucas combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings on three hits.
Memphis continued the home run derby as Harrison Bader hit his second leadoff shot of the season, Luke Voit knocked his third dinger and Carson Kelly left the yard twice.
April 12: Memphis 2 vs. Col. Springs 1
The Redbirds’ pitching staff threw another great game. They allowed just six hits and struck out 10 batters on the night with zero walks.
Tyler Lyons looked solid again during his second rehab start. In a pitchers’ duel, he outdid Matt Garza, who was also on an MLB rehab assignment. Arturo Reyes pitched the final three innings and gave up the Sky Sox’ only run.
Memphis cranked a leadoff blast for the second straight game and the third time this season when Todd Cunningham went deep. Chad Huffman homered in the eighth to bring in the deciding run.
April 13: Memphis 2 vs. Col. Springs 8
It was a rough night for Memphis pitchers against the Sky Sox lineup as the four-game winning streak ended with a thud. Chris Ellis allowed three runs on four hits, including two homers, in his four innings of action. Manager Stubby Clapp then called upon five bullpen pitchers for the remaining five innings.
Fresh off the disabled list, Mitch Harris threw an inning and gave up two runs, and Zach Phillips yielded three runs, two earned, in 1/3 of an inning. Mark Montgomery, Josh Lucas and Sam Tuivailala combined for 3 2/3 innings and did not allow a hit, but the damage was already done.
Carson Kelly cranked a two-run bomb to left for the only two Memphis runs. The Redbirds only collected five hits and one walk, and they stuck out nine times.
Luke Voit — The 26-year-old slugger who won the Texas League batting title last season is off to a scorching hot start in his first taste of Triple-A ball. Voit is leading, or tied for the team lead, with 12 hits, four doubles, three homers, 25 total bases, six walks, a stolen base, a .563 average, .962 SLG and .563 OBP.
The right-handed hitter’s only struggles this season are eight strikeouts in eight games. He has shown patience by working the counts to get a good pitch to hit and walking when that pitch does not come. And Voit has obviously shown his ability to crush the ball.
Tommy Pham — The outfielder has spent parts of three seasons with the big league club in St. Louis, but has not played consistently well enough to keep a 25-man roster spot. Now 29 years old, Pham has helped Memphis get off to a hot start.
The left-handed hitter leads the team with nine runs scored and eight RBI. He shares the home run lead with two teammates at three, and is fourth on the team with a .323 batting average.
Carson Kelly — The Cardinals No. 4 prospect is showing off his power early this season. The catcher has three long balls including a multi-homer night against the Sky Sox. Kelly is batting .300 in his six games.
The 22-year old has not had much of a chance to prove his abilities behind the plate, throwing out one of four runners trying to steal to date. More opportunities will come soon enough.
Paul DeJong — The shortstop, who can also play third and second, is TCN’s 13th-ranked Cardinals prospect and is second among Redbirds with a .346 average. DeJong has yet to join the home run party, but is tied for the team lead with four doubles.
In concern areas, the right-handed hitter has stuck out a team high 10 times (38.5 percent rate) and has not walked yet.
Patrick Wisdom — Hitting .333 with a homer and two doubles, Wisdom has helped Memphis in a variety of ways. The third baseman is only behind Voit and Kelly with a .406 OBP and is errorless at the hot corner.
Josh Lucas — The 6-foot-5 reliever has appeared in four games, pitching a total of 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Lucas has allowed just three hits and has struck out five. The right-hander also has one of Memphis’ two saves.
Daniel Poncedeleon — In his Triple-A debut, the right-hander struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings pitched. Poncedeleon allowed only one run on two hits and walked one batter.
Mark Montgomery — In only 5 1/3 innings pitched, Montgomery is second on the team with nine strikeouts. The recent free agent signee has appeared in four games, giving up one run on five hits and no walks. His 1.69 ERA is fourth on the team among those who have pitched more than two innings this season.
Tyler Lyons — The veteran left-hander has looked great in his two rehab starts. Lyons has not allowed a run in 9 1/3 innings on just five hits and one walk. He leads the team with 10 strikeouts.
Harrison Bader — The Cardinals No. 5 prospect is batting just .192 and has struck out six times in 26 at bats. Bader is still hitting for power with four of his five hits being doubles and homers, two each. He has walked four times to bring his OBP to .323.
Wilfredo Tovar — The utility infielder is batting .158 and has not walked this season. He does have a double as one of his three hits. The off-season free agent signee also made two errors at shortstop in the Redbirds’ Thursday loss.
Josh Zeid — In his only start of the season, Zeid gave up five runs in four innings, which gives him a 11.25 ERA. The veteran right-hander can bring that ERA down dramatically with a quality outing in his next appearance, scheduled on Saturday against Oklahoma City.
Breyvic Valera — After hitting .341 in 73 games in Memphis last season, Valera is off to a poor start. The second baseman is hitting .227 so far, but his four walks help him up to a .346 OBP.
With the Pacific Coast League-best 6-2 start, the Redbirds are three games up on second place in the American Southern Division. The Nashville Sounds (OAK) and Round Rock Express (TEX) are 3-5, and the New Orleans Baby Cakes (MIA) are 2-6.
4/13 — RHP Mitch Harris was activated from the 7-day DL.
4/13 — RHP Thomas Lee was released.
4/11 — RHP Kurt Heyer was released.
4/10 — RHP Daniel Poncedeleon was assigned to Memphis from Springfield.
4/10 — RHP Sam Tuivailala was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis.
4/9 — RHP Luke Weaver was placed on the 7-day DL.
4/7 — RHP Tyler Lyons was sent to Memphis on a rehab assignment.
After going 6-2 to start the season, the Redbirds will finish the final contest against Colorado Springs and close the seven-game home stand with three versus the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Then they will travel to Colorado Springs for four games starting Tuesday.
Follow Jon Morgan Bell on Twitter @NotTheLawyer.
© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.