With a number of their best Caribbean players competing, this was the year Cardinals Vice President Jeff Luhnow expected his squad of hand-picked charges to be competitive in the 13-team league.
It hasn't worked out that way however, as the Cardinals have lost just over 2/3 of their 46 contests played, with only one league member having posted a poorer record. They have lost four in a row and seven of their last nine.
Overall offensively, the squad ranks 11th in batting (.248) and slugging (.355) and 12th in on-base percentage (.335) and runs scored. They are tied for the league lead in strikeouts. On the positive side, they are tied for seventh in home runs with 27 and just made it into the top ten in doubles, triples, stolen bases and walks.
Defensively, work is needed too, as the team's error count of 98 and fielding percentage (.945) are both just one place out of the league cellar. However, the club's caught stealing rate is great – in fact, their 47% is best in the Liga Paralela. They've picked off 18 runners, the second most in the league.
The mound staff's collective performance is comparable to that of the hitters and fielders. Their ERA is second-worst in the circuit at 4.75. The Cardinals lead the league in hits allowed and have issued the second-highest walk count. They are tops in wild pitches, tied for second-most balks and are third in hit batters.
In some of their better categories, the staff is ninth in strikeouts and tied for eighth in home runs allowed. They served up the fewest doubles of all clubs and are seventh in triples yielded.
Individual league leaders
Despite the disappointing team results, a number of the youngsters have excelled.
Among the Cardinals league leaders in hitting is second baseman Jose Garcia, third in batting average (.355) and second in on-base percentage (.453). He is tied for fourth in stolen bases with 12 (in 17 attempts) plus is tops in hits and fourth in the league in walks.
Catcher Wilmer Alvarado is supplying the power, sitting fourth in slugging percentage (.534), second in RBI (32) and total bases (78) and tied for second in home runs (8).
On the other side of the coin, third baseman Oswaldo Morales is fifth in the league in strikeouts with 37 and teammate and first baseman Francis Rojas is right behind with 35. Catcher Ivan Castro is tied for third in grounding into double plays with five.
Cardinals pitchers ranked among the league leaders include Jose Rada, ninth in ERA at 3.38 and Eduardo Sanchez, who leads the circuit in appearances with 44 and is second with eight saves. Fabian Marquez and Pablo Ortiz are among a group tied with four pickoffs.
However, Ortiz is tied for third in the Liga Paralela with five losses. Jhonathan Gonzalez is tied for second in wild pitches (seven) and fourth in hit batters (seven). Sanchez is also tied for second in wild pitches and Marquez is tied for fifth in the category (six).
"July 2nd" players
Of note are the results put up by several of the Cardinals July 2nd players – those 16-year olds signed this summer who are seeing their first professional action this winter.
All the youngsters have seen action with Fernando Cedeño posting a 4.26 ERA in 15 appearances and Jose Calero with a 5.84 ERA in 12-1/3 frames. Shortstop Rómulo Ruiz is batting just .195 in 44 at-bats with seven errors and outfielder Peter Jaspe is hitting .222 in 27 at-bats.
Other offensive standouts
Williams Sandoval is batting .306. Ivan Castro is second on the club with five home runs and 11 extra-base hits.
Other pitching standouts
Elvis Hernandez struck out 21 and walked just eight in 28-1/3 innings. His ERA is 2.22. Jorge Rondon has held opposing hitters to a .223 batting average and posted a 2.60 ERA, while fanning 22 and walking 11 in 34-2/3 innings pitched.
Ivan Brizuela (15/12) and Fabian Marquez (33/26) are among those who have walked more batters than they have struck out.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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