The Memphis Redbirds Report – Week 14

This week's Triple-A Memphis Redbirds report from our on-site beat reporter, Brent Diederich. In our first-half recap, among several players recognized, infielder Edgar Gonzalez has been named the team's steadiest player.

First Half Recap


It's the half-way point of the season and the Memphis Redbirds have the worst record in the Pacific Coast League.  Although, it's not exactly where they had hoped to be, the Redbirds have had a lot of success in sending players to St. Louis this season.  Ryan Ludwick had a huge start to the season in Memphis before being called up to St. Louis, where he has been a key contributor off the bench and showed some of the power he routinely demonstrated down here.  Brendan Ryan's early success with the Cardinals wasn't easy to foresee as he struggled at times in Memphis, but also showed flashes of the tremendous player he can be. 


The Redbirds lead the PCL in home runs with 113 but are second to last in runs (403) and batting average (.258).  These numbers make Memphis the Cincinnati Reds of the PCL, but they also show the lack of walks and baserunners the team has had all year.  The team's ERA is smack in the middle of the PCL at 4.76 with the team allowing 455 runs.  The starting pitching has been wildly inconsistent with no one starter having continued success throughout the season.  The bullpen has had its share of difficulty as well, but for the most part been solid, sending the team's lone representative to the Triple-A All-Star game in RHP Mark Worrell.


Where Do They Stand?


Memphis ends the first half at 39-52, last in the PCL North behind division leading 55-35 Nashville as well as 50-40 Iowa and 42-49 Omaha.


Injury Update


OF John Rodriguez has been activated from the disabled list.  Rodriguez has found himself continually on and off the DL with knee and back problems.  RHP Kelvin Jimenez has been placed on the DL.


Player Movement


IF John Nelson was traded to the Cubs for cash on the 4th of July while IF Jarrett Hoffpauir was called up.  C Matt Pagnozzi was sent back to Springfield and RHP Chris Russ was activated.  Also, the Tomo Ohka experiment ended as he was released.


Who's Hot - First Half Review


The offensive MVP of the first half is a no-brainer. OF Rick Ankiel has put up superb stats and been widely discussed throughout the sports world.  On the field, Ankiel is batting .270 and slugging .592, supporting his home run total of 26 as well as his 66 RBI in 289 at-bats.  Ankiel recently had a four-game streak of home runs snapped on Sunday but has shown the type of power that few minor league and most major league players can match.  Defensively, Ankiel has been charged with six errors but has shown tremendous improvement in center field and at times looks like a natural with above average speed and baseball instincts.  With all the turnover around him in the lineup, he has consistently hit in the three and five spots and produced with extra base hits and tons of long balls.


The steadiest of all the Redbirds is IF Edgar Gonzalez, who leads the team in at bats (319), runs (52), hits (95), doubles (18) and walks (32).  Gonzalez has been integral to Memphis, routinely batting first, second, fifth and sixth in the lineup and doing whatever asked of him.  Gonzalez's versatility has been a key and will continue to be as newcomer Hoffpauir will push for the second base job and Gonzalez may move to third.


One of the younger players on the team, OF Nick Stavinoha, has been impressive with his durability and adjustments made at the plate.  Stavinoha, only 24, is batting .286 with nine home runs and 37 RBI in 308 at bats for Memphis.  He has appeared in more games than any other Redbird with 88 and has been a solid defender and a consistent threat in the middle of the lineup


On the bump, the Memphis bullpen has had success with multiple players, as guys like Hugo Castellanos (2.97), Andy Cavazos (3.69), Mark Worrell (3.20) and Brian Falkenborg (4.19) all sport respectable ERA's.  Castellanos has the lowest WHIP on the team at 1.14 with Worrell close at 1.17, but Worrell has 39 strikeouts to Castellanos' 21.  Cavazos leads the team in holds with 13 while the next closest is Worrell with only 4.  Falkenborg is the team's closer and he has converted 20 saves while getting a single win to go with four losses. 


Although there is no clear starter that is above the rest (not including Anthony Reyes who has been with the team for only four starts) , the team ERA leader is Randy Keisler at 4.52, who also leads the team with eight wins.  Mike Smith and Mike Parisi have been workhorses for the team, with each logging just over 100 innings. Parisi's most recent start was a gem in which he struck out 12 batters over seven innings.  Randy Keisler has put together terrific starts as of late and could become bait for another organization if the Cardinals do not deem him worthy of another chance.


Who's Not - First Half Review


For the first half, the big offensive disappointments have come from the catching position with Brian Esposito (.169) and Ryan Christianson (.211) contributing very little.  Both have showed power at times but neither has been consistent whatsoever at the plate.  Behind the plate, Christianson has 11 errors, most of them throwing, and Esposito six, with neither having much success at throwing out base runners. 


Although he has come on as of late with his return from the DL, IF Travis Hanson has not had a good first half of the season.  Hanson was hitting below the Mendoza line for much of the first half but has now brought it up to .211, with his OBP (.247) and slugging (.302) not being much better.  Hanson has been solid in the field but has only nine extra base hits in 215 at bats and could soon have his job taken if Edgar Gonzalez moves over to third to accommodate Hoffpauir.


In 20 games, RHP Chris Lambert has compiled an 8.90 ERA and has been hit hard more often than not.  The former first round pick has 1.85 WHIP in 30.1 innings, although he has struck out a batter an inning with 30 K's.  Lambert has been relegated to mop up duty and will look to rebound in the second half behind the tutelage of pitching coach Dyar Miller.


RHP Blake Hawksworth is a former Cardinal Minor League Pitcher of the Year but has really struggled in his first season of AAA ball, with a 5.03 ERA.  Hawksworth has a 1.48 WHIP and a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio with 50 K's and 25 BB's.  Hawksworth did have a great May with a 1.70 ERA in six starts, but has yet to recover.  He is a competitor who takes losses to heart and has not had much run support, which helps to account for his 3-10 record.


What We Know


Well, it may not be much different record-wise from last year, but the first half for the Memphis Redbirds has been a rollercoaster ride.  The season started out well behind the hitting of Ryan Ludwick and company, then came the injuries and call-ups and eventually Memphis limped into the All-Star break with almost an identical record to last year. 


Players like Brendan Ryan, Randy Keisler, Troy Cate, Andy Cavazos, Brian Falkenborg and Dennis Dove have all seen action in St. Louis and contributed in some way.  The Redbird staff has been key in getting these players ready and when called upon, they have responded at the big league level.  Injuries have also derailed the seasons of Dove, Mike Sillman and John Rodriguez as well as Rico Washington, complicating things that much more.


The second half outlook is still bright with the recent additions of Double-A standouts Joe Mather and Jarrett Hoffpauir.  Mather has already played RF, CF and 1B for the Redbirds and has shown considerable power, speed and athleticism for his 6-foot-5 frame.  Hoffpauir came out swinging with a home run in his first at bat in Triple-A and has hit extremely well in the short time he's been in Memphis.  Another reason for hope is the improvement of 3B Travis Hanson, a player who may be getting back on track.  Hanson has hit the ball hard the last week and half since returning from the disabled list and has a new approach at the plate.


The second half will also be crucial to the future of a number of players on the Memphis roster this year.  Many will be vying for a September call-up while looking to earn their way onto the Cardinals 40-man roster.  Players like Ankiel and possibly Gonzalez, Cavazos, Keisler, Parisi and Tagg Bozied could position themselves to be called up when rosters expand. Of these, only Cavazos and Keisler are on the 40-man today.



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