AFL Update, 11/14 – It all comes down to today

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster / PR Manager

Stephen Piscotty is refusing to stop playing baseball.  With the Arizona Fall League Regular Season wrapping up today, the 2013 Springfield Cardinals right fielder keyed a crucial victory on Wednesday night with a four-hit, two-RBI performance to keep the Salt River Rafters’ Arizona Fall League Championship hopes alive and try to ensure one more game.

To say that Piscotty has excelled in the Minors’ “finishing school” would be a monumental understatement.  With his four hits yesterday, the 2012 1st-rounder increased his batting average to .372 (32×86) through 22 games this fall, to go along with one homer, a league-best three triples, 17 RBIs, 19 runs and seven stolen bases.  In his last 10 games, Piscotty has compiled a .390 average (16×41) with 13 RBIs.  He’s collected at least one RBI in nine of those last 10 games and is currently riding a five-game RBI streak with eight runs batted in during that stretch.  Oh yeah, he’s also on an 11-game hitting streak (featuring 19 hits) and has hit safely in 18 of the 22 games in which he has played.

And all of this production has been far from for naught, as Piscotty and his teammates have overcome a slow start to the Fall League slate to find themselves only a half game out of 1st place on the final day of the season.  To get to this point, Springfield skipper Mike Shildt’s Rafters have rattled off a six-game winning streak to go along with a 14-3 record through their last 17 games.  And now it comes down to today.

The Rafters (18-12) will take on the Scottsdale Scorpions (10-20) at 1:35pm (Central) this afternoon, while the 1st-place Mesa Solar Sox (18-11) will play the Glendale Desert Dogs (13-15) at the same time.  With the half-game lead for 1st, Mesa does have the luxury of being able to ice the division with a win.  However, if the Rafters win today and Mesa loses, Stephen Piscotty and Salt River will get to play one more baseball game this year, the Fall League Championship tilt against the Surprise Saguaros this Saturday.

Click over to MLBFallBall.com this afternoon for live updates on both games, and go Rafters!

AFL Update, 11/6 – Sam shuts out Solar Sox

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster / PR Manager

Cardinals farmhand RHP Sam Gaviglio has found his fall stride, to say the least.  The right-handed starter, who split the 2013 season between the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (Rookie) and the Palm Beach Cardinals (High-A), is the lone Cardinals minor leaguer in the starting rotation for Mike Shildt’s Salt River Rafters, and has been unstoppable of late.

Gaviglio, 23, extended a scoreless innings streak to 10 straight frames by blanking the Mesa Solar Sox through five excellent innings yesterday, which came on the heels of a five-inning, six-strikeout shutout performance against the Surprise Saguaros on Oct. 30.  Around singles in the first and fifth, as well as a walk in the third, Gaviglio dominated the Sox a day ago, adding a couple of strikeouts and reportedly keeping the Mesa bats off balance with a steady barrage of offspeed pitches.

In support of the righty, fellow St. Louis prospects, 2B Jacob Wilson and RF Stephen Piscotty, helped key a seven-run third inning, which provided Gaviglio and the relief corps more than enough support in the 8-0 win.  Wilson, who doubled in a run in the big third stanza, finished with a 2-for-4 line that included a pair of doubles, two RBIs and a run, while Piscotty also went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

Click here for the full story on Gaviglio and the Rafters.

Cardinals farmhands yesterday - 

RHP Sam Gaviglio – 5.0 IP, 2H, 0R, 1BB, 2K
2B Jacob Wilson – 2×4, 2 2B, 2RBI, 1R
RF Stephen Piscotty – 2×4, 1RBI, 1R
CF James Ramsey – 0×5, 1R
LHP Lee Stoppelman – DNP
LHP Anthony Ferrara – 1.0 IP, 2K
LHP Dean Kiekhefer – DNP

Next Game:
Tonight, 8:08pm (Central) – Salt River Rafters (12-11) @ Scottsdale Scorpions (9-14)
Probables – SRR RHP Drew Hutchison (Toronto) @ SCO RHP Phil Irwin (Pittsburgh)

AFL Update, 11/4 – Piscotty and Ramsey shine in Fall Stars Game

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster / PR Manager

In perhaps the least surprising update of this Fall League season, 2013 Springfield Cards RF Stephen Piscotty and OF James Ramsey continued to impress during the Fall Stars Game in Arizona over the weekend.  The two, who are both hitting .300 or better and are both among league leaders in different extra-base hits categories – Ramsey is 1st with seven doubles and Piscotty is tied for 2nd with two triples – continued producing per the norm in the Fall League’s prospect showcase.

Ramsey was slotted in the leadoff spot to start the game for the East Fall-Stars and put in a 1-for-2 line with a walk and a stolen base.  Piscotty, DH’ing and batting sixth, smacked a triple and also finished 1-for-2.  Both have been particularly aggressive on the bases, which is a trend that began in August in Springfield and has clearly continued for the outfielders in Salt River.  Not counting the Fall-Star Game swipe, Ramsey has gone a perfect 4-for-4 on the paths, while Piscotty has nabbed six steals in eight tries, the sixth-highest total of successful swipes in the league.

Despite the two hits from the Cards prospects, in addition to seven other knocks by their fellow Eastern Fall-Stars, the West prevailed, 9-2, on Saturday.  After the customary off-day on Sunday, Fall League Regular Season action resumes tonight to begin the final 10-game stretch of the finishing-school slate.

Next Game -
Tonight, 7:35pm (Central) – Salt River Rafters (11-10) @ Mesa Solar Sox (12-8)
Probables – SRR LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa) vs. MSS LHP Matt Purke (Washington)

AFL Update, 11/1 – Rafters Rolling into November

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster / PR Manager

Springfield Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt’s Salt River Rafters are red hot, rolling through the Arizona Fall League competition to the tune of a 6-1 record in their last seven games.  During that stretch, the Rafters have outscored their opponents by the count of 60-28, including a 20-0 victory on Oct. 26 and a 10-0 win last night against the Surprise Saguaros.  

Of course, while winning is never a bad thing, the main objective of the Fall League is not necessarily Ws as much as it is providing more experience and fine-tuning for some of baseball’s top prospects, which is another source of encouragement.  Much has been made, deservedly so, of 2013 Springfield Cardinals RF Stephen Piscotty’s Fall League performance so far, earning a Fall Stars selection, a Player of the Week award and just generally torching the competition with a .322 average through 15 games.

Piscotty, though, is far from the only Cardinals farmhand having a spectacular fall.  Fellow ’13 Springfield Cards OF James Ramsey has notched a .326 average with one homer and nine RBIs through 13 games for the Rafters, while leading the league with seven doubles.  Meanwhile, 2B Jacob Wilson, who spent the 2013 campaign with Peoria (Low-A) and Palm Beach (High-A), is actually leading all Cards prospects with 10 RBIs this fall.  The Bartlett, TN native and former 10th rounder out of the University of Memphis is hitting .310 with a homer, and is currently riding a five-game hitting streak with eight hits during that stretch.  He contributed four RBIs in the 10-0 win yesterday.

While the bats have been red hot, the arms have had to battle.  When you think about it, pitchers have a bit of an uphill task in the Fall League, which is loaded with a bunch of batters who would normally be found in prime spots of the order during regular season play.  It’s almost like facing an All-Star Team every day.  With that said, ’13 Springfield Cardinals LHP Lee Stoppelman is certainly holding his own, posting a 3.38 ERA and five strikeouts through five relief outings (5.1 innings).  LHP Anthony Ferrara and LHP Dean Kiekhefer, two more members of this year’s Springfield squad, have both been working out of the bullpen exclusively, while RHP Sam Gaviglio (who spent 2013 between the GCL Cardinals and Peoria) has struck out 15 batters through four starts (17.2 innings).

To read the full recap from yesterday’s 10-0 win, click here

Cardinals Farmhands Yesterday - 

OF James Ramsey – 1×3, 2B, 2RBI, 2R, 2BB, 2K
RF Stephen Piscotty – 1×5, RBI, K
2B Jacob Wilson – 2×4, HR, 4RBI, R
LHP Lee Stoppelman – DNP
LHP Anthony Ferrara – DNP
LHP Dean Kiekhefer – DNP
RHP Sam Gaviglio – DNP

Next Game - 
Tonight, 8:35pm (Central) – Salt River Rafters (10-10) vs. Glendale Desert Dogs (9-9)
Probables – SRR RHP Bo Schultz (Arizona) vs. GDD RHP Michael Lorenzen (Cincinnati)

AFL Update, 10/29 – Piscotty named a Fall Star

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster/PR Manager

While the Fall Classic roars on and the Cards and Sox take what has been an intensely neck-and-neck series back to Boston, the Arizona Fall League has continued to cruise along throughout the month of October.  Coming up on the Fall League All-Star Game this Saturday, the league announced its 2013 Fall Stars on Monday, with the East Division squad featuring 2013 Springfield Cardinals RF Stephen Piscotty.

Piscotty has been one of the most consistent offensive forces throughout the first half of the Fall League, compiling a .347 average (17×49) with three doubles, two triples, five RBIs and six stolen bases through 13 games.  He has also put together an excellent .411 on-base percentage, countering nine strikeouts with six walks.

The best part is, Piscotty continues to get hotter and hotter.  The winner of the AFL Player of the Week Award on Oct. 22, Piscotty has kept the surge going with a .421 average (16×38), five RBIs and 10 runs scored in his last 10 games.  The Pleasanton, CA native rattled off a seven-game streak with at least one run scored per contest, while hitting safely in eight of his last 10 games (five multi-hit performances during that stretch).  A key contributor to the 20-0 drubbing that the Salt River Rafters concocted last Saturday, Piscotty went 3×5 with three runs.

The Fall Stars game is slated for this Saturday at 7pm (Central), and will be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com.  Click here for all of the details on the Fall Stars Game.  The Rafters continue their campaign tonight at 8:35pm (Central), with details below.

Cardinals farmhands yesterday - 

OF Stephen Piscotty – 1×4, RBI
LHP Lee Stoppelman – 1IP, 1H, 2R, 1BB, 1K
OF James Ramsey – DNP
INF Jacob Wilson – DNP
LHP Anthony Ferrara – DNP
LHP Dean Kiekhefer – DNP

Next Game - 
Tonight, 8:35pm (Central) – Salt River Rafters (8-9) vs. Mesa Solar Sox (10-6)
Probables – SRR LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa) vs. MSS LHP Matt Purke (Washington)

AFL Update, 10/17 – Ramsey and Piscotty packing punch

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster / PR Manager

Two of the Cardinals 2012 1st rounders, who were two-thirds of the Springfield outfield for much of the 2013 season, are swinging away in Fall League action so far.  Both OF James Ramsey and RF Stephen Piscotty have had a tremendous start to their “finishing school” campaigns, compiling batting averages of .462 and .391, respectively, through the season’s first nine days.

And both also put their marks on Salt River’s Wednesday night game against the Glendale Desert Dogs.  Despite the ‘Dogs claiming an 8-6 win, Ramsey and Piscotty combined to go 3-for-5 with two doubles, one triple, three runs, two RBIs, three walks and one stolen base.  To go along with the .462 average (6-for-13), Ramsey has logged one homer, two doubles, four RBIs, four runs, four walks and two steals through just four games.  Meanwhile, Piscotty has registered a .391 clip (9-for-23) with two doubles, one triple, two RBIs, three runs and four stolen bases in his six games, while also knocking eight hits in his last 12 at-bats.

Keep in mind, as well, that the Arizona Fall League is comprised of some of the top prospects throughout Minor League Baseball, meaning the competition is typically elite, which further lends excitement to the future of Cardinals Baseball if indeed these two end up patrolling the outfield at Busch Stadium one day soon.

Click here for the recap from last night’s Salt River game.

Cardinals Farmhands yesterday -

OF James Ramsey – 1×1, 2B, RBI, R, 2BB
OF Stephen Piscotty – 2×4, 2B, 3B, RBI, 2R, BB, SB
2B Jacob Wilson – 0×4, BB, K
LHP Lee Stoppelman – 1.1 IP, 1H, 0R, 1BB, 1K
LHP Anthony Ferrara – DNP
LHP Dean Kiekhefer – DNP
RHP Sam Gaviglio – DNP

Next Game - 
Tonight, 8:35pm (CT) – Salt River Rafters vs. Glendale Desert Dogs
Probables – SRR RHP Aaron Sanchez (Toronto) vs. GDD RHP Stephen McCray (Chicago – AL)

AFL Update, 10/15 – Piscotty perfect at the plate

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster/PR Manager

As action resumed in the Arizona Fall League after the weekend off, a perfect performance by Springfield Cardinals OF Stephen Piscotty keyed a comeback win, 3-2,  for the Salt River Rafters (2-3) against the Surprise Saguaros (2-3).  Rafters RHP Drew Hutchison (Toronto) made the start and surrendered only two unearned runs in the bottom of the third, before Salt River received 6.1 scoreless innings from the ‘pen, including blank stanzas by LHP Anthony Ferrara and LHP Dean Kiekhefer.

While the relievers kept the deficit narrow, the Rafters got on the board in the top of the fifth inning with an RBI groundout from CF Kenny Wilson (Toronto).  Wilson finished up 3-for-5 on the day, upping his Fall League average to .556 (10-for-18) through four games.  Amazingly, his was not the most impressive performance of the day.

Piscotty, batting sixth in the lineup, notched his first knock of the game to start the top of the second inning.  After again singling in the top of the fourth, Piscotty tied the game with an RBI base hit in the sixth, while also moving DH Tim Wheeler (Colorado) from first to third and setting him up to eventually score the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Courtesy of the Arizona Fall League recap by Teddy Cahill, Piscotty said after the game, “I love hitting with guys on base… I think I hit a slider. I didn’t try to do too much with it and luckily found a hole. That was a good inning for us.”  Piscotty followed that base hit, his third of the day, with single number four in the top of the eighth, capping the perfect, four-hit performance.  Piscotty not only did it with the bat, but also on the bases, swiping his third bag through just the first four games of his Fall League season.  OF James Ramsey also stole a base yesterday, his second, as the two 2013 Springfield Cardinals continue the trend of aggressive baserunning that took hold for Mike Shildt’s Cards in August.

Click here for the full game recap

Cardinals Farmhands yesterday - 

OF Stephen Piscotty – 4×4, RBI, SB
OF James Ramsey – 0×4, SB
LHP Anthony Ferrara – 1 IP, BB
LHP Dean Kiekhefer – 1 IP, H, 2K
LHP Lee Stoppelman – DNP
RHP Sam Gaviglio – DNP
INF Jacob Wilson – DNP

Next Game - 
Tonight, 8:35pm (CDT) – Salt River Rafters vs. Surprise Saguaros
Probables – SRR TBD vs. SUR RHP Miguel Pena (Boston)

AFL Update, 10/10 – Ramsey goes yard

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster/PR Manager

One night after a tough loss in the season opener against Scottsdale, the Salt River Rafters got on track in a big way with a decisive 12-2 win vs. the Scorpions.  Bolstered by five scoreless innings from LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa), the Rafters bats opened a 5-0 lead through the first five frames, before blowing the game open with a six-run eighth.

The big blow in the eighth came off the bat of 2013 Springfield Cardinals OF James Ramsey, who launched a three-run blast over the right field fence.  Ramsey finished the night with a 2-for-5 line, adding a single and a walk to the long-ball while touching home plate twice in the runaway.  2B Jacob Wilson, who split the 2013 season between Peoria and Palm Beach in the Cards system, provided an RBI sacrifice fly in the eighth, while former Springfield Cards LHP Anthony Ferrara and LHP Dean Kiekhefer both dealt a scoreless relief inning apiece.

Click here for the full game recap.

Cardinals Farmhands last night - 

OF James Ramsey – 2×5, HR, 3RBI, 2R, BB, SB
2B Jacob Wilson – 1×2, RBI, SF
LHP Anthony Ferrara – 1 IP, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 2K
LHP Dean Kiekhefer – 1 IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 1K
LHP Lee Stoppelman – DNP
RHP Sam Gaviglio – DNP
OF Stephen Piscotty – DNP

Next Game - 
Tonight, 8:35pm (CDT) – Salt River Rafters vs. Mesa Solar Sox
Probables – SRR RHP Aaron Sanchez (Toronto) vs. MSS LHP Matt Purke (Washington)

AFL Update – Fall League action underway

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster/PR Manager

With the thrill of October baseball on the big league scale in full gear, the Minors are revving back up with Opening Night for the prestigious Arizona Fall League in the books.  The Springfield Cardinals are well represented in the Minors’ “finishing school” this year, with Cards Skipper Mike Shildt at the helm of the Salt River Rafters and five former Springfield Cards on his roster, which is also comprised of prospects from the Arizona, Colorado, Tampa and Toronto systems.

The Fall League is set up a bit differently, with each of the league’s six teams containing prospects from a mixture of farm systems.  The schedule is made up of 31 games, and is largely split into home-and-home series, which aren’t as taxing as they typically are due to the proximity of the teams’ home fields in Arizona.

The Rafters (read: the good guys) opened their campaign against the Scottsdale Scorpions (Atlanta, San Francisco, both New Yorks and Pittsburgh) last night.  On the mound for Shildty’s Rafters was Bo Schultz, a Minor League veteran in the Arizona system who split the 2013 campaign between Triple-A Reno and Double-A Mobile.  Schultz squared off against one of the Pirates top prospects in Jameson Taillon, pitching for Scottsdale.  The only one of the five Springfield Cardinals to get a start in the series opener was RF Stephen Piscotty, who was patrolling right and batting fifth.  Considering the fact that the Rafters have 37 players on their roster, and the main goal of the Fall League is to spread around experience and playing time, it is not alarming whatsoever that only one of our guys saw some action.  The lineups change regularly.

The Rafters took a two-run lead into the ninth inning, but the Scorpions (the visiting team) roared back with three tallies in the top of the ninth to go on to the 6-5 comeback win.  The big offensive blow dealt by Salt River was a three-run shot by former Tulsa Drillers OF/1B Kyle Parker in the 3rd inning.  Piscotty went 0-for-3 but worked a walk and scored a run.

We’ll keep an eye each day on how the former and potentially future Springfield Cardinals are doing – here’s the group with where they spent their 2013 seasons within the Cardinals system - 

-RF Stephen Piscotty (Palm Beach, Springfield)
-OF James Ramsey (Palm Beach, Springfield)
-LHP Lee Stoppelman (Palm Beach, Springfield)
-LHP Dean Kiekhefer (Palm Beach, Springfield)
-LHP Anthony Ferrara (Springfield)
-RHP Sam Gaviglio (GCL Cardinals, Palm Beach)
-INF Jacob Wilson (Peoria, Palm Beach)

Next Game:
Tonight – Salt River @ Scottsdale, 8:35pm (CDT)
Probables – Salt River LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa) @ Scottsdale RHP Aaron Nothcraft (Atlanta)

Let’s go Rafters! Let’s go Cardinals!

Wacha Wacha

By Andrew Buchbinder, Broadcaster/PR Manager

Baseball is supposed to be hard.  Professional Baseball is supposed to be really hard.  Major League Baseball is supposed to be really, really hard.  But, don’t tell that to Michael Wacha.

What he has accomplished in the infancy of his professional career, just 16 months removed from college ball, borders on the utterly mind-boggling.  He’s made every step of his journey look, for lack of a better word, easy. Exhibit A being his most recent display of sheer dominance on Monday, delivering the most crucial performance of his 22 years.  Facing elimination in the NLDS against the suddenly red-hot-again Pittsburgh Pirates, the rookie took a no-hitter into the eighth, the only knock against him being a solo home run by the National League’s top slugger in Pedro Alvarez.  Oh yeah, he struck out nine in the process, requiring only 96 pitches to do so.

Wacha came even closer to a no-hitter in his last start of the Regular Season against the Washington Nationals.  It took an infield hit with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to break up that no-hit bid, and Wacha again finished with nine strikeouts, this time in 8.2 innings.  For all those keeping score at home, that is now a combined 16 innings with two hits, one run, 18 strikeouts and four walks through his last two pressure-packed late/postseason starts.

I suppose we should stop being so surprised.  All he did in the Minors was dominate, after doing the same at Texas A&M.  We got to see it firsthand at Hammons Field last year when Wacha joined the Cards for four relief outings down the stretch of the Regular Season, before providing scoreless relief through a pair of postseason outings to help Springfield capture the 2012 Texas League Title.  Before that, Wacha shut down opponents in the Gulf Coast League and Florida State League.

It then only took him nine starts with the Memphis Redbirds in Triple-A before making his big league debut on May 30 of this year.  In just over 11 months, Wacha went from being the 19th overall pick in the 2012 June Draft to a Major League pitcher.  Just five months later, he played a heroic role in saving the Cardinals season.  If baseball is really as hard as we all think it is, let’s just not tell Michael Wacha.

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