Despite what we've seen in recent years with the Memphis Redbirds, not every baseball season ends with champagne showers. But every baseball season is, in fact, memorable. As the Redbirds close out their home schedule this week, here are five components of the 2019 season that will stand out in the history books.
— During a brief April stint with the Cardinals, Lane Thomas became the seventh former Memphis player to homer in his first big-league at-bat. Then on July 27th, he became the eighth Redbird to hit three home runs in a game (in a Memphis win at Oklahoma City). Back in St. Louis on August 11th, Thomas drilled a seventh-inning grand slam to complete a Cardinal comeback against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The irony is that Thomas isn't projected to be a power hitter, but rather a multi-tool asset, be it as an everyday outfielder (as he was in Memphis) or off the bench (his current role with the Cardinals).
— Cardinal fans spent much of the summer clamoring for the promotion of Randy Arozarena, the Cuban outfielder who earned the franchise's Minor League Player of the Month award for both June and July. And for good reason. He hit .309 over 28 games with Double-A Springfield, then raked to the tune of .368 in 57 games for Memphis. (Arozarena's OPS with Memphis was 1.004. That's very good
.) He hit for the cycle on July 26th in Oklahoma City, only the third Redbird to accomplish the feat. And on August 14th in Kansas City, he finally made his big-league debut. He picked up two hits in a Cardinal win.
— You don't see Tommy Edman on top-prospect rankings. If you crossed his path in street clothes, you wouldn't pause, let alone gawk. Infielders under six feet tall don't steal a lot of camera time these days from slugging outfielders or flame-throwing hurlers. But the Cardinals needed a spark in early June and called upon Edman (a hero of the Redbirds' run to the Triple-A national championship last fall). For more than two months now, the switch-hitting Edman has been a regular in the Cardinal lineup, playing second base, third base, and even some outfield. He may not "profile" as a major-league weapon, but Edman has clearly impressed St. Louis manager Mike Shildt. There are times a team needs players who will not lose games with mistakes. Edman fits that role.
Jake and Junior
— Jake Woodford started the Triple-A All-Star Game for the Pacific Coast League and should be in the mix for what will likely be two vacancies in the Cardinals' starting rotation next season. Junior Fernandez came out of the bullpen to post an ERA of 1.54 at Class A, 1.55 at Double-A, and 1.31 in 15 games for Memphis before receiving a third promotion to St. Louis. With Jordan Hicks recovering from elbow surgery and Carlos Martinez yearning to start again, Fernandez could be closing games for the Cardinals as early as next April.
— It's not if, but when. Still just 20 years old, Dylan Carlson is bound for the Cardinals' outfield. He's climbed various rankings this season to a consensus of number-two in the St. Louis system. Carlson slugged .518 and hit 21 homers for Double-A Springfield before making his Triple-A debut on August 15th at AutoZone Park. (He doubled and scored a run in a Memphis win.) At 6'2" and 205 pounds, he's the player who might stop you in your tracks even in street clothes. And he's a switch-hitter. Take a good look at Carlson while you can, Memphis. He won't be here long.