Notes: Arenado's glove; O'Neill an All-Star?

June 15th, 2021

Manager Mike Shildt has held firm through this losing skid that one source of confidence is the quality of the defense, as a whole body of work, by his Cardinals.

It helps when you have .

Twice in Sunday’s loss to the Cubs, Arenado made look routine a play that made jaws watching the nationally televised broadcast drop.

The first -- a ball he backhanded off the bat of Willson Contreras while ranging into foul territory -- drew a celebratory clap from starter Carlos Martínez. The second -- almost identical to the first, but off the bat of Patrick Wisdom -- featured a jump and toss across his body for good measure.

Wisdom, a fellow third baseman, could only laugh as he made his way back to the dugout.

“You remove yourself for a moment, you get to appreciate the vantage point of seeing some pretty amazing players do pretty amazing things in a game that is not that easy,” Shildt said prior to Monday’s series opener against the Marlins. “Seeing Nolan do some of those things, you don't take for granted and appreciate that he's making some really special plays. Does it surprise me? No, he's clearly that caliber of player. But it is a treat to watch.”

Plays like Sunday's are what have Arenado in position to advance to the second phase of All-Star Game voting, sitting in second place among third basemen upon the first balloting update on Monday.

Arenado trails only the Cubs’ Kris Bryant by over 250,000 votes and leads the next two candidates -- the Dodgers’ Justin Turner and Padres’ Manny Machado -- by around 40,000 and 50,000 votes, respectively. The top three NL third basemen at the end of Phase 1 on June 24 move onto Phase 2 of voting, which will determine starters.

The defense, all told, has been a bit of a rough patch for Arenado, with seven errors by the 48th game of the season (four more than he had in as many games in all of 2020). The third baseman has said he’s been playing a little too in-between balls and needs to commit more fervently to a play, either aggressively or backing off and letting it meet him.

But it’s starting to level out, with 15 consecutive errorless games entering Monday and with the No. 1 play on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 coming on Sunday night.

Though there’s one play on Sunday that may have gone unnoticed.

Arenado nabbed Contreras again, this time in the sixth inning, on a chopper he collected and fired 88.4 mph across the diamond. It was the fastest tracked throw from Arenado this season, by a margin of 2.3 mph.

In the spirit of curiosity, his fastest throw tracked by Statcast came on June 9, 2015, when, as a member of the Rockies, he fired a 90.4 mph rocket from foul territory. He cut down none other than Yadier Molina.

O’Neill making a push

It’s not only Arenado alive for All-Star voting, with Molina also comfortably in second place among NL catchers. But Tyler O'Neill, he of 10 home runs in his last 22 games, is on the cusp of the group of nine outfielders who will move into Phase 2. O’Neill, in 12th, is just over 8,000 votes shy of the D-backs’ Ketel Marte in ninth.

Regardless if he makes his first Midsummer Classic, O’Neill’s teammates have publicly advocated to see his power on display in the Home Run Derby at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Sosa gets a start

Since the return of Paul DeJong on Friday, Monday signaled the first time Edmundo Sosa found himself back in the starting lineup after spelling the shortstop on the injured list for 22 consecutive starts.

Sosa turned heads with his play as a starter then, batting .286/.360/.390 over that stretch with flashes of brilliant defense and several career firsts set along the way. So with Tommy Edman seeming more entrenched in right field as Harrison Bader remains on the injured list, could a Sosa-Matt Carpenter platoon at second base be in the immediate Cards?

“There's a combination of things,” Shildt said, referencing ground-ball pitcher Adam Wainwright being on the mound as a factor in Sosa’s favor. “... Sosa has more than earned an opportunity, and there's a lefty on the mound [for Miami].”

Rumblings on the farm

There were storms barreling through the Midwest this week, but there was one even louder in Springfield. And another one, at that, in South Florida.

With an astounding seven home runs with Springfield, including three on Saturday, No. 2 prospect Nolan Gorman was tabbed the Double-A Central Player of the Week. No. 5 prospect Masyn Winn also joined in on the fun, with two homers (both grand slams) and 14 RBIs for Palm Beach to earn Low-A Southeast Player of the Week recognition.