Typically, championship teams don't have reunions until years after they've won their title. For several members of the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate that won not only the Pacific Coast League title, but the Triple-A National Championship as well, they only had to wait about a month.Several players who
Typically, championship teams don't have reunions until years after they've won their title. For several members of the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate that won not only the Pacific Coast League title, but the Triple-A National Championship as well, they only had to wait about a month.
Several players who were on the Memphis roster that won it all are back together in the Arizona Fall League playing for the Surprise Saguaros. Infielder Tommy Edman, who had three hits as the Redbirds' leadoff hitter in that championship game against the Durham Bulls, is only playing twice a week as a member of Surprise's taxi squad, but he's thrilled to be back with his Memphis teammates and manager Stubby Clapp, who is also skippering the Saguaros.
2018 Arizona Fall League rosters
"That Memphis team, we had a lot of great chemistry on that team and we're just continuing to build upon that team out here," Edman said. "I love playing for Stubby and playing with guys like Lane [Thomas] and Conner Greene. It's a great experience playing with all of these guys again."
Edman, the Cardinals' 2016 sixth-round pick out of Stanford, has moved rapidly through the system, reaching the highest level of the Minors in just his second full season. He's learned how to adjust to in-season promotions, playing for three teams in 2017 before being put on the Memphis roster for the Triple-A Championship Game that year, then playing across Double-A and Triple-A this year.
"It was especially crazy my first full season in 2017 because I started in low A and ended up the year in Double-A," said Edman, who hit a combined .301/.354/.402 with 30 steals in 2018. "I kind of had to get used to making that midseason transition, which I think was really good for me in the long run. This year, I started in Double-A and was a little bit more comfortable there and going up to Triple-A, I was much more comfortable with it this year."
He's also gotten comfortable with winning, which most player development staff will tell you is a fantastic thing to add in to personal development. He won a short-season New York-Penn League ring with State College in his first summer of pro ball in 2016. He got into the championship game loss at second base in 2017, then was part of the pile as an integral part of the win this time around.
"It was unreal," Edman said. "I've been fortunate enough to have won a few championships in pro ball already. I got called up in 2017 to Memphis for that first PCL title. I was a bench player on that team. This year, I was lucky enough to have the chance to be a starter on that team and won the PCL title again and the Triple-A championship. It's been a great experience so far in pro ball, winning those couple of championships."
Next up is that call to the big leagues, something his time in the AFL should help hasten. But Edman works hard to not get ahead of himself while continuing to hone his overall approach at the plate and his defense on both sides of second base and even some at third.
"You have to stay within yourself," Edman said. "I think I did a pretty good job of that this year, playing at the level I was at and not worrying too much about trying to advance to the next level. The Cardinals aren't frightened away from promoting young guys, like you saw this year, they had so many rookies and all the turnover in Memphis this year. It's a sign the Cardinals, they don't hesitate to bring guys up when they're ready."
Cardinals hitters in the Fall League
Jeremy Martinez, C: The 2016 fifth-rounder out of Southern Cal spent most of the year in Double-A, though he did spend a brief amount of time in Memphis. He also didn't play much until the second half (190 total ABs in 2018), so he's getting some more reps at the plate and behind it this fall.
Lane Thomas, OF: In his first full season with the Cardinals since coming over from the Blue Jays, Thomas topped the organization in home runs and RBIs, and his 27 homers far surpassed his career total heading into the season. The AFL could be the final piece he needs to be ready to contribute in St. Louis in 2019.
Andy Young, 2B: The Cardinals continue to find college performers late in Drafts. Case in point is Young, a 37th rounder out of Indiana State in 2016 who hit 21 homers between Palm Beach and Springfield in 2018. He's continuing to get reps at second and the extra ABs should help him jump to Memphis, the team he joined for the Triple-A Championship Game, next year.
Cardinals pitchers in the Fall League
Conner Greene, RHP: Greene began his first season with the Cardinals as a starter in Double-A, but made the move to the bullpen as he moved up to Triple-A Memphis. He was better in that role, but still needs to improve his command (6.4 BB/9 in 2018), something he's working on with Surprise this fall.
Connor Jones, RHP: One of the most extreme groundball pitchers in baseball (2.69 GO/AO ratio in 2018), Jones spent most of the 2018 season with Double-A Springfield. He's pitching in relief for the Saguaros this fall, a gig that could suit him in the future.
Evan Kruczynski, LHP: The 6-foot-5 lefty was a senior sign taken in the ninth round of the 2017 Draft out of East Carolina who reached Double-A in his first full season. He doesn't have 'wow' stuff, but mixes what he has well and is continuing his climb as a potential back-end starter.
Will Latcham, RHP: A reliever taking out of Coastal Carolina in the 17th round of the 2017 Draft, Latcham pitched his way from Palm Beach to Springfield in his first full season, though he struggled up a level and ended up back down in the Florida State League. His time coming out of the pen in the AFL should prepare him for a second go-round in the Texas League.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.