Even down on the farm, keeping one eye on the prize is never a bad idea. St. Louis Cardinals farm director John Vuch ended a two-day visit to the Quad-Cities on Thursday by presenting members of the team’s coaching staff with a reminder of the teamwork it takes to win a championship.
Vuch presented Cardinals 2011 World Series rings to manager Luis Aguayo, pitching coach Ace Adams, hitting coach Joe Kruzel and trainer Scott Ensell in recognition for their roles in the development of the talent which hoisted the championship trophy in St. Louis last fall.
“Every coach in our organization had a hand in what transpired in late October with the instruction and knowledge they provided players as they worked their way through the system,” Vuch said. “Development is a critical component of any championship organization.”
Although he spent the day watching the River Bandits go through batting practice before a Midwest League game against Wisconsin, Vuch doesn’t have to look beyond the Cardinals’ current major-league roster to illustrate his point.
The farm system is being relied on to help the Cardinals maintain their lead in the National League’s Central Division with St. Louis placing five players on the disabled list this week.
“It’s always exciting to see young guys step up and perform when given an opportunity, although we would all prefer not to have injuries be the reason for the promotions,” Vuch said.
It was just two summers ago that Matt Adams was hitting .310 for the River Bandits and leading the Midwest League with 88 RBIs and a .541 slugging percentage.
On Sunday, Adams made his major-league debut with a pair of hits after being called up from Triple-A Memphis.
“A big part of the reason he was ready to go to Memphis this season was the work he put in here two years ago,” Vuch said. “What he did here gave him the opportunity to skip a level and start out in Double-A a year ago. Without that, he wouldn’t have been in a position now to be in St. Louis.”
Adams is one of a handful of players who have moved from the River Bandits roster to Springfield, bypassing high-A Palm Beach within the Cardinals’ minor-league structure.
“A lot of it has to do with the type of player and where they are at in the developmental stage,” Vuch said. “I remember when I was fairly new to the organization that Todd Zeile, Bernard Gilkey and Ray Lankford all skipped high-A and it benefited them to be challenged in Double-A.”
Three members of Quad-Cities’ 2011 Midwest League championship team made the same move to open the 2012 season.
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Outfielder Oscar Taveras, second baseman Kolten Wong and pitcher Trevor Rosenthal all have made a fairly seamless transition to the Texas League.
Taveras, who won the Midwest League batting title with a .386 average, is off to a .317 start with Springfield, while Wong’s .327 average mirrors the .335 he put up for the River Bandits during the second half of 2012.
While Taveras demonstrated his offensive ability with Quad-Cities last season, improvements in defense and baserunning have given him the chance to compete at Springfield.
“The extra work we saw from Oscar in spring training has continued into the season and that will only help him become the complete player we believe he can be,” Vuch said. “Kolten was very polished coming out of the draft and he continues to do the things people saw here.”
Rosenthal is 3-4 with a 2.81 ERA and shares the Springfield team lead with 43 strikeouts.
“In his case, the suggestion to start him at Springfield was based on what our coaches saw in his time with the big-league club during spring training,” Vuch said. “The way he pitches down in the zone, he was ready for that level and with all of those guys, they’re making the type of progress that will help lead them to St. Louis with continued growth.”