Reyes, Gomber arm Cards for future success

Top starters, closer Grana lead Organization All-Stars from mid-levels

Alex Reyes tied for eighth in the Minor Leagues with 151 strikeouts, despite pitching only 98 1/3 innings. (Walter Barnard/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | December 14, 2015 10:00 AM

This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organizations. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball.

With a slew of injuries to key players like Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay, the Cardinals relied on Minor League players to fill the gaps.

Stephen Piscotty, the club's former top prospect, stepped up when he was promoted to St. Louis in July and never looked back, while pitchers Tim Cooney and Mitch Harris posted strong numbers during stints in the Majors from Triple-A Memphis.

With those and others cracking the big league lineup, the next wave of Cardinals prospects is moving into the spotlight, eager to continue the tradition of a red October.

Cardinals Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Mike Ohlman, Springfield (103 games): Acquired from the Orioles in February, Ohlman found himself in Double-A for the second straight season, this time in the Texas League. In a new circuit, the 24-year-old was rejuvenated and knocked in a career-high 69 runs to lead Springfield.

"Michael played above the Texas League level, quickly adjusted and put together a solid year defensively and with the bat," Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque said.

First baseman -- Luke Voit, Palm Beach (130 games): Limited to 93 games in 2014 with Class A Advanced Palm Beach, Voit took advantage of playing time in his third season. It would be an understatement to say the Missouri native was his team's best hitter -- he ranked first with a .273/.360/.405 slash line, 11 homers, 126 hits, 63 walks, five triples and 52 runs scored. Voit also shared the system lead with 77 RBIs.

"Luke produced offensively in 130 games in the Florida State League, showing consistency throughout the season," LaRocque said.

Second baseman -- Bruce Caldwell, Palm Beach (44 games), Springfield (81 games): In his fourth professional season, Caldwell found a way to get on base any way he could. Working a career-high 66 walks and improving his average 15 points to .262, the 24-year-old notched career bests with a .360 on-base percentage, 63 runs scored and seven stolen bases.

"Solid knowledge of the strike zone helped Bruce offensively, spending most of the time defensively at second base," LaRocque said.

Third baseman -- Jacob Wilson, Springfield (34 games), Memphis (89 games): Following a breakout campaign in 2014, Wilson produced another dominant year. While he missed time while participating in the Pan Am Games, the 25-year-old led the organization with 18 homers and tied Voit with 77 RBIs.

Wilson spent most of the season at third base but also took reps at second and in left field as he provides flexibility for the Cardinals down the road.

"Jacob has the versatility defensively and has moved through the system with steady production at every level," LaRocque said.

Shortstop -- Aledmys Diaz, Springfield (102 games), Memphis (14 games): A native of Cuba, Diaz was thrown into the fire from the outset, reaching Double-A in his first Minor League campaign. Although injuries limited him to 47 games last season, the 25-year-old continued his quick climb through the system this year.

"A really strong second half in the Texas League stands out, followed up by his solid work in the Arizona Fall League," LaRocque said.

Diaz led Springfield with 25 doubles before a promotion to Memphis. In a brief Pacific Coast League stint, he collected 19 hits -- six for extra bases -- and six walks while striking out five times in 14 games.

Outfielders

Anthony Garcia, Springfield (87 games), Memphis (18 games): The 23-year-old's ascent through the system started slowly, but he hit the gas in his seventh season. Garcia made his Double-A debut to begin the year, but after 11 jacks and 54 RBIs in 87 Texas League games, he proved he was ready for the next step.

"Anthony produced at the Double-A level and earned the promotion late season to Memphis with a productive offensive year," LaRocque said.

With the Redbirds, Garcia went 5-for-12 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs in his first three games. After slowing down toward the end of the season, he moved on to the Puerto Rican Winter League to work on his hitting.

Jeremy Hazelbaker, Tulsa (14 games), Springfield (40 games), Memphis (58 games): The 28-year-old found himself in Triple-A for the fourth season without getting a call to the Majors, but he brought the big leagues a step closer with his best statistical campaign.

Across three teams and two organizations, Hazelbaker posted a career-high .313 average and 68 RBIs. After the Cardinals signed him up as a free agent in May, the Indiana native went on to rank second in the organization with a .323 average. Hazelbaker became a free agent in early November but reportedly re-signed with St. Louis.

Harrison Bader, State College (seven games), Peoria (54 games): The 2015 third-round Draft wasted no time showcasing his bat, earning a promotion after going 11-for-29 (.379) with two homers and four RBIs in seven games in the New York-Penn League.

"Harrison's short stay in the New York-Penn League for State College earned him the promotion to the Midwest League, with solid defensive play in center field and at the plate," LaRocque said.

Bader kept the hot hitting going with Peoria as the University of Florida product finished the campaign with a composite .311 average, 11 jacks and 32 RBIs while committing four errors in 60 games.

Honorable Mention: Stephen Piscotty was named the Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .272 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs for Memphis. The 24-year-old was in the Minors for 87 games before St. Louis called him up.

Utility player -- Chris Chinea, Johnson City (44 games), State College (two games): Like Bader, Chinea was drafted this year out of a Southeastern Conference powerhouse. After being selected in the 17th round, the LSU product belted six long balls and drove in 27 runs while batting .313 as he split time between first base and catcher for Johnson City.

"Chris spent the majority of the season in Johnson City in the Appalachian League, with a strong offensive season and solid defense earning the promotion to State College," LaRocque said.

Right-handed starter -- Alex Reyes, GCL Cardinals (one game), Palm Beach (13 games), Springfield (eight games): Although he missed three weeks due to injury, Reyes racked up 151 punchouts to lead the organization. The 21-year-old also posted a career-best 2.49 ERA in 22 starts en route to being named the organization's Co-Pitcher of the Year.

"Alex proved he could pitch to the Florida State League level quickly and, once promoted to the Texas League, adjusted quickly at the Double-A level," LaRocque said of the Cardinals' top prospect.

Reyes continued his season in the Arizona Fall League, but that stint ended after four starts when he tested positive for marijuana and was suspended for 50 games.

Honorable Mention: Luke Weaver notched a 1.62 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 19 walks in 19 starts for Palm Beach.

More Organization All-Stars

Left-handed starter -- Austin Gomber, Peoria (22 games): In his first full Minor League season, Gomber led Cardinals southpaws with 140 strikeouts while besting the organization with 15 wins as he shared Pitcher of the Year honors with Reyes.

"Austin was selected co-winner of the Cardinals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after his strong year in the Midwest League," LaRocque said. "He challenged hitters well and showed good command."

Gomber got better as the season went on, with August being his best month. The 22-year-old held Midwest League foes to two runs -- one earned -- on 14 hits and seven walks while striking out 32 over 25 2/3 innings in four starts in the summer's final month.

Honorable Mention: David Oca left the Dominican Summer League after 2 1/2 seasons, and the results showed he was ready. The 20-year-old Venezuelan led the system with a 1.61 composite ERA over 87 innings for the DSL Cardinals, Gulf Coast League Cardinals and State College.

Reliever -- Kyle Grana, Peoria (54 games): Another Wildwood native, like Voit, Grana brought his strength as a closer to the next level. The 24-year-old right-hander led the organization with 24 saves in 26 chances, holding opponents to five earned runs over 57 1/3 innings. In his first full season, he averaged 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

"Kyle brings reliability to the end of the game, producing over the last three seasons and putting together a strong year ... for Peoria," LaRocque said.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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