The Palm Beach Cardinals were the first half South Division champions and clinched a spot in the playoffs!
On April 27th, The Cardinals were 11-11 and although it was just 22 games into the season, the chances at a comeback in the standings did not look promising. Palm Beach found itself 5 games behind Minor League Baseball's hottest team, the Jupiter Hammerheads, who were the first of 120 teams to reach the 20-win plateau.
If the Cardinals would want to clinch a playoff spot for the second consecutive year, it would have to overcome that large divisional hurdle and even after that, a flurry of roster changes. While Palm Beach's 50 first half roster changes may not seem excessive, 24 of those moves involved pitchers shifting ranks in the Cardinals' organization.
At the end of the first half, just three of the team's five starters and two relief pitchers remained at Palm Beach. Despite all the new faces that joined the team midseason, the Cardinals continued to find success while the Hammerheads began to cool.
After its hot start, the Hammerheads were plagued by injuries and over 87 roster moves which created inconsistencies in the lineup and resulted in Jupiter playing sub-.500 baseball for the final 42 games of the first half, allowing Palm Beach to swoop in.
The Cardinals finished the first half with a winning percentage over .650 in its last 40 games which was enough to overtake Jupiter and clinch a division championship in the final series of the first half. After winning the Florida State League Co-Championship in 2017, the Beach Birds are heading back to the playoffs.
The team's pitching was in the upper echelon of the Florida State League which was a major contributor in the success. All-stars Austin Warner and Evan Kruczynski have been with Palm Beach all season long and have led the way.
At the plate, Johan Mieses reached double-digit home runs in the first half which earned him a spot in the All-Star Game. Fellow all-star Andy Young's offensive stats rank among the best at second base in the Florida State League.
Not only did the Cardinals achieve the success with new players, but did so with a relatively new coaching staff as well. Dann Bilardello was back after the 2017 season, however, he was the only one to return.
Hitting Coach Brandon Allen, Pitching Coach Will Ohman, Coach Craig Richmond, Athletic Trainer Chris Whitman, and Strength and Conditioning Coach Ross Hasegawa are all with the Palm Beach Cardinals for the first season in their careers.
Palm Beach now has a stress-free second half of the season before its quest for a back-to-back Florida State League Championship begins in September.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.