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More so than any player on the 25-man roster, St. Louis’ minor league affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, have kept the Cardinals in contention in 2012.
Plagued by injuries early in the season, manager Mike Matheny was forced to turn to his young prospects in the minors to fill a gaping hole at first base and a mess of a situation in the outfield.
Matt Carpenter began the year as a backup to a backup; but starting April 11, he became the Cardinals’ every day first baseman. Carpenter, who went 1-for-7 (.067) in 15 at-bats in 2011, went 4-for-4 in just his fourth game as a starter, hitting a home run and a triple with five runs batted in.
Carpenter is hitting .291 with an OPS of .864 this season.
In May, however, even he was unable to avoid the pandemic of injuries spreading around the clubhouse. He was forced to miss a month with a strained oblique muscle, meaning St. Louis had to dig even deeper into their farm system for a healthy first baseman.
The Cardinals called up Matt Adams, the 2011 Minor League Player of the Year. He wasn’t given a couple pinch-hit opportunities to ease the transition, either. The 23-year-old was thrown into the starting lineup and told to produce immediately. He hit .378 in his first ten games, later cooling off and dropping that average down to .244. He was optioned back down to Memphis on June 24 once Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter returned from the DL.
Lastly, St. Louis has to acknowledge the play of Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson in the outfield. They have each hit above .250 with OPS over .630 while Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, John Jay and Skip Schumaker all missed games due to injury.
Sure, .250 averages are nothing to brag about, but these guys aren’t Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. When you think of how thin the Cards were at points throughout the first half of the season, Matheny could’ve easily been stuck with players hitting below .150.
The rate at which these four minor leaguers adjusted to the majors has kept St. Louis from absolutely tanking this season. Instead of loitering at the bottom of the division with the Cubs and Astros, the Cardinals find themselves 2.5 games back of the NL Central-leading Pirates.