September has arrived, and for the Cardinals, it means a slew of reinforcements for the stretch run. On the first day of MLB expanded rosters, the Cardinals have added several minor league players to bolster the teams push toward the postseason.
Two of the most prized pitching prospects in the organization, Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara have been added to the Cardinals roster. Flaherty will start for St. Louis Friday night in San Francisco, as the team revealed earlier in the week following the trade of Mike Leake to Seattle. Between Springfield and Memphis this season, Flaherty is 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA in 25 starts, and will become the youngest Cardinal pitcher to make his MLB debut as a starter since Rick Ankiel did so at age 20 back in 1999.
Also a starter for much of his minor league career, Alcantara had recently shifted to the bullpen in preparation for a role in the major leagues as a reliever. On the year with Springfield, Alcantara is 7-5 with a 4.31 ERA, but has been dominant in recent weeks. His ability to ramp up a fastball to 102 mph makes him an attractive option for late-inning relief. For both Flaherty and Alcantara, this final month of the season could serve as an audition for big-league roles in 2018.
Beyond the additions to the pitching staff, the Cardinals have purchased the contract of catcher Alberto Rosario, who spent time with St. Louis last season. While Rosario’s .570 OPS in Class-AAA is underwhelming, his addition could allow Mike Matheny to employ Carson Kelly in more pinch-hit opportunities during September, with Rosario serving as the third catcher.
St. Louis also recalled Harrison Bader and Alex Mejia from Memphis to expand the depth of the big-league bench. With 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases this season for Memphis, Bader will add power and speed to the Cardinals in a reserve role, while Mejia–whose .335/.381/.466 batting line with Memphis this year far exceeds his production at Springfield–could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement.
As the Cardinals have carried 13 relievers for much of the season, this opportunity for a deeper bench could prove valuable for Matheny.
To make room for additions to the 40-man roster, the Cardinals outrighted left-handed pitcher Sean Gilmartin. St. Louis had acquired Gilmartin earlier this season in a waiver claim, but injuries and ineffectiveness prevented him from receiving much consideration for a call-up.