Not only did Dave Duncan talk the Cardinals into giving him a two-year contract when the rest of Tony La Russa’s coaching staff was offered only one-year deals, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that he’ll be the highest paid pitching coach in baseball.
According to Strauss he’ll get a base salary of around $750,000 per season, which still seems like a bargain given that most managers earn several times that much and teams regularly pay twice that for mediocre veteran bench players.
Putting a coach’s impact into wins and losses if often tough, but Duncan has been La Russa’s pitching coach for 28 seasons and has done an amazing job taking veterans off the scrap heap and turning them into viable contributors in St. Louis.
And of course he’s overseen the development of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright into elite starters. When one of the most successful pitching coaches of all time makes less than guys like Adam Everett, Alex Cora, and Juan Castro that either says MLB teams don’t actually think pitching coaches are that valuable or the Cardinals are getting a helluva deal with Duncan. Or maybe both, I suppose.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.