Magneuris Sierra didn’t look like a player fresh out of A-ball in his major-league debut.
It was certainly a whirlwind 24 hours for St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Magneuris Sierra. The 21-year-old highly-touted prospect was in the starting lineup for the Class A Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals as their game against the Lakeland Flying Tigers got underway at 5:30 PM ET on Saturday night. Less than two-and-a-half hours later, Sierra was pulled out of the game and headed to the majors. And by 1:30 PM ET on Sunday, Sierra was in the Cardinals’ starting lineup, patrolling center field for a team that has been playing great baseball over the past three weeks.
While call-ups from A-ball to the majors are exceptionally rare, Sierra’s shouldn’t have been exceptionally surprising for anyone who’s watched him in spring training over the past two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 160-pounder already plays Gold Glove quality defense, and while his approach at the plate is obviously a work in progress, he’s shown the ability to be a strong contact hitter and a guy who can make a legitimate impact on the basepaths.
It was arguably more surprising to see the Cardinals move Sierra up just one minor-league level to begin 2017 than it was to see him recalled on Sunday.
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The young center fielder was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and he made a strong enough impact during the spring that he looked like a serious candidate to skip past Palm Beach and start the season with Double-A Springfield.
With José Martínez and Stephen Piscotty having hit the DL in recent days, the Cardinals were shorthanded on outfield depth, and they pulled the trigger on the bold move. Despite their lack of aggressiveness with his development, the Cardinals obviously felt that Sierra was already developed enough as a player to trust him as a major-leaguer–at least in the short term–rather than burning a 40-man roster spot on for a more seasoned temporary replacement such as Chad Huffman or Harrison Bader.
With Dexter Fowler still sidelined with a day-to-day shoulder injury, Sierra was quickly thrust into the lineup Sunday, and he made his presence felt in his major-league debut. While the rookie’s day at the plate will show up as a less-than-stellar 1 for 6 in the box score, the fact that he was able to get his first big-league hit out of the way in the top of the sixth inning was an accomplishment, especially for a guy who had been facing a bunch of pitchers fresh out of college for the entirety of the season up to this point.
The quiet statement Mike Matheny made about the quality of Sierra’s defense on Sunday was notable, as the rookie stepped right into center field, pushing Tommy Pham to left field and keeping ex-everyday center fielder Randal Grichuk in right. Sierra made the reason for this outfield alignment obvious in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he made this catch, which carried a catch probability of just 35 percent according to Statcast:
Finally, he helped the Cardinals pick up a win–one that clinched their first road sweep of 2017–by advancing on an error in the 14th inning and scoring on Tommy Pham’s two-run go-ahead homer. While Braves second baseman Jace Peterson didn’t make a great effort to field the bobbled ball, the fact that Sierra ran full-speed to first base after hitting a grounder to second base was very encouraging for a team that doesn’t usually get great effort on the basepaths.
In all likelihood, Sierra will be headed back to the minor leagues within the next week, as both Stephen Piscotty and Jhonny Peralta could potentially be activated from the disabled list. It will be interesting to see whether he’s sent right back to Palm Beach or if the Cardinals give him a more aggressive assignment this time around and send him to Springfield. Either way, it seems that he’ll be a potential depth option for the foreseeable future, which is a pretty remarkable step forward for a guy who spent the entirety of 2016 in Low-A.