Palm Beach Cardinals 2011 Reliever of Year

Right-hander Keith Butler is a repeat winner of our top reliever award, this time in the Florida State League.

Since joining the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the 24th round of the 2009 draft from Wabash Valley Community College in Illinois, pitcher Keith Butler has excelled at every level. After being named The Cardinal Nation 2011 Palm Beach Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year, the 22-year-old right-hander has now been our top reliever at his level in two of his three professional seasons and just missed out last year.

In his first summer, Butler was assigned by the Cardinals to the Gulf Coast League and after fanning 59 in 43 innings, he was named our top GCL reliever. Butler finished 2009 with Johnson City.

He moved up to Batavia in 2010, where he spent the entire season. Butler led all New York-Penn League relievers with 14.67 strikeouts/nine innings pitched after fanning 50 in 30 2/3 IP.

Butler began 2011 in Quad Cities' bullpen. There, he allowed just two runs in 15 1/3 innings, striking out 16 while walking just five and saving five games.

Moved up to Palm Beach in mid-May, Butler did not miss a beat, with a 1.25 ERA and 52 strikeouts compared to 18 walks in 36 Florida State League frames. He added another dozen saves, most on the Cardinals and tied for ninth in the FSL. Butler's total of 17 was the second-highest save count in the organization this year.

Consistency and dominancy were the watchwords for Butler this season. He did not allow more than two earned runs in any month and was equally effective against left-handed hitters (.183) and righties (.121).

Butler receives notice for his maximum-effort delivery, which can be difficult for opposing hitters to pick up, and his velocity despite being undersized at a listed 6-feet, 180 pounds.

When Cardinals farm director John Vuch was asked on KMOX Radio around mid-season to single out a previously unknown, but now emerging player in the system, he did not hesitate in naming Butler.

"His fastball is anywhere from 92 to 95 (mph) and he has a good slider," the farm director noted. "He has really taken the opportunity and put himself on the map."

This fall, Butler will be competing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase. That reinforces how highly he is thought of by the Cardinals organization.

Honorable mentions

Jordan Swagerty and Tyler Lyons both started and relieved for the Cardinals this year, and were very effective in both roles. Because they threw more innings as starters, they will be considered among the candidates for the Palm Beach Starting Pitcher of the Year award. Justin Wright was also very effective, but appeared in only 14 games following his promotion from Quad Cities.

Jesse Simpson, our top Quad Cities bullpenner last season, logged an impressive string of 15 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings from August 4 through September 2 for the Cardinals. The 24-year-old right-hander went 6-1 with a 1.54 ERA over a team-high 37 FSL appearances this season. He fanned 40 in 46 2/3 innings. Simpson also had an 18-game trial with Springfield before being returned.

Like Simpson, Daniel Calhoun was promoted to Double-A, but returned. With Palm Beach, the 25-year-old lefty productively ate innings. He threw multiple frames on numerous occasions, going 57 2/3 innings over 36 outings. Calhoun's ERA was 3.28.

Following his early-season promotion from Quad Cities, Chris Corrigan was called upon to pitch in 32 games for the Cardinals this season. The right-hander fanned 29 but issued 21 free passes in 41 1/3 innings. His Palm Beach ERA was 3.48.

Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2011 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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