Palm Beach Cardinals 2011 Starter of the Year

Though his stay was relatively short, Jordan Swagerty ran off a dominant stretch of starts for the Cardinals of the A-Advanced Florida State League.

At various times in the 2011 season, the Palm Beach Cardinals probably saw the greatest assortment of top prospect pitchers in the St. Louis Cardinals system. Not all were present at once, but the names are a who's who of top organization arms.


The season began with the trio of Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and John Gast, the latter coming off a strong showing in spring major league camp. Later, Jordan Swagerty and Carlos Martinez were among those who joined the A-Advanced club's rotation.

By the time the season ended, only Martinez was still in the Florida State League, with the other four in Double-A Springfield. In selecting these team awards, we assign the player to the club with which he threw the most innings or had the most at-bats. As such, Miller will be considered among the Springfield hurlers, with that winner to be announced on Friday.

Martinez seemed to wear down as the season progressed and as such, his better work was logged earlier with Quad Cities. His Palm Beach ERA was 5.28. Gast and Kelly each picked up five wins, with solid ERAs of 3.95 and 2.60 while with the team. Kelly walked 34 in 72 2/3 innings.

That leaves the only member of this group that did not either begin the season with the team or end with it. He also concluded last season as reliever and ended this one in the bullpen, too, making him a non-traditional choice for this award.

Of course, I am referring to Swagerty. The bottom line is that he logged the most dominant stretch of starting outings of any pitcher in Palm Beach in 2011. And that is really saying something.

The Cardinals' second-round pick in 2010 joined the team from Quad Cities on May 6 and was moved back to the pen at the end of June to keep his innings count down. Swagerty was promoted to Springfield in mid-August.

In his seven starts for Palm Beach, the 22-year-old right-hander did not allow a run three times while logging a 2.23 ERA, fanning 30 and walking 10 in 36 1/3 innings. Swagerty had a ground out to fly ball out ratio of 3.13:1. FSL right-handed hitters should have prepared to sit down quickly against him as they logged an aggregate OPS of just .352. That is truly masterful.

Though not a part of the consideration here, after moving to the Palm Beach bullpen, Swagerty fared even better. He allowed just two earned runs in 18 relief innings (1.00 ERA) before his promotion.

For his solid work in Palm Beach's rotation, Swagerty receives the nod as The Cardinal Nation/ Palm Beach Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2011.

Honorable mentions

All in all, 15 different pitchers started a game for Palm Beach this season. Other members of the rotation at various points in the season may not have the star power of the aforementioned top prospects, but each pitched well at times.

Despite starting the season the bullpen, left-hander Tyler Lyons had the highlight of the season on August 8 when he threw the only no-hitter in club history. The 23-year-old had moved into the rotation in early July and still led the Cardinals with nine wins. His ERA as a starter was 4.23.

The Cardinals' ninth-rounder in the 2010 draft also receives notice for accomplishing this in his first professional season. After signing last year, Lyons did not pitch in the organization due to elbow tendinitis. He was selected to be the Cardinals' starting pitcher in the Arizona Fall League, where he is currently performing.

At 144 2/3 innings pitched, Eric Fornataro was a steadying force all season long, taking the ball for 24 starts. The right-hander was the only pitcher to throw over 100 innings for Palm Beach in 2011. Though his won-loss record was just 7-13, Fornataro posted a solid 3.64 ERA and led the club in both strikeouts and walks.

Richard Castillo first joined Palm Beach in 2008, so is overlooked at times despite having just turned 22 years of age. While Castillo appeared in more games out of Springfield's bullpen, he pitched more innings in Palm Beach's rotation in 2011. In the Florida State League, he logged a 3.62 ERA and had a 47:22 strikeout to walk count in 59 2/3 innings.

Justin Smith started 14 games for Palm Beach before moving to the pen at the start of July. He improved in most of his stat categories after the move, including strikeout and walk rate, opponent batting average and ERA.

Arquimedes Nieto is another long-time Palm Beach player, having first put on the uniform in 2009. After missing most of the first half of the season, the 22-year-old right-hander finished 2011 back in the PB rotation, where he earned the FSL Pitcher of the Week award for the August 1-7 period. That was his only win as a starter, as he lost four and had two no-decisions along with a 4.97 ERA in the rotation.

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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