2011 Cards Minors Rookie Reliever of the Year

Batavia left-hander Danny Miranda selected as The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com's top first-year relief pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system.

Perhaps recognizing the need to shore up their non-pitching pipeline with so many more top pitching prospects already in house, the St. Louis Cardinals took six position players with their first seven selections in the June 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

That doesn't mean they didn't grab some pitching talent as well. Taken in the eighth round with the 260th pick overall, Danny Miranda was the second pitcher selected by the Cardinals. It was a familiar choice. To close out the 2008 draft, the organization had initially drafted him out of Miami's Killian High School in the 50th and final round.

Instead of signing, the left-hander stayed home and attended the University of Miami. At the time of the 2011 draft, he had just finished his junior season at the University of Miami.

Miranda spent most of the spring season in the closer's role for Miami and posted a 2.67 ERA with a strikeout to walk ratio of 37:4. He reportedly throws a high-80s fastball with two good secondary offerings.

His manager on the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League, Dann Bilardello, was especially impressed with Miranda's change up.

"Danny is a strike thrower, and uses his very good change up at any time in the count," the manager said. "Mixing speeds makes Danny very effective and his change up at times was unhittable."

Though Miranda is projected as reliever by some, the Cardinals at least discussed the idea of starting him after signing. Instead, perhaps due to workload concerns, he joined the Muckdogs as their ninth inning man.

Bilardello liked what he saw, especially in Miranda's demeanor.

"As our closer, Miranda felt very confident when he entered the game," Bilardello said. "Danny's composure and competitiveness made for having success late in games."

Despite pitching in short-season ball and appearing in just 27 games, Miranda finished 2011 ranked third in the entire Cardinals' system with 15 saves, including a save in each of his final seven outings. He turned 21 years of age near the end of August.

Miranda was partially effective because he could consistently get out both left- and right-handed hitters. They batted just .216 and .183 against him, respectively. He logged almost two ground ball outs for every fly ball out, another stat the organization must surely like.

Miranda spun 27 strikeouts against only seven walks in 30 2/3 innings of work. He allowed just 21 hits and nine earned runs for a 2.64 ERA. Miranda got better as the season went on, yielding just one earned run after July. During that time, he amassed a dozen consecutive scoreless outings before giving up a run in his final appearance of the season.

If Miranda continues to progress, he could move up quickly in the Cardinals system, one which as consistently been short of quality left-handed pitching prospects.

Congratulations to Danny Miranda, The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Minor League Rookie Relief Pitcher of the Year for 2011. Earlier, he was named our Batavia Relief Pitcher of the Year as well.

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. Not yet a subscriber? Join now!

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

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