Cardinals 2011 Minors Reliever of the Year

Right-hander Keith Butler is The Cardinal Nation/'s top relief pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system in 2011.

Pitcher Keith Butler may not have been a well-known player to some, but not here. The right-hander keeps racking up awards from His newest is our cross-organization Relief Pitcher of the Year Award for 2011.

Earlier, Butler was named The Cardinal Nation/ 2011 Palm Beach Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year and was our Gulf Coast League Cardinals Reliever of the Year two years ago in his rookie 2009 season. The 22-year-old just missed out last year despite leading all New York-Penn League relievers with 14.67 strikeouts/nine innings pitched after fanning 50 in 30 2/3 innings pitched.

Not bad for a player drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the 24th round in 2009 from Wabash Valley Community College in Illinois. Butler sports a fastball that is in the 92 to 95 MPH range and complements it with a good slider.

Butler moved up to the Midwest League in 2011 and he began 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.

With Butler showing he was ready for an additional challenge, the organization moved him up to A-Advanced Palm Beach in mid-May. He was not fazed, posting a 1.25 ERA and 52 strikeouts compared to 18 walks in 36 Florida State League frames. His 12 saves were the most on the Cardinals and ranked him in the top 10 in the FSL.

Butler's save total of 17, five with Quad Cities and another dozen with Palm Beach, was the second-highest save count in the organization this year. His combined numbers include a 1.23 ERA, a .146 opponent batting average and a strikeout to walk ratio of 68:23 in 51 1/3 innings.

His consistency and dominance set Butler apart in 2011. He did not allow more than two earned runs in any month and was equally effective against left-handed hitters (.183) and righties (.121).

Cardinals farm director John Vuch is one of the organization officials who noticed Butler's results and acted accordingly.

"Butler had another very nice year, after having been kind of an "under the radar" guy heading into this season," the farm director said. "He continues to improve all of his pitches and was dominant at times both at Quad Cities and at Palm Beach, and has turned himself into a guy who has earned his opportunities."

This fall, Butler is competing for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase against more advanced competition. That reinforces how highly he is thought of by the Cardinals organization and an indication of what could be a bright future ahead.

Congratulations to Keith Butler, The Cardinal Nation/ Relief Pitcher of the Year for 2011.

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 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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