The Cardinal Nation April Pitcher of Month

Palm Beach right-hander Seth Maness is our choice as the top pitching performer across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system last month.

I saw Seth Maness pitch for Batavia last summer, but after his fast start in 2012, I was most interested in how he is performing currently against a higher level of competition. I had the opportunity to listen to the Palm Beach Cardinals on radio on Wednesday the 25th versus Fort Myers. The answer is "exceptionally well".

All the 23-year-old did on the road that evening was go seven innings, allowing just one unearned run. Maness is a ground-ball generating, strike-throwing machine, mixing a 90 MPH fastball, curve and slider.

Maness went to a three-ball count only once and did not walk anyone for his fourth consecutive start. The right-hander allowed three hits and fanned seven that evening while inducing 11 ground outs to just three fly ball outs.

On the season, the former East Carolina star has a system-best 0.67 ERA through his four starts, totaling 27 innings pitched. Maness' strikeout to walk ratio is 21-to-zero. That's right. No free passes issued.

Oddly, Maness' only two earned runs given up so far this season were on solo home runs. They were his first professional long balls allowed after he threw 53 innings in 2011 without letting one over the fence.

In 2012, Maness has a 3.75-to-1 ground to fly ball out ratio and a combined batting average against of .180. He has logged three wins, no losses and a no-decision.

For that aggregate performance, Seth Maness is The Cardinal Nation Pitcher of the Month for April.

Honorable mentions

The above writeup does not mean Maness is alone on the list of strong pitching Aprils accumulated across the Cardinals system - far from it.

At Memphis, two-time organizational Pitcher of the Year Shelby Miller (5.09 April ERA) received most of the ink heading into the season, but it was his teammate Joe Kelly who led the Redbirds' staff during the month.

Quality starts are what the right-hander has given manager Pop Warner. While many others are building up their innings and pitch counts, Kelly is exhibiting mid-season form. In his most recent four outings, the 23-year-old went at least six innings while giving up two or fewer runs each time.

In 29 Pacific Coast League innings pitched, Kelly has logged a 2.17 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of 22:7. Like Miller, Kelly is not yet on the Cardinals' 40-man roster.

Lefty John Gast was a spring training surprise for St. Louis in 2011 before a good-but-not-great regular season. The 23-year-old has gotten out of the gates quickly in 2012 in his return to Springfield despite four of his five starts having been on the road.

Texas League hitters have struggled to a collective .209 average against Gast, who has walked just seven in 31 1/3 innings. His 29 strikeouts ties Miller for the system lead. Gast logged a 2.30 ERA last month, with the main blemish being four home runs allowed. Four of his five starts met the "quality" criteria.

Maness' teammate at Palm Beach, Richard Castillo, has pitched extremely well despite receiving almost no run support. Back for a fourth season in the Florida State League though he is just 22 years old, the Venezuelan right-hander's ERA of 1.40 is second-best in the system.

Despite that, Castillo has just one win in four outings, when three runs were plated by Cardinals hitters on April 12. It was his only start to date in which his teammates were not shut out by the opposition.

This spring, I singled out 21-year-old Hector Hernandez as one of my pitching sleepers for 2012. Based on the left-hander's first full month of full-season ball with Quad Cities, he isn't going to be a secret much longer.

The Puerto Rican native has posted a 2.01 ERA through four Midwest League starts after fanning 15 and walking just five in 22 1/3 innings.

Update: On Tuesday afternoon, the Cardinals organization also named Maness their Pitcher of the Month. Springfield outfielder Oscar Taveras is their Player of the Month for April.

Up Wednesday: The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month for April. Our monthly update to the Cardinals prospect rankings is also coming soon, exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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