GCL Cards 2012 Starting Pitcher of the Year

From 14 different starters used during the year, we pick the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League club's best.

Our selection of The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Gulf Coast League Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year required a bit of narrowing down. Despite the short-season club playing just 58 regular-season games, 14 different pitchers began at least one game on the mound for manager Steve Turco.

To be fair, it wasn't managerial whims or a rash of injuries that beset the St. Louis Cardinals' entry-level team in the US. Six of the starters were rehabbers all the way from the major leagues (Jaime Garcia and Brian Fuentes) to hurlers from seemingly every level in between (Nick Additon, Boone Whiting, Seth Blair and Zack Russell).

But this article isn't about them any more than it is about valued members of the 2012 draft such as Michael Wacha and Max Foody. While possessing great talent and potential, they simply didn't throw enough innings to be considered.

Nor does late-season import Luis Perdomo, our DSL Starter of the Year, or good-looking Silfredo Garcia, who logged more innings after his promotion to Johnson City, qualify. (On a side note, had Garcia spent more time in the GCL and continued to pitch as well as he did earlier, he could easily have taken this award.)

That simple process of elimination has taken us from 14 down to just four.

Kender Villegas 4 4 6.28 11 11 1 53 72 42 37 3 15 39 1.64
Hansel De Los Santos 4 3 4.57 8 8 0 41.1 39 22 21 2 15 29 1.31
Fidencio Flores 3 1 1.56 12 6 0 40.1 27 9 7 2 10 40 0.92
Jhonny Polanco 1 3 1.91 15 7 0 33 27 12 7 1 13 38 1.21
Silfredo Garcia 2 0 1.54 4 4 0 23.1 12 4 4 1 0 27 0.51
Max Foody 0 2 11.57 8 6 0 16.1 26 22 21 0 16 18 2.57
Luis Perdomo 1 1 5.00 2 2 0 9 11 6 5 0 5 3 1.78
Michael Wacha 0 0 1.80 3 2 0 5 4 1 1 1 0 7 0.80

Due to high ERAs, Kender Villegas and Hansel De Los Santos separated themselves. However, it is worth noting that De Los Santos pitched to extremes. The 21-year-old logged some of the team's best and worst starts during the year. His highlight was seven innings of no-hit ball on August 9.

That leaves Johnny Polanco and Fidencio Flores. Though Polanco had a better strikeout rate, he also walked more batters, leading to a higher WHIP. Flores, who turned 21 following the season, had more wins (three) and a lower ERA (1.56). The WHIP of the right-hander from Nicaragua was a great reliever-like 0.92.

The final telling factor is despite Flores having only six starts during the season, he impressed Turco enough that he was chosen to start the club's playoff game. It was their first GCL post-season berth in the six years since the organization returned to the short-season rookie-level league. Though he took the loss, Flores allowed just one run over five innings as the Cards dropped a hard-luck 1-0 decision.

Flores celebrated his 21st birthday two weeks after the season ended. The right-hander hails from Nicaragua and was signed by the Cardinals organization in December of 2010.

Though small in stature at a generously-listed 6-feet, 160 pounds, Flores is a competitor. He works side to side with a fastball that touches 92 and a breaking pitch that is more of a curveball than slider. He is also working on a changeup, but it remains to be seen if his long-term future will be as a starter or reliever.

However, in 2012, Fidencio Flores is The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Gulf Coast League Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.

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

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