2013 Palm Beach Cardinals Reliever of Year

In his first full season of professional pitching, right-hander Ronnie Shaban excelled - again.

The Palm Beach Cardinals bullpen was a revolving door of former Beach Birds rehabbing injuries, Extended Spring Training pitchers making High-A debuts and salty High-A veterans continuing their development. Last season, a total of 16 pitchers made relief appearances, however 27 different pitchers answered the call for manager Johnny Rodriguez in 2013.

While 27 Cardinals hurlers pitched for Palm Beach, it was Iden Nazario (38 games) and Ronnie Shaban (45 games) that appeared in the most games. It wasn't close as the next-busiest Cardinal reliever made just 24 appearances (Danny Miranda).

Despite pitching for the Beach Birds for the third straight season, Nazario struggled from the bullpen. The southpaw went 1-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 55 innings. He led the relievers in innings pitched and strikeouts (64), but his control continues to plague him. After finishing a fine 2012 campaign, Nazario's walks got the best of him in 2013 as he issued 24 free passes. Despite his struggles, he was a reliable arm for Rodriguez out of the pen.

However, that did not compare to Shaban. The 33rd rounder from Virginia Tech University in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft was brilliant in his first full season of professional baseball. The right-hander went 2-5 with 1.73 ERA in 52 innings of relief work. Shaban recorded a team-high 18 saves, while striking out 41. He was named to the Florida State League All-Star Game and finished fourth in the FSL in saves.

The 22-year old hurler was impressive as the primary closer, converting 18 of 21 save opportunities. Shaban started the season tossing nine scoreless innings, while posting 1-1 record with a 0.84 ERA and three saves during the month of April. He was also dominant in May (0.90 ERA), July (0.93) and August (0.90).

His only bump in the road came in the month of June, when he sported a 0-2 record with a 4.35 ERA. Despite recording his worst ERA of any month in June, Shaban still recorded five saves, his highest save total of any month.

Shaban was the only Palm Beach hurler named to either the 2013 Florida State League mid-season or post-season All-Star teams. He earned our Johnson City Reliever of the Year award in 2012.

While there were many quality arms that pitched for the Cardinals pen, it is the Moseley, VA native that was head-and-shoulders above anyone else. Ronnie Shaban is The Cardinal Nation 2013 Palm Beach Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year.

Another honorable mention

Logan Billbrough had a great year after coming back from season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2012. The right-hander went 0-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings. He would have made the list, but he did not pitch in many games after missing the first three months of the season. However, Billbrough's future looks bright, as he is likely to join Shaban in Double-A in 2014.

Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Palm Beach Cardinals Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

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