2013 DSL Cardinals Starting Pitcher of Year

This year's top starting pitcher on St. Louis' entry-level club in the Dominican was 18-year-old right-hander Ramon Santos.

Here in the third phase of our annual recaps of the top players across the St. Louis Cardinals system, we move from relief pitchers to starters, beginning with the entry classification, the Dominican Summer League.

During the 2013 season, the DSL Cardinals' pitching staff turned out to be the strength of a 35-win, 36-loss club that was originally expected to be more offense-oriented. As a group, the club's young arms finished 11th of 35 DSL clubs in ERA at 2.94 and eighth in the rookie-level league strikeouts.

While nine Cardinals hurlers pitched the majority of their games in a relief role, nine others made most of their appearances as a member of the starting rotation. All are right-handers with the exception of lefty David Oca. Each had decent numbers, as the stats below indicate. (They are listed in ascending ERA order.)

Estarlin Arias 1 0 1.38 3 3 0 13.0 7 2 2 0 2 11 0.69
Frederis Parra 4 1 2.08 9 9 0 43.1 31 15 10 2 15 28 1.06
Will Changarotty 5 3 2.36 12 6 0 53.1 41 16 14 1 14 46 1.03
Ramon Santos 3 4 2.48 12 12 0 58.0 52 26 16 1 16 55 1.17
Julio Mateo 1 4 2.50 11 9 1 50.1 40 27 14 0 16 56 1.11
Jorge Rodriguez 2 5 2.72 13 8 0 49.2 42 19 15 2 19 57 1.23
Ronald Medrano 2 2 2.80 8 8 0 35.1 37 12 11 1 11 28 1.36
David Oca 2 3 3.63 11 6 0 44.2 41 28 18 3 19 51 1.34
Derian Gonzalez 1 2 4.83 12 6 0 41.0 40 26 22 0 28 40 1.66

Some of the players without the glitziest numbers demonstrated considerable promise, especially considering their relative inexperience. Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez explains.

"Will Changarotty and Julio Mateo – both of those guys were July 2nd signings from the previous year," Rodriguez noted. "They threw strikes. Their WHIPs were good. They were consistent through their outings. They did what we expected them to do from a workload standpoint."

Injuries were one big reason so many different starters were deployed.

"Our pitchers that we expected to be in the rotation – Medrano, Parra, who was one of our more consistent starters through the year and Arias, who is a 19-year-old we signed last year and was going to be one of our aces of the staff – we never had those three guys together for a lengthy amount of time," Rodriguez said.

Though early in the season, Estarlin Arias came off a 50-game PED suspension announced when he was with Washington, his misfortune continued shortly after he finally donned a Cardinals uniform. The right-hander made just three starts in late June and early July with spectacular results, before suffering an elbow injury. Tommy John surgery followed, putting much of his 2014 season in jeopardy.

"Arias is a ‘stuff guy'," Rodriguez note. "He is about 6-foot-1 with a three-pitch mix. We just haven't been able to get him on the field for the last year."

Nicaraguan right-hander Ronald Medrano was another bitten by the injury bug. The then-17-year-old who received $100,000 as a July 2nd signing in 2012 made eight starts before missing the entire month of August with elbow problems. Surgery was not required.

"Medrano is a strike thrower," the international director said. "He is not a very physically imposing right-handed pitcher, but he throws a lot of strikes and mixes well. Mechanically, he is very sound. We just have to get him healthy and run him out there next year."

Frederis Parra got out of the gates quickly in his second season, leading the staff in the first half with a 1.82 ERA. The 18-year-old right-hander was one of two Cardinals representatives and the only organization pitcher named to the 2013 DSL All-Star Team. Though his strikeout counts were not as high as several others, Parra excelled at keeping opposing runners off base.

"Parra was very consistent," Rodriguez said. "We have pitch counts, but he always pitched into the fifth inning. Not a lot of hits. He was more of a pitch-to-contact guy this year, but throws strikes. Another three-pitch mix fellow. He is going to instructional ball and we look forward to seeing him in spring training as well."

Right-hander Ramon Santos led the DSL Cardinals staff in innings pitched while fanning almost one batter per frame and walking just 2.5 batters per nine innings.

Over the course of the 72-game schedule, the then-18-year-old Dominican (he turned 19 on September 20) was the most consistent pitcher on the staff. Along with Parra, Santos has been participating in the US-based instructional league in Jupiter, Fla. this fall.

"Santos is a strike-thrower, a very aggressive player," Rodriguez observed. "In his second year, he really turned the corner. He is another guy we will see in extended spring training next year."

Considering all, Santos is our choice as The Cardinal Nation Dominican Summer League Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year.

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 Dominican Summer League Cardinals Player of the Year.

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