2013 Peoria Chiefs Starting Pitcher of Year

The top starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club is right-hander Cory Jones.

The Peoria Chiefs had a good season and narrowly missed the playoffs in both the first and second halves. They would not have been that close to the postseason without their fantastic starting pitching - some of the best in the Midwest League. However, the decision on the Peoria Pitcher of the Year was an easy one.

The criteria I made to make the selection were as follows:

• Primarily worked as a starter, not from the bullpen
• Minimum 10 starts
• ERA under 3.50
• Minimum of five wins

That meant only three pitchers would be eligible for the award: Hector Hernandez, Kyle Helisek and Cory Jones. I will review the merits of all three.

Hernandez could have had more consideration for this award, but the left-hander was promoted midway through the season to Palm Beach. He still spent the majority of the season in Peoria and had a strong campaign. Hernandez was 5-3 in 13 starts for the Chiefs and boasted a 3.42 ERA. Despite the promotion, his 76 1/3 innings pitched was third on the team. He also tied for fourth on the team in wins. His ERA was fourth among starters.

Hernandez had a great season, but his lack of time with the Chiefs put him on the outside looking in for this award. However, there was no doubt the lefty was one of the Chiefs best starters this year. Not only did Hernandez have the stats to be considered for this award, he also passed the eye test. He was one of the more impressive pitchers with the team this season and should have a bright future with the Cardinals organization.

The pitcher who received the strongest consideration but did not win the award is Kyle Helisek. The left-hander was with Peoria from opening day all the way through the end of the season. He was the only Chiefs starter to do that, so just that fact alone merited him being in the conversation. But Helisek also had a great year. He had a 7-7 record and 3.13 ERA in 23 starts. His seven wins and ERA were both second on the Chiefs. Helisek's 23 starts led the team.

There is no chance Peoria would have had as successful of a season without Helisek. He was the one constant in the rotation and you could almost always count on him to pitch well and keep you in the ballgame. There are really no negative things to say about Helisek. Had he received more run support and been able to increase his win total, Helisek could have won this award. His nine no-decisions led the team. Regardless, the lefty had a fantastic season and should be commended.

Our Peoria Starter of the Year is Cory Jones. Despite the right-hander beginning the season at extended spring training, the decision was rather easy. Jones was the Chiefs best starting pitcher. The right-hander led the team in the most important categories. He had an 8-2 record with a 2.04 ERA. Jones led the team in both wins and ERA in just 11 starts. He was promoted to Peoria in late May and quickly became one of the Chiefs best starting pitchers. If Jones would not have missed time in August due to injury, his stats could have been even better.

Jones was dominant and almost unhittable at times. He had a stretch of seven starts during which he allowed two earned runs or less and pitched at least six innings. From both a statistical perspective and the eye test, Jones was the best pitcher in Peoria this season. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done had he been able to make more than 11 starts.

So congratulations to Cory Jones, The Cardinal Nation Starting Pitcher of the Year for the Class-A affiliate. He was more than deserving after a great season and has an extremely bright future ahead.

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 selection as the Peoria Chiefs Player of the Year.

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