Before April 29, the identity of The Cardinal Nation's first Starting Pitcher of the Month for 2014 was abundantly clear. Even after the leader delivered a subpar outing on Tuesday, the choice remained obvious.
Peoria's Nick Petree had begun the season with 17 scoreless frames over three starts. After a rain delay before game two of the Chiefs' road double-header at Beloit on Tuesday, the 23-year-old from Missouri State struggled, however. Petree allowed three runs on six hits over four innings. The right-hander walked one and struck out five in the no-decision.
Even so, Petree's ERA for the month rose to just 1.29. That is still second-best in the Midwest League and tops among all starters in the Cardinals system. In fact, only three other Cards starters came in with April ERAs under 2.00.
For that reason, the Clinton, Missouri native is The Cardinal Nation's Starting Pitcher of the Month for April 2014. Overall, Petree fanned 24 and walked 10 in 21 innings over four Midwest League starts. Before the season, he was named The Cardinal Nation's 34th-ranked prospect in the system.
Another differentiator for Petree is his April strikeout rate of 10.3 per nine innings, a mark that is head and shoulders above the other top contenders.
In terms of baserunners allowed, as indicated by walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP), all the top performers are within a very narrow bandwidth.
It was good month for half of the starting pitchers at A-Advanced Palm Beach, with three members of the season-opening rotation coming in with ERAs under 2.00. Interestingly, they are all lefties - Kyle Helisek, Kyle Hald and Marco Gonzales. Hald made his final two starts at Springfield following his promotion on the 20th. Despite their individual successes, however, these three Palm Beach starters are just a collective 3-2 in their 10 Florida State League starts.
Other honorable mentions
Let's look at organizational leaders in several of the key individual categories.
The highest strikeout rates among system starters were logged by 19-year-old Alex Reyes with Peoria and Memphis' Boone Whiting. They join Petree as the only double-digit rate K artists last month.
Two other Palm Beach starters, Thomas Lee and Mike Mayers, were stingiest with walks. Both ended April with rates under two per nine innings. (Lee had moved into the A-Advanced rotation mid-month.)
For the fewest baserunners allowed, another promoted pitcher led the system in Zach Petrick, now with Memphis. Peoria's Arturo Reyes was right behind in WHIP.
Bonus for TCN subscribersEarlier this month, in an exclusive interview with The Cardinal Nation, Petree talked about his progress since he was selected by the Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Coming soonThe Cardinal Nation's April Player of the Month will be announced next, as will the Cardinals organization's own selection for top pitcher and player. Because bullpenners always find it difficult to compete with starters, we are adding a monthly top reliever award for 2014, as well. In addition, our first monthly update to the Cardinals top 40 prospect rankings is coming soon, exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.
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