Bullpenners never seem to get their fair amount of positive attention. Sure, losses tied to blown saves are noticed, but often, relievers toil in relative anonymity. This award is intended to help change that.
Just as we saw offensive numbers were down across the system during the heat of August, it seemed relief results were up. In a very tough field of candidates, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals’ Jery Then is our winner.
ERA and WHIP leaders
Let’s start with the numbers. I narrowed down the long list of nearly 80 relief pitchers across the entire system to those who pitched at least 10 innings and logged an ERA under 1.00 during July. Last month’s bar was 1.50.
Eight candidates remained, five of whom were unscored upon all month. Not surprisingly, each allowed less than one baserunner per inning as measured by WHIP, walks and hits per inning pitched.
Multiple unearned runs scored while three of the 0.00 ERA pitchers were on the mound, leaving only Then and Springfield’s Joe Donofrio with a perfectly spotless month. They also had the two lowest WHIPs. (The table below is ordered by ERA, then WHIP.)
|Steven De La Cruz||GCL||16.1||0||2||12||18||3||0.932||0.00|
Strikeout and walk leaders
Strikeouts and walks are the next measurements to be considered. For the second straight month, eight relievers fanned more than 12 per nine innings.
The meteoric rise of Sam Tuivailala through the system did not affect his K rate, as the right-hander, currently with St. Louis and heading to Arizona soon, led the way. Many of the usual suspects are back, including July strikeout leader Dixon Llorens, Kyle Barraclough and Kyle Grana. Then is also among the top eight.
Ten relievers walked fewer than 1.5 batters per nine innings. For August, Palm Beach teammates Thomas Lee and Steve Sabatino were on top, though none of the ten names from July repeated. Then walked 2.3 per nine, while Donofrio came in at 1.8.
Following are those relievers with at least 12 strikeouts per nine innings, and those with 1.5 or fewer walks per nine innings.
|Sam Tuivailala||Spr-Mem||12.2||14.9||Thomas Lee||PB||13.2||0.7|
|Kyle Barraclough||Peo||16.2||14.0||Steve Sabatino||PB||12.1||0.7|
|Dixon Llorens||PB||14.1||13.8||Franyel Casadilla||DSL||12.1||0.7|
|Kyle Grana||SC||15||13.8||Brandon Lee||SC||21.1||0.8|
|Jonathan Escudero||JC||15||12.6||Kender Villegas||JC||15.2||1.1|
|Nick Lomascolo||SC||13.2||12.5||Eric Fornataro||Mem||15.1||1.2|
|Jhonny Polanco||Peo||19.1||12.1||Sasha Kuebel||JC||14.2||1.2|
|Jery Then||GCL||15.2||12.1||Justin Wright||Mem||13||1.4|
When combining the two, strikeouts and walks, those with low walk rates seemed to fare best. Brandon Lee of State College, Sabatino and the Dominican Summer League’s Franyel Casadilla were head and shoulders above the rest.
A new table this month, one I should have been including all along and will going forward, is ground ball to fly ball ratio.
In this measure, Then was nothing short of amazing, with the best mark in the system last month. The right-hander induced five ground balls for every fly ball. It was also very encouraging to me to see Tuivailala’s name on this list.
Following are those starters with a 6-to-1 or better strikeout to walk ratio and a ground ball to fly ball rate over 3.0 during the month.
|Brandon Lee||SC||21.1||12.5||Jery Then||GCL||15.2||5.0|
|Steve Sabatino||PB||12.1||11.0||Tyler Bray||Peo||18||4.8|
|Franyel Casadilla||DSL||12.1||10.0||Franyel Casadilla||DSL||12.1||4.0|
|Josh Lucas||SC||17.1||7.3||Jorge Rondon||Mem||18||3.5|
|Kevin Alexander||SC||12.2||6.5||Frederis Parra||GCL||12.2||3.4|
|Joe Donofrio||Spr||15.1||6.0||Rigobert Urena||DSL||10.1||3.3|
|Dean Kiekhefer||Mem||15.2||6.0||Sam Tuivailala||Spr-Mem||12.2||3.2|
|Steven De La Cruz||GCL||16.1||6.0||Joe Scanio||SC||18.2||3.2|
|Thomas Lee||PB||13.2||6.0||Joe Donofrio||Spr||15.1||3.1|
|Kender Villegas||JC||15.2||6.0||Eric Fornataro||Mem||15.1||3.1|
Then had a fantastic August, in just his first full month as a professional.
Facing 54 batters, he allowed just four hits and four walks and one of those runners were erased on base. No runners scored against him, earned or unearned. The right-hander was among the system’s strikeout leaders while also being the most extreme ground ball pitcher among the eligible relievers.
Plus, Then has a great back story. The 19-year-old was signed as a non-drafted free agent in early July. A native of the Dominican, Then would have first been eligible to sign in 2011, but did not. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder most recently attended Western Oklahoma State, a junior college, but did not have standout results. The Cardinals obviously found him and realized his potential
As the month concluded and the GCL season ended, Then was promoted to Johnson City to help their playoff run. He is also participating in the organization’s fall instructional league camp in Jupiter, Florida. All in all, not bad for an unemployed pitcher 10 weeks ago.
DSL’s Franyel Casadilla was mentioned above, but his name bears repeating. While pitching in relief at the lowest level does not indicate top prospect status, one cannot dispute his solid August for a club going nowhere. The right-hander not only had a perfect ERA, he was among the best in walks, strikeout to walk ratio and ground balls.
It is not surprising that State College won the New York-Penn League title. Six different members of the Spikes’ pen appear on one or more of these lists, led by Josh Lucas and closer Kyle Grana, our top reliever in June.
From the Appalachian League champs from Johnson City, Jonathan Escudero struck them out while Kender Villegas and Sasha Kuebel were stingy with the free passes.
July’s Winner in August
How did Chris Perry, TCN’s Reliever of the Month for July, fare in August?
It was a bumpy period, as the right-hander spent part of the month on the disabled list and prior to that, yielded three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
It was just a momentary rough spot, however. Perry was activated during the final week and finished a standout season with a 2.14 ERA between Peoria and Palm Beach. He has been invited to compete in the Arizona Fall League, as well, so we will be seeing more of him from the desert in October and November.
|Pitcher of Month||Pitcher of Month||Starter of Month||Reliever of Month|
|2014||The Cardinal Nation||Cards organization||The Cardinal Nation||The Cardinal Nation||2014|
|April||Tim Cooney||Nick Petree||Justin Wright||April|
|May||Chris Perry||Chris Perry||(none)||(Perry)||May|
|June||Rob Kaminsky||Rob Kaminsky||Kyle Grana||June|
|July||Tim Cooney||Sam Gaviglio||Chris Perry||July|
|Aug||Marco Gonzales||Alex Reyes||Jery Then||Aug|
|Player of Month|
|2014||The Cardinal Nation||Cards organization||2014|
|April||James Ramsey||Jonathan Rodriguez||April|
|May||Randal Grichuk||Randal Grichuk||May|
|June||Rowan Wick||Rowan Wick||June|
|July||Magneuris Sierra||Magneuris Sierra||July|
|Aug||Xavier Scruggs||Xavier Scruggs||Aug|
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