The Cardinal Nation August Reliever of Month

Newcomer Jery Then is The Cardinal Nation’s top relief pitcher during the final month of the season.

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.)

Jery Then GCL 15.2 0 0 4 21 4 0.526 0.00
Joe Donofrio Spr 15.1 0 0 5 18 3 0.530 0.00
Josh Lucas SC 17.1 0 5 8 22 3 0.643 0.00
Franyel Casadilla DSL 12.1 0 2 7 10 1 0.661 0.00
Steven De La Cruz GCL 16.1 0 2 12 18 3 0.932 0.00
Kyle Grana SC 15 1 3 8 23 5 0.867 0.60
Rigobert Urena DSL 10.1 1 4 6 6 3 0.891 0.87
Kevin Herget PB 18.1 2 3 13 16 3 0.884 0.98

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.

Reliever Tm IP K/9   Reliever Tm IP BB/9
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
          Kevin Alexander SC 12.2 1.4
          Kevin Herget PB 18.1 1.5

Key ratios

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.

Reliever Tm IP K/BB   Reliever Tm IP GB/FB
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

The winner

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.

Honorable Mentions

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.

Prior Winners

  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

Coming soon

Announced next will be our final monthly update to the Cardinals top 40 prospect rankings, exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for your business!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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