The State College Spikes won their first New York-Penn League Championship in 2014, and a stout pitching staff was a big reason for the team’s success.
The State College bullpen was one of the NYPL’s best, and Kyle Grana was far and away the Spikes’ best reliever in 2014.The 23-year old Wildwood, MO native grew up a Cardinals fan, and signed with the organization as an undrafted free-agent after finishing his collegiate career at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. Grana put together a solid rookie campaign in 2013, posting a 1.88 ERA over 22 appearances in the Gulf Coast League and seven appearances in Johnson City. The hard-throwing righty had a breakout campaign in 2014. Grana posted a 0.89 ERA, and allowed just four earned runs in 40 2/3 innings. He led the Spikes with 62 strikeouts and eight saves, and was the only State College reliever to be named a NYPL All-Star. Grana jumped out of the gate with an impressive 0.90 ERA and .206 opponent average in June, good enough that he was named The Cardinal Nation’s systemwide Reliever of the Month. Even more impressive was the fact that Grana improved as the season wore on, holding opposing hitters to a .185 average in July and a paltry .160 average in August. When looking at relievers, it is important to see the types of hitters they are most effective against, and the situations in which they thrive. Grana has the bulldog mentality you want in a late inning, high-leverage pitcher, and it shows in his numbers. Although lefties batted .281 against the reliever, right-handed hitters batted just .111. Grana struck out 48 of the 86 right-handed batters he faced, and walked just four. Grana was also much more effective in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings than he was in the fifth or sixth. In 5 2/3 innings of work in the fifth and sixth innings, he posted a 3.18 ERA, allowing six hits and two earned runs to just 15 batters faced. Over the 34 2/3 innings that he worked in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, Grana’s ERA was an incredible 0.26. He allowed just one earned run and 17 hits to 134 batters faced. The 6-foot-4, 245 pound righty likely grabbed the attention of a lot of people in 2014, and I would not be surprised to see him begin the 2015 season in Palm Beach. But there is no guarantee that he would bypass Peoria, as the Chiefs had some solid relievers as well, and the Cardinals may want to see how he fares in Peoria before giving him a shot with the Palm Beach club. Regardless of where he starts the 2015 campaign, Grana had a 2014 to be proud of, and will be looking to prove this past season can be repeated. Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation State College Spikes Reliever of the Year for 2014, Kyle Grana.
Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the State College Spikes Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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