Until end-of-the-season call-ups began to take their toll, the Peoria Chiefs’ bullpen was one of the best in minor league baseball. Sure, there were a few hiccups every now and then, but it felt like most of the time you could count on the relievers to get the job done. There were a whole host of Chiefs who excelled in this role, all of whom were called up to higher leagues by the end of the year, although one did make a return to Peoria.
So, without further ado, let’s break down each of the candidates.
We start with Kyle Barraclough, who was fantastic in the first half for the Chiefs before joining Palm Beach. Prior to his May 12 call-up, Barraclough posted a 1.23 ERA with 18 strikeouts to go along with a pair of saves. The 24-year-old rejoined Peoria July 19 and picked up where he left off, striking out 42 batters while walking just 14 over 25 innings pitched. Pressed into the closer’s role after an injury to Zach Loraine, Barraclough responded nicely, picking up ten saves in his final 20 appearances.
Kevin Herget is next on the list. The right-hander provided flexibility to the Chiefs’ bullpen. After starting eight games in 2013 with State College, Herget worked in 34 games as a reliever for Peoria this season and did a great job. The 23-year-old posted a 2.81 ERA in 67 1/3 innings while striking out 86 batters and walking 27. Of his 34 appearances, all but 10 went multiple innings, including one relief appearance in early August in which he tossed five innings of two-hit baseball with six strikeouts.
Lefty Steve Sabatino is another player who deserved consideration for the title. Sabatino set a team record with 35 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, breaking Dixon Llorens’ record of 28 2/3. The 24-year-old pitched multiple innings for the Chiefs in just 16 of his 31 appearances, making him more of a lefty specialist, but that does not mean he was ineffective. Sabatino finished with five wins and an ERA of 1.94 on the season. He did not have as many strikeouts as the other relievers (47 in 41 2/3 innings) but nonetheless he was an asset to the Chiefs for the 2014 campaign.
All three relievers above had excellent seasons. However, my call is that The Cardinal Nation Reliever of the Year for 2014 is Chris Perry.
No other reliever across the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization earned the Pitcher of the Month award, but Perry’s ridiculous May earned him just that. A 0.46 ERA with 40 strikeouts is an astonishing total, and once you factor in the fact he only pitched 19 2/3 innings, it becomes even more stunning. He also picked up that same May recognition from The Cardinal Nation and added our system-wide Reliever of the Month honors during July.
For the season, Perry put up a 2.20 ERA with Peoria in 49 innings pitched while striking out 80 batters and walking just 15. Opponents hit a mere .165 against the 24-year-old. If you need one more stat to push you over the edge, consider this: Perry’s 80 strikeouts placed him sixth among relievers in the Midwest League who have started no more than two games, despite the fact that he has not pitched in the league since July 5.
Herget, Barraclough and Sabatino all had strong cases for the top reliever honor. But it is impossible to give it to anyone else but Perry, a fast-rising pitcher who will next be appearing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
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 Peoria Chiefs Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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