2014 Cards Minors Rotation Leaders and Notes

Brian Walton’s commentary on a number of starting pitching leaders across the St. Louis Cardinals system. Alex Reyes is among both system strikeout and walk leaders.

This is the final segment of three in my review of statistical category leaders across the St. Louis Cardinals system in 2014. Here, I will share the starting pitching lists, both good and bad, as well as some observations. I hope you will learn from this as I certainly have.

The ground rules

My main decision was where to draw the line in terms of minimum innings pitched. I did not want to go so low that the rate stats would be distorted, yet I did not want to go so high that deserving short-season players would be excluded. I settled at 30 innings for the hurlers and chose to break out starters from relievers. The latter group was covered in article two.

In each category, I generally went for around 10 names, plus or minus, depending on breaks in the stats.


We will start with two of the most-commonly referenced stats, earned run average and walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP). The latter is a general surrogate for baserunners allowed. A high WHIP and low ERA would suggest some luck.

The system had 11 starters who finished the season with an ERA under 3.00. The group was dominated by short-season pitchers, with all five members of State College’s rotation coming in with ERAs at 2.50 or under. Marco Gonzales is the lone member of the 11 with more than one game above Class A.

Leading the way was Peoria left-hander Rob Kaminsky, who had the only ERA under 2.00. His WHIP was third, right behind Ian McKinney and Trey Nielsen from the Spikes. Gonzales (1), Kaminsky (2) and McKinney (21) are ranked in The Cardinal Nation top 40.

Rob Kaminsky Peo 100 21 27 71 79 31 1.02 1.88
David Oca DSL 65 16 27 54 67 13 1.03 2.22
Austin Gomber SC 47 12 17 55 36 18 1.55 2.30
Will Anderson SC 73.1 19 29 76 63 11 1.19 2.33
Daniel Poncedeleon SC 44.1 12 13 38 52 14 1.18 2.44
Ian McKinney JC-SC 47.1 13 13 38 40 9 1.00 2.47
Trey Nielsen SC 50.1 14 16 36 49 14 1.00 2.50
Marco Gonzales PB-Spr-Mem 122 34 40 110 117 27 1.12 2.51
Nick Petree Peo-PB-Spr 129 37 42 123 106 33 1.21 2.58
Frederis Parra GCL 46.2 14 18 43 34 15 1.26 2.70
Oneiver Diaz DSL 37 12 18 41 21 9 1.35 2.92

Strikeouts per nine innings

Moving to strikeouts, three starters fanned between 10 and 11 per nine innings, four more were between nine and 10 and three more had between 8.5 and nine per nine. Only one, however, struck out more than 11 batters per nine innings. That was Peoria’s Alex Reyes, our fourth-ranked prospect in the system.

Other than Reyes, the only full-season pitchers among the leaders are Gonzales and Boone Whiting, who fanned 9.2 per nine in an otherwise disappointing season.

Second and third in strikeout rate are two 2014 draftees, Landon Beck (25th round) and Daniel Poncedeleon (ninth).

The table on the right are those starters with the lowest strikeout rates in the system. I have to admit there were some surprising names here.

Steven Farinaro received a big bonus a year ago to forego UCLA. His strikeout rate of just 5.4 per nine tied new arrival Corey Littrell. The latter is the pitcher received from Boston as part of the John Lackey deal.

However, the most unexpected name is clearly Tyrell Jenkins. Coming into this season, the right-hander had fanned right at eight batters per nine over his career. Hopefully, the drop all the way down to five per nine is due to his ramping up from shoulder surgery. In support of that theory is the fact Jenkins was back up to 7.4 Ks per nine in August. He is another to watch closely in the AFL.

Starter Tm IP K/9   Starter Tm IP K/9
Alex Reyes Peo 109.1 11.3   Junior Gonzalez DSL 50.2 3.6
Landon Beck JC 42.1 10.8   Blake McKnight Peo 111.1 4.5
Daniel Poncedeleon SC 44.1 10.6   Kyle Helisek Peo-PB 121.2 5.0
Derian Gonzalez DSL 55.0 10.1   Tyrell Jenkins PB 74.0 5.0
Fernando Baez SC 45.2 9.5   Oneiver Diaz DSL 37.0 5.1
David Oca DSL 65.0 9.3   John Gast Mem 64.1 5.2
Boone Whiting Mem 96.2 9.2   Steven Farinaro JC 53.0 5.4
Juan Perez JC 58.1 9.1   Corey Littrell Sal-PB 31.2 5.4
Trey Nielsen SC 50.1 8.8   Jonathan Cornelius Spr 155.2 6.0
Sandy Alcantara DSL 56.2 8.7          
Marco Gonzales PB-Spr-Mem 122.0 8.6          

Walks per nine innings

10 starters issued two or fewer walks per nine innings this season, while at the other extreme, 10 others issued at least 3.3 free passes per nine.

New York-Penn League all-star Will Anderson, the Cards’ 26th-rounder this June, leads the way with a rate of just 1.4 per nine. McKinney and Johnson City’s Julio Mateo were next best. Current major leaguers Gonzales and Tyler Lyons also made the top 10.

Compare the highest walk rate list to the top strikeout pitchers and you see a pattern. Five of the top 10 strikeout artists in the system also are among the top 10 in issuing walks. That is why velocity and strikeouts alone are not enough.

The highest walk rate in the system was registered by a hard-throwing converting reliever, Fernando Baez. Others on both lists are Whiting, Juan Perez of Johnson City and Derian Gonzalez from the Dominican Summer League.

Right behind Baez is Reyes. This walk issue is why I have not placed Reyes in the top three prospects in the system – yet. In support of Reyes, in August, he lowered his walk count to a much more respectable 2.2. If the 20-year-old can continue with that improvement, he will move up in my rankings.

Starter Tm IP BB/9   Starter Tm IP BB/9
Will Anderson SC 73.1 1.4   Fernando Baez SC 45.2 5.5
Ian McKinney JC-SC 47.1 1.7   Alex Reyes Peo 109.1 5.0
Julio Mateo JC 62.0 1.7   Juan Perez JC 58.1 4.2
Jimmy Reed Peo-PB 138.1 1.8   Boone Whiting Mem 96.2 4.1
David Oca DSL 65.0 1.8   Landon Beck JC 42.1 4.0
Matt Pearce JC 45.0 1.8   Dewin Perez SC 63.2 3.7
Chase Brookshire Peo 109.0 1.9   Derian Gonzalez DSL 55.0 3.6
Tyler Lyons Mem 83.1 1.9   Kyle Helisek Peo-PB 121.2 3.6
Marco Gonzales PB-Spr-Mem 122.0 2.0   Austin Gomber SC 47.0 3.4
Steven Farinaro JC 53.0 2.0   John Gast Mem 64.1 3.4

Strikeout to walk ratio

Those who rarely issue free passes also show well here, with Anderson again on top, along with David Oca from the DSL. Gonzales and Lyons move up from the strikeout list. Jimmy Reed of Palm Beach and Matt Pearce of Johnson City are a couple of names to watch.

Struggling to come back from shoulder problems, lefty John Gast is among those to appear on both the low strikeout and high walk lists – the worst combination of places to be. Kyle Helisek, sent down to Peoria after being an all-star at Palm Beach is in the same area.

Not to belabor the point, but names I do not want to see in the right table of worst strikeout to walk ratios include Jenkins, Littrell and Reyes.

Starter Tm IP K/BB   Starter Tm IP K/BB
Will Anderson SC 73.1 5.7   Junior Gonzalez DSL 50.2 1.3
David Oca DSL 65.0 5.2   Kyle Helisek Peo-PB 121.2 1.4
Ian McKinney JC-SC 47.1 4.4   John Gast Mem 64.1 1.5
Marco Gonzales PB-Spr-Mem 122.0 4.3   Blake McKnight Peo 111.1 1.6
Tyler Lyons Mem 83.1 4.3   Fernando Baez SC 45.2 1.7
Jimmy Reed Peo-PB 138.1 3.8   Dewin Perez SC 63.2 1.8
Matt Pearce JC 45.0 3.8   Tyrell Jenkins PB 74.0 1.8
Daniel Poncedeleon SC 44.1 3.7   Dailyn Martinez JC-SC 62.1 1.9
Chase Brookshire Peo 109.0 3.6   Corey Littrell Sal-PB 31.2 1.9
Julio Mateo JC 62.0 3.5   Austin Gomber SC 47.0 2.0
Trey Nielsen SC 50.1 3.5   Juan Perez JC 58.1 2.2
          Alex Reyes Peo 109.1 2.2

Ground ball to fly ball ratio

One small distinction between this data and others you may see is that I include all batted balls, not just those which are recorded as outs.

Atop this list is Beck of Johnson City, our best ground ball starter in the system. Anderson offers few walks and induces many ground balls. It is easy to see why he did well this season.

I admit that I am more concerned about the names on the right. Worry about Gast and Reyes were already noted, though I suspect the two are on opposite trajectories.

Seeing McKinney right after Gast is surprising. Kurt Heyer had an inconsistent season with Springfield and it appears that he too many balls got into the air. Nick Petree scores well in tenacity and had a good ERA, but more of those Florida fly balls may leave Texas League parks in 2015.

Starter Tm IP GB/FB   Starter Tm IP GB/FB
Landon Beck JC 42.1 3.7   John Gast Mem 64.1 1.1
Trey Nielsen SC 50.1 3.2   Ian McKinney JC-SC 47.1 1.1
Will Anderson SC 73.1 3.1   Kurt Heyer Spr-Mem 152.1 1.3
Dailyn Martinez JC-SC 62.1 2.9   Julio Mateo JC 62.0 1.3
Silfredo Garcia Peo-PB 122.2 2.8   Nick Petree Peo-PB-Spr 129.0 1.3
Sam Gaviglio Spr-Mem 136.2 2.7   Fernando Baez SC 45.2 1.3
Derian Gonzalez DSL 55.0 2.5   Alex Reyes Peo 109.1 1.3
Daniel Poncedeleon SC 44.1 2.5   Corey Littrell Sal-PB 31.2 1.3

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

© 2014 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories