In phase three of our annual recaps of the just-completed season across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, we move from relief pitchers to starting pitchers, beginning with the Dominican Summer League.
The pitching of the 2014 Dominican Summer League Cardinals was the brightest spot for the struggling rookie-level club in 2014. Collectively, the staff came in with an ERA of 3.54 that ranked 19th in the 36-team league. Though they finished 29th in strikeouts, they issued the eighth-fewest walks.
Interestingly, of the seven Cardinals hurlers that pitched the majority of their innings in a starting role, there are two Juniors and two Gonzalezes, though only one Junior Gonzalez. Alas, though he is the name winner, he is not The Cardinal Nation’s choice as the DSL Cardinals’ top starting pitcher.
|DSL Cards starters||W||L||ERA||G||GS||IP||H||R||ER||HR||HB||BB||SO|
A quick look at the data indicates that left-hander David Oca and righties Oneiver Diaz and Derian Gonzalez should be the primary contenders, with the only ERAs under 3.96. However, Diaz, 18, threw just 37 innings, substantially less than the others.
In terms of a prospect pedigree and career advancement, Gonzalez, 19, stands out. The Venezuelan native was the only Cardinals pitcher named to the 2014 DSL All-Star Game and is currently working at the Cards instructional league camp in Florida. His time in the DSL is almost certainly complete.
Yet it is the 5-foot-9 lefty Oca, also 19, who put up the most impressive numbers. The Venezuelan logged the lowest ERA among starters while making the most starts. Averaging five innings per start in the DSL is an indicator of his competitiveness and ability to pitch (relatively) deep into games.
Among the seven contenders, let’s look at strikeouts, walks and baserunners allowed, with WHIP, walks and hits per innings pitched, as the surrogate for the latter.
|DSL Cards starters||ERA||WHIP||K/9||BB/9||K/BB|
Derian Gonzalez was the strikeout rate leader for the DSL Cards, with he and Oca the only two to fan better than a batter per inning. Oca led the club by a substantial margin in terms of keeping runners off the bases, including walking the fewest batters per nine innings.
In fact, Oca’s walk rate was exactly half that of Gonzalez’. As a result, the lefty’s strikeout to walk ratio, the column by which the above table is sorted, is far superior to all other DSL Cardinals starters.
So in summary, Oca had the best ERA, allowed the fewest walks and baserunners, and was second in strikeouts. He also demonstrated year-to-year improvement. In his second season pitching the DSL, Oca lowered his ERA from 3.63 to 2.22.
Recently, I asked Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez about Oca. A summary of his comments follow. Suffice it to say that there is more to Oca than his physical stature.
“David is a small lefty, 5-8 or 5-9 if you want to help him,” Rodriguez noted. “He’s probably got the most guts on the team. He is a competitor.”
Oca has a balanced repertoire for rookie ball.
“His fastball is between 88-91 and has a little life on it,” explained the international leader. You don’t think the ball is going to come out of his hand the way that it does. He spins a good curve ball and has a good changeup to neutralize righties.”
Interestingly, Oca led the Cards in innings pitched, despite not being ready to start the season. Rodriguez explains.
“Oca actually started the season injured,” the international chief said. “He started pitching at some point in late June so putting together the kind of numbers he put together given his injuries (nothing serious) was good.”
With that, we have our choice. Congratulations to David Oca, The Cardinal Nation Dominican Summer League Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2014.
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 upcoming selection as the DSL Cardinals Player of the Year.
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