The Cardinal Nation April Reliever of Month

Peoria’s Kyle Grana is The Cardinal Nation’s top relief pitcher during the first month of the 2015 season.

This is the third of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly three-part series in which we announce our Players and Pitchers of the Month, both starters and relievers, across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. This time around, we will review the April performances of the top relief pitchers in the system.

Qualification

Beginning with the base requirement of having pitched at least two innings per week or eight in the month, 25 relief pitchers were among the population considered eligible. From them, nine had ERAs for the month under 2.00. Oddly none were in the range between 0.01 and 1.41, but six had spotless April ERAs. They are our finalists.

Unlike the starting pitching finalists, who skewed toward the Class-A clubs, all four full-season affiliates are represented in the six finalists, with two each from Memphis and Palm Beach. They are listed below in WHIP order, walks plus hits per inning pitched.

Name Team IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB GB/FB
Chris Thomas  Spr 12.0 0.00 0.67 6.0 0.8 8.0 2.4
Kyle Grana  Peo 9.3 0.00 0.88 15.4 3.9 4.0 2.0
Josh Lucas  PB 11.3 0.00 0.99 6.4 3.2 2.0 2.4
Sam Tuivailala  Mem 9.0 0.00 1.00 12.0 6.0 2.0 2.0
Miguel Socolovich  Mem 12.7 0.00 1.07 6.4 5.7 1.1 3.3
Kyle Barraclough  PB 10.7 0.00 1.18 12.7 5.1 2.5 1.1

ERA and WHIP leaders

As noted above, all of these hurlers had a perfect April ERA, and all logged below-average WHIPs. In the latter category, two stood out with exceptionally low numbers of baserunners allowed, Springfield’s Chris Thomas and Peoria’s Kyle Grana.

Strikeout and walk leaders

There is a huge split between three strikeout relievers and the other three, who fan opposing hitters at roughly half the rate of the others. The standouts in whiffs are the leader, Grana, Memphis’ Sam Tuivailala and Palm Beach’s Kyle Barraclough.

Thomas is by far the stingiest with free passes, with Palm Beach’s Josh Lucas and Grana next best. Walk rates of Barraclough, Tuivailala and Memphis’ Miguel Socolovich were high, at between five and six free passes issued per nine innings. In my view, that is playing with fire.

Key ratios

Because of his tiny walk rate, Thomas is stands above in strikeout to walk ratio, while Grana is a very respectable second at 4:1. The others are ok, but not as exceptional.

Looking at ground ball to fly ball ratio, there are two notables. Socolovich from the positive side while Barraclough is most fly ball prone of this very select group. The other four are grouped in the solid 2.0-2.4 range.

Name Team SV HLD BS W L
Chris Thomas  Spr 0 0 1 0 1
Kyle Grana  Peo 3 0 0 0 0
Josh Lucas  PB 1 0 0 1 0
Sam Tuivailala  Mem 3 2 0 0 0
Miguel Socolovich  Mem 0 2 0 1 0
Kyle Barraclough  PB 1 0 0 0 0

Counting stats

As the above table indicates, next are the counting stats for these six relievers during April. While not all of them played the same role and the totals are small, we can still check out their bottom lines. (For easier comparison, the names are listed in the same order as in the first table.)

Tuivailala collected the most saves and holds, with Grana also perfect in his three save opportunities. Lucas and Socolovich nabbed wins, while Barraclough converted his only save chance. Thomas absorbed the only loss and blown save in this group.

Grana

The winner

As with the starters, there were a number of very deserving performances by relief pitchers across the Cardinals system in April. One pitcher shaded the others in my view as the most balanced performer, being among those with lowest WHIP and reasonably low in walks, while also among the best in strikeouts, strikeout to walk ratio and saves.

As a result, I name Peoria’s Kyle Grana as The Cardinal Nation’s Relief Pitcher of the Month for April. The 23-year-old right-hander is our first-month winner in a close competition with the other five finalists, all of whom pitched very well.

The native of Wildwood, Missouri, signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2013, throws a 90-93 mph fastball and also sports a splitter and a curve in the upper 60’s.

This marks yet another recognition for Grana, who was also our Reliever of Month last June, a 2014 New York-Penn League All-Star, TCN’s State College Reliever of the Year and finally, our 2014 Relief Pitcher of the Year for the entire Cardinals system.

Coming soon

In the upcoming days, look for our first monthly update to our Cardinals top 40 prospect rankings, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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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.

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