After winning the 2014 New York-Penn League Championship title, the 2015 State College Spikes couldn’t make it out of the regular season. The pitching staff oscillated back and forth between good and bad games, though the bullpen was more dependable.
Despite inconsistent performances from their starters, the Spikes’ relievers usually did their jobs. One of the standout bullpen leaders was Pedro Echemendia, our choice as The Cardinal Nation’s State College Relief Pitcher of the Year for 2015.
At 24 years of age, Echemendia was the second-oldest player on the team, yet was playing in his first season as a professional in the US. The Cuban native spent two years on his hometown team, Ciego de Avila – a team in the Cuban National Series – during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons (ages 18 and 19) before beginning his journey to the States.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-handed pitcher returned to the world of organized baseball and joined the Spikes this season, after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals organization on February 16, 2015 as an international free agent.
For the Spikes, Echemendia had a 6-1 record. He appeared in 26 games and finished 20 of them. In 38 2/3 innings, he yielded 10 runs, nine earned, on 30 hits, including just one home run and only six walks while striking out 34. With a 0.73 ERA over his last 10 appearances, Echemendia brought down his season ERA to 2.09 – one of the best in the Spikes’ bullpen.
He began slowly, taking his only loss in June while logging a 4.26 ERA and blowing two of his three save opportunities. Still, he held opposing batsmen to a .187 average. In July, Echemendia heated up, earning the win in four of his nine appearances, holding batters to a .207 average, with 2.81 ERA and posting two saves in four chances.
August was not only a big month for the Spikes – as the team began to really push for that playoff bid with a string of eight wins in the middle of the month – but also for Echemendia as a reliever. He earned the win in two games, but appeared in nine others. Echemendia notched seven saves in eight opportunities with an ERA of 0.64 in 14 innings.
As the season drew to its close, Echemendia only appeared in two September games, but saved both. In 2 1/3 innings, he allowed no runs on two hits.
For the season, Echemendia was equally effective against lefties and righties, increasing his value. Versus right-handed batters, he yielded an average of .221 with an ERA of 2.49 over 21 2/3 innings. He did even better against left-handed hitters, yielding an average of .213 with an ERA of 1.59 over 17 innings.
Last year’s Reliever of the Year, Kyle Grana, posted a total of eight saves throughout the course of the Spikes’ season. Echemendia earned 11, almost tying the single-season franchise record of 12 saves, set in 2007.
Because of his balanced performance, Echemendia became the first pitcher in Spikes’ history to lead the team in both wins and saves in a single season. He also topped the New York-Penn League with 25 appearances on the mound. The right-hander capped off his successful campaign by being named State College’s Pitcher of the Year.
I predict that fans will see Echemendia on the Peoria roster to open the 2016 season. He grabbed attention this season, and given his age and success, the Cardinals should want to continue to challenge him.
No matter what is ahead, Echemendia had a good overall 2015 season and is deserving of our recognition as The Cardinal Nation State College Reliever of the Year.
Luke Harrison appeared in 18 games and despite an 0-2 record, logged a 1.02 ERA and two saves in three chances. The 35th-rounder from the University of Indiana struck out 28 and walked just three in 35 1/3 innings.
After his promotion from Johnson City, Steven De La Cruz struck out 21 and issued just two free passes in 16 innings, while posting a 1.69 ERA.
Before moving into the rotation, sixth-rounder Jacob Evans made 10 relief appearances, striking out 15 against two walks in 21 innings. The former University of Oklahoma right-hander’s relief ERA was 1.29.
Link to master article with all 2015 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that includes our selections as the State College Spikes Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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