Right-hander Kyle Grana put together a phenomenal season in just his third year professionally and first in a Peoria Chiefs’ uniform. The 24-year-old’s final stat line indicates a 2-2 record with a 0.78 ERA and 24 saves in 54 appearances, more than good enough to name him The Cardinal Nation Peoria Relief Pitcher of the Year for 2015.
The Chiefs’ closer proved to be the go-to-guy out of the bullpen when it came to shutting the door. He blew just two save opportunities throughout the entire season in the first year at Single-A while finishing 44 of Peoria’s contests.
Despite his two losses and not being completely perfect, Grana’s ERA was near to perfection as he wrapped up 2015 with just five earned runs allowed during the entire season. Opponents hit just .176 against the Chiefs’ closer as he fanned 69 hitters through 57 1/3 innings pitched and helped lead the club into the Midwest League playoffs. Grana was also named an MWL Post-Season All-Star.
Grana entered the St. Louis farm system as a non-drafted free agent in 2013. Splitting time between Johnson City and Gulf Coast League Cardinals, he went 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and went 4-for-5 in save opportunities that summer.
In his first full season with State College Spikes, Grana turned in a 3-2 record with an ERA of 0.89 and went 8-for-10 in save opportunities through 27 appearances. That performance earned him a New York-Penn League All-Star selection, The Cardinal Nation’s choice as State College Relief Pitcher of the Year for 2014 and later, our comparable nod for the entire Cardinals system.
Peoria’s 2015 closer should be on his way to another promotion in the spring, so keep a close eye on him. The tough mentality of this young fireballer could help him make his way to the majors someday.
Robby Rowland receives an honorable mention in the race for Peoria’s Reliever of the Year. Signed as a free agent before the season after his release by Pittsburgh, the right-hander made heads turn in the Cardinals organization. Rowland was promoted not once, but twice, as he finished the season on the Double-A roster with the Springfield Cardinals.
During his time in Peoria, Rowland went 2-3 with an ERA of 2.40 in 28 games and received an All-Star nod to complete in front of the Peoria crowd. Rowland’s promotions, the first to Palm Beach, came in the second half of the season. His fast rising indicates that he could be a sleeper pick in the Cardinals’ organization. To that end, Rowland was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League starting next month.
Other Chiefs relievers considered included Blake McKnight and Nick Lomascolo. Statistically, the two did fairly well, as the former logged an ERA under two and the latter led the bullpen in strikeouts with 74. However, Lomascolo also topped all Peoria relievers with 35 walks in 64 1/3 innings. Coming down the stretch, they weren't as dominant in their bullpen appearances as was our winner, Kyle Grana.
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 Peoria Chiefs Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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