While 13 different pitchers starting at least one game for the 2015 Gulf Coast Cardinals, only six started for the rookie-level club more than twice, led by opening day starter Sandy Alcantara’s 12.
Alcantara showed flashes of brilliance while leading the GCL in innings pitched. After getting shelled on opening day, Alcantara posted a 2.32 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 62 innings over his next 11 starts. He allowed 46 hits and 16 walks while whiffing 53.
Junior Fernandez, the 18-year-old, right-handed Dominican native who attended high school in Florida, finished very strongly. In his last seven starts covering 38 innings, Fernandez posted a 1.89 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, allowing eight earned runs on 28 hits and nine walks while whiffing 44.
Ian Oxnevad, the Cardinals’ eighth-round pick this year from the Seattle area, also pitched quite well. The 6-foot-4 lefty had a 2.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but threw only 26 innings because the Cardinals strictly limit the work by draft picks who pitched in high school or college during the spring.
Over those outstanding performances, however, was the job done by David Oca.
Unimpressive physically at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Oca is a crafty lefty who gave hitters a comfortable 0-for-4. He doesn’t light up the radar gun like some of his more physically gifted teammates, but Oca wins.
The 20-year-old Venezuelan lefty’s seven victories led the GCL. He also had the team’s only two complete games, tied for the league lead in that category.
After four Dominican Summer League starts this season, during which he allowed just two earned runs in 20 innings, Oca moved to the US and began his GCL stint pitching out of the bullpen in long relief.
Upon recording W’s in three of four relief GCL appearances, he earned a rotation spot. As if to prove he belonged in the rotation, Oca threw complete games in his first two starts – a seven-inning front end of a doubleheader and then a rain-shortened six-inning outing.
The Cardinals were the last team in the GCL to record a shutout this season, and sure enough, when they finally got one in game No. 46, it was Oca who delivered. He allowed only two hits and a walk while fanning nine over eight innings that day.
Oca was second on the team in innings pitched, 2/3 of an inning behind Alcantara. Oca’s 1.70 ERA was second in the GCL - the leader at 1.05 was Twins 23-year-old right-hander Williams Ramirez - and Oca’s 1.08 WHIP tied for third. Oca’s 55 strikeouts tied him with teammate Derian Gonzalez for fourth, but he was the only GCL pitcher with more than 50 strikeouts and fewer than 15 walks (13). He didn’t hit any batters and coughed up only one gopher ball.
As further evidence Oca is a winner, he finished his season making one relief appearance for State College in a crucial game for the Spikes’ bid for a wild card berth. Oca shut out Williamsport on one hit for 3 1/3 innings until the Spikes walked off in the 10th.
Following the season, Oca was recognized as the left-handed pitcher on the 12-man Gulf Coast League All-Star Team, representing the best from the 16 league clubs.
Director of international operations Moises Rodriguez is not the only Cardinals staffer proud of the international program’s graduate, but may have known Oca the longest.
“Oca is one of those internal favorites,” Rodriguez said. “He is one of those guys who pitches between 88 and 91. Not the tallest kid in the world, but he is a lefty who moves the ball. Pitches inside, outside, up and down, mixes speeds. 88 to 91 from a lefty is not too shabby. Just a fun competitor. A kid that gets after it and has really put together an outstanding season in the GCL after contributing for a month down in the Dominican.”
In 2014, Oca had been The Cardinal Nation’s DSL Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year. Now, he has repeated the honor in the Gulf Coast League for 2015.
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 GCL Cardinals Reliever and Player of the Year.
Not yet a member?
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Take advantage of our seven-day free trial.
© 2015 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.