The St. Louis Cardinals are universally praised for their ability to develop pitching. The 2015 draft was no exception as the Cardinals added to their already impressive pitching stable, drawing arms from the high school and college ranks. Despite a couple high-end prep picks early in June’s First-Year Player Draft, The Cardinal Nation’s award for the top rookie starting pitcher this year goes to the organization’s sixth-round pick out of the University of Oklahoma.
Evans is an average-sized left-hander standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing just over 200 pounds. The 21-year-old was used exclusively as a reliever for Oklahoma, appearing in 28 games and throwing 43 innings. He struck out 53 batters and walked 10 for the Sooners, compiling a 1.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
After forgoing his senior season to sign with the Cardinals, Evans again came out of the bullpen for State College to begin his professional career. But, all of his appearances were for at least two innings, and Evans was moved to the rotation for six starts to finish out the year.
For the full New York-Penn League season, Evans threw 49 2/3 innings, striking out 42 of his 191 batters and walking just seven. In his six starts, Evans threw 28 2/3 innings, striking out 27 and walking five with a 2.71 FIP and 1.08 WHIP.
His ERA as a starter, 4.40, is strikingly high considering his peripherals, but it ballooned due to one dud of a start on August 30th when he allowed 10 runs on eight hits and two walks over just 2/3 of an inning. However, Evans rebounded masterfully, throwing six innings his next start, striking out nine and walking none.
Runner-Up: Jake Woodford
Woodford was rather close to taking the prize for best rookie starting pitcher due to Evans’ time in the Spikes’ bullpen, but the 18-year-old just wasn’t quite as impressive as the left-hander. The prep right-hander put up a strong strikeout rate in his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League. Woodford struck out 21 of the 112 batters he faced for an 18.75% rate. The 39th overall selection this June walked seven batters, the same as Evans, but in 23 1/3 fewer innings. Still, combined with his strikeout rate, Woodford put up a 12.5% K-BB% and a 3.23 FIP.
Carson Cross, State College: 43 1/3 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 3.17 FIP, 9.83% K-BB%
Ryan Helsley, Johnson City: 40 1/3 IP, 2.01 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.52 FIP, 9.36% K-BB%
Ian Oxnevad, GCL: 26 IP, 2.42 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3.62 FIP, 7.69% K-BB%
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 organization’s Rookie Relief Pitcher and Player of the Year, with the latter up next.
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