Austin Gomber (Brian Walton / The Cardinal Nation)

Austin Gomber of Palm Beach is The Cardinal Nation’s top starting pitcher during the first month of the season.

Austin Gomber of Palm Beach is The Cardinal Nation’s top starting pitcher during the first month of the season.

This is the second of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly three-part series in which we announce our Players and Pitchers of the Month – from the latter group, starters and relievers separately - across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. While the Cardinals themselves recognize their top players as well, we undertake our own independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of April system-wide leaders in a group of key pitching categories.

Stats leaders

From the 22 starting pitchers making up the population considered, six finalists were chosen – those with ERAs for the month under 2.50.

The representation is even, yet uneven. All three of the lowest-level full-season clubs - Class-A Peoria, A-Advanced Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield – have two starters among the finalists. Yet despite Triple-A Memphis ranking second in the 16-team Pacific Coast League with a 3.49 team ERA, none of the Redbirds’ starting five made our cut for April.

An impressive factoid is that four of the six finalists were pitching at higher levels for the first time during April. Two of them, Jacob Evans and Ryan Helsley, made multiple level jumps since last season. Austin Gomber and Brennan Leitao also earned promotions over their 2015 assignments.

Corey Baker  SPR 21.0 1.29 1.00 8.1 2.6 3.2 1.7
Jacob Evans  PB 27.0 1.33 1.19 5.3 1.3 4.0 2.4
Austin Gomber  PB 22.7 1.59 1.08 9.1 1.6 5.8 1.8
Brennan Leitao  PEO 20.0 1.80 0.90 7.7 1.8 4.3 0.6
Andrew Morales  SPR 25.0 2.16 0.84 7.9 1.8 4.4 1.2
Ryan Helsley  PEO 22.3 2.42 1.09 10.1 2.8 3.6 1.6

There is not one clear winner, with a number of the candidates having good cases, so let’s dig in a bit deeper.

ERA and WHIP leaders

The six finalists are sort of grouped in twos in terms of ERA. Springfield’s Corey Baker, reigning Texas League Pitcher of the Week, and Evans, pitching for Palm Beach, are clustered around the 1.30 mark. Gomber (Palm Beach) and Leitao (Peoria) have ERAs in the area of 1.60-1.80 while Peoria’s Helsley and Andrew Morales of Springfield logged ERAs between 2.00 and 2.50.

Five of the six have very strong April WHIPs, a good surrogate for baserunners allowed. Morales and Leitao are exceptional at under 0.90, with Baker, Gomber and Helsley also great at under 1.10. Even Evans, the outlier at 1.19, is very good.

Strikeout and walk leaders

Helsley and Gomber both struck out more than one batter per inning in April, leading our finalists. As will be even more evident in the upcoming stats, strikeouts is not Evans’ game.

Speaking of… Evans and Gomber are stingiest with the free passes, with Leitao and Morales also under two walks per nine innings. Baker and Helsley fall back in this measure.

Key ratios

While all six pitchers have a very good strikeout to walk ratio of better than three to one, Gomber’s 5.8 mark really stands above the others.

As one might expect, Evans is the ground ball king, though Gomber is next-best at keeping the ball down. This looks like an area of potential exposure for Leitao – at least in his first month in full season ball.

The winner

Taking all measures into account in a tight competition, The Cardinal Nation’s April Starting Pitcher of the Month is Palm Beach’s Austin Gomber.

The 22-year-old left-hander, promoted from Peoria last season, is already well-decorated. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder - who scored a non-roster invitation to big league spring training camp - is the reigning co-Pitcher of the Year in the Cardinals system and TCN’s 14th-ranked Cardinals prospect.

Prior award winners

  Pitcher of Month Starter of Month Reliever of Month  
2016 Cards organization The Cardinal Nation The Cardinal Nation 2016
April    Austin Gomber   April 
May       May
June       June
July       July
Aug       Aug
  Player of Month      
2016 Cards organization The Cardinal Nation   2016
April    Harrison Bader   April 
May       May
June       June
July       July
Aug       Aug

Coming soon

The Cardinal Nation’s Relief Pitcher of the Month for April will be announced next, as will our first monthly update to our Cardinals top 40 prospect rankings, the latter exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Prospect Interview: OF Harrison Bader

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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