Jake Woodford (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Jake Woodford of Peoria is The Cardinal Nation’s top starting pitcher during the second month of the season.

Jake Woodford of Peoria is The Cardinal Nation’s top starting pitcher during the second 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 21 starting pitchers making up the population considered, all of whom threw at least 20 innings, six finalists were chosen – those with ERAs for the month under 2.60.  

The representation highly skewed toward Class-A Peoria, with three starters among the finalists. Yet, the two highest ERA pitchers are among those three, with the least chance of winning.

A-Advanced Palm Beach is represented along with two hurlers from Double-A Springfield, including one who made a spot start at Triple-A Memphis. That is the Redbirds’ only participation in this month’s contest.  

An impressive factoid is that five of the six finalists are pitching at higher levels in 2016 compared to 2015. In fact, the Peoria trio of Jake Woodford, Derian Gonzalez and Ryan Helsley literally flew from the Gulf Coast League to the Midwest League year to year.

http://www.scout.com/player/135121-mike-mayers?s=321

Though Mike Mayers was back at Springfield for most of April and May, the right-hander missed most of last season due to injury and it appears he may stick this time up with Memphis.

Starter Tm IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB GB/FB
Jake Woodford  Peo 31.0 0.87 1.03 7.5 2.6 2.9 1.4
Mike Mayers  Spr/Mem 32.0 1.13 1.13 7.0 2.8 2.5 1.8
Matt Pearce  PB 34.0 1.32 0.94 5.6 1.6 3.5 1.5
Trey Nielsen  Spr 40.0 1.58 0.95 5.6 1.4 4.2 2.0
Derian Gonzalez  Peo 29.3 2.15 1.20 6.8 4.6 1.5 3.3
Ryan Helsley  Peo 24.7 2.19 1.12 8.4 1.1 7.7 1.4

A number of the finalists have good cases to make, so let’s dig in a bit deeper.

ERA and WHIP leaders

I virtually group the six finalists in twos in terms of ERA. Woodford and Mayers are the lowest, with Matt Pearce of Palm Beach and Springfield’s Trey Nielsen in the middle. Gonzalez and Helsley had good months, but realistically, not good enough to win.

http://www.scout.com/player/182773-jake-woodford?s=321

In reality, Woodford’s feat of yielding just three earned runs in 31 frames is truly exceptional. Any time a starter logs a sub-1.00 ERA for an entire month, he instantly becomes a front-runner.

Meyers’ 1.13 also deserves special attention since one of his starts was under the Triple-A microscope. Pearce and Nielsen also had exceptional Mays, but not to the extent of the first two.

http://www.scout.com/player/191574-matt-pearce?s=321

All have strong May WHIPs, a good surrogate for baserunners allowed. Pearce and Nielsen are exceptional at under 1.00, with Woodford at 1.03 the only other one close. Even Gonzalez, the outlier at 1.20, is still very good.

Strikeout and walk leaders

Woodford and Mayers are not only number one and two in lowest ERA, they also are the top two strikeout pitchers among the finalists. In fact, you may notice the similarities of their lines all the way across.

http://www.scout.com/player/179973-trey-nielsen?s=321

That is the point with Pierce and Nielsen as well. The two are lowest in strikeouts but also are among the stingiest with free passes. Gonzalez’ 4.6 walks per nine really stands out as an area needing improvement.

Key ratios

http://www.scout.com/player/200626-ryan-helsley?s=321

It is too bad that Helsley has the highest ERA from among the six finalists, as his strikeout to walk ratio is truly exceptional at 7.7-to-1. Pearce and Nielsen are next best, with Woodford coming in just under three to one, still very strong.

http://www.scout.com/player/179660-derian-gonzalez?s=321

In terms of ground ball to fly ball ratio, Gonzalez stands alone at 3.3-to-1, with the other five clustered between 1.4 and 2.0.

The winner

Taking all measures into account in a tight competition, The Cardinal Nation’s May Starting Pitcher of the Month is Peoria’s Jake Woodford. That 0.87 ERA is just too tough to beat.

The 19-year-old right-hander, promoted from the GCL last season, was St. Louis’ first-round supplemental pick at 39th overall last June and is currently TCN’s 14th-ranked Cardinals prospect.

April’s winners in May

How did Austin Gomber, our April Starting Pitcher of the Month, perform in May?

The Palm Beach lefty, who is one place ahead of Woodford in the TCN top 40, came in ninth in the system in May ERA at 3.09.

The Cardinal organization’s choice as April Pitcher of the Month was Andrew Morales. The Springfield right-hander dropped back in the pack in May with a 4.32 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.

Prior award winners

Here are the earlier winners of all of the monthly awards for 2016 to date – both from The Cardinal Nation and the St. Louis Cardinals themselves – along with links to those prior articles.

  Pitcher of Month Starter of Month Reliever of Month  
2016 Cards organization The Cardinal Nation The Cardinal Nation 2016
April  Andrew Morales Austin Gomber Kevin Herget April 
May   Jake Woodford   May
June       June
July       July
Aug       Aug
         
  Player of Month      
2016 Cards organization The Cardinal Nation   2016
April  Harrison Bader Harrison Bader   April 
May   David Washington   May
June       June
July       July
Aug       Aug

Coming soon

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

Of course, when the Cardinals organization discloses their choices as top hitter and pitcher for May, we will share that news, as well.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Prospect Interview – Bruce Caldwell

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

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