This is the third in The Cardinal Nation’s monthly three-part series in which we announce our Players and Pitchers of the Month, both starters and relievers, across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. This time around, we will review the May performances of the top relief pitchers in the system.
To be completely honest, I was really surprised when I reviewed this month’s data. In fact, I went back and double-checked it to ensure my spreadsheet was not in error.
May was a really bad month for Cardinals relievers as a group. Of the 23 qualifying bullpenners, ones who threw at least 10 innings during the month, their ERAs broke out this way:
Though the above table is not that granular, all of the relievers in the 2.01-3.00 ERA range posted ERAs above 2.50. As a result, our list of finalists has just four names – the very select group of relievers who threw 10 or more innings with ERAs under 2.50.
All four are “new finalists,” meaning none of the six who were in the running for the April top reliever award repeated their highest level of performance during May. However, it is worth special note that one of the six, lefty Dean Kiekhefer, earned a promotion to St. Louis, everyone’s ultimate goal.
Not surprisingly, two of our four May finalists also moved up a level of play during the month. After all, there should be ample opportunity for those relievers performing well.
All four levels of full-season play are represented by the four finalists, though three of the four spent at least part of May with A-Advanced Palm Beach.
ERA and WHIP leaders
Unlike last month, when there were four relievers with perfect ERAs, every single reliever in the Cardinals system was scored upon during May. That includes our 23 qualifiers plus eight other relievers who pitched less than 10 innings each.
Oddly, there were two “pitchers” who escaped May with a run-free slate – but both were position players, drafted into duty to collect a few outs late in blowout losses. They are Dylan Becker (one inning) of Peoria and Alberto Rosario (1/3 inning) from Memphis.
Still, our finalists have nothing to be embarrassed about. Landon Beck and Rowan Wick allowed just one run each all month, while Pedro Echemendia and Ryan Sherriff were charged with three scores each. (In addition, five unearned runs crossed the plate while Sherriff was pitching, however.)
In term of WHIP, walks plus hits per innings pitched, a good surrogate for baserunners allowed, only Echemendia came in over 1.00.
Strikeout and walk leaders
Normally, by this section of the report, a pitcher with the best ERA and WHIP is in a dominating position to take home this award. In fact, Beck’s strikeout rate of just under 12 per nine is exceptional. Though his walk rate is tied for highest among this group, roughly one free pass every three innings is certainly not terrible.
The problem is that Beck has to compete with Wick, whose strikeout rate is nothing short of magnificent. To help put it into context, among all pitchers in the system, starters or relievers, only Alex Reyes at 15 strikeouts per nine rivals Wick’s 14.8 mark.
The difference between the two is control. Wick’s walk rate of 1.7 per nine was not only the best among our finalists, but it is roughly one-third that of number one prospect Reyes, at 5.0 free passes per nine.
If that wasn’t eye-opening enough, coupling Wick’s high strikeouts with low walks leads to an other-worldly 8.5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio for the month. Wick’s strikeout and walk dominance more than closes the small ERA and WHIP gap to Beck in my estimation.
Before bringing this to a close, however, we need to recognize Sherriff’s mastery of the ground ball. His ground-to-fly ball rate of 5.8-to-1 was by far the best of any pitcher in the system during May.
Based on his superb results – ERA and WHIP under 1.00 and the top strikeout and walk performances among our finalists - Rowan Wick of Palm Beach is The Cardinal Nation’s Relief Pitcher of the Month for May, edging out his teammate Landon Beck.
I do not always list saves here, as they are not equally attainable for all relievers. However, it is worth noting that Wick’s innings are important ones late in games. The right-hander seamlessly slid into the ninth inning role for the Beach Birds after our top April reliever, Kevin Herget, was promoted to Springfield.
Since that move on May 20, Wick converted four of his five opportunities, allowing his lone run for the month in the other outing.
In conclusion, in just his 12th month of pitching since converting from the outfield last season, Wick is not only excelling in high-A ball, but we consider his May performance to be the best among all relief pitchers in the entire Cardinals system.
Formerly in The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list (members only content) as a power hitter, Wick re-entered the rankings during May at number 28 - with a bullet!
An impressive transformation is progressing quickly no matter how one looks at it.
Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Prospect Interview – Rowan Wick
Check out our brand new interview with the Relief Pitcher of the Month as he outlines his journey from power hitter to power reliever.
April’s winner in May
How did Herget, our April Relief Pitcher of the Month, perform in May?
Well, first and foremost, the 25-year-old right-hander’s performance was recognized by the organization in a mid-month promotion from Palm Beach to Double-A Springfield.
On the downside, Herget’s May numbers were not up to his lofty April standard. After tossing five scoreless frames to close out his Florida State League stint, Texas League hitters were waiting. Herget was bombed for nine runs, eight earned, in 7 1/3 innings for a 9.43 ERA at Springfield.
The jump to Double-A has proven time and again to be the toughest for many players, whether pitchers or hitters. It also serves as a good reminder that while Wick’s time to follow Herget will surely come, establishing a sound base first can only prove beneficial over the long haul, especially for such an inexperienced hurler.
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||Jake Woodford||Rowan Wick||May|
|Player of Month|
|2016||Cards organization||The Cardinal Nation||2016|
|April||Harrison Bader||Harrison Bader||April|
|May||David Washington||David Washington||May|
The Cardinal Nation’s draft coverage is leading up to Thursday and afterward, followed by the 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.
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