Colton Thomson (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Colton Thomson of the Gulf Coast League is The Cardinal Nation’s top relief pitcher during August 2016, edging out eight other finalists.

Colton Thomson of the Gulf Coast League is The Cardinal Nation’s top relief pitcher during August 2016, edging out eight other finalists.

This is the second 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 review the August performances of the top relief pitchers in the system. By definition, this group can very rarely, if ever, compete with the flashier numbers put up by starters, so this award is especially for the bullpenners, who work in relative anonymity.


By my count, at least 80 individuals pitched primarily as a reliever in the Cardinals system last month. When applying the criteria of at least 10 innings pitched and an ERA under 1.50, the list drops to just nine.

There is a huge tilt toward the least experienced hurlers, with eight of the nine competing in short-season ball - from State College down to the Dominican Summer League. The DSL has two finalists, the Gulf Coast three, Johnson City one and two Spikes are included.

The only full-season pitcher in the group is Ronnie Shaban, having received a well-earned promoted from Springfield to Memphis late in the month.

Reliever Tm IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB GB/FB
Colton Thomson  GCL 11.2 0.00 0.625 12.3 3.1 4.0 4.0
Wilfredo Pereira  DSL 11.1 0.00 1.351 4.8 0.8 6.0 2.5
Ronnie Shaban  Spr-Mem 11.1 0.79 1.579 6.3 1.6 4.0 1.7
Francis Ventura  DSL 11 0.82 0.818 9.0 0.8 11.0 2.8
Keaton Siomkin  JC 10.1 0.87 0.495 11.4 0.9 13.0 2.0
Will Changarotty  GCL 14 1.29 0.929 9.0 1.3 7.0 1.8
Spencer Trayner  SC 20.1 1.33 0.647 4.4 0.0 inf 2.7
Mike O'Reilly  GCL 19 1.42 0.789 10.4 0.5 22.0 0.8
Jonathan Escudero  SC 12.1 1.46 1.240 13.9 5.1 2.7 1.2

ERA and WHIP leaders

Every single 10-inning reliever in the Cardinals system was scored upon during August, though the only runs occurring against Colton Thomson of the GCL (one) and Wilfredo Periera of the DSL (two) were unearned.

One earned run was charged against Shaban, the DSL’s Francis Ventura and Johnson City’s Keaton Siomkin (plus one unearned). Siomkin also posted the most impressive WHIP at 0.495, on just four hits and two walks. On the month, he allowed two runs, one earned.

When expanding the look to the two categories together, ERA and WHIP, walks plus hits per innings pitched, a good surrogate for baserunners allowed, the decision was made. Six of the nine had very strong WHIPs, under 1.00, but three allowed fewer than two baserunners every three innings.


Our winner

Only one player is in both subsets, our choice as The Cardinal Nation’s August Reliever of the Month, Colton Thomson. Not only did the lefty tie for the lowest ERA, he registered the second-lowest WHIP at 0.625. As you will see later in this article, Thomson also had the best ground ball to fly ball rate among the finalists.

Thomson allowed three hits and four walks all month, to compare to the second-highest strikeout total of 16.

In June, the 23-year-old had been signed to a free agent contract from the University of New Mexico and overall, has a 1.03 ERA and a .182 batting average against for the GCL Cardinals.

As shared by TCN GCL reporter Paul Ivice, Thomson is called “Stones” by his teammates because he pitched effectively with guile and guts this season despite a fastball that had not touched 90 mph until his final regular season appearance.


Strikeout, walk, ground ball leaders

Escudero and Thomson are the clear leaders in strikeouts, with impressive rates of 13.9 and 12.3 per nine innings, respectively. Trayner and O’Reilly were by far the stingiest in walks, with the former going all month with a free pass issued. The latter’s two’s walks were so overwhelming that they also had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio among the finalists at infinity and 22-to-1, respectively.

Back to our winner – Thomson stands out among the others in inducing ground balls, at a rate of 4.0 per fly ball - with none of the other finalists closer than 2.8 to 1. That puts the icing on the cake for our Reliever of the Month selection.


July’s winner in August

How did Johnson City’s Noel Gonzalez, our July Relief Pitcher of the Month, perform in August?

Well, not so well. The 22-year-old, who allowed no earned runs in 10 2/3 July frames, coughed up eight runs, five earned, in 8 1/3 innings in August. The 5.40 ERA was joined by seven walks against nine strikeouts.   


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
June Luke Weaver DNA DNA June
July Matt Pearce L Weaver/A Gomber Brian Pirela July
Aug Jorge Rodriguez TBA Colton Thomson Aug
  Player of Month      
2016 Cards organization The Cardinal Nation   2016
April  Harrison Bader Harrison Bader   April 
May David Washington David Washington   May
June Brian Sanchez DNA   June
July Allen Cordoba Wadye Ynfante   July
Aug Luke Voit Luke Voit   Aug

Coming soon

We will next publish our choice as TCN’s August Starting Pitcher of the Month, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.


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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