In part due to its proximity to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida base, the organization’s Florida State League affiliate experienced more roster churn during the 2016 season than any of the eight clubs in the minor league system.
As a result, selecting the top competitors for the Palm Beach Cardinals, who play their games at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, not in Palm Beach, can be a bit of a challenge.
Among the relief corps, all three Beach Birds with ERAs under 3.00 this season also spent time at other levels. Our rules here at The Cardinal Nation for these post-season awards is to qualify a player at just one level – where he either threw the most innings or had the most at-bats.
Two of the three, Kevin Herget and Rowan Wick, finished the season with Double-A Springfield. Herget, the first to be promoted, spent the majority of his 2016 mound time in the Texas League, so he will be considered with the Springfield bullpen. Because he moved up in late June, Wick ended up throwing more innings with Palm Beach.
The third, Davis Ward, actually concluded 2016 back a level. The right-hander was returned to Class-A Peoria for the final month, despite a stellar 1.74 ERA in his 10 Palm Beach outings. Though Ward also had the second-lowest WHIP among our group due to a low walk count, his strikeout rate was also minuscule.
Like Herget, Pedro Echemendia threw at least our minimum 20 innings with the Beach Birds, but quickly moved upward in the system. The Cuban actually ended the season with Memphis, but his 3.98 ERA with Palm Beach would not have been competitive enough to win here, anyway.
Many Cardinals fans already know the back story of the Canadian, Rowan Wick. Once a strong-armed catcher, the organization moved the now-23-year old to the outfield. The slugger drew national attention while setting a new State College home run record in 2014 before running into “trouble with the curve” at higher levels.
Wick first reached Palm Beach while still an outfielder in 2015 before his June move to the mound, which began in the Gulf Coast League. Due to injury, he pitched in just three GCL games that summer, before ramping up in fall instructional league. In an impressive acceleration as a pitcher, he was already back in the Florida State League in his new role to open the 2016 season.
That means his success in the Florida State League this season occurred in his first full season as a professional pitcher.
Let’s review some of those successes.
Wick began 2016 as a set-up man in manager Oliver Marmol’s bullpen. He was pitching ahead of Herget, who got off to an other-worldly start over the first six weeks (no earned runs in 23 innings) before his promotion to Springfield on May 14.
Six days later, Wick converted his first save for Palm Beach and added five move over the next month. That helped earn him the nod as The Cardinal Nation’s May Relief Pitcher of the Month across the system. Though Wick also soon received the call to Springfield, on June 21, he had excelled with Palm Beach long enough to be named a first-half Florida State League All-Star.
In the Class A-Advanced circuit, the right-hander had converted six of eight save opportunities, won two games with no losses and yielded just four runs, three earned, in 24 2/3 innings over 23 games for a 1.02 ERA. Wick fanned 37 and walked just six while holding opposing hitters to a .178 batting average.
Though Wick’s Texas League introduction was bumpier, including a late July-early August stint on the disabled list, his future remains bright. The 2016 season of The Cardinal Nation’s 37th-ranked prospect will continue into the fall with his invitation to the prestigious Arizona Fall League.
After all, consider what Wick has accomplished in less than two seasons as a pitcher.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation Palm Beach Cardinals Reliever of the Year for 2016, Rowan Wick.
In terms of innings pitched, Cody Schumacher (61 1/3 in 39 games) and Grana (52 innings in 43 games) were the season-long horses. Grana also paced the Cards with 26 games finished and would have likely earned many more saves had the offense been competitive.
As the stats below indicate, Grana was second in strikeout rate and third in ERA among qualifiers. His walk rate was highest among all Palm Beach pitchers, however.
By the numbers
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Palm Beach Cardinals Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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