In the third phase of our annual recaps of the just-completed season across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, we move from relief pitchers to starting pitchers, again beginning with the lowest level of play, the Dominican Summer League.
The starting pitching of the Dominican Summer League Cardinals has traditionally been the brightest spot for the rookie-level club, and though the offense took the lead in 2016, the strength of the starters again shone through.
Overall, the Cards had a team ERA of 3.53, slightly better than their 3.55 mark in 2015. That placed them 22nd in the 42-team league. In terms of baserunners allowed, with walks plus hits per innings pitched, WHIP, used as a surrogate, the Cardinals’ mark of 1.322 was 16th.
Tutored by veteran pitching coach Bill Villanueva, back with the DSL club in 2016 after a stint in the US, Cardinals pitchers threw the ball past their opponents with regularity. The Cardinals’ strikeout total of 599 was first in the entire DSL. The staff was also stingy with free passes, logging the ninth fewest walks at 227.
Seven was the lucky number for DSL Cards starters in 2016. Seven different pitchers started at least seven contests. The eighth, prospect, Alvaro Seijas, made four early-season DSL starts as a tune up for the Gulf Coast League, where he went on the pitch the majority of his innings this summer.
Here are the basic numbers from the eight.
|Noel De Jesus||6||2||1.96||13||10||0||0||59.2||53||18||13||1||3||15||48||1.14|
The Cardinals received considerable innings from their rotation, with four starters tossing more than 54 innings and two more between 35 and 42. Three starters posted ERAs under 3.00 with two under 2.00. The latter pair are our clear finalists.
In his second season in the DSL, 19-year-old right-hander Noel De Jesus logged the second-most innings on the staff with 59 1/3 and led the team with six wins, while posting a stellar 1.96 ERA.
2016 July 2nd signee Johan Oviedo bested that with a 1.66 mark, but he was eased into the professional game, averaging just over three innings per start. Is that enough to declare him the winner?
Let’s take a look at ratios for further guidance.
|Noel De Jesus||19||1.96||1.14||7.2||2.3||3.2|
In terms of WHIP, the two, De Jesus and Oviedo, are in a virtual dead heat. They are also very close in walk rate, at 2.3 and 2.5 per nine, respectively.
Where the tie is clearly broken, however, is in strikeouts, where the Havana, Cuba native has a sizeable, team-best mark of 12 per nine innings. That also gives Oviedo a commanding edge in strikeout-to-walk ratio (an excellent 4.8-to-1).
Though Oviedo’s lack of experience in professional ball is a limiting factor, when he did pitch, the results were exceptional. The right-hander is a physically imposing specimen who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 220 pounds and the 18-year-old is just 13 days short of being the youngest among the team’s starters, as well.
All things considered, Oviedo is our choice as the top starting pitcher for the 2016 DSL Cardinals.
“Oviedo has a plus fastball and a three-pitch mix,” stated Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez said after the July 2nd signing. “He projects as a top of the rotation starter who has an excellent chance to flourish within our system.”
Oviedo came to terms for a reported $1.9 million - second-most among known bonuses for St. Louis’ huge 2016 international class of 22 players - with potentially more signings still ahead.
2016 may turn out to be Oviedo’s one and only season in the DSL. The Cardinal Nation’s 31st-ranked prospect is the only pitcher from this summer’s DSL staff to be invited to the Cardinals fall instructional league camp, currently underway in Jupiter, Florida. (Check back with The Cardinal Nation for more on Oviedo coming from instructs.)
This instructional league assignment is typically a signal that the organization considers the player ready to compete for a spot in the US the next summer.
Based on Oviedo’s strong professional introduction in 2016, it would seem a very reasonable approach. Congratulations to Johan Oviedo, The Cardinal Nation Dominican Summer League Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2016.
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 DSL Cardinals Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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