Batavia Muckdogs Reliever of the Year: 2009

His manager comments on the improvement by Josh Squatrito this season that led the 22-year-old to get the nod as our top relief pitcher for the Cardinals New York-Penn League affiliate.

Being a 25th round draft pick hardly assures a player of attracting notice. Such was the case when Josh Squatrito reported to his first professional assignment this summer with the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League after having signed with the organization on June 15.

His manager Mark DeJohn looks back. "At the start, he wasn't a player we said ‘wow' about. We had him as one of the guys working out of the pen. He threw strikes but his stuff was just ok and he had shoulder soreness a couple of different times."

After having had the benefit of seeing the 22-year-old from Towson State every day, DeJohn and his staff came to depend on him, to the point he was viewed as the player who made the greatest progress on the squad.

"Squatrito was our most improved player. He made great strides from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. (Pitching coach) Tim Leveque did a good job with him," DeJohn said.

In 26 1/3 innings over 20 games, Squatrito allowed just four earned runs for a 1.37 ERA. His four wins tied for tops on the Muckdogs. The right-hander fanned an impressive 35 and showed excellent control, too, walking just six and holding opposing hitters to a .219 average. Squatrito finished strongly, not allowing a run over his final month of the season, eight consecutive outings.

Whatever the cause, it all came together on seemingly a moment's notice.

DeJohn recognized the change immediately. "All of a sudden, this kid started throwing a little harder and he started spotting, locating his fastball like a big leaguer. He had a lot of strikeouts. He was just lights out when we would bring him in. He would get strikeouts just throwing his fastball and hitting corners. He would just keep doing it and keep the ball down. It was amazing."

Squatrito finished the year with a 1.15 ground out to fly ball ratio. Like many first-year players, the main question remaining is whether or not he can continue to consistently perform as he prepares to compete for a full-season squad in 2010.

"He not only threw strikes, but quality strikes," DeJohn recalled. "It will be interesting to see if he can continue to do that. The difference between a big leaguer and a minor leaguer is that the big leaguer repeats what he does. He repeats the stuff he does well and that is how he gets to the big leagues and stays there."

The manager closed with a comment that couldn't have been said any better in twice as many words.

"Squatrito is a very intriguing guy."

Note: To follow our entire series of Players of the Year at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, check back here daily. To see the roster of winners and article schedule, click here.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories