photo: Alex Fagalde (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
This is the first installment of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals system. While the Cardinals recognize their top players as well, we undertake independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.
Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of June system-wide pitching leaders.
While a number of starters in the Cardinals system had strong Junes, one hurler distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of pitching to earn a promotion to Double-A Springfield, not missing beat while further boosting his prospect stock.
Our June Pitcher of the Month is former High-A Palm Beach ace and now Springfield hurler Alex Fagalde, who should have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization June Pitcher of the Month honors.
In 29 ⅓ innings, TCN’s No. 33 prospect Fagalde went 2-0 and led the entire Cardinals system with a minuscule 0.31 ERA. To put that into perspective, the right-hander allowed only one earned run during June.
Fagalde struck out 21 batters and walked seven through five starts (three at Springfield and two with Palm Beach). Prior to his promotion, he ranked second in the Florida State League with a 1.99 ERA and paced the circuit with a 0.88 WHIP.
His month was highlighted by being named a FSL mid-season All-Star as well as tossing eight shutout innings in his Double-A debut on June 17, the longest start of his professional career.
“I threw a lot of strikes,” Fagalde told the media after that game. “I was in the zone a lot, and they’re an aggressive team. They were swinging early in the counts. I was just trying to keep them from hitting it too hard. They definitely got pitches to hit there in the strike zone and just missed the barrels a lot.”
From a scouting perspective, Fagalde’s fastball ranges from 86-90 mph, but hitters struggle to pick it up well and often swing through it. Some believe he has an exceptional spin rate that helps it play up. His primary secondary pitches include a slider he locates well along with a splitter.
He commands all three of his pitches, with his fastball command being plus. His stuff is so effective because he throws them all with the same delivery and arm slot, working up and down in the zone.
Fagalde has defied the odds throughout his career since being a 30th round draft pick in 2017 and a player who has always been old for his league. Scouts like him best as upper level organizational depth, but he has pitched well wherever he’s been at and it is hard not to pay attention to the numbers he has put up, including now at Double-A.
Runner-up to Fagalde is Class-A Peoria workhorse Kyle Leahy, who allowed only two earned runs across five starts (31 innings) for the Chiefs this past month – until being touched for two more earned runs in five innings on the final day of the month. Further, the right-hander, who made a spot-start for High-A Palm Beach on June 18, gave up two earned runs on seven hits over just three innings in his FSL debut.
That outing was ultimately the deciding factor in choosing the June Player of the Month.
17-year old starter Angel Cuenca led the way on the bump for the DSL Cardinals Red, posting a 0.67 ERA across five starts in the first month of the Dominican Summer League season. The Venezeluan native struck out 21 batters over 27 innings.
For the DSL Cardinals Blue, youngsters Reinys Portillo and Gustavo Rodriguez posted 1.80 and 1.89 ERAs, respectively. Those two were the anchors atop that pitching staff in June.
TCN’s No. 37 prospect Alvaro Seijas, who is repeating Peoria, quietly has put together a bounceback 2019, including a strong month of June. The 20-year old held a 2.20 ERA across five starts, striking out 26 batters over a system-high 32 ⅔ innings.
Next up will be The Cardinal Nation’s June Player of the Month announcement, coming Tuesday morning, as well as the Cardinals organization’s choices of their top performers in the third month of the 2019 season.
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