photo: Alex Fagalde (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
It is again the time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month. This covers play during May across the St. Louis Cardinals’ four full-season affiliates.
As a reminder, this is NOT is the “Pitcher of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here, either.
Among our group of nine finalists, Palm Beach right-hander Alex Fagalde logged the lowest ERA, WHIP, batting average against and OPS. For that reason, the 25-year old is our May Pitcher of the Month.
Read on for the details on how I came to this decision, as well as recognizing a number of other mound standouts during the month.
To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 20 innings during May. To make the list of nine finalists, an ERA of better than 4.00 was required.
In the following table, names are listed in descending ERA order.
|Daniel Ponce de Leon||Mem||23.2||11||21||9||1||17||22||3.42||0.236||0.315||0.691||1.61|
The first thing that should be obvious is the dominance of the Palm Beach staff compared to the rest of the system. To be specific, the top four and five of the top six in ERA began the month in the Florida State League.
Angel Rondon earned a promotion up to Double-A Springfield mid-month and while the 21-year old continued to pitch well, he could not match his Palm Beach 2.08 ERA (vs. 3.00 in the Texas League). In other words, even if he had stayed down and sustained, he would have been third in ERA.
Daniel Ponce de Leon continues to be solid for Memphis, but he also continues to issue too many walks, driving up his WHIP and driving him from most games before finishing the sixth inning.
The Peoria trio of Kyle Leahy, Alvaro Seijas and Diego Cordero are worthy of consideration. However, ERAs between 3.67 and 3.94 were not good enough to take these honors.
That leaves the Palm Beach four.
In his first full season as a professional, Edgar Gonzalez is holding his own, but fell down this month’s list with a clunker outing on May 31st. April promotee Tommy Parsons ramped up his game in his first full month at Palm Beach, but unlike most of the other best of the best, allowed more hits than innings pitched.
When it came right down to it, only two qualifying pitchers delivered ERAs under 2.30 and in fact, both Perry DellaValle and Alex Fagalde came in at 1.63 or under.
DellaValle, who like Gonzalez, jumped into the high-A rotation in his first full-season, had an excellent all-around performance, but was edged by his teammate Fagalde in most key measures. DellaValle’s walk rate was slightly lower, but so was his strikeout rate. Further, his rate of hits allowed was higher.
Still, either would have been a worthy honoree.
The Pitcher of the Month
When all is said and done, Alex Fagalde is the winner of The Cardinal Nation’s May Pitcher of the Month honors. The right-hander was very consistent, going seven innings in three of his five full starts. I say “full starts” because one of his six outings was a rain-shortened two-inning start on May 9.
In only one of those appearances did he allow as many as two runs. Also unlike all of the other finalists except Rondon, no unearned runs came home during Fagalde’s 34 1/3 innings pitched during May.
He allowed more than six baserunners in only one of his May appearances, with his sub-1.00 WHIP at 0.82 very impressive. A part of that is a stellar .176 batting average against, making Fagalde the only finalist to hold hitters under .200.
The only blemish on his record was four home runs allowed. Imagine how dominating his month would have been had he been able to keep the ball in the park!
Still, as the month closed, Fagalde was chosen to represent the South in the Florida State League All-Star Game.
After his selection by the Cardinals in the 30th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, 904th overall, the former Cal Riverside standout split his first partial season between the Gulf Coast League and State College.
Fagalde opened 2018 in the Peoria rotation and excelled. After logging a 1.63 ERA in 77 1/3 innings, he earned the organization’s Pitcher of the Month honors last July and a promotion to Palm Beach.
In his FSL debut, the California native made seven starts with a 3.20 ERA, while maintaining a steady rate of a strikeout per inning. His WHIP for the season of 0.99 is one reason Baseball America named him the organization’s “Best Control” artist in 2018.
Fagalde finished last season among the system leaders in wins (10, tied for second), strikeouts (116, tied for sixth), ERA (2.16, second), batting average against (.212, second), K/BB ratio (4.5, 10th), and WHIP (eighth). The Cardinal Nation named him Peoria Chiefs Starting Pitcher of the Year.
Fagalde is The Cardinal Nation’s 33rd ranked prospect.
Honorable mention relievers
Though their innings-pitched total fall short of the starters, four relievers deserve mention. With May ERAs at 1.00 or less, they are especially notable in a season that has been rough for bullpenners overall in the system. Unlike the imbalance across the top starters, each full-season squad is represented here.
Though Bryan Dobzanski was only called upon for 10 innings, Palm Beach’s closer did not allow a run on just four singles and two walks to go with 12 strikeouts. The FSL All-Star seems ready for his next challenge.
Junior Fernandez is finally healthy and his 23 punchouts and one run allowed in 16 2/3 innings at Springfield are helping to restore his prospect luster.
Peoria’s Edgar Escobar is a relatively new name to watch. The only concern in a strong May is eight walks against just five hits.
Finally, Ryan Meisinger has performed in every job asked of him at Memphis, whether spot starting or in long relief. His only runs allowed in the month came on a pair of solo homers.
April’s winners in May
Our top pitcher selection in the first month of the 2019 season was Parsons, when he was with Peoria. In May, after giving up five runs on 12 hits in his initial Palm Beach start, the 23-year old spun 23 1/3 innings with just two earned runs allowed (0.76 ERA).
In other words, the right-hander has definitely handled the transition well.
On the other hand, the Cardinals organization chose then-Palm Beach pitcher Johan Oviedo as their April Pitcher of the Month instead. With his promotion to Springfield, his May results were understandably not to the same level.
In his first 27 Texas League innings, Oviedo was charged with 17 earned runs for a 5.69 ERA. Of some concern Is 13 free passes issued and .311 batting average against.
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