photo: Daniel Ponce de Leon (Frank Ramirez/The Cardinal Nation)
It is time to select The Cardinal Nation’s final Pitcher of the Month for 2019. This covers play during August across the St. Louis Cardinals’ nine minor league 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 11 finalists, Memphis right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon logged the lowest ERA and highest strikeout rate while showing the Cardinals he is ready to return to the majors. The 27-year old is our Pitcher of the Month.
Read on for the details on how I came to our decision, while recognizing a number of other mound standouts during the month, as well.
To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 20 innings during August. To make the list of 11 finalists, an ERA of 4.00 or better was required.
In the following tables, names are listed in descending ERA order.
|Daniel Ponce de Leon||Mem||27||29||3||13||3||1||13||39||0.93||2.91|
Six of the nine affiliates are represented among the finalists, with only the complex leagues (Gulf Coast and Dominican Summer) missing out.
Just one of the 11 finalists had and ERAs under 1.00, just more came in under 2.00 and only one other below 3.00.
Ponce de Leon delivered the lowest ERA at a very impressive 0.93. While Alvaro Seijas came in next at 1.57, his walk count of 16 against 17 strikeouts suggested good fortune.
In fact, the final column at the right shows the finalists’ Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). Seijas slides to sixth in that measure. Ponce de Leon is second, with the leader Peoria’s 20-year old Wilfredo Pereira.
Speaking of 20-year olds, joining Seijas and Pereira among the best of the best is State College’s Enmanuel Solano, whose August ERA was a sharp 2.18.
Memphis’ Jake Woodford had the highest FIP, which was over two runs higher than his 3.34 August ERA.
|Daniel Ponce de Leon||Mem||0.93||0.131||0.202||0.432||0.90||4.0||12.1|
Here is where Ponce de Leon’s dominance is clear. The 27-year old leads in all slash stats as well as WHIP and strikeout rate. In fact, all of his numbers dominate the others, starting with his .143 batting average against and his strikeout rate of 12.1, with all other finalists under 10.
Solano again stands out with the second-lowest batting average, slugging, OPS and WHIP.
Three finalists walked fewer than two batters per nine, with Hector Soto of Johnson City and State College’s Adrian Mardueno tying at 1.5 and the latter’s teammate Scott Politz at 1.9. Mardueno and Politz are 2019 draftees, college pitchers taken in the 20th and 29th rounds, respectively.
Soto, 10th rounder Jake Sommers of Johnson City and Pereira were other finalists with a strikeout rate over one per inning.
The Pitcher of the Month
Daniel Ponce de Leon is the winner of The Cardinal Nation’s August Pitcher of the Month recognition. The right-hander was very consistent, pitching three scoreless starts and allowing just one earned run and two, respectively, in his two other outings.
“Ponce” averaged just under six innings per start. He has won four consecutive starts, and 14 of his last 20 decisions at Triple-A, stretching back to May 2018.
He struck out 11 Sacramento River Cats hitters on August 9, which was his personal season-high and the most strikeouts by any Redbirds pitcher in 2019. That start set him up to be the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for August 5-11.
When Ponce de Leon allowed an earned run in the sixth inning on August 20, it was the first charged to him after 26 consecutive scoreless innings.
With his Memphis season ERA of 2.88, Ponce de Leon would lead the Pacific Coast League if he had enough innings to qualify. Same for his .203 batting average against.
He is being recalled by St. Louis to start Game 2 of Sunday’s double-header against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium and will remain in the majors for the final month of 2019.
July’s winner in August
I like to look back at how the prior month’s winners performed in the four weeks following their system-wide honors.
The consensus top pitching selection for July was Michael YaSenka, then of Johnson City, named by both the Cardinals organization and The Cardinal Nation.
YaSenka was rewarded with a promotion to State College and continued his strong performance in the New York-Penn League. However, carrying a 2.45 ERA through two innings of his third Spikes start, on August 16, he departed from the game after walking the first two batters in the third inning, and has not pitched since.
What is next
On Monday, TCN’s Derek Shore will disclose our Player of the Month for the Cardinals system during August. The Cardinals organization will announce its winners this coming week, as well.
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