photo: Austin Warner (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)
It is a great pleasure to again select The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system. This article covers play during August across the four full-season affiliates and three short-season rookie level clubs.
As a reminder, this is NOT 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.
Among our group of 11 finalists, Memphis left-hander Austin Warner logged the lowest batting average against and WHIP and the best highest strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 27-year-old, who is in his first season a reliever, edged out a number of starters as well as peer bullpenners to become our Pitcher of the Month.
Read on for the details on how the decision was made, while recognizing a number of other mound standouts during the month, as well.
To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 12 innings during August. To make the list of finalists, an ERA below 3.00 was required. The group broke out into five with ERAs between 1.00 and 1.99 and six between 2.00 and 2.99.
In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending batting average against (Avg.) order. Leaders are bolded.
|Diorys Guerrero||DSL Red||0.180||0||0.80||5.9||0.7||1.3||13.8||10.5|
|Hancel Rincon||DSL Blue||0.197||1||0.95||6.3||0.0||2.3||8.1||3.6|
|Engels Martinez||DSL Red||0.306||0||1.54||10.4||0.0||3.5||5.5||1.6|
Six of the seven affiliates are represented among the finalists, with only the Florida Complex Cardinals missing out. (In fairness, one must remember that the FCL active roster currently includes a whopping 25 pitchers, so accruing a lot of innings is not the goal there. Many of these hurlers are 2021 draft picks, often throwing just one inning at a time as their first-year workload is carefully managed.)
It is here that Warner’s success becomes clear. The left-hander registered the lowest batting average against (and lowest hit rate per nine innings), and the lowest walk rate (none). So, it only follows that his WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) will also be lowest.
To help put this into perspective, the WHIP of the entire Memphis staff (the best in the Cardinals system this season) is 1.48 (which Includes Warner). His August WHIP is barely one-third of that.
The Redbirds staff batting average against is .266, with Warner’s August mark of .154 a whopping 122 points better.
In the walk department, it is impossible to be better than issuing none. That makes his strikeout to walk ratio infinite. But even if he had walked one batter last month, his K/BB ratio still would have been best.
Warner’s only wart was allowing two home runs, while four finalists yielded none. But the damage to Warner by these long balls was limited.
His strikeout rate was in the middle of the pack of the finalists, with Dominican Summer League Red starter Diorys Guerrero’s 13.8 K/9 rate standing above the other 10.
In a mixed role for Palm Beach, first-year professional hurler Gordon Graceffo was close behind with a strong 13.0 K/9 showing last month.
None of the 11 finalists posted an August ERA under 1.00, but five came in under 2.00. Our winner would ideally come from this latter group, and it did.
In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending ERA order.
|Diorys Guerrero||DSL Red||2||0||1.32||3||2||0||0||13.2||9||2||2||1||2||21|
|Hancel Rincon||DSL Blue||0||1||1.35||4||4||0||0||20||14||4||3||0||5||18|
|Engels Martinez||DSL Red||0||2||2.08||5||2||0||0||13||15||6||3||0||5||8|
I have to admit that had I led with these stats instead of the rate stats, it would have been easy to select one of the two DSL starting pitchers for this award. The numbers registered by Guerrero and Hansel Rincon are exceptional, but there is more to selecting a winner than just taking the lowest ERA.
Ramon Santos has been very strong out of a Springfield pen that really needed some relief, but his 13 walks in 17 1/3 innings made for the highest free pass rate from among our finalists.
Among the over 2.00 finalists, Memphis’ Angel Rondon was finally hitting on all cylinders before hitting the injured list in the final week of the month. It is really too bad as he might have put himself in position to get a second shot with St. Louis during the final month.
His teammate Matthew Liberatore is pitching deeper into games and is solidifying his case to compete for a role with St. Louis next spring. But as good as the organization’s top pitching prospect was last month, it wasn’t quite good enough to win in this analysis.
One final name to call out. Palm Beach starter John Beller put together a strong August across the board, but with his 2.30 ERA was shielded from nine walks issued and five unearned runs scored during his stints.
TCN’s Pitcher of the Month
The winner of The Cardinal Nation’s August Pitcher of the Month hailed from Bellarmine College in Kentucky, with his four years of starting concluded in 2016. The lefty went undrafted, later acquired by St. Louis in June 2017 after catching eyes pitching for River City in independent ball in both 2016 and 2017.
Working exclusively as a starter in the Cardinals system, Warner earned mid-season All-Star recognition in High-A in 2017 and Double-A in 2019. Though it looked like he would sit out in 2020, Warner joined St. Louis’ alternate camp in mid-September. He continued to tune up for his return this season with a stint for Panama in the 2021 Caribbean Series (2.25 ERA in four innings).
The Louisville native scored a non-roster invitation to St. Louis’ spring training camp for the second consecutive spring before returning to Memphis to open 2021. Warner had started in 11 games for the Triple-A club in 2019, but has worked primarily from the bullpen this season, with three spot starts sprinkled in, as well.
Warner has excelled in his relatively new relief role and should be congratulated for his fine August.
Last month’s winner this month
Our July honoree was starter Edgar Manzo of Palm Beach. In August, the script for the 20-year-old right-hander flipped entirely. Manzo made five appearances including four starts and was bombed for 20 runs, all earned, on 30 hits in just 18 1/3 innings for a 9.82 ERA.
Late Friday afternoon, the Cardinals organization announced their corresponding awards for August. Predictably, their pitching choice is their top mound prospect, Matthew Liberatore.
Our Minor League Pitcher of the Month is LHP @libby3232!
Liberatore, 21, ranked 4th among qualified Triple-A pitchers with a 2.84 ERA across 25.1 IP. He threw three consecutive 7.0 inning starts to finish the month.
Matthew previously earned Pitcher of the Month honors in June. pic.twitter.com/BvVmvw9eu3
— Cardinals Player Development (@CardsPlayerDev) September 3, 2021
Link to related article
What is next
The Cardinals organization should announce its corresponding winners of Player and Pitcher of the Month any day, as well.
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
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