Since I began doing the St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month, this month’s decision was one of the toughest in memory. But when it came down to it, I decided on dominance. And very few pitchers have dominated minor league baseball like Shelby Miller has this season.
Being the top prospect in the Cardinals system has the added pressure to go along with the everyday pressures of being a 20-year-old trying to work his way up the ladder. But Miller has seemed to thrive on that pressure. During the month of May, he posted a record of 2-1 with an ERA of 2.32. In 31 innings, the Texan struck out 49 while walking only 10. He has held opposing batters to an average of .190.
In four of his five starts in May, Miller reached double digits in strikeouts. He allowed one earned run in two of the starts and did not allow more than two runs in any of the starts. The former first round pick is 2-3 on the season with an ERA of 2.89. In 53 innings, he has logged a minor league-high 81 strikeouts while walking only 20. For his efforts, Miller was promoted to Springfield over the weekend.
The man who made this vote so close was Kevin Siegrist of Quad Cities. The southpaw posted a record of 5-1 with an ERA of 1.47. The 21-year-old racked up 20 strikeouts with nine walks in 36.2 innings. He held Midwest League opponents to a .200 average while allowing one home run. On the season, he is now 8-1 with a 1.15 ERA in 54.2 innings.
Maikel Cleto seemed somewhat of an afterthought in the trade of Brendan Ryan. But the big man has proved to be much more than that and is now giving Texas League hitters fits. In five Springfield appearances including four starts since being promoted from Palm Beach, he is 1-1 with an ERA of 2.63. In 24 innings, the right-hander has notched 25 strikeouts while allowing only 10 walks.
Quad Cities reliever Angel De Jesus made nine Midwest League appearances during the month and allowed only two earned runs. He finishes with an ERA of 1.10 with 13 strikeouts and only two walks in 16.1 innings.
On his way back from Tommy John surgery, Samuel Freeman seems to be finding his groove. The left-hander has made 11 relief appearances since having been promoted to Springfield at the beginning of May. In that time, he has allowed an ERA of just 0.82 while still showing some rust, with seven bases on balls.
Also working out of the Springfield bullpen, Jose Rada seems to be following the tradition of previous Latin finds Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas. The Venezuelan struck out 16 hitters while walking only three in 11 innings of relief. Also during the month, he logged his first Double-A save.
Justin Smith got off to a rough start in 2011 but seems to have settled in after a solid month of May. The right-hander allowed an ERA of 2.35 after logging a mark north of 12 in April. In 30.2 innings for Palm Beach, he collected 24 strikeouts while allowing only seven walks.
I was keeping a close eye on Kevin Thomas after his break out performance in 2010. The right-hander struggled in April but he bounced back strong in May. During six appearances including five starts with Springfield, the 24-year-old posted a mark of 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA. In 29.2 innings, Thomas struck out 21 while walking 12. He held the opposition to an impressive .162 average while getting a groundball more than 70% of the time.
After being named The Cardinal Nation’s Johnson City Pitcher of the Year in 2010, Boone Whiting has adjusted well to his role in the bullpen. In nine appearances in May with Quad Cities, the right-hander struck out 22 hitters while walking five in 18 innings of work. Whiting was credited with two saves during the month while holding opponents to a .217 average.
Another player that garnered strong consideration was Quad Cities’ Justin Wright. The diminutive (5-foot-9, 174-pound) lefty posted a record of 3-0 with a 1.02 ERA in eight relief appearances. In his 17.2 innings of work, he has logged 27 strikeouts while walking only two. The former Virginia Tech Hokie has allowed only a .120 batting average against.
Previous 2011 winners
Coming Wednesday: The Cardinal Nation May Player of the Month will be highlighted here. The Cardinals organization selections for their top May pitcher and player will soon be announced as well.
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