Welcome to another year of The Cardinal Nation’s features recognizing the top individual performances across the St. Louis Cardinals system each month. We begin with the pitchers with the hitters following the next day.
The Cardinals organization also names its own Player and Pitcher of the Month. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we don’t. Also, remember these are not just focused on the organization’s top prospects. Every player in the system is eligible.
In one of the easiest selections ever, our first winner of the Pitcher of the Month in 2013 is Memphis left-hander John Gast. Currently working on a Redbirds-team record streak of consecutive scoreless innings at 29 2/3 will do that. (He also concluded 2012 with six shutout frames.)
In addition to his perfect ERA, the 24-year-old leads the entire system with 29 strikeouts and allowed the fewest baserunners, a WHIP of 0.91. Gast is also tied for tops in wins with three. His changeup has kept Pacific Coast League hitters off balance, as indicated by a .204 batting average against, which is second-best in the organization.
Across the PCL, Gast is first in ERA, tied for first in wins, is second in WHIP and tied for fourth in strikeouts. He was the league’s Pitcher of the Week for the period of April 15-21.
In his personal specialty, Gast has picked off four runners in his five starts, adding to his total of 32 over the previous three seasons. The Florida native was the Cardinals’ sixth-round selection in the June 2010 First-Year Player Draft and is The Cardinal Nation’s 20th-ranked prospect for 2013.
For his five-start performance, John Gast is The Cardinal Nation Pitcher of the Month for April.
The above writeup does not mean Gast is alone on the list of strong pitching Aprils accumulated across the Cardinals system - far from it.
Among starters in the organization, three others have ERAs at 3.00 or under, led by Gast’s Memphis teammate Michael Wacha. The organization’s top pitching prospect not yet in the majors is off to a strong start in Triple-A.
The right-hander’s 1.86 ERA is second-lowest in the Cardinals organization and third-lowest in the PCL. Wacha’s win total of three ties Gast and several others for most in the system and league. His WHIP is second among Cardinals minor leaguers to Gast at 1.03, while his batting average against of .184 is lowest in the system.
Wacha’s primary weaknesses are three home runs allowed and an un-Wacha-like strikeout to walk total of 15 to 11 in 29 innings pitched.
Third in the system in ERA among starters is Springfield’s Scott McGregor at 2.86. The 26-year-old right-hander joins the others with three victories. His total of 27 strikeouts (in 28 1/3 innings) is second only to Gast in the system. McGregor’s batting average against of .257 is fourth-lowest among Cardinals minor leaguers.
Bypassing Class-A Peoria appears to be no problem for Tim Cooney. The left-hander, drafted in the third round last June, has logged a 3.00 ERA in four starts for A-Advanced Palm Beach. The 22-year-old joined the others with three victories.
We cannot forget the closers here. Memphis’ Victor Marte leads the system with five saves though he was given eight opportunities. After a rough start, the 32-year-old has logged six consecutive scoreless outings, totaling seven innings.
After Keith Butler logged three saves in three opportunities with Springfield prior to his promotion to Memphis, Michael Blazek added four more. The 24-year-old right-hander has allowed just one earned run in nine Texas League innings of work.
At Peoria, Dixon Llorens (.180 batting average against) and Zach Petrick (1.56 ERA) have three saves each.
2012 winners: The table below shows the monthly winners last season, both from The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization. Gast won the Cards’ honor last July.
Up Thursday: The Cardinal Nation Player of the Month for April. Our monthly update to the Cardinals prospect rankings is also coming this weekend, exclusively for subscribers to The Cardinal Nation.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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