I assume you have already voted for the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for May, and now it's time to pick the best pitcher. The rules for the voting are the same. This is an award designed to honor performance, not prospect status. Having said that, you can use whatever criteria you want to decide who had the best month.
This month is was seriously hard to pick just five names. Iowa alone had four pitchers who had great months and deserved to be nominated. Daytona and Kane County each had at least three who could have gotten the nod. Only Tennessee had problems pitching, and they had an excuse as their top two pitching prospects, C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, were both out with injuries.
Once again, the winner will be announced in the June 3 Minor League Wrap.
I hope those whom I didn't nominate can forgive me. There were lots of great months.
Having said that, the nominees are:
Iowa Cubs Chris Rusin: Rusin, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch and Blake Parker all had great months, but Rusin gets the nod because he threw a nine-inning no-hitter on May 7. I don't think anyone can argue with that logic. Including the no-hitter, Rusin tossed 41 innings in May and allowed 14 runs, 12 earned, which works out to a 2.63 ERA. Rusin struck out 32 batters for the month and only walked nine (two in the no-hitter). His record was only 2-4, but do we still think that's important? That's for you to decide. Rusin had a great month.
Tennessee Smokies Armando Rivero: The Cuban Rivero has become a little bit of a folk hero around these parts, as his size and sizzling fastball has people wondering how long it's going to take for him to get to Wrigley Field. Rivero was actually better in April than he was in May, but his month of May wasn't bad as he got 3 saves in 11 games. In a total of 14 innings, Rivero struck out 21 batters (Yeah, that's 1.5 an inning) and walked 7. He held opposing hitters to a .160 batting average.
Daytona Cubs Starling Peralta: As I said, there were a few good candidates in Daytona, including Felix Pena, the Jeff Samardzija of the Florida State League. But even ignoring the W-L records, Peralta had the best month in Daytona. He tossed 20.2 innings in six games, including two starts. He allowed four runs in those 20.2 innings for an ERA of 1.74. But what I like best about Peralta is that he had 23 strikeouts in May and he only walked three hitters. Peralta's rise through the Cubs system has been pretty slow, but it's looking like he may have figured something out this year. If he continues to pitch like this, Peralta is a guy the Cubs will have to protect in the offseason or risk losing in the Rule 5 draft.
Kane County Cougars Paul Blackburn: It really seems like I could nominate the whole freaking staff of the Cougars, who have ridden their arms to a big first-half lead. Blackburn gets the nod here for being a starting pitcher and a bit of a workhorse. Blackburn made five starts in May and went six or more innings in three of them, which is a lot for the Midwest League. He pitched 28.2 innings and gave up six runs for an ERA of 1.88. He also didn't allow any unearned runs, which is a bit of a bugaboo for me. Opponents hit .250 off if him which is good, not great, but he limited the damage by only allowing one home run and only walking five. He's got a strikeout pitch too as he struck out 26 batters in the month.
Kane County Cougars Tyler Skulina: Skulina gets the nod over a couple of guys because he threw a combined no-hitter with Nathan Dorris on May 17. If you throw a no-no, the rest of your month has to be pretty bad to not get a nomination. In that no-hitter, Skulina pitched the first 7.1 innings, struck out five and walked two. Overall in the month of May, Skulina made five starts and went 2-2 with a 2.05 ERA. In the 26.1 innings he pitched, Skulina struck out 24. Control has been an issue for Skulina as he walked 15 batters, but he kept them from scoring by holding opposing hitters to a .140 batting average with no home runs.