Yesterday I asked you to vote for the best hitters in the Cubs minor league system over the past month and today you get to vote for the best pitchers. As always, this is a vote for performance, not prospect-status. You can vote for whatever reasons you want, but it should be about something the pitcher did in the month of May.
You still have a few hours to vote for the Minor League Player of the Month. The winner of that vote will be announced in tonight's Minor League Wrap and today's vote will be open until tomorrow night's Minor League Wrap.
With that said, the candidates are:
Iowa Cubs right-hander Ryan Williams: This one is a little tough because Williams finished the month on the disabled list, although it's not expected to keep him out for long. But Williams did make four starts in May and threw 25 innings, which is not far off the pace of what someone who was healthy the entire month would have done.
But last year's Minor League Pitcher of the Year was really good in those four starts, going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He also only allowed one unearned run and if you read me regularly, you know the difference between earned and unearned runs is a particular bugaboo of mine. But even more impressive is Williams strikeout-to-walk ratio. Williams struck out 18 batters in May and walked only three. Three walks over 25 innings is also really good--that's Bob Tewksbury-territory.
Tennessee Smokies right-hander Paul Blackburn: Blackburn had an up-and-down month with three good starts and two poor ones. It was a step down from his terrific April, but it was still the best performance from a Smokies pitcher this month.
Blackburn made five starts in Double-A in May and pitched 30 innings. He had a 3.00 ERA after allowing ten earned runs (and three unearned runs) and he held opposing hitters to a .213 average. Blackburn is a ground-ball pitcher more than a power arm, but he did manage to strike out 17 batters while walking only nine. His best start was against Mississippi and he allowed three runs in seven innings, but they were all unearned as the normally sure-handed shortstop Carlos Penalver made a pair of errors in the inning. But the better part was the gave up just three hits in those seven innings while striking out four.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans right-hander Trevor Clifton: Clifton was outstanding in five starts for the Pelicans in May, going at least five innings in all of them and not allowing more than two runs in any of them. Clifton went 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA in May, throwing 28 innings and allowing only four runs and none of those pesky "unearned" runs. On top of that, he struck out 35 batters in those 28 innings and walked only seven. Clifton held opposing hitters to a .229 average and he gave up just one lone home run, despite being a flyball pitcher.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans right-hander Erick Leal: Leal made four starts for the Pelicans in May and won all four of them, going 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA. He pitched at least seven innings in three of them. Leal pitched 27 innings and while he only struck out 13, he also only walked two batters. He only allowed one unearned run, so he kept the other team off the board no matter what the defense did. Leal also held opposing hitters a .227 average
South Bend Cubs left-hander Carson Sands: We finally got a left-hander on the list. Sands had a lot of attention on him coming into this season as a lot is expected out of the Cubs 2014 4th round pick. April was not kind to Sands, but he very much settled into things in May.
Sands made five starts in May and posted a 4-0 record with a 1.24 ERA. He gave up just four runs in the month over 29 innings. Sands held opposing hitters to a .182 average for the month and struck out 18 while walking 12. His mosst impressive start was his last one as he tossed six scoreless innings against the Lugnuts, allowing just two hits and striking out five.