All posts by Brett Barnett

I am a writer from Columbus, OH, and attended East Tennessee State University. I also write for Pirates Breakdown, Dodgers' Way, and Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network. In addition to those positions, I am an area scout for the Southeast Region at CB Scouting Network, and I am Datacaster and TrackMan operator in Johnson City.

2018 Johnson City Cardinals Team Review

photo: TVA Credit Union Ballpark (Johnson City Cardinals)

The Johnson City Cardinals are the Rookie League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The team is the western-most club in the Appalachian League, which is composed of 10 teams in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Coming off a 33-34 season, the Cardinals were looking to improve upon last year. With products like Nolan Gorman, St. Louis’ first round pick in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft, many in the community expected the team to be competitive, especially considering the club’s history of success in the Appalachian League.

However, the Cardinals finished in a tie for third place in the Appalachian League West Division with a record of 31-37. Instead of taking a step forward, the team took a step backward.

Season Summary

It might be expected that the Cardinals finished the season with a better record at home than on the road; interestingly, that wasn’t the case. In fact, they were far superior.

Away from TVA Credit Union Ballpark, the team finished with a record of 18-17, whereas the team only mustered a record of 13-20 on their own turf.

Appalachian League West Standings

1. Elizabethton Twins (39-27, .591)
2. Kingsport Mets (33-35, .485) 7 GB
T3. Bristol Pirates (31-37,  .456) 9 GB
T3. Johnson City Cardinals (31-37,  .456) 9 GB
5. Greeneville Reds (28-40, .412) 12 GB

Month by Month

Appalachian League play opened on June 18. The Cardinals began the season in Bluefield against the Blue Jays and dropped two of three. In the end, June was the best (and shortest) month of the season for Johnson City, as they went 5-5 with only one genuine series win.

After that, things only went downhill. In July, the team went 13-15, which isn’t all that terrible. The toughest stretch was in the middle of the month when the club lost five straight games, and six out of seven.

In August, the final month of the season, Johnson City went 12-15. Coming into August, the Cardinals were still in contention for a Wild Card playoff spot, but shortly after the middle of the month, things began to look bleak. The team wasn’t officially eliminated from contention until the final series of the season against the Kingsport Mets, but it was evident virtually everything would need to break right in order to make it to the postseason. And that did not happen.

Pitching

Perhaps the biggest issue Johnson City faced on the season was the pitching staff. As a team, the Cardinals finished with an ERA of 5.61, which was second to last in the Appalachian League.

There were a couple of bright spots, however, including Appalachian League All-Star Tommy Parsons, and lefty Evan Sisk out of the bullpen.

Offense

The offense had spells of hot and cold stretches, but when things were going well for the Cardinals, it was largely because of the offensive output.

As a team, Johnson City hit .273 (third) with 75 home runs (first) and 394 runs scored (fourth).

Notable players include 3B Nolan Gorman, OF Kevin Woodall, and OF Jonatan Machado.

Defense

Jonatan Machado (Peoria Chiefs)

The Cardinals position players committed 76 errors on the season, with Michael Perri and Moises Castillo botching the most plays, with 10 each.

For individuals who played in more than half the games, Jonatan Machado was among the steadier defenders, committing only one error in 49 games.

At times, the Johnson City defense was impressive, making seemingly difficult plays. Other times, however, a two-out error ending up costing the team several runs in an inning.

On one occasion, the Cardinals committed three consecutive errors towards the end of the season while in a playoff race.

Top Players

Nolan Gorman (Bret Jacomet photo)

Nolan Gorman – The first rounder was with the Cardinals for 38 games before receiving the promotion to Peoria. During that time, he slashed .350/.443/.664, with an OPS of 1.107. Gorman launched 11 home runs and notched 28 RBI. He displayed a cannon of an arm at third base, showing an ability to field a ball on the line past the bag and firing a missile across the diamond to record the out.

Jonatan Machado – The Cuban native started the season hot, and while he was unable to keep that pace, the outfielder never really trailed off. His final line in Johnson City was .292/.355/.375. Machado spent the majority of the season with the Cardinals before making the jump to State College. Prior to his promotion, Machado logged 21 RBI and swiped nine bags.

Leandro Cedeno – The big 1B/OF spent a lot of his time overshadowed by Gorman and Machado, two big name, big money prospects. Once those two were promoted, Cedeno really began to come into his own. Although he was prone to strikeouts (69 on the year), there was a lot of power in his bat. Cedeno ended 2018 with a .336 average and 14 home runs.

Tommy Parsons (Bret Jacomet photo)

Tommy Parsons – In his first year in professional baseball, Parsons did not disappoint. He was selected to the Appalachian League All-Star Team along with Gormam. In the end, the free agent signee went 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 43 strikeouts, cementing himself as the best and most reliable option on the Johnson City starting staff.

Evan Sisk – While the bullpen and staff as a whole routinely faltered, Sisk was an undeniable bright spot for the Cardinals. The lefty appeared in 20 games, logged a 1.76 ERA through 30 2/3 innings, and picked up five saves along the way. Sisk also recorded 35 strikeouts and a batting average against of .211.

Conclusion

Although the Cardinals had some significant bumps in the road in 2018, there were some shining stars to hit the diamond. It was a treat for the team and fans alike to be able to view the likes of Nolan Gorman play so well so quickly at such a young age.

In his second season at the helm of the Cardinals, Roberto Espinoza and his club experienced a regression in terms of wins and losses. Obviously, some of it is out of his control, and it’s safe to say that had the pitching been even marginally better, then Johnson City would have played postseason a baseball, a milestone the team also missed a year ago.

Despite ending the season under .500, the Cardinals managed to remain in the playoff hunt down the stretch, being eliminated by only two games.

The team and fans will turn their attention to the 2019 season, hopefully to see another big name first rounder take to the field at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

For more

Link to master article with all 2018 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Johnson City Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation:

Teen Herrera Learns from Taste of Double-A

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Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Contact Brett Barnett at BARNETTBM1@mail.etsu.edu.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 9

As the Appalachian League season begins to wind down, the Johnson City Cardinals continue their fight for one of two playoff spots in the West Division, going (4-5) over the last week, pushing them to 25-30 on the season, 2.5 games out of second place. OF Jonatan Machado is hot at the plate.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 8

Trying to dodge the rain, the Johnson City Cardinals of the Appalachian League went just 1-4 on the week, losing ground in their push to get back to .500. At 21-25, they remain three games out of the second playoff spot in the West. 19-year old Leandro Cedeno is picking up the slack from promoted power hitters Kevin Woodall and Nolan Gorman.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 6

The Johnson City Cardinals are looking to remain in contention for one of two playoff spots in the Appalachian League West Division. Johnson City went 3-4 this week, keeping them two games back of the second place (and a playoff spot), and seven back of first place. Outfielder Kevin Woodall, the reigning Appy League Player of the Week, continues his hot hitting.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 4

The Johnson City Cardinals had a rough week, going 1-6, including a four-game series sweep at the hands of the Elizabethton Twins, bringing the team’s record to 9-14 on the year, and fourth place in the Appalachian League West. Dariel Gomez is leading the offense while reliever Parker Kelly is a bright spot among the struggling pitching staff.

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Johnson City Cardinals 2018 Fan Fest

The 2018 incarnation of the Johnson City Cardinals kick off their season Tuesday, June 19 in Bluefield against the Toronto Blue Jays’ Appalachian League affiliate. But first, fans had an opportunity to greet their hometown squad at TVA Credit Union Ballpark in Johnson City, TN on Sunday evening.

The festivities were in full blast, with a basketball game, pitching games, giant Jenga, and host of other experiences for fans. The Cardinals’ management staff also had samples on hand – hotdogs, hamburgers, and drinks, all for free.

It took roughly 20 minutes into the event before the team showed up. Coming from the clubhouse and wearing jerseys, as they approached, the excitement became evident on the fans of faces attending the event. Young kids, pen in hand, rushed to meet this year’s squad.

Coming off a year in which the Cardinals won the West Division in Appy League play, they struggled to find their footing in 2018. A long winning streak was overshadowed by a string of losing streaks. Johnson City finished the year in third place with a record at just under .500 on the year at 33-34.

The Cardinals tried to ramp up the fan experience heading into the new season. Recently they unveiled a new set of team logos:

This new look plays heavily upon the design of the parent club in St. Louis. More than that, major facility renovations have taken place, including removing bleacher seating and adding seats with backs, newly hung fans to keep fans cool during hot Tennessee days, and a complete overhaul of food and merchandise services.

Perhaps more than anything to entice fans will be the young third baseman. The St. Louis Cardinals had the 19th overall selection in this year’s Major League Baseball Rule 4 Draft. They selected 18 year old Nolan Gorman from Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Arizona.

Gorman was ranked 12th overall by MLB.com, so the Cardinals were fortunate to have the young lefty fall to them. Also fortuitous for St. Louis, Gorman signed for slot value, meaning the Cardinals, in theory, saved money on their first round pick, enabling them to have more money to spend elsewhere.

There’s nothing more intriguing than young, first round level talent. If nothing else, locals in Johnson City should flock to the ballpark to see perhaps one of the next biggest names in baseball.

Manager Roberto Espinoza is is entering his Sophomore year as the manager with the Johnson City Cardinals. His first year was in 2013 as a coach, so he’s no stranger to what success looks like at the Rookie League level, and how to compete in the Appalachian League.

As noted above, he experienced moderate success in 2017. He’ll look to build on that experience from year one and try to capture another West Division title for Johnson City and the Cardinals organization.

The Cardinals will play 10 games in the month of June, only three of which are at home. The home schedule opens for Johnson City on Friday, June 22 against the Kingsport Mets for the first of a three game set before they hit the road again for two in Elizabethton. After that, the Cards will see the Mets again for three road games to close out the month.

For more

Members of The Cardinal Nation can follow the exploits of the 2018 Johnson City Cardinals in depth via Brett Barnett’s weekly team notebooks, which will be posted each Sunday morning all season long.

The Roster Matrix is up to date, including all confirmed signings and assignments. The Johnson City roster will be completed once it is released by the organization. See the left menu bar in red under ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES to access them all.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Adjust Dominican Summer League Rosters

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase our new 193-page 2018 Prospect Guide for less than half price. Our limited edition printed version is sold out.

Contact Brett Barnett at BARNETTBM1@mail.etsu.edu. Follow him on Twitter @brettbarnett9.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.