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2019 Johnson City Cardinals Team Review

photo: Johnson City Cardinals

2019 was a complete bounce back year in every way for the Johnson City Cardinals. The team recovered from a 31-37 record in 2018 with a 35-33 mark this season. Their record was good enough for the Western Division title. The Cardinals showed their resiliency in the playoffs, dropping the first games in the best of three against both the Bristol Pirates and the Burlington Royals, but recovering to win all four win-or-go-home matchups to take the 2019 Appalachian League Championship. Their title is the fifth of the decade and the 11th in the organization’s history.

Appalachian League West Standings

  1. Johnson City Cardinals (35-33, .515)
  2. Bristol Pirates (34-33, .507) 0.5 GB
  3. Kingsport Mets (34-34, .500) 1 GB
  4. Elizabethton Twins (33-34, .493) 1.5 GB
  5. Greeneville Reds (26-41, .388) 8.5 GB

Month by Month

Johnson City held the division lead for most of the season. Although the Cardinals were supposed to begin Appalachian League play on June 18, they had two postponed contests in their first series of the season against the Pulaski Yankees. The delay did not slow down the Cardinals, as they finished the month with a record of 7-4.

The Cardinals followed up the solid start with a 15-14 record in July, including winning 10 of 12 games at the end of July and into early August to give them a significant lead in the division.

August proved to be the toughest for the Cardinals, when they finished with a 13-15 record. The Cardinals sealed the division and a playoff matchup with Bristol after winning the last two contests of the season against the Kingsport Mets.

The Cardinals entered September and won both of their playoff matchups in three games to claim the championship.


Although the team won both the division and the Appalachian League, the Cardinals pitching staff was mostly pedestrian this season. They ranked ninth of 10 teams in both team ERA at 4.81 and in WHIP at 1.441. The staff also allowed the most hits to opponents, 628. The Cardinals pitching staff ranked second in saves with 19 and walked the second-fewest opposing hitters in the league, with 213 in 68 games played this season.


Like the pitching staff, the Cardinals lineup had a difficult time separating themselves from the rest of the pack in the Appalachian League. The Cardinals offense finished the year ranked seventh in the league in batting average at .242, sixth in on-base percentage at .330, and sixth in slugging percentage at .390. The team also led the league in strikeouts with 696, 14 more than the Greeneville Reds’ total of 684. Johnson City ranked in the top half of the league in other offensive categories however, such as fourth in runs scored with 353 and third in home runs with 63 during the 2019 campaign.


The Cardinals pulled off a miraculous season despite not ranking in the top half in most of the major statistical categories concerning the three areas of the game. With regard to fielding, the Cardinals did not have a great year. The team committed the second-most errors during the season with 96, and also ranked ninth in fielding percentage at .960. The Cardinals were the best team however at catching baserunners stealing, as they ranked first in this category, stopping opponents 44% of the time.

Top Players

Michael YaSenka – The Cardinals got a steal in the 2019 MLB Draft with the selection of YaSenka in the 17th round out of Eastern Illinois. During his stint with Johnson City before being promoted to State College, YaSenka went 2-1 with an impressively low 0.56 ERA in his 32 1/3 innings pitched. YaSenka allowed just two earned on 21 hits, while also recording 37 strikeouts during his seven game appearances and five starts. For his performance in July, YaSenka was awarded as the Pitcher of the Month for the Cardinals’ minor league organization.

Michael YaSenka

Francisco Justo – St. Louis’ 12th round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft proved to be a mainstay in the rotation early in the season, and was productive whether he was starting or in relief down the stretch. Justo finished the year with a 3-2 record and 3.83 ERA through 54 innings pitched. In his 12 games, including eight starts, Justo’s opponents had a batting average of .226, struck out 43 times, and scored just 23 earned runs over those 54 innings of work.

Francisco Justo

Chandler Redmond – Like YaSenka, Chandler Redmond also proved to be a bargain from the 2019 MLB Draft, going in the 32nd out of Gardner-Webb. Redmond’s big bat was on display all season, as he finished with a .287 batting average, 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in his 54 games played this season. Redmond was also third in the Appalachian League in slugging percentage at .552 and in OPS at .935.

Chandler Redmond

Jhon Torres – Despite dealing with nagging injuries, Torres still had an outstanding season in his 33 games played. The top prospect from Sincelejo, Colombia, batted an impressive .286 and recorded six home runs and 17 RBIs on the season. Torres also led the team with a .391 on-base percentage among players having a minimum of 75 at-bats.

Jhon Torres

Mateo Gil – The Cards’ third pick of the 2018 MLB Draft had a tremendous season for the Cardinals, proving to be the most productive player on the team when considering longevity and amount of games played. The shortstop finished the season with a .270 batting average and led the team in both hits (55) and runs scored (42). Gil also tallied seven home runs and 30 RBIs that were essential in aiding the top of the lineup for Johnson City.

Mateo Gil


Despite middling statistics and an up-and-down regular season, the Cardinals came away from 2019 with both the division title and their 11th Appalachian League crown. The Cardinals were used a strong start to the season to help propel them into a division lead that they would hold onto until the final week of the season. The 2019 Johnson City Cardinals will be remembered for their resiliency just as much as they will be for the championship.

For more

Link to master article with all 2019 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Next up will be our State College Spikes Team Review.

The Cardinal Nation’s Team Recaps and Top Players of 2019

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Seven of Nine Cardinals Minor League Teams Declined in 2019

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 12

In Wednesday night’s victory over the Burlington Royals, the Johnson City Cardinals captured their 11th Appalachian League title. After dropping Game 1 at TVA Credit Union Ballpark, the Cardinals recovered and won the final two games in Burlington to secure their fifth championship of the decade. Strong performances from Malcom Nunez, Jhon Torres and Carlos Soler at the plate, along with timely pitching from Hector Soto aided the Cardinals in their 2-1 series win against the Royals.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 11

The Johnson City Cardinals had a historic week on the diamond, winning the division title in Wednesday night’s victory over Kingsport and securing a spot in the championship series with the Burlington Royals after Sunday’s win over Bristol. Mateo Gil batted .379 for the week, including a .455 mark in the semi-finals.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 9

The Johnson City Cardinals continue trending downward, finishing this week with a subpar 2-4 record. However, at 29-27, they still maintain sole possession of first place in the West Division of the Appalachian League. The Cardinals lost two of three matchups in both a home series with the Princeton Rays (26-30) and at the Burlington Royals (34-23). The Cardinals were led by their pitching staff, as Hector Soto and Francisco Justo were among standouts.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 5

The Johnson City Cardinals trended downward with a 2-5 record this week, which drops them to 15-15 overall, second place in the West Division of the Appalachian League. The Cardinals lost two of three games in both series, on the road at the Elizabethton Twins and a home series against the Bristol Pirates, before ending their week losing the first of a three-game homestand with the Danville Braves. Chandler Redmond and Todd Lott continue to provide the spark offensively. Despite the losses, pitchers Michael YaSenka and Julio Puello continue to put on a show, whether the offense is hitting or not.

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Johnson City Cardinals Notebook – 2019 Week 4

The Johnson City Cardinals went 3-3 for the week, with their overall record 13-10, and second place in the West Division of the Appalachian Fall League. Chandler Redmond continues to show his power, while Liam Sabino and Todd Lott are producing. Michael YaSenka stole the show on the mound with his memorable performance in Saturday’s loss.

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Espinoza has 2019 Johnson City Cardinals Ready to Go

photo: TVA Credit Union Ballpark (Johnson City Cardinals)

Tuesday, June 18 marks the start of the Appalachian League regular season and for the Johnson City Cardinals, 2019 has brought a sense of optimism for this proud franchise. After finishing with a disappointing 31-37 record last season, Johnson City is looking to bounce back and win its seventh division title and ninth league championship, the first since going 39-29 overall in 2016.

Roberto Espinoza (Johnson City Cardinals)

Returning manager Roberto Espinoza is excited for the start of the 2019 season, but notes that his job is not just about winning games and securing the Appalachian League Championship.

“It is important to develop their mindset in terms of winning games, but we won’t sacrifice their development for a win,” Espinoza said. “For example, many times to win the game, we could pinch hit a guy. But that’s the part we need to understand, leaving that lefty in to face that left-handed pitcher, because he needs to understand how to deal with that.”

Malcom Nunez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This week, the Johnson City Cardinals finalized their initial 35-man roster, which includes a variety of new faces and top prospects. Headlining the roster are two players ranked in the top-20 of the Cardinals farm system by The Cardinal Nation: 19-year-old outfielder Jhon Torres and 18-year-old third baseman Malcom Nuñez. Both are expected to bounce back after short and unsuccessful trials in the Class-A Midwest League last month.

Todd Lott (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Last season, Torres, a native of Sincelejo, Columbia, and the No. 17 ranked prospect in the Cardinals organization according to TCN, hit .397 with four home runs and 14 RBI in 17 games in the Gulf Coast League after being acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians. Nuñez, a native of Havana, Cuba, and TCN’s No. 7 ranked prospect, hit .415 with 13 home runs, 16 doubles and 59 RBI and won the Triple Crown of the Dominican Summer League just weeks after signing.

This year’s Johnson City roster includes 12 members of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2019 draft class, including ninth-round selection Todd Lott, who hit .332 with eight home runs and 48 RBI at Louisiana-Lafayette this spring and 10th-round selection Jake Sommers, a promising young right-hander who struck out 37 batters in 30 innings of work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this season.

Zach Jackson (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Johnson City’s 2019 squad also features four players who played for the club last season. Left-handed pitcher Enrique Perez, catchers Brandon Purcell and Zach Jackson, and infielder Liam Sabino are all returning from the 2018 team. Espinoza believes that a lot of turnover though will ultimately make the entire organization successful.

“It means we developed really good talent last year and we have just a few guys that repeat this league,” the manager said. “Everybody else is upper levels, so that’s really good and that’s why we have new faces. Our expectations every year is to make sure we develop these guys as much as we can prepare them for next year, prepare them for the big leagues. That is our goal every single year.”

The Johnson City Cardinals kick off the 2019 season against the Pulaski Yankees on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

For more

The Cardinal Nation has the full Opening Day roster for Johnson City here, including photos and player bios.

Johnson City Cardinals Roster

Starting this Sunday and every Sunday all season long, catch local reporter Cole Sams’ weekly Notebook with all the news and notes straight from Johnson City – exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Also, all Johnson City game recaps will be included in our free daily Minor League Notebooks, posted every morning here at TCN.

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Cardinals Partially Restock High-A Palm Beach Roster

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