Johnson City Cards Player of the Year: 2010

Oscar Taveras, an 18-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, is The Cardinal Nation/ 2010 Johnson City Cardinals Player of the Year.

This article is focused on the batters.  It is the fourth and last of a postseason series dedicated to the 2010 Appalachian League Champion Johnson City Cardinals.  Several sections in this article are slightly edited repeats of sections of previous articles so you may want to jump ahead to the "Batting Statistics" section if you are a regular reader of these articles and want new content.  If you missed the first three or if you missed any of the previous articles, you may want to read the entire article.  Here are the links in reverse chronological order:


Johnson City Cards Starter of the Year: 2010

Johnson City Cards Reliever of the Year: 2010

2010 Johnson City Cardinals Team Review

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 11

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 10

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 9

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 8

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 7

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 6

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 5

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 4

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 3

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 2

Johnson City Cardinals Notebook: 2010 Week 1

Johnson City Cardinals 2010 Preseason Report


If you had to pick between offense, pitching, or defense as the reason Johnson City won the Appalachian League title this year, you would have to pick offense.  The Cardinals started the season slowly by starting 6-6 and ranking no higher than fourth of ten teams in any offensive category.  Everything changed in Week 3 though when Johnson City went 7-0 and posted a .329 team batting average.  The team leaped into first place in the league in team batting average and several other categories and they maintained that first place team batting average spot the rest of the season.


Team Batting


The youngest team in the Appy League (20.1 batters' average age) was also the best of the ten teams.  The offense finished in first place in the league in eleven different categories:  batting average (.287), on-base percentage (.355), slugging (.438), on-base plus slugging (.793), hits, runs, runs per game, doubles, RBIs, walks, and total bases.  The batters finished with the fourth fewest strikeouts in the league.  They were second in triples and fourth in home runs.  They were seventh in stolen bases and second in caught stealing.  That gave them the league's fourth best stolen base percentage (68.5%).  They were seventh in grounding into double plays and last in sacrifice hits. 


The weekly team batting averages are shown below in the table.  The "Totals" exclude the post season (PS) averages.  The post season sweep (4-0, .342 AVG) and a Week 5 (5-2, .340 AVG) that included games with 20 and 19 hits were their two best weeks.  


Team Weekly Batting Averages

1 0.269 0.347 0.400 0.747
2 0.239 0.295 0.354 0.649
3 0.329 0.412 0.574 0.986
4 0.296 0.374 0.479 0.853
5 0.340 0.416 0.533 0.949
6 0.247 0.296 0.355 0.652
7 0.295 0.374 0.419 0.793
8 0.308 0.373 0.447 0.820
9 0.282 0.324 0.405 0.729
10 0.285 0.346 0.426 0.771
11 0.219 0.306 0.314 0.620
Totals 0.287 0.355 0.438 0.793
PS 0.342 0.402 0.555 0.957

Longest Hit Streak:  Romulo Ruiz (17 games)

Longest Streak of Games with Double Digit Hits:  10 (Games 18-27)

Most Hits in a Game:  20 (Game 31)

Most Runs in a Game:  20 (Postseason Game 2)


Team Fielding


Johnson City finished eighth in fielding percentage (.961).  They committed 103 errors (91 by batters) for an average of 1.6 errors per game.  The team allowed 63 unearned runs in 66 games to finish fifth in that category.  The catchers only allowed 9 passed balls (1st in league) and 31 stolen bases (1st in league).  They moved from last place in catching base stealers last year (20% in 2009) to first place this year (56% in 2010).  In fact, the trio of Juan Castillo, Cody Stanley, and Travis Tartamella caught would-be base stealers at 12% better rate than the second place team and 21% better than the league average (35%).


Batter Roster Changes


The Appy League Championship roster saw a total of 20 batters during the 2010 season.  OF Joey Hage was not included in the count.  Hage was released during Week 5 after being listed on the roster as "reserved" at the start of the season.  Twelve of the twenty batters played the entire Appy League season while two of the other eight had more at bats with Johnson City than with other leagues. 


Three of the eight batters that played for more than one level were promoted from Johnson City to Batavia during the season.  Infielder Colin Walsh was the first to go.  Walsh, who was promoted to Batavia during Week 2, finished his season with Quad Cities.  Since Walsh had most of his at bats (ABs) with Quad Cities, he will be considered for Quad Cities Player of the Year. 


During Week 7, two more batters headed north.  C Juan Castillo, who appeared in just 32 games this year (16 each with Batavia and Johnson City), was promoted to Batavia as an injury replacement.  After playing in the New York-Penn League playoffs, Castillo was again an injury replacement promotion, this time from Batavia to Quad Cities.  Castillo was considered for Johnson City Player of the Year.  LF Chris Edmondson, who had a great year over more than 100 ABs with Johnson City, will be eligible for Batavia Player of the Year honors.  Edmondson was promoted to Batavia at the same time that Walsh was promoted from Batavia to Quad Cities. 


One of the eight batters (Steven Ramos) started out at Johnson City (six games) but was reassigned to the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Cardinals during Week 2.  Ramos was promoted back to Johnson City at the end of the season just before the playoffs started.  Since Ramos had most of his ABs in Florida, he was eligible for GCL Cardinal Player of the Year honors. 


One of the eight batters that played for more than one level was promoted to Johnson City from the GCL Cardinals after playing in just seven Florida games.  18-Year old Dominican OF Oscar Taveras essentially switched places with OF Steven Ramos.  Since most of Taveras' ABs were with Johnson City, he was eligible for Johnson City Player of the Year honors. 


Three of the eight batters that played for more than one level were promoted from the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Cardinals to Johnson City near the end of the season.  Anthony Garcia, Starlin Rodriguez, and Roberto De La Cruz had most of their ABs with the GCL Cardinals and were eligible for GCL Cardinal Player of the Year honors.


Batters Eligible for Johnson City Player of the Year (14):  Juan Castillo, Phil Cerreto, Packy Elkins, Greg Garcia, Virgil Hill, David Medina, Roberto Reyes, Romulo Ruiz, Cody Stanley, Travis Tartamella, Oscar Taveras, Kleininger Teran, Cesar Valera, and Reggie Williams. 


Batter Injuries and Lost Playing Time


Six of the 14 batters lost playing time due to injury during the season.  Two of the injuries to batters resulted in significant lost time and occurred when both were very hot hitters. 


C Juan Castillo took a foul tip off his throwing hand while catching during the ninth inning of Game 9 against Bristol.  Although Castillo batted in the bottom of the ninth, he missed the next three games in a row.


David Medina Getting Plunked Near Shoulder

1B David Medina suffered a right hamstring injury in the eighth inning of Game 14 against Danville.  Medina had to stretch, almost doing the splits toward rightfield, to catch a thrown ball from 3B Romulo Ruiz.  Unfortunately, his injury did not respond well to treatment.  Medina returned to the starting lineup as a DH in Game 46 against Elizabethton.  Although Medina returned to first base in Game 50 against Greeneville, he was clearly not yet 100 percent.  His right upper leg was heavily wrapped and he was clearly favoring his right leg when he ran the bases.  Medina again missed Games 57 through 64 due to the same hamstring injury.  He played the last two games of the regular season after Johnson City clinched the regular season championship.  He was also a late inning defensive substitute in the 20-2 playoff blowout of Burlington.  Medina missed about 40 games (almost two thirds of the season) due to the injury. 



2B/SS Greg Garcia was slightly injured while turning a double play in the fourth inning of Game 23 in Pulaski.  Garcia missed all of the next two games and finally appeared as a pinch hitter late in Game 26 before resuming regular play in Game 27.


Phil Cerreto's Broken Hand

RF/1B Phil Cerreto was hit on the back of his left hand with the first pitch of his fifth inning at bat against Elizabethton during Game 38.  Cerreto almost immediately went down to one knee in pain after contact.  He was removed from the game after a brief evaluation from team trainer Michael Petrarca and Manager Mike Shildt.  Shildt told me after Game 39 that x-rays were negative and that Cerreto was "day-to-day".  Cerreto missed two games after the swelling reduced and returned to play Monday August 2 in Game 41 against Greeneville.  Cerreto was hit again in Game 44, again in the fifth inning, and again in the left hand/wrist.  Cerreto stayed in Game 44 and even hit a home run two innings later against Bristol in his only at bat after being hit.  Cerreto had a compression wrap on his left hand, wrist, and lower forearm prior to Game 45.  A couple of days later, it was confirmed that Cerreto had fractured his hand.  Amazingly, while playing between the two hit-by-pitches to the hand, Cerreto was named Appalachian League Player of the Week (Aug 2-8) for the second time this year.  His cast (see below) was removed on Tuesday August 24.  Cerreto began rehab immediately and he made a quick recovery.  He was a late inning defensive replacement in leftfield on Sunday August 29 in the eleventh inning and then had his first at bat (a single) in the last regular season game of the year.  Cerreto started in the playoffs but missed 23 games (about one third of the season) due to the injury.



OF Virgil Hill was hit in the right hand by a pitch in the tenth inning of Game 64 against the Bluefield Orioles.  He was removed from the game in the eleventh inning after running the bases in the tenth.  He was diagnosed with a bad bruise (no break) and was rested for the final two regular season games of the year and most of the first two playoff games.  Hill made up for lost time by leading all batters in post season play with three home runs.


RF Roberto Reyes was hit in the left foot with a pitch in the last game of the regular season (Game 66).  He was removed immediately from the meaningless game by Manager Mike Shildt.  Reyes started the next night in the playoffs. 


2010 Appalachian League All-Star Team


The votes were due by Noon on Wednesday August 25 and the winners were announced the next day.  The Johnson City Cardinals led the league in All-Star selections by winning six of the seventeen positions (shown below).  Cody Stanley won for catcher, giving Johnson City back-to-back All-Star back stops with Robert Stock winning the award in 2009.  Stanley's closest competition (Chris Wallace of the Greeneville Astros/Tri-City ValleyCats) won for designated hitter.  Oscar Taveras won for outfielder.  Taveras was clearly one of the top three outfielders in the league.  Ryan Copeland won for left-handed pitcher and Pitcher of the Year.  Copeland led the league (both lefties and righties) in ERA and WHIP.  Hector Corpas won for relief pitcher, giving Johnson City back-to-back All-Star closers with David Kington winning last year.  Corpas led the league in saves.  Mike Shildt won Manager of the Year.  The five winners (pictured below) were honored with plaques from the Johnson City Sports Foundation (JCSF) before the game on Saturday August 28. 


Position  Player  Team 
Catcher  Cody Stanley  Johnson City 
First Baseman  Marcus Nidiffer  Greeneville Astros
Second Baseman  Drew Lee  Bristol White Sox
Third Baseman  Ramon Morla  Pulaski Mariners
Shortstop  Andrelton Simmons  Danville Braves
Utility Infielder  Jorge Agudelo  Pulaski Mariners
Outfielder  Oswaldo Arcia  Elizabethton Twins
Outfielder  Oscar Taveras  Johnson City 
Outfielder  Javier Rodriguez  Kingsport Mets
Utility Outfielder  Jose Rivero  Pulaski Mariners
Designated Hitter  Chris Wallace  Greeneville Astros
Right-handed Pitcher Tim Boyce  Pulaski Mariners
Left-handed Pitcher  Ryan Copeland  Johnson City 
Relief Pitcher  Hector Corpas  Johnson City 
Player of the Year  Oswaldo Arcia  Elizabethton Twins
Pitcher of the Year  Ryan Copeland  Johnson City 
Manager of the Year  Mike Shildt  Johnson City 

L to R: Shildt, Copeland, Corpas, Taveras, Stanley


Pulaski, the East Division regular season champions, took the second most positions with four.  Perhaps emphasizing the strength of the West Division, all five teams were represented and 12-of the-17 positions (70 percent) were won by the West.  To further emphasize the strength of the West, they finished with a 15 game lead (82-67) over the East.  Three teams in the East, the Princeton Rays, the Bluefield Orioles, and the Burlington Royals, were shut out by the voters.  I voted for 8-of the-11 All-Stars that were not filled by Cardinals.  The other three were in my top three at their positions. 


Unfortunately, injuries derailed the All-Star hopes of two Cardinals.  1B/DH David Medina and 1B/RF Phil Cerreto both dropped off the leader boards when their plate appearances fell below the minimum needed to appear among the league leaders.  Both were leading the league in several offensive categories for short times during the year.  A hamstring injury for Medina and a fractured wrist for Cerreto kept them from receiving votes from the media covering many teams. 


Greg Garcia (2B), Kleininger Teran (DH), and Packy Elkins (U-INF) each had good enough years to at least be considered for selection by many voters.  The Cardinals struggled with season long consistency from their right-handed starting pitchers, two of their outfield positions, their utility outfielder, and their shortstop.    


Link to Batting Statistics – Top Half


Listed in the table linked-to are batting and base running statistics for the top seven Johnson City players in 2010.  Each acronym is defined with the data tables linked-to.  "Rank" is how the top seven players were ranked.  This ranking was based on a combination of first-hand observations and the data listed in the tables.  Yellow highlighting is "best" of 14 while orange highlighting was "worst". 


Link to Fielding Stats – Top Half


Listed in the table linked-to are fielding statistics for the top seven Johnson City players in 2010.  Each acronym is defined at the end of this article.  "Rank" is how the top seven players were ranked overall (fielding + batting + base running).  This ranking was based on a combination of first-hand observations and the data listed in the tables. 


Note:  If a player fielded multiple positions, the data for each position is separated by a "/".    


The Rankings Explained – Top Half


When a batting or hitting "line" is mentioned, it refers to BA/OBP/SLG or BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.  Each of those terms is defined at the end of the article.  A very good line is .300/.400/.650/1.050 or better.  For example, Albert Pujols finished with a 2010 line of .312/.414/.596/1.011 and has a 10-year career line of .331/.426/.624/1.050. 


#1 Oscar Taveras:  First, he's just 18.  Second, he's just 18.  OK, you get the point.  What Taveras did as the youngest batter on the team and in his first year in the United States was VERY impressive.  He has incredible bat speed, a powerful swing, and quick hands.  He doesn't use batting gloves.  His outs are almost always hard hit.  He hit into the second most double plays (six if you include playoffs) on the team but that was because the ball gets to the fielder so quickly.  His foot speed is above average but not great.  He was 8-for-13 in stolen bases (62 SB%) and several of those were not close plays.  His outfield play is above average.  His routes and breaks on the ball are generally very good.  His arm is average.  He can have a tendency to play ground balls poorly by putting himself in "between-hops" situations.  This tendency manifested itself with four fielding errors.  He plays balls in the air much better than balls on the ground.  Although he gets good breaks on the ball, it takes him a few steps more than normal to get up to speed.  His fundamentals appear to be better when he is under pressure to perform.  


Oscar Taveras Singles to Right Field (Bat on Ball)


Taveras was uninjured and remarkably consistent throughout the year.  These are very good signs for a young player.  Taveras' two longest hit streaks during the year were five and seven games.  Taveras led the team in hits, home runs, RBIs, total bases, and stolen bases.  He could easily be a 30-30 (HR-SB) type player in a full major league baseball season.  Taveras led the team with a .720 SLG when leading off an inning and with 19 RBI when the bases were loaded.  Taveras was 6-for-14 (.429) with the bases loaded and had the team's best 2-O EFF (.571).  Not only was he good overall, but he was very good in high pressure, clutch situations.  He likes the spotlight and performs well when it is on him. 


Taveras was a regular season league leader in eight different offensive categories:  BA (.322, 3rd), RBIs (43, tied 4th), SLG (.526, 5th), TB (111, tied 5th), OPS (.889, 6th), H (68, 6th), HR (8, tied 7th), and R (39, tied 9th).  Taveras also led the team in the playoffs in four categories with 8 H, 5 RBI, .500 BA, and 1.063 OPS.  Taveras tends to hit balls a little bit more to the opposite field and I haven't been able to tell if that is by choice or if his swing might be a little bit long at times.  He seemed to swing and miss the most at up and in fastballs although he missed his fair share of off-speed pitches as well.  Taveras hit righties (.352) about 100 points better than lefties (.258).  It will be interesting to see how he progresses as the pitching he faces at the higher minor league levels gets better and better. 


Taveras' youthful exuberance when he performed well was a joy to see.  Nobody jumped higher nor got more excited the night Johnson City won the Appy League Championship.  Since he is so young, there will be leadership questions to watch in the future however, his performance under the spotlight should be a good indication of great things in his future.  Matt Eddy of Baseball America ranked Taveras the fourth best prospect in the league this year.  I ranked him the best player on this year's team.  His reported "low six figure" signing bonus looks like a good investment for the Cardinals. 


#2 Cody Stanley:  Stanley had a very good year at a premium position.  The most eye-popping statistics for me were his stolen bases (team leading 8) and triples (5).  The kid has some pretty good quickness and speed, especially for a catcher.  It can take him a little while to reach top speed but his top speed is pretty fast.  You don't really notice his quickness behind the plate.  In fact, early in the year, he looked a bit slow to react to some pitches in the dirt.  However, Stanley was someone who obviously improved throughout the year.  He is the type of hustling player that doesn't mind getting dirty.  I really love to watch those types of players play baseball.  He can be quiet at times and seems to be camera shy.  He became more vocal behind the plate during the season; a major emphasis for Cardinal roving catching instructors. 



Stanley was even more consistent this year than Taveras.  His splits at Johnson City were just about as even as any hitter could be.  Stanley hit lefties (.324) just as well as he hit righties (.319).  He was .304 with the bases empty, .333 with runners on base, and .321 with RISP.  His only downfall was with the bases loaded where he was 0-for-10 with just one RBI.   Stanley was so remarkably consistent that he didn't lead the team in any offensive categories except stolen bases.  


Like Taveras, Stanley was also a league leader in eight different offensive categories:  BA (.321, 4th), OBP (.380, 5th), H (67, tied 7th), 3B (5, tied 7th), OPS (.878, 7th), RBIs (39, tied 7th), TB (104, 8th), and SLG (.498, 9th).  Like most catchers, he has a good eye at the plate.  He was second on the team in walks (21).  Stanley posted one five-game and two seven-game hit streaks during the year. 


The best way to describe the 2010 fourth round pick behind the plate is steady.  He doesn't have a particularly strong arm but his release is relatively quick and his throws are pretty accurate.  He threw out 57% of the base stealers he faced but was helped by several left-handed pitchers.


Stanley had the distinction of playing in both the Appalachian and Midwest League playoffs at the end of the year.  Stanley was 1-for-4 with a two run home run at the end of the regular season with Quad Cities and was 1-for-5 with two RBIs in the Midwest League playoffs.  Although Stanley was just 2-for-14 (.143) in the Appy League playoffs, he led the Johnson City Cardinals with four walks and .571 SLG that included two home runs in one game in Burlington, NC.


#3 Phil Cerreto:  Cerreto appeared to be the most advanced hitter with Johnson City.  He is a real student of the game.  He is always asking other players about what pitches they faced during a game and is always willing to tell others about what he faced.  It is really too bad that he missed almost one third of the season to injury.  His leadership qualities remind me of Rich Racobaldo from last year's team.  Cerreto, at 23-years-old, was the oldest of the 14 batters. 



Cerreto's offensive exploits this year were amazing.  Although the sample size was almost half the size of others, it really wasn't that small.  Over 130 PA, Cerreto led the team in all four slash categories:  .425/.460/.758/1.218.  In fact, his averages vs. both left and right handed pitchers were the best on the team in all four slash categories.  He also led the team in all the slash categories with runners on base and with RISP.  Cerreto won Appalachian League Player of the Week twice this year.  Once for July 19-25 and once for August 2-8.  Cerreto was also named The Cardinal Nation July Player of the Month.  Cerreto posted a ten-game hit streak in mid-July and finished the regular season on an eight-game hit streak in late August. 


Cerreto's performance with RBIs this year was incredible.  Cerreto had 38 RBI in 32 G.  Even though he missed one third of the season (23 G), he still finished tenth in the league in RBIs.  As a comparison, Cody Stanley had one more RBI in almost 100 more plate appearances.  Surprisingly, Cerreto was also 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.  He is not fast but he is smart.  He reminds me of Albert Pujols with his base running instincts.  Cerreto, who was 4-for-14 (.286) with three walks (.412 OBP) and three RBIs in four games, led the team in the playoffs with six runs scored.  Cerreto didn't strikeout much (10.2% of PA), hit HRs frequently (20 PA/HR), and hit even better with two outs and RISP (.522 2-O EFF). 


One issue with the 2010 40th round pick could be that he becomes a bat without a defensive position.  He had three fielding errors in the first eight games this year at first base but settled down after that.  He played some outfield but was average at best.  He can presumably play third base but he didn't for Johnson City this year.  Next year, he will have to continue to hit well with a full season club and hopefully establish good performance at more than one defensive position.  If he stays healthy and proves he can play several positions well, I think he will be able to hit well enough to make a statement for several years.    


#4 David Medina:  Medina looked to have one of the best approaches at the plate of any of the 14 hitters.  It is unfortunate that his hamstring injury cost him 40 G (almost two thirds of the season).  Medina had a small sample size but had very good performance.  His G, PA, AB, R, H, RBIs, TB, and BB were all the smallest of the group.  Medina was on an eight-game hit streak when he was injured.  That eventually turned into a team second best ten-game hit streak when he returned.  Medina hit right-handed pitchers (.400) better than left-handed pitchers (.278).  He had the highest BABIP (.455) of all 14 batters, he was very good with two outs and RISP (.462 2-O EFF), and he hit HRs frequently (24 PA/HR). 



Medina handles off-speed pitches very well and hits to all fields well.  Medina was the best first baseman on the team when it came to receiving throws and scooping low throws in the dirt.  He is tall and has long arms so first base looks to be his position.  Medina struggled fielding groundballs and will need to improve his defense.  This ranking may be a bit high but his bat looked very good to me and his first base performance should be better than what he provided this year.  He has to stay healthy though.  Medina was signed in March 2006 and although he is still not yet 22-years-old, the clock is ticking loudly.           


#5 Greg Garcia:  The iron man for this year's team was Greg Garcia.  He led the team in PA, AB, R (49 was good for second in the league), and HBP.  He reminds me a lot of middle infielder Mike McCoy from the 2002 Johnson City Cardinals.  Garcia is good at fouling off pitcher's pitches.  I didn't keep track but he probably fouled off more pitches than many others took for balls.  He stands close to the plate (9 HBP) and has more power than you might expect for a middle infielder (4 HR).     


Garcia's fielding is probably his best attribute.  He doesn't have great range or great speed (58 SB%) and he will bobble a grounder on occasion.  His fielding percentages at 2B (98.5%) and SS (97.6%) were very respectable.  He has good footwork, good hands, and a quick and accurate release around second base.  He converted 39 DP in 63 G. 


Garcia's negatives were limited to holes in his swing and his performance with RISP and two outs.  Because he hugs the plate, he doesn't make good contact on pitches on the inner third of the plate.  He also misses out on walks because he chooses to swing at anything close.  His 2-O EFF was a paltry .206 and he hit just .120 with RISP and two outs. 



Garcia's best chance to make it to the majors is to make himself into a utility infielder that can hit.  His defense and ability to play a respectable shortstop will be there.  The hitting may need some more work.  His .363 OBP was tenth best in the league but it was just sixth best on this team (ignoring sample size).  Garcia posted a seven-game hit streak in mid-July and a six-game hit streak at the end of August just before the playoffs.  He led the team in the playoffs with .526 OBP and was 7-for-15 (.467) with five runs, three RBIs, and three HBP. 


Juan Castillo Receives a "High-Five" After a Home Run


#6 Juan Castillo:  Castillo reminded me of a better defensive but slightly worse offensive version of Audry Perez from the 2009 Johnson City Cardinals.  Castillo had the fewest PA of all 14 batters in Johnson City but his season numbers over 16 G each at two levels (32 G total) were not largely different from his Appy League statistics.  The only exception to that was his SLG which dropped from .613 in the Appy League to .407 in the NYPL. 


Castillo threw out 53% of the base stealers he faced.  His arm is stronger than Stanley's and he is much more vocal.  He seemed to have a good rapport with the pitchers, especially the Latin American pitchers.  He had quicker reactions to wild pitches than Stanley also. 


It was a small sample size but Castillo led the team in an exciting and unusual combination of statistics.  He had the lowest strikeout rate (6.1% per PA) and the highest home run rate (16 PA/HR).  He doesn't walk much but he doesn't strikeout much and he hits over .300 with some decent power.  He plays a premium position and plays it well.  Castillo posted an eight-game hit streak in mid-July prior to his promotion.  This ranking is too low if he continues to hit for power and average at the same time.  Castillo still hasn't turned 21-years-old yet so the next two years will be critical for the Dominican that has been in the organization since 2006 and was once suspended for 50 G. 


#7 Virgil Hill:  Virgil is very fast.  I clocked him at 4.00 to first base on a close play at first base once this year.  The big question with Hill is can he get on base often enough to use his speed.  His bunting is not good.  He attempted to bunt for base hits several times this year and I don't recall any of them being successful.  His hitting was a little bit better than I expected.  He takes a lot of pitches and can foul off quite a few as well.  His power was almost always to the opposite field (right center gap).  I would love to see him pull more pitches, especially on the ground when he can use his speed.   


Hill led all 14 batters in OBP when leading off an inning (.468).  This is a good sign.  He knows he needs to get on base and does a good job of it.  Hill struck out way too much though (27.1% of PA) and was actually caught stealing (6) more than anyone else on the team.  Many of the SO and CS appeared to me to be due to poor decisions.  Hill swings at too many balls and takes too many strikes.  The 54 SB% is a real head scratcher for me.  He must have had trouble reading the pitchers because he is just too fast to be caught that many times. 


His fielding is good but not great.  He will take adventurous routes on some fly balls but his speed allows him to reduce triples to doubles and even more doubles to singles.  His arm is also good but not great.  He is relatively accurate with his throws.  Much like Taveras, he tends to have a lot of his errors on short hops in the outfield.  He needs to concentrate on reading the bounces and putting himself in a better fielding position. 


Hill was pretty consistent during the year.  He posted three separate hit streaks of five, six, and seven games.  He improved his power toward the end of the year when his Olympic gold-medal-winning mother was in Johnson City to see him play.  Hill posted a .324 BA over his last ten regular season games and then was named the Minor League Baseball Appy League Player of the Postseason.  Hill led Johnson City and all the teams in the Appy postseason with three home runs, five RBIs, and 14 total bases in just three playoff games. 



Link to Batting Statistics – Bottom Half


Note:  For comparison sake, I left last year's data for Kleininger Teran, Romulo Ruiz, and Travis Tartamella in the table.  2009 data is on the left and is separated from 2010 data with a "|". 


Link to Fielding Stats – Bottom Half


Note:  If a player fielded multiple positions, the data for each position is separated by a "/".  For comparison sake, I left last year's data for Kleininger Teran, Romulo Ruiz, and Travis Tartamella in the table.  2009 data is on the left and is separated from 2010 data with a "|". 


The Rankings Explained – Bottom Half


#8 Kleininger Teran:  Teran was ranked 9th last year but moved up only one spot this year after finishing 10th in the league in batting average (.303).  Unfortunately for Teran, he was on a very good hitting team and his relatively good performance at the plate, especially late in the year, was easy to overlook.  One good thing about his batting is he likes to go to the opposite field.  That can be good for line drives but in his case, it was bad for power. 


Teran was defensively challenged at third base last year and made the move to first base this year.  This was partly due to injuries to Medina and Cerreto.  Although Teran played an acceptable first base, he won't win any defensive awards.  He appeared to lose weight during the season and that was good.  He was carrying a few extra pounds.  In the playoffs, Teran led the team in AB (17) and 2B (2) while finishing 7-for-17 (.412).  Teran was the only batter with more than one at bat (13 total batters) to not strikeout once.  



Just like last year, Teran demonstrated good swing discipline with little SLG or speed.  Teran was able to improve his SLG this year with a corresponding decrease in BB and a small increase in SO.  However, hitting just one HR in 300 PA in a good HR/SLG park over two years as a first baseman will not impress too many people.  This ranking is based mostly on the bat since Teran suffers from the "position: batter" problem.  If he is given a chance, the 21-year-old Venezuelan will need to improve his power and defense a lot more next year to make a meaningful impression with the Cardinals minor league coaches. 


#9 Packy Elkins:  It was really hard to notice Elkins this year until he moved to third base late in the year.  Elkins replaced error prone Romulo Ruiz at the hot corner and did an excellent job there.  So good, in fact, that he broke into the regular starting lineup at third in the playoffs.  Elkins led the team in the playoffs in doubles (2) and strikeouts (5) while finishing 6-for-15 (.400). 


Elkins best shot for the future is probably as a utility infielder (UIF) or third baseman.  Although second and third base are fine, the problem with UIF is that he doesn't have experience or range to play SS.  The problem with third base is power/SLG.  His best SLG was in August (.410).  Elkins was pretty streaky during the season.  His last ten regular season August games were cold (.185 BA) after posting an eight-game hit streak earlier in the month. 


Elkins has virtually no speed (zero triples and just one SB) but has very good hands and accurate throws.  His arm is not that strong but he is very good with accurate throws on the run at both second and third base.  He moves well to both his left and right and both in and back.  He makes good decisions on how to field groundballs.  His bunting looks to be quite good.  He led the team with four sacrifice bunts. 



#10 Romulo Ruiz:  You certainly cannot say that Ruiz didn't get enough playing time this year.  The Venezuelan made a tremendous improvement at the plate from last year; almost doubling his batting average.  Ruiz led the team with 60 games, 19 doubles (4th in league), 34 walks (1st in league), a 17-game hit streak, a .667 BA with the bases loaded, and, saving the worst for last, 21 errors.  Ruiz leveled out his swing a little bit this year.  After swinging for the fences last year (31 SO per 100 PA and 22 PA per HR), he improved into a singles and doubles hitter this year. 



Ruiz certainly won't set any land-speed records.  Like Elkins, he had no triples and just one stolen base.  Ruiz also suffers from the "professional batter" problem.  He was particularly brutal at third base this year (86.6% fielding).  Unfortunately, although he made tremendous improvement from last year, he managed only a .256/.359/.384 line.  One third of his RBIs this year were with the bases loaded.  Last year, he had 13 hits with five of those being home runs. 


#11 Travis Tartamella:  After hitting just .183 in 82 AB in 2009, "Tart" showed good improvement at the plate this year (.259 in 108 AB).  Tart has good fundamentals behind the plate, shows great hustle, and is quite vocal.  He improved his CS% from 17% last year to a catcher's best 59% this year.  Tartamella was one of the stars of the postseason going 3-for-8 (.375) with a double, a home run, and a team leading five RBIs.  


Tartamella was a little streaky this year.  His best hitting occurred in late June and early July when he had an eight-game hit streak.  He later added a five-game hit streak in mid-August.  Tart will be 23-years-old before next spring.  Catchers with good fundamentals and leadership qualities are valuable but they still need to hit well.  If given the opportunity, Tart will need to continue to improve even further with the bat next year. 



Reggie Williams Swings and Misses at an Off-Speed Pitch


#12 Reggie Williams:  The only switch hitter on this year's team struck out an alarming rate (37 SO per 100 PA).  Williams has good speed but just didn't get on base enough to use it.  Although he is 21-years-old, he seemed to play at times as if he was even younger than that.  He led the team with six triples (6th in the league) and remarkably, had no doubles at the same time.  He was very fortunate though since he probably should have been thrown out at third at least twice. 


Although Williams also led the team with five outfield assists, his arm appeared to be just average to me.  Most of his assists were relays to infielders or poor decisions by base runners.  His routes in the outfield were adventurous at times.  His speed does allow him to cut-off liners destined for the gaps when he plays centerfield. 


Cesar Valera Flies Out to Right Field vs. Twins


#13 Cesar Valera:  The Cardinals will have trouble getting a good return-on-investment with this $500,000 signing bonus.  Although he has great range and a very good arm at SS, his 21 errors tied for the team lead with Ruiz.  The good news is that is he still very young.  In fact, Valera was the second youngest batter of the 14 batters at 18.6 years of age.


Valera was last of the 14 batters in virtually every offensive category.  His .234 SLG (4 2B, 0 3B, and 0 HR in 192 AB) was anemic.  His 2-O EFF was a team worst .095.  His 58 strikeouts led the team and his 27% strikeout rate was the team's second worst.  He led the team by getting picked off first base three times.  His twelve fielding errors led the team.  His 92.1% fielding percentage at SS was filled with what I consider the typical Latin American malady:  converting hits into outs with flair and converting outs into errors with lack of concentration. 


Valera looked lost at the plate on many occasions.  He had difficulty just making contact most of the time and just appeared to be frequently unfocused or distant.  The young Venezuelan needs to improve in all facets of the game to make an impact next year. 


Roberto Reyes Doubles to Right Field vs. Twins


#14 Roberto Reyes:  The only two reasons that Reyes was ranked below Valera was age and fielding position.  Reyes is almost three years older than Valera and right field is easier to play than shortstop.  The good news was that he played a very steady yet mostly unremarkable rightfield.  He had just one error, a throwing error in June, and 98.6% fielding percentage.  The Dominican struck out in 25.3% of his plate appearances.


One interesting split for Reyes was that he led all 14 batters with a .367 batting average when leading off an inning.  His overall statistics were too poor to warrant a leadoff position.  Perhaps with good performance next year and if given the opportunity, Reyes will turn into a good leadoff hitter.   


Batter and Fielder Team Summary


As a group, the 14 batters averaged 21.4 years old, 68 SB%, .290 BA, .357 OBP, .438 SLG, .795 OPS, 0.20 SO/PA, and 56 PA/HR.  The 14 fielders combined for a 95.7 FLD%.  With all the good hitters this year, determining the order of the top ten was actually pretty tough.     



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