The decision of the 2015 Relief Pitcher of the Year for the Johnson City Cardinals was nothing short of difficult, due to a lack of production from many on the Cardinals staff and a close race between two finalists, but it was finally solved with Jonathan Escudero receiving the honor for the second season in a row.
During the Cardinals regular season play, Escudero did much more than relieve the starting pitchers on the mound. The 22-year-old Cartagena, Colombia native also made two starts along with his 13 appearances out of the bullpen and pitched his best with the season on the line.
Lefty Chandler Hawkins, who played a crucial role in the Cardinals final stretch as well, was a close second in this year’s pick for Reliever of the Year, right behind Escudero. Hawkins finished the year 4-0 in his 16 games, earning three of his four wins in his last ten games of the season. The 22-year-old Memphis, TN native earned an impressive ERA of 1.84 in 29 1/3 innings pitched, making the decision even more difficult for this year’s Reliever of the Year.
Escudero finished the 2015 season with a record of 2-2, one save, and a 2.86 ERA. He logged the fifth-best ERA on the Cardinals squad, only behind starter Ryan Helsley (2.01), Ismael Brito (2.25), Steven Farinaro (1.69) and Hawkins.
In Escudero’s second year on the Cards roster, the righty had a formidable 37 strikeouts in his 34 2/3 innings pitched, and a WHIP of 1.10, packing a lot of heat from the mound. Starter Ronnie Williams was the only Cardinals pitcher to collect more strikeouts than Escudero, with 43 in his 56 innings pitched.
In August, the final month of play, Escudero stepped forward. As a veteran pitcher, he was burdened with a lot of responsibility to try to help get the defending Appalachian League champs back into the playoffs. He pitched a heavy load, 20 innings, and had 17 strikeouts in the month, with one save against Greeneville on the 18th. He added one win and took one loss.
Escudero held opponents to a collective .065 batting average down the stretch and logged a 1.35 August ERA. In completion with all league starters and relievers, he was recognized as the Appalachian League’s Pitcher of the Week for the period of August 17-23.
Though the Cardinals ultimately missed the playoffs, Escudero did more than his part to lead his club and is our repeat selection as the Johnson City Cardinals Relief Pitcher of the Year for 2015.
Link to master article with all 2015 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that includes our selections as the Johnson City Cardinals Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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