Lacking anyone with an end-to-end season of consistent standout starting performances on the 27-38 Johnson City Cardinals pitching staff made the selection of this year’s Starting Pitcher of the Year by The Cardinal Nation more challenging. Overall, the team’s ERA of 4.37 was seventh in the 10-team Appalachian League.
For 2015, the award is given to right-hander Ronnie Williams.
Despite going just 3-3 on the season, the Miami, Florida native earned only one less win than team leader, reliever Chandler Hawkins. Though he picked up his last victory on August 2nd against Bluefield, Williams did not always have offensive support. Three of his outings of no or one run allowed resulted in an 0-1 mark with two no-decisions.
The 19-year-old struck out 43 batters this season, a team high, but gave up 25 walks, which was the second highest on the team. Only one pitcher, Ramon Santos, issued more, with 26. However, Williams improved greatly as the season went on, with just eight free passes issued in his final six starts after walking 17 over his first six outings.
Williams got off to a rough start to 2015, allowing seven runs in his first nine innings (two starts), He then turned it on, yielding just five runs in total over his next six starts and lowering his season ERA to 2.70. After a couple of three-run outings, Williams had a 2/3 inning clunker before closing the season strongly with one run allowed on three hits and a walk to go with seven strikeouts over five innings. Still, he took the September 1 loss.
All in all, Williams finished the season with a 3.70 ERA, 10th-best among qualifying starters in the Appalachian League and is worthy of our choice as Johnson City’s Starting Pitcher of the Year.
In The Cardinal Nation’s most recent monthly prospect rankings, Williams is 24th in the system. He was selected to participate in the organization’s instructional league camp, currently underway in Jupiter, Florida.
Rookie Ryan Helsley made nine starts in his 11 appearances and logged a tidy 2.27 ERA while in the rotation. However, the workload of the right-hander was managed carefully, as he averaged just under four innings per start. That kept him from qualifying on the league leaderboard.
Williams was often able to get further into the opponent’s batting order a second time before having to turn the game over to the bullpen, with that ability to pitch deeper into the game carrying significance here.
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 Relief Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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