Johnson City Cardinals

Recapping the 2016 season for the St. Louis Cardinals title-winning rookie-level Appalachian League club.

The rookie-level Johnson City Cardinals finished in first place and went on to take their fourth Appalachian League title in the last seven seasons.

When a team wins a championship like the 2016 Johnson City Cardinals did, multiple things went right. On the flip side, there were also many things that I am sure the Cardinals wished they did better. After all, this is the minor leagues and it is all about getting better in hopes of one day putting on a major league uniform.

In this article, I will go in-depth on Johnson City’s 2016 season as it captured its fourth Appalachian League Championship in the past seven seasons.

2016 Johnson City by the numbers

Overall Record – 39-29 (1st in the Appalachian League West)
Longest winning streak – Six games (Tuesday August 16th -Tuesday August 23rd)
Longest losing streak – Six games (Thursday July 21st – Tuesday July 26th)
Series sweeps against – One (Elizabethton)
Series sweeps by - Four (Bristol (twice), Greeneville, Burlington)
Home Record – 20-16
Road Record – 19-13

With the exception of a six-game losing skid in late July, the Cardinals were a very consistent team during 2016. Johnson City was also a very good team away from TVA Credit Union Ballpark as its 19 road victories were second only to Burlington’s 23 in the league.

The Cardinals saved their best for last later in the season as they reeled off a six-game winning streak in late August. Three days after that winning streak came to an end, the Cardinals clinched a playoff spot. In addition to that late season surge, Johnson City also won four of its five playoff games to close out their title chase.

Team Batting

The Cardinals were the league leaders in batting average at .281. That was seven points ahead of second-place Princeton.

With the high batting average, Johnson City had no issues putting runs on the board as it finished the season with 373 runs scored. Only Bluefield scored more than the Cardinals at 375.

Johnson City was a contact-oriented team in 2016 as they struck out a league-low 469 times. The Cardinals did not show much home run power with just 37 home runs in 68 games, seventh in the league, but they did show that they can hit for extra bases as they totaled an Appy League-leading 132 doubles.

The squad was also no slouch on the base paths as they ranked in the upper half of the league in terms of stolen bases (5th, 63). The Cardinals were also smart as they had a 72% success rate stealing bases, which ranked only behind Bluefield and Bristol.

Team Pitching

The Cardinals were a pitch-to-contact pitching staff for the most part in 2016. Johnson City finished second only to Princeton in the fewest walks allowed (170) and were second to last in strikeouts (492).

Johnson City was fifth among 10 teams with a 4.06 ERA, and it ranked third in saves with 17.

Appalachian League All-Stars

Four Cardinals received Appy League All-Star honors as infielders Allen Cordoba and J.R. Davis, outfielder Matt Fiedler and catcher Andrew Knizner were chosen. That compares to three Cardinals selections in 2015 and just two the year prior.

Hitting Leaders

The four All-Stars also served as top four hitters in the Cardinals’ batting order, each finishing in the top 10 in batting average in the Appalachian League. Cordoba notched his second straight batting title while turning a .362 average, as Davis and Fiedler finished third and fourth (.347 and .325), respectively. Knizner was seventh at .319.

Knizner was also the Cardinals’ top power threat, totaling six home runs and 42 RBI in 53 games. Fiedler led the league with 20 doubles, while Joshua Lopez finished second on the team with five home runs and drove in 33.

In addition to their work at the plate, Cordoba and Davis were threats running the bases, finishing with 22 and 11 stolen bases, respectively. Cordoba had the edge in stolen base percentage, however, as he was successful 22 times in 26 attempts (84.6%), compared to Davis, who was successful 11 times in 16 tries (68.8%).

Pitching Leaders

Johnson City’s starting rotation was very stable this season as only seven starters had six or more starts. Leading this group was Ian Oxnevad, who started 12 times. The lefty paced the staff in wins (5), innings pitched (72) and strikeouts (57).

Not to be outdone was the Appy League’s ERA champion, Frederis Parra. Parra, who posted a 2.53 ERA, not only led the league in ERA, but was a workhorse, going at least seven innings in five of his 10 outings.

Out of the bullpen, manager Chris Swauger had plenty of options to call upon. Ross Vance, who made a few starts down the stretch, was dominant at times, striking out 54 batters against just eight walks in 40 innings pitched.

Johnson City’s main closer was Estarlin Arias, who tallied six saves to go with a 4-0 record and a 2.15 ERA. Several 2016 draftees also had sizable impact in relief, including Noel Gonzalez (3.05 ERA), Levi MaVorhis (1.06 WHIP, 3.09 ERA), Leland Tilley (25 Ks in 23 1/3 innings, 3.09 ERA) and Keaton Siomkin (1.10 WHIP, 26 Ks in 20 innings).

For more

Link to master article with all 2016 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, coming soon.

Looking ahead

Six Johnson City players have been invited to participate in the Cardinals fall instructional league camp that begins this month. Full details on instructs can be found here, with first-hand reports from Jupiter coming, both exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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