Johnson City Cardinals 2007 Preseason Report

Shawn Kerrick prepares us for the 2007 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals' Appalachian League affiliate.

The Johnson City Cardinals enter their 33rd consecutive season as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals (51st year overall as the Johnson City Cardinals) and will begin play in the Appalachian League (founded 1937) on the road against the Greeneville Astros on Tuesday night June 19 @ 7 PM. 

 

Shawn Kerrick will be attending many of the games in person and will file regular reports and updates throughout the season – available exclusively to Scout.com subscribers. Enjoy this free preview, but subscribe now to catch all our Cardinals minor league coverage.

 

Manager and Pitching Coach

Replacing 2006 Johnson City Manager Dan Radison, who is now a roving minor league hitting instructor with the Cardinals, will be last year's assistant coach Joe Almaraz.  Almaraz has managed in the minor leagues before in both the Cincinnati Reds (Billings, MT) and the Baltimore Orioles (Bluefield, WV) organizations.  Almaraz won the Appalachian League title in 2001 with the Bluefield Orioles.  Almaraz resides in San Antonio, TX, speaks fluent Spanish, and has scouted many current minor league Cardinals from the southwest part of the US. 

 

The new pitching coach will be Sid Monge, who replaces Al Holland.  Holland moves up to the Batavia Muckdogs as pitching coach and Monge moves down from the New York-Penn League (State College).  Mexican native Monge also speaks fluent Spanish and should be a valuable addition to a club expected to have a number of Latin American prospects. 

 

Schedule Changes and Features

The 2007 Appalachian League schedule will have a much different look with the loss of the Pulaski Blue Jays (added a team to the Gulf Coast League) and the resulting decrease in teams from ten to nine.  The schedule used to have almost exclusively three-game series with several league wide off-days however; the 2007 schedule features nothing but two-game series with four scheduled doubleheaders (three games in two days) and four scheduled two-day-off periods.

 

·         68 scheduled games

·         Starts June 19

·         Ends August 29

·         Two division winners (Johnson City is in the East) begin a best-of-three series August 31

·         Nine games each against the East Division (Kingsport Mets, Bristol White Sox, Greeneville Astros, and Elizabethton Twins)

          5 road games @ Greeneville and Elizabethton

          5 home games vs. Kingsport and Bristol

·         Eight games each against the West Division (Bluefield Orioles, Burlington Royals, Danville Braves, and Princeton Devil Rays) - 4 on road and 4 at home.

·         Four scheduled doubleheaders

          Thu. Jul 19 - Day/Night 2-City - in Greeneville @ Noon and in JC @ 7 PM

          Fri. Jul 27 - in Bristol @ 6 PM

          Thu. Aug 9 - in Elizabethton @ TBD (probably 6 PM)

          Sat. Aug 18 - Day/Night 2-City - in JC @ 1 PM and in Kingsport @ TBD (probably 7 PM)

·         Four scheduled 2-day-off periods

          Jun 29-30 (Fri and Sat)

          Jul 13-14 (Fri and Sat)

          Aug 4-5 (Sat and Sun)

          Aug 22-23 (Wed and Thu)

 

Possible Returning Players

Since this article is preceding the 2007 June amateur draft and since there is no way to know for sure how many of those draftees will be signed, it is difficult to know if all the players currently in extended spring training (EST) will be assigned to a short-season roster.  One thing in their favor this year is the addition of a Gulf Coast League team in Jupiter, FL that will likely be staffed predominantly with Latin American prospects and high school draftees.  For the purposes of this article, I will assume that there will be roster spots available for all the players discussed but the term "possibly released" will be used for those players likely to be last at their position on the pre-draft depth chart.

 

The 2006 roster had eight players return from 2005 but three of those were pitchers stuck on the 60-day DL due to arm injuries (Tyler Leach, Josh Wilson, and Shaun Garceau).  There are currently seventeen players not yet assigned to a full season roster that ended the 2006 season on the Johnson City roster.  Below is an alphabetical list of those players, a brief discussion of their performance, and a projection of where they are likely to begin the 2007 season.

 

Kris Bakey:  The RH relief pitcher finished the 2006 season as the closer after Luke Gregerson was promoted to the NYPL.  Bakey finished with a record of 2-5 with four saves, a 3.38 ERA, a .288 BAA, 40 H (no HR), 13 BB, and 30 K in 34.2 IP.  The 22-yr-old, 6-foot-3, 225 pound, 2006 undrafted free agent from Stony Brook University (NY) is reported to be in extended spring training (EST) recovering from an unknown injury however, he has no stats through the April 30 update.  Bakey could be assigned to either the Batavia or Johnson City DL to start the season.  Prediction:  Batavia DL.

 

Garrett Bussiere:  The regular starting catcher through June and July posted a .156 AVG, .270 OBP, .313 SLG, and .583 OPS (3 HR) in 22 G and 64 AB before suffering a concussion in a game in Bristol against the White Sox on July 22.  Bussiere was placed on the 60-day DL on August 10 and is currently on indefinite leave from baseball due to post-concussion syndrome.  Prediction:  Johnson City DL.

 

Logan Collier:  The lanky (6-foot-7, 185 pound) RH pitcher finished the 2006 season with a record of 1-2 and 5.36 ERA.  He appeared in 14 G and started nine of those.  Opponents batted .252 against him with 40 H, 25 BB, 37 K in 42 IP.  The 21-yr-old, 37th round pick in 2006 from Guilford College (NC) has been getting a good look in extended spring training as he has posted the second-most IP (recent Quad Cities roster addition Eddie Degerman was first) as of the last update of stats.  Collier would probably prefer to play closer to his home of NC but Batavia, NY could be his next stop.  Prediction:  Batavia tandem starter.

 

Jon Edwards:  Ranked as the #15 Cardinal prospect by the Birdhouse and the #27 prospect by Baseball America, Edwards has the Cardinal organization's "Best Outfield Arm" and was ranked as the #9 prospect in the Appalachian League in 2006 per BA.  Edwards started out the 2006 season very well but hamstring and wrist injuries limited his playing time toward the end of the season.  The 6-foot-5, 230 pound right fielder was a 14th round pick in 2006 out of Keller HS (TX).  The now 19-yr-old posted an impressive line, considering his injuries, of .266 AVG, .360 OBP, .461 SLG, and .821 OPS in 154 AB.  Edwards has been reportedly striking-out-looking at an alarmingly high rate (19 K in 40 AB) but has also taken an extended spring training high 11 BB.  Edwards is in the top five in at-bats in extended spring training and Batavia seems a likely assignment if he is not needed in Quad Cities before late June.  Prediction:  Batavia outfield.

 

Brandon Garner:  The 2005 2B/SS with a .181 AVG in 94 AB joined Jason Motte and Jon Mikrut as former position players turned relief pitchers.  Garner is reportedly being groomed as a possible 2007 starting pitcher.  Garner appeared in 20 G in 2006 and started two of those at the end of the year after Tyler Herron was promoted to State College of the New York-Penn League.  Garner finished 2006 with a record of 1-0, a 4.71 ERA, a .307 BAA with 46 H, 17 BB, and 18 K in 36.1 IP.  The 6-foot-0, 165 pound, now 20-yr-old was an 18th round pick in 2005 out of Yale HS (MI).  With two years of previous experience in the Appy League, a spot on the Batavia roster in 2007 seems most probable.  Prediction:  Batavia tandem starter.

 

Tyler Leach:  Missed the entire 2006 season due to "Tommy John", elbow-ligament-replacement surgery after being drafted in the 39th round of the 2005 draft out of Kings Mountain HS (NC).  Leach started eight games in 2005 and posted a record of 3-3 with 6.31 ERA and 47 H (5 HR) in 35.2 IP.  Leach is now healthy but has been wild and has been hit really hard in extended spring training having given up 14 H, 14 ER, and 17 BB in just 7.1 IP.  A return assignment to Johnson City seems likely for the 6-foot-3, 200 pound righty, but if a lot of weight is placed on EST performance, a release is also possible.  Prediction:  Johnson City tandem starter.

 

Fabian Marquez:  The right handed relief pitcher from Venezuela was one of only three Latin American prospects (joining the Dominican Republic's Elvis Hernandez and Melvin Puello) who survived the late 2006 cut that sent five Johnson City Cardinals back to Venezuela.  Marquez appeared in 15 G in 2006 and started one game near the end of the season.  Marquez really struggled with control problems in 2006, finishing with a record of 0-1 and 10.89 ERA while allowing 25 H, 26 BB, 15 K, and 2.47 WHIP in 20.2 IP.  Marquez had the highest speeds on the radar gun of the Venezuelan prospects, regularly touching 91 MPH.  Marquez has posted a 2.00 ERA with 7 H, 7 BB, and 5 K in 9 IP in EST.  A return assignment to Johnson City to continue to improve his control seems likely.  Prediction:  Johnson City tandem starter.

 

Travis Mitchell:  The speedy, starting outfielder was a 13th round pick out of Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, MO in 2006.  Mitchell tied for the team lead with 12 SB and demonstrated very good range and quickness while covering a very spacious CF in Howard Johnson Park.  Mitchell needed a lot of extra work at the plate after posting an anemic .207 AVG, .268 OBP, .235 SLG, and .503 OPS in 179 AB.  The 2006 Winter Instructs invitee has shown a significant improvement so far in extended spring training.  A team leading five SB to go with a .350 AVG, .409 OBP, .400 SLG, and .809 OPS in 40 AB could be enough to send Mitchell to Batavia.  Prediction:  Batavia outfield.

 

Casey Mulligan:  Proved to be versatile starter by splitting time between 3B and C.  Mulligan demonstrated an accurate and strong arm in both positions but struggled a bit in fielding at 3B.  Received a $150,000 signing bonus as a 22nd round pick out of Valencia HS (CA) in 2006.   Like Mitchell, Mulligan really struggled at the plate with a .201 AVG, .273 OBP, .249 SLG, and .521 OPS in 189 AB.  Unlike Mitchell however, extra time at 2006 Winter Instructs and extended spring training has resulted in no improvement so far for Mulligan:  .189 AVG, .302 OBP, .243 SLG, and .545 OPS in 37 AB.  A return trip to Johnson City for the avid fisherman and hunter seems likely.  Prediction:  Johnson City infield or catcher.

 

Matt North:  Was the highest draft pick to play in Johnson City who was drafted in 2006 (ninth round pick out of Deer Valley HS in California).  Similar to Collier, North struggled as a RH starting pitcher and finished the 2006 season with a record of 2-5 and a 6.41 ERA.  He appeared in 11 G and started nine of those.  Opponents batted a hefty .319 against him with 51 H, 27 BB, 20 K in 39.1 IP.  The 18-year-old (will be 19 on May 23) received a $150,000 signing bonus.  North has the second-best K/IP ratio of those pitchers competing for assignments on a short season roster however, he has 9.28 ERA in 4 G and has given up 17 H and 11 BB in 10.2 IP.  A return trip to Johnson City seems likely.  Prediction:  Johnson City tandem starter.

 

Senger Peralta:  The only LH starting pitcher for Johnson City in 2006, Peralta suffered a torn labrum and season-ending surgery in July after just 3 G and 2 GS.  Peralta had one quality start prior to the injury and gave up only 6 H with 3 BB, 7 K, and 1.00 WHIP in 9 IP.  The 2005 Dominican Summer League pitcher and undrafted free agent from Venezuela has recovered and has posted a 0-1 record, 4.09 ERA, and 10 K in 11 IP in extended spring training.  A return trip to Johnson City is possible but Peralta looked impressive to me last year and is getting a good look in FL this spring.  Prediction:  Batavia tandem starter.

 

Thomas Pham:  Ranked as the #39 Cardinal prospect by the Birdhouse and the #22 prospect by Baseball America, Pham started out like house of fire in June as the starting SS but soon fizzled (after returning from a groin injury) both at the plate and even more-so in the field.  A highly touted pitcher who reportedly had a strong desire to play as an infielder, Pham was thought to be unsignable but was drafted in the 16th round out of Durango HS in Las Vegas, NV.  A $325,000 signing bonus lured Pham from the college ranks but 22 errors and a lack of confidence in the field forced a move from SS to DH toward the end of the season.  Pham finished the 2006 season with a .231 AVG, .340 OBP, .324 SLG, and .664 OPS in 182 AB and tied with Mitchell for 12 SB and only 3 CS.  The 2006 Winter Instructs Invitee has posted similar statistics at the plate in 42 AB in extended spring training but a return trip to Johnson City seems unlikely given the higher expectations.  Prediction:  Batavia infield.

 

Frank Pol:  A late-July, free agent signee out of New York City, the 6-foot-6, 245 pound, 19-year-old RH relief pitcher posted a 4.91 ERA and .154 BAA in only 3.2 IP and 3 G giving up 2 H, 2 BB, and 3 K.   Pol has an unknown injury and is "rehabbing at home".  Starting the season on the Johnson City disabled list seems probable.  Prediction:  Johnson City DL.

 

Melvin Puello:  Took over the starting SS position from Pham in July and after a cold start at the plate, posted a .235 AVG, .257 OBP, .301 SLG, and .559 OPS in 136 AB.  The free swinging Puello (2 BB with 41 K) had an extensive hitting streak in the middle of the season to help avoid the Latin American cuts in late 2006 and to earn a trip to the Dominican Winter Instructs, where he posted a .259 AVG in only 27 AB.  Puello frequently showed signs of fielding brilliance despite committing 18 errors in 45 G.  Puello was reported to have a "minor injury" on March 15 but he still has no stats at extended spring training.  A return trip to Johnson City for the 21-year-old seems probable.  Prediction:  Johnson City DL.

 

Wil Pujols:  Albert's cousin has struggled for two consecutive years in Johnson City although he is still only 19-years-old.  The good news is that he improved quite a bit last year but the bad news is that he probably needed to improve more than he did.  A sixth round pick out of Fort Osage HS (MO) in the 2005 draft, Pujols received a $120,000 signing bonus.  The outfielder posted a .202 AVG, .254 OBP, .229 SLG, and .484 OPS in 109 AB in 2006 after posting a .143 AVG, .194 OBP, .175 SLG, and .369 OPS in 63 AB in 2005.  Pujols improved his K/AB ratio from 1:2 in 2005 to 1:3 in 2006 however, there has been no improvement so far at EST where the free-swinging Pujols is 5-for-31 (.161 AVG) with 3 2B (.258 SLG), 1 BB (.188 OBP), and 13 K.  It is very unusual to see a player play three consecutive years in Johnson City so Pujols should be assigned to Batavia if he is not released.  Prediction:  Batavia outfield. 

 

Jose Ramirez:  The 22-year-old Venezuelan was 0-for-18 in 6 G as an outfielder before a season ending arm/shoulder injury sent him home.  Healthy again and getting a close look in extended spring training (second-most ABs of all position players), Ramirez has posted a .222 AVG, .300 OBP, .333 SLG (1 3B, 1 HR), and .633 OPS in 45 AB.  A return to Johnson City seems likely.  Prediction:  Johnson City outfield.

 

Yeury Valera:  A Venezuelan-born, late-July addition to the bullpen, Valera signed as an undrafted free agent out of South Bronx, NY.  The 6-foot-4, 210 pound, 21-year-old righty finished the season with 10 BB, 8 K, and .323 BAA in 8 IP and 7 G.  Valera has not seen much action in extended spring training, giving up 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, and 0 K in 2 IP and 1 G.  A return to Johnson City seems likely if he is not released.  Prediction:  Johnson City bullpen.

 

 

Shawn Kerrick can be reached via email at skerrick@eastman.com.

 

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