The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 07/06/09

FREE Preview! Third baseman Rich "Rock" Racobaldo leads the Johnson City Cardinals in hitting through twelve games and is fourth in the Appalachian League in batting average.

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The Johnson City Cardinals finished the first twelve games with a record of eight wins and four losses.  They are in second place in the five-team Western Division of the Appalachian League, three games behind the Elizabethton Twins.  Johnson City has already recorded three shutouts this season and is second in the league in team ERA and WHIP.  The only other team in the league with any shutouts is the Bristol White Sox (1).  The Cardinal pitching staff has issued the fewest walks of any team in the league (28) through their first twelve games.  They also lead the league in saves (4) and holds (6). 


I was able to attend three of the first twelve games in person and those observations provide the basis for this report.  I attended the first three games against the Kingsport Mets prior to an extended vacation which included seeing several former Johnson City Cardinals play against the Cincinnati Reds on July 4th in Cincinnati.  Colby Rasmus hit his 9th home run of the season in the first inning to bring back my fond memories of his summer of 2005 in Tennessee. 




The original roster of 31 increased to 32 (max of 35) with the addition of IF Hector Alvarez from Batavia prior to the third game of the season.  Alvarez was bumped down a level due to a glut of infielders at Quad Cities and Batavia following the signing of Jason Stidham and the move of Alan Ahmady away from his 1B draft position.   


The Season in Review


Johnson City has won each of its first four three game series; each by a two games to one record.  With three of their first four series on the road, the Cardinals find themselves tied for the league lead in road victories with six. 


Tandem Starting Pitchers


As a reminder, listed below are the pairings for Johnson City.  The five primary starters (labeled "A") are limited to around 65 pitches and the secondary starters may be limited to a few less pitches starting out the season (may vary from pitcher to pitcher).  The five "A" pitchers all spent time in the Cardinals organization last year and were competing for long season roster spots during the Cardinals spring training.  The five "B" pitchers were drafted during the June 2009 First-Year Player Draft.  Some may be building their arm strength while others may be coming off some pretty high pitch-count college seasons.  The "A" pitchers each started the first inning for each of the first two rotations through the pairings and the "B" pitchers are starting the third time through the rotation.  The actual starter should then alternate to the other pair each time through the rotation after that.  

Tandem Starting Pitchers (10): 

RHP Reynier Gonzalez (1A) and RHP Andy Moss (1B)

RHP Pablo Ortiz (2A) and RHP Jesse Simpson (2B)

RHP Chris Notti (3A) and RHP Justin Smith (3B)

LHP Anthony Ferrara (4A) and RHP Michael Thompson (4B)

RHP Randy Santos (5A) and LHP John Durham (5B)


Who's Hot (Hitters)


3B Rich Racobaldo already has 15 hits and five multi-hit games in 10 games.  The 6'1", 220 pound 23-year old from NJ is fourth in the league in batting average (.417).  "Rock" is looking to add some power to his hitting statistics as he only has three extra base hits (3 doubles) and a .500 slugging percentage to go with his .463 on-base percentage (eighth in league). 


1B Matt Adams (pictured) is ninth in the league in batting average (.382) and is tied for sixth in the league in home runs (3).  Adams is seventh in the league in OPS (1.093).  On first glance, the 6'3", 240 pound Adams would appear to be limited to 1B/DH and that is likely where he will play this season with Johnson City however, Matt was drafted as a catcher and he played about half of his college games at Slippery Rock (PA) as a catcher.


RF Edgar Lara leads the league in doubles (7) and is fourth in the league in slugging (.763).  In his second season with Johnson City, Lara is tied for sixth in the league in home runs (3) and is sixth in the league in on-base plus slugging (OPS) at 1.138.  Lara has also impressed with a strong arm in the field by adding two outfield assists. 


2B Luis Mateo (pictured) is tied for ninth in the league in hits (16) and has six multi-hit games through his first 12 games.  Also in his second season with Johnson City, Mateo is tied for second in the league in doubles (5) and is tied for sixth in the league in home runs (3). 


Who's Not Hot (Hitters)


SS Yunier Castillo has just six singles in his first 29 at bats (.207).  The numbers get even worse when you look at his batting averages with runners on (.118) and with runners in scoring position (.077). 


OF Ross Smith has just three singles in his first 22 at bats (.136). 


Who's Hot (Pitchers)


RHP Justin Smith has struck out 13 batters in 6 innings-pitched (IP) while allowing no hits and walking just one.  Smith is scheduled to make the start at home against Bristol on Sunday night (weather permitting).  Justin will have to stretch his pitch count over 4.2 IP to qualify for the league pitching leaders.  Smith is one of only two pitchers in the league with more than 6 strikeouts who is averaging more than 2 K/IP. 


A tandem starting pitcher selected in the 36th round of the June 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, Smith has been impressive on the mound.  I asked him what his two best pitches were and he told me his 4-seam fastball and slider were his best pitches.  In his first professional inning (the fifth inning of the third game), the 21-year-old from Pleasant Grove, UT had all of his pitches working well.  Smith struck out the side on 13 pitches (11 strikes and 3-for-3 first-pitch-strikes) and appeared to record all three of his strikeouts on sliders.  For good measure, he started the third batter out with what appeared to be a slow curve ball for a called strike.   


RHP Andy Moss has not allowed a run in 10 IP (tied for first in league with Joseph Serafin, Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week).  Moss has allowed 6 hits (two doubles and two triples) and 4 walks to rank seventh in the league in walks plus hits per inning pitched (1.00 WHIP).  Moss, also a tandem starting pitcher, has struck out 11 over 3 games. 


I asked Andy what his two best pitches were and he told me his slider and curve were his best pitches.  Moss was selected in the 35th round of the June 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Lincoln University (MO).  He told me his statistics for his senior year were for the Division 2 Blue Tigers out of Jefferson City, MO were 6-5, 3.68 ERA, 100 K, 27 BB, 85 IP.  Moss, from Piedmont, MO is a "big Cardinals fan" and was really happy to be selected by his favorite team. 


Closer and RHP Dave Kington is tied for the league lead in saves (3) after 5 games (4.2 IP).  Kington is second on the team in WHIP (0.43).   Dave has yet to allow a hit or an earned run despite only recording three strikeouts. 


Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)


While there are several pitchers with high ERAs, none of them have consistently pitched poorly.  Only right-handed tandem starter Chris Notti (2.14) and right-handed reliever Jason Novak (2.25) have WHIPs of 2 or more.  Notti and Novak have also combined for just one walk and nine strikeouts over 9.2 IP.  LHP John Durham (7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) is probably the only pitcher who has yet to put together a quality tandem start.  However, Durham has shown a good ability to pitch from the stretch with runners in scoring position by allowing just one hit and a .167 batting average. 



Week Three Schedule


Game 13 (Sun):  Justin Smith followed by Chris Notti – vs. Bristol White Sox

Game 14 (Mon):  Michael Thompson followed by Anthony Ferrara – vs. Bristol White Sox

Game 15 (Tue):  John Durham followed by Randy Santos – vs. Bristol White Sox

Game 16 (Wed):  Reynier Gonzalez followed by Andy Moss – vs. Greeneville Astros

Game 17 (Thu):  Pablo Ortiz followed by Jesse Simpson vs. Greeneville Astros

Game 18 (Fri):  Chris Notti followed by Justin Smith – vs. Greeneville Astros

Game 19 (Sat):  Anthony Ferrara followed by Michael Thompson – @ Elizabethton Twins


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