Wednesday night’s 6-4 win over the Kingsport Mets marked the end of Johnson City’s 2018 season. Despite finishing the season 6 games below the .500 mark, Johnson City had a very exciting season this year. First round pick Nolan Gorman began his Cardinals career in Johnson City after signing with the team in July, and TVA Credit Union Ballpark set a new season record of 65,631 overall fan attendance. This is the third straight year that Johnson City has broken their own attendance record, the last record set at 65,202. Not only did they break a season record, but they also broke a single-game attendance record. On average in 2018, TVA Credit Union Ballpark hosted 2,236 fans per game, second behind the Pulaski Yankees. However, on July 3, 2018, exactly a year after they broke the previous single-game attendance record, Johnson City broke the record again, hosting an all-time high of 3,687 fans as the Cardinals defeated the Greeneville Reds 13-12. Whether this sudden rise in attendance was due to the already-rising star that is Nolan Gorman being on the roster or not, Johnson City had a spectacular year in regards to attendance.
Other than having the first round pick on the team, Johnson City was also home to Leandro Cedeno, one of the more underrated outfielders in the Cardinals system but a name that many should become familiar with quickly. In 2018, Leandro smashed his career-highs in batting average (.336), home runs (14), RBIs (47), and posted an OPS over 1.000 for the second straight season. If he should get a promotion to Class A Peoria for 2019, it would be well-deserved. Gorman wasn’t the only 2018 pick that started their Cardinals career in Johnson City this season, either. Newcomers Parker Kelly (Carson Kelly’s younger brother), Tommy Parsons, Michael Perri, Cole Aker, Michael Brettell, Kyle Leahy, Brandon Purcell, Liam Sabino, Colin Schmid, Evan Sisk, Jacob Sylvester, and Andrew Warner were all 2018 draft picks that ended up on the Johnson City roster by the end of the season on Wednesday. The Appalachian League is a great place for learning experience and growth for these young players to begin their Cardinals careers. Several of these players began with GCL and had already received a promotion to rookie league, which displays the depth of the organization well.
While Cedeno and Gorman might be the two names that come to mind on the Johnson City team in 2018, these two were not the only ones who had an exceptional season. Cardinals right-hander Dionis Zamora worked his way from DSL all the way to Johnson City by the end of 2018, and even though he finished with a losing record with JC, the record poorly reflects his performance. Overall, Zamora finished with a 5-3 record in 2018, posting a 3.43 ERA in 16 games across three different leagues. Even though he did have a 2-3 record with Johnson City, he tallied the most strikeouts in his time in the Appy League than anywhere else in 2018, recording 57 K’s. He recorded just 22 in his time in DSL and GCL.
Next, the Cardinals added Liam Sabino to their roster late in the season, a controversial move to some because the third baseman had only hit .192 in GCL in 23 games there. Sabino quickly dissolved these worries as he went on to hit .339 in 19 games and 62 at bats for Johnson City, hitting his first home run as a Cardinal with JC. He also drove in 11 runs with the JC Cardinals. In 11 more at-bats with GCL, he had driven in just 10. Sabino finished the season strong, an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
Another underrated name in the Cardinals system that went very unnoticed this year is Johnson City Cardinals left-hander Evan Sisk. Evan was one of the aforementioned 2018 picks that began their Cardinals career with Johnson City, and he did not disappoint. As a reliever, Sisk posted a 1.76 ERA over 20 games, and though he did not record a win or a loss, he did record 5 saves. Evan proved his capabilities as a reliever this season and will likely be at a higher level than the Appy League next season.
Another 2018 draft pick that began his career with Johnson City is right-handed pitcher Tommy Parsons. Tommy did record a few wins and just one loss, ending his season with a 5-1 record and a 3.00 ERA in 13 games. He also recorded 1 save in his 57 innings of work, and struck out 43 while walking just 10 batters.
Even though Johnson City missed the postseason and failed to finish above .500, those things would have been a bonus. The real goal of the Johnson City Cardinals is to help young draft picks get their feet wet when it comes to playing professional baseball, and discovering which players will sink or swim. The record does not reflect the talent of the Johnson City Cardinals, as they have shown strong pitching depth. Though the highlight of the season may have been Nolan Gorman’s arrival or his 11 home runs with the JC Cardinals in just 38 games, the ultimate goal of rookie league is to help players grow and learn, a goal that they have accomplished each year and will continue to accomplish in the future.