2017 American Association Championship Series Preview: Goldeyes vs. Wingnuts

The 2017 American Association Championship series begins Wednesday night as the Wichita Wingnuts will host the Winnipeg Goldeyes for the first two games of the series before moving to Winnipeg for the final three games, if needed. Winnipeg enters the championship after defeating the Lincoln Saltdogs in four-games. Wichita swept the Gary Southshore RailCats to advance. These two teams met in last year’s championship, with Winnipeg winning in five.

By the Number (Regular Season Numbers)…

Wichita Wingnuts:
Record: 61-38
Team Batting Average: .294 (2)
Home Runs: 76 (7)
Runs Scored: 617 (1)
Stolen Bases: 118 (4)
Team ERA: 3.65 (2)
Saves: 18 (10)
Strikeouts: 643 (10)
Team Fielding Percentage: .977 (5)

Winnipeg Goldeyes:
Record: 62-38
Team Batting Average: .296 (1)
Home Runs: 100 (4)
Runs Scored: 607 (2)
Stolen Bases: 104 (6)
Team ERA: 4.18 (7)
Saves: 28 (3)
Strikeouts: 751 (5)
Team Fielding Percentage: .971 (11)

Position Evaluation: (Winnipeg Goldeyes Player(s) Listed First

Catcher: Mason Katz vs. Martin Medina

Katz hit an impressive 19 homers this season, but did so in relative obscurity primarily because he is in such a potent lineup. The catcher hit .268 with 66 RBI during the regular season. In the playoffs, the Goldeyes catcher went hitless in the four-games against Lincoln, going 0-11.

Medina had an amazing regular season, hitting .314 with 6-homers and 51-RBI. He is one of the best defenders in the American Association, and the pitching staff really responds to the game he calls. Medina is the leading hitter in the playoffs, going 7-13 (.538) against the RailCats in Round 1. He is getting hot at the right time.

Advantage: Wichita Wingnuts

First Base: Shawn Pleffner vs. Brent Clevlen

Pleffner finished the regular season as the league’s leading hitter at .340. He is as professional of a hitter as one could ask for, adding 10-homers and 76-RBI. The Goldeyes first baseman hit .385 (5-13) in Round 1 with 4 runs, 4-walks and an RBI.

Clevlen is no stranger to the American Association playoffs, making it in every year since he joined the league. Since Matt Chavez is not fully healthy, he will continue to play first and has looked good in the field. Clevlen hit .302 with 9-homers, and 78-RBI during the regular season. Against Gary, the Wingnuts first baseman hit .167 (2-12) with 2-runs.

Advantage: Winnipeg Goldeyes

Second Base: Casey Turgeon vs. Christian Stringer

Turgeon played exceptionally well since joining the Goldeyes, hitting .339 with 14-runs and 10-RBI in 17-games. He has earned his way into the everyday line-up with a solid bat and an outstanding glove. In the playoffs, he is hitting .188 (3-16) with 2-runs, 3-RBI, and 4-walks.

Stringer is the catalyst of this offense, moved to the leadoff spot in the first round. He hit .307 with 5-homers, and 44-RBI during the regular season, and added 55-walks and 18-stolen bases. In the playoffs, he has yet to get on track, hitting .133 (2-15) with 3-runs and 2-RBI.

Advantage: Wichita Wingnuts

Shortstop: Andrew Sohn vs. Leo Vargas

Sohn is the catalyst of the Goldeyes offense, and is one of the best pure hitters in the league.  The shortstop hit .302, scored 88-runs, and stole 30-bases. He also added 11-homers, showing that he can beat you in a whole lot of ways. In Round 1, Sohn was 3-12 with 2-runs and 2-RBI.

Vargas is a little better fielder than Sohn, but is not as good of a hitter. The Wingnuts shortstop hit .242 during the regular season with 48-runs scored and 14-stolen bases. In the playoffs, he has really stepped up his game, hitting .417 (5-12) with a run and an RBI.

Advantage: Winnipeg Goldeyes

Third Base: Wes Darvill vs. T.J. Mittelstaedt

Darvill deserved some serious consideration for the MVP of the American Association after hitting .309 with 30-stolen bases and 49-RBI. He hits in the bottom half of this order, but is a big reason why this is the most difficult team in the league to face as a pitcher. He is on fire in the playoffs, hitting .583 (7-12) with 2-runs and 3-walks.

Mittelstaedt has been the heart and soul of the Wichita Wingnuts for the past three seasons, and is coming off another productive year, hitting .303 with 9-homers, 83-runs scored, and 75-RBI. He also stole 27 bases and led the league in walks. Mittelstaedt is 2-11 (.182) in the playoffs, with 3-runs and an RBI.

Advantage: Even

Outfield: Josh Romanski, Reggie Abercrombie, David Rohm vs. Brennen Salgado, Jacob Morris, Richard Prigatano

Romanski was chosen by the American Association as their top offensive player, and it is hard to argue with that. He hit .324 with 11-home runs and 81-RBI, and has continued to produce in the playoffs, hitting .313 (5-16) with 3-runs and an RBI. Abercrombie hit .272 with 16-home runs, but has struggled in the playoffs, hitting just 3-17 (.176), however, the Wingnuts remember that he is the reason that Winnipeg downed them last season, and so Abercrombie will be pitched to very carefully. Rohn had a solid regular season (.279, 64-runs, 47-RBI), but has been a beast in the playoffs so far, hitting .467 (7-15) with 2-runs and 4-RBI.

Salgado struggled at the plate for much of the season (.236, 5-homers, 28-RBI), but has been on fire since the playoffs began. He was 5-11 (.455) with 3-runs and 3-RBI against Gary, and he walked twice. Morris is still trying to find his way at the plate after joining the Wingnuts late in the season. He has a great glove, but hit just .091 in Round 1. Prigatano continues to hit well and play outstanding defense. He hit .316 with 67-runs scored and 61-RBI during the regular season and is hitting .333 in the post-season while driving in a team high 6 RBI in the first round. He is an excellent outfielder and has a lot of speed.

Advantage: Winnipeg Goldeyes

Designated Hitter: David Bergin vs. Matt Chavez

Bergin has a huge season for Winnipeg, hitting .323 while clubbing 20-homers and driving in 77-runs. He may be one of the best pure hitters in the league. In the playoffs, he hit .294 with 2-runs and 6-RBI. He is the only member of the Goldeyes with a post-season homer this year.

Chavez was on his way to a record breaking season before an injury limited his ability to play over the last month. He still finished with a .330 average, 17-home runs, and 84-RBI in 84-games. He is 3-12 with 3-runs and 2-RBI in the post-season.

Advantage: Even

Starting Rotation: Kevin McGovern, Charle Rosario, Mikey O’Brien, Edwin Carl vs. Danny Gutierrez, Jordan Cooper, Alex Boshers, Eddie Medina

The Winnipeg Goldeyes have arguably the best group of four starters in the American Association. McGovern was tied for the league lead in wins and had a miniscule ERA of 2.55. Rosario came to Winnipeg in a late season deal, and allowed just 6 runs in the 40.1 innings he pitched. Plus, O’Brien and Carl combined for 19 wins. This is an absolutely dominating group, however, they were not as brilliant in the playoffs. Rosario gave up just two runs in his only start, but O’Brien got rocked in Game 2 and McGovern has given up 8 runs in 9 innings pitched in two starts.

Meanwhile, the Wichita staff has picked up their game in the post-season. Gutierrez came to the Wingnuts late in the season and made a few brief appearances, but he dominated Game 1, allowing 2-hits in 7-innings. Alex Boshers was third in the league in wins (11) during the season and had a solid performance in Game 2. Eddie Medina pitched well in Game 3, allowing 2-earned runs in 6-innings of work. Jordan Cooper will have a long break until he finally gets to start.

Advantage: Even

Bullpen: Victor Capellan, Ryan Chaffee, Zack Dodson, Mitchell Lambson, Kenny Mathews, Evan Rutckyj vs. Tyler Kane, Ryan Kussmaul, Mike Devine, James Campbell, Tim Brown, Seth Harvey, Josh Goosen-Brown, Austin Boyle

 

 

 

 

 

Capellan and Chaffee were especially good during the regular season, and will likely appear in as many games as Manager Rick Forney needs them. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Capellan appear in all five games. He did not give up a run in three outings against Lincoln. Matthews and Rutckyj also pitched well. Chaffee got hit hard in Game 4, but pitched well otherwise. If these two are on top of their game this series could be a lot shorter than anyone suspects.

 

 

 

 

The closer in this series is likely to be the difference maker. Both teams have great staffs in getting to the closer. Wichita has a plethora of really talented pitchers, including Goosen-Brown, Campbell, Boyle, Kane, and Devine. These guys are as good as it gets. The question mark will be Kussmaul, who got into some trouble in Game 1 before striking out the final batter of the game. He has struck out 5 in 2-innings of work, but can’t put himself in bad situations against this potent Winnipeg lineup.

Advantage: Even

Managers: Rick Forney vs. Pete Rose, Jr.

Both managers are outstanding. Both are winners and know how to get the best out of their team. This is why they are against each other for the second season in a row. The one big advantage is that Forney has a whole lot more experience and he has championships. Rose is a fantastic manager, but has not proven that over time as Forney has.

Advantage: Winnipeg Goldeyes

Outlook:

These were the teams with the best two records in the league, so it only makes sense that they are squaring off against each other. Last season it looked like Wichita had everything going for them, but Reggie Abercrombie had other ideas. He was just too much for the Wingnuts and helped Winnipeg win their third title in franchise history. This will be a great series, that should go five, but the Goldeyes are just a little bit better. Take Winnipeg in five.

By Robert Pannier

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