In American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Report’s Robert Pannier continues his look back at the 2018 American Association season. Today, he looks back at the 2018 season of the Sioux Falls Canaries
The 2018 Sioux Falls Canaries (League ranking in parenthesis)
Record: 40-60 (Sixth in South Division, 10th in American Association)
Home Record: 20-30 (11)
Away Record: 20-30 (10)
Team Batting Average: .262 (10)
Team Pitching ERA: 4.92 (10)
Team Fielding Percentage: .969 (10)
Average: Mike Hart (.311)
On-Base Percentage: David Bergin (.394)
Slugging Percentage: David Bergin (.471)
Game Played: Jabari Henry (86)
Runs Scored: Chris Grayson (51)
Doubles: Chris Grayson (20)
Triples: Dan Motl (5)
Homeruns: Jabari Henry (13)
RBI: Jabari Henry (52)
Stolen Bases: Chris Grayson (27)
Appearances: Kyle Schepel (50)
Starts: Dylan Thompson (21)
Wins: Dylan Thompson, Ryan Fritze, Jake Esch (5)
Losses: Dylan Thompson (9)
Saves: Kyle Schepel (14)
ERA: Cesilio Pimentel (1.36)
Innings Pitched: Dylan Thompson (121.0)
Strikeouts: Dylan Thompson (88)
2018 Season Recap
The Sioux Falls Canaries entered the 2018 season with big hopes. This was a team with a lot of power and everyone expected them to score runs, but things did not materialize as predicted.
The Canaries took two of three from the Chicago Dogs to start the season, but then lost six series in a row, beginning the season 7-14. Sioux Falls rebounded to win four of their next five games before losing five of their next six games to the Wichita Wingnuts and Texas AirHogs.
Sioux Falls looked good after a 4-2 trip through Texas that moved the team to 16-24 on July 1, and they had a big opportunity to get back in the race with 20 straight games within the division. However, they would go must 9-11 before welcoming Wichita and the Kansas City T-Bones where they were swept.
The top four teams in the South Division proved to be the undoing for the Canaries. Sioux Falls went a combined 6-18 against Lincoln, Sioux City, Kansas City, and Wichita, going 0-6 against the Wingnuts.
The Canaries looked like they were going to put together a solid August when they started out 13-14, but a sweep at home against Gary Southshore ended the month before losing two of three in Fargo-Moorhead.
What Went Wrong
Manager Mike Meyer put together a lineup that looked like it would be brutal. Jabari Henry had clubbed 29 homers in 2017, and David Bergin was a 20 homer guy as well. Chris Jacobs, Ty Morrison, Burt Reynolds, and Chris Grayson made for a group that looked like it would hit 125 homers between the six, but things did not work out that way.
Morrison got hurt and his playing days may be over. Reynolds struggled early, was released, then caught fire with the St. Paul Saints. Henry struggled all season, and Jacobs was released. Grayson and Bergin both put up solid numbers, but this was not the murder’s row that many expected.
In addition, the team got hurt by the loss of key members of their pitching staff. Just as they were catching fire, Cesilio Pimentel headed for Mexico. Dylan Thompson did a great job, but wore down as the season went along, and Grady Wood got hurt four starts into the year, and his career may be over.
What Went Right
The year 2018 will be remembered around the American Association as the year of the fluid manager. So many teams had players signed, lost to injuries or underperformances, and had to rebuild their team on the fly. Sioux Falls endured that season as well.
Meyer did a fine job of finding players to fill spots to keep his team competitive. Jake Esch was expected to be the ace in St. Paul, but inconsistency led to his release. He signed with the Canaries and went 5-4, including blanking the Saints on August 8.
The bullpen was outstanding. Kyle Schepel saved 14 games, and Ryan Fritze, Luis Pollorena, and Nicco Blank made for a solid group.
Mike Hart came in a deal with Lincoln and starred for the Canaries. He hit .311 in 61 games. He also played well in the outfield, making just two errors. Grayson had a solid year (.281, 8 homers, 41 RBI) as did Bergin (.278, 12 homers, 51 RBI).
2018 Sioux Falls Canaries MVP: OF Chris Grayson
There were three players who could have easily staked claim to this honor – Bergin, Grayson, and Hart. We chose Grayson solely based upon the fact that he played more games than the other two.
Grayson hit .281 in 79 games. He scored 51 runs, which led the team, and he added 8 homeruns and 41 RBI. He was among the American Association leaders in stolen bases with 27 and had a solid OPS of .764. Grayson showed some pretty impressive power numbers, adding 20 doubles and 3 triples to go along with his 8 homers.
The outfielder was hurt on August 15 and was forced to sit out the rest of the season, but had hits in 14 of his final 15 games of the year. That included six multi-hit games in that span.
2018 Sioux Falls Canaries Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Schepel
Kyle Schepel had an outstanding season for the Sioux Falls Canaries. He finished with a 3.27 ERA in 50 appearances, but was absolutely outstanding down the stretch.
In his final 23 appearances, he was scored upon in just four of those outings and, for the season, eight of the 21 runs he allowed came in two appearances. Take those outings away and he finished with a 2.10 ERA.
Schepel saved 14 games and posted a 1-5 record. His victory came in a three inning stint against Winnipeg on July 19. The right-hander pitched 57.2 innings, allowing 46 hits and 30 walks, while striking out a whopping 75 batters.
A Look to the Future
A lot of changes for the Sioux Falls Canaries in 2019. First, the team moves to the South Division, which should be an absolute meat grinder this season.
Mike Meyer has already made a number of moves that should make this a much improved team. Right-hander Alex Boshers comes from Winnipeg ready to regain the form that made him a 12 game winner in 2017.
Meyer brought in three from Sioux City to complete a deal, including right-hander Ryan Flores. Flores can do it all out of the bullpen. Keith Picht also came in the deal and should make at least 18 starts.
The team recently added Taylor Hill. The former Major Leaguer is coming off a tough 2018, but he looks healthy, jumping to the top of the rotation.
The catching for this team should be a big deal. Maxx Garrett set career numbers in homers (12) and RBI (40), and is one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Daschenko Ricardo comes over from Lincoln, and he has a lot of pop in his bat. Plus, he is a veteran who should have really help this pitching staff.
As will former Major Leaguer Adrian Nieto. Nieto played in 81 games for the T-Bones last season, hitting .313 with 6 homers and 44 RBI. He posted an impressive .384 on-base percentage and an OPS of .810. The three are going to make for a crowded bunch, which should give Meyer some interesting trade options if he does not keep the three.
By Robert Pannier