23 Questions to Be Answered During 2023 American Association Season – Part 2
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier provides Part 2 of his 23 questions that will be answered during the 2023 American Association season, providing his thoughts on what the answers will be.
Ok, Now What?
Yesterday, we looked at the first eight questions that will be answered during the 2023 American Association season. There is definitely a lot to look forward to with a lot of people wondering how Greg Tagert will do in Winnipeg and what the Goldeyes will look like, who will head to affiliate ball, and what is left in the tank for Kevin McGovern and Nate Samson. That was just a few of the first eight questions.
Now it is time to turn to Part 2 of the 23 questions. There is still a lot to be answered, so here are the next eight.
How Will the Pitch Clock Affect Games?
This season the American Association will implement the pitch clock. This has become standard across Major and minor league baseball, and is filtering its way through the Partner Leagues as well. In 2023, pitchers will have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. There will also be a 30-second time period between batters.
There are some complaints about how this will affect the play of games this season, but the reality is that this is what most players have become accustomed to throughout the various levels of baseball, including in Division-1 baseball. While there may be a few hiccups early on, this is going to be a welcome change for the league, as it is important for games to be finished around three hours, especially during weekdays.
It is also important to recognize that players are trying to get back to affiliate ball, and this is the standard there. Helping them to play to game conditions at the minor league and Major League levels is for their benefit as well.
Are Any Managers on the Hot Seat?
Last season, there was some concern about the status of Sioux Falls Canaries Manager Mike Meyer, as the club had new owners and the team had made the playoffs just one time through his first five seasons as the skipper. However, it appears that ownership is satisfied with the performance of Meyer, recognizing the solid job he has done in helping players return to affiliate ball while developing young players. Meyer would seem to be the one manager who may find himself in trouble, but do not believe. He will definitely be back in a Sioux Falls uniform in 2024.
The other 11 managers are in a solid position as well. Four managers are in their first or second year with the team and two others are in their third seasons with their clubs. Explorers Manager Steve Montgomery is a lock to stay in Sioux City as long as he wants, and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste is coming off an American Association championship season. Butch Hobson is a legend and is not going anywhere in Chicago, and Anthony Barone just received a five-year extension in Milwaukee. If they so desire, the same 12 managers will be with their clubs in 2024.
Who Will Be the Surprise Team of 2023?
It would be easy to look at the Lake Country DockHounds and expect them to be the surprise team of the season. The club finished with the second worst record in the league (34-66), and the team made a number of changes. This is a club that is going to be right in the thick of things in the East Division, but that is expected. If this club finishes with 55-60 victories, no one will be shocked by that.
Instead, the team to watch this season will be the Lincoln Saltdogs. They are in the very competitive West Division, and the RedHawks could very well be even better this season than they were last year. Lincoln does not look like they have a very formidable lineup, but watch for this pitching staff to be one of the best in the league. Manager Brett Jodie has put together a very solid staff, and has been able to find replacements for the losses of Kyle Kinman and Greg Minier.
Who Are the Two Most Unsung Members of the American Association?
There is an incredible amount of talent in the American Association. It is not just players and managers, but executives, broadcasters, and umpires. It is one of the things that makes this league so spectacular, because talent is to be found everywhere.
Most often, those who set themselves apart from others are well-recognized, but there are two names out there who are not getting the credit they fully deserve. That is RedHawks coach Anthony Renz and Explorers pitching coach Bobby Post.
Renz gained some of the recognition he deserved when he took over Fargo-Moorhead last season when Coste was suffering from a severe back injury and helped lead the team to the Miles Wolff Cup. In Fargo, Renz was already seen as a key piece to the RedHawks’ success, but he is still not receiving the recognition he is so deserving of because Coste still played a significant role in the team winning the championship last season, and it was Coste who received Manager of the Year honors. Renz is just as critical to this team as any player or other member of the club.
Post is arguably the best pitching coach in the American Association. Over the last few years, Montgomery has had to fill several roles with the team, and has not had as much time to work on coaching his staff. That duty has fallen upon Post. He is seen as a pitching guru, who has helped several players return or reach affiliate ball.
Who Will Be Broadcaster of the Year?
Two years ago, the American Association recognized the top broadcaster in the league for the first time in league history. This honor is voted upon by broadcasters and GMs within the league and the first two honorees were the Cleburne Railroaders Brad Allred and Denning Gerig (2021) and the Winnipeg Goldeyes Steve Schuster (2022). The interesting thing is that Gerig moved on to become the sports information director at Wichita State after receiving the award, while Schuster received a position with the New York Mets. So, whoever is chosen in 2023 may not be in the league in 2024.
With that being said, and keeping with that thought in mind, look for Joe Brand to be named the Broadcaster of the Year in 2023. It should be said that there are a number of incredible broadcasters in this league, not only some well-established men, but newcomers as well. However, Brand is not only proving to be an exceptional baseball voice in the American Association, but has been playing a significant role in the NHL and Major League Baseball broadcasts in the Chicago area as well. Even if he does not win the award, do not be surprised if he is not in the American Association next year.
Who Will Take His Game to Another Level?
In making this choice, there are a few factors that need to be considered. First, this is not a player who already has a history of proven success. For example, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Sam Abbott hit 25 homers this year. It also is someone who will likely have a more significant role with their team. It is that player who spent a season or two as a setup guy and will now be the closer, or a person who was the extra infielder and is now the everyday third baseman.
This year’s choice is Lincoln Saltdogs infielder Drew Devine. Devine has been with the Saltdogs for the last two seasons, but has appeared in a minimal number of games. In 2021, he appeared in nine contests, hitting .300. Last season, he played in 33 games for the Saltdogs, hitting .269. Devine will likely be an everyday player in this Lincoln lineup this season, giving him the opportunity to get into a rhythm. His numbers were impressive in college, posting a .307 career batting average with a .397 on-base percentage. Look for him to hit .300 this season and even make the All-Star team.
Who Will Have the Best Everyday Lineup?
The recent signing of Dillon Thomas and the re-signing of John Silviano would seem to make the RedHawks the top hitting club in the American Association. No one would be wrong in thinking that, as Manuel Boscan, Leobaldo Pina, Thomas, and Correlle Prime are all capable of hitting well over .300, and Evan Alexander, Silviano, Thomas, Boscan, and Pina, could all hit 20 homers. If you look at this lineup, 1-7, there may be no better.
However, it is going to be the Cleburne Railroaders that are going to have an offensive explosion the season. With the signing of José Sermo and the addition of former Major Leaguer Delino DeShields, this club moves to the top. Zach Nehrir is one of the best all-around players in the league, and the addition of slugger Ryan Hernandez is going to make this a powerful lineup. Alex Jackson should have an outstanding year and, when Edwin Arroyo returns to the team, there will be no easy outs in this lineup.
Who Will Have the Best Starting Rotation?
The answer to this question is based upon what each team will have in their starting rotation when the season begins. This caveat is being added because it is likely that one or two of this team’s rotation will be headed to affiliate ball, maybe even three. That team is Fargo-Moorhead.
With two 10-game-winner’s returning (Kevin McGovern and Tyler Grauer), this would already be a formidable group. However, the team also returns nine game-winner Peyton Wigginton and six game-winner Davis Feldman. Feldman and Wigginton began the season in the bullpen, but moved into the rotation where they were both spectacular. Added to the mix is Ozzie Hernandez, who comes out of the San Diego Padres organization where he reached AA-San Antonio the last two seasons. Hernandez has a 3.78 ERA in 106 career appearances, including 69 starts, and could find himself in the No. 3 spot in this rotation, making this rotation even more formidable.
By Robert Pannier