In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks at the moves that Sioux Falls Canaries Manager Mike Meyer has been making, as he has added a number of players that should send the Canaries soaring during the 2019 American Association season, ending the team’s eight year playoff drought.
A Number of Moves to Improve the Canaries
The 2018 season began with high expectations for the Sioux Falls Canaries. Maybe they were not going to win the North Division, but this lineup was going to be an impressive one that no team in the league would want to face.
Sadly, the hitting never materialized. The team struggled out of the gate and it was not long before they were looking up at an insurmountable deficit, finishing in the bottom third of the league for the eighth straight season.
Ready to Take the Next Step
After a second straight disappointing season, there was some speculation about Manager Mike Meyer’s job, but ownership was wise enough to see that Meyer has a plan and he is quickly rewarding them for their faith.
Before the trade deadline, infielder Blake Schmitt was traded to the Sioux City Explorers for three players to be named later. On October 3, Meyer received his return and it was an outstanding group – RHPs Ryan Flores, Keith Picht, and Dominic Topoozian.
While all three will have an impact, Flores is the crown jewel of the deal. The right-hander was arguably the best reliever in the American Association last season, posting an 8-2 record with 2 saves and a 2.63 ERA. Flores has incredible stuff, allowing only 45 hits in 61.2 innings pitched, while striking out 70. He can serve in just about any role and is likely only going to get better as the confidence in his stuff increases.
Topoozian started the season with the Sonoma Stompers before being signed by Manager Steve Montgomery. He was awesome out of the bullpen, making 11 appearances, two of which were starts, going 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA. The right-hander showed great command, walking just five in 30.2 innings pitched, while striking out 19. He and Flores should be a key link to the team’s closer.
Keith Picht had spent two seasons with the Joplin Blasters before joining the Sioux City Explorers in 2017. He went 2-4 with a 3.89 in 34 appearances, and last season found himself a regular in the rotation for much of the season, going 5-4 with a 5.26 ERA in 20 appearances, 12 of which were starts. He will likely move into the middle of the Canaries rotation.
Adding an Ace
On October 16, the Canaries traded the rights to LHP Cesilio Pimentel, who had his contract purchased during the 2018 season. The team was not sure if their ace would return, so Meyer made a deal to bring a new top line starter, adding RHP Alex Boshers from the Winnipeg Goldeyes for RHP Dylan Thompson.
While the loss of Thompson is a big one, Boshers is a genuine ace. It is true that the right-hander is coming off of his worst season as a pro, going 3-10 with a 5.55 ERA for the Goldeyes, but he was 27-9 in his three seasons in Wichita. Boshers averages 1.9 walks per 9 innings and has only allowed 30 homers in 431.1 innings pitched.
The window may be closing on Boshers chances of getting an affiliate contract (which is ridiculous), but he is a gamer – a pitcher who loves to get the ball and who gives you his best stuff each and every outing. The righty becomes the No. 1 starter in Sioux Falls, joining Picht in what should be a very tough rotation to face.
A Veteran Behind the Plate
Maxx Garrett is one of the best defensive catchers in the American Association, and had his best offensive season in 2018, hitting 12 homers in 84 games. He will likely return, but he will be joined by another league star in Dashenko Ricardo, who was acquired in the deal that sent Pimentel to Lincoln.
Richardo played seven years in the minors before joining the Dutch Major League in 2014. In 2017, he returned to the United States, joining the Saltdogs. In two seasons, the catcher hit .269 with 11 total homers, 53 runs scored and 64 RBI in 142 games. He is a bulldog behind the plate and calls a great game. He and Garrett will be a great catching combo for the pitching staff.
Filling in the Roster
It is only the middle of January, but Manager Mike Meyer has been doing a great job filling in the pieces for what should be an outstanding team. On December 6, he resigned outfielder Michael Hart. Hart hit .311 in 61 games, scoring 26 runs while driving in 11 for the Canaries in 2017.
Infielder Nyles Nygaard signed after a stellar career at Western Oregon University where he hit .305 in 90 games. Jordan Ebert was acquired on November 16. He appeared in 80 games for the Goldeyes last season, hitting .280 with 16 doubles, 35 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases.
The pitching staff has seen its additions as well. LHP Luis Pollorena was re-signed after posting a 3.56 ERA in 30.1 innings pitched last season. He walked just two batters and allowed 27 hits. The team added RHPs Mark Seyler, Kevin Simmons, and Ryan Fritze. Fritze was a key to the Sioux Falls bullpen last season, posting an impressive 3.06 ERA in 42 appearances. He struck out 60 in 50.0 innings.
The Canaries look like a team ready to end their eight year slump. If David Bergin returns and they add one more big bat, this team is going to be a threat to win the division in 2019.
By Robert Pannier