American Association Daily will provide insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, we examine five players who should be playing affiliate ball this season, including Sioux City Explorer Nate Samson, Sioux Falls Canary Jabari Henry, Winnipeg Goldeye Kevin McGovern, Gary Southshore RailCat Colin Willis, and Cleburne Railroader Patrick Mincey.
Maybe Scouts Aren’t as Smart as We Think
Most fans of the American Association found themselves asking one question last season, “Why is this guy not at AA somewhere?” As they looked around the league they saw that there is a lot of talent and some players were so good that it boggled the mind how they were not with an affiliate club.
Some of those greats have been given their chance to return to affiliate ball. Winnipeg Goldeyes standout third baseman Wes Darvill had his contract purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers. St. Paul Saints left-hander is now in the Detroit Tigers organization, and the Lincoln Saltdogs already lost two from their roster, as LHP Casey Crosby was sold to the Minnesota Twins and OF Joe Robbins is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
There are others who have left the American Association and are now in the Atlantic League. The Wichita Wingnuts dealt all-stars Matt Chavez and T.J. Mittelstaedt to Sugar Land of the Atlantic League. RHP Alex Boshers is in South Maryland as is former Winnipeg Goldeyes closer Ryan Chaffee. Sioux Falls right-hander Jose Ortega was also traded to Sugar Land, as was Texas AirHogs OF Denis Phipps.
Two other players who would have deserved a serious look are headed for Mexico. RHP Tyler Kane was a ridiculous 12-1 with Wichita last season, signing with Durango in November. LHP Tyler Alexander signed with Quintana Roo after being one of the most dominant pitchers for Fargo-Moorhead over the last three seasons.
While some players are moving up (if you consider the Atlantic League a step up – which we don’t), there are still a group of players that leave fans of the league scratching their heads as to why they have not had their contracts purchased. Here are five that should definitely be in a Spring Training camp somewhere come the middle of February.
One of the saddest parts of last season was that Nate Samson was headed back to affiliate ball when an injury cost him over a month. Sioux City Manager Steve Montgomery was contacted about purchasing Samson’s contract just after the injury occurred, ending his chances at a return. Despite playing in only 66 games, the shortstop still hit .302 and drove in 43, then played 9 games in Southern Maryland where he hit .316. Samson can hit, batting .350 in 2016 for the Explorers, and he is a slick fielder no matter where you play him, with him being a wizard at short. The only thing that may be standing in his way is that he is 29, but if a team is looking for an experienced guy, who has a great baseball IQ, is a great clubhouse guy, and can do it all on the diamond, Nate Samson would be a great fit in AA, if not AAA somewhere.
Kevin McGovern has been a pitcher in the independent leagues all of his six professional seasons. It took him a few years to hone his craft, but McGovern has become one of the best pitchers not playing in affiliate ball. The 28-year-old was the best pitcher in the American Association last season, tying for the league lead in wins, going 13-3, while posting a 2.56 ERA, third in the league. The left-hander has pinpoint control and, most importantly, he is a left-hander. Like Samson, Kevin McGovern is older than most affiliates like, but if an organization cannot find room on their AA roster for a left-hander who is smart and a winner, it is time to find to new scouts.
After playing 2016 with the Los Angeles Angels AA-Arkansas team, Jabari Henry was released and signed with the Sioux Falls Canaries. What a fitting choice that was, as he sent the most balls soaring over fences last season, connecting for 29 homers. Henry was an absolute beast at the plate, hitting .302 with 72 RBI and 71 runs scored. At one point, he homered in four straight games (July 2-5) and homered three times on the next to last day of the season. This young man has a live bat and is a solid right fielder. He is only 26, which should be young enough for a team to take a chance on a guy who spent two seasons in AA before coming to Sioux Falls.
Sadly, people do not give enough credit to Gary Southshore RailCats Manager Greg Tagert and how he teaches the game of baseball. The reason his teams are so good is because there may be no better teacher of the fundamentals of the game than Tagert, which isn’t flashy, but it works. The young man who has proven to be the No. 1 disciple of the RailCats Manager is outfielder Colin Willis. Willis took a huge jump in his second season of professional ball, going from .231 in 11 games in 2016 to .319 in 87 games last year. He has speed, stealing 15 bases, and he can help his team in an abundance of ways. He also hit 8 homers in U.S. Steel Yard which, if you haven’t been there before, is like hitting balls out of the Grand Canyon. Willis is only 24, and the fact that he has learned from the baseball master should make him a great pickup.
Like McGovern, Patrick Mincey has never been given the opportunity to play affiliate ball. Also like McGovern, it took a little time for him to develop as a pitcher and not just a thrower. However, now the right-hander can do both, as he has good stuff and has developed a great baseball IQ. After going 18-13 in his first five seasons, Mincey had a breakout season last year, going 10-8 for the Cleburne Railroaders with a 3.33 ERA. Those may not seem like eye-popping numbers, but when one considers that he went through a nine game stretch where his team scored a total of 20 runs for him, they were shutout twice, and scored a single run in three of those contests, it is easy to see why his record was not that impressive. If he was playing for Winnipeg or Wichita, Mincey could have easily gone 15-1 last season. Add the fact that he walked just 21 in 138 innings, and it is easy to see why he should get a shot. Mincey is 27, but age is not enough to look the other way on the right-hander.
AAD Notes: The Gary Southshore RailCats added catcher Andy Paz on Thursday. Paz was born in Cuba, but his family moved to France when he was 14, and he became just the third player from France to be signed by an affiliate club, inking a deal with the Oakland A’s in 2010. The catcher spent the last two seasons at AA-Midland (Texas). Last season he hit .251 in 53 games…The Wichita Wingnuts signed four pitchers for the upcoming season. RHP Austin Boyle was re-signed after going 1-1 with a save in 35 appearances in 2o17. He will get a shot as the team’s closer, but will likely be the eighth inning setup guy. The team also added RHP Josh Lang, and LHPs Peter Irvin and Felix Carvallo. Carvallo is a former Texas Rangers prospect, who last pitched in the Venezuelan League in 2017. He was 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA for Caracas.
By Robert Pannier