American Association Daily provides 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 look at the depth and talent that St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis has built, almost under the radar, and he still has six spots to fill.
St. Paul Saints Ready to Battle
It is just three days until Spring Training begins in the American Association, and all 12 teams are close to being set. Most teams have the 28 players signed to their roster and are now just tinkering to come up with that one or two gems which will make them even more dangerous.
However, there is one team that still has some spots to fill – six of them at the time of this posting. That would be the St. Paul Saints, as it has seemed this off-season that Manager George Tsamis has been a little slow in signing players. However, it is clear by those he has acquired that this may be a team that rivals the 2015 club that won 74 games, and he still has those six spots to fill.
A Well-Rounded Lineup
One of the first moves that St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis made was to re-sign 1B Brady Shoemaker. Shoemaker had a monster season last year, hitting .318 with 21 homers and 57 RBI, and he missed 15 games with an injury. The slugger will be competing with Wichita Wingnuts first baseman Luis Jimenez for the league home run crown this season.
Around Shoemaker there is a lot of talent. Noah Perio was signed earlier this year, then had his contract purchased, but returned as Spring Training was coming to a close. He’s a .300 hitter, who has speed, a solid glove, and a great baseball IQ. Dante Bichette, Jr. was also added. He hit .262 at AA-Trenton (New York Yankees) last season.
Josh Allen comes from the Frontier League, where he hit .310 for Evansville in 2017. Allen clubbed 15 homers in 94 games and scored 83 runs. Joyce Boyd can play first and left and adds another power bat. Boyd was with AAA-Las Vegas (New York Mets) last season, where he hit .297 with 11 homers in 92 games.
Behind the plate will be Justin O’Conner, who has a solid enough bat to play every day, but will more than make up for any shortcomings at the plate with how well he plays behind it. O’Conner is deadly to opposing base stealers and calls a brilliant game. He may only hit .240 this season, but he shaves a run a game off of this pitching staff.
The acquisition of Richard Prigatano was a huge one. The outfielder had a career season in 2017, when he hit .316, with 67 runs and 61 RBI for the Wichita Wingnuts. Prigatano is an outstanding outfielder and has great speed (34 stolen bases) and he could bat third, in front of Shoemaker, with Boyd hitting fifth.
Kes Carter returns to St. Paul, and he could hit anywhere in this lineup. Carter came to the Saints after being released a little over a month into the 2017 American Association season, and he was an instant hit. The outfielder hit .271 with 9 homers and 32 RBI in 60 games, plus he was a perfect 12-12 stealing bases and added a solid .365 on-base percentage.
Chad Hinshaw was at AAA-New Orleans (Miami Marlins) last season, Jordan Smith at AAA-Columbus (Cleveland Indians), and Max Murphy at AA-Chattanooga (Minnesota Twins).
A Major Addition
With the return of RHP John Straka, RHP Vinny Nittoli, and LHP Ken Frosch, the pitching staff for the St. Paul Saints had a solid foundation. When George Tsamis acquired RHPs Mike Devine and Eddie Medina, he not only brought in two first rate club house guys, but a late inning setup guy who could close and one of the top 10 starting pitchers in the American Association from last season.
The bullpen has seen an influx of some young talent in RHPs Matt Solter and Ryan Schlosser, plus the Saints Manager brought in RHP Beck Wheeler, who was in AAA-Las Vegas last season and could close for this team. Plus, he added two solid lefties in Ryan Boelter and Jeff Malm.
The St. Paul Saints had acquired former Major Leaguer Jake Esch, who spent part of last season with the San Diego Padres last season. Esch could be the No. 1 starter on this team, making the loss of Mark Hamburger a whole lot more palatable.
On Wednesday, Tsamis signed RHP Tom Wilhemsen, bringing him out of a very short-lived retirement. Wilhelmsen has more Major League experience than any player in the American Association, spending time in the big leagues in each of the last seven seasons. The right-hander will likely close for the Saints. Wilhelmsen recorded 67 saves in four seasons for the Seattle Mariners, including a season high 29 in 2012.
Just Days Away…And Spots to Fill
There are still six spots to fill for Manager George Tsamis’ roster and only a few more days to do so. However, no one should be thinking that the Saints Skipper does not have a few tricks up his sleeve.
Tsamis signed Wilhelmsen with just a few days left, and he may be the biggest signing of all. There is still a catching spot to fill and the Saints currently have six veterans, which means one is going to have to go. That should yield some additional talent for a team that really does not have many needs at this point.
Featured Image by Otis Greule, Jr.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA