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, Robert Pannier sends an open letter to Major League Baseball discussing some of players they are missing out on.
An Open Letter to Major League Baseball
Dear Major League Baseball teams,
Let me begin by thanking you for an exciting first few months to the 2018 season. In the National League, really everyone is still in the pennant chase, and the upstarts this season – the Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, and Philadelphia Phillies – are truly helping to make this a season to remember.
While you should be commended for such success, one has to wonder how you have managed to be so successful. No offense intended, but it seems that guys with AA and AAA talent, at the very least, are appearing on a baseball diamond in the Midwest nearly every night but somehow you have managed to miss it.
Yes, I am talking about the amazing talent in the American Association this season. There are five or six guys on EVERY single roster in the league who should be with an affiliate club, yet, you have managed to miss the vast majority of them.
Maybe it is difficult to see with your nose so high in the air as you look down on teams owned by a former Major Leaguer and a guy who successfully ran a Major League organization. Maybe it is not that your head is up too high, but has somehow gotten lodged in a different part of your body that makes it a little difficult to see. Like they say, “S**T happens!” Hopefully not too much considering where your head may be.
No worries. Since there is some sort of issue denying you the ability to see the incredible talent in the American Association this season, let me direct you to 10 guys that you should be taking a closer look at.
Todd Cunningham, OF, Kansas City T-Bones
I have to be honest with you. This one is a little perplexing to me. It is true that he is 27-years-old, but it is not like he needs a lot of development. After all, he has been in the big leagues three times, most recently in 2016. It is true that he did start the season at AAA-Charlotte (Chicago White Sox) where he did not hit well, but is nine games really a fair assessment of a player’s talent? Since arriving with the Kansas City T-Bones, Cunningham is hitting .440 in 28-games with 11 doubles, 27 runs, and 19 RBI. He has also walked 19 times and has struck out just 11 times in 109 at-bats. If you have concerns, consider that the outfielder hit .284 in 96 games at AAA last season. Trust me, signing Cunningham will bring about Happy Days for your organization.
Dylan Tice, IF, Kansas City T-Bones
Here may be the problem. The T-Bones have another great talent in IF Dylan Tice. He is hitting .385 in 40 games, with 34 runs scored, 13 doubles and 23 walks. The combination of Tice and Cunningham is the best 1-2 punch in the American Association. Maybe it is that the numbers are so mesmerizing for both that you are simply overwhelmed by them. Tice never made it above High-A (2016), but maybe it is time to do a little bargain shopping. Why go for one T-Bone when you can have two. They won’t come at a sale price, but they will be a bonus for whatever team signs them.
Nate Samson, IF, Sioux City Explorers
Samson is hitting .333 in 41 games for the Explorers. He has scored 37 runs and driven in 40 and is a key reason why Sioux City is the best team in the American Association. Sadly, my concern is that you are really only paying attention to one number – 30. Yes, that is the age of the infielder, yet he is still an excellent shortstop and second baseman. If one is truly only as old as he looks or feels, then Samson is like 22. This young man has at least five good years left and was at AAA-Oklahoma City (Los Angeles Dodgers) as recent as 2015. At the very least, if there is a hot shot shortstop at AA or AAA who needs to learn how to play the game the right way, there is no better person to mentor him than the Explorers’ star.
Blake Grant-Parks, C, Cleburne Railroaders
Ok, maybe missing this young man is understandable. After all, it is like 105 degrees every home game and they do have a former Major League star there who is hogging all the attention. I get that. However, a catcher hitting .314 with 18 RBI and 13 runs scored? He has made just one error and throws out about 25 percent of would-be base-stealers? Grant-Parks is just 24 and had three seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays system where he actually put up pretty good numbers. He has the talent at the hardest position on the diamond to play. Maybe it’s time to grant this young man another chance.
Christian Ibarra, IF, Lincoln Saltdogs
Ok, maybe you don’t want a top talent like Samson, a guy who would just be an incredible asset to your organization as a whole because he is 30. How about a 25-year-old who is hitting .333 in 39 games and has incredible skill and instincts to play short, second, and third? How about taking a look at Christian Ibarra? He has 6-homers this season and has scored 31 runs while driving in 21. Oh ya, did I mention that he has 34 walks and an on-base percentage of nearly .500? He made it to High-A in just two seasons before being released. I am not saying that Christian Ibarra will be a savior, but he sure could be a difference maker.
Dillon Thomas, OF, Texas AirHogs
I know, you are looking at a .312 average with 7 homers in 40 games and thinking that is really not much to write home about, or to write to the scouting department about. However, consider that this is THE GUY in the AirHogs lineup that opposing managers are worried about. This is a team developing Chinese players for the 2024 Olympics, and none of them have much of a bat right now. This means that Thomas sees three good pitches in any series and it is hard to put up big numbers when you never get a chance to get into a rhythm. Yet, he is still hitting .312. He is not getting a chance and, to be honest, that is just 牛屎.
Jared Mortensen, RHP, Cleburne Railroaders
So, you aren’t really looking for hitters. Well, what about Jared Mortensen? Maybe it is the same issue you had with Grant-Parks, that making a trip down Highway 174 in 105 degree temperatures is a bit too much. However, as smoldering as the heat is, so is the pitching arm of Mortensen. He has made eight starts, posting a 1.98 ERA in 59.0 innings pitched. Mortensen is 30, but he was in AAA-Fresno (Houston Astros) as recent as last season. Time to climb on board and give this Railroaders ace a relook.
DJ Brown, RHP, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
The heat too much for you? How about a trip to North Dakota to take a look at Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks starter DJ Brown. Brown is only a perfect 5-0 in nine starts with a 2.79 ERA. It is true that he has allowed more hits than innings pitched (63 in 58.0 innings pitched), but he has walked only 10, and was in AAA as recent as last season. Last season, the right-hander had his most challenging season, but the Indians organization used him almost exclusively as a reliever, after he had great success as a starter for most of his career. Considering where your heads are at, Brown should be easy to remember.
Ryan Flores, RHP, Sioux City Explorers
Bases on perseverance alone, Ryan Flores should be sitting in AA right now. This young man has battled back from a tumor, a stroke, and Tommy John surgery, rehabbing on his own by watching YouTube videos. In his first professional season, the righty was 4-5 with a 4.27 ERA for the Explorers but, this season, he has been the best reliever in the American Association. In 20 appearances, Flores has a 3-0 record, 2-saves, and a 2.10 ERA. He has struck out 27 in 25.2 innings and has allowed just 14 hits. This young man can pitch in any situation with great success and his struggles to survive have made him as tough as they come. Maybe flowers will brighten your wife’s day, but a Flores will change your organization’s year.
Casey Harman, LHP, Wichita Wingnuts
It is true that Harman is 29, but keep in mind that he took three seasons off, so the arm is really more like 24. The lefty’s last season was in 2014 with Laredo, but he has been as high as AA. This season, Harman is 5-2 in nine starts, posting a 2.67 ERA. He has allowed 52 hits in 54.0 innings pitched, walking only 9. Nine! Teams are always clamoring for left-handed pitching and this young man not only has the arm but has been teaching baseball the past three seasons. Any affiliate team could make this a Summer School of sorts for Harman.
And One More Thing…
While this is a list you should really take a closer look at, don’t let it stop there. There is incredible talent throughout this league. In fact, there are 10 guys on Kansas City and Sioux City each who should be in affiliate ball right now.
Take a look at former big leaguers like Dave Sappelt (Winnipeg), Taylor Jordan (Sioux City), and Logan Watkins (Wichita). Get a closer look at the incredible catchers in the American Association, like Andy Paz (Gary Southshore), Adrian Nieto (Kansas City), and Ricardo Dashenko (Lincoln). Embrace the possibilities of a guy who has finally found his stroke, like a Zach Nehrir (Wichita) or Trey Vavra (Chicago).
What you may find if you take a close enough look is that a few pieces your organization may have needed is right under that haughty nose. That the left-handed reliever, speedy outfielder, and steady shortstop are yours for the taking. All you have to do is take a look. We’ll send you a map if you need.
By Robert Pannier
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