In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier examines the list of American Association players who have already had their contracts purchased by Major League affiliates and Mexican teams since the end of the 2018 season. The list is growing, and could very well reach 20-plus before May 4 when spring training begins for the league.
American Association Player Signings Continue Through Off-Season
If there is one thing that the 2018 American Association season will be remembered for, it will be the number of players whose contracts were purchased by Major League organizations and foreign leagues. There were 25 players who had their contracts purchased by affiliate clubs just prior to the season or after the season started and there were another dozen who signed to play in Mexico or other locations across the globe, including Taiwan and Greece.
While this was an amazing number of players signed, the off-season has not been a tranquil one either. With less than a month from the start of Spring Training for Major League teams, 14 players have already had their contracts purchased. Two others have signed in the Mexican League.
Kansas City T-Bones
The T-Bones lost 10 players to affiliate clubs during the regular season as well as three others to foreign leagues. It is not a surprise that they are tied for the most players who have been signed since the end of the season. So far, Manager Joe Calfapietra has lost OF Keith Curcio, LHP Nick Lee, and RHP Robert Calvano.
Curcio signed with the Boston Red Sox after putting together a .306, 57 runs scored, 57 RBI, 11 homer, 20 stolen base season for Kansas City. He appeared in 94 games and was a key reason why the T-Bones won the American Association title.
Nick Lee signed with the Cincinnati Reds, and that is not a surprise at all. The Reds have seen the American Association as a good place to find talent as Cincinnati has signed four players since the start of the 2018 season. Lee made 17 appearances for Kansas City, going 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA. Calvano signed with San Diego after making six appearances for the T-Bones.
Sioux City Explorers
The Explorers have seen three players sign in the off-season, which includes LHP Ian McKinney and RHPs Eric Karch and Parker Markel. McKinney and Markel both signed with the Seattle Mariners. McKinney was 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 10 appearances, nine of which were starts. He struck out 67 in 53.2 innings. Markel was 2-0 last season with a 4.14 ERA in 37 appearances in 2018, a solid return after sitting out all of 2017.
Karch was signed by the Minnesota Twins after a 21 save season. He posted a 2.27 ERA in 41 appearances, fanning 61 in 42.2 innings pitched.
The RedHawks have had a pair of players signed already, one of which was recently acquired by Manager Michael Schlact. RHP Trey McNutt was one of the very first players signed this off-season after he posting a solid 7-8 season in 20 starts. McNutt struck out 130 in 121.0 innings.
T.J. Bennett was acquired by Fargo-Moorhead in November, but he would be with the team for just a month before the Chicago White Sox signed the infielder. Bennett appeared in 57 games for the Lincoln Saltdogs last season, hitting .271 with 11 homers and 39 RBI.
St. Paul Saints
All-Star Catch Justin O’Conner will be joining Bennett after signing with the White Sox on January 22. O’Conner was chosen as the top catcher in the American Association after hitting .250 with 17 homers and 42 RBI in 82 games. He proved to be the best defensive catcher in the league, throwing out 18 of 50 stolen base attempts.
The Dogs saw RHP Taylor Grover join the Reds on November 27. Grover was a huge piece of Manager Butch Hobson’s bullpen last season, posting a 2.63 ERA in 42 appearances with 14 saves. He struck out an impressive 63 in 48.0 innings.
Sioux Falls Canaries
Jordan Smith began 2018 with the St. Paul Saints, but became the odd man out in a talented outfield. He signed with the Canaries where he had a solid season, hitting .253 with 44 runs and 30 RBI in 79 games. Smith signed with the Cleveland Indians.
The Goldeyes saw RHP Brandon Marklund signed by the Kansas City Royals on January 11. He is a very interesting signing as the right-hander’s only professional experience was a season in the Australian Baseball League.
Former Major League hurler Tyler Matzek signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on January 17. The left-hander spent two seasons in the Majors (2014-15). Last season he appeared in 22 games for the AirHogs, 14 of which were starts. He finished 3-8 with 93 strikeouts in 88.2 innings pitched, a solid return after sitting out all of 2017 following surgery.
The Railroaders have not had a player signed by an affiliate club, but they lost two to the Mexican League. In December, former Major Leaguer Logan Watkins signed with Tijuana. Watkins was the All-Star second baseman last season, hitting .338 in 100 games with 63 runs scored and 51 RBI. He had 38 extra base hits.
RHP Travis Banwart became the latest league signing, joining Puebla on Wednesday. Banwart was arguably the best pitcher in the American Association last season, posting an 8-4 record with a 2.24 ERA in 20 appearances. He walked only 34 batters in 124.1 innings, striking out 107.
By Robert Pannier