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 infield that St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis has already put together, which may be the best defensively in the American Association.
Saints Infield Near Completion
It usually isn’t until about the end of March that St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis starts to finalize the vast majority of his roster. The long-time Saints Manager has wanted to give players every opportunity to get signed by an affiliate club before locking them in with the Saints, and has become a master at enticing top talent to come to St. Paul after final cuts have been made before the Major League Baseball season gets underway.
However, Tsamis will not pass up on a great opportunity to better his team and, in the last two weeks, he has signed three infielders that could make this the best group in the American Association and we have not even seen who will be the final piece yet. The additions of Jake Hager and Noah Perio not only add live bats, but stellar defense as well, and the re-signing of Brady Shoemaker on Monday brings back one of the five best hitters in the league from last season.
Shoemaker became one of three players in Saints history to hit 20 homers in a single season, hitting 21 last season. That was impressive enough on its own, but he added a .318 average, 71 runs scored, and 57 RBI, and missed two weeks of the season. A full year could shatter those numbers and will most certainly draw looks from affiliate clubs.
Shoemaker will be the starting first baseman, barring another acquisition. He appeared in 35 games at first last season, where he made only one error. The veteran can play left field as well.
Hager was signed two weeks ago, after appearing in AAA-Durham last season. The former Tampa Bay Rays prospect has had a solid minor league career. Last season he hit .229 at Durham with 4 homers, 26 RBI, and 29 runs scored.
Hager had been with the Rays organization for seven seasons, signing with the organization out of high school. He is a former first round pick who is only 24 years old, and a solid season could easily earn him a return to affiliate ball.
Hager is outstanding in the field, who can play short, second, and third. Last season he made 6 errors in 73 games, and likely only needs a quality season at the plate to punch his ticket back to a Major League organization. There are a lot of similarities between Hager and former Saints shortstop Anthony Phillips, who turned an outstanding season in 2015 into a return to affiliate ball a year later.
That Perio is back in independent ball is nothing short of a shocker. The infielder had a huge season for the Sioux City Explorers in 2016, when he hit .338 with 27 runs and 36 RBI in only 35 games. Perio had been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization after appearing in 57 games at three different levels, coming to Sioux City where he had a huge impact on the team reaching the playoffs.
Following the 2016 season, the infielder was signed by the San Diego Padres who assigned him to AA-San Antonio. In 112 games, Perio hit .281 with 53 runs scored and 36 RBI, and it is surprising that the 25-year-old was released.
He is an outstanding addition for the Saints, who can use him at second, first, and third. Last season he made only 4 errors in nearly 600 total chances. The two infielders give Tsamis a great deal of flexibility, plus the Saints Manager can have assurance that he is going to get outstanding defense no matter where he plays either Hager or Perio.
The Final Piece May Already Be Present
The St. Paul Saints have three-quarters of their infield signed for 2018, and they may already have the fourth piece in place. JJ Gould was a late addition in 2017 after being released by the Miami Marlins organization. He hit .250 in 25 games for St. Paul, and he played well at short. Gould is not signed but that could be reality in the coming weeks, making this an incredible team defensively not to mention a group that is going to add some pop to the offense.
American Association Daily Notes
The Wichita Wingnuts signed OF Isaiah Stephen Aluko and IF Luis Jimenez. Aluko is making a comeback after appearing in only 5 games for the Minnesota Twins rookie league team in 2016. He hit .133 in 15 at-bats. Jimenez played three seasons in the Majors, appearing for both Boston and Minnesota in 2015. He has spent the last three seasons playing in Korea. Last season he hit .276 in 51 games.