Sioux Falls Canaries: 2019 Season Recap
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier looks back on the 2019 American Association season of the Sioux Falls Canaries. This includes looking at the top player and pitcher as well as what to expect in 2020.
The 2019 Sioux Falls Canaries Review
The 2019 American Association season was really a tale of two seasons for the Sioux Falls Canaries. This was a team that was right in the thick of things for about 50 games, but struggled mightily over the final 50 as the team finished 38-62.
The Canaries got off to a solid start, going 6-8 in May and 14-13 in June. Manager Mike Meyer had reinvented the offense, opting to go with one that got on base and could move runners. That proved to be a highly successful strategy as Sioux Falls finished third in hitting and second in runs scored.
The additions of Andrew Ely, Clint Coulter, and Alay Lago were instrumental in the early success, but likely no one had more of an impact than catcher Adrian Nieto. Nieto came as a free agent from the Kansas City T-Bones and instantly became a star. Not only did he deliver clutch hits, but he handled this pitching staff brilliantly.
This is why when his contract was purchased by the Miami Marlins, things suddenly went south. The pitching staff, which was deep and talented, suddenly crumbled and Meyer soon found that he could not depend upon anyone to get the final three outs of games.
The hitting still continued to deliver as Sioux Falls hit near .270 through the final two months, but the pitching was abysmal, posting a 5.57 ERA in July and a 6.28 ERA in August. That was simply too much for the hitters to overcome.
While it was a disappointing end to the season, there were several bright spots in 2019. Second baseman Alay Lago won the batting crown and was an MVP candidate after hitting .339 in 92 games. He also homered 13 times and drove in 57 runs.
Rookie Mike Hart was the American Association Rookie of the Year after hitting .297 in 78 games, and Clint Coulter was one of the most feared hitters in the league by season’s end. Coulter finished at .294 in 98 games with a team leading 18 homers and 72 runs driven in.
Rookie catcher Graham Low also proved to be quite a find. The former Macalester College catcher was signed after Nieto went to Miami and he put together an outstanding rookie season as well, hitting .284 in 68 games.
Depending upon who signs with affiliate clubs, Sioux Falls should, once again, have a formidable lineup in 2020.
The problem proved to be pitching. Tyler Herron was added late in the season, and he was spectacular, but there was not much help after that. The rotation had seven starters who made at least six starts, and all but two had ERAs over 5,50. The bullpen was not much better, as only one reliever had an ERA under four, and they lost five games the team was leading after eight, the most in the American Association.
This is where the team will have to make some dramatic improvements if they are to compete in the South next year.
By the Numbers
(league rankings are listed in parenthesis)
Record: 38-62 (Fifth in South, T-10th in League)
Home: 23-27 (9)
Away: 15-35 (10)
Score First: 21-19
Extra Innings: 1-3
Hitting: .242 (10)
Pitching: 4.53 (9)
Fielding: .981 (T-2)
Batting Average: Alay Lago (.339)
Homers: Clint Coulter (18)
RBI: Clint Coulter (72)
Runs Scored: Clint Coulter (69)
Stolen Bases: Jordan Ebert (16)
ERA: Kevin Taylor (2.52)
Wins: Kevin Taylor, Luis Pollorena (6)
Losses: Mark Seyler (10)
Saves: Sam Bragg (7)
IP: Alex Boshers (119.0)
Strikeouts: Alex Boshers (89)
Team MVP: Clint Coulter
It would be easy to go with the guy who won the batting title and was named Player of the Month in June, but there simply is no denying the season Clint Coulter had, nor the impact he had on this team. Not only did Coulter swing a mean bat, but he also did a great job of moving from the outfield to behind the plate when the team needed a catcher to spell Low a few days a week.
He led the team in most offensive categories, including homers, RBI, and runs scored. He was second in doubles (25) and first in extra base hits (45). His slugging percentage (.516) was second only to Lago.
Coulter was quite impressive down the stretch. He was hitting .265 on August 7, then raised his average nearly 30 points over the final month of the season. He recorded hits in 22 of his last 26 games, including posting two separate eight game hitting streaks. He homered in three consecutive games from August 11-13, a stretch that saw him go 6-10 overall with four runs scored and eight RBI.
Top Pitcher: Taylor Hill
Had he not left for Mexico, Taylor could very well have been the top pitcher in the league. The Bird Cage is the most difficult ballpark in the American Association in pitch in, but Taylor was masterful, going 6-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 12 starts.
Consider that he gave up five earned runs in his first start of the season, then did not allow five runs combined through his next four starts. Taylor allowed two runs or less in 10 of his final 11 starts and nine of his 12 starts were quality ones.
What to Expect in 2020
There was a lot to like in 2019. Four players returned to Major League organizations or had their contract purchased to play in Mexico, and Mitch Glasser helped Team Israel to advance in the World Baseball Classic. There was clearly a lot of talent, and a solid foundation to build from.
However, 2020 looks like it will be a year of urgency. While Meyer has done a great job of signing players, it must be recognized that the team went from 45 wins his first season, to 40 in 2018, to 38 last year. The Canaries will not have to win 60 games, but they are going to have to show some dramatic improvement, likely finish at or at least very near.500 if he is to be back in 2021.
The Canaries Skipper developed a new philosophy when it came to the lineup and that proved to be gold. He has already come up with the idea to help the pitching staff and this is where the key to the 2020 season will lie. If he can milk five runs or less in 30 of the team’s 50 games at home, this team will finish 34-16 in the Bird Cage and will be right in the thick of things. That will be the key.
There is a lot of excitement in Sioux Falls as it looks like the team may finally be getting a new ballpark. If the Canaries win at least 46 games in 2020, Mike Meyer will be leading that team when they open the new ballpark and the Canaries are really going to soar in their new home.
By Robert Pannier