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, we look at the talented group of outfielders that Mike Meyers has gathered for the Sioux Falls Canaries and how that group could lead the team to their first playoff appearance since 2010. Also, there were a host of moves around the American Association on Monday as well.
This Outfield May Be Second to None
If we have learned one thing about Sioux Falls Manager Mike Meyer, it is that he is not a former pitcher focused primarily on his pitching staff. It seems that many former hurlers who become managers make their guys taking the mound to be their priority, but Meyer is bucking the system, putting together a rather potent offense, including already bringing in four guys that may make this the most formidable group of outfielders in the American Association.
The Group of Four
What has made it a little easier to ink his outfield corps is that three of the group from last season will return. That includes Jabari Henry, Dan Motl, and Ty Morrison, with Chris Grayson coming in a deal with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks just after Thanksgiving.
The biggest of these will be the return of Jabari Henry, who led the American Association in home runs last season with 29. Henry had a huge year in 2017, hitting .302, with 71 runs scored and 72 RBI in 84 games. This followed his performance in 2016 when he hit 15 homers and drove in 51 RBI in 102 games for AA-Arkansas (Los Angeles Angels) in the Texas League. The outfielder has produced double digits numbers in homers in each of the last four seasons, including hitting a career high 30 at High-A High Desert (California League) in 2014.
Henry closed out the 2017 in style, ending the year on a seven game hitting streak where he was 14-27 with 7 runs scored, and 12 RBI. He homered six times during that streak, including a three home run night on the next to last game of the season. Add to it the fact that hit posted a .401 on-base percentage and a .617 slugging percentage and the Canaries have a guy they can pencil into the four hole every night who no pitcher will want to face.
Ty Morrison will return as well and he will likely bat leadoff. Morrison spent the 2015 and 2016 campaigns in Laredo before joining the Canaries last season. The former Tampa Bay Rays prospect had an outstanding season in Sioux Falls, hitting .289 with 10 homers, a career high, and 53 runs scored. He also stole 21 bases, while being thrown out only 6 times.
Morrison knows how to get on base, recording a .370 on-base percentage and he had a solid OPS of .821. Add 18 doubles to the mix and the fact that he could hit virtually anywhere in the lineup and it is easy to see why Mike Meyer made his return a priority.
Dan Motl was a star at the University of Minnesota, where he posted a .303 career batting average. The outfielder joined the Canaries and had a solid season, hitting .256 in 93 games with 41 RBI and 52 runs scored.
Motl is a speedster on the base paths, swiping 37 bases while only being thrown out 4 times all season. The outfielder posted a .352 on-base percentage, which may not be high enough for him to hit leadoff, but he should get more comfortable at the plate in this second season, and he is an outstanding outfielder, making 0 errors and throwing out six runners in 2017.
If They Weren’t Good Enough Already
The three would have made this as good of a group as any in the league, but Meyer’s acquisition of Chris Grayson added a bat that will make most pitchers wish they had the night off. Grayson appeared in 57 games for the RedHawks last season, where he hit .290 with 5 homers and 41 RBI.
Grayson also has speed, stealing 26 bases for Fargo-Moorhead last season and reaching base at a .372 clip. He could move into the No. 2 spot, or even help protect Henry in the No. 5 hole in the order.
On paper, it looks like this group could easily hit 50-plus home runs, steal better than 60 bases, and have a combined average around .300. Best of all, one can DH each night so that Meyer can keep all four fresh.
A Lineup Set to Do Damage
There will be a lot more to this Sioux Falls Canaries lineup in 2018 than the dynamic outfield group. Shortstop Blake Schmit was re-signed and he can do it all. Schmit is an excellent fielder and has a solid bat, hitting .274 last year after hitting .319 in 2016. The shortstop has stolen 20 bases in each of the last two seasons and has scored at least 54 runs each year. He gives Meyer a lot of flexibility in how he handles the bat.
Patrick Fiala and Tyler Wolfe will also return to the team. Wolfe can do it all, playing first, second, third, and the outfield in his two seasons in Sioux Falls. He hit .265 last season in 67 games after posting a .320 average in 2016. Fiala came out of the Houston Astros organization, joining the Canaries last season, where he hit .236 in 27 games. Fiala can play second, short, and third.
The Bats Are Alive in Sioux Falls
The Sioux Falls Canaries have not been to the playoffs since 2010 and have not won a league title since defeating the Grand Prairie AirHogs in 2010. This is a team hungry for greater success, looking to give fans something to cheer about this year. With the team that Manager Mike Meyer is building, there is little doubt that the Canaries are going to be one of the most exciting teams in the American Association to watch. They also may very well have the lineup to help them soar to a place where they have not been in a decade.
American Association Daily Notes
There was a plethora of moves around the league announced on Monday. Lincoln announced the RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan had his contract purchased by the Kansas City Royals. The team also signed LHP Ben Smith and catcher Brant Whiting. The left-hander was with the Houston Astros organization the last two seasons, reaching Low-A Tri-City in 2017. He was 7-5 in 21 appearances with a 6.37 ERA. Whiting has been in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization since 2014. Last season, he split time between High-A Rancho Cucamonga, AA-Tulsa, and AAA-Oklahoma City, hitting a combined .317 in 21 games with a .431 on-base percentage. It seemed like the catcher was having a breakout season which went unrecognized by the Dodgers organization…The Sioux Falls Canaries re-signed RHP Dylan Thompson. Thompson was one of the best relievers in the American Association last season, allowing just one run through his first 23 appearances. However, the right-hander wore down some over the second half, but still finished with an impressive 3-4 record and a 3.44 ERA…RHP Jordan Cooper was re-signed by the Wichita Wingnuts. Cooper had a solid 2017 season in Wichita, going 8-2 in 19 starts with a 3.98 ERA. The right-hander began the season with 20 scoreless innings pitched…The Sioux City Explorers continue to add arms to their team, adding left-handers Hunter Ackerman and Ryan Horstman. Ackerman was a Chicago Cubs prospect the first three seasons of his professional career, but has spent the last four in the Frontier League, pitching last season for Evansville. The left-hander was 8-6 in 15 starts with a 4.75 ERA, striking out 88 in 91.0 innings pitched in 2017. Horstman has been with the Seattle Mariners organization since 2013. Last season he reached AA-Arkansas where he made 13 appearances, posting a 2-0 record and a 5.71 ERA. Horstman has a live arm, averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings during his time in the minors…The Kansas T-Bones had a busy day. First, they sent starter Matt Sergey to Sugar Land (Atlantic League) for outfielder David Harris. Harris was then sent to New Jersey (Can-Am League) for 1B Art Charles and LHP Jose Jose. Jose has spent time in the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations, reaching AAA-New Orleans in 2015. The last two seasons he has pitched for New Jersey, posting a 2.30 ERA in 21 appearances last year, striking out 31 in 27.1 innings pitched. Charles has also been with the Jackals the last two seasons, hitting 29 homers in 2016. Last season, the first baseman hit only 3 in an abbreviated campaign that saw him play in only 12 games. He still drove in 11 while hitting .295.
By Robert Pannier