With less the four months left until the St. Paul Saints open the season in their new downtown stadium, it’s time to begin a monthly examination of the team and what has been going on with them this off-season. The Minor League Sports Report will provide a monthly recap of the happenings with the team from St. Paul on the first of each month, even during the season. There will still be coverage of the team on a daily basis once spring training begins.
Saints Move to New Stadium
May 21 is going to be a historic day for the Saints as they will play their first game at their new stadium in downtown St. Paul against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. In October, the stadium received its official name: CHS Field. CHS Inc. is the leading farmer-owned cooperative in the United States, and is a Twin-Cities based company. The company was a perfect fit as the primary sponsor for the new stadium. CHS President and CEO Carl Casale was thrilled to have the co-ops name on the new ballpark.
“The opportunity to team up with Saints is a homerun for both of us. This has been our hometown for more than 80 years and the Saints are our hometown team. It’s also an opportunity to connect to our deeply held values of supporting families with opportunities to have fun together while we tell agriculture’s story and help the Twin Cities get to know CHS better.”
This has been an incredibly busy off-season for the Saints, and not just because of their new ballpark. St. Paul has already made a big splash in the free agent market, and added a great deal of pop to their lineup from key trades as well. Each of the trades was to complete deals that occurred during the 2014 season.
On September 18, the team completed a series of trades by acquiring some much needed pop to their lineup. An acquisition that looked like it would be a key for the team was the procurement of OF Carlo Testa from the American Association champion Wichita Wingnuts. Testa had an absolutely monster season for the Kansas team, hitting .338 with 25 doubles, 9 triples, 10 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Unfortunately for the Saints, his time as a member of St. Paul did not last long as the Arizona Diamondbacks purchased his contract and assigned him to their double-A team.
To bolster the team’s starting rotation the Saints acquired 26-year-old right-hander Dustin Crenshaw from the Gary South Shore RailCats. The big righty was 9-8 in 22 starts with a 3.16 ERA, ranked third in the American Association. Crenshaw could very likely replace last year’s ace, Anthony Claggett, who was dealt to the New Jersey Jackals in January.
Saints manager/general manager George Tsamis loves the addition of his new starter. “Crenshaw was one of the top starters in our league,” said Tsamis. “He was tough and throws a lot of strikes.”
The loss of Testa was a tough one, but there was plenty of outfield help that was still added to the team. Josh Romanski came from Gary as well. The 6-0, 195 pound left-handed hitter was considered a rookie in the American Association last season, and he had a big year for the RailCats, hitting .311 with 7 home runs, 17 doubles and 4 triples. He also scored 56 runs in 96 games and drove in another 60. Romanski had been a pitcher for much of his career, but turned to the outfield following the 2013 season.
Despite playing his first season as an everyday player, Romanski proved he has the skills to be a real force in the St. Paul lineup. “Romanski was solid in his first year as an outfielder after being a pitcher in previous years,” said Tsamis. “We think he will fit right in with us in being a very productive player.”
Center fielder Chad Mozingo is also headed to the Twin-Cities, coming from the Lincoln Saltdogs. Mozingo was a key to the Saltdogs Central Division title run, and will add some real punch at the top of the Saints order. He hit .283 last season, with 6 home runs, 9 doubles, and 3 triples. He also stole 21 bases, and scored 42 runs in 75 games.
His .380 on-base percentage will be a welcome sight at the top of the St. Paul order. “Mozingo was a solid leadoff hitter for Lincoln,” said Tsamis. “He gets on base and can run. We are excited to have him.”
The haul did not end there, as St. Paul brought in outfielder Alonzo Harris from the Jackals. The 25-year-old had a monster year in New Jersey, hitting .290 with 34 steals and 54 runs scored. Harris is a speedster who finished second in the Can-Am League in triples and stolen bases. “Alonzo Harris can fly,” Tsamis added. “He is an exciting player that brings a lot to the table. We are expecting big things from him and he plays a solid CF.”
The completion of all of those earlier trades gives the Saints one of the most formidable outfield combinations in the league, but the lineup got a whole lot better when the Saints signed free agent first baseman Ian Gac on November 24. Gac led the American Association in home runs last season with 27, plus he added 77 RBI in 83 games to go along with a .349 average. He had a very impressive .679 slugging percentage and was the runner-up in the Minor League Sports Report’s selection of MVP for the AA last season.
Less than a month later the team re-signed Angelo Songco, the Saints’ home run leader in 2014 with 16. The left-handed hitter is a perfect complement to Gac, and the Saints will have a very well-rounded offense in 2015, adding Songco and Gac’s power to the speed of Romanski, Harris and Mozingo. Songco drove in 66 runs and scored 58 in 97 games last season.
The New Year brought two last additions to bolster the 2015 Saints squad. Sam Maus, who was a real spark for the team before injuring his wrist in August, was re-signed and will likely return to one of the middle infield positions. Maus hit .323 in 39 games before the injury, scoring 18 runs and posting an outstanding .444 on-base percentage. At one point he reached base in 30 straight games, but his streak came to an end with the injury on August 2.
Tsamis is excited about the return of Maus to the team. “Sam was a pleasant surprise for us. He plays the game the right way and played a solid second base for us. It’s unfortunate that the injury ended his season early because he was on his way to an excellent rookie year.”
Maus is a local boy, who attended Northfield High School and graduated from St. Olaf.
Another Twin-Cities product was signed along with Maus. Outfielder Willie Argo comes from the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, where he hit .203 with 4 home runs and 42 RBI. Argo also stole 24 bases, and will give St. Paul another stolen base threat. “Willie can play all three spots in the outfield and he provides us with some much needed speed,” said Tsamis. “He has reached the Double-A level and has been a threat on the bases with 61 stolen bases the last two years.”
It will be a crowded outfield in St. Paul, but Tsamis is a master at keeping his players involved, and ensuring the players stay fresh.
By Robert Pannier