The St. Paul Saints were building a team ready to dominate in the North Division of the American Association this season. With a beautiful new ballpark and a group of outstanding players joining the club it looked as if they could easily runaway with the division, however, a strange thing happened on their way to being crowned. One of their biggest pieces decided to play in the Mexican League this summer, leaving the club looking for some more power to add to their lineup.
For much of March the team was silent, but on March 25 that changed when LHP Dylan Chavez was signed by the club. The lefty was with the Boston Red Sox organization in 2012 and 2013, but last season pitched for Kannapolis, the Mid-A level club of the Chicago White Sox. He pitched quite well there, going 4-5 with three saves in 31 appearances. He posted an outstanding 2.93 ERA in 58.1 innings pitched. He walked 27 batters in that time, which is a bit of a concern, but he has the stuff to be a solid performer in the Saints’ bullpen.
The next day Robert Coe re-signed by the St. Paul Saints. Coe had a phenomenal year in St. Paul in 2012 when he was 12-5 with a 2.90 ERA. The next season he played for the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, but returned to the Saints last year. The righty struggled for much of the season, posting a 6-6 record with a 6.60 ERA, but he showed flashes of brilliance at times. The team felt he will be a solid addition to return to their rotation for the upcoming season.
On March 31 came a tough blow to the Saints title hopes, as slugger Ian Gac signed with Veracruz of the Mexican League for the upcoming season. Gac came to the Saints after the 2014 season ended, and was the ideal No. 4 hitter in their lineup. He led the American Association in home runs last season, and great things were expected from him. Because of the way that the Mexican League schedule works, the slugger could return to aid in a stretch run.
On April 3, the team signed two players to the roster: OF Mike Kvansicka and LHP Cody Wheeler. Kvasnicka is a local Twin Cities boy, graduating from Lakeville North High School and attending the University of Minnesota. He played for the Houston Astros organization from 2010-2012, but the last two years was a Minnesota Twins prospect. Last season he played in 112 games for AA-New Britain, where he hit .257 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI. The 26-year-old adds a big bat to the team’s lineup.
Wheeler was an Arizona Diamondbacks prospect since 2010. Last season he split time between High-A Visalia and AA-Mobile. His numbers were stellar. In 45 appearances he posted an outstanding 1.63 ERA, allowing just 31 hits in 60.2 innings pitched while striking out 80. At Mobile the left-hander was darn near unhittable, allowing just one earned run and six hits in 22.1 innings pitched. His one weakness is control. He walked 20 at Mobile, but 26 total runners allowed in 22.1 innings pitched is incredible. Unfortunately his stay in St. Paul did not last long as the Baltimore Orioles purchased his contract away on April 7.
On April 6, St. Paul signed RHP Alan Oaks. Oaks has been playing professional baseball since 2010. Last year he pitched for the San Diego Padres High-A team in Lake Elsinore and Normal of the Frontier League. The right-hander struggled at Lake Elsinore, posting a 7.84 ERA in 9 appearances, but was quite good at Normal where he posted 10 saves and a 3.18 ERA.
By Robert Pannier