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 St. Paul Saints adding three relievers to their roster – Vinny Nittoli, Ken Frosch, and Beck Wheeler – nearly doubling the total number of players that have been signed to this point.
The St. Paul Saints Add Three to Bullpen
While many teams have been quite active in the off-season, having the vast majority of their rosters complete already, there has been one club that has been conspicuous by their lack of signings – the St. Paul Saints. To this point, the Saints had only signed six players signed, and two of them had their contracts purchased by affiliate clubs. That has left a lot of spaces on the roster to fill, and Manager George Tsamis took some significant steps on Friday to filling that roster, adding three relievers for the 2018 American Association season.
Addressing the Achilles Heel of 2017
The St. Paul Saints came out firing on all cylinders last season, and were in command of the North Division despite the fact that John Straka had his contract purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays, Eric Veglahn opted to retire, and Robert Coe never recuperated from an injury. The team was getting enough offense and the two-headed bullpen monster of Seth Rosin and Caleb Thielbar wasthe best bullpen tandem in the American Association.
However, the San Francisco Giants purchased Rosin’s contract and Thielbar went down with an injury a week later. That was simply too much to overcome, and the Saints were never the same.
Learning from the Past
No one was more frustrated by the events of last season than Manager George Tsamis, and he has made the bullpen a priority for this year, not allowing a reoccurrence of 2017. That was on display on Friday when it was announced that the team had added three arms for the upcoming season.
Two – Vinny Nittoli and Ken Frosch – are familiar to St. Paul Saints fans. Nittoli became a key member of the pen after the loss of Rosin and Thielbar. He took on the setup and closer duties depending upon how Tsamis needed to use his bullpen and starred for the club. The right-hander finished the season 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA and 3 saves in 34 appearances. He even had a span of 15 consecutive games (June 14 to July 30) where he did not allow a run.
Frosch was a pleasant surprise from the left-side. The lefty had pitched for Evansville (Frontier League) in 2016, and became one of the more reliable relievers for the club. Frosch appeared in 35 games, recording a 4-1 record with a save and a 3.83 ERA.
In addition to re-signing the two relievers, the St. Paul Saints Manager added RHP Beck Wheeler as well. Wheeler pitched at AAA-Las Vegas (New York Mets) last season, where he was 4-5 with an 8.18 ERA in 41 appearances. The righty’s best season was in 2012 at Mid-A Savannah (South Atlantic League), where he was 1-6 with a 2.32 ERA and had 19 saves. In 50.1 innings that season, Wheeler struck out 74.
Coming Together One Halo at a Time
With the signing of the three relievers, the St. Paul Saints now have seven players under contract for the 2018 American Association season. That includes 1B Brady Shoemaker and OF Kes Carter, who were both with the team last season, as well as newcomers OF Jordan Smith and infielder Josh Allen.
Season number 26 gets underway for the St. Paul Saints on May 18 at the Gary Southshore RailCats.
American Association Daily Notes
The number of former Major Leaguers joining the American Association increased by two, when the Sioux City Explorers announced on Friday that they signed RHP Taylor Jordan and LHP Patrick Schuster. Jordan has 18 starts over three seasons for the Washington Nationals, last appearing in a Nationals uniform in 2015. The right-hander was dominating at AAA-Syracuse in 2016, making 3 starts and posting a 1.72 ERA, but his season ended prematurely after needing Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his entire 2017 campaign as well. Schuster appeared in the Majors with both the Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies in 2016. Last year he split time between AAA-Nashville (Oakland) and AAA-Oklahoma City (Los Angeles Dodgers) where he was 4-2 overall with a 6.02 ERA in 44 appearances. He struck out 54 in 52.1 innings pitched. The addition of the two gives the Explorers four former Big Leaguers on their roster.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA