With the American Association playing a large number of games against Can-Am League teams, it makes sense to see what it going on in this independent league as well, so the Minor League Sports Report will do a monthly look at each of the off-season moves of the six teams in this league. When the season begins there will be a weekly recap for each team.
Can-Am League baseball returns to Sussex as the Sussex County Miners take to the field this season. Sussex had a Can-Am League team from 2006 to 2010, and the Skyhawks even won the league title in 2008, but they folded in 2010. Now baseball returns.
The team has been a bit quiet this off-season. Ottawa has made a large number of moves already, but that is not true of the Miners. They have made a hand-full of moves to get their roster in place, signing 14 players to the roster. This means the last seven weeks are going to be a very exciting time until opening day.
One of the first moves made by the club was to hire Steve Shirley as its manager. Shirley had been the skipper for the Sioux Falls Canaries the last eight seasons before taking the Sussex County Miners job. He was the Manager of the Year in the American Association in 2008, leading the team to its only league championship. He won the award again in 2010, but his team lost in the finals that season. Shirley played for the Dodgers, Pirates, Royals, Tigers, and Expos over 15 seasons.
On January 20 came the Miners first trade when Michael Suk was acquired from Laredo of the American Association. At 6-5, 250 pounds Suk is a big man who has worked primarily out of the bullpen his first two seasons. Last season he was 5-2 in 31 appearances, four of them starts, with a solid 3.44 ERA. He should get a shot to make the Sussex County rotation.
On February 9, the club made two big deals. First came the signing of OF Ray Sadler. Sadler is entering his 16th professional season and has reached the Major League level with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last season he split time between two American Association teams, Winnipeg and Kansas City, where he hit a combined .241 with 18 home runs and 55 RBI in 99 games. He also has some speed, stealing 10 bases.
The addition of Sadler was big, but when OF Reggie Abercrombie was acquired from Winnipeg on the same day the Miners were building a solid lineup for sure. Abercrombie is another former Major Leaguer, who played for Houston and Miami. Last season he split time between Moncolva of the Mexican League and Winnipeg. Abercrobmie put up huge numbers, hitting a combined .287 with 23 home runs and 90 RBI in 116 games. He, too, has some speed, stealing 25 bases.
On February 12, Sussex County signed C Jayson Hernandez. Hernandez played most of last season for the Boston Red Sox High-A team. At Salem he hit .234 in 23 games with a homer and six RBI.
Nearly two weeks later OF Johnny Bladel was acquired from Amarillo of the American Association for future considerations. Besides Amarillo, Bladel also played for Trinidad of the Pecos League. In Trinidad he was absolutely crushing the ball, hitting .518 in 48 games with 13 homers and 55 RBI. At Amarillo his numbers tailed off, but he still had a very impressive .286 average in 29 games.
On March 8, New Jersey sent Cory Morales to Sussex. Morales also finished last season with Amarillo after beginning the season with Fort Worth of the United League. He hit a combined .290 in 54 games with 20 RBI and 32 runs scored.
The next day INF Ryan Pineda was acquired from Winnipeg for cash. Pineda was an Oakland Athletics prospect from 2010-2012, but in 2013 he moved to independent baseball. Last season he played the entire year in Winnipeg, appearing in 76 games and hitting .274 with 5 homers and 31 RBI. He also posted a solid .360 on-base percentage.
Looking to bolster their pitching staff, Sussex County acquired RHP Matt Sommo from Somerset of the Atlantic League on March 12 in exchange for a player to be named later. Sommo pitched with both Bridgeport and Somerset last season. He struggled in Bridgeport, but at Somerset he put up solid numbers, going 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 24 appearances.
By Robert Pannier