In American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Reports’ Robert Pannier discusses the return of former Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks left-hander Tyler Alexander to affiliate ball, as he was signed by the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
Tyler Alexander Signed by the Oakland Athletics
There are very few players who have had as dramatic of an effect on the American Association as former Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks left-hander Tyler Alexander. Because a player does not stay around more than a few seasons, they rarely have the opportunity to leave an indelible mark.
Standouts like Winnipeg Goldeyes outfielder Reggie Abercrombie are a rarity. A player who has reached the highest levels of the sport, and now is comfortable just playing the game he loves, while still doing it at a high level.
Other have longed to return to affiliate ball, but have had obstacles standing in their way. They have proven that they can thrive at any level, yet, their past has been a barrier.
This off-season, we have seen one team give a player in this situation a second chance when the Chicago White Sox signed St. Paul Saints catcher Justin O’Conner. Now, another has returned to affiliate ball as the Oakland Athletics signed Alexander on Thursday.
A Career Path Derailed
Tyler Alexander was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 27th round of the 2013 Major League amateur draft. He was assigned to Helena (Pioneer League), where he made an instant impression, going 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 13 appearances. The left-hander shined, allowing seven hits and three walks in 15.2 innings pitched, while striking out 27, a strike out per 9 inning rate of 15.5.
The next season he moved to Mid-A Wisconsin (Midwest League), where he was 5-4 with a 4.68 ERA in 20 appearances, nine of which were starts. However, a failed drug test earned him a suspension and, when he earned a second in 2015, the Brewers released him.
Soaring to New Heights
A lot of players would have figured they squandered their opportunity, but Tyler Alexander was not giving up. He signed with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in 2015 where he became an instant success.
His first season, the left-hander went 5-5 for the RedHawks, posting a 3.31 ERA in 111.1 innings. He struck out 111. A year later, Alexander dominated the American Association, going 12-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 22 appearances. He made 20 starts that season, tossing 143.1 innings while striking out 156.
However, the best was yet to come. In 2017, Alexander was unreal, making 21 starts while posting a 2.07 ERA. He was 8-6 and set an American Association record with 167 strikeouts in 148.0 innings pitched.
His performance in Fargo-Moorhead was nothing short of brilliant, and the left-hander has given Manager Michael Schlact a great deal of credit for his success.
“He just worked with me, helped me on the mental side of the game. It was all uphill from there,” Alexander explained to the Mercy News. “I learned my body. I learned that I throw different than everybody else and cut the walks in half. Your game changes when you throw strikes.”
Clearly, he had proven that he deserved a return to affiliate ball, but that pesky suspension was looming over his head. Last season, the left-hander was traded to Sussex County (Can-Am League) where he was 6-0 with a 3.59 ERA. It was not long before the Mexican League came calling, as he would sign with Quintana Roo, where he was 4-3 in nine starts with a 3.81 ERA.
Finally Getting His Chance
Tyler Alexander joined Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, and his performance made him simply too good to ignore any longer. In 11 appearances, 10 starts, the lefty was 2-4 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 48 in 50.1 innings pitched.
Thursday, Alexander was signed to a minor league deal by the Oakland Athletics. He will be in the Major League Spring Training, however, and will very likely earn an opportunity to make the A’s pitching staff. It would not be a surprise to see him in AAA at the very least. With the A’s in need of left-handed pitching, Alexander may quickly find himself pitching in a Major League park.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
By Robert Pannier