American Association Daily will provide 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, former Wichita Wingnuts stars Abel Nieves and John Nester return to the team, even after each sat out last season.
The Wichita Wingnuts added Abel Nieves on Friday, two days after adding former catcher John Nester. Both players did not play professional baseball last season, but the team added the two veterans hoping that their past performances will return for the 2018 American Association season.
A Name Spoken with Reverence
In the 10 years of Wichita Wingnuts baseball, one of the most popular names to have ever donned the uniform is that of Abel Nieves. After six seasons in minor league baseball, Nieves played in Joliet (Frontier League) in 2012 before joining the Wingnuts in 2013. The infielder was a success from the start, hitting .357 in 99 games with 5 homers and 51 RBI.
A year later, Nieves began the season in Grand Prairie, but was acquired by former Manager Kevin Hooper at the trade deadline. That proved to be a brilliant move on Hooper’s part, as Nieves hit .558 in 13 regular season games to close out the year and helped Wichita to win the 2014 American Association Championship.
The next season, Nieves moved to the now defunct Laredo Lemurs, where he played two seasons. In 2015, the former Wingnut hit .353 and in 2016 batted .290. He did not play professionally last season.
Back Behind the Dish
John Nester played three seasons in the Oakland A’s organization before signing with Evansville (Frontier League) in 2013. A year later, the San Diego Padres purchased his contract, and he would play a season at three levels before being released.
In 2015, Nester was signed by Hooper and played a pivotal role in the Wingnuts returning to the American Association playoffs. The catcher hit .281 with a career high 5 homers and 43 RBI in 80 games.
At the end of the season, Nester retired from playing, opting to join Hooper, who left to join the Padres as their minor league infield instructor. Nester became a catching instructor with San Diego, a position he has served in the last two seasons.
Looking to Continue to Glory
The Wichita Wingnuts are going through a transformation, not only because Josh Robertson has stepped down as the club’s general manager, although he is still active with the team building the team’s roster, but also because several key players from last year’s team have either been dealt or have been released. That list includes Alex Boshers, Tim Brown, Ryan Kussmaul, Mike Devine, Josh Goosen-Brown, Matt Chavez, Martin Medina, T.J. Mittelstaedt, Zach Fisher, and Christian Stringer.
The loss of Medina and Chavez may the most painful of all, as Medina finished in the top five in hitting in the American Association and was arguably the best catcher in the league last season, and Chavez was a triple crown contender until an injury to his side cost him about 50 points in his batting average. It is in these two positions that Nester and Nieves are expected to fill these very big shoes.
That is nothing new for Nester, however. The catcher replaced Chris McMurray, who had been an all-star in 2014 when he hit .261 with 7 homers and 60 RBI in 83 games. Replacing Medina will not be an easy task at all after he hit .314 with 6 homers and 51 RBI in 86 games in 2017.
John Nester and Abel Nieves join Richard Prigatano and Leo Vargas as the four position players that are signed for the upcoming season.
AAD Notes: LHP Sebastian Kessay was signed by the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The Houston Astros prospect pitched four seasons, reaching High-A Buies Creek last season where he was 6-3 in 26 appearances with a 4.29 ERA and 3 saves. Kessay has a power arm, striking out 55 in 50.1 innings in 2017 and has struck out 180 in 143.2 career innings.