Winnipeg Goldeyes Look to Make 2019 an Historic Year
In American Association Daily, the Minor League Sports Report’s Robert Pannier gets out of the South Division, focusing on the moves that Manager Rick Forney has made with the Winnipeg Goldeyes. If past history is any indication, 2019 should be a big year for the Goldeyes.
A Season with Big Aspirations
When the 2018 American Association season got underway, it looked very likely that the Winnipeg Goldeyes would be competing to be the league champions for the third year in a row. The club had four aces in their rotation, a deep bullpen, and a star studded lineup that should have made them a 60 win team for sure.
Manager Rick Forney had done a brilliant job of building a club that may actually have been better than his two clubs that won it all. However, like the old saying goes, you don’t win on paper.
A Season Gone Awry
The Winnipeg Goldeyes got off on the right foot, starting out 7-4, scoring 64 runs in their first 11 games. Everything was looking like it was going according to plan.
The team was 19-15 after taking the first three games from the Saints in St. Paul, but things went south quickly. After dropping the final contest in the four game series in St. Paul, Winnipeg was swept in Wichita, then returned home to split a four game series against the Saints before losing seven straight, as they were swept in Sioux City and then in Fargo-Moorhead.
The Goldeyes would lose six of eight series, splitting the other two. A lot of factors played a role in the struggles as injuries, signings, and struggles were too difficult to overcome. The team finished the 2018 season 41-59, the lowest win total in the franchise’s 25 year history.
Determined to Reach the Top…Again
If anyone is worried that this a sign of hard times in Winnipeg…don’t. If there is one thing that can be said about Rick Forney, it is that he knows how to rebound.
This will be the fourth time since Forney became the manager that he led the club following a season where they won less than 50 games. The first was 2006, his first season with the team. In 2005, the Goldeyes had gone 47-48 under Manager Hal Lanier, yet Forney led them to a 52-44 record, second best in the league.
In 2010, Winnipeg went 46-53, but the Goldeyes Manager would lead the team to a 60-40 record in 2011, the second best record in the American Association. That was also the first year that the Goldeyes were in their current league, moving over from the Northern League.
In 2015, the Winnipeg Goldeyes were 47-52. All they did the next two seasons was win a combined 120 games and two American Association titles.
No one should believe that the Goldeyes skipper wants to finish below .500 but, when it does occur, it truly lights a fire under the skipper and he pushes his team to new heights the following year.
Making Moves to Return to Glory
Rick Forney is always quite active during the entire off-season, and this year has been no different. He has already re-signed star outfielders Reggie Abercrombie and Josh Romanski, and it would not be surprising to see third baseman Wes Darvill return as well. Darvill hit .309 in 100 games in 2017, earning a shot with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he was recently released and a return to the Goldeyes could very well be in the cards.
The team recently signed Willy Garcia, who will join Romanski and Abercrombie in the outfield. Garcia reached the Majors in 2017 with the Chicago White Sox. His 2018 season was wiped out by injury, but Garcia has power and should fit nicely near the heart of the order.
The bullpen got a real shot in the arm with the re-signing of Victor Capellan and the addition of left-hander Jose Jose. Capellan has been one of the best relievers in the American Association over the last four seasons, three of which were with Winnipeg. He saved 22 games last year, striking out 53 in 47.1 innings pitched. Jose Jose became the closer in Lincoln, where he saved 11 games.
Joining Jose and Capellan on the pitching staff are right-handers Devin Raferty and Mitchell Aker. Raferty came in a deal with Lincoln, and provides another potential closer for the Goldeyes. The righty saved 15 games in Windy City (Frontier League) last season, where he posted a miniscule 1.22 ERA, striking out 70 in 44.1 innings pitched.
RHP Dylan Thompson was acquired last October and could very well be the No. 2 starter behind LHP Kevin McGovern. Thompson finished 5-9 with a 5.13 ERA for the Sioux Falls Canaries last season, but those numbers are deceiving. More than a third of his 69 runs allowed came in three of his 21 starts and, with a year of starting under his belt, he could have a breakout campaign. Mitch Lambson will likely join McGovern and Thompson in the rotation.
Adrian Marin will likely take over the shortstop duties after Andrew Sohn was released. Marin reached AAA-Norfolk (Baltimore Orioles) last season. He is a career .246 hitter in seven seasons in the minors, but it will be his glove that keeps him on the diamond.
One of the more interesting acquisitions was OF/1B Correlle Prime. Prime had a solid season for the Texas AirHogs in 2018, hitting .279 in 79 games. He added 7 homers and 42 RBI, but did so in one of the most challenging circumstances imaginable. With the AirHogs committed to developing players from the Chinese National Team, Prime had very little offensive support, especially after Dillon Thomas was signed by the Brewers. Added to a lineup that includes Abercrombie, Romanski, and Garcia, and he could very well have an 80-plus RBI season.
Getting Ready to Playball!
With just 84 days until the 2019 American Association season gets underway, Manager Rick Forney already has 19 players under contract. He is clearly focused on putting 2018 in the rearview mirror while writing a new chapter in the history of the Winnipeg Goldeyes. If history is any indicator, this will be a banner year north of the border.
By Robert Pannier