2020 American Association Preview: St. Paul Saints
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, Robert previews the St. Paul Saints and what to expect from this team during the 2020 American Association season.
Preview the 2020 St. Paul Saints
Manager: George Tsamis (18th Season with Saints)
2019 Record: 64-36 (First in the North Division, First in the American Association, American Association Champions)
Home Ballpark: Sioux Falls Stadium
A Quick Recap of 2019
The St. Paul Saints entered August last year as a contender for the North Division, but they looked like may not have had enough to keep pace with the Chicago Dogs or the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. However, a 17-3 run in the final 20 games catapulted the team into first place, and they rode their home field advantage to their first league championship since 2004.
It was the late inning heroics that proved to be the difference maker, especially during the playoffs. This team was never out of games. That was on display in Game 3 of the North Division series, when the Saints trailed the RedHawks 2-0 in the series and Tyler Pike was throwing a perfect game through six innings, as Fargo-Moorhead led 4-0. St. Paul looked done, but a pair of homers in the bottom of the seventh tied the score at four, and the Saints scored two more in the eighth to win.
They pulled out dramatic late victories in Game 4 and 5 to advance, then earned comeback victories in two of the three American Association Championship series games to win the title. It was truly remarkable.
Key Losses: 1B Brady Shoemaker, C Jeremy Martinez, IF Blake Schmit, OF Dan Motl, IF Devon Rodriguez, LHP Ken Frosch
Key Additions: RHP Matt Pobereyko, LHP Jose Velez, RHP Jameson McGrane, RHP Spencer Jones, RHP Nick Belzer, OF Sebastian Zawada
Looking Ahead to 2020
The 2020 St. Paul Saints should have one of the top two pitching staffs in the league. Besides ace Eddie Medina and outstanding young right-hander Ryan Zimmerman, the Saints get Nick Belzer and Spencer Jones back, both of whom were dominate last season before their contracts were purchased. Belzer has a 1.31 ERA in five starts and Jones had a 1.33 in five starts, so the return of the two make this a “Four Aces” staff.
As good as the rotation is, the bullpen is going to be awesome. Tanner Kiest returns to close out games. He is a real talent, but he is going to have two others pushing him. Jameson McGrane saved 24 games for York (Atlantic League) and, after he has a couple of weeks of extended Spring Training, Matt Pobereyko will join the team as well. All three of these guys are dominate closers. Only one will get that job, but this trio should stomp out any rally after the sixth inning, especially after you throw in LHP Jose Velez, who was dominating for the Sioux City Explorers last season.
The pitching is going to be great. The hitting is suspect right now. OF Max Murphy returns. He was the league MVP last season until his contract was purchased, and he should have a career year hitting in the Birdcage for 42 games. Josh Allen and John Silviano return as well, and both could hit 15 homers. Chesney Young shook off a tough start last season and should be a .300 hitter this year.
The interesting story will be Sebastian Zawada. He hit 11 homers in a very tough Sioux City ballpark last year and could be a 15 homer guy this year.
After that, the Saints lineup looks meager. Telvin Nash opting to play in Japan was a big loss. They will score runs this season because their home park will be in Sioux Falls, but they will not be anywhere near as good on the “road.”
While all six American Association teams have to be excited about playing baseball, it would be understandable if the St. Paul Saints were not as enthusiastic as the others. Not only will they likely not play any games in CHS Field, but they do not really get to celebrate being the defending champions. No raising the banner to a crowd of 10,000. No highlights from 2019 on the scoreboard each night. They will be 240 miles away playing “home” games in the Birdcage. Not ideal at all.
It is true that the pitching staff is very good and that will keep the Saints in games. They will just not have enough hitting to keep up. This is a team that finishes in the bottom half of the league, which is no slight on the team at all. The level of talent is going to be off the charts this season. This team is just not as good as the others.
By Robert Pannier