MLB Begins Season with American Association Well Represented
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the ten former American Association players who area Major League Baseball rosters to start the season.
Helping Them to Reach the Ultimate Goal
The Major League Baseball season is about three weeks old and there has been a lot of great action on the diamond. That may not mean much to American Association fans as the league is still 25 days from getting underway, but the ultimate goal of all who play in the league is to one day join or rejoin an affiliate to get that chance to play on a Major League field.
This season, ten players have reached that goal. From the West Coast to the East, both in the North and in the South there are ten players who started the season on a Major League roster. It is exciting to see these players living out their dreams and to know that the American Association has played a key role in helping them to make it to the great baseball league on the planet.
Here is a look at the ten.
Max Scherzer, RHP, New York Mets
There is arguably no greater success story for the American Association than Max Scherzer. The right-hander started his career with the Fort Worth Cats, appearing in just three games where he went 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA. That caught the attention of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who purchased his contract, quickly moving the righty up to AA-Mobile. The next season Scherzer was in AAA-Tucson and reached the Majors with the Diamondbacks that same season.
Since then, Scherzer has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the baseball. The right-hander is 203-103 in 433 career Major League games with a 3.12 ERA. Scherzer has won 20-plus games twice and has 12 seasons with at least 10 victories. Scherzer was the NL Cy Young award winner three times (2013, 2016, 2017), and has lead the league in wins four times (2013, 2014, 2016, 2018). This season he joined the New York Mets where he is 2-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three starts.
David Peralta, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
David Peralta is another big American Association success story. He had started with the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 20o6 and appeared in just 18 games before an injury forced him out of baseball for three years. In 2011, Peralta joined Rio Grande Valley (North American League) and the next season he was with the Wichita Wingnuts. In Wichita, Peralta hit .332 with 65 runs and 70 RBI in 98 games.
In 2013, Peralta began in Amarillo, hitting .352 in 42 games before the Diamondbacks purchased his contract. A year later he made it to the Major leagues, appearing in 88 games where he it .286. He spent all of 2015 with the big club, but was hurt much of 2016. Since 2017, Peralta has been a mainstay at the Major League level. He has played in 1019 games in the Majors, hitting .281 with 110 homers and 488 homers. This season Peralta joined the Los Angeles Dodgers where he is hitting .179 in 11 games.
Caleb Thielbar, LHP, Minnesota Twins
Caleb Thielbar has done two stints in the American Association. He began in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, reaching Mid-A in 2010 before joining the Minnesota Twins organization. Thielbar was released in 2011, joining the St. Paul Saints where he went 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 48 appearances. The Twins resigned the lefty and he would be pitching at the Major League level two seasons later.
In 2016, Thielbar was released by the Twins and returned to St. Paul where he pitched for two seasons, before the Detroit Tigers acquired his contract. He has been in the Major Leagues ever since. Thielbar is 18-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 257 career Major League games. This season he is back in Minnesota, appearing in five games where he has a 4.50 ERA.
Tyler Matzek, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Tyler Matzek began his career in the Colorado Rockies organization, reaching the Majors in 2015. An injury plagued 2017 led to his release and he joined the Texas AirHogs, going 3-8 with a 5.89 ERA in 22 appearances. The following season the lefty’s arm was rock solid and he rolled for the AirHogs, going 4-3 with a 2.79 ERAin 22 appearances.
That earned a contract from Arizona, who later sent him to the Atlanta Braves. In 2020, he made it to the Majors and pitched for the Braves in the 2021 World Series, helping the team win it all. Matzek si 16-21 with a 3.50 ERA at the Major League level and this season is back in Atlanta but is on the disabled list to start the season.
James Paxton, LHP, Boston Red Sox
James Paxton is another great American Association success story because it was the league that earned him a chance. Paxton was no drafted and signed with Grand Prairie in 2010. He went 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in four appearances. His contract was purchased by the Seattle Mariners in 2011 and he reached the Major Leagues by 2014.
The left-hander has battled arm injuries the last two seasons and is working himself through a hamstring injury, currently on a rehab assignment at AAA-Pawtucket. Paxton is 57-33 with a 3.59 ERA in 137 career starts at MLB. He has won at least 11 games three times.
John Brebbia, RHP, San Francisco Giants
John Brebbia started out in the New York Mets organization, reaching High-A Tampa before being released in 2013. He joined the Sioux Falls Canaries in 2014 and went 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 34 appearances. The following season Brebbia joined the Laredo Lemurs, boing 7-2 with 19 saves and a 0.98 ERA. His regular season was unreal, but it was his postseason success that caught the eye of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2016, Brebbia was on his way to AA-Springfield, but reached AAA by the end of the season. A year later he was with the Cardinals and has been at the Major League level since. The right-hander is 13-10 with a 3.34 ERA in 262 career games for the Cardinals and Giants. He is with San Francisco this season, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven appearances.
Anthony Bender, RHP, Miami Marlins
Anthony Bender had a brief career in the American Association but it was enough to help him to the closer’s role for the Miami Marlins. Bender began with the Kansas City Royals organization, reaching AA-Biloxi in 2019. He was released that season and joined the Sioux City Explorers, appearing in two games. The following season, Bender joined the Milwaukee Milkmen, going 2-1 with a 5.48 ERA in 22 appearances.
That was enough to earn a contract from the Marlins and he was in the Majors in 2021. Last season Bender struggled though some injuries, but appeared in 22 games with Miami, going 1-3 with six saves and a 3.26 ERA. He has begun the season on the disabled list.
Chris Martin, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Chris Martin was like Paxton, not drafted and looking for a place to play. He joined Grand Prairie in 2010 (odd coincidence) and went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 13 appearances. The following season he was in the Red Sox organization reaching AA-Portland that season. In 2014, Martin made the Majors with the Colorado Rockies.
He has spent most of the past 10 seasons at the Major League level, pitching for the Rockies, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and now the Red Sox. Martin is 9-17 with a 3.80 ERA in 276 appearances. He is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA this season.
Logan Gillaspie, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Logan Gillaspie may have the most amazing story of all. He was not drafted either, choosing to pitch in the Pecos League and Pacific Association in 2017. That season he joined the road warrior Salina Stockade, who played all 100 games on the road. He made 22 appearances overall, posting a 3.86 ERA.
That earned him a look from the Milwaukee Brewers, who he spent two seasons with. After the Covid-19 season, Gillaspie joined the Baltimore Orioles. He made it to the Majors in 2022, going 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 appearances. This season he is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in seven outings.
Connor Overton, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Connor Overton began his career in 2014 and moved to two different organizations in his first two season. At the start of the 2016 season he joined the Explorers, taking over the closers role. After going 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 11 saves in 30 appearances, Overton was signed by the Giants.
The right-hander reached AAA in 2018 and 2021, but finally made it to the big show in 2021, joining the Pittsburgh Pirates. This season he is in the Cincinnati Reds rotation, making two starts so far. At the Major League level, Overton is 1-1 with a 4.31 ERA in 17 career appearances.
By Robert Pannier