St. Paul Saints Add Former MVP Nate Samson
SIOUX FALLS, SD (July 14, 2020) – Playoff participant. Check. Batting champ. Check. Smooth fielding shortstop. Check. Mid-Season All-Star. Check. Post-Season All-Star. Check. He checks all the boxes as one of the great shortstops in American Association history and now he’s with the St. Paul Saints. Nate Samson, a two-time Mid-Season All-Star and three-time Post-Season All-Star has signed as a free agent with the Saints for the 2020 season.
The 32-year-old Sampson is no stranger to Saints fans having faced off in the Divisional Round in 2015 and then in the American Association Finals last season while with the Sioux City Explorers. Last season, he hit .324 with six home runs and 67 RBI in 99 games. In 404 at bats he scored 60 runs, ripped 24 doubles, five triples, walked more than he struck out, 30 to 25, stole 21 bases in 24 attempts, a .368 on base percentage, and .453 slugging percentage for an .821 OPS. He was both a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star and helped guide the Explorers to the American Association Finals. He finished with the most hits in the league (131), tied for fourth in stolen bases, and fifth in batting average while committing just nine errors in 385 chances. He collected a hit in 78 of 99 games and only went hitless in back-to-back games three times and went one three game stretch without a hit.
Samson was a 34th round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2006 out of Forest (FL) High School and spent eight years in the Cubs organization. His best season in the Cubs organization came in 2008 at Single-A Peoria where he hit .293 with three home runs and 42 RBI in 128 games. In 481 at bats he scored 69 runs, clubbed 17 doubles, two triples, swiped 15 bases, a .365 on base percentage, and a .356 slugging percentage.
In 2008 and 2012 he reached Triple-A Iowa playing in two games and 19 games, respectively.
Samson joined the American Association, signing with the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 2013 upon his release by the Cubs. He hit .216 with a home run and 15 RBI in 42 games. In 148 at bats he had five doubles, two triples, with a .264 on base percentage, and a .297 slugging percentage. The Cubs purchased his contract on July 4 and he played 31 games at Double-A Tennessee hitting .257 with four RBI. The Goldeyes traded his reversionary rights to the Explorers on September 17 and his incredible American Association career began.
Samson got off to a blistering start in 2014 with the Explorers hitting .335 with two home runs and 23 RBI in 43 games. In 164 at bats he scored 26 runs, had 12 doubles, one triple, stole nine bases in 10 attempts, had a .401 on base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage for a .858 OPS. His contract was sold to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization on June 30. Samson spent the remainder of the season at Double-A Mobile and impressed hitting .274 with four home runs and nine RBI in 46 games.
He was left unprotected and the Los Angeles Dodgers grabbed Samson in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft in 2014. He was injured for a majority of the 2015 season, but spent 51 games between High-A Rancho Cucamonga (15 games), Double-A Tulsa (29 games) and Triple-A Oklahoma City (seven games). Between the three stops he hit .226 with nine RBI.
The Explorers grabbed Samson in March of 2016 where he became a staple at shortstop for the next four years. He was one of the best hitters in the league that year with a .350 average, six home runs and 68 RBI while playing all 100 games. In 391 at bats he scored 68 runs, smashed 30 doubles, two triples, walked 54 times while striking out only 24 times, stole 31 bases in 35 attempts, a .424 on base percentage, and a .483 slugging percentage for a .907 OPS. Samson finished first in the league in on base percentage and most putouts by a shortstop (157), tied for first in games played and hits (137), second in sacrifice flies (11) and intentional walks (9), tied for second in doubles and stolen bases, third in batting average, tied for fourth in stolen base percentage (88.6%). Samson was both a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star at shortstop. He had an 11-game hitting streak from June 6-18 and had eight multi-hits in nine games from July 12-21. He had an incredible 38 multi-hit games including four, four-hit games. Samson had two long streaks of reaching base safely, going 29 in a row from June 24-July 25 and 27 in a row from May 20-June 18. He helped guide the Explorers to the playoffs before they lost in the Divisional Round to the Wichita Wingnuts.
In 2017 Samson once again eclipsed the .300 mark hitting .302 with four home runs and 43 RBI in 66 games. In 255 at bats he scored 43 runs, ripped 16 doubles, three triples, walked 20 times while striking out only 16 times, stole 12 bags, had a .363 on base percentage and a .435 slugging percentage for a .798 OPS. Samson hit safely in 19 straight from May 30-June 20. He collected at least one hit in 50 of 66 games
Samson returned to his All-Star form in 2018 hitting .340 with four home runs and 73 RBI while playing all 100 games. In 415 at bats he scored 79 runs, smacked 15 doubles, walked 28 times and struck out only 28 times, stole 22 bases, a .379 on base percentage, and a .405 slugging percentage for a .784 OPS. Samson collected a hit in 75 of 100 games including a five-hit performance on August 29 in which he went 11-15 in the three-game series against the Texas AirHogs. He had 41 multi-hit games, a 12-game hitting streak from June 25-July 8. His impressive season earned him a spot on the Post-Season All-Star team at shortstop. He helped guide the Explorers to a 71-29 record and into the playoffs where they lost to the eventual champion Kansas City T-Bones, three-games-to-one in the Divisional Round.
During his career, Samson is a career .288 hitter with more than 1200 hits during his 14-year career. He has struck out just 432 times in more than 4,700 plate appearances. During his time in the American Association, plus 16 games in the Atlantic League, he is hitting .322 while walking more times than he’s struck out, 159 to 123.
In order to make room for Samson the Saints placed outfielder Sebastian Zawada on the disabled list, retroactive to July 11.
The Saints now have 23 players on the roster, 12 position players and 11 pitchers.
By Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints