WINNIPEG GOLDEYES: AN OVERVIEW

The Winnipeg Goldeyes enter their 29th season in 2022.  The franchise brought professional baseball back to the city in 1994.  The Goldeyes were 50-49 in 2021, marking their 23rd winning season over the first 28 years of the franchise.  The Goldeyes have reached the postseason 19 times, and have won four league championships (Northern League in 1994, American Association in 2012, 2016, and 2017).  The Goldeyes are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since their 2017 championship season.

RETURN TO NORMAL

For the first time since 2019, the Goldeyes are slated to host a full schedule of games at Shaw Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The Goldeyes participated in the American Association’s abbreviated, 60-game season in 2020, but played exclusively outside of Winnipeg and were primarily based out of Fargo, North Dakota.  The Goldeyes played a full schedule in 2021, but played the majority of their home games in Jackson, Tennessee, former home of the Double-A Southern League’s Jackson Generals.  The Goldeyes finally returned to Shaw Park on August 3rd and hosted 19 true home dates to close the season.  Prior to August 3rd, 2021, the Goldeyes went 701 calendar days without a home game at Shaw Park.

SHORT SPRING

Since the Goldeyes’ inaugural season in 1994, teams in both the Northern League and American Association have had to contend with a limited number of days during training camp.  Including the official start date on May 5th, American Association teams have just eight days to prepare for the regular season, which begins May 13th.  Teams can bring up to 30 players to camp, while regular season rosters must be trimmed to 25.  The Goldeyes have five exhibition games scheduled this spring, beginning with a three-game series against Black Sox Professional Baseball.

GOLDEYES MANAGER

Rick Forney enters his 17th season as Goldeyes’ manager and 26th overall within the organization.  During his first 16 years at the helm, the Goldeyes have posted a .542 overall winning percentage (834-706), 12 winning seasons, nine playoff appearances and an American Association-record three championships.  Forney was voted American Association Manager of the Year in 2011 and again in 2020.  Forney pitched professionally for 10 years, including four seasons with the Goldeyes.  During his playing career, Forney was 89-56 (.614) with a 3.63 ERA, and reached the Triple-A level in 1995.

DIVISION REALIGNMENT

After splitting the league into North and South Divisions from 2018-21, the American Association has shifted to an East/West format for 2022.  The Goldeyes are now members of the American Association West, and are joined by the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, Kansas City Monarchs, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux City Explorers, and Sioux Falls Canaries.  All six clubs in the West have lineage tied back to the earliest days of modern independent baseball.

The East Division is comprised of the Chicago Dogs, Cleburne Railroaders, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Kane County Cougars, expansion Lake Country DockHounds, and Milwaukee Milkmen.

POSTSEASON FIELD

In addition to divisional realignment, the American Association has introduced a new playoff format in 2022.  The top four teams (by winning percentage) in each division qualify for the postseason.  Each division will then host two best-of-three series to determine the participants in the best-of-five American Association Finals.  Seeding for the first round will be determined by the first-place finisher in each division having the opportunity to choose their opponent.

DOCKED UP

The American Association welcomes the Lake Country DockHounds as an expansion team in 2022.  The club is located in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (pronounced uh-KAHN-uh-muh-wok), a suburb 35 miles west of downtown Milwaukee.  The DockHounds are also just 38 miles northwest of Franklin, Wisconsin, home of the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen.  Lake Country is set to play at state-of-the-art Wisconsin Brewing Company Park, which the Goldeyes will help unveil on May 20th.  The DockHounds effectively replace the Houston Apollos who served as a traveling team in 2021.

RETURNING PLAYERS

10 players from the Goldeyes’ 2021 roster have re-signed with the club.  The list includes RHP Landen Bourassa, IF Dakota Conners, OF Logan Hill, IF Kevin Lachance, OF Max Murphy, IF Raul Navarro, RHP Zac Ryan, LHP Travis Seabrooke, C Deon Stafford Jr., and RHP Jose Vasquez.  RHP Josh Lucas, who pitched for the Goldeyes in 2020, also returns.  Lucas re-signed with Winnipeg for the 2021 season before having his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training.

GOLDEYES TRANSACTIONS

Right-handed pitcher Landen Bourassa has been placed on the Inactive List.  Bourassa is serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of San Francisco (San Francisco, California).  Right-handed pitcher Nate Antone’s contract has been purchased by the Mexican League’s Tecolotes de Laredo.  Antone compiled a 3.59 ERA for the Goldeyes from 2020-21.

STILL CRUSHING IT

First baseman Kyle Martin signed with the Mexican League’s Guerreros de Oaxaca in December.  Martin set Goldeyes’ single-season records in 2021 with 31 home runs and 106 RBI.  The 106 RBI also set an American Association record that had stood since 2009.  Through May 4th, Martin is hitting .447 with seven home runs and 17 RBI in 11 games for Oaxaca.

MAJOR PRESENCE

The Goldeyes have two players on their training camp roster with Major League experience.  Right-handed pitcher Josh Lucas pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, and Baltimore Orioles from 2017-19.  Lucas has 37 strikeouts across 37.1 Major League innings, and earned a save for Baltimore in 2019.

First baseman David Washington played for the Orioles in 2017.  Washington has helped a team reach the playoffs in nine of his first 13 professional seasons, including an American Association championship with the Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020.

MAX TOOLS

Outfielder Max Murphy returns to the Goldeyes after leading the American Association with 31 doubles in 2021.  Murphy hit .307 with 13 home runs, and ranked ninth in the league with 71 RBI.  The Robbinsdale, Minnesota native also collected nine assists, which were the most by a Goldeyes’ outfielder since Carmine Cappuccio in 2001.  Murphy’s 9.9 wins above replacement since first joining the American Association in 2018 is sixth overall in the league.

KEVIN!

Kevin Lachance enters his fourth season with the Goldeyes.  In 2021, Lachance tied for 10th in the American Association with a .326 batting average while setting career-highs in home runs (9) and RBI (49).  Lachance made just seven total errors on defence while seeing action at second base, third base, centre field, and left field.  Lachance reached base with a hit, walk, or hit by pitch in 87 of 97 games played, and led all American Association rookies with 2.6 wins above replacement.

GOLDEYES ADD THREE-TIME ALL-STAR

Former Washington Nationals’ farmhand Ian Sagdal signed with the Goldeyes in February.  Sagdal has reached the Double-A level twice in his career, and has been voted an affiliated all-star on three occasions.  Sagdal’s 92.1 mph average exit velocity while playing for the Double-A Northeast’s Harrisburg Senators in 2021 tied for 10th among all hitters at the Double-A level with at least 50 batted balls.  Sagdal has averaged 38 doubles per 162 games during his first six years of professional baseball.

NAVARRO RETURNS

Infielder Raul Navarro has re-signed with the Goldeyes for a second season.  Navarro hit .310 with 24 doubles and 20 stolen bases in 2021.  The 24 doubles tied for ninth in the American Association, and Navarro reached base with a hit, walk, or hit by pitch in 81 of his 88 games played.  Navarro was charged with just nine errors all season while splitting time at shortstop and third base.

VETERAN SLUGGER

Outfielder Logan Hill returns for his third season with the Goldeyes.  Hill batted .233 with 18 doubles, 10 home runs, and 51 RBI in 2021.  During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Hill ranked 13th in the American Association with 13 doubles, and has averaged 22 home runs and 92 RBI per 162 games played over eight years in professional baseball.

NEED FOR SPEED

The Goldeyes added former Toronto Blue Jays’ farmhand Reggie Pruitt Jr. in April.  Pruitt reached the Triple-A level in 2021, and has had as many as 48 stolen bases in a single season.  Pruitt has twice ranked on Baseball America’s Organizational Best Tools lists, earning “Best Outfield Arm” in the Blue Jays’ system in 2018 and then “Fastest Baserunner” in 2019.  Pruitt has averaged 99 runs scored, 60 stolen bases, and 57 walks per 162 games played in six professional seasons.

BEHIND THE PLATE

The Goldeyes have two catchers on their training camp roster, both of whom are coming off strong offensive seasons.  Deon Stafford Jr. returns to the Goldeyes after hitting .309 with four home runs and 21 RBI in 27 games at the end of 2021.  Stafford reached the Double-A level in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization, and was voted an affiliated all-star on two occasions.

New catcher Hidekel Gonzalez (first name pronounced ee-DECK-ell) hit .308 with 20 doubles and 33 RBI in 52 games last season for the independent Pioneer League’s Boise Hawks.  Gonzalez played six years in the Colorado Rockies’ organization, throwing out 34 percent of opposing base stealers, and reaching the Triple-A level in 2019.

FRESH ARMS

Right-handed pitchers Alex Manasa and Freisis Adames have each had success in the affiliated minors, and each have the potential to fit into the Goldeyes’ starting rotation.  Manasa struck out 50 and walked only 11 in 55.1 innings last year at three levels of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  Manasa reached the Triple-A level last year, and was voted a Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star after posting a 3.48 ERA for the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2019.

Adames (full name pronounced FRAY-see ah-DAH-mes) struck out 75 batters in 82.1 innings last season for the High-A Central’s Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers).  On May 29th at Cedar Rapids, Adames pitched the first five innings in what proved to be a combined no-hitter by Wisconsin.  Adames’ fastball averaged 92 mph last season, and the Dominican Republic native has averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his first five years of professional baseball.

DYNAMIC LEFTIES

Returning left-handed pitcher Travis Seabrooke and new left-hander Tasker Strobel project to fill key roles in the Goldeyes’ bullpen.  A member of the Canadian National Team, Seabrooke tied for the American Association lead with 44 appearances in 2021.  Seabrooke struck out 54 in just 45.2 innings pitched, and took the mound on a consecutive calendar day on 14 occasions.

Strobel was acquired via trade in December and had a 3.71 ERA with eight saves last season for the Gary SouthShore RailCats.  Strobel struck out 70 and walked only 20 in 68 innings.  The 70 strikeouts ranked first among American Association pitchers who made less than five starts.

FUEL PUMPS

Right-handers Zac Ryan and Erasmo Pinales add experience and high velocity to the Goldeyes’ relief corps.  Ryan joined the Goldeyes at the end of 2021 after spending the majority of the season with the Triple-A West’s Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels).  Ryan did not allow a run in nine of his 12 appearances with the Goldeyes, and has struck out 27 percent of opposing batters faced over his first four professional seasons.  Ryan’s fastball has averaged 94.1 mph as a professional.

Pinales (pronounced pin-YAHL-es) last pitched in 2019 for the Double-A Texas League’s Corpus Christi Hooks where he struck out 31 batters in just 18.0 innings.  In seven seasons of professional baseball, Pinales has a career 3.31 ERA and an average fastball velocity of 94.9 mph

ALUMNI REPORT

RHP Kent Hasler (2020) has a 1.59 ERA in five appearances for the High-A Midwest League’s Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers).  RHP Cory Thompson (2021) has not allowed a run in seven games for the Double-A Texas League’s Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals).  RHP Frank Duncan (2020) has made five starts for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s Albuquerque Isotopes (Colorado Rockies).  OF Tyler Hill (2019, 2021) is currently in extended spring training with the Rockies’ organization.