It’s been a while since I published one of these columns. For the uninitiated, what will follow this introduction are quick bite-sized glances at players of note in the American Association. We’ve reached the stage of the AA season where we can take a quick look at some players who have stood out from the pack. I decided to keep it all positive this time out and look at the five players who have excelled the most in my eyes to start the 2021 AA season.
Jared Walker – First Baseman for Sioux City Explorers
Walker was a big question mark coming into the 2021 season. The Explorers were hoping to get the best version of Walker but he has been inconsistent throughout his career. So far this season the Explorers have gotten more than they could have hoped for. In 80 plate appearances, Walker is slashing .323/.450/.662 with four doubles and six home runs. The lefty slugger has provided all the power the Explorers wanted and is a major reason they find themselves with the best record in the league so far.
Mike Hart – Catcher/Right Fielder for Sioux Falls Canaries
2021 isn’t Hart’s first go-around with the Canaries or the AA. He’s been in the league since 2018 and he has spent all, or in the case of 2018 part of, each of those seasons with the Canaries. Sioux Falls knew what to expect from their utility knife, but they couldn’t have been expecting his sudden uptick in power. He’d never had a season with a Slugging Percentage above .491, but this season in 83 plate appearances he is Slugging .677. He’s done so on the back of six home runs and the same number of doubles. The rest of his slash is an equally impressive .308/.446 and while it will be interesting to see if Hart can keep up his newfound power prowess, it will be fun to watch at least.
Kevin McGovern – Starting Pitcher for Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
I really love watching McGovern pitch, have in all the years I have been watching AA baseball. That being said, the right-hander has had his ups and downs throughout his 10 years in unaffiliated baseball. He’s always flashed great stuff, but he’s never put it all together quite like he has this season. In 32.0 innings he has an ERA of 1.41, a WHIP of 0.531, and a SO/BB ratio of 12.33. Even more impressive than all of that is that he has two Complete Games and one Shutout. That is a great way for a pitcher to appeal to my old baseball-loving heart.
Aaron Hill – Second Baseman/Shortstop for Milwaukee Milkmen
I have been high on Hill since I first read up about him while with the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League. To say I was disappointed with how much he struggled in his first season with the Milkmen would be an understatement. Based on his early results in 2021 it seems that the 2020 season was nothing more than a bump in the road. Hill is slashing .293/.431/603 with five home runs and 14 walks to only 14 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances. The only concern with HIll is that he continues to attempt too many stolen bases, he’s been successful four times but caught three times. Other than that, everything is looking like Hill has turned a corner and if not for the last player on this list he’d be the best player in the AA so far this season.
José Sermo – Third Baseman for Sioux City Explorers
Sermo remains, without question, one of the best players in unaffiliated ball. Whether it’s summer, spring, or winter ball he’s almost always one of the elite players in whatever league he is participating in at the time. 2021 and the AA has been no different as the Explorers stud has slashed .279/.421/.705 with seven home runs, three doubles, and one triple in 76 plate appearances. He has an 85.7 SB% and 15 walks to only 16 strikeouts. This season Sermo hasn’t even had to show off his positional flexibility that usually sees him playing multiple infield and outfield positions. He’s played a great third base and is the number one reason for the Explorers’ success. Once again Sermo finds himself the best player in the AA and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up his play all year long.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – OurSports Central