Canaries Announce 2015 Team Awards
BY: J.J. Hartigan
The 2015 American Association season concluded on Monday afternoon with a 5-1 win at home for the Sioux Falls Canaries, who finished the year with a 39-60 record. The Birds’ finished with six more victories than the 2014 team and gave fans at Sioux Falls Stadium reason to be excited for the team’s future.
The Canaries offense finished the year third in the league in home runs (80) and second in the league in doubles (188). Individually, outfielder Brian Humphries put together an impressive offensive display in 2015, finishing the season fourth in the league in hits (126) and third in the league in total bases. Humphries appeared in all but one game for the Birds in 2015, finishing the year second on the team in average (.310), and RBI’s (58). The El Cajon, CA native capped off his impressive season with a three-run homer (15) in his final at bat of the season, tying him with teammate David Bergin for the team lead.
The Pitching staff ended up with the 6th best team ERA in 2015 (4.28), and finished the season tied for fourth in complete games (7). Starting pitcher Shawn Blackwell had a roller coaster season for the Birds, but ended the year as one of the hottest pitchers on the staff. The right-hander finished the season with a 5-9 record and 3.64 ERA. Blackwell totaled 103 strikeouts in 2015, sixth most in the American Association. His 128 2/3 innings of work were good enough for 11th most in the league this season.
Humphries and Blackwell each put together an impressive season, but was it good enough to crack our list of top performers? Our crew at sfcanaries.com formed a panel of 40 Canaries players, coaches, and front-office staff to rank the team’s top individual performers. We asked our voters to select one player to represent each category. There were several close races, but in the end there were five players who came out on top. Here’s how we ranked them.
• MVP- Jason Repko
• Pitcher of the Year- Stephen Bougher
• Offensive Player of the Year- David Bergin
• Gold Glove Pitcher- Stephen Bougher
• Gold Glove Position Player- Jason Repko
• Most Improved- Joe Bircher
• Mr. Hustle- Jason Repko
• Mr. Clutch- RJ Perucki
JASON REPKO: .291 AVG / 87 H / 12 2B / 13 HR / 39 RBI / 13 SB
TEAM MVP, GOLD GLOVE (POSITION PLAYER), MR. HUSTLE
It should really come as no big surprise that Jason Repko was the overwhelming choice for team MVP in 2015. The 34-year-old outfielder spent seven seasons in the Major League’s and was already a fan favorite due to his connections with the Minnesota Twins. There were some skeptics though who wondered if the veteran would be able to make it through a 100-game season.
Repko had played in 54 or fewer games in each of the last three seasons, and even briefly retired from baseball in 2013. The former first round draft pick returned to the field in 2014 with the Atlantic League’s York Revolution, but appeared in just 30 games after suffering a season ending leg injury. Repko decided to give it one last shot in 2015, and found a landing spot with the Sioux Falls Canaries, who needed a veteran presence in the locker room.
The outfielder missed the first five games of the season due to a minor shoulder injury, but made an immediate impact in his return to the lineup, hitting a home run in his first at-bat of the season against the Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales. That moment set the tone for what proved to be his best statistical season since 2004 when he hit .303 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI’s at the AA and AAA levels for the LA Dodgers. His 25 total extra base hits, 44 walks, and 13 stolen bases with the Canaries were also the most in a single season for Repko since 2009.
The East Chicago, Indiana native hit his stride in the month of August, leading the team with a .348 batting average. Repko collected 31 hits in the month, leading the team in home runs (6) and RBI (15). Repko ended the year on a high note, hitting safely in 13 of his final 15 games. He hit .365 (23-for-63) during the final two weeks of the season, collecting two doubles, five home runs, and 10 RBI. The first-year Canary finished the year as the team leader in stolen bases (13), third on the team in home runs (15), walks (44), games played (89), and was fourth on the team in RBI (39) and batting average (.291).
STEPHEN BOUGHER: 6-5 / 3.53 ERA / 94.1 IP / 30 BB / 48 K / .282 OAVG
PITCHER OF THE YEAR, GOLD GLOVE PITCHER
Starting pitcher Stephen Bougher wasn’t on first-year manager Chris Paterson’s radar at the beginning of the 2015 season. In fact, Bougher wasn’t even in the American Association on opening day. After a brief stint with the Frontier League’s Lake Erie Crusher’s, he found himself looking for a job. The former South Dakota State University standout happened to be back in the Sioux Falls area for a wedding when the Canaries came calling on June 12th.
The right-hander stepped in to make an emergency start in the opening game of a double-header against the Red-hot St. Paul Saints, who entered the night with a 17-2 record. Bougher held the dangerous Saints offense in check, allowing just five hits over six shutout innings. He earned the 2-0 win in the complete game victory, and a spot in the Canaries starting rotation.
Bougher made 16 starts for the Birds’ in 2015, going 6-5 with a 3.53 ERA, and was the only starting pitcher in the rotation to finish an above .500 record. He was 3-3 with a 4.68 ERA in his first 10 starts, and like his team, was struggling to find a rhythm on the field.
It all came together for Bougher in a start against the Laredo Lemurs on August 3rd. The righty dominated one of the top offenses in the league, holding the opposition to just three hits over six shutout innings and eventually earned the 3-2 win. Bougher went 3-2 in his final seven starts, and watched his ERA drop from 5.23 to 3.53 after allowing just seven earned runs over his final 37 2/3 innings. Bougher capped off his season with back-to-back wins against the Lincoln SaltDogs and Joplin Blasters, and did not allow a run on a combined seven hits over the final 15 innings. He finished the season tied for the team lead in wins (6) and was third in the league in innings pitched (94.1) and complete games (2).
DAVID BERGIN: .331 AVG / 114 H / 23 2B / 4 3B / 15 HR / 65 RBI
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
First-baseman David Bergin put together perhaps the best all-around offensive performance of the season for the Sioux Falls Canaries in 2015. The Tampa, Florida native set career highs in nearly every major category this season while leading the team in average (.331) triples (4), home runs (15), RBI (65), on-base percentage (.427), and slugging percentage (.552). The First year Canary was also second on the team in hits (114), doubles (23), and games played (93).
Bergin was named the American Association’s Pointstreak Player of the Week for June 29th. The power hitting infielder had a big week for the Birds’, going 11-for-21 at the plate (.524 AVG) with three doubles, three home runs, and six RBI. Bergin did most of his damage during a three game series against the Winnipeg Goldeyes. The right-handed hitting first-baseman went 9-for-12 with two doubles, three home runs, and five RBI. He capped off the big weekend going 4-for-5, with an 8th inning homerun, his third in three games.
Bergin hit safely in 13 of his final 15 games with the Birds’ in 2015. He hit .413 (24-for-58) during that stretch while hitting five doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI.
JOE BIRCHER: 4-4 / 3.05 ERA / 85.2 IP / 26 BB / 48 K / .242 OAVG
Starting pitcher Joe Bircher entered his second season with the Sioux Falls Canaries in 2015 as the only remaining member of the 2014 staff. The Canaries felt that Bircher’s numbers from the previous season (4-8, 4.37 ERA) weren’t great, but they also knew that the southpaw had a serious lack of run-support and some bad luck. New manager Chris Paterson needed a reliable lefty on the back end of the rotation, and decided to bring Bircher back for a fresh start in 2015.
Bircher made the most of his opportunity, and for the first month of the season, was one of the top two pitchers in the rotation. The left-hander was 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA in his first four starts of the season, and was 3-3 with a 3.59 ERA after defeating the Lincoln SaltDogs at home.
The Omaha, Nebraska native suffered an oblique strain in that game, and missed a month of play time while recovering on the DL before returning to the ball club on August 8th. He tossed a scoreless inning in relief against the Sioux City Explorers in that game and slowly worked his way back into the starting rotation.
Bircher would pick up just one more win in 2015, picking up a 1-0 win over the Winnipeg Goldeyes on September 1st. Bircher tossed seven shutout innings while striking out a season high seven batters in the 1-0 win. He backed that performance up with another strong showing in his final start of the season on September 6th, but ended up with a no-decision in the Canaries 6-4 loss to the Joplin Blasters. Bircher allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits while striking out three batters in six innings.
RJ PERUCKI: .274 AVG / 91 H / 11 2B / 3 HR / 34 RBI / 5 SB
Manager Chris Paterson knew he would need some young players to step up and produce for the squad in 2015. Infielder RJ Perucki, one of the youngest players on the roster, played for Paterson and the Rio Grande Valley Whitewings on the way to a United League Championship in 2014. Paterson knew that Perucki had the glove and big bat to step up and be a play-maker for the team, but his heroics became almost a nightly occurrence.
Perucki quickly made a name for himself with outstanding defense at third base, but his bat made him the talk of the town after a walk-off homerun against the Sioux City Explores on June 20th. Fans at Sioux Falls Stadium saw three ties, and five separate lead changes in the game before Perucki’s deep blast over the left-field wall in the bottom of the 9th inning.
The San Antonio, Texas native did it again nine days later, this time with a walk-off single against the Wichita Wingnuts. Perucki was 0-for-3 going into the bottom of the 9th inning, but made his only hit of the day count, bringing home teammate Michael Wing from third base on a walk-off single to right-center.
Perucki was a solid threat at the plate, and a versatile player in the field, playing all four infield positions. He appeared in 88 games for the Birds’ in 2015, playing 69 of those games at third base. The undrafted rookie finished his first season in a Canaries uniform with a .274 batting average, while racking up 11 doubles, three home runs, and 34 RBI.