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AA Week in Review: Finals are underway; more awards announced

A familiar name wins another honor.

Baltimore Orioles v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The American Association regular season finished up last week and after a day off, the Finals kicked off at Franklin Field in Franklin, Wisc. One team took a quick 2-0 series lead before the series moved to Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Milwaukee Milkmen got to work quickly in the bottom of the first of game one. Tyler Herron started for the Sioux Falls Canaries and after a strikeout, issued a walk and a single. Back-to-back RBI singles by Jose Sermo and David Washington added two runs to the board before a ground-out made it two outs in the inning. However, a Zach Nehrir RBI double followed and a two-run homer by Christian Correa really blew the game open. The home team put up a crooked number on the scoreboard once all was said and done, leading 6-0.

The Canaries retaliated quickly thanks to a two-run homer by Jabari Henry in the top of the second. Henry also tallied another RBI in the top of the sixth on a double and was driven in on an error later in the frame. Another double by Henry brought in a runner in the top of the eighth while Clint Coulter added a solo shot in the ninth.

However, Milwaukee added additional runs throughout the game. An RBI single by Dylan Tice added a run in the second, back-to-back solo homers by Brett Vertigan and Tice in the sixth, and an RBI double by Mason Davis made the score 11-6 in favor of the Milkmen, who took the first game of the series.

David Holmberg started for Milwaukee and managed four innings of five-hit ball. The lefty allowed two earned runs and four strikeouts. The W was awarded to Ryan Kussmaul, who went two innings, allowing one earned run on two hits with three strikeouts.

The second game of the series was a game that would have been to Rob Manfred’s liking - a swift two hours, 34 minutes. This pitching duel saw Tyler Danish start for the Birds and Henderson Alvarez take the bump for the Milkmen. The only damage done for either pitcher came in the middle innings - a solo homer by Milkmen outfielder Zach Nehrir in the fifth and a Davis RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.

Danish (6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) was tagged with the loss while Alvarez (7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) earned the win. All-Star Peyton Gray closed the door for the save, sending the Milkmen on their way to Sioux Falls with a 2-0 series lead.

Player of the Year

The league has announced a pair of yearly awards in the past week, and you’ve read this next name quite a bit lately if you’ve made it this far into the weekly recaps. Milkmen outfielder Adam Brett Walker II has been named AA Player of the Year.

Walker proved himself as a power hitter in the league this year. His regular season slash line amounted to .268/.320/.609 with the slugging percentage being the second-best among all eligible players. He belted a league-best 22 homers, a league-second-best 50 RBI (one short from the lead), and he tied for third in runs scored (42). Walker also tallied seven doubles, a triple, and three stolen bases.

The outfielder was drafted in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins. He worked his way up the farm system, mashing at least 25 homers at each level from Cedar Rapids to Rochester, topping out at 31 home runs to go along with 106 RBI at Chattanooga in 2015. He was put on waivers by the Twins after the conclusion of the 2016 season and bounced from team to team in 2017. He batted .190/.237/.401 with 15 homers and 46 RBI between five teams that season before landing with the Washington Nationals’ Double-A club in 2018. He then found time to play three games with the Kansas City T-Bones and latched on with the Milkmen in their inaugural season last year, when he also hit 22 homers but in 98 games.

The Player of the Year honor is determined by voting from the league’s managers, team executives, and media representatives.

Manager of the Year

For his leadership during an unprecedented season, Winnipeg Goldeyes skipper Rick Forney was voted Manager of the Year for the 2020 season. This is Forney’s second such award during his time in the AA, earning his first one in 2011. He’s been at the helm of the Fish for 15 seasons, leading Winnipeg to titles in 2012, 2016, and 2017. Forney managed the team even after the unexpected death of his oldest son in late February from a sudden cardiac arrest.

The Goldeyes operated as a road team this season, playing a majority of their home games in Fargo, N.D., as crossing the international border between the United States and Canada was not plausible for the season. Winnipeg was at the top of the standings for a good portion of the season, but slipped to a 29-31 record at the close of the season. However, they still stayed in playoff contention until the final few days of the season.

Forney, a starting pitcher, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 26th round of the 1991 MLB Draft. After spending five years in the Os organization, he pitched for the Lubbock Crickets of the Texas-Louisiana League in 1996 before pitching with Winnipeg for four years (with a brief hiatus to pitch for the Atlanta Braves’ Double-A club in 1999). He then moved into a pitching coach role for five years before being named the manager of the club in 2006.

Additional awards to be announced

Four more awards will be announced this week. Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year will be revealed today. Executive of the Year will be announced tomorrow while Playing Surface of the Year will be announced on Thursday. Organization of the Year will be announced next month.

Transactions

The four teams that are out of contention have each made a number of transactions since the end of their season. Most moves were to return the contracts of players back to the players’ original teams, especially to those within the league. Other players had come from other independent leagues as well as affiliated minor leagues.

Remaining transactions were to complete trades made during the season with other independent league teams.

Coming up...

The series moves from the home of the Milkmen to the Birdcage in Sioux Falls, home of the Canaries. Game three starts tonight at 705p; game four starts at the same time tomorrow. The remaining games, if necessary, are scheduled as noted below. All games are available to view on aabaseball.tv or you can listen to the Canaries broadcast from their team website.

  • Game 5: Thursday, 705p at Sioux Falls
  • Game 6: Friday, 635p at Milwaukee
  • Game 7: Saturday, 305p at Milwaukee

Final Regular Season Standings

Team Record GB
Team Record GB
Milwaukee Milkmen 34-26 --
Sioux Falls Canaries 31-27 2.0
St Paul Saints 30-30 4.0
Winnipeg Goldeyes 29-31 5.0
Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 28-32 6.0
Chicago Dogs 26-32 7.0