Justin O'conner

Calling all American Association managers and personnel directors!

If one needs ammunition to persuade a player the league is right for helping them reach the major leagues the promotional brochure is right in front of you.  In bold type.  And in bright colors screaming for attention.

Does this sound inflated?  No, it is based on fact and taken directly from 2019 major league spring training camps spread throughout Florida and Arizona.

It is nearly impossible to keep up with every move made by the 30 major league organizations, but when the Chicago White Sox called young catcher Justin O’Conner over from where minor leaguers were training for a stint with the parent team at The Ballpark at Camelback Ranch last year’s St. Paul Saints catcher became at least the 36th former American Association player to wear a big-league uniform this spring.

The 36 former American Association prospects in major league uniforms–an average of three for every current league team–may not even be the most impressive statistic since the list of graduates includes such established American and National Leaguers as Opening Day Washington starter Max Scherzer, No. 2 New York Yankees starter James Paxton and Arizona outfield star David Peralta.

The biggest fact that jumps off the page is that 14 of the 36 were signed by major league organizations–most of them purchased out of the American Association–since the end of spring training one year ago.

Stop and think about that fact.

Fourteen players have gone from this league to major league spring training camps either fulltime or at least for a cameo in less than 12 months after they joined their new organization.

That should stop any prospective new player in his tracks.

While most every American Association team is represented, St. Paul is most heavily represented with seven players on the list of 36, and four of them played for the Saints during last season. O’Conner blasted 17 home run in his 82 games (.250, 41 RBI) and he caught three of the others. Matt Solter, who made his professional debut with Gary in 2015, started 15 times for St. Paul (3-5, 4.73) before joining the Cleveland Indians organization along with recently-signed Evan Mitchell (2-0, 2.57 in nine appearances the last three weeks with St. Paul after being released by Cincinnati).  Lefty Chris Nunn started 11 times (7-3, 3.05) and now is with the Texas Rangers.

Sixteen current or former AA teams are represented on the full major league contingent, with Sioux City coming in with six players and last year’s champion Kansas City T-Bones next with five.

Court, Others Face Anxious Times

The major league season begins in less than two weeks so tension has to be rising for every player on the bubble.

This includes former Sioux City shortstop Ryan Court, who is stating his case in a major way for the second spring in a row with the Chicago Cubs.  Court’s current statistics do not measure up to one year ago when he was outstanding but still could not crack the veteran lineup.  Still showing his versatility at multiple positions, Court shares the team lead in games played (16), and he is in the top five in hits (9), at-bats (31) and runs batted in (6).  He is hitting .290 and getting on base at a .343 clip.

Among players sent back to minor league camps in recent days were pitchers Aaron Wilkerson (Grand Prairie) by Milwaukee, James Hoyt (Wichita) by Cleveland and Bo Schultz (Grand Prairie) by Baltimore.

Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003.  He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog,, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at or at


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