First Baseman Brady Shoemaker and Catcher Justin O'Conner Represent Playoff Bound Saints as Post-Season All-Stars
ST. PAUL, MN - It's been a team effort for the St. Paul Saints getting back to the post-season after a season hiatus. Two players, however, were the best at their respective positions and were honored by the American Association as first baseman Brady Shoemaker and catcher Justin O'Conner were named Post-Season All-Stars.
The 31-year-old Shoemaker has had another impressive season hitting .311 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI in 91 games. In 344 at bats he's scored 56 runs, ripped 19 doubles, walked 45 times while striking out only 41 times, has a .403 on base percentage, and a .498 slugging percentage for a notable .892 OPS.
Shoemaker's season got off to a strong start and began to take off in June when he hit safely in nine straight from June 3-12. An eight-game hitting streak, with seven of the eight being multi-hit games, earned him Player of the Week for the week of June 18-24. Shoemaker slugged two home runs on July 12 at Kansas City. In the month of August he hit eight of his 14 home runs, including three straight games from August 8-10. The month included a 14-game hitting streak that started on July 28 and went until August 10.
Shoemaker had an incredible overall season in 2017 with the Saints, hitting .318 with a career high 21 home runs and 57 RBI in 85 games. In 375 at bats he scored 71 runs, roped 22 doubles, one triple, walking 55 times, while striking out just 49 times, with a .435 on base percentage, .603 slugging percentage, for an eye-popping 1.038 OPS. He finished second in the American Association in slugging percentage and on base percentage, tied for second in extra base hits (44), tied for third in home runs, tied for fifth in walks & eighth in batting average (.318).
Shoemaker's season was highlighted by numerous accomplishments including being named the American Association June Rawlings Player of the Month. Shoemaker hit .341 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 26 games in June. In 85 at bats he scored a whopping 25 runs, slugged five doubles, walked 21 times, stole a base, had a .495 on base percentage, a robust .612 slugging percentage, for an incredible 1.107 OPS. He reached base safely in all but one game in the month, the last game. Shoemaker put together two separate eight game hitting streaks and hit safely in 20 of the 26 games played. On June 25, at home against Winnipeg, he hit two home runs, including a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th, and homered in four of seven games from June 21-28. On top of all that he helped guide the Saints to an impressive 19-8 record, tied for the third most wins in the month of June in the franchises 25-year history.
On the very last day of May and for nearly the entire month of June Shoemaker reached base safely in 26 consecutive games from May 31-June 29. He homered in back-to-back games three times during the season. He finished with the third most home runs in a single-season in franchise history, tied for the eighth most extra-base hits and ninth most walks.
Shoemaker is a three-time mid-season All-Star and a three-time Post-Season All-Star during his eight year career. He hit double-digit home runs during his first five seasons and reached Triple-A in both 2015 and 2016. In 2017 he began the season with the Miami Marlins organization and started the season at Double-A Jacksonville. After 43 games he was promoted to Triple-A New Orleans on May 23. The Chicago White Sox, whom Shoemaker began his career with, acquired him on June 30 and placed him at Double-A Birmingham. Between the three teams last season Shoemaker hit .222 with nine home runs and 39 RBI in 99 games.
Shoemaker's career got off to a blazing start after being selected in the 19th round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2009 by the Chicago White Sox out of Indiana State University. Beginning his professional career at the Rookie level in Bristol he tore up the Appalachian League hitting .351 with nine home runs and driving in 34 in 57 games. In 205 at bats he scored 38 runs, roped 21 doubles, had a .426 on base percentage, .585 slugging percentage and an otherworldly 1.011 OPS. His season was highlighted by a career high, and tops in the league, 28-game hitting streak from June 23-July 27. He also had the longest road hitting streak of anyone in the league, hitting in 17 straight from June 29-August 7. Shoemaker finished first in the league in on base percentage, doubles and extra base hits (30), second in slugging, third in batting average and total bases (120) and fourth in HR/AB ratio (1/22.78). He was selected as an Appalachian League Post-Season All-Star and a TOPPS Short-Season/Rookie All-Star. His incredible season got him a taste of Triple-A, playing the final week with the Charlotte Knights.
After a solid season at Single-A Kannapolis in 2010 where he hit .293 with 12 homers and 55 RBI in 96 games, Shoemaker began 2011 at Kannapolis and put the organization on notice that he deserved a promotion. In 99 games with the Intimidators Shoemaker hit .319 with 11 home runs and 65 RBI. In 373 at bats he scored 68 runs, crushed 28 doubles, two triples, had a .391 on base percentage, a .467 slugging percentage and an .892 OPS. His season was highlighted by reaching base safely in 16 consecutive road games, second longest in the South Atlantic League, from June 24-end of the season. He also reached base safely in 20 consecutive home games from April 16-May 23 and reaching base safely in 24 consecutive road games from June 1-end of the season. He finished second in the league in batting average and fifth in on base percentage. He was selected as both a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star and an MiLB Organization All-Star. Shoemaker was called up to High-A Winston Salem on July 27 where He hit .273 with 12 RBI in 19 games.
In 2012 Shoemaker equaled the triple All-Star bid with another Mid-Season, Post-Season and MiLB Organization All-Star honor after an incredible first half of the season at High-A Winston-Salem. He hit .331 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in just 78 games. In 284 at bats he scored 61 runs, hammered 23 doubles, a .422 on base percentage, .549 slugging percentage and an equally impressive .971 OPS. He was twice named Hitter of the Week. The stellar first half earned him a call up to Double-A Birmingham where he hit .254 with four home runs and 26 RBI in 56 games.
Shoemaker missed the entire 2013 season after having surgery for a torn labrum and was claimed by the Miami Marlins in the Rule 5 Draft on December 12. He didn't miss a beat after joining the Marlins organization and was once again selected to a mid-season All-Star Game in 2014 with Double-A Jacksonville. For the season he hit .274 with 12 homers and 71 RBI in 123 games. In 413 at bats he scored 65 runs, slugged 26 doubles, two triples, with a .374 on base percentage and .433 slugging percentage. He helped guide the Suns to a Southern League title. He finished fourth in the league in walks (67) and reached base safely in 23 consecutive games from August 7-end of the season.
Shoemaker was promoted the following season and spent the entire 2015 at Triple-A New Orleans where he hit .284 with nine home runs and 50 RBI.
The 26-year-old O'Conner has been one of the more dangerous power hitting catchers in Saints history and one of the best behind the plate. He is hitting .252 with 17 home runs and 41 RBI in 81 games. In 290 at bats he has scored 44 runs, smacked 10 doubles, a .294 on base percentage, and a .462 slugging percentage. Behind the plate he has thrown out 36.0% of would be base stealers, but more importantly has prevented many teams from running, period. He is currently first in the league in double plays among catchers (12) and assists (5), and fifth in caught stealing percentage.
His power began in June when he clubbed two home runs on June 6 at Wichita. In late June he hit safely in 10-straight from June 29-July 9. As the Saints made a push for the playoffs and had their best month of August in franchise history, O'Conner also got hot. He hit .326 with seven home runs and 18 RBI during the month. He homered in back-to-back games twice on August 16 and 17 and again on August 20 and 21. He has five home runs in his last 11 games. He topped off the month by scoring a run in a career high six straight from August 20-25.
O'Conner split time between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham last year in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Between the two stops he hit .227 with eight home runs and 44 RBI in 85 games. In 309 at bats he scored 30 runs, smacked 19 doubles, one triple, a .288 on base percentage, and .372 slugging percentage. He threw out 24.4% of base stealers in an off year for O'Conner. In his career he has thrown out an astounding 43.7% of would be base stealers (for context Yadier Molina is the Major League record holder throwing out 40.98% in his career). O'Conner's Durham Bulls not only won the International League Championship, but also the Triple-A National Championship 5-3 over the Memphis Redbirds.
O'Conner was a first round draft pick (31st overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 out of Cowan (IN) High School, becoming the first catcher taken in the first round in Rays history. He spent the entire season in the Rookie Gulf Coast League and hit .211 with three homers and 29 RBI in 48 games. He threw out 43.6% of base stealers, an incredible percentage made even more remarkable by the fact he didn't start catching until his senior year in high school. The Rays would lose two-games-to-one in the GCL Championship Series to the Phillies.
In 2011 O'Conner spent the entire season with Princeton in the Rookie Appalachian League. He hit .157 with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 48 games and was tops in the league in throwing out base runners at 35.6%.
O'Conner didn't catch in 2012, instead he was used as a designated hitter in all 58 starts spending the entire season at Low-A Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League. Overall, he hit .223 with five home runs and 29 RBI in 59 games (he entered one game as a pinch hitter). The Renegades claimed the New York-Penn League Championship defeating Tri-City two-games-to-one.
In 2013 O'Conner spent the entire season at Single-A Bowling Green in the Midwest League where he hit .233 with career highs in home runs, 14, and RBI, 56. He homered in three straight games from June 9-12. O'Conner threw out an amazing 55.6% of base stealers and once again his team reached the playoffs, but lost two-games-to-none in the quarterfinals to Fort Wayne.
The breakout season for O'Conner came in 2014 when he received numerous accolades. He spent most of the season at High-A Charlotte in the Florida State League and hit .282 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in 80 games. In 319 at bats he scored 30 runs, smashed a career high 31 doubles, two triples, had a .486 on base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage, for an outstanding .806 OPS. He finished fourth in the Florida State League in doubles, had a 14-game hitting streak from July 3-26, and threw out 50% of base stealers. He was a mid-season All-Star, but more importantly, was chosen to play in the Futures Game on the U.S. squad where he went 1-1. Some of his teammates during the game were Noah Syndergaard, Kris Bryant and Corey Seager. O'Conner was promoted to Double-A Montgomery in the Southern League and hit .263 with two homers and three RBI in 21 games and threw out nine of 12 base runners. Following the season, he was rewarded with an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star, Baseball America High Class-A All-Star, and Post-Season All-Star in the FSL. He played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League where he was selected as a Rising Star and was on the All-Prospect Team.
The 2014 success allowed O'Conner to spend all of 2015 in Montgomery where he hit .231 with nine homers and 53 RBI in 107 games. In 429 at bats he slugged 27 doubles, three triples, a .255 on base percentage, and .371 slugging percentage. He threw out 48.3% of base stealers and led the league among catchers in total chances (865), putouts (759) and assists (91). Perhaps the most astounding statistical anomaly was O'Conner reached on catcher's interference six times during the season. The Biscuits made the playoffs, but lost three-games-to-one to Chattanooga in the semi-finals.
O'Conner spent most of 2016 injured and played in just 20 games between the Gulf Coast League and Montgomery.
O'Conner was considered the top prep backstop in the 2010 draft. ESPN analyst Peter Gammons described him as a "very athletic catcher," and called him "one of the fastest-rising players heading into the draft."
The Post-Season All-Stars are voted on by each of the 12 managers in the American Association and one "media" member from each team, usually the play-by-play broadcasters.
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