Asheville Tourists’ 2022 Season Recap

Asheville Tourists

The 2022 season of Asheville Tourists baseball was a unique year filled with highlights, standout individual performances, and opportunities for the Tourists to showcase their resolve in times of frustration. 2022 was truly a tale of two halves.

Asheville began the season with wins in only four of its first 24 games, finished the first half with a 26-39 record, and bounced back in the second half with a 36-30 mark to narrowly miss out on a post-season berth. Asheville finished the year with a 62-69 overall record; however, the team defended McCormick Field with a winning record in front of the home crowd.

The season began with a rough month of April that saw Asheville go 3-17. The Tourists went ten games over .500 from May 6 through the end of the campaign. Asheville’s best month of play came in August where the team reeled off a 17-11 record. The Tourists were also over .500 in the months of May and September.

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On August 18, with only three-and-a-half weeks left in the season, the Tourists were 9.5 games back of first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern division. Asheville’s only chance to earn a playoff spot was to erase the deficit and win the second half. The Tourists came together as a team and rallied. In under three weeks Asheville shaved off 7.5 games and positioned themselves two games back of first place with five games left to play. The team never quit. Asheville played well in all five of their remaining games but ultimately were eliminated from playoff contention.

The 2022 Asheville Tourists consisted of 52 players throughout the course of the season; 23 position players and 29 pitchers. 18 of the 29 pitchers made at least one start and all 23 offensive players played multiple defensive positions and hit in multiple spots in the batting order.

The player who appeared in the most games for Asheville this season was Michael Sandle with 114 games played. Sandle led the South Atlantic League in runs scored (79), was second in hits (126), fourth in total bases (189), tied for sixth in doubles (23) and triples (6), and stole a team-high 23 bases. Michael also led all Tourists players in multi-hit games with 41.

JC Correa appeared in the second most contests for Asheville this year and finished second in the South Atlantic Leage with a .309 batting average. Correa finished third in the SAL in hits (125), second in doubles (29), and ninth in total bases (180). Correa’s 64 RBI tied for the team lead and ranked tenth in the league. JC won the SAL Player of the Week award during the week of July 11-17. Perhaps one of the most impressive feats JC accomplished in 2022 was that he ranked number one in all Minor League Baseball when it came to putting the bat on the ball. Correa only struck out in 8% of his plate appearances, an industry best.

One of Asheville’s biggest contributors offensively this season was Zach Daniels. The everyday outfielder became the first Tourists player to join the 20 Home Run/20 Stolen Base club since 2018. Daniels hit 23 Home Runs, third most in the league, and stole 22 bases. Zach also hit a career best .282 across 95 games which ranked as the ninth best batting average in the SAL. Daniels’ slugging percentage of .522 was second best on the circuit, his 76 runs scored were third most in the league, and he also finished out the season with a 20-game reach base streak intact.

Luis Santana was one of the biggest fan favorites of the 2022 Asheville Tourists due to an incredibly productive season combined with his charismatic playing style. Santana’s .329 batting average from May 1 through the end of the season was second in the league during that time, behind only Correa’s mark of .330. Luis finished the year ranked fifth in batting average with a .297 clip. Santana was also fifth in On-Base Percentage (.386), tied for sixth in doubles (23), tenth in slugging percentage (.472), and 12th in RBI (62). Santana was named the SAL Player of the Month during the month of June.

Asheville also received outstanding production offensively from Colin Barber, Kenedy Corona, and Quincy Hamilton. The trio all hit over .290 with Hamilton’s .321 mark earning him a promotion after appearing in 49 games with the Tourists. Barber recorded a .408 On-Base Percentage in 63 games to go along with seven Home Runs. Corona appeared in 62 contests for the Tourists and became Asheville’s everyday leadoff hitter down the stretch. Corona hit 10 Home Runs and stole 20 bases while accruing an .871 OPS.

Cristian Gonzalez and Chad Stevens mainly patrolled the left side of the infield during the 2022 season and the duo both made major improvements throughout the year. Stevens was top ten in the SAL in RBI prior to a season-ending injury. Chad hit 12 Home Runs and stole 12 bases. Gonzalez finished the campaign on a high note with a .350 batting average in the month of September and delivered one of the best single-game performances of the year. Cristian drove in nine runs, one shy of a league record, as part of a 4-for-5 effort on June 14 vs. Rome.

Joey Loperfido, Miguel Palma, Luis Guerrero, and Tim Borden II all joined the Tourists in the middle of the season and were instrumental in Asheville’s second half success. Loperfido and Borden II both won SAL Player of the Week awards while Palma hit .327 with seven Home Runs and 29 RBI in 27 games. Guerrero also belted seven Home Runs and finished second on the team in triples with four.

Overall, Asheville’s offense posted the number one batting average in the league (.270). The Tourists also led the SAL in runs scored, hits, total bases, and doubles. Asheville finished second in Home Runs with 161.

A big reason for Asheville’s strong finish and competitive nature this season was the pitching staff.

Several Tourists pitchers shined throughout the 2022 season. The pitching staff recorded four shutout victories and was excellent in closing out close games. The Tourists went 48-2 when carrying a lead into the ninth inning. The staff recorded the third most strikeouts in the league and posted a team ERA under four over the last 30 days of the season.

Aaron Brown was the only member of the Tourists staff who pitched enough innings to qualify for the SAL Earned Run Average race. Aaron finished with the ninth best ERA in the league. Brown made a team-high 14 starts and posted a 2.89 ERA in six August appearances.

Chayce McDermott, Spencer Arrighetti, and Cesar Gomez were also mainstays in the Asheville rotation. Arrighetti and McDermott led the Tourists and both finished top ten in the SAL in strikeouts. Gomez topped the team in wins with seven and earned a South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week nod in May. Gomez went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA from the beginning of July to the time of his promotion to Double-A in the middle of August.

The bullpen attack was led by primary relievers Danny Cody, Jose Betances, Cole McDonald, and Jacob Coats. Cody led the team in Saves with six. Betances held opponents to a .191 batting average in 29 appearances. McDonald joined the triple digit strikeout club with 100 strikeouts in 60 innings. Coats electrified the crowd with his high-90’s fastball in late game situations.

Diosmerky Taveras, Heitor Tokar, Ryan Gusto, and Ernesto Jaquez all rotated from the starting rotation to long relief roles throughout the season and all four delivered outstanding performances at various points throughout the season.

Rhett Kouba and Ray Gaither became dominant options on the mound especially during Asheville’s final push. Kouba and Gaither both held opponents to under one hit per inning pitched and posted a strikeout rate over one batter per inning pitched. Gaither’s 11 strikeouts in his final outing were the most strikeouts recorded by a Tourists pitcher in a single game. Kouba struck out eight batters in three of his last four appearances.

From the beginning of August through the end of the season, Asheville won more games than every other team in the South Atlantic League. In a season that delivered excitement, heartbreak, adversity, growth, milestones, and entertainment, the accomplishments by the 2022 Asheville Tourists go well beyond a near post-season appearance. This team represented the city of Asheville and the Tourists name to the highest regard. When the Tourists took the field for the final game of the year, Asheville delivered a convincing win. Instead of handshakes in the celebration line, each player delivered a congratulatory hug to their teammate, one after the other, only then to receive the same reaction from every member of the coaching staff as they left the field. Truly a job well done.

Written by Doug Maurer, Asheville Tourists.