The Next One: High school outfielder Gareth Morgan of Toronto, Ontario is ranked the third best prospect available for the 2014 draft by the scouting website Perfect Game. The 15-yearold phenom is arguably the most hyped baseball prospect to ever come out of Canada. (via www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com)
With a ninth-inning strikeout of outfielder Luis Figueroa, closer Fernando Rodney put the finishing touches on an impressive 3-0 win over rival Puerto Rico as team Dominican Republic officially laid claim to the 2013 WBC championship. Led by major league All-Stars such as Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz, team DR was a proverbial juggernaut, going undefeated during the three week tournament to capture their first title in the WBC's brief history. Now all those teams who came up short will have to wait until 2017 for another shot at glory and Canada, who bowed out of the tournament in the first round will be one of many countries looking for redemption. Granted, many of the players who made up 2013's edition of team Canada may not be back for the next WBC, but the 2017 roster should be bolstered by the addition of the next wave of young talent the country has produced. Among the returnees we can probably expect: Joey Votto, Jameson Taillon, Michael Saunders, Chris Leroux, Phillipe Aumont, John Axford, and maybe just maybe Justin Morneau for his swan song, but here is a look at some of the players who could make up the rest of team Canada's 28-man roster.
1) Brett Lawrie, 3B, 6'0 225, R/R, Langley, BC
(Age by 2017) 27.1 years
(MLB stats 2012) 125(g) 494(ab) .273/.324/.405 11(hr) 48(rbi) 26(2b) 3(3b) 33(bb) 86(so) 13(sb) 8(cs) 17(e)
The "Great White (North) Hype", is not in fact Terry Conklin, it's this red-bull and vodka charged native of British Columbia. Lawrie, who plays third base for Canada's de facto team (the Toronto Blue Jays), was actually on Canada's WBC roster before he was felled by a rib cage injury. It was a tough personnel loss for a lefty dominant lineup that sure could have used some thunder from the right side that Lawrie has been known to provide. Equally absent was the virtuoso defense at the hot corner that we have come to expect, and which was sorely missed as fans were subjected to watching Taylor Green's shaky performance as his understudy. The 2017 Canadian team will be much better just by having the dynamic, sometimes manic Lawrie actually take the field. He can electrify a crowd with his combination of power and speed, and especially his defense. A dynamic player with a flair for the dramatic, his infectious energy and approach to the game should have the same effect Jose Reyes' did for the Dominican Republic.
2) Josh Johnson, RHP, 6'7 250, Minneapolis, MN
(Age in 2017) 33.1 years
Miami (MLB stats 2012) 31gs 8-14 3.81era 191.1ip 180h 65bb 165
In a December 1-on-1 feature on Sportsnet we learned for the first time that Minnesota native Josh Johnson (acquired weeks before by the Blue Jays in a multi-player trade with the Marlins) was the son of Al Johnson. Who is Al Johnson you ask? Well, the who is not as important as the what, and what Al Johnson is, is a Canadian citizen. Why does this matter? Well with his status as a quasi-Canadian, the younger Johnson would have been eligible to play for Canada's entry at the 2013 WBC under the tournament's lax rules. In retrospect Johnson would have been an important addition to team Canada, at least on paper, giving the team a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter, and allowing ptiching phenom Jameson Taillon to move down the depth chart a little. Well hindsight is 20/20, I guess. Could Johnson have bought Canada an extra win against let's say Italy, and assured them a place in the second round? Possible. Or could he have shut out the Yanks in the deciding game through 65 pitches and lead the good guys to a historic victory? Also possible. There is no guarantee however, that A) The Blue Jays let one of their prized off season acquisitions (especially one with a medical history like Johnson's) play in the tournament, and B) That Johnson would even want to play for a country he only has a incidental attachment to. Of course these are questions that the team Canada brass should have been doing their due diligence to get to the bottom of prior to the WBC. It's possible someone missed the boat on this one, then again we can hardly blame anyone for deciding to pass on yet another bland Barry Davis feature. In any case, the same caveats that applied to Johnson's participation in 2013, apply doubly to the 2017 tournament. Johnson will be 33 by then, and it is unlikely that any team he belongs to, even if it is the Blue Jays would allow him to pitch "important" innings that early on into spring training. But if by some miracle he were allowed to perform, that would give Canada's rotation a definite boost, and would arguably be our top starter even at his advanced age. While Johnson may no longer be the hard throwing fire-baller who dialed his fastball up to 98 to 100 in his hey day, hestill can get it up there at 92-94mph with his signature wipeout slider, a solid curve, and the veteran savvy of 13 years in the big leagues.
3) Scott Diamond, LHP, 6'3 220, Guelph, ON
(Age by 2017) 30.7 years
(MLB stats 2012) 27(gs) 12-9(w-l) 3.54era 1cg 1sho 173ip 184h 31bb 90so
Diamond was a little-known young pitcher in an Atlanta Braves organization flush with young pitching when the Twins took him in the 2010 Rule 5 draft (before later arranging a trade for the Canadian lefty). Diamond who had a solid but unspectacular career at the University of Birmingham prior to being drafted as a Junior in 2007, has slowly become a very solid but unspectacular pitcher for the Twins, who seem to have a lucky rabbit's foot when it comes to Rule 5 picks (see. Johan Santana). While Diamond is not likely to ever reach Santana's level of success, in 2012 he showed he can be a very capable number 3 starter. Diamond has average velocity on a fastball that sits around 87-91mph and tops out at 92. He mixes in a curveball that can be above average at times, and a changeup that produces plenty of groundballs. He has posted a very respectable groundball rate of 50% through his minor league career, and much of his success in 2012 came from a stellar groundball rate of 61.4%. That number will have to stay high going forward if he is to repeat that success as Diamond doesn't really have a true strikeout pitch. Whatever the case, health permitting his addition to the team Canada roster in 2017 should give the team a reliable veteran starter in a rotation that is likely to be made up of young inexperienced arms.
4) George Kottaras, C,6'0 200, L/R, Scarborough, ON
(Age by 2017) 33.9 years
(MLB stats 2012) 85(g) 171(ab) .211/.351/.415 9(hr) 31(rbi) 6(2b) 1(3b) 37(bb) 48(so) 4(e)
Every team needs a good backup catcher, and Kottaras who broke into the big leagues with the Red Sox back in 2008 has been just that over his major league career. He's reputed to be an above average defender, who works well with a pitching staff, though he doesn't throw particularly well. His veteran pressence should be an added bonus for team Canada's young pitching staff in 2017. Offensively, he has pretty good power from the left side, and exels at getting on base via the walk, earning a free pass in 13.8% of his career plate appearances, while posting a respectable strikeout rate of 19.3%. On the down side, Kottaras will be almost 34 by the time the next World Baseball Classic rolls around, and there's no guarantee how his knees will hold up at that age. He'll most likely serve as a backup like he has for most of his career, and play only against right-handed pitchers as he's struggled against lefties for his career.
1) Oscar Tavares, OF,6'2 180, L/L, Puerta Plata, DR
(Age by 2017) 24.8 years years
Cardinals (AA stats 2012) 124(g) 477(ab) .321/.380/.572 23hr 94rbi 37(3b) 7(3b) 42(bb) 56(so) 10(sb) 1(cs) 5(e)
In December, much to the delight of Canadian fantasy baseball fans, Richard Griffin reported that St. Louis Cardinals' top prospect Oscar Tavares (number 3 according to BA) had a Canadian passport and was eligible to play for Team Canada at the WBC. It turns out Tavares spent his teenage years living in Toronto with his family before moving back to the Dominican Republic prior to his 16th birthday. Given his dual citizenship there must be some question as to where his loyalty lies. For what it's worth Tavares has seemed open to the idea based on an interview he gave the Toronto Star, unfortunately the brain trust for team Canada did not elect to add Tavares to their roster this time around. If sanity prevails in 2017, and I think all Canadian baseball fans hope it will, Tavares will be on the team and could arguably be our best player. He's been compared to Carlos Beltran, and is a player that every country would certainly love to have playing for them. A five-tool player, with enough speed to play centerfield (though he would profile better in a corner), regardless of where he plays it will be his ability to hit for power and average at the plate that would make him a tremendous addition to team Canada's lineup.
2) James Paxton, LHP, 6'4" 220, Richmond, BC
(Age by 2017) 28.4 years years
(AA stats 2012) 21(gs) 9-4(w-l) 3.05(era) 106.1(ip) 96(h) 54(bb) 110(so)
The big lefty from British Columbia was drafted in the first round by the Blue Jays in 2009, but failed to come to terms on a bonus before the signing deadline. Toronto's loss was the Mariners gain as they were able to scoop up the former Kentucky Wildcats' ace in the fourth round the following year. Paxton brings a pretty impressive arsenal to the mound. He has a plus fastball that regularly sits 93-94 and can reach the upper 90s on occasion. He complements that with a power slider that he uses effectively as his strikeout pitch as you can see by his stats (10.6 strikeouts per nine innings). While his inconsistent command and below average changeup might hold him back from being a starter long term, his pure stuff should make him a valuable addition to team Canada regardless of whether it's in the bullpen or rotation.
On The Way:
1) Gareth Morgan, OF, 6'4 210, R/R, North York, ON
(Age by 2017) 21.9 years
Morgan is perhaps the most celebrated baseball prospect ever to come out of Canada, and he hasn't even finished high school yet. The expectations for the 16-yearold have been lofty to say the least, with Baseball America ranking him as the 3rd best prospect eligible for the 2014 draft. Morgan has all the tools of a prototypical right fielder with easy raw power from the right side, a very strong arm, and solid mobility for his size, leading to comparisons with former Toronto Blue Jays star Jesse Barfield. Morgan has honed his skills playing for the Ontario Blue Jays and the Canadian Junior National Team competing against some of the best high school players in North America and even some college of minor league teams. He will need time to mature physically and refine his approach at the plate, where his swing can be a little long, but with his raw tools the skies the limit. He'll only be 21 by the time the next WBC tournament rolls around, and it usually takes a high school player on average 6 years to reach the majors, so it would be difficult to expect big contributions from him. More than likely he'll still be a prospect by then, in high-A or Double-A (unless he's Brett Lawrie), but as Jameson Taillon showed this past weekend, a top prospect can make an impact at this tournament even without big league experience.
2) Cal Quantrill, RHP, 6'3 165, Port Hope, ON
(Age by 2017) 22 years
We all remember Cal's father, Paul pitching for the Blue Jays many years ago as one of their most reliable bullpen options. Well according to many scouts, his son not only has a chance to be much better, but could be one of the best pitching prospects this country has produced in a long time. The big league blood lines are apparent from the moment you look at the younger Quantrill, who has the type of thin ultra projectable body and and a clean delivery that you want in a pitching prospect. Right now he throws his fastball in the 88-90mph range but at peak physical maturity it's easy to see him pitching in the low to mid 90s. He shows an advanced changeup for a high school pitcher at around 75-76mph, and it ranks as his best offspeed offering. His 79mph slider is also a solid pitch, though he doesn't throw it as frequently yet. Cal is an excellent athlete who fields his position well. While his physical tools are very impressive, what may be more impressive is his IQ both on and off the field. A Stanford commit, he scored 1400 on his SATs leading one Baseball America writer to call him "a borderline genius." I probably wouldn't go that far, but he certainly looks like a virtuoso on the mound. He's poised and confident, showing a maturity beyond his years. He has experience against high level competition playing for the Canadian Junior National Team against college and pro hitters. He'll be 22 by the next WBC, and with his talent and maturity level it's hard not to see him on a major league roster by then.
4) Ryan Kellog, LHP, 6'6 220, Whitby, ON
(Age by 2017) 23.1 years
Arizona State (2013) 4g-3gs 3-0 0.82era 22ip 14h 2bb 18so
The top Canadian prospect for the 2012 draft, Kellogg was taken by the home town Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th round, but choose to attend university rather than signing. So far it looks like a good idea. Not only will he be receiving three years of free education from a Division I school, but on the field he's already generating buzz for freshman of the year based on his strong early showing for the Sun Devils. Already a veteran of several junior national teams, the Toronto native should have no problem representing team Canada in 2017. Kellogg is very competitive and poised with a feel for pitching well beyond his years. He seems comfortable facing high-level competition having pitched a two-inning no-hit shutout versus the Toronto Blue Jays Jose, Bautista, JP Arencibia, Brett Lawrie, and Adam land during a spring training exhibition. A big projectable lefty who already has a 89-91mph fastball and a big breaking curveball, expect the velocity to go up a few ticks and the curve to firm up by the time he's drafted again in 2016, the year before the next WBC tournament.
5) Malik Collymore, SS/2B, 6'0 190, R/R, Toronto, ON
(Age by 2017) 21.9 years
A talented middle-infielder from Toronto, Collymore is arguably the top Canadian prospect eligible for the 2013 draft, having already impressed numerous scouts at one of the Perfect Game showcases with his impressive package off tools. Collymore is an plus-plus runner posting a recorded 60-time of 6.50 seconds. He possesses a strong enough arm (88mph) to play shortstop as he does currently, but some scouts feel his actions and footwork profile better at second base. Collymore has enough athleticism and foot speed to shift to an outfield corner down the line if needed, but Canada has never produced a major league caliber shortstop and Collymore will be looking to change that. Whatever position Collymore plays it's arguably his pro-level hitting tools that has scouts the most excited. An aggressive hitter with a contact oriented approach, Collymore has very quick hands and plus bat speed that causes the ball to explode off the barrel of his bat. He has the potential to be a power-speed combo at the top of a major league batting order.
6) Tyler O'Neill, C/SS, 200, R/R, Maple Ridge, BC
(Age by 2017) 21.8 years
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A catcher-slash-infielder with a quick bat and serious tools playing for the Langley Blaze. If you thought Brett Lawrie, you wouldn't be the first one to have made that mistake, but it's actually a description of high school catcher Tyler O'Neill who has been garnering comparisons to the Blue Jays' energetic third baseman for his style of play. O'Neill exudes the same type of swagger and confidence as Lawrie and even resembles him a little physically. An intense and hard-nosed competitor O'Neill had hernia surgery last spring and wasn't able to play his natural position (catcher), so he played shortstop instead, which speaks to both his athleticism and his makeup. The Oregon commit is currently rated as BA's 85th best North American prospect for the 2013 draft, thanks to three pro-level tools in his speed (6.75), arm strength, and plus bat speed. Like Lawrie O'Neill is a powerfully built athlete (already 200lbs for a teenager), with explosive bat speed. Team Canada would have loved to have one player of Lawrie's caliber in 2013, imagine what kind of damage they could do with two.
7) Maxx Tissenbaum, 2B, 6'0 205, S/R, Toronto, ON
(Age by 2017) 25.7 years
San Diego (-A stats 2012) 47g 169ab .296/.403/.379 3hr 29rbi 5(2b) 27bb 14so 2sb 1cs 1e
Stony Brook (NCAA stats 2012) 65g 241ab .390/.453/.519 3hr 51rbi 20(2b) 1(3b) 29bb 9so 0sb 1cs
My sleeper pick as a prospect for the Padres and Team Canada's 2017 WBC entry, Tissenbaum is a small scrappy player with a tremendous work ethic and a feel for the game. While his tools rate at just average (his speed might actually be below average) he makes up for it, especially on defense, with excellent reads and good jumps, speaking to his instincts and baseball IQ. Tissenbaum's ticket to the show however will be his bat. A very good hitter with a patient approach, one look at his walk and strikeout ratios will show you why he's a Sabermetrician's dream. He has superb hand eye coordination and also does a good job recognizing pitches. That alone makes him difficult to strikeout and allows him to get on base at a Pedroia-esque rate. Mostly singles and doubles hitter, he will show surprising pop for a player his size. I can definitely see him being Canada's second baseman at the 2017 WBC, replacing the ageless Pete Orr.
8) Lachlan Fontaine, 3B, 6'3 210, L/R, North Vancouver, BC
(Age by 2017) 21.6 years
Fontaine is one of Canada's top prospects for the 2013 MLB draft, and he has legit big league potential. He profiles perfectly at third base as his carrying tools are his plus left handed power and his plus arm strength (90mph). Fontaine is an average to below average runner (7.31) but he's quick and athletic enough to handle the hot corner. Big and strong with a smooth left handed swing, he's a relatively mature hitter with plus bat speed, and he has already shown he can handle 90mph velocity at a number of big showcases. Some of the things he'll have to work on to reach his potential include his hitting approach which is primarily pull-oriented and can get long at times, as well as his ability to recognize breaking pitches better. If he's developed properly team Canada could be looking at a middle of the order type of hitter at a corner position, if not in 2017, perhaps in 2021.
9) Nicholas Pivetta, RHP, 6'6 225, Victoria, BC
(Age by 2017) 24 years
New Mexico (JUCO stats 2012) 12gs 4-1 54ip 63h 29so 22bb 4.83era
Big strong right-hander with a power arm. One of the top prospects coming out of the JUCO ranks for the 2013 draft, Pivetta has a fastball that can approach the mid to upper 90s (95-97). He's expected to be drafted in the first 5 rounds in June, with a likely 4-year development path towards the big leagues (2 if he's tried as a reliever).
10) Demi Orimoloye, OF, 6'4 218, R/R, Orleans, ON
(Age by 2017) 19.2 years
Gareth Morgan may be the next great Canadian baseball prospect but fifteen year-old phenom Demi Orimoloye is not too far behind, quite literally. Morgan is expected to be among the top 5 picks in the 2014 draft, and Orimoloye is due to be taken early in 2016. In terms of sheer talent, Orimoloye may actually have more than his predecessor. Virtually the same size and build as the 6'4 210lb Morgan, Orimoloye is a superior athlete with very good speed for a player his size (6.5 in the 60) as well as plus raw arm strength (86mph). While Morgan is known for his plus-plus raw power, the lithe and explosive Orimoloye is a physical specimen; a five-tool player, with the potential to impact the game in every facet. Born in Nigeria, his parents immigrated to Toronto when he was only 18-months old. Blessed with the combination of size, speed, and athleticism, he currently plays center field and has been compared to the likes of Josh Hamilton. As a Sophomore in high school he's still quite raw and while he likely won't be retro-fitted for his 2017 team Canada jersey, I think we'll see him donning that red and white WBC uniform at some point in his career.
Others to Know:
Kyle Lotzkar, LHP, 6'5 200, Tsawwassen, BC (Reds)
Jeff Gibbs, RHP, 6'4 185, Scarborough, ON (Brewers)
Tom Robson, RHP, 6'4 200, Lander, BC (Blue Jays)
Adam Nelubowich, 3B/1B, 6’2 185, L/R, Stony Plain, AB (Washington State)
Nathan Desouza, OF, 5'11 175, L/R, Milton, ON (Blue Jays)
Dalton Pompey, OF, 6'1 170, S/R, Mississauga, ON (Blue Jays)
Dayton Dawe, RHP, 6'2 175, London, ON (Yankees)
Travis Seabrooke, LHP, 6'6 200, ON, HS
Owen Spiwak, C, 6'2 200, L/R, Mississauga, ON, HS