Warmed Up & Ready To Go

March 17, 2017

 

PC: MLB Properties

 

The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is well underway and, as we’ve seen in the player stats this month, the bodies are starting to fall back into their natural rhythms. This is the time of year when it’s fun to watch. Nothing is on the line, players are healthy and the past is just distant enough not to mess with their mental game. 

 

Courtesy of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) we’ve already seen some outstanding work from a few of the Netherlands' top players. Italy’s Alex Liddi showed those concerned that his knee is healthy once again. The show Israel put on at the tournament will no-doubt solidify a 40-man spot for some coming up and it could resurrect the career of some other guys looking for a place to call home. If the Athletics are looking for an arm to complete their roster, they will no doubt, be getting a bug in their ear from Lavarnway about Zeid

 

The two seemed to have forged a successful friendship, on and off the field, in their short time working for Team Israel. For those paying attention to the tournament, their click factor would be hard to miss. 

 

They combined for five scoreless innings of work against the #1 team in the world in Zeid’s only start. In fact Zeid threw ten scoreless innings throughout the tournament earning a 0.0 ERA, winning one and saving two. He gave up five hits and walked six while striking out ten for a WHIP of 1.1. The RHP was playing for a job in the Classic. He just shopped his CV through the MLB with his performance these past two weeks.  

 

Last month we divided up the player information by team so you could find which roster to check for your favorite hometown hero. This month, we’re organizing them by country so you can find all your countrymen in one spot. 

 

Belgium

Sam Buelens, Belgium 

Team: DSL Blue Jays 

League: Dominican Summer League – Foreign Rookie 

Parent Club: Toronto Blue Jays - NL

Position: OF 

2017 Assignment: The 21-year old spent his first two seasons in the DSL for the Blue Jays. We will learn his 2017 assignment closer to June. 

 

Germany

Pascal Amon, Germany 

Team: Dodgers1

League: Dominican Summer League – Foreign Rookie 

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: OF

2017 Assignment: 2016 was the first season for the 19-year old Amon. He spent it in the DSL where he is likely to return in 2017. Assignments for the league will be handed out in June.   

 

Max Kepler, Germany 

Team: Minnesota Twins

League: MLB 

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - NL

Position: OF 

2017 Highlights: If you haven’t heard his name yet then you didn’t watch MLB baseball in 2016. Kepler is currently in spring training with the Twins but has not yet had a great deal of playing time. He struggled with some minor injuries in the early part of spring last year and left a game in late September with one as well so the team might be easing him back into play to ensure he’s healthy for season. Having been brought up in the European system the young player may still need some time for his body to adjust to the longer playing schedule. Also we need to keep in mind that, as we saw last season, at 24-years old his body is still growing. That, in and of itself, can put some undue strain on an athlete. Based on last year’s performance we have no doubt the Twins are playing it safe.

 

Nadir Ljatifi, Germany 

Team: AZL Reds 

League: Arizona League – Rookie 

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds - NL

Position: SS

2017 Assignment: 19-year old Nadir finished his second season with the AZL league still nearly two years younger than his opposition. He’s been making steady progress but last year saw his batting average take a hit. The team will decide if he’s ready to move up or needs another year in the league when they’ve had time to evaluate his growth in June. 

 

Sven Schüller, Germany 

Team: Ogden Pioneers

League: Rookie 

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: RHP

2017 Assignment: Last summer Schüller moved up to the pioneer league mid-summer. He was then invited to play in Australia over the winter. The righty comes into training with momentum so we’ll need to see where the roster shuffle leaves him in a month’s time. 

 

 

Italy

 

PC: MLB Properties

 

Francisco Cervelli, Italy 

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

League: MLB 

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates - NL

Position: C

2017 Highlights: Born to an Italian in Venezuela, where he also learned the game, Cervelli chose to play under the green, white and red flag in this year’s WBC. His homeland helped to eliminate his team from the tournament in extra innings however. Cervelli hit a respectable .250 for a catcher with 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 doubles and an RBI in 16 at bats.    

 

Nicolo Clemente, Italy 

Team: GCL Red Sox

League: Gulf Coast League – Rookie 

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox - AL

Position: RHP

2017 Assignment: This will be the third year in the minors for Clemente. The 19-year old spent his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League before moving up to the Gulf Coast League last season. Team assignments for the GCL will be given out in June. 

 

Marten Gasparini, Italy 

Team: Lexington Legends

League: South Atlantic League - A

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals - AL

Position: SS

2017 Assignment: 19-year old Gasparini advanced to full-season A-ball in 2016 spending the season on a team filled, primarily, with past their prime 20-somethings. He wasn’t getting challenged to advance so much as an education on what settling in can do for you. The 19-year old was a stand-out talent on a mediocre team that didn’t make the playoffs. We’re hoping the team makes room for some new blood this season allowing the young shortstop to work on reducing errors and continuing to increase his batting average which was a respectable .256 for his first year in A-ball. 

 

Federico Giordani, Italy 

Team: Dodgers2

League: DSL – Foreign Rookie 

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers – NL 

Position: OF

2017 Assignment: In his second season with the organization Giordani finished 2016 hitting .325 for the Dodgers2. With those numbers there’s a strong chance the 19-year old will be moved up to the next level if his spring look shows progress. Rosters for the DSL are released in June.   

 

PC: MLB Properties

 

Alex Liddi, Italy 

Team: Toros de Tijuana

League: Mexican Baseball League

Parent Club: Quintana Roo – AAA 

Position: OF, 1B, 3B

2017 Highlights: Alex Liddi played 3rd for Italy in the WBC where his country helped to eliminate host team Mexico. Following his 2016 season in the Mexican Baseball League Liddi had knee surgery. His showing at the Classic indicated he’s all healed up and ready to earn a spot back in the MLB. The only Italian-born player on Italy’s WBC roster hit .250 in the tournament with 4 hits, 3 runs and a double. The Italian had 2 homeruns and 4 RBIs. He also had 7 strikeouts in just 16 at bats. This makes some sense given that he was the home run derby champion in the Mexican Baseball League.  

 

Alberto Mineo, Ital

Team: South Bend Cubs 

League: Midwest League – A  

Parent Club: Chicago Cubs - NL

Position: C

2017 Assignment: Mineo started 2016 in short season ball making his way up to full season A with South Bend where the 21-year old sat the bench waiting for his shot. He will likely remain on the team heading into this season unless the coaches see something they want to develop further or there is no opening at catcher. 

 

Lithuania

Dovydas Neverauskas, Lithuania 

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates 

League: MLB

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates – NL 

Position: RHP

2017 Highlights: Added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster in the off-season, on March 1st Neverauskas agreed to terms with the team before arbitration kicked in. This spring he’s thrown in five games. In four full innings of relief his ERA is 4.50 with four hits and two earned runs. This is to be expected as he was playing in AA last September. 

 

Modolva

Vadim Balan, Moldova 

Team: GCL Twins – Rookie 

League: Gulf Coast League 

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: RHP

2017 Assignment: Balan spent the end of 2016 on the DL so his 2017 spot will largely depend on his off-season recovery.  

 

Netherlands

Nelmerson Angela, Curaçao 

Team: DSL Mets1

League: Dominican Summer League - NL

Parent Club: NY Mets 

Position: LHP

2017 Assignment: Angela is expected back in the DSL for his second season with the Mets. Assignments will be given out some time in June. 

 

PC: MLB Properties

 

Wladimir Balentien, Curaçao

Team: Yakult Swallows 

League: Japan Central League

Parent Club: Yakult Swallows

Position: OF

2017 Highlights: If you want to see the King of the Kingdom at bat this year, you’ll have to watch 33-year old rightfielder Wladimir Balentien. With an unbelievable .591 over 22 plate appearances, he’s the hitting leader for The Netherlands in the WBC. He’s had an astounding 13 hits, 8 runs, 3 homeruns and 10 RBIs through the first two rounds of play.

 

Xander Jan Bogaerts, Aruba 

Team: Boston Red Sox 

League: MLB American League

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox 

Position: IF – SS, 3B

2017 Highlights: The 2016 All Star is spending his spring with fellow countrymen from across the Kingdom at the WBC where he’s hitting a surprisingly low .211 through six games. Bogaerts’ bat has never been on par with some of his countrymen, averaging just .286 through four seasons, but it has certainly been respectable. Next to the accomplishments of Profar, Balentien and Gregorius however, the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, who had a .340 season in 2015 and hit .294 in 2016, seems almost morphed by his teammates at the moment. Maybe some healthy competition between friends will benefit the Sox come opening day.  

 

Paul Brands, Netherlands 

Team: GCL Pirates

League: Gulf Coast League - Rookie

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates - NL

Position: C

2017 Assignment: Brands spent his second season in the GCL in 2016. The 19-year old will be assigned come June when the league opens.    

 

Taylor Clemensia, Netherlands 

Team: GCL Twins 

League: Gulf Coast League 

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins

Position: LHP 

2017 Assignment: 19-year old Clemensia made his first appearance in the GCL last summer on the rookie level. He will be assigned for 2017 in June when the league opens. 

 

Rachid Engelhardt, Curaçao

Team: Unknown 

League: Dominican Summer League – Foreign Rookie 

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles 

Position: OF 

2017 Assignment: Engelhardt’s team data will likely be a few months in coming. He plays in the DSL which won’t get underway until June. He has not be invited to spring training or extended spring training by the club. He has been working his way steadily up the foreign level ladder moving up to the next level about once every 1.5 years. He’s just 22 years old and his last move was mid-2015 so we’ll be looking for some activity in his status as his summer begins.  

 

Kenley Geromino Jansen, Curaçao 

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

League: MLB – National League 

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers

Position: RHP

2017 Highlights: In case you’ve been hanging out under your covers this winter, Jansen signed the largest contract for a European in MLB history. It’s also a pretty sweet deal for a reliever. Named to the designated pitching pool in the WBC, The Kingdom has yet to call on his arm through two. They may be saving this ace for the finals.  

 

 

Sir Didi Gregorius, Netherlands 

Team: New York Yankees

League: MLB – AL

Parent Club: New York Yankees

Position: SS

2017 Highlights: Through six games in the WBC Sir Didi has made 28 plate appearances. He’s hitting .348, having struck out just once. He’s accumulated 5 runs and 8 RBIs off 8 hits, including 1 homerun and 4 doubles. 

 

Ryan Oduber, Aruba 

Team: Boston Red Sox 

League: Dominican Summer League – Foreign Rookie 

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox 

Position: LHP

2017 Assignment: Ryan Oduber’s season will not begin until mid-summer when the DSL opens. At just 19-years old he has been moving quickly through the league, perhaps too quickly. He was moved around quite a bit in 2016 which could indicate he’s playing above one level but not quite ready for the next. Given that he’s just turning 19 this year, once he is fully grown, it is likely the transitioning, and progress, will quicken in pace.   

 

PC: MLB Properties

 

Jurickson Profar, Curaçao 

Team: Texas Rangers

League: MLB – AL

Parent Club: Texas Rangers 

Position: IF

2017 Highlights: Profar is hitting an astounding .522 for the Classic but, if you can believe it, he’s not the team’s #1 slugger. With 13 hits, including 3 homeruns and 10 RBIs and 8 runs, his bat is definitely more than a contributing factor to the success The Kingdom has enjoyed through the first two rounds of the tournament.  

 

Jonathan Schoop, Curaçao

Team: Baltimore Orioles 

League: MLB - AL 

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles 

Position: 2B 

2017 Highlights: Heading into the 3rd round of the WBC Schoop has played in all six of Team Netherland’s games. He is hitting .261 with 6 hits and 4 runs, 1 homerun and 4 RBIs in 23 AB.  

 

Sharlon Schoop, Curaçao 

Team: None

League: None

Parent Club: Formerly Baltimore Orioles

Position: SS

2017 Highlights: Sharlon Schoop joined younger brother Jonathan for the 2017 WBC. He has played three games coming to the plate just three times. He struck out twice but made the most of his one chance on the bags coming all the way home for a run. As a 29-year old free agent whose playtime is limited to ‘If Profar, Bogaerts and Gregorius are out’ he’s not likely to have the time to make his case for an MLB contract heading into the 3rd round of the Classic. We may still catch a glimpse of him however during International events where these other players become less available as the MLB season gets underway.   

 

Matz Schutte, Netherlands 

Team: GCL Twins

League: Gulf Coast League – Rookie 

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: RHP

2017 Assignment: Shutte’s has spent his first two seasons in rookie ball in the GCL where he holds a 3.04 ERA through 50 innings. The 19-year old will have to wait until June to learn where he’ll be placed for this season.  

 

Andrelton Simmons, Curaçao 

Team: Angels of Anaheim 

League: MLB – NL 

Parent Club: Angels of Anaheim 

Position: SS

2017 Highlights: Batting .333 in 27 appearances on the plate, Simmons’ is holding his own amongst The Netherlands’ sluggers in the WBC. He’s had 9 hits and 5 runs with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs. In fact, on their bench it’s safe to say he’s the only one earning his swinging sticker using small ball tactics. He’s finding his way to base on a regular bases and proving to be nimble around the horn. 

 

Curt Smith, Netherlands 

Team: Lincoln Salt Dogs

League: Independent 

Parent Club: American Association – Central Division

Position: OF

2017 Highlights: The 29-year old indie baller is enjoying his WBC experience knowing he’s secured his spot for another season on the Lincoln Salt Dogs’ roster. He re-signed with the team over winter. This will be their third season together. Smith’s 8-year career is a testament to the fact that you can make a living playing high-level baseball even if you don’t reach the show. 

 

Shawn Zarraga, Aruba 

Team: Cincinnati Reds

League: Unassigned – spent 2016 in AA for the Dodgers 

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds - NL

Position: C

2017 Highlights: A non-40 man invitee to spring training Zarraga opted for the WBC. If he’s looking to improve his swing, he’ll no doubt gain a wealth of experience from the decision. Zarraga has never made it to the show. He did reach AAA in the Brewers’ system before heading over to the Dodgers where he never made it out of AA. Now he’s with the Reds. At 28-years old it’s surprising he would opt for time on a team where he’s not likely to see a lot of action. Sitting behind Netherland’s Honkballer Ricardo, who has caught four of The Netherlands’ six games, he’s unlikely to see much more action in the next round. Zarraga has made just seven plate appearances to-date. It’s hard to see why he chose the WBC over letting his new coaches get some one-on-one time with him. Time will tell if the move pays off. If not, maybe he was smart to have one last amazing baseball experience. 

 

Teams on the top level are still shaking out their 40-man rosters with most now down to 60 or less. By April we should know the placement of each of the minor leaguers and in May have a chance to look forward to the rookies having their moment to shine. 

 

Until then, enjoy the remaining games in the World Baseball Classic. With just one European team left The Netherlands are, once again the European team to beat. 

 

Check back Monday to see all the highlights and game notes from each of the team’s WBC games. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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