Spring In The MLB

February 14, 2018

 

During the off-season over half a dozen Europeans signed MLB contracts so you’ll see a few new names in this spring edition of In The MLB. The team listings for this round are based on last season’s MLB finish. New players, and those who are now free agents, are listed as unknown. 

 

By the end of spring, we’d expect to see quite a bit of shifting. This is especially true this season because there are a higher percentage than usual of players assigned to the parent club. This indicates a team is evaluating a player, through spring, to determine proper placement and/or trade potential.  

 

We begin this year with an alphabetical, country-by-country breakdown. Included are the parent clubs for each player. This should help you determine when to tune in, on whatever MLB game package you’ve chosen, for a glimpse of your countrymen at play. 

 

France

 

Andy Paz, Toulousain

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics - AL

Position: Catcher

2018 Expectations: Following a solid season in AA, where he hit .251 over 53 games while posting a .997 fielding percentage behind the plate, and a 1.000 in his three innings of relief, the 25-year old Frenchman elected free agency in November of 2017. At the moment, it would appear he remains free heading into 2018. With no known invite to join spring training we’ll have to wait and see what becomes of Paz. 

 

Germany

 

Aaron Altherr, Landstuhl

Team: Philadelphia Phillies

League: National League

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

Position: OF

2018 Expectations: The 27-year old Altherr enters his 2nd MLB season pre-arbitration eligible. Though he finished the 2017 season strong with a .272 average and an outstanding fielding percentage, his spring is off to a slow start by comparison. In 13 games he’s hitting .216 over 40 plate appearances. That’s not a problem though. Some bats take longer to warm up than others and that’s what spring is all about. Altherr’s been around since 2009 and he’s just now reached the majors. At his age, heading into contract negotiations at season’s end, you can bet he’ll be doing whatever it takes to finish the season strong. 

 

Pascal Amon, Ingolstadt

Team: AZL Dodgers

League: Arizona League – Rookie

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: CF

2018 Expectations: Amon turned 20 over the off-season so now, despite only entering his 3rd MiLB season, we will start to see what the Dodgers expect of his future. He moved up from the DSL to the AZL in 2017 and hit .230 in the league. Given that his fielding percentage landed far north of .900, it all bodes well for a short season A start to see what he can do. Of course, if he had any physical growth over the off-season, then the club might keep him in the AZL to start the season. Given that he plays the outfield however, growth is not as significant a factor as it can be at other positions. Furthermore, according to his latest stats, he’s already coming in at 6’1”, 183 lbs., so he may not have much more growing to do. 

 

Marco Cardoso, Paderborn

Team: Unassigned

League: DSL

Position: SS

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox - AL

2018 Expectations: In July of 2017, Cardoso signed with the Sox. He was sent to the Dominican Republic for training and there he remained until the holidays. Following a short break, he flew back to the area to resume his progress. At just 17-years old, we don’t expect to see the shortstop out of the DSL for 2018 but stranger things have happened. We haven’t had a look at the switch hitter since his training began and, before he signed, he had already been a seasoned Bundesliga I player, so there is no telling where he may debut. When he left Germany, which is one of Europe’s top baseball leagues, he was hitting .263 on the season with 2 triples, 3 doubles and 13 runs while batting in 9 over 19 games. If he is able to show his fielding is up to MiLB standards, there is a good chance he could start at short season A ball but, given his age, we have no expectations. This is the time for development and the DSL is the right place to make that happen. 

 

Edwin Jackson, Neu-Ulm

Team: Washington Nationals 

League: National League

Parent Club: Washington Nationals 

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: Jackson began 2017 as a free agent before becoming a national in June. He re-upped his contract with the club this January. The RHP posted a 5.07 ERA in 2017 over 13 starts. He pitched an average of 5.2 innings/start showing he has staying power. That’s an impressive average given his age. At 34-years old, most pitchers have been transitioned from starter to relief. With 14 MLB seasons under his belt we don’t have any grand expectations. Instead we’ll sit back in awe and admire the fact that age is just a number. 

 

Max Kepler, Berlin

Team: Minnesota Twins

League: National League

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins

Position: RF

2018 Expectations: Following a storybook ending to 2016, Kepler was a strong regular in the Twins lineup throughout 2017. He finished the season with a batting average of .243, up from .235 in 2016, and a post-season batting average of .333 after hitting a double and walking over 4 plate appearances. Max spent over 1000 innings in right where he finished the season with a .993 fielding percentage after committing just 2 errors all season. That’s a marked improvement from his first-place finish in the AL for that category in 2016 when he had 7. This is Kepler’s pre-arbitration year. He becomes eligible in 2019, so he’ll want to keep playing his game and working his system. It seems to be working out just fine for he, and the Twins, to date. In training camp Kepler’s already appeared in 14 games where he’s hitting .278 over 41 appearances. 

 

Nadir Ljatifi, Dortmund

Team: Billings Mustangs

League: Pioneer League – Rookie

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds - NL

Position: 2nd

2018 Expectations: After being called up to short-season rookie ball mid-year last season, the 20-year old Ljatifi seemed to continue the year as if he was still playing for the same bench. In the AZL he hit .244 over 23 games and, in Montana he finished the final 28 games of his season hitting .246. Like many of Europe’s prospects in 2017, Nadir seemed to grow quite a bit prior to the 2017 season. Given his age, we’d expect him to start at full season A this year. One thing that could hold him back from advancing to AA by the end of 2018 is his fielding. Throughout 2017, they tried him at 2nd, short and 3rd with varying degrees of success. It seems, though he entered the season a 3rd baseman, he left it a 2nd baseman. He spent 126.1 innings in the position finishing the year with a .985 fielding percentage while only spending 19 innings at 3rd. 

 

Bruce Maxwell, Weisbaden

Team: Oakland Athletics

League: American League

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics 

Position: C

2018 Expectations: 2017 Maxwell spent his 2nd season between AAA and the majors. The 27-year old catcher finished the year in Oakland with a perfect fielding percentage and a .237 batting average over 76 games. His future with the Athletics however remains a question mark. They have three other catchers on their bench and everyone, including Bruce, is being rotated behind the plate in training camp. Despite taking a bat to the head in his opening game this spring Maxwell, currently with the team in Mesa, has already appeared in 11 games hitting .296 over 28 plate appearances. 

 

Niklas Rimmel, Fürth

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - NL

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: In September 2017, Rimmel became the 12th player out of the Regensburg Academy to sign an MLB contract and the 5th German to sign join the Twins organization. Niklas was a member of Germany’s junior national team and played several games for the Bundesliga I Legionaere in 2017. He will report for spring training to determine placement but we would expect to see him in development in the DSL, GCL or AZL if he is not sent back to Europe for the season. 

 

Sven Schüller, Wuppertal

Team: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

League: Midwest League – Class A Advanced

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: On March 18, 2018, Schüller was assigned to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sven has spent much of the last two years on the move. In 2017 he jumped from full A to Advanced A after moving up the prior season from the AZL to short season rookie. Through it all, he’s kept his ERA and W/L record in check. He finished 2017 with a 2.74 on the season and a 4-2 record overall. His ERA did jump from 1.49 in full A to 5.25 in Advanced A but he also played twice as many games from one to the next. His assignment to the Dodgers this spring is likely to determine whether he’ll be placed back at Advanced A to start the season or simply moved up to AA and then, if needed, put back down. This is the 4th season for the 22-year old hurler and he’s proved his capability to rise to every challenge they’ve placed before him so we don’t see him starting lower than AA. That is, unless he continues to see the same issues that arose heading into his winter in Australia. After two full seasons playing year-round – summers in America and winters in Australia – Sven’s ERA with the Blue Sox was 10.80 over 10 games. However, unlike the MiLB, in Sydney he is strictly a relief pitcher. No matter how you look at it though, Schüller’s ERA is on the rise and this is something the Dodgers need to evaluate. The biggest threat to any pitcher’s future is progressing too quickly. Considering his age, and that it was only during the 2017 season that Sven finally started to appear to be filling out, he may also be dealing with some new body coordination issues that have yet to settle down. Sven has always been tall but any changes, however small, in the body structure of a pitcher can change their delivery. Over time those small adjustments, left unchecked, can lead to poor delivery or, worse yet, injury. 

 

 

 Italy

 

Cesare Astorri, Parma

Club: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics - AL

Position: Catcher

2018 Expectations: In January, 19-year old Astorri was signed by the Oakland Athletics. He will report to spring training in Mesa, AZ to determine placement. Cesare began his baseball career at the age of four. He was Italy’s team catcher during the 2014 Little League World Series in the States and then returned home to attend the federation’s baseball academy in Tirrenia. That would be the same academy that has also turned out Alex Liddi, Marten Gasparini and Alberto Mineo, all three of whom are currently under MiLB contracts for 2018. 

 

Marten Gasparini, Ruda

Team: Lexington Legends

League: South Atlantic League - A

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals - AL

Position: OF

2018 Expectations: Gasparini finished the 2017 season in a really good place. After struggling the prior two seasons to catch up to prospects his own age at short, the Royals moved him into the outfield. The switch made all the difference. His errors decreased, confidence increased and, as a result, Marten finished the season on-track for someone his age who has major league potential. He also grew between seasons and it would seem every ounce of the extra body he obtained went directly toward powering his swing. By the end of 2017, the switch hitter was a certified power hitter with 29 extra base hits on the season. It should come as no surprise then, after a season and a half in Lexington, KC has assigned him to the parent club through spring training. Assuming Marten did his part in the off-season, we’d expect the 20-year old to open the season no lower than AA ball, but it could be higher based on organizational needs. 

 

Alex Liddi, San Remo

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals - AL

Position: Utility Infielder

2018 Expectations: Following his 2016 release from Baltimore, Liddi spent the last two seasons in Mexico. On February 17th he signed a free agency deal with the Kansas City Royals. Liddi made his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners in September 2011 and remained with the team through 2013 before spending a few free agency years with the White Sox, Dodgers, Orioles and yes, the Royals. He spent all of 2015 with their AA affiliate the Arkansas Naturals. As an American league team, the Royals will likely be looking for the 29-year old utility player to fill in the gaps as needed and work as DH from the bench. After all, he’s spent the past two seasons winning hitting titles and homerun derbys across the Mexican Baseball League. Despite his history in the bigs, Liddi will not be arbitration eligible until 2020 and he is not available again for free agency before 2024. According to the Royals Farm Report, he is currently signed to a minor league deal and is expected to start at AA or AAA. 

 

Alberto Mineo, Gorzia

Team: Buffalo Bison

League: Midwest League – AAA 

Parent Club: Toronto Blue Jays - AL

Position: C/1B

2018 Expectations: Traded in the off-season Mineo leaves the A ball South Bend Cubs to become a AAA catcher with the Blue Jays. This is a great example of teams doing what is right for the development of players. Mineo is 23 years old and entering his 7th season in the minors. He worked his way up in the Cub system and finished last year in full season A ball with a .278 batting average and a .992 fielding percentage behind the plate where he started 54 games. He also played another 26 at 1st, where he had 194 putouts to add to his 408 behind the plate. His overall fielding percentage on the season, which included 6 of his 12 lifetime errors, was .983. The Cubs put Alberto on waivers during the Winter Meetings and the Jays didn’t hesitate to pick him up. 

 

While Mineo was doing well in the Cubs rookie system he was also working in a different league all together. He’ll not only have to adjust his own bat speed to keep up with AAA level ball, he’ll need to pay more attention behind the plate. Unlike the National League system where he’s been brought up, pitchers don’t bat in the American League but designated hitters do. That changes the strategy of the game considerably. This is a very important adjustment for someone to make as a leader on the field. It may cause him to be moved down to AA to adjust but that the Jays were willing to pick him up at the AAA level means one of two things. Either they believe he’s ready and they need the help so they’re willing to take the chance, or they’re inflating his value to be used in early season trades before players are assigned for the summer. Time will tell how it all works out, on both sides, but it is, without a doubt, the shot in the arm Mineo’s career needed to survive against the ticking clock of age. 

 

 

Lithuania

 

Dovydas Neverauskas, Vilnius

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates 

League: National League

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates 

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: After a season where we’re certain he didn’t know whether he was in Pittsburgh or Indiana half the time, Neverauskas finished his year with the parent club in August. Dovydas was called up 7 times between April and August before finally being allowed to stick around for more than a week’s time. That said, it was certainly as much a reflection of Pittsburgh’s need for pitching as Neverauskas’ abilities. Dovydas finished the season with a 3.91 ERA in the majors while posting a 2.86 in AAA. He’s clearly ready for the move but, thanks to the team’s need for pitching, he’s been able to make the transition in a way that was less harmful to both the club and his own ERA in the process. 

 

In AAA for example, he struck out 46 while only managing to flag 17 in the bigs. In another organization, it is not likely he would have been afforded the opportunity to acclimate by coming up so often but Pittsburgh was desperate for pitching in 2017. In fact, the rookie was one of their most stable arms. He ranked in the top 10, coming in at the #9 spot, in a pool that was 24 arms deep including 17 relievers. We expect he’s earned a seat in the major league pen at least to start the 2018 season. There is no risk to Pittsburgh in the move. He was already named to the 40-man in 2017 so he’s receiving league minimum compensation. The question remains now, whether or not he’s done enough to be added to the 25-man roster for full league minimum benefits. Evaluating his performance against the other 25-players, maybe. It will certainly depend more on the team’s already committed contracts than on Neverauskas’ abilities, at least at the start of 2018. 

 

Modolva

 

Vadim Balan, Tiraspol

Team: GCL Twins – Rookie

League: Gulf Coast League

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: Balan spent much of the final month of last season on the DL. When he was healthy the 24-year old posted a 1-1 record and a 2.31 ERA but he only saw 11.2 innings all season and he was still playing in the Gulf Coast League. In May he’ll turn 25, making this the final season for him to jump out of rookie ball, and he has yet to make it to short season A. We’re hoping for the best in terms of Vadim’s arm and progress for 2018, but it will be up to him to step up his game and show the Twins why they need to keep the righty around. Considering the club signed two additional RHP out of European to their books this off season, Vadim’s not even a novelty and he has 7 years of age working against him compared to competitors for the spot. 

 

Netherlands

 

Paul Brands, Haarlem

Team: Bristol Pirates

League: Appalachian League - Rookie

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates - NL

Position: C

2018 Expectations: In 2017, Brands moved from the Dominican Summer League (DSL) system into the mainland rookie ball system. He finished the year with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Pirates where he hit .231 in 32 games. Behind the plate he posted a .983 fielding percentage that included 201 putouts over 274 innings of work. That’s a solid season for a guy that saw some off-season physical growth between 2016/2017. It indicates Paul continued to train through his growth stage and was, therefore, able to maintain control of his limbs as his body expanded. This off-season he was named to the national team roster by Manager, and now Cubs organization coach, Steve Janssen for the European Baseball Series in October. This was Paul’s debut on the team. Certainly all signs are Brand is headed in the right direction to move up to short season A in 2018. 

 

Donny Breek, Amsterdam

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown 

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: RHP 

2018 Expectations: Breek is the second of two off-season pitcher signings from Europe to the Twins organization. The 17-year old righty signed in late September following his appearance at the WBSC U18 Baseball World Cup. Last season he played for DSS out of Haarlem in the Netherlands. No word yet on if he’ll be assigned to Europe for 2018 or be playing in either the DSL or GCL. 

 

Taylor Clemensia, Amsterdam

Team: GCL Twins

League: Gulf Coast League – Rookie

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: LHP

2018 Expectations: Clemensia did a lot of growing in the off-season between 2016-2017. After being advanced to rookie ball, he quickly was reassigned to the Gulf Coast League where he finished the season with a 1-3 record and a 3.65 ERA over 24.2 innings. It’s hard to know if the difference between his 2016 season, where he finished with a 2.47 ERA and 47 strikeouts, was a fluke or if it was the physical development between seasons that threw him off in 2017. One thing is clear. At 21 years old, Taylor won’t be given another chance to make something happen. This marks his third season in the MiLB so he’ll need to show he can handle the next level or he will be sent home. 

 

Tom de Blok, Amstelveen

Club: West Michigan White Caps – Full A 

League: Midwest League

Parent Organization: Detroit Tigers - AL

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: Before last year, de Blok was a pitcher for the Amsterdam Pirates. After appearing in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) with the national team, finishing his 2.0 innings of work with a 0.00 ERA, striking out 2 and giving up just one hit, the Tigers offered him a 4-year minor league contract. 

 

In his first season in the minors de Blok pitched 23 games in Michigan posting a 4-2 record as a starter and finished the season with 78 strikeouts and a 2.74 ERA. Tom gave up just 25 earned runs on the season but did walk 14. At 21-years old, we’d expect the Tigers to look to move the rookie up a notch in 2018 to AA. Given his strong showing in 2017, his experience and his age, there is no reason we can see to hold him back. 

 

Sir Didi Gregorius, Amsterdam

Team: New York Yankees

League: MLB – AL

Parent Club: New York Yankees

Position: SS

2018 Expectations: Sir Didi can add his name to the long list of Netherlanders whose 2018 season matters for more than just this year. At 28-years old, Gregorius is entering a contract year. He’s signed through the end of 2018 and becomes arbitration eligible in 2019 with free agency on the table as early as 2020. For his part he finished the 2017 season as the American League MVP. That’s after spending part of the season in rehab for a minor shoulder injury he suffered during the World Baseball Classic in March. Despite being named to the ballot, he failed to be voted an All Star in 2017, but he let neither the shoulder, nor being passed over, hold him back. In August he was hitting .308. 

 

Despite his appearance on the DL, Didi finished the season with 534 at bats and a .287 average on the year that included just 70 strikeouts over 136 games. What’s more, while he was sitting the bench, he did his part to cultivate his brand. He became somewhat of a social media sweetheart throughout his downtime. If he can stay healthy in 2018, he has positioned himself as best he can to finally make folks forget who the Yankees shortstop used to be. 

 

 

 

Kingdom of the Netherlands

 

Nelmerson Angela, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: DSL Mets2

League: Dominican Summer League - Rookie

Parent Club: NY Mets - NL

Position: LHP

2018 Expectations: The lefty had an exceptional season in the Dominican Summer League last year. He finished the year with a 2-0 record and a 1.90 ERA that included 21 strikeouts. Now 20 years old, that’s the best position Angela could have put himself in for a move. Given his age, he’ll need to advance this spring if he hopes to stay in the minor league system. While lefties are generally given additional shelf life, and his ERA is strong, this will be his 3rd season meaning its time to move on or move out of the MiLB system. With his numbers from 2017, there is no reason he shouldn’t be moved up unless they see something in training that indicates otherwise. 

 

Hendrik Clementina, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Billings Mustangs

League: Pioneer League – Rookie

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds – NL

Position: Catcher

2018 Expectations: As part of a mid-season trade last year involving Tony Cingrani and Scott Van Slyke, Clementina entered the Pioneer League All Star Game a Raptor and finished it a Mustang. He was traded, with Slyke, to the Reds. It comes as no surprise then that the Reds have assigned Hendrik to their offices as of March 18th. They’ll need time to evaluate his skillset to determine best-fit for the 2018 season. In part, that is because of Clementia’s performance following the break. During his 27 games in Billings last year, he finished with a .240 average and .988 fielding percentage but, prior to the trade, he was an All Star hitting .370 and fielding .996 for Ogden in the same league. Had he stayed in Utah, there is a good chance he would have been, at the very least, added to a full season roster for playoff purposes if the teams were in a position to compete. No doubt the Reds will be looking to see if the difference Hendrik experienced between half seasons was the unexpected move or simply rookie fatigue. What is clear is that Hendrik was on track for a promotion to, at a minimum, full season A ball for 2018 before the mid-season trade took place. 

 

Xander Jan Bogaerts, Oranjestad Aruba

Team: Boston Red Sox

League: MLB - AL

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox

Position: IF – SS, 3B

2018 Expectations: Signed through the end of 2018, Xander enters his contract year on the heels of a strong season at short. The 25-year old finished 2017, with a few playoff games after batting .273 in the regular season while posting a .969 fielding percentage. 

 

To get top dollar out of this year, Bogaerts will benefit most from getting back to basics. Despite what his fielding percentage says, he was 4th in the league last year in errors committed at short with 17. He also did not take home a Silver Slugger for the first time in three years and he failed to make the All Star team in spite of being included on the ballot. It is certainly not the ideal direction for a career to be heading when you’re looking at the backside of your 20s come mid-season and heading into contract negotiations at year’s end. 

 

Then again, his season was extended by the World Baseball Classic and there, he certainly shined finishing with a .419 average from 22 at bats. Perhaps Bogaerts simply ran out of steam earlier than he needed with the additional play. His average dipped consistently following the All Star break and it just seemed he was ready for a rest before the season had come to its natural end. With no Olympic Qualifiers on the horizon before 2019, this is the right year for Xander to make the most of the here and now to ensure his financial future in the game. 

 

Kenley Jansen, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

League: MLB – NL

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers

Position: RHP

2018 Expectations: Last year around this time Jansen was playing big man on campus. He’d just signed a history-making deal with the Dodgers that has him sitting pretty through 2021. In the WBC he made an appearance for the games hosted in Los Angeles and struck out two in the only inning he threw in front of the hometown crowd. Mid-season Kenley was named to his second consecutive All Star team. At year’s end not only was he tops in the National League with 41 saves on the year posting a 1.32 ERA over 68.1 innings of work in the regular season, he was the last European standing in the playoffs. The Dodgers made it to the NLCS before being ousted by the World Champion Cubs for a shot at the Series. In the off-season this year Jansen picked up two new pieces of shiny metal for his shelves, the Trevor Hoffman Reliever Award and the NL Pitcher of the Year Award. So much for resting on your laurels. For 2018, we have no reason to believe we won’t be in for more of the same from Jansen. Despite his birth certificate indicating he crept north of 20-something mid-season last year, his arm does not seem to know it. 

 

Urwin Juaquin, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Billings Mustangs

League: Pioneer League – Rookie

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds - NL

Position: SS

2018 Expectations: After two seasons in the AZL, Jauquin was promoted to rookie ball in Billings mid-year. He spent 17 games with the club where he hit .209 while posting a .944 fielding percentage at short. At 20-years old we’d expect Urwin to remain in Montana for the 2018 season in order to see what he can do with his bat as well as waiting out any final growth spurts his body might go through. 

 

Sicnarf Loopstok, Oranjestad Aruba

Team: Lynchburg Hillcats

League: Carolina League – Advanced A

Parent Club: Cleveland Indians - AL

Position: 1B 

2018 Expectations: Loopstok is training for a position as utility. In 2017, he played 1st, 3rd, LF and catcher with varying degrees of fielding success. He finished the season posting between a .960 (outfield) and .985 (1st) fielding percentage. At the plate he finished with a .245 average that included 17 homeruns, 4 triples and 28 doubles. This is not surprising given his build but it does mean that, were it not for his power, his average would be in serious jeopardy. With 132 strikeouts on the season he’s certainly taking chances but he also has 52 walks showing patience in line with his 24-years. He doesn’t often catch a piece of the ball but when he does, the pitcher can kiss it goodbye. 

 

It's a good thing Sicnarf was picked up by an American League team where DH is a legitimate way to reach the top. Given his age, that he played college ball and was drafted, he definitely should have found his way out of A ball by now. It looks like Cleveland feels the same. They’ve assigned him for spring so that means they’ll be playing the old, should he stay or should he go, game in short order. His power says give him a shot at AA and his fielding percentage, at least on the infield, can back it up. It will be up to Loopstok to make the most of the opportunity from there. 

 

Ryan Oduber, Oranjestad Aruba

Team: Lowell Spinners

League: New York-Penn League - Short A

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox - AL

Position: LHP

2018 Expectations: After just two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Oduber was brought up to short season A in 2017. Two weeks after his 20th birthday, Ryan finished the season with a 5.04 ERA. Over 31.2 innings, which for a short-season club showed real confidence in the rookie, he walked 12 while striking out 27. Though he gave up 19 earned runs off 22 hits, the lefty was taken for yard just twice all season. Oduber’s control looked good as well, hitting just two batters on the year. All this is to say we’re rather surprised by the January 9th release of the LHP by the Spinners. The Hoofddorp Pioniers wasted no time picking him up. You’ll be able to see him live, in the Netherlands all season long. 

 

Though his current MiLB status reads released, his transactions show only that the Spinners let him go, not the Sox. Normally, when a team releases a player the transactions read released by the parent club. No word yet on if he’s fully released or merely on loan, from the Sox back to the EU, for the year. Given we’re a season away from the Olympic qualifiers and The Netherlands are likely to be one of Europe’s best hopes for representation in the games, it could simply be a professional courtesy between the MiLB and Europe that will benefit both parties in the end. Oduber gets the chance to know, play with/against the Europeans, while the Sox get the opportunity to let him grow as an athlete until he’s through his growth stage and ready to take on a professional career. 

 

Chris Pieters, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: South Bend Cubs

League: Midwest League – A Full

Parent Club: Chicago Cubs

Position: RF

2018 Expectations: Pieters finished 2017, his 6th season, with the full season A Cubs affiliate in Indiana. The 23-year old hit .254 on the year with 25 extra base hits and 35 RBIs. On the field he was perfect in both left and center and posted a .971 fielding percentage at right. He also spent 3 games at 1st where he had a .933 FP over 11.0 innings. The Cubs organization is flush at the moment with talent so Pieters has been called up for spring training. With a bat like his they’ll be looking to either move him to AA or consider his value on the trading block. He’s hit an age where there is no longer value in keeping him around if you can’t put him to work. 


Juremi Profar, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Frisco RoughRiders

League: Texas League – AA

Parent Club: Texas Rangers

Position: 3rd 

2018 Expectations: Following in his big brother’s footsteps, Juremi is working his way through the Rangers organization. Named Player of the Week in July, the 22-year old finished 2017 in AA averaging more than a hit/game. The Rangers have assigned Profar to the parent club every spring since 2015 so we won’t be surprised if he begins this year in the same spot. With his 2017 results, we imagine they’ll try him at AAA before determining if he’s ready for the bigs. Depending on their needs, and how his bat holds up, this could be the year Juremi spends straddling the line between AAA and the parent organization. 

 

Jurickson Profar, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Texas Rangers

League: American League 

Parent Club: Texas Rangers

Position: Utility

2018 Expectations: 2017 finished in a rocky spot for Profar. He was sent to AAA in August and placed on the DL. At the time there were rumors that the move had less to do with injury than attitude. Nevertheless, by October, Profar had been recalled to the parent club for the playoffs and there he remains to start the 2018 season. Considering this is his final year under contract with the club before he the 25-year old becomes arbitration eligible we would expect that he’ll be leaving bygones in the past. Jurickson finished the season with a perfect fielding percentage at every position. Considering his rotation included left, SS, 1, 2B and 3rd, that’s pretty impressive. Now he just needs to bring his bat back up to speed. After beginning the WBC hitting .464, his average quickly began its downward descent hitting .211 by April and dropping to .135 in May. By the All Star break, he was headed to the minors. He finished 2017 with a .172 average after returning to the parent club, on and off, throughout the remainder of the season. 

 

Jonathan Schoop, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Baltimore Orioles

League: MLB - AL

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

Position: 2B

2018 Expectations: This is a contract year for Jonathan. Given the organization’s assignments at short which include his best friend at the big club and his brother at AAA for backup, it would appear they are doing all they can to keep the 26 year old 2nd baseman happy. The 2017 All Star finished the season hitting .293 with a spotless fielding percentage. Schoop becomes arbitration eligible in 2019. Given his age, if he can mirror his prior year’s performance, there is little holding Schoop back from a headline-making contract negotiation.  

 

Sharlon Schoop, Willemstad Curaçao

Team: Norfolk Tides

League: International League 

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles - AL

Position: SS

2018 Expectations: At the end of 2017, Sharlon was playing AAA for the Norfolk Tide. This was a welcome end after his mid-season struggle with injury. After electing free agency at the end of the season, it looks like he could be spending the new year playing infield, once again, near his roommate and little brother Jonathan. On March 12th the Orioles assigned Schoop to the Orioles. Of course big bro plays the same spot as Jonathan’s on-field bestie Manny Machado. Looks like a winning 6-4 combo for the birds no matter who’s in the spot. In short order we’ll see if that will be a welcome 1-2 option from the bench or if big bro will be used for trade negotiations.


Andrelton Simmons, Mundo Nobo Curaçao

Team: Angels of Anaheim

League: MLB – NL

Parent Club: Angels of Anaheim

Position: SS

2018 Expectations: Simmons enters another carefree season with the Angels. Signed through 2020 and hitting free agency in 2021 the 28-year old shortstop has plenty of time to plan his future. He finished 2017 with a .278 average and a .980 fielding percentage over 158 games last year, all of which he started. Considering his team finished 2nd in its division, barring injury, that future’s looking pretty bright indeed. 

 

Chadwick Tromp, Oranjestad, Aruba

Team: Undetermined

League: Undetermined

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds – NL

Position: C

2018 Expectations: Tromp has been invited to Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona to participate in spring training with the club as a non-roster invitee. This is a good sign for the catcher, who spent last season between Advanced A ball and AA. He was hitting out of the league at .311 in Advanced A while still finding his stride in AA with a  .204 average over 3 extra games. Training camp is an opportunity for the higher ups to evaluate his current skillset and determine his best use – either on their teams or as a trading chip. His fielding percentage actually increased at AA from .986 to .992, so bringing his batter’s eye up to speed will really be the only consideration in moving him forward. 

 

Shawn Zarraga, Oranjestad, Aruba

Team: Oklahoma City Dodgers - AAA

League: Pacific Coast League

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: C 

2018 Expectations: Mid-January the Dodgers signed free agent Zarraga to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. On the 30th of that same month, they assigned him to their AAA team for the 2018 season. Shawn finished the 2017 season on the DL after spending much of the season temporarily inactive. The 29-year old was between AA and AAA all season after spending the prior 8 years working his way through the minor league system. In spite of everything, he finished the year with a .278 average in AA. 

 

Shawn spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons straddling AA and AAA as well though. In 2015, he hit .303 in AAA indicating he was ripe for advancement. At the time, he was with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. That is the same team he will be with in 2018. Initially signed by the Brewers, Zarraga and the Dodgers seem to have a long-standing on-again/off-again relationship. Though he has spent much of the last 4 years in their system he was also courted by the Reds in 2016. No doubt the Dodgers believe in the catcher’s abilities and they are putting him in the best position possible to take advantage of what will certainly be his last chance to make the majors. 

 

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