Spring Training 2021

At the end of the 2019 season several minor leaguers were granted free agency, or made temporarily inactive, in order to participate with their homelands in the Olympic Qualifying rounds. Included in that bunch were 28 Europeans. Many were back in Europe participating in the European Championship, the winner of which would be granted the final spot in the Qualifiers. This left many players without the security of a contract heading into the 2020 season. This has led to several players being removed from our In The MLB piece awaiting a return invitation to the bigs.



Spring Training 2021 SF Giants Catcher Chadwick Tromp PC: Phrake Photography

We all now know that 2020 was anything but business as usual. With the minor league season cancelled, several players spent their summer playing for teams across Europe where several countries hosted a no-crowd shortened season. Heading back into a “normal as possible” spring in 2021 for baseball, we’re happy to report the Europeans made their mark on the scouts and front offices of plenty of teams throughout the international competitions of 2019. There is no doubt the MLB camps being held just ahead of the London Series benefited many players who would not otherwise have been seen, getting a look for clubs that don’t make a habit of sending scouts to the annual camps.


This MLB season begins with 44 European players from 10 countries, 11 who will start the season on a big league bench. 25% of all the Europeans in the MLB system at the moment are in the major leagues. What’s more, there are more teams than ever vesting in EU talent. This season 23 different clubs have at least one European player in their organization. That means 77% of the organizations in the MLB are taking advantage of what Europe has to offer the sport. Compare this to the spring of 2017 when we brought you the first ever In The MLB piece. At that time there were 28 players from 6 countries with spots on 13 different club rosters.


There are a lot of abbreviations for player stats used in this piece. If you need a refresher course, or you’re new to the sport, check out the related posts. Each covers a different area of statistical data from the game.


Czech Republic


Martin Cervenka, Prague

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: New York Mets - NL

Position: Catcher


28-year old Cervenka last played for an MLB team in 2019 with the Orioles AAA level Norfolk Tide. Martin began that season in short A. He played 5 games there before being promoted to AA. Cervenka spent 46 games with the AA Bowie Baysox before heading to AAA for the final 12 games of Norfolk’s season. He finished the season with 18 runs off 51 hits, including 5 doubles and 5 homeruns while driving in 24. Cervenka posted a .233 average and .991 fielding percentage over 63 games. During the 2019 European Championship, Martin started all 7 games he played, hitting .290 while maintaining a .975 fielding percentage. He spent the off-season with the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, maintaining a 100% fielding percentage over 16 innings of work and was in Europe for the 2020 season. Martin was a free agent, non-roster invitee for the Orioles at spring training early in the year. On March 24, 2021, he signed with the Mets and will report to minor league spring training with the club in April.



Viktor Vecerka, Brno

Team: AZL Royals

League: Rookie

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals – AL

Position: LHP


On March 7, 2020 Viktor Vecerka was assigned to the Arizona League team. The 20-year old leftie from Brno was signed out of the MLB Elite camp just ahead of the 2019 London Series in June of that year. The pandemic cut his first season short, meaning he has yet to post stats.


France


Ernesto Martinez, Holguin, Cuba

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Milwaukee Brewers – NL

Position: 1B


Martinez spent the second half of the 2019 season with the Rocky Mountain Vibes, an independent team in the short-season rookie Pioneer League. At the moment he’s active but the Brewers have yet to assign him to a team. The 21-year old hit .262, finishing with an OBP of .356 and a .445 SLG for a .802 OPS while maintaining a .970 fielding percentage and a lifetime .978 percentage. Numbers like this, combined with the shakeout of a year away from the field for all the roster spots in 2020, it is not surprising the Brewers are holding off on Ernesto’s assignment. Assuming good health and off-season conditioning, we’ll expect to see Martinez starting at full-season A and moving up quickly.

Germany


Marco Cardoso, Paderborn

Team: GCL Red Sox

League: Rookie

Position: SS

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox - AL


Cardoso spent 2020 assigned to the Bundesliga in Germany. Though signed by the Sox in 2017, Marco has spent all but the 2018 season back in Germany. The 21-year old was signed young so this is not an unusual move. After a season in the GCL, Cardoso returned to his home team, the Paderborn Untouchables, for the 2019 season. There he posted a .385 BA and .895 fielding percentage over 28 games. He then represented the German national team during the 2019 European Championship and was assigned to the team for the 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers before they were postponed. Marco returned to Paderborn for the shortened 2020 season. There he hit .386 making it clear that his bat is more than ready to face some speedier pitching.

Max Kepler, Berlin

Team: Minnesota Twins

League: American League

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins

Position: RF


Kepler will spend the 2021 season right where he’s been since 2015, on Minnesota’s 40-man roster. Max was a 2019 Player of the Week and finished the season with a 1.00% fielding percentage ranking him 1st among all outfielders for the season. The 28-year old also signed a 5-year/$35M extension through 2023. For 2020 he appeared in 48 games finishing with a .228 average and a .987 fielding percentage, a .001 improvement over his career average. As has become his routine at the plate, Kepler gave more than he received. He had 27 runs off 39 hits including 9 doubles and as many homeruns, batting 23 around and walking 22 times. His OBP was .321 and his slugging percentage was .439.


Bruce Maxwell, Weisbaden

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: New York Mets - NL

Position: C


Maxwell completed the 2018 season with a .994 fielding percentage and a .182 batting average that did not dent his overall average of .240. After spending his final games in 2018 on a AAA bench in Nashville, Maxwell was granted free agency. He spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons in Mexico playing for the Acereros de Monclova as well as spending time in both the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues. Bruce went to the post season twice, becoming a champion in 2019 and receiving MVP honors, with Acereros de Monclova. The Mets signed Bruce as a free agent in July of 2020. The 30-year old is currently in training with the Mets as a non-roster invitee for the spring.


Twins RHP Niklas Rimmel Pitched for Germany at the European Championship PC: Thomas Schoenenborn

Niklas Rimmel, Fürth

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: RHP


In 2019 the 21-year old RHP had 3 wins and a loss over 9 games, finishing the season with a 2.15 ERA over 7 starts and 37.2 innings of work. Rimmel struck out 34 and headed into fall with a 1.01 WHIP. This was Niklas’ 2nd season in the rookie league with the GCL Twins. His ERA dropped more than a full point between seasons as his play time doubled. In 2020 Rimmel remained in Germany playing, once again, for the Regensburg Legionaere after the cancellation of the MiLB season. Rimmel spent 2014-2018 in a Legionaere’s uniform before heading to the GCL. No word yet on where Rimmel will spend 2021 but he is still an active member of the Twins organization.


Sven Schüller, Wuppertal

Team: Oklahoma City Dodgers

League: AAA

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: RHP


In the Legionaere’s pen with Rimmel in 2020 was Sven Schuller. The Dodger’s prospect spent nearly 2 full years playing ball before the 2020 pandemic. He would summer in America and winter in Australia. Sven finished the fall of 2019 in Europe playing for the German national team and assisting during Max Kepler’s Masterclass. The continuous play wreaked havoc on his ERA. Schuller pitched just 2.0 innings in a single game in 2019 before being granted free agency. His MiLB status shows he was assigned to Germany for the 2020 season. This indicates a deal was reached with the Dodgers who have now assigned him to their AAA team to start 2021.



Markus Solbach, Domagen

Team: Oklahoma City Dodgers

League: AAA

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers - NL

Position: RHP


Solbach is a journeyman minor leaguer who has been given more than one reprieve in the system due to outstanding international performances. Between 2011 and 2016, Markus worked his way up through the Twins organization, peaking at advanced A, and wintering in the Australian Baseball League. After shifting over to the Diamondbacks organization, Solbach elected free agency in November 2016 and was not picked up. He returned to Europe playing for the Bonn Capitals until the independent leagues opened season each year. He would then return to the states to pitch while continuing to winter in Australia. In January 2019, following his winter performance, where he posted a .43 ERA on the season and a .67 WHIP while striking out 55 and giving up 7 walks over 41.2 innings, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Solbach to a minor league contract and started him at AA. In 2020, he was assigned to Germany and played, for the first time in Europe, outside of his homeland taking a job with San Marino in the Italian A1 league. According to the MiLB, the immediate plan is to start Solbach at AAA in 2021.


Great Britain


Jamie Ritchie, South Hadley MA, USA

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

League: National League

Parent Club: Arizona Diamondbacks

Position: C


Ritchie was named to the 2019 Great Britain national team roster but did not participate in the European Championship run by the team. While many MiLB players were available to participate in the event, most of the MLB players were in the heat of the season, fighting for their chance at the playoffs. Drafted by the Astros in 2014, Ritchie spent his career with the team, working up to the majors rather quickly, first appearing on their roster in 2016. He ended the 2020 season in Houston, electing free agency in November, and was signed by the Diamondbacks to a minor league contract just two days later and has been invited to spring training.


Israel


Ryan Lavarnway, Woodland Hills CA, USA

Team: Columbus Clippers

League: AAA

Parent Club: Cleveland Indians - AL

Position: C/1B


Drafted by the Red Sox in 2008, Lavarnway starts his 10th season in the majors with his 8th team. In October 2020, Lavarnway elected free agency. The Indians picked him up in February of this year and signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training to sweeten the deal. Ryan has been assigned to the AAA Clippers in Columbus where he’s spitting distance from the big club in case of emergency.


Italy


John Andreoli, Worcester, MA USA

Club: San Diego Padres

League: National League

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

Position: OF


Stalled at AAA since 2015, Andreoli has been used as a trading pawn bouncing between four clubs in three years, never once stepping foot on an MLB diamond until his debut in May of 2018. That season he played for three of those clubs in the bigs before being placed back on the trading block where he whipped through another three clubs, on paper only, in the 2019 season. He was traded by Seattle in January only to be traded back to the same club in June after being passed around through three additional clubs in between. Seattle held onto him through the end of season before John decided to join the Italian national team in Europe for a chance at a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games Qualifier. When he returned for spring training he was in a Boston uniform. Andreoli spent 2020 in their AAA club before the Padres picked him up as a free agent and signed him to a minor league contract in February. On March 20th, he was assigned to the big league club. He represented Italy at both the European Championship and the Olympic Qualifiers in 2019. During the Qualifiers he hit just .167 over 18 at bats while maintaining a perfect fielding percentage in both right and center fields. During the European Championship Andreoli hit .304 over 23 at bats in his 6 starts. He maintained a .652 slugging percentage, a .414 OBP and a perfect fielding percentage.



San Diego Padres' John Andreoli represented Italy at the 2019 European Championship PC: Sushysan Sportfotografie

Matteo Bocchi, Parma

Club: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Chicago Cubs - NL

Position: RHP


Bocchi was signed by the Cubs in June of 2019, immediately following his NCAA eligibility release. That season he was assigned to three different teams and still maintained a 2.97 ERA over 16 games and 30.1 innings of work. He had a 2-21 record giving up just 24 hits and 10 earned runs, including 2 homers, while walking 10 and striking out 35. The Texas Longhorn alumnus spent his 2020 season back in Italy playing for Bologna where he’d played the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Matteo had a 7-1 record with a 3.32 ERA over 43.1 innings of work. He appeared in 12 games, starting 10 of them. The RHP gave up 16 earned runs off 39 hits, including 2 dingers, while walking 12 and striking out 44. No word yet on where Bocchi will spend 2021. Though he’s a recent graduate, he’s also 24-years old so he’ll need to find his way to a AA bench for the season. Given that he pitched a few innings in AAA in 2019, this shouldn’t be an issue once he’s had some time to train for consistency with speed.


Robel Garcia, Las Matas de Farfan, DOM

Team: Houston Astros

League: American League

Parent Club: Houston Astros

Position: IF

If Garcia’s head isn’t spinning after February, he’s a better man than most. His spring has been a whirlwind tour of getting to know the MLB teams. On the 1st, the Mets designated Garcia for assignment. On the 3rd, the Angels claimed him off waivers. On the 25th the Angles designated him and on the 27th the Astros picked him up. If you’re counting that’s three training camp experiences, first in the east with Port St. Lucie and Palm Beach, then in Tempe on the west coast, and across both major league divisions. For his part, Garcia is trying to show he belongs. With a career perfect fielding percentage, the only way to improve is at the plate and Robel is giving it his best shot. Coming into the season his career average was .184 over 28 games. Throughout spring he’s averaging .227. It looks like Robel is doing what he can to show the MLB he’s happy to earn his spot.


Luis Lugo, Barquisimeto, VEN

Team: Tennessee Smokies

League: AA

Parent Club: Chicago Cubs - NL

Position: LHP


Lugo is maintaining a good pace in his MiLB career. Signed at 16-years old by the Indians, Luis has worked his way up with a lot of stop-and-go action. He spent 2011 in the DLS but then took the next year off. In 2013 the LHP was assigned to the AZL and promoted to high A ball. He again spent the 2014 season away from the MiLB and returned in 2015. After spending spring on the DL he was promoted to AA for the summer. That fall Lugo elected free agency and was picked up in December by the Orioles before being picked up again in July of 2018 by the Royals from free agency. He was then claimed off waivers in December of the same year by the Cubs.


Lugo spent some time in lower-A recuperating from injury in May and July 2019 but otherwise was sitting in the Smokies’ pen. At the end of season, like many European players, Lugo was temporarily inactivated by the MiLB to open up his eligibility to appear in the European Championship. He posted a 1.35 ERA during the tournament for Italy taking home a win in the only game in which he both started and appeared. Over 6.2 innings of work Luis gave up 1 earned run off 6 hits, including a double and a homerun, while walking 1 and striking out 5. The 14 batters he faced had a .214 average against.


On March 1, 2020, Lugo was re-assigned to the Chicago Cubs and played the season in Parma Italy. He posted a 1.80 ERA and a 3-3- record over 8 games and as many starts. Over 40.0 innings of work, he gave up just 8 earned runs off 26 hits and 10 walks while striking out 69 batters for a .900 WHIP. If he comes back equally as strong this spring, we’d expect to see another promotion in 2021 for the 27-year old.


Leonardo Seminati, Alzano Lombardo

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds – NL

Position: 1B


With the cancellation of the 2020 season, Seminati, two days into spring training, was stuck in America, unable to return to Italy. Thousands of miles from home, he and his fiancé waited in Cincinnati as his hometown was ravaged by the virus. Thankfully, his family remained well.


Like many minor league hopefuls, this meant missing out on competitive play in 2020. For the first time in his young career, Seminati was on his own for training. This spring, we’ll find out if the 22-year old’s conditioning routine paid off.


Seminati played short-A ball when last we saw him. At that time, he was still a teen but he was rapidly growing into his mature body. 2021 will be the season we learn what adjustments the 1B has made, or needs to make, to accommodate his new stature. Known to be a hard worker who is serious about his career, we expect Leonardo will do whatever is necessary to advance to AA this season and keep his career trajectory on-pace.


Pat Venditte, Omaha, NE USA

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Unknown

Position: Switch Pitcher

You know you’re kind of a big deal when there’s an umpiring rule named after you. Thanks to Venditte’s ambidextrous ways, the 2008 umpire’s manual made it a rule that pitchers must indicate, by placing their glove upon the other hand, which hand they intend to pitch with ahead of a batter stepping into the box. They must then maintain that hand for pitching throughout that batter’s at-bat. If the pitcher switches hands mid-batter due to injury, they are not permitted to use that hand for the remainder of the game. If the pitcher chooses to switch, they are not permitted any additional warm-up tosses.


Venditte was named to the Italian national team roster for the 2019 Olympic Qualifier but did not make an appearance. He spent the season with the Giants where he pitched just 3.1 innings and finished with a 16.20 ERA. In 2020 Patrick faired far better for the Miami Marlins, appearing in 3 games, finishing two of them and working 4.1 innings while maintaining a 0.00 ERA. He struck out 5 and hit 2 from the hill. In October 2020 he elected free agency. No word yet on his 2021 status.


Twins Donny Breek at the 2019 European Championship PC: Sushysan Sportfotografie

The Netherlands


Donny Breek, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins - AL

Position: RHP


Over 2 seasons of rookie ball, the 21-year old Breek maintained a 1.83 ERA over 20 games, 15 starts, and 73.2 innings of work, with opposing batters averaging just .181 against him. His skills were tested in the fall of 2019 when the then 18-year old faced off against men as much as twice his age in the European Championship, a qualifying competition for a spot in the Olympic Qualifiers. Donny won, and started, the only game in which he appeared. Over 6.0 innings of work he gave up 2 hits, walked 1 and struck out 10 for a .111 average against and a 0.00 ERA. At the Olympic Qualifiers, Breek started against South Africa pitching 2.0 innings and giving up a run off 1 hit while walking 2, hitting 1 and striking out 3 for a .167 average against and 4.50 ERA.


In 2020 Breek was assigned to the A-league Elizabethton Twins before the season was cancelled. Donny returned to Amsterdam where he played in the Dutch Honkbal League and maintained a 1.13 ERA over 6 games and 8.0 innings of work before the league had to suspend play. He has been assigned to the Twins for evaluation to start 2021. If his work throughout the qualifiers was any indication, this young pitcher should be in good condition for a spot on a full season bench.

Darnel Collins, Spijkenisse

Team: DSL Royals1

League: Rookie

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals - AL

Position: OF


Joining his older brother Darryl, 18-year old Darnel Collins is now sporting a Royals jersey. On January 23rd of this year, Darnel was signed as a free agent to a minor league contract and assigned to the DSL Royals1 team. The younger Collins spent 2020 with Curacao Neptunus, in the Dutch Honkbal League, sharing the outfield with his brother.


Darryl Collins, Spijkenisse

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals – AL

Position: OF


19-year old Darryl Collins is expected back with the Royals this summer. He has spent 3 of the last 4 seasons with Curacao Neptunus. During his first year with the Royals, in 2019, Collins played in the AZL rookie league where he finished the season with a .320 batting average and a .436 slugging percentage as well as a .401 OBP and .837 OPS. He had a .961 fielding percentage in left where he spent 402.1 innings putting out 70 in 77 changes and providing 4 assists while committing 3 errors.


Darryl’s batting average during the 2020 season in Europe increased to .352 playing against opponents who are older, many with minor league experience, who have further conditioning in the game. Assuming he can get his errors under control, we’d expect to see the older Collins leaping a level by the end of the 2021 season. If he does not begin in with a full season A team we would expect him to get there before the calendar turns on this year.


Collins' training and extensive play in The Netherlands’s system gives his game an advantage over most Europeans entering the MLB marketplace so, with his bat, his trajectory through the system will only be limited by his fielding as he matures.


Tom de Blok, Amstelveen

Club: Lakeland Flying Tigers

League: A Advanced

Parent Organization: Detroit Tigers

Position: RHP


Tom de Blok was part of The Netherlands’s pen as they worked toward their Olympic dreams in 2019. He finished the European Championship with a 2.89 ERA and a 1-1 record pitching 9.1 innings and maintaining a .171 average against for the tournament. He remained on the roster for the qualifiers but did not make an appearance during their first qualifying run. We’ll have to wait until June to see if he’ll be called to the hill during the team’s final opportunity at representing in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games to be held in July.


Before joining the national team de Blok spent the summer of 2019 with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, a low-A affiliate of Detroit. This was his 3rd season in the minors. He had a 2-13 record with a 4.04 ERA. He played in 21 games and started 20 of them. Over 111.1 innings of work Tom struck out 85. The 24-year old spent 2020 back in The Netherlands playing for Amsterdam where he posted a 2.00 ERA and a 1-0 record. He appeared in just 5 games, and pitched 9 innings before the season was cut short by government.


Tom will have to graduate up to AA this year if he has plans to remain in the MiLB system. He’s aging out of A ball and needs to show he can push through with the W. It is often difficult to judge a pitcher in the low minors because fielding often has more to do with the W/L column than pitching. Based on his ERA and the team’s continued choice to make him their starter, it is a good indication that they see the potential. Three seasons in the same level could be getting the European up-to-speed on culture, training, conditioning or language, or it could be indicative of something else. This is the year we’ll find out which it is.


Sir Didi Gregorius, Amsterdam

Team: Philadelphia Phillies

League: National League

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

Position: SS

Sir Didi will be hanging out in Philly through the 2022 season. After electing free agency in October 2020, the 31-year old re-signed with the Phillies in February 2021, days ahead of the opening of spring training. 2020 was Gregorius’ first season with the Phillies. On defense he was fielding .968 at short, slightly lower than his career average but not unexpected when you consider the changes in his professional life.


Didi had played the previous 5 years for, arguably, the most storied team in the AL. He took over for a guy who held the spot for 20 straight years, making all-star at the position all but 6 of those years, including his final season, before Gregorius joined the club.


In 2020, Gregorius hit .284 with the Phillies, 20 points above his MLB career average, with a .339 OBP and a .488 SLG along with a .827 OPS. In other words, he was making his free agency pitch from inside the chalk lines. Secure now with a $28M extension, we’re looking forward to seeing what the social media sweetheart of the MLB has in store for the fans.


The Kingdom of the Netherlands


Ozzie Albies, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Atlanta Braves

League: National League

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves

Position: 2B


Since his debut at age 20, Albies has been a smiling standard at 2B for Atlanta and why shouldn’t he be? He’s signed through 2025 and will have $35M to show for it come free agency, and all that will happen before his 30th birthday. That said, Ozzie is living up to his contractual obligations.


The 2018 All Star and 2019 Silver Slugger Award winner has sustained a .279 batting average over his first 4 years in the majors with a .330 OBP and a .473 SLG with a .803 OPS. Albies has also held his own on the bag with just 19 errors over 3516.2 innings of work for a .989 fielding percentage. In 1653 changes he has put out 656 while assisting on another 978 turns.


In 2018 he topped the National League leader board for assists at 2B. In 2019 he reached the top once again, this time for putouts at the position as well as double plays turned and fielding percentage at 2B. Ozzie also lead the NL in number of games at 2B in both 2018 and 2019 with over 150 each season.

Shendrik Apostel, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Myrtle Beach Pelicans

League: A

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates - NL

Position: 1B


The 20-year old Apostel will start his 3rd season in the MiLB in 2021. During his 1st two seasons, in 2018 and 2019, Apostel was still a teen on the DOSL Pirates 1. He averaged .252 over two seasons with a .381 OBP, .463 SLG and a .844 OPS. At 1B he had a .978 fielding percentage over 462.0 innings with 416 putouts and 30 assists over 456 changes.


Apostel has already been promoted to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans for the 2021 season, a low-A full season club in the Carolina League. This will be a good opportunity for the club to evaluate the changes aging and a season off have provided the younger Apostel sibling. If he can fair well through the All-Star game, there is absolutely opportunity for advancement.


Sherten Apostel during Rangers Spring Training 2021 PC: Phrake Photography

Sherten Apostel, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Rock Round Express

League: AAA

Parent Club: Texas Rangers - AL

Position: IF (3B/1B)


Sherten Apostel made his MLB debut in September 2020. The 22-year old retains his rookie status through 2021 while being named to the 40-man for the season. This spring he was offered the opportunity to earn his spot. Despite batting .333 over 8 plate appearances in the 9 games, the older Apostel brother was assigned to AAA on March 11th.


The opportunity was a huge nod to Sherten’s future with Texas. He’d previously seen nothing higher than Advanced A ball and had been acquired by Texas back in 2018 when he was traded to the team.


Over 46.0 innings in the bigs, Apostel posted a .973 FP over 38.0 innings at 1B and a .500 average in his 8.0 innings at 3B for 2020. The decision to keep him both on the 40-man for 2021 and located less than 3 hours away from the big league club are strong indications that they see a future for the young infielder in Texas.

Givaine Basillia, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: AZL Athletics Green

League: Rookie

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics - AL

Position: SS


When Givaine was last evaluated by the Athletics he was still a teen. Basillia also spent the 2020 season benched from any league play we were able to find. The young 2B moved from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona League back in 2019. Over the two seasons, he posted a .226 batting average littered with extra base hits. He’s had 8 doubles, 3 triples and a homerun for 21 RBIs, over 270 at bats. He’s also showed patience at the plate walking 28 times while striking out 88 times. If he can sustain those numbers as his body matures, then we’re looking at a future big bat.


Basillia was posting a fielding percentage that floated in the .940s at 2B over his first two seasons. Perhaps that explains the club’s decision to try him at a variety of positions including 3B, the outfield and pitching. Currently, he is expected back with the AZL Athletics Green for 2021 but his position has been altered to SS.

Xander Jan Bogaerts, Oranjestad, Aruba

Team: Boston Red Sox

League: American League

Parent Club: Boston Red Sox

Position: IF – SS, 3B


Bogaerts, signed through 2026, begins his 9th season with the Red Sox. Owner of a World Series ring from 2013 and 2018, a .964 fielding percentage and a lifetime .289 average, the SS has yet to be truly recognized, by the league or fans, for his work.


Named a minor league All Star 4 times over, as well as a Baseball America Minor League All Star and a USA Today Minor League Player of the Year, Bogaerts was finally, and only, named an American League All Star in 2019. He has no other major league credentials or honors to his name.


Though his fielding percentage dipped uncharacteristically low in 2019 to .936, it was right back at 100% for 2020. Xander was on the rehab list for shoulder tightness this spring but is expected to be recovered and ready for opening day.


Hendrik Clementina, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Mississippi Braves

League: AA

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves – NL

Position: C


Clementina received a promotion during his trade this off-season. In 2019, Hendrik ended the year at AA in the Reds organization. Following his appearance at the European Championship and Olympic Qualifier with The Netherlands national team, he was promoted to AAA by the Reds ahead of spring training 2020.


During the European Championship Clementina hit .421 over 19 at bats with 7 runs off 8 hits, including 3 homeruns, and 5 RBIs. He posted a .895 slugging percentage and was perfect on defense behind the plate over 6 games. At the Olympic Qualifiers a week later, he hit .333 with a .500 slugging percentage over 12 at bats and fielded perfectly through 4 games. Two months later, at the Premiere12, he posted a .250 average over 8 at bats while, once again, remaining perfect on D.


Clementina was released by the Reds in August of 2020 and picked up as a free agent by the Braves on February 11, 2021. He was signed to a minor league contract and assigned to their AA affiliate. While Hendrik spent the 2020 season assigned to AAA he never played a game at that level. He also never played AA ball, due to injury, though he was assigned to that team for nearly a full season. In fact, Clementina last played Advanced A ball outside of Europe.

Ray-Patrick Didder, Oranjestad, Aruba

Team: Salt Lake Bees

League: AAA

Parent Club: Los Angeles Angels - AL

Position: OF/SS


Didder didn’t join The Netherlands national team until the Premiere12 when he took a spot in right to help out. The SS maintained a perfect fielding percentage at his new post with 4 putouts and as many assists in 8 chances. At the plate he had 2 hits, including a double, over 7 at bats for a .286 average and a .429 slugging percentage.


Taking advantage of his European connections, Didder spent 2020 in Italy playing for Bologna where he hit .413 over 22 games and 93 plate appearances. That may be just the shot in the arm his average needed after finishing the 2019 season with a .203 average in AA that dipped to .177 during winter ball in Puerto Rico.


The Aruba native has been spending more and more of his time in the outfield but his fielding percentage, in the outer depths of the field aren’t producing any stark improvements over his defensive numbers at short. He’s still very hot/cold. Either he’s at 100% or dipping to the .960 range. His overall percentage through 3 seasons in the minors is .963 making it all the more important that his bat has started to warm once again.


Didder is 26-years old and has been in the MiLB system since 2013. He’s been spending an average of 3 seasons at every level along the way. If he can find a way to maintain the spike in his average while keeping his fielding percentage from dipping further, then we’d expect him to spend 2021 in AAA. Given his age the Olympic Qualifiers, if he makes the National team for those games, could be his best shot at proving he’s ready for the bigs.


Dodgers' closer Kenley Jansen spring training 2021 PC: Phrake Photography

Kenley Jansen, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

League: National League

Parent Club: Los Angeles Dodgers

Position: RHP


Jansen is 33-years old and facing the end of his contract. The closer has thrown an average of 7 total games/year – around 60 innings – in the last four years. He’s a pitcher with a better batting average than fielding percentage. Though he’s only ever made 8 plate appearances, he’s hitting .375. His fielding percentage, with 56 chances, is .911, which explains why he’s a closer.


He’s had 3 opportunities in the last 4 years to reach the top in his profession and was finally crowned champion in 2020. You have to wonder if there is any gas left in his tank, any ambition to continue to perform past this season. The 3-time All Star and 2-time Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year has little left to prove and, at the moment is earning a salary far off balance with his workload.


Perhaps it is the club, and not the closer, that will see a need for this arrangement to conclude at the end of the season. No doubt much of that decision will be made when the club’s standing, come fall, is clearer now that all the kids are back in town to play.


Eric Mendez, Cura Cabai, Aruba

Team: AZL Diamondbacks

League: Rookie

Parent Club: Arizona Diamondbacks - NL

Position: RHP


21-year old RHP Mendez has a 3.16 ERA over 77.0 innings of work in the minors. A free agency sign in July 2017, the Diamondbacks have had Eric in the Dominican and Arizona leagues working between teams 1-2. With the 2020 season cancelled, it is not surprising he is expected to return to Arizona for evaluation before further placement decisions can be made.


Given his age, that year off came at a crucial time in Eric’s development, especially when it comes to control. Mendez has already hit 11 guys and walked 28 while giving up 27 earned runs but he’s also flagged 100. Those numbers indicate a guy who’s not afraid to throw it over the heart of the plate and let his teammates have his back. That is an important emotional skill to have on the hill. As long as he can obtain the necessary control to back it up, he could be an invaluable member of any organization’s pen in due time.


Jurickson Profar, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: San Diego Padres

League: National League

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

Position: Utility


Profar is smiling once again. He’s back with the Padres but signed only through 2021. The 28-year old had a rough go of it a few years back when it came to contract negotiations but, from the look on his face this spring, it’s all good… if only his numbers were reflecting his attitude.


Jurickson was traded to the As by Texas in 2018 and acquired by the Padres in 2019 in another trade from Oakland. Following the end of the 2020 season, Profar elected free agency. The Padres picked him back up in January of 2021, signing him to a 1-year $5.3M deal.


Over 5 years in the MLB, his batting average is subpar, .238, and that is not likely to change. The man loves to swing. He’s accumulated 333 strikeouts over 1796 at bats but he also has 428 hits. Profar’s not known for being an extra bases guy but 36% of all his hits are for extra bags. He’s also driven in 222. He’s slugging percentage is a sluggish .397 but his OPS is .715. These are the numbers that remind you why you have to dive deeper than a batting average to truly weigh the value of a hitter.


In terms of fielding Jurickson is perfect at 1B over 289.2 innings of work, he’s .974 at 2B over 1674.2 innings, .920 at 3B over 673 innings and perfect in the outfield over 77 innings, as well as .953 at short over 837 innings. Pick a spot, he’s got your coverage handled. In the old days, we’d call him a solid utility player and the Padres, with their 70s throwback uniforms, might be just the kind of club to recognize the long-hall value in that kind of guy.


Ademar Rifaela, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Unknown

League:Unknown

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles – AL

Position: LF


Ademar Rifaela has been moved from active status to the reserve list for the minor leagues. He elected free agency in November 2019, following The Netherlands run in the European Championship, Olympic Qualifiers and Premiere12. Rifaela had a roster spot on all three teams.


The leftfielder appeared in 3 games during the Premiere12 where he hit .429, had a .500 OBP and a .929 OPS while maintaining a perfect fielding percentage. At the Olympic Qualifiers Ademar hit .222 with a .444 SLG and a .762 OPS plus a 1.000 fielding percentage. At the European Championship he hit .421 over 7 games, all of which he started. Over 27 at bats Rifaela had 10 runs off 11 hits, including 1 double and 6 homeruns. He drove in 17 for a 1.111 slugging percentage. He was slightly less perfect in the fielding maintaining just a .900 average at left with 9 putouts and an error.


Ademar spent the summer of 2020 in The Netherlands playing for Amersfoort where he maintained a .233 average with a .465 SLG and .763 OPS in 11 games before the season was prematurely ended due to government restrictions.


Orioles OF Ademar Rifaela running the paths for The Netherlands during the 2019 European Championship PC: Thomas Schoenenbornthe

Jonathan Schoop, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Detroit Tigers

League: American League

Parent Club: Detroit Tigers

Position: 2B

Schoop has been a free agent since the end of 2018. After being traded by the Orioles to Milwaukee, he elected free agency to end the season. The Twins picked him up for the 2019 season and then Detroit signed him as a free agent in 2020, and again in February of this year. At the moment the 29-year old is signed through 2021 for $4.5M.


The 2017 All Star has a lifetime fielding percentage of .983 at 2B and a .259 average. He’s the kind of guy that makes things happen in the box. 38% of all his hits are for extra bases and he’s driving someone in more than once every 10 at bats.


Andrelton Simmons, Mundo Nobo, Curaçao

Team: Minnesota Twins

League: American League

Parent Club: Minnesota Twins

Position: SS

You read that right, Simmons is no longer in California. After 5 seasons with the club, he’s moved from one of the warmest, to the coldest place in America to play baseball, Minnesota. Simmons joins Germany’s Max Kepler on the bench making Minnesota the first MLB team in a long while to have more than one European, especially from different countries, on the big club’s roster at the same time.


Simmons is signed through 2021 for $10.5M. The 31-year old is in his 10th MLB season but you wouldn’t know it looking at his numbers. Andrelton finished the 2020 season with the highest batting average of his career, hitting .297. His career average is .269. He has a lifetime .379 OBP and a .696 OPS. He’s another Dutchie that likes to hit for extra bases but, more importantly, likes driving his teammates home. He’s driving in 406 with his 1064 hits while scoring 456 times.


Andrelton is fast too. He’s stolen 67 bases and been caught just 24 times. At short he has a lifetime fielding percentage of .981. He’s won the Wilson Defensive Player Award 7 times and received the NL Platinum Glove as well as being a 4-time Golden Glove recipient.


Chadwick Tromp, Oranjestad, Aruba

Team: Sacramento River Cats

League: AAA

Parent Club: San Francisco Giants– NL

Position: C


Chadwick Tromp is back in the minors to start 2021. Tromp made his MLB debut on July 29, 2020 with the Giants. He finished the season hitting .213 over 64 plate appearances with a .425 SLG and a .645 OPS while maintaining a .993 fielding percentage from the crouch.


In September he was placed on the DL for right shoulder strain. In December he elected free agency and was signed one week later again by San Fransisco. On March 15, 2021, he was assigned to AAA to start the season. During the 2019 season Tromp was added to The Netherlands team roster for the Premiere12. He appeared in 3 games hitting just .125 over 8 at bats and maintaining a .933 fielding percentage behind the plate.


Tromp’s career has fallen, in large part just on the heels of his counterparts from home who are 2-5 years older than him. As they age out, there may be a spot open to him but, more likely than not, his career will have suffered from the problem of too much development too quickly in a single area. Tromp might be good but he won’t be the best option for teams unless they are in a pinch. The Islands have plenty of up-and-coming players who are still young enough to wait out the final contract years of the generation that came before them, building their talents through the minor league system.


Franklin Van Gurp, Philipsburg, Saint Martin

Team: Lake Elsinore Storm

League: Low-A

Parent Club: San Diego Padres - NL

Position: RHP


One of just a few pitchers out of The Kingdom, Van Gurp is a 25-year old relief pitcher who has made it as far as AA. Since 2017 he has only seen 161.2 innings of work and has a 3.71 ERA and a .893 fielding percentage in his position. Given his age, and the fact that he’s been reassigned to A-level ball, this will be Franklin’s final opportunity to prove himself in the MiLB system. He was not on the roster for The Netherlands national team in any of their three big tournaments for 2019 and he did not play in the country in 2020 during the MiLB off-season.


Jonathan Willems, Willemstad, Curaçao

Team: Dayton Tortugas

League: Low A

Parent Club: Cincinnati Reds – NL

Position: 2B / 3B

Willems is a 22-year old who last played in 2019 for the pioneer league in rookie ball. This was his 4th season in the minors but, given his age at the time, that is not surprising. He finished the season batting .300 in rookie ball and .214 in A ball with a .958 fielding percentage in rookie ball and a .936 fielding percentage in A ball, both at 2B. He was clearly outgrowing rookie ball back in 2019. Assuming he’s kept up his training in the 2020 off-season, he should be physically developed now enough to be able to advance himself through A-ball and move forward from there. The Reds are providing the opportunity, placing him in low-A to start the season, the rest is up to him.


Russia

Anton Kuznetsov, Moscow

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies - NL

Position: LHP


Kuznetsov is a 22-year old LHP who was signed as a free agent by the Phillies in 2016. After advancing at a normal pace through the system in his first two seasons, he hit the middle of 2018 and was placed on the DL for 60 days. Anton was then assigned to the collegiate summer leagues for rehab and moved back into the GCL in 2019. He came off the injury posting up a 1.91 ERA in 17 games with a 3-1-1 record for 2019. That is only slightly higher than his career ERA of 1.88.


In 33.0 innings of work for 2019, Kuznetsov struck out 30 and finished the year with a 1.03 WHIP and a career perfect fielding percentage – a very rare find in a pitcher, let alone a leftie. Anton was assigned to the Phillies in February 2021 for evaluation heading into the new season. The fact that the club rehabbed his arm and then stuck with him is indication they are vested in his career. Lefties are hard to come by but a well-groomed leftie is invaluable to an organization that raised him.


Slovakia


Adam Macko, Bratislava

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Seattle Mariners - AL

Position: LHP


Macko finished the 2019 season with a 3.38 ERA over 8 games and 21.1 innings of work. He struck out 31 over his 2 starts but finished the season 0-3. Adam was assigned to high A-ball at the end of the year following a mid-season move up from the AZL. Like many young pitchers, the 20-year old has been assigned to the parent club for the spring to evaluate his progress after a season away from their system.


Adam’s ERA was not ideal but he was in a transition year when last he played so the team will have to take the situational factors into consideration. He has age working for him but his fielding percentage is not his friend, sitting at just .714. Macko also has very few career innings, just 23.1, but his strikeout to walk/HPB show he’s got good control. If he maintains it through his growth spurt – likely to hit this season if it hasn’t already – then he might make it out the other side.


Spain


Daniel Alvarez, Barquisimeto, VEN

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: San Francisco Giants

Position: RHP – Relief


25-year old reliever Daniel Alvarez spent the winter in Venezuela posting a 4.26 ERA and a .833 fielding percentage over 13 games. His career fielding percentage is .941 and his cumulative ERA is just 2.69 over 8 seasons. Alvarez made it as high as AAA in 2019 and has been playing ball year-round for 3 out of the last 4 winters. He might be starting to lose ground through over-use. At the moment he’s being evaluated by the Giants for placement in the 2021 season. They signed Daniel just ahead of the 2020 season so they have not had an opportunity to evaluate his performance until now.


Cristian Heredia, Madrid

Team: AZL Padres 2

League: Rookie

Parent Club: San Diego Padres - NL

Position: RF


Right fielder Heredia finished 2019 with a .265 average and a .765 OPS, over 166 at bats and a .926 fielding percentage. Just his second season in the MiLB system the, then 17-year old, finished the year having advanced from the Dominican League to the Arizona League year over year. Despite the Spanish League of Honor playing their 2020 season, Heredia did not appear on any team rosters in the league. At the end of 2019 he was assigned to the San Diego Padres Futures however so we expect to be hearing more about him in 2021.


Frank Hernandez SF Giants Spring Training Showcase 2021 PC: Phrake Photography

Francisco Hernandez, Montreal Quebec, CAN

Team: GCL Cardinals

League: Rookie

Parent Club: St. Louis Cardinals - NL

Position: 3B


Hernandez finished 2019 with a .226 average. His 3rd minor league season Francisco spent the year advancing. He had been moved from the DSL to the GCL to start the season before being moved to advanced-A for two games in mid-June. He was then reassigned back to the GCL Cardinals and, at the moment, that is where he is scheduled to begin 2021.

Omar Hernandez, La Habana, CUB

Team: Unknown

League: Unknown

Parent Club: Kansas City Royals - AL

Position: C


Hernandez was signed by the Royals in August of 2018 and assigned to the AZL Royals in June of 2019. Just now only 19 years old he batted .290 in Arizona over 131 at bats and 147 plate appearances two summers ago. Omar had 21 runs off 38 hits including 7 doubles, a triple and 16 RBIs. He stole 2 while being caught once and he struck out 20 times but he also walked 8 times. His OBP was .345 and his OPS was .704.


Considering Hernandez was just 17 at the time, that's some serious power for his age. Behind the plate he caught 307.0 innings putting out 327 and assisting with another 37 over 372 chances. He committed 8 errors but left the field with a .978 percentage.


The club has not assigned him for the 2021, but, if he comes into spring even half as good, and at least the same size, there is little doubt he’ll be starting in A ball if not full season, then short season. No matter where he’s placed, he’s absolutely made our one-to-watch list for the summer!


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