A lot of people probably wonder how Canada can produce talented baseball players like Larry Walker, Joey Votto or Brett Lawrie when the winter is so long there. Those same people believe the weather is so cold there that most people play hockey 365 days per year on the frozen lakes. Canada does have a window of warm weather where many of their players can lace up their cleats and oil up their gloves to play a little baseball. They also have a very organized national program that has done a good job of developing their younger players.
Canada had a pretty good year in international tournaments in 2011, winning the bronze medal in the last ever World Cup and following that up with a gold medal in the Pan Am games. The 2012 activity was a little light as they dropped to sixth in the world rankings for baseball power, but their 18 and under team did finish with a silver medal. The last time they finished higher was in 1991 when their team won the gold medal. Prior to that they seemed to be regular winners in that event.
You can see a pretty extensive list of minor leaguers here: http://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/articles/2012-canadians-in-the-minors/. One name that surprises me is Oscar Taveras and his Montreal connection. It appears Oscar played baseball in Montreal between the ages of 12-16 before returning to the Dominican Republic where the Cardinals signed him. If he had stayed in Canada with his Canadian passport he would have been subject to the draft. When asked if he would play for Canada in the WBC if they asked him he enthusiastically stated “Why not. I have a Canadian passport.” For Canadian prospect purposes if myworld is going to include Jameson Talleson on this list we will have to include Oscar Taveras.
You can take a look at last year’s list here: http://myworldofbaseball.com/wordpress/?p=488
1. Oscar Taveras (OF) St. Louis - Yes. Oscar has a Canadian passport, having lived in Montreal from the ages of 12-16 before returning to his birth country of Dominican Republic where the Cardinals signed him. Otherwise he would have been subject to the draft. Oscar is considered one of the top hitting prospects in baseball. Last year he hit .321 with 23 homeruns and 94 RBIs in AA. Carlos Beltran will yield right field to Oscar in 2014. Don’t be surprised if Oscar gets a lot of playing time there in 2013. He is a five tool athlete with his speed just a tad above average, making him a better fit in right field rather than centerfield.
2. Jameson Taillon (RHP) Pittsburgh Pirates - He was born in the United States, but his parents have passports from Canada. He is named on the preliminary roster for the Canadian WBC team. The Pirates selected him as the second player in the 2010 draft, just after Bryce Harper. When asked who they would have taken if they were selecting first the Pirates responded Jameson. Of course, they are a team with a 20 year losing streak. Jameson has a blazing mid 90s fastball that can hit the high 90s. His curveball is also considered a pretty good pitch. All he has to do is develop a change and he will be major league ready. Last year he got three starts in AA putting together a 1.59 ERA. He will start this season in AA but could see the major league roster by mid-season if all goes well.
3. James Paxton (LHP) Seattle Mariners - The first player actually born in Canada, but not too far behind Taveras and Taillon as far as prospect status. Most Top 100 lists have Oscar and Jameson in the Top 20 with James falling in the fifty hole. He was a fourth round pick in 2010. He throws his fastball in the low 90s but can get it up to the mid-90s, plenty of heat for a lefthanded pitcher. Baseball America rated his curveball as the best in the Mariners system. Like most young pitchers all he has to do is develop his change and he will have the requisite three pitches to be a starter.
4. Phillippe Aumont (RHP) Philadelphia Phillies - Phillippe was also a Mariner, drafted in the first round in 2007. The Mariners didn’t know what to do with him, bouncing him around between starting and relieving. He was traded to the Phillies as part of the Cliff Lee deal, another Canadian Tyson Gillies included in that deal. The Phillies also bounced him around between the bullpen and starting rotation, but since 2011 he has been in the bullpen. He made his major league debut last year getting 18 relief appearances and fashioning a 3.68 ERA. Coming out of the bullpen he can throw his fastball in the high 90s. He also has a nice curveball, which is all the pitches he needs for the bullpen. Another reason for his move to the bullpen is his lack of command. He still walks too many hitters, and the bullpen is where pitchers with nasty stuff go who have no control over that stuff.
5. Kyle Lotzkar (RHP) Cincinnati Reds - The Reds keep waiting for him to get healthy. Kyle was a first round supplemental pick in 2007 but has yet to throw more than 112 innings. That was his work load last year when he put together a combined 4.58 ERA between High A and AA. He will probably repeat AA in 2013. His fastball is not overpowering, hitting the low 90s and he had some command issues in AA walking 53 in 86 innings. Like the other pitchers on this list his curveball is sound but his changeup could improve.
6. Tyson Gillies (OF) Philadelphia Phillies - Another player drafted by the Mariners in the 25th round of the 2006 draft, one of the last draft and follows. He was one of the players included in the Cliff Lee trade that brought him to the Phillies. Tyson’s greatest asset is his speed that will allow him to cover a lot of ground in centerfield and steal bases from the lead off spot. He has also had trouble staying healthy, putting together less than 150 at bats combined between the 2010 and 11 season. He still missed much of the 2012 season because of hamstring, concussion and suspension issues for fighting with the bus driver. Gaining maturity seems to be a major issue he has to overcome before he can think about becoming a major leaguer. He should make the major leagues just based on his defensive prowess alone.
7. Nick Bucci (RHP) Milwaukee Brewers - An 18th round pick in 2008. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, his fastball sitting mostly in the low 90s, but he can spot his pitches well. Shoulder issues limited him to just 10 starts last year, but his ERA was less than 2.00 at both the Rookie level and Hi A. He needs to show he is healthy which could result in advancement to AA, one big step from the majors. His best bet will be as a pitcher at the back end of a rotation who can eat innings or be used in a middle inning relief role.
8. Kellin Deglan (C) Texas Rangers - Kellin was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, the 22nd player selected in the draft. His last two years he has failed to hit over .234 with over 90 strikeouts in 90 games. He did hit for a little more power last year than 2011, doubling his homerun production and hitting 10 more doubles than last year. His slugging percentage went from .347 to .438. He still has a lot to work on both from the offensive and defensive side.
9. Ethan Stewart (LHP) Philadelphia Phillies - Ethan is an under dog, drafted in the 47th round in 2010. He has good height at 6′5″, throws lefthanded and sees his fastball travel anywhere from the high 80s to the low 90s. His curveball is an okay pitch and his change is still developing. He started 23 games at Low A putting together a 3.89 ERA. His 64/81 walk to whiff ratio in 116 innings pitched is not impressive, but he still lacks experience. Expect him to get better and throw harder as he fills into his frame.
10. Jordan Lennerton (1B) Detroit Tigers - His chances of playing in Detroit are slim with Prince Fielder signed to a virtual lifetime contract. His best bet is to get traded if he wants to see the major leagues. He will be 27 this year so his time is now. Last year he played at AA where he hit 21 homeruns. It was a tough choice between Nick Weglarz, Marcus Knecht or Jordan for the tenth spot but Jordan had the best year of the three.