The only player from the top ten list from last year to make the major leagues was Jameson Taillon. He was considered Canadian based on his parent’s birth. The World Baseball Classic team seemed to lack some youth, relying on veterans who had long past their prime as major league players. Myworld is not sure if this is a testament to their lack of confidence in the younger players or they just went too long with veterans that rewarded them four years ago in international events, but found themselves past their prime this year. The Canadian team in the 2017 WBC reminded me too much of the team that took the bronze at the World Cup in Panama in 2011. That was six years ago.
Below is a new crop of Canadian players. There were some bad years from players who appeared on this list last year dropping them off the list for fresher faces with better results or more promise.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr 3B (Blue Jays) - He is the son of Vladimir. He doesn’t have the arm of his father nor the power but he has a little better patience at the plate. Just because he is not as good as his father at some of those skills does not mean he lacks them. Last year a 33/35 walk to whiff ratio shows he has the ability to make contact. He also slugged 8 homeruns as a 17 year old in rookie ball. A stocky body may force him to move from third base to first or try to fit in left field. Speed is not one of his strong tools but he had enough to steal 15 bases. It may not be enough to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. This year he is playing at Low A and he has already clubbed two homeruns. He still has an impressive 8/5 walk to whiff ratio.
2. Tyler O’Neill OF (Mariners) - Tyler was expected to win the Mariners right field job but Seattle decided to give him more time in the minors. In 2015 he hit 32 homeruns and last year he hit 24. When he makes contact the ball goes a long way. The arm is good enough to play right field and though he only has average speed he has the guile to steal 20 plus bases. The Mariners would like to see him cut down on his strikeouts, which hit 150 last year. More contact could result in a better average with more balls leaving the park. This year he has two homeruns, but his 11 whiffs in 10 games has kept his average down to .211.
3. Cal Quantril RHP (Padres) - The son of Paul was the Padres first round pick last year. The Padres were not deterred by his Tommy John surgery when he was a sophomore in college. His fastball shows some zip, hitting the mid-90s but his change up will get the swings and misses. Last year he struck out 11.2 hitters per nine innings with the command to throw strikes. He only got two starts in Low A with a 17.36 ERA but the Padres have decided to jump him to High A to begin the 2017 season. The California League can be harsh on pitchers and Cal has struggled in his two starts with a 5.40 ERA.
4. Josh Naylor 1B (Padres) - The Marlins drafted the burly first baseman in the first round. After a prank gone bad when he cut Stone Garrett with a knife the Marlins traded him to the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Josh has light tower power that does not come with a lot of whiffs. His bulky body makes first base or DH the only position he can play and his defense at first is not sterling. He needs to hit if he wants to play. The power has yet to show in games, with 12 last year at Low A and High A. The Padres have him playing in the California League where he is struggling to make contact (13 K’s in 10 games) which has resulted in a .178 average with no balls leaving the yard. The .244 slugging average will not last long.
5. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) - Mike does not have overpowering stuff but that did not prevent the Braves from taking him in the first round with one of their two first round picks. His fastball sits in the low 90s but his secondary stuff (curve and change) are above average. His command is excellent with his pitches forcing hitters to make soft contact or hitting the ball on the ground. In two starts at AA he has only given up one run, a solo homerun in his second start. The opposition is hitting only .122 against him. The Braves have a lot of talented pitchers in their minor leagues, with most having greater velocity than Soroka, but it is those pitchers who can get outs who will make the rotation, not those pitchers who throw the hardest.
6. Nick Pivetta RHP (Phillies) - The Phillies achieved two objectives with Pivetta. They were able to trade Jonathan Papelbon and they got a pretty good pitcher in return. At 6′5″ Nick has the frame to come down on hitters. With his mid-90s fastball he can be intimidating on the mound. Nick has to show improvement on his secondary pitches if he does not want hitters to sit on his fastball. His command could use some improvement as well. Nick has gotten off to a good start at AAA with two victories in his first two starts, including a complete game seven inning shutout. His ERA shines at 0.69 with the opposition hitting him at a .167 clip.
7. Curtis Taylor RHP (Diamondbacks) - Curtis was a fourth round pick of the Diamondbacks last year. Curtis was a reliever in college his first two years, but pitched as a starter his last year. That is the role the Diamondbacks had for him last year. At 6′6″ his fastball hits the mid-90s when pitching in relief. He can also rely more on his fastball/slider mix, with his third pitches rather ordinary. He has yet to pitch this year, which indicates to myworld that he is still in extended spring training.
8. Andy Yerzy C (Diamondbacks) - Andy was drafted in the second round last year by the Diamondbacks, the first of four Canadians the Diamondbacks drafted. Yerzy is supposed to be a bat first catcher but last year he struggled to hit .216 with a .265 slugging average. His arm is not strong but he has the intangibles you want to see in a catcher. Myworld suspects he is with Curtis in extended spring training catching bullpen sessions for him.
9. Gareth Morgan OF (Mariners) - Gareth strikes out a lot and last year could not stay healthy. He was a second round pick in 2014. At 6′4″ he has the ability to hit for power. If he could cut down on his strikeouts and take a few more walks he could improve upon his career .203 average with 244 whiffs in just 146 games. The arm plays in right and there is some speed that he could fit in center, but if he doesn’t hit there will be no place for him. This year Morgan is hitting .179 with 17 whiffs in 28 at bats. The talent is there when he makes contact but that does not occur with great frequency.
10. Demi Orimoloye OF (Brewers) - Born in Nigeria but moving to Canada as a youth Demi was projected to be a first round pick in 2015. Because of some concerns with his ability to make contact he dropped to the fourth round. Demi could be a 30/30 player with excellent speed and the ability to hit the ball a long way once he makes contact. He also can cover a lot of ground in center field. His biggest challenge is that ability to make contact. This is his first year in full season ball and he is struggling with a .194 average and 11 whiffs in nine games. He has carried two balls over the fence and stolen a base. The Brewers will have to show a lot of patience with him.