The Canadian national team that won the bronze medal in the World Cup in Panama and their first gold medal win at the Pan Am games in Mexico were voted en mass to the Canadian Hall of Fame. A few of those players were good enough to make this list as well.
1. Jameson Taillon (RHP) Pirates - Myworld is making an exception to our rule that a player has to be born in that country to be considered for this list. Jameson was born in Texas to parents who are Canadian citizens. He played all of his ball in the United States, but the Canadians still claim him so we will include him. It will be interesting what team he plays for in the World Baseball Classic. Jameson was the second pick by the Pirates in the 2010 draft. The Pirates have said that even if they had been drafting first, they would have chosen Taillon over Bryce Harper. For a kid just out of high school Jameson throws hard, with a fastball in the mid-90s. He also has a nice curveball and throws in a slider for a third pitch. His changeup still needs work, but then he didn’t need that pitch when he was blowing it by his high school competetion. The Pirates advanced him to Low A for his first year, a pretty decent leap for a kid just out of high school, but at 19 and getting close to 20 he is a pretty advanced for a high schooler.
2. James Paxton LHP (Mariners) - James Paxton was another 2010 pick, but he fell to the fourth round. Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in 2009, he was denied the opportunity to play for Kentucky when he didn’t sign based on disclosures that his agent Scott Boras did more than advise him. The Mariners farm system is loaded with pitchers and Paxton is one of the better ones. The fact that he throws lefthanded with a fastball that hits the radars in the low 90s is only a plus. He also throws a curveball and change that are still in their developing stages. Last year he went from Low A to AA, skipping the High A, and didn’t miss a beat, striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings and finishing with a 1.85 ERA after seven starts. With that kind of progress, expect him to be pitching for the Mariners sometime in 2012.
3. Phillippe Aumont RHP (Phillies) - There is a whale of talent in that right arm. The Mariners were not able to harness it, eventually trading Phillippe and other prospects to the Phillies for Cliff Lee. The Phillies also struggled with the decision of making him a starter or putting him back in the bullpen. Durability issues and a lack of command made the decision easy for them. Aumont pitched out of the bullpen in 2011 and had perhaps his best year. He still walked a bevy of batters (one every two innings) but he also averaged close to 13 whiffs per nine innings pitched. He gave up a few more hits in AAA, but his ERA stayed low (3.18). At 6′7″ he throws his fastball in the mid to high 90s when coming out of the pen and he can get by with a lesser repertoire of pitches. Expect him to crack the Phillie pen in 2012 if he continues to have success in AAA. Aumont was a first round pick by the Mariners in 2007, so it has taken him some time to get it all together.
4. Kellin Deglan (C) Rangers - Kellin was another first round 2010 pick, but he was the 22nd player selected in the draft. Yamani Grandal was the first catcher selected in that draft and Kellin was the second. Kellin got his baseball experience playing for the Canadian National team, since his high school did not have a baseball team. Catching is a position that needs a lot of repetetion so he signed early and played in 32 games in 2010. His defense is still quite raw, but he draws raves for the tools he possesses. While trying to learn the defensive side of the game it makes having success on the offensive side difficult. Kellin struggled with that last year, hitting only .227 with 91 strikeouts in 89 games. He swings from the left side, which is a big advantage from a platoon standpoint and he shows potential to hit for power. Expect a slow progression for him through the minor league system.
5. Nick Weglarz OF (Indians) - It was a wasted year for Nick. He spent most of it on the disabled list, getting into only 41 games and hitting .179. The previous year injuries limited him to 87 games, but at least he hit in the games he played, slugging over .500. At 25 going into the 2012 season this will be a make or break year for Nick. When healthy, few players have as much power. First base is probably his best position, but he has always played the outfield because there was someone ahead of him that was less athletic than Nick, keeping him in the outfield. Nick doesn’t have a lot of range, but he catches what he gets to. He also draws a lot of walks so his OBAs tend to approach .400 when healthy. If he has some success in AAA the Indians could use his power and on base ability in the lineup.
6. Michael Crouse (OF) Blue Jays - Welcome to the Hall of Fame Mr. Crouse. Michael was probably the less polished of the National team players, but he appeared the most athletic. He batted lower in the order and had trouble making contact, but at 6′4″ he covered a lot of ground in centerfield for a big man. He struck out his first three times in the World Cup. Myworld didn’t see a lot of that projected power from him in the World Cup, but he is one of those players that looks impressive in a uniform. Last year he slugged 14 homeruns at Low A, but he also struck out 113 times in just 101 games. He still has quite a bit of polish to go through before he is ready for the major leagues.
7. Nick Bucci (RHP ) Brewers - Another member of the Canadian National Team that played in Panama. Myworld never saw a game that he pitched, but he did throw five innings of shutout ball against a Taiwan team. He also got taken to the showers early by Australia. He is not overpowering, with a fastball that settles in the low 90s but he has a steady repertoire of pitches that keep hitters off balance, mixing in a cutter, curveball and change. He has had a slow ascent up the minor league ladder after being drafted in the 18th round in 2008. Last year he completed his stint in the High A Florida State League where he finished 8-11, 3.84. He should be ready for AA in 2012, which is just a hot streak away from the major leagues.
8. Marcus Knecht (OF) Blue Jays - Marcus Knecht was in the same outfield as Crouse in both Panama and at Low A Lansing. They played the bread in the Canadian outfield sandwich that surrounded California boy Jake Marisnick in centerfield. Marcus usually came off the bench on the National team. His slow foot speed and average arm make his best defensive position either first base or left field. He does hit for power, with 16 homeruns at Lansing. Like Crouse, that also comes with a lot of swings and misses, with 124 strikeouts in 121 games. He was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft after assaulting junior college pitchers for a .453 average and 21 homeruns. He is the fourth 2010 draft pick to make this list.
9. Kyle Lotzkar (RHP) Reds - Like Aumont, Kyle was drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft, but as a supplemental pick. His career has been sidetracked by injury. He missed all of the 2009 season after Tommy John surgery. He has never pitched more than 67 innings in a season, even though all of his appearances have been starts. He only got 14 starts in 2011 because of hamstring issues but had his career high in innings pitched. He doesn’t throw with as much velocity since the Tommy John surgery. His durability issues may make his best alternative to pitch out of the pen. The Reds placed him on their 40 man roster, even though he has never pitched past Low A, so they must think a lot of him.
10. Brock Kjeldgaard OF (Brewers) - At 6′5″ Brock is a big boy whose best position is first base. He was drafted in 2005, but spent his first two years as a pitcher. He converted to being a full time hitter in 2008 and with his 235 pound frame, when he hits the ball it goes a long ways. He played right field for the Canadian National team, but slid over to center when Crouse sat to give the team more offense. He is probably a better fit in right since his lack of speed does not cover a lot of ground in center. He did hit 18 homeruns with a .558 slugging percentage in the pitcher friendly Florida State League, but that power disappeared when he was promoted to AA, dropping to nine homeruns and a .424 slugging in just 40 less at bats.a0e