With just under a month to go until the World Baseball Classic begins, MLB Network unveiled the official rosters of all twenty teams tonight - including, of course, Team Canada’s.
Ernie Whitt will lead Canada in his fifth go-around with the program, with the 30-man roster being broken down as follows:
- Bo Naylor (Cleveland Guardians)
- Kellin Deglan (Free Agent)
- Freddie Freeman (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Abraham Toro (Seattle Mariners)
- Otto Lopez (Toronto Blue Jays)
- Damiano Palmegiani (Toronto Blue Jays)
- Edouard Julien (Minnesota Twins)
- Andy Yerzy (Free Agent)
- Owen Caissie (Chicago Cubs)
- Jared Young (Chicago Cubs)
- Denzel Clarke (Oakland Athletics)
- Tyler O’Neill (St. Louis Cardinals)
- Jacob Robson (Detroit Tigers)
- Andrew Albers (Free Agent)
- Phillippe Aumont (Free Agent)
- John Axford (Free Agent)
- Matt Brash (Seattle Mariners)
- Mitch Bratt (Texas Rangers)
- Trevor Brigden (Tampa Bay Rays)
- Indigo Diaz (New York Yankees)
- R.J. Freure (Lincoln Saltdogs)
- Adam Loewen (Free Agent)
- Scott Mathieson (Free Agent)
- Nick Pivetta (Boston Red Sox)
- Cal Quantrill (Cleveland Guardians)
- Evan Rutckyj (Melbourne Aces)
- Noah Skirrow (Philadelphia Phillies)
- Cade Smith (Cleveland Guardians)
- Curtis Taylor (Chicago Cubs)
- Rob Zastryzny (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Though entering the tournament as substantial underdogs in Pool C alongside the likes of the United States, Mexico, Great Britain, and Colombia, Canada has found themselves with a good amount of known talent. Naylor, Freeman, Toro, Lopez, Young, O’Neill, Brash, Pivetta, Zastryzny and Quantrill all played in the MLB during the ‘22 season at one point or another, while Deglan, Robson, Albers, Aumont, Axford, Loewen, and Mathieson have seen the field with a Major League club at some point throughout their careers.
Owen Caissie (#10), Denzel Clarke (#13), Edouard Julien (#15), Mitch Bratt (#17), and Damiano Palmegiani (#27) were all 2022 Top-30 ranked prospects for the Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively. 2023 Top-30 rankings have not yet been released.
Trevor Brigden, Indigo Diaz, Cade Smith, Noah Skirrow and Curtis Taylor are all non-ranked, right-handed relievers - with Brigden and Smith being non-roster Invitees to Major League Spring Training camp for each of their respective teams. Andy Yerzy, a former 2nd-round pick of Arizona who at one time was projected to be a future Diamondbacks catcher, was never able to put it all together and is currently a Free Agent.
R.J. Freure and Evan Rutckyj both played in non-affiliated ball most recently, with Freure - a former 6th-round pick of Houston in 2018 - putting up good numbers for Lincoln in the American Association, while Rutckyj - a former 16th-round pick of the Yankees in 2010 - pitched out of the Melbourne Aces’ pen in the ABL for much of 2022.
All things considered, the Canadian National Team is doing the best with what they have - prior commitments, a lack of interest, and injuries all play a significant role when it’s time to create the roster. Zach Pop, Charles Leblanc and Rowan Wick will remain in camp with each of their teams in an attempt to secure an MLB roster spot, while Blue Jays All-Stars Vladdy Jr. (playing for the Dominican Republic) and Jordan Romano (in camp with Toronto) will also not dawn the Maple Leaf. Josh Naylor, Joey Votto, James Paxton and Mike Soroka will be absent due to injury, all of whom have expressed interest in representing Canada in the past.
It’s not a bad roster. It’s not a great roster. Can they match up against the likes of the United States and - should they get that far - the Dominican Republic? No, likely not. That said, there’s absolutely an opportunity to be competitive against Colombia, Great Britain, and even Mexico. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but not otherworldly far-fetched.
All told, the Blue Jays will have nine players within their organization participating in the World Baseball Classic: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Dominican Republic), Yimi Garcia (Dominican Republic), Otto Lopez (Canada), Damiano Palmegiani (Canada), Jose Berrios (Puerto Rico), Luis Quinones (Puerto Rico), Alejandro Kirk (Mexico), Spencer Horwitz (Israel), and Jiorgeny Casimiri (Netherlands).
As a whole, ex-Blue Jay organizational talent will be seen throughout the WBC’s four pools as well. Josh Palacios, Jose De Leon, Eric Sogard, Joe Biagini, Graham Spraker, Sam Gaviglio, Vinny Nittoli, Jason Adam, Kendall Graveman, Rowdy Tellez, Cesar Valdez, Darnell Sweeney, Chavez Young, Marcus Stroman, Max Castillo, Joel Payamps, Teoscar Hernandez, Jake Fishman, Ryan Lavarnway, Ty Kelly, and Danny Valencia will all partake across various teams.
Team Canada’s first game will be against Great Britain on March 12th at Chase Field in Arizona, followed by the United States, Colombia, and Mexico from the 13th-15th. The top-2 teams in each five-team pool will advance to the second round - something Canada has never done since the World Baseball Classic was founded. No official word will come for at least another three weeks or so, but barring injury I’d expect either Pivetta or Aumont to kick things off in Game 1.