When the World Baseball Classic begins next week, players from six continents won't just be competing to get their national teams to California for the second round and the Championship Round. Many will also be looking to impress scouts from Major League organizations, in the hope of becoming the next
When the World Baseball Classic begins next week, players from six continents won't just be competing to get their national teams to California for the second round and the Championship Round. Many will also be looking to impress scouts from Major League organizations, in the hope of becoming the next Peter Moylan.
Moylan, a 38-year-old right-hander who throws a heavy sinker from a low arm slot, is in camp with the Royals on a Minor League contract after making 50 appearances as a middle reliever last season. He wouldn't have had his long MLB career if he hadn't come to Florida to pitch for Australia in the 2006 WBC.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the WBC gave me the chance to play in the big leagues,'' Moylan said at the Royals' camp in Surprise, Ariz. "The club teams in Australia weren't even that interested. I think if I hadn't played in the WBC, I'd be a pharmaceutical agent in Australia."
Moylan signed with the Twins when he was 17, but he was released less than two years later, having pitched fewer than 70 innings. He returned to Australia and went to work as a sales rep while playing baseball mostly on a recreational basis.
Moylan underwent two back surgeries before developing his sidearm style and increasing his velocity to the mid-90s, which got him a spot on Australia's national team. He caught the attention of scouts from the Braves when he faced Venezuela. Moylan walked five in 1 2/3 innings, but they saw the possibilities when he struck out Magglio Ordonez and three others.
"I really didn't have a good line,'' Moylan said. "But the Braves had scouts there, and I talked to them the very next day. I signed right away.''
Royals general manager Dayton Moore was with Atlanta then. He remembers Moylan impressing scouts because of his stuff and how he presented a tough angle for hitters.
Because the Braves were searching for bullpen options, Moylan became an immediate consideration for the Major League staff. He made his debut on April 12 and wound up making 15 appearances in his rookie season.
When Moylan underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, he made a historically quick return, pitching well enough the following spring to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. He's gone on to pitch in parts of 10 Major League seasons, compiling a 2.91 ERA over 381 appearances. Moylan pitched for Australia in the 2016 WBC qualifier, blowing away hitters from South Africa and the Philippines, and he will pitch for his national team in Japan next week.
The World Baseball Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Here are four other players who used the Classic to get an opportunity or elevate their career:
Blue Jays right-hander Jason Grilli
A first-round pick of the Giants in 1997, Grilli was unable to gain much traction in his first nine seasons. He had been traded, left unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft, released and signed to a Minor League contract while making only 18 Major League Appearances before opting to pitch for Italy in the 2006 WBC.
Grilli shut down Australia for 4 2/3 innings as the Italians' Game 1 starter, and he used that as a springboard to a breakout season. He made 51 regular-season appearances for Jim Leyland's Tigers, then five scoreless postseason appearances as they rolled to the World Series. Grilli is a 14-year veteran at this point, and he will pitch at age 40 this season.
Indians first baseman-outfielder Chris Colabello
After seven years in independent ball, Colabello had signed a Minor League deal with the Twins the season before the 2013 WBC. He hadn't played above Double-A, however, and took full advantage of the chance to play alongside Anthony Rizzo and Nick Punto for Italy.
Colabello had a monster game against Canada (4-for-5 with a three-run homer) as Italy advanced out of its first-round pool.
"It's sort of like postseason baseball,'' Colabello said. "It's probably the most I've ever really gotten to enjoy the game for what it is at the professional level. … And, obviously, I think on a personal level, it really was kind of like a springboard to show everybody that my year in Double-A the year before was the real thing. Then, it kind of helped propel me into the season.''
Colabello made his debut for the Twins in 2013 and has since played 225 Major League games for Minnesota and Toronto. Colabello's career was sidetracked by an 80-game suspension after a positive test for a PED, but he's in camp with the Indians and will play for Italy in Mexico next week.
Pirates infielder Mpho' Ngoepe
Like Colabello, Ngoepe had signed with an organization before he moved into the spotlight in the Classic. But Ngoepe was electrifying with his play against Mexico in 2009. He had two triples off Major League veteran Elmer Dessens, and scouts with other organizations were disappointed to learn he had recently signed with the Pirates.
"Just seeing big league players do their thing [was great],'' Ngoepe said. "My whole team was like, 'Wow, we're actually playing against big league guys! This is amazing.' Just to be in an environment where you're treated like a big league guy -- they grabbed our bags out of the bus, just go to the clubhouse, everything's hung up for you. It was an awesome experience for a low team like ours and the smaller countries out there playing baseball trying to make a name for themselves."
Ngoepe remains on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster after eight Minor League seasons. He's a talented fielder and has a chance to become the first true African to play in the Major Leagues.
Cardinals closer Seunghwan Oh
Oh was 23 when he played for South Korea in the 2006 WBC, and next week he will play in the event for the fourth time. He signed with the Cardinals before the 2016 season after spending 11 years in the KBO and Japan. While Oh was signed off the body of his work for the Hanshin Tigers and Samsung Lions, the Classic elevated his profile and let him get his feet wet in North America.
Also worth mentioning: Albertin Chapman, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kenley Jansen (who first appeared in the World Baseball Classic as the Netherlands' catcher).
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. Jeffrey Flanagan, Adam Berry and Paul Hagen contributed to this report.