Freeman back to lead Team Canada in 2023 tournament
Freddie Freeman, Tyler O'Neill and Bo Naylor headline the World Baseball Classic 2023 roster for Team Canada as the tournament returns for the first time in six years.
Freeman and O’Neill, in particular, will be eager to deliver in a big way for Canada after struggling in the 2017 Classic -- Freeman hit .182 and O’Neill hit .091 in Canada’s three games in the tournament that year.
It will be exciting to see Naylor -- whose brother, Josh, played for Team Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic -- make his tournament debut. The power-hitting catcher is ranked 64th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, and he could make a big impression with a strong performance in the Classic.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of Team Canada. Within each position, names are listed in alphabetical order, with any affiliation to an MLB organization noted in parentheses.
Catchers: Kellin Deglan, Bo Naylor (Guardians), Andrew Yerzy
Naylor made his MLB debut with Cleveland on Oct. 1, 2022, going 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in five games. The Classic is his chance to get '23 started on the right note. It would be all the more sweet to deliver a strong performance -- at the plate and behind the dish -- wearing the uniform of his native land.
Deglan was a 22nd overall pick by the Rangers in the 2010 MLB Draft, but he never reached the Majors, most recently playing in the Blue Jays’ system in '22. He will make his Classic debut, though he has played for Team Canada several times dating back to '10. Yerzy was a second-round pick by the D-backs in '16, and he will also be making his tournament debut.
Infielders: Freddie Freeman (Dodgers), Edouard Julien (Twins), Otto Lopez (Blue Jays), Abraham Toro (Brewers), Damiano Palmegiani (Blue Jays), Jared Young (Cubs)
Freeman is coming off another tremendous season -- his first with the Dodgers -- finishing fourth in National League MVP voting. The slugging first baseman joined Team Canada for the 2017 Classic to honor his parents -- both Canadian-born -- particularly his late mother, who died of skin cancer.
Julien, a second baseman, was an 18th-round pick by the Twins, and he is ranked as their No. 15 prospect. The 23-year-old posted a .931 OPS with 17 home runs and 19 steals in 113 games at Double-A Wichita last year. Lopez, the Blue Jays’ No. 18 prospect, had a solid showing of his own for Toronto’s Single-A and Triple-A affiliates in 2022 as the shortstop hit .283/.365/.394 in 96 games. Toro is a glove-first infielder who spent the past two seasons with the Mariners, while Young launched 17 homers with a .731 OPS for Triple-A Iowa last season.
Outfielders: Owen Caissie (Cubs), Denzel Clarke (A’s), Tyler O'Neill (Cardinals), Jacob Robson
O’Neill has some unfinished business in the Classic after struggling in his first taste of the tournament in 2017. He is also looking to bounce back from a down year at the plate for the Cardinals last season, when his OPS fell by more than .200 points from the .912 he posted during his big '21 campaign.
Caissie, the Cubs’ No. 10 prospect, had a .751 OPS with 11 homers and 11 steals in 105 games for High-A South Bend last year. Clarke is Oakland’s No. 13 prospect, and he posted an .834 OPS with 15 homers and 30 steals in 93 games between Single-A Stockton and High-A Lansing. Robson was released by the Tigers last year, but he had a 1.034 OPS with nine homers in 29 games in the independent American Association.
Pitchers: Andrew Albers^, Phillippe Aumont, John Axford, Matt Brash (Mariners), Mitch Bratt^ (Rangers), Trevor Brigden (Rays), Indigo Diaz (Yankees), R.J. Freure, Adam Loewen^, Scott Mathieson, Nick Pivetta (Red Sox), Cal Quantrill (Guardians), Evan Rutckyj^, Noah Skirrow (Phillies), Cade Smith (Guardians), Curtis Taylor (Cubs), Rob Zastryzny^ (Pirates)
Axford is by far the most experienced of this group, with 11 Major League seasons to his name in which he saved 144 games while posting a 3.90 ERA for the Brewers, Cardinals, Cleveland, Pirates, Rockies, A’s, Blue Jays and Dodgers.
Bratt, the Rangers’ No. 17 prospect, posted a 2.45 ERA over 19 appearances (18 starts) with Single-A Down East, also striking out 29 percent of batters he faced. Pivetta turned in a 4.56 ERA over 33 starts for the Red Sox last season, his sixth in the Majors. Quantrill had a strong first season as a full-time starter for the Guardians in 2022, posting a 3.38 ERA over 186 1/3 innings.
^ Denotes left-handed pitcher