With the ABL season just finished, the Australian team can prepare itself for the upcoming qualifier of the World Baseball Classic, next week in Sydney Australia.
Australia will host New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa in a qualifier that will last a weekend and that will have a tight schedule of six games in four days. On Friday Februari 11 Australia will face the Philippines and New Zealand will take on South Africa.
The format of the tournament will be the well known double elimination.
Recently the rosters of the four teams have been presented an I don’t think it is a bold statement when you say that Australia will be the favorite here to clinch a spot in the 2017 WBC. Biggest unknown will be the Philippines.
The Australian roster is full with players of the Australian Baseball League. Nine players on the Australian roster play in the Minor Leagues. Sam Gibbons played with the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the A Full Season Midwest League. With the Kernels, Gibbons posted a 2.89 ERA and kept his opponents to a .246 batting average in fifteen starts.
Reliever Peter Moylan is the only player on the Aussie roster with MLB experience. Since his first appearance in the Bigs in 2006 he had several stints with the Atlanta Braves. In parts of nine seasons, Moylan posted a 22-9 record with a 2.83 ERA.
Warwick Saupold split the 2015 season between the AA Erie Seawolves and the AAA Toledo Mudhens. Combined he posted a 6-8 record with a 4.08 ERA and kept his opponents to an average of .254.
Todd van Steensel spent the MLB/MiLB off season with the Sydney Blue Sox. In the 2015 season he had 46 appearances and converted thirteen saves out of sixteen opportunities.
Steven Kent is has spent time in the Braves’organization since 2006 but since 2011 there are no MiLB stats available. On January 20 of this year he was signed to a minor league contract and appointed to the Braves’ AA farm team in Pearl Mississippi (the Mississippi Braves). In five seasons in the lower minors (A Full as highest level), Kent posted a 4.17 ERA and a 8-10 record.
Matt Kennelly is one of the many Aussies in the Braves’ organization. In general most catchers aren’t the best hitters and Kennelly isn’t an exception to the rule. In 2015 he split time between AA and AAA . He hit a combined .217. Behind the plate he threw out 15 of 50 potential base stealers. He is also capable to play first base.
James Beresford (IF) has played at AAA level for the Minnesota Twins over the past 2.5 years. He is hitting light but he can hit for the average of sure as his BA hovered around .300 in that timespan of 2.5 years.
Logan Wade (IF) spent the 2015 season with the Fort Myers Miracle. With the A Advanced team he hit a mediocre .258/.296/.374.
Aaron Whitefield (OF) the Minor Leaguer with the least experience as he played for the GCL Twins last year. In seven games and eighteen at bats he hit a sub par .167.
New Zealand will be one of the two teams that may battle for second place in this group. The team debuted in the 2013 WBC qualifiers in which they reached the final and fell to Chinese Taipei.
In this year’s edition the Kiwis or Diamondblacks as their official nickname goes, will only have two minor leaguers on their squad.
Nick Maronde has spent a considerate time at the minors before he debuted with the Angels in 2014. In eleven apperances he posted a 12.79 ERA. In 2015 he split the season between AA and AAA in which he posted a combined 4.70 ERA and an 0-9 record. The BA of his opponents was on the high side with .303
Max Brown is a Seattle native that signed a contract with the Diamondbacks in 2015. He spent the season in the Arizona League. In 38 games he he hit .265.
Perhaps the most well known player outside the minor leaguers is Boss Moanaroa, who played for the Canberra Cavalry in the past season and hit .278. In the previous four seasons Boss played for the Sydney Blue Sox and was a versatile player who played third base, first base and outfield.
In Randy Yard, the Kiwis also have a player with some minor league experience. In 2011 he played in the Arizona League for the AZL Reds. In fourteen appearances, he posted a 1-0 record with a 4.95 ERA.
Alan Schoenberger is a Brisbane native that participates in this year’s qualifier with the New Zealand squad. Schoenberger played his final year in the minors in 2011 when he split the season between A Full Season and A Advanced. He hit a combined .190.
Jamie Wilson is a 25-year old pitcher who pitched in the 2013 season of the Western Major Baseball League, a summer collegiate league in Canada.
For the Philippines this will be the second WBC qualifier. In 2013 the team played in Taiwan and went 1-2. The sole victory was an 8-2 win over Thailand.
This year, there are plenty of American born players who must have some kind of tie with the island republic.
Catcher Brad Haynal is one of the two affiliated minor league players on the squad. Haynal was on the 2015 Batavia Muckdogs (A Short New York-Penn League) roster. He hit .274 in 248 at bats. Behind the plate he threw out 5 of 28 base stealers. Next to playing catcher Haynal was found at first base in 33 games.
Angelo Songco played his last MiLB game in April 2014 when he was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. On January 20 of this year, Angelo signed another minor league contract with the Dodgers. In 2013 he had a good part of the season at A Advanced when he played with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes He hit .310 back then in the California League. Those numbers earned him a promotion to AA but in three games in 2014 he did not get a hit and was released.
Taylor Garrison is a California native who was appointed to the Philippines roster. In 2015 he worked his way through two levels of the Gulf Coast League, the Florida State League to the Eastern League where he appeared in fourteen games with the Trenton Thunder. With the Thunder he went 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA.
Clay Rapada has a long career under his belt, that led him through several stages of the minors and even to the Bigs. Last year he spent the season with the Sacramento RiverCats (San Francisco Giants AAA affiliate). In 46 appearances he went 1-3 with a 2.84 ERA. The batting average of his opponents was rather high with .264.
Kevin Vance spent the biggest part of the 2015 season with the Visalia Rawhide of the A Advanced California League. In 34 appearances the RHP posted a 4-1 record with a 4.17 ERA. He also played with the AAA Reno Aces (0-0 in six games with a 4.00 ERA) and with the AA Mobile BayBears. For the latter he posted a 13.50 ERA in only two games.
With a couple of American natives, this Philippines team looks a bit like the foreign legion.
The other team that will likely battle for second place is South Africa. The team has a surprising numbers of players with minor league experience on its roster.
First I thought that Gift Ngoepe wasn’t on the roster because he was on the 40-man roster of the Pirates, but according to an article posted on the WBC website on February 2nd, South Africa added him to the roster. Last season Ngoepe split the season between AA and AAA. At AAA Gift hit .246 for the Indianapolis Indians. At AA and AAA he had a combined .970 fielding percentage.
Rowan Ebersohn spent the 2015 season with the GCL Twins for whom he hit an unimpressive .193. On the defensive side, the outfielder did a lot better as he did not commit an error.
Callan Pearce was a team mate of Rowan Ebersohn in 2015. The RHP spent his second year in a row in the Gulf Coast League in which he lowered his ERA from 6.04 to 4.67. The batting average of his opponents went up though, from .268 to .275.
The player with the most experience on the South African roster is Dylan Unsworth. The 23-year old Durban native split the 2015 season between the A Advanced Bakersfield Blaze (Seattle Mariners) and the AA Jackson Generals. He posted a combined 5-10 record with a 3.95 record in 24 appearances and 18 starts.
Robert Lewis-Walker played for the Cincinnati Reds organization, who released him in 2013. At two stages of Rookie ball he posted a combined 4.87 ERA.
On the South African roster there are also a couple of players that play on college level.
Like I said at the start of this blog post, it won’t be a bold statement when you say that Australia will advance to the 2017 WBC. But since the other teams also have quite a bit of MiLB experience, perhaps one of the other three can surprise this field of teams and sneak past the Australians.