For a column that I write for the KNBSB (Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation), I bumped into new Dutchies that I didn’t notice before. Zander Wiel and Chris Pieters are the guys that are rather new to me.
Zander Wiel was born in Murfreesboro TN, from a Curacao father. This father happens to be Randy Wiel, former assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers during the days of Shaquille O’Neal and Koby Bryant. Randy Wiel used to play basketball in the Netherlands and was a multi sport athlete as he participated in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico-City.
Zander was born in 1993. In 2012 he joined the Vanderbilt Commodores (alma ater of David Price as well), but did not play in his first year with the team as he was redshirted. But in 2013 he appeared a great offensive and power threat late in the season as he hit five home runs and drove in 27 runs in 33 games to earn Freshman All-SEC honors.Zander finished the 2013 season with a .305 batting average, a .406 on-base-percentage and a .549 slugging percentage. He was named 2013 All-SEC Freshman. In 2015 he was named to the Nashville NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. He drove in a career-high six runs vs. Radford in the NCAA Regional championship game going 4-for-6 with his 13th homer of the season. In 2014 Zander won the College World Series with the Commodores by beating the Virginia Cavaliers.
Zander was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the twelfth round of the amateur draft. Apparently his talent was obvious as the Twins sent him to their high rookie farm team in Elizabethton (Appalachian League). In 13 games he batted a lowly .194 but nevertheless the Twins promoted him to the Cedar Rapids Kernels (A Full Season Midwest League). At the moment of writing, he was hitting .247 overall as his average over his last ten games was rather low: .132. This video shows that Zander has some pop in his bat; or should we call it raw power? On the defensive side he did not commit an error at first base last year. So far this season, he committed six errors, leading to a fielding percentage of .990 in 63 games.
The other Dutchie that has set foot in a league, higher than low rookie, is Chris Pieters.
Pieters was born in 1994 in Willemstad, Curacao. At the age of six he started an adventure with a lot of devotion that led to his signing by the Chicago Cubs. In 2011 Chris was signed by the Cubs as an international free agent as a pitcher. As a pitcher he did not fare well. In three seasons split between the Dominican Summer League and Venezuelan Summer League Pieters posted a 9.31 ERA. Eventually the Cubs converted him into an outfielder.
His first season as an outfielder was in 2015 with the DSL Cubs. In 53 games, Chris got 56 hits in 180 at bats (.311). Next to being a decent hitter in the DSL, Chris appeared to be a speedy guy as he was thrown out only four times out of 29 stealing attempts. During the season he was promoted to the Arizona League where is batting average dropped dramatically (.257).
During this year’s extended Spring Training, Chris ripped the opponent’s pitching, which earned him a promotion to A Short Season for the 2016 season.
With the A Short Season teed off just about a week ago, Chris has played in six games and 22 at bats he collected 6 hits (.273).