On April 13 the new season in the Dutch hoofdklasse, the highest level of baseball in the Netherlands, will start again. And no, the Dutch hoofdklasse is not a beer league like someone of the WBC announcers dared to say. Here is a preview of the upcoming competition.
The regular season of the hoofdklasse will start on Thursday, April 13 and run through Sunday, August 6. The top four teams will move on to the playoff round. In this playoff round, each team will play each other six times in two three-game series, resulting in eighteen games for each team. The top two teams will face each other in the championship series, the Holland Series.
After Kinheim from Haarlem withdrew from the 2017 hoofdklasse, there only will be seven teams in this year’s competition. The bottom three teams of the regular competition will face the top three teams of the overgangsklasse, a league that is one level below the hoofdklasse. The six teams will play each other twice, resulting in ten games for each team. The first four teams in this play down format will qualify for the 2018 hoofdklasse. One remark about the top three teams of the overgangsklasse needs to be made. Since the second teams of hoofdklasse clubs are also playing in the overgangsklasse, it could be that the top three will contain a second team of a hoofdklasse club. In that case, the second best team that is not a second team of a hoofdklasse club, will advance to the play down format.
With only seven teams in the hoofdklasse, the teams will have a weekend off twice.
Now off to the teams. The following teams will play in the 2017 hoofdklasse: Curacao Neptunus (Rotterdam), De Glaskoning Twins (Oosterhout), DSS (Haarlem), HCAW (Bussum), L&D Amsterdam Pirates, Pickles UVV (Utrecht) and Pioniers (Hoofddorp).
Despite clinching the national title for the fourth time in a row in 2016, the season of Curacao Neptunus ended with quite a stir. Despite handing them their fourth consecutive championship, success manager Evert-Jan ‘t Hoen was released from his duties after the season and was replaced by rookie manager Ronald Jaarsma. Jaarsma was the third base coach of rival L&D Amsterdam Pirates and was approached by Neptunus shortly before the Holland Series started. L&D Amsterdam did not like it and released Jaarsma from his duties even before the Holland Series started.
The team saw a lot of players go or hang up their spikes as only a few join the club: Jochem Koedijk, former outfielder of Kinheim. Next to him they acquired Elton Koeiman as a pitching coach but Koeiman can be used as a pitcher if needed. Not really on the team due to a busy job, Jarreau Martina may also join the team when needed. Two players returned to Neptunus after their minor league career in the USA ended: Ruar Verkerk and Misja Harcksen.
One addition that is an eye catcher is infielder Gergory Miller, an alumn of University of Albany. For the Great Danes, he played mainly as a first baseman.
Even though the core of the lineup is still there, the club looks rather different than last year. But nevertheless, there is enough quality to play for the championship. The philosophy of Ronald Jaarsma is that less players need to compete for a spot in the starting lineup. It will keep them sharp.
The number 1 and 2 starters are a fix: Diegomar Markwell and Orlando Yntema. It remains to be seen who the third will be. That battle will likely be between Misja Harcksen and Kevin Kelly.
Projected finish at the end of the regular season: 1st.
De Glaskoning Twins
Also, De Glaskoning Twins has a roster that looks quite a bit different from last year’s. First of all, their ace pitcher Keiji Uezono will not return. With him on the mound, one could count on a win. The club cut ties with a few players and a lot of young players have joined the club. The players that left are Anthony Vrolijk, Floris Timmer, Berry van Donselaar (all three to Euro Stars) Elton Koeiman (Curacao Neptunus), and Jeffrey Arends (Pioniers).
Four players from Belgian champion Deurne Spartans joined the club, but for what I have heard, they will start the season in the club’s second team in the overgangsklasse.
Nevertheless the hoofdklasse roster shows ten pitchers for now. The club is negotiating with two pitchers but it is still unknown who they are and where they are coming from.
The club will add three players from the former rookie team, now the second team, to the hoofdklasse roster: Denzel Bryson, Tair Vrutaal and Bram Grooten.
With only one starting pitcher so far (Brendan Schoemaker) and a couple of unproven pitchers at the hoofdklasse level, it is hard to tell where the club stands right now. One thing is sure. The team has made quite a makeover and has rejuvenated a lot. It is an enthusiastic group of players, so perhaps the chemistry will do a lot. According to one of their coaches, the club is aiming for the fifth spot but it remains to be seen if that is realistic.
Projected finish at the end of the regular season: 5th
The club that used to play in the shadow of neighbor Kinheim during the past two seasons, is now Haarlem’s sole representative in the Dutch hoofdklasse. It is one of the few clubs, if not the only one, where players still pay their annual membership fee even though they play on the flagship team.
Certainly, the club took advantage of the demise of neighbor Kinheim. Four players jumped ships and joined DSS. Perhaps the most valuable piece is Tom Stuifbergen, who pitched 4.2 scoreless innings during the past World Baseball Classic, despite taking a loss.
Stuifbergen will be available as a pitcher but will also serve as pitching coach. Next to Stuifbergen Niels van Weert, Reggie Bomberg and Thomas Bos left Kinheim for DSS.
A total of twelve players moved elsewhere or hung up their spikes as a total of ten joined the club. Quite an overhaul.
The team finished last in 2016 with a team ERA of 7.87. Most of the pitching staff will be the same, the club still may have a hard time to stay out of the cellar, despite quite some good acquisitions. But there may be a glimpse of hope as the team won a tournament last weekend with participants like Pioniers and HCAW. Perhaps the team is better than many think.
Projected finish at the end of the regular season: 6th.
Also a team with a new manager, as Roelie Henrique sr will be at the helm of the team. Last year Henrique was one of the coaches of the team. For years HCAW could call itself best of the rest as it seemed to have a subscription at the fifth spot in the standings. But with Kinheim not around anymore, there is a good chance that the club from Bussum will reach the playoff round for the first time in decades.
An equal number of players left/quit and joined the club: ten.
The club saw quite some players leave but with all due respect, they weren’t the players that carried the team. But HCAW got some players in return that contributed with their former team. Kevin Dirksen for example, who ranked eighth with a batting average of .328. Sedley Karel, who earned the most saves in 2016 with eleven, posted an ERA of 3.63 and limited his opponents to a batting average of .219.
In general, HCAW came stronger out of the transition period. A spot with the top four must be a possibility.
Projected finish at the end of the regular season: 4th
L&D Amsterdam Pirates
The reigning European champion saw Koen Nooij and Michael Duursma hang up their spikes and Jimmy Osinga move to Pickles UVV. Norbert Jongerius (Pickles UVV), Zerzinho Croes (Pioniers) and Kalian Sams are the additions. An asterisk must be placed at the acquisition of Kalian Sams as the slugging outfielder likely will play abroad as a pro and will only join the team after his employer in the US or elsewhere are done for the season.
The club added Hidde Brocken from their former rookie team but the kid has pitched a few (decent) games for the team in 2016 already.
So in general, the roster remains the same. In Kevin Heijstek, the team has an absolute ace in its ranks. It remains to be seen where Rob Cordemans stands after the recovery from his injury. During last year’s Holland Series, he was hit rather hard in the three starts that he made. He allowed eleven runs (nine earned) in fourteen innings. The third starter is a question mark as manager Charles Urbanus has options in Kyle Ward and Hidde Brocken.
With the roster mainly the same, the players will be accustomed to each other which may result in a surprising finish.
Projected finish after the regular season: 2nd
The team from Utrecht had a tough year in 2016. It barely stayed out of the cellar of the competition. Due to financial tightness, the club will play without any foreign hired guns in the coming season.
Of course, the club made some acquisitions of which Rodney Daal may be the most eye-popping. In total, the club added nine new players and saw ten players leave.
Looking to last year’s numbers, Tino van Ancum may be the opening day starter. In 2016 he had a 4.15 ERA and kept his opponents to a low .176 batting average. Minor detail is that he walked 27 as he struck out only 13.
New manager Ty Eriksen may have a tough job to keep the team out of the cellar.
Projected finish at the end of the regular season: 7th
The club from Hoofddorp had a rather turbulent off-season. Sponsor Vaessen called it quits and so far the club did not manage to get a main shirt sponsor. A small glimpse of hope is the contract that they signed with a uniform sponsor.
During the transition period, the club saw eight players leave or quit, while it added ten.
It didn’t come as a surprise the club took advantage of the demise of Kinheim as it signed five former players of the Haarlem-based club. Only one player will not join the team at the start of the season as he just signed a contract with the Houston Astros and has joined that club recently: infielder Oliver van der Wijst Severino.
One rather unknown factor may be pitcher Darryl Jamoena, who left the champion of the overgangsklasse Storks from The Hague. Even though Storks won the championship, the club opted not to play in the hoofdklasse for the 2017 season.
The bullpen certainly improved compared to last year, with the addition of Bayron Cornelisse, Scott Ronnenbergh and Glenn Wassink. The team had one of the better rotations in the hoofdklasse already.
It remains to be seen if the club can keep this team together. The club made an agreement with the players that they are free to leave if the club has not found sufficient financial means at the start of the new season. To overcome a part of the financial woes, the club has started a so-called club of 100. The purpose of this club is to raise money. Everyone who wants to can donate €500 and 1will have his name engraved in a bat that is shown in the club house.
Projected finish at the end of the regular season: 3rd
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