OTTAWA – The 2023 Major League Baseball season opens today and we’re here to give you a rundown on the Canadian players to keep an eye on this season
The 2022 season saw 17 Canadians appear in the big leagues including the MLB debuts of RHP Matt Brash (Mariners), INF Charles Leblanc (Marlins), C Bo Naylor (Guardians) and 1B Jared Young (Cubs).
In 2011, a modern-day record 26 Canadians appeared in the big leagues.
Let’s start in the American League East with Canada’s only big league club, the Toronto Blue Jays, leading the way with three Canadians on their roster. Led by Montréal-born slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and star closer Jordan Romano(Markham, ON), the Blue Jays bullpen will also feature Junior National Team grad Zach Pop (Brampton, ON).
The Boston Red Sox will have RHP Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC) in their starting rotation with hopes of fellow-BC native James Paxton (Ladner, BC) joining the pitching staff soon. Paxton will open the season on the injured list as he looks to return to the majors for the first time since April 6, 2021, after undergoing Tommy John Surgery.
The American League Central, and specifically the Cleveland Guardians, feature a pair of Canadians in former Junior National Team teammates 1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, ON) and RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, ON). The duo will look to lead Cleveland back to the postseason after the club reaches the American League Division Series in 2022. Top prospect and brother of Josh, Bo Naylor, who represented Canada at the recent World Baseball Classic, will start the season at Triple-A Columbus but will look to get back to the majors soon after making his debut last September.
Speaking of the WBC, Seattle Mariners pitcher Matt Brash made his national team debut earlier this month striking out three in a perfect inning of relief in Canada’s win over Great Britain. The Kingston native had success out of the bullpen for a Mariners team that made the AL Division Series in 2022.
Two-time Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) has won the starting centerfield job with the St. Louis Cardinals and will hope to stay on the field for the National League Central club after injuries limited the 27-year-old to just 334 at-bats in 2022.
Joey Votto (Etobicoke, ON) broke Larry Walker’s record for most games played by a Canadian in 2022 when he played in his 1989th game, but two games later it turned out to be the last of his season as he underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Votto will open the 2023 campaign on the injured list and will play in his 2000th MLB game in his ninth game of the season.
World Baseball Classic pitcher Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, AB) grabbed a bullpen spot out of Spring Training with the Pittsburgh Pirates in what will be his fourth MLB club while dual citizen Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, TX) singed a four year deal in the off season to pitch for the Chicago Cubs.
Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Freddie Freeman (Fountain Valley, CA) suited up for Canada in his second World Baseball Classic earlier this month to honour his late mother, Rosemary, who grew up in Peterborough while his father, Fred, grew up in Windsor, Ontario.
Some Canadian storylines to look out for include Calgary’s Michael Soroka who remains on his journey back to the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves after two Achilles tendon ruptures that caused the hurler to miss the majority of the 2020 season and all of 2012 and 2022.
Minnesota Twins top prospect and WBC member Edouard Julien (Québec, QC) continues to torrid path to the big leagues with many in the industry predicting a call-up by the Twins this season.
World Baseball Classic members Otto Lopez (Blue Jays/Montréal, QC), Abraham Toro (Brewers/Longueil, QC) and Jared Young (Cubs/Prince George, BC) will all open the season in the minors after spending time in the big leagues in 2022.