Major League Baseball’s 2020 Postseason gets underway this afternoon under an expanded 16-team format that includes Canada’s only MLB club, the Toronto Blue Jays, opening their best-of-three Wild Card Series as the eighth seed against top seeded Tampa Bay.
When MLB’s reduced, 60-game 2020 regular season began back in July, ten Canadian players were named to opening day rosters. Nine of the ten players are on clubs that made the postseason but injuries mean that a number less than nine will be on active playoff rosters.
First, the bad news.
Canadian pitchers suffered some tough luck during the regular season with a spate of injuries that will see James Paxton (Yankees), Jordan Romano (Blue Jays), Mike Soroka (Braves) and Rowan Wick (Cubs) watch from the sidelines.
There was some hope that Jordan Romano could return from a strained middle finger in time for the playoffs, but the Markham native was left off the Blue Jays’ wild card roster for their series against the Rays.
James Paxton has not thrown in a game in over a month but was throwing on flat ground as of two days ago. It may seem like a stretch for Paxton in returning to action after a flexor strain, but the Ladner, BC native looks to be making progress towards becoming healthy again.
Former MLB All-Star (2019) Mike Soroka suffered a torn achilles tendon in early August that will keep the pitcher out of action with the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves until 2021.
The Chicago Cubs have yet to announce their playoff roster but expect North Vancouver’s Rowan Wick to not be included as his left oblique strain suffered on September 16th landed the reliever on the 10-day injured list and is reported to be serious.
As for the Canadian players appearing or expected to appear on a 28-man playoff roster, here’s a rundown:
Joey Votto (Etobicoke, ON) and the Cincinnati Reds return to the postseason for the first time since 2013 as a National League Wild Card entry. A career .304 hitter, Votto’s batting average dipped to .226 in 2020 but he provided plenty of value in other areas getting on base at a .354 clip with an .800 OPS while clubbing 11 home runs and 22 RBI.
Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) and the Cardinals were shutdown for an extended period of time at the beginning of the regular season due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the club but they earned second place in the National League Central and will face the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card Series. O’Neill appeared in 50 regular season games and tied for the Cardinals’ team lead with seven home runs.
Josh Naylor (Mississauga, ON) and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, ON) were both acquired by the Cleveland Indians from the San Diego Padres in a blockbuster trade deadline deal and finished with a Cleveland squad that came second place in the American League Central division. Quantrill was enjoying a solid campaign in San Diego and kept that going with Cleveland pitching to a 1.84 ERA in September with 13 strikeouts in 14.2 innings of work. Naylor received regular playing time in September where he hit .233 (14-for-60). Both players will be experiencing the postseason for the first time in their big league careers when Cleveland takes on the New York Yankees.
Longueuil, Québec native Abraham Toro and the Houston Astros will be in Minnesota to take on the American League Central winning Twins this evening. Toro slammed three home runs in 87 at bats with the Astros this season.
Other Canadian ties to the postseason include Montréal-born slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a key piece of a Toronto Blue Jays club that is participating in the playoffs for the first time since 2016, while Atlanta Braves superstar Freddie Freeman, who represented Canada at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, will take on Joey Votto and the Reds in the Wild Card Series.
The Canadian Baseball Network provided an in-dept look at Canadian connections tied to each of the postseason clubs including executives, coaches, scouts, baseball operations staff, medical personnel, minor league players, among other roles associated with a big league club.
It is also worth noting that Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC) who began the season with the Philadelphia Phillies before being acquired by the Boston Red Sox picked up two wins in his first two starts with the club that included just two earned runs allowed and 13 strikeouts in ten innings pitched.