OTTAWA – The 2022 Major League Baseball regular season is underway and it’s time to take our annual look at which Canadians are on MLB rosters to start the season.
Sixteen Canadians saw action in the big leagues in 2021 with a modern-day record 26 Canadians appearing in the big leagues back in 2011.
The impact that Canadian players had across Major League Baseball in 2021 was truly remarkable when looking at performances and the numbers giving all the more reason for Canadian baseball fans to watch their favourite players in 2022.
Veteran Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, ON) belted 36 home runs in 2021 reaching the mark for the third time in his storied 15-year career and first time since the 2017 season. He smashed his 300th career home run on April 30th joining Larry Walker as the only Canadians to ever achieve the feat.
In late July, the six time All-Star took MLB by storm swatting home runs in seven consecutive games coming one long ball shy of tying the major league record.
Entering his age 38 season in 2022, the former National League Most Valuable Player is in line to play his 2000th MLB game while also breaking Larry Walker’s record for most MLB games played by a Canadian with Walker currently holding the mark at 1988.
Staying in the National League Central Division with the St. Louis Cardinals and Maple Ridge, BC’s Tyler O’Neill who put together his best MLB season in 2021 slashing .286/.352/.560 with 34 home runs. O’Neill also collected his second consecutive Gold Glove Award putting himself in the conversation as one of the top left fielders in the game.
An oblique strain limited the 2021 season of Chicago Cubs’ reliever Rowan Wick after he enjoyed a productive 2020 campaign. Wick was limited to just 23 innings pitched in 2021 and will look to stay healthy for 2022.
Staying in the National League, it was 2017 World Baseball Classic member Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves who captured the World Series championship last fall while Calgary’s Mike Soroka was forced to enjoy the celebration from the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles tendon for the second time in a year.
Freeman will make his next appearance in Atlanta as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers after singing with his home state club (Freeman was born and raised in California to Canadian parents) as a free agent while Soroka will continue on the rehabilitation process with hopes of pitching in 2022.
In the American League, Montréal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr. put up a MVP caliber season with the Blue Jays bashing 48 homers to lead the American League while putting up a ridiculous 1.002 OPS. Guerrero is the focal point of a formidable Toronto lineup and will look to thrill fans north of the border by helping the Jays earn a postseason berth.
Markham, Ontario’s Jordan Romano solidified himself as a key piece of the Blue Jays bullpen in 2021 earning 23 saves while holding a nifty 2.14 ERA. If all goes according to plan, the soon to be 29-year-old will be logging high leverage innings out of the Jays bullpen all season long.
The Jays will be facing a pair of Canadian hurlers who hail from British Columbia when they play AL East rival Boston with Victoria’s Nick Pivetta coming off a solid 2021 campaign while Ladner’s James Paxton signed with the Red Sox in the off season. Paxton’s debut with Boston will have to wait as he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Pivetta went 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA in the Red Sox rotation last year and struck out an impressive 175 batters in 155 innings pitched. The 29-year-old tossed 13.2 postseason innings including a start in the American League Championship Series.
Paxton, who signed with the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2021 season, underwent Tommy John surgery last April and is already throwing bullpens with the month of June as a target for pitching in big league games.
Speaking of the Mariners, the west coast club features a pair of Canadians on their roster in Greenfield Park, Québec’s Abraham Toro whom they acquired last season in a trade with the Houston Astros. The switch hitting Toro smacked 11 homers in 2021 and provides the Mariners with some positional versatility.
A story to keep an eye on is that of Kingston, Ontario’s Matt Brash who cracked the M’s rotation out of spring training. The Baseball Canada Cup grad (Ontario - 2015) vaulted up the prospect charts in 2021 and was actually on the Mariners’ active roster late last season although he didn’t get into any game action.
Over in Cleveland where Junior National Team alums Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill call home, the newly named Guardians will begin the season with just Quantrill as the lone Canadian in their lineup.
Canadian baseball fans will recall the gruesome injury that Naylor suffered last June at Target Field in Minneapolis in an outfield collision that left the Mississauga native with fractures and ligament tears in his lower right leg. The Guardians are taking things slow with Naylor seeing action in just four spring training games. He’ll begin the season with a rehabilitation assignment and on the injured list.
On the mound, Naylor’s former Junior National Team teammate Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, ON) was one of the hottest starting pitchers in the American League in the second half of last season picking up all eight of his wins in July, August and September.
Quantrill slotted into a full time starting pitcher’s role in that span and finished with a 2.89 ERA over 149.2 innings pitched.
Texas born Jameson Taillon of the New York Yankees, who holds Canadian citizenship and represented Canada at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, is coming off a 2021 campaign where he went 8-6 in starting 29 games in his first season in New York.