Five GB Baseball Players to Watch in 2017

British-based MLB fans may have it easier than ever when it comes to following baseball in the U.S., but with no prominent British major league players, following the players you may have become familiar with from the national team is not quite as simple as watching the Yankees play the Red Sox. To make that task a little bit simpler, here are five players from the team chosen to play in the recent World Baseball Classic qualifiers, including details of their organisation, their profile, and where you might be likely to see them in 2017.

Chris Reed

Age: 26

Born: London
Organisation: Miami Marlins
Position: Pitcher
Throws: Left
2016 Statistics: 3.07 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 11/5 K/BB in 14 2/3 innings at Double-A Jacksonville

3.78 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 54/27 K/BB in 66 2/3 innings at Triple-A New Orleans

Reed is the rare GB team member who was both born in the U.K. and has appeared in the major leagues. Drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 2011, Reed was an excellent reliever at Stanford but has the tools to be a starter and the Dodgers set about trying to develop him as one. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95, and he throws a slider with a lot of movement that works as a useful strikeout pitch. He does use a changeup, but it has yet to develop into a pitch that offers much deception or consistency. That has often led many scouts to suggest that he’d be better as a reliever so his fastball can play up and his lack of command is less of an issue.

The Dodgers appeared to have given up on using him as a starter by 2015 and Reed’s destiny seemed to be in relief, as that’s where he stayed for the remainder of the year after being traded to Miami mid-season. However, in 2016 the Marlins were keen to give him another look as a starter and there were several promising 6-7 inning outings in the minors, before he was shifted back to relief to end the year. Here he is finishing the best of those starts, seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball:

http://www.milb.com/multimedia/vpp.jsp?content_id=795031083&sid=milb

Reed never cracked the majors with Los Angeles but did so for a couple of two-inning appearances in August 2015 after that move to Miami. With veteran Mike Dunn getting the majority of the work as Miami’s lefty reliever in 2016 and the efforts to try him out as a starter again, Reed hasn’t found his way back to the big leagues since that brief cameo.

Reed should start 2017 back with New Orleans (horrendously renamed from Zephyrs to Baby Cakes) but with Dunn gone, there’s no obvious candidate to seize that lefty role for Miami. Hunter Cervenka is probably the leading choice, but he has serious control issues and also lacks experience, so we might yet get to see Reed back in the majors. If he does develop those secondary pitches and control/command enough to start, it would still likely take a few injuries or disastrous performances from others, as Miami also has Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino as two other young left-handed options with more major league experience.

Michael Roth
Age: 26

Born: Greer, South Carolina
Organisation: San Francisco Giants
Position: Pitcher
Throws: Left
2016 Statistics: 2.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 94/42 K/BB in 145 1/3 innings at Triple-A Round Rock

14.73 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 3/1 K/BB in 3 2/3 innings with Texas

Roth was a student at the University of South Carolina, where he won two College World Series titles, the second after being drafted by Cleveland in the 31st round in 2011 but choosing to return to college. The Angels then took him in the 9th round a year later.  Roth’s mother is from Kettering, enabling him to represent Great Britain in the 2013 WBC qualifiers before becoming the first pitcher to both represent GB and appear in the majors when the Angels surprisingly called him up in April of 2013, just 27 innings into his pro career.

The lefty doesn’t have high velocity but he compensates for that somewhat with excellent extension. Roth also relies on deception, with a delivery that makes it difficult for hitters to pick the ball up early. A sinker and changeup complement his fourseam fastball, and he also uses a slider and occasionally a slow curve.

Unfortunately, while he’s found some success in the minors, including last year’s sub-3 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL, major league hitters have had no issues with ruining his stat line. His one major league start, during that first season, saw him give up 5 earned runs in just 3 1/3. While most of his relief appearances that year were promising, that outing and two other blow-ups in his fifteen games left his line looking unspectacular. Since then he hasn’t had any more luck, giving up 18 earned runs in just 16 innings across 2014 and 2016, for L.A. and Texas respectively, with a minors-only stop in Cleveland.

The Giants recently signed Roth to a minor league deal and he will therefore likely start the season at Triple-A Sacramento. The Giants no longer have long-standing lefty option Javy Lopez or former closers Sergio Romo or Santiago Casilla on the roster, so there’s perhaps a bit more opportunity for Roth to find his way back into a major league role than there would have been on previous teams, this time in a much more promising environment than Arlington. He’s also one of the Giants’ non-roster invitees to Spring Training, giving San Francisco a chance to have a look at him against big-league competition over the coming weeks.

Jasrado Chisholm
Age: 19

Born: Nassau, Bahamas
Organisation: Arizona Diamondbacks
Position: Shortstop
Bats: Left

2016 Statistics:.281/.333/.446 with 12 doubles, 9 homers in 270 PA at Class Rookie Missoula

For those who get excited about prospects and are looking for a GB team member to dream on, Chisholm is the top candidate of this group. Players from the Bahamas are often still eligible to play for GB through the odd combination of their parents being born in the Bahamas when it was still a British colony, and administrative issues preventing the country from fielding a WBC team of their own. While the Bahamas hope to rectify this in the near future, the British team are certainly happy to have talents like Chisholm on the roster for as long as they can.

The Bahamian was signed for $200,000 in July 2015. He acquitted himself well in his first taste of professional baseball after being sent straight to the Pioneer League instead of the lowest level Arizona League in what was a relatively aggressive assignment by the Diamondbacks.

Fangraphs lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen ranked Chisholm as the fourth-best Diamondbacks prospect, noting his above-average bat speed and ability to hit the ball hard to all fields. There’s some question about whether he’ll develop the arm strength to stay at shortstop, but as Longenhagen says, it’s likely that if he does have to move to second, it’ll be because he has enough power to play there regularly. Baseball Prospectus also ranked him highly, fifth in the organisation, echoing Longenhagen’s suggestion that he’ll likely at least be a utility infielder, while also noting his plate discipline issues.

Given his age, it’ll be a while until Chisholm is near the majors, but he also looks like the best bet to have a significant major league career. He’ll start the year with Arizona’s Class A Short Season affiliate, and should move up to Class A itself by the end of 2017.
Jordan Serena
Age: 24

Born: Littleton, Colorado
Organisation: Los Angeles Angels
Position: Utility
Bats: Right

2016 Statistics:.253/.332/.329 with 21 doubles, 2 homers in 436 PA at Class A Burlington

John and I spoke to Jordan ahead of the WBC qualifier back in September about getting drafted, his minor league career so far, and how he got involved with British baseball. He qualifies for the British team through his mother, who was born in Ipswich, as his grandfather was in the US Air Force and was stationed in the U.K., where he met Jordan’s grandmother. He played first base for GB in the qualifier but, as we’ll see, it’s possible he could fulfil a variety of roles for the team in the future.

Although Serena is listed at third base on MiLB.com, and second base, third base and shortstop on Baseball-Reference, he’s actually played every single position except pitcher and catcher since being drafted by the Angels in the 35th round in 2015. Serena’s positional versatility was a big part of his college career at Columbia too, and his presence off the field has also been praised.

In addition to his defensive skills, the 24-year-old showed the ability to hit for average and take a walk at Columbia. The batting average is yet to translate to quite the same extent, but the plate discipline has carried over to his pro career. Serena will either head back to Burlington to start the 2017 season or move up to High-A Inland Empire.

Champ Stuart
Age: 24

Born: Freeport, Bahamas
Organisation: New York Mets
Position: Outfield
Bats: Right

2016 Statistics:.265/.347/.407 with 9 doubles, 6 triples, 6 homers, 25 steals in 315 PA at High-A St. Lucie

.201/.264/.261 with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 15 steals in 203 PA at Double-A Binghamton

While Stuart also qualifies for the British team through the Bahamian route, he actually went to school and college in North Carolina, and was therefore a draft pick rather than international signing. The Mets took him in the sixth round in 2013 and he’s been on a fairly steady progression through their organisation since then, reaching Double-A in July of 2016.

If it wasn’t already clear from his numbers, Stuart’s calling card is his speed. Scouts have given it the highest grade of 80 and the triples and steals he’s been racking up in the minors bear that out. That speed also makes him a potential plus defender in the outfield. He impressed in the Arizona Fall League over the offseason, hitting .300 with 12 steals in just 74 plate appearances.

There are concerns too; while he’s shown some good plate discipline, there’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, with strikeout rates at or above 30% throughout his minor league career and even that impressive AFL showing. His speed has been able to carry him to some respectable batting averages, but he’ll need to improve his contact ability to cut it as any kind of regular in the majors.

The 24-year-old should start the year back at Double-A after a slow start at the level. He did the same at High-A in 2015 before adjusting well in 2016, so the Mets will hope he does the same and can progress to AAA before the year is over. Given that elite speed, Stuart could be of use simply as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner, especially when rosters expand in September, but there’s also upside here for more if he can continue to make adjustments offensively. Like Roth, Stuart has been invited to Spring Training, so we may get to see at least a little of him flashing that speed before he leaves camp for the minors.
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One thought on “Five GB Baseball Players to Watch in 2017

  1. Re-reading this article and only just realised that the implications of the paragraph in Chisholm’s entry–Could you fill me in on the Bahamas’ goal to have a national team compete in the WBC? This is the first I’ve heard of it, though it has occurred to me before. Thanks! Great work!

    Like

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