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Though the main focus of this site is the Toronto Blue Jays and their farm system, I thought I'd take up a different aspect of what was the original “mandate” of Batter's Box. This was meant to be a home for baseball from a Canadian perspective, and it is worthwhile shining a light on the next crop of ballplayers that will join the likes of Martin, Morneau, Votto and Harden in the big leagues.

I've compiled a list of the top Canadian baseball prospects – a list that will be updated every few months as games are played and the stocks of players rise and fall. For the time being it will be a top 10 list but may eventually expand to 20, using the generally accepted definition of any players who is under contract to a major league team and retains his rookie status. So, no, you will not find any college or independent league players on this list.

First of all, the thorny question of who is a Canadian must be dealt with. I will use a loose definition: anyone born in Canada or anyone who has family ties to Canada – it worked for Mark Teahen. So presto, Scott Campbell – you are a Kiwi-Canadian. And hey there, Cale Iorg, you were born in the Great White North so you make the list too.

These profiles are meant to be vignettes, not exhaustive profiles. To give you an idea of how these players are viewed in the context of baseball prospects in general, I've listed Baseball America organisational rankings, BaseballHQ grades (from 2010 Minor League Baseball Analyst), and John Sickels grades.

Notes: The Sickels grades are taken from his website – and are provisional rankings that mat have been changed in his annual prospect book. HQ grades potential and probability of reaching that potential on separate scales. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being an inner circle Hall of Famer and 5 being an MLB reserve, a player's potential is graded. On a scale of E to A, the probability of reaching that potential, from 10% to 90%, is graded. So a grade of 9C means a 50% chance of reaching the Elite (i.e All-Star caliber) player level.

Here are my top 10 Canadian prospects (2010 opening day):

    1 Michael Saunders – Victoria, BC – 23- of- SEATTLE

drafted 2004, 11th round by Mariners

#2 prospect in Seattle organisation (Baseball America)

rated 7b by Baseball HQ; Sickels: B

An exciting power-speed combination who must reduce his strikeouts to reach his potential. He has the speed to steal 20+ bases but hasn't since 2007. He clubbed 30 extra base hits in 248 AB in 2009 at triple-A Tacoma, but struggled in his major league debut season in 46 games

Saunders is major league ready, though he has been send back to AAA so he can play everyday in the wake of the Milton Bradley acquisition. He'd be pretty good to have around as a spare outfielder, but with Eric Byrnes and Ryan Langerhans around the Mariners don't need Saunders for that role.

    2 Nick Weglarz – Stevensville, ON- 22 – OF – CLEVELAND

drafted 2005, 3rd round by Indians

#6 prospect in Cleveland organisation (Baseball America)

rated 9d by Baseball HQ; Sickels: B-

Exhibits exciting power potential and the door seems to be wide open for him in Cleveland. He got a taste of the big time playing in the 2009 WBC and the Futures game. A marginal defender, he has the bat to succeed at corner outfield, though a move to first base in a few years is possible. Travis Hafner leaps to mind as a comparison if all goes well for Weglarz.

He may never hit for average, but his high walk totals should keep his OBP at respectable levels. He may start in AA, though a promotion to AAA shouldn't be long in arriving – then a shot at the everyday LF job in spring 2011.

    3 Brett Lawrie – Burnaby, BC – 20- 2b- MILWAUKEE

drafted 2008, 1st round by Brewers

#2 prospect in Milwaukee organisation (Baseball America)

rated 9c by Baseball HQ; Sickels: B+

According to most prospect lists, Lawrie is the best Canadian prospect in the minor leagues, but his lack of pro experience and defensive question marks preclude me from ranking him that high.

A high-school catcher, he asked to be converted to second base after the draft. His pro career was put on hold because of his participation in the 2008 World Junior Championships and the summer Olympics. Lawrie spent the bulk of 2009 in the Midwest league before a brief sojorn in AA Huntsville. It remains to be seen if he will stick at second base, but if not he has the bat to be an asset at third base or corner outfield. He's expected to start 2010 in the Florida State League.

I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Milwaukee this season for a look-see in if the Brewers are out of the race. By 2011 he should be knocking on the door for a full time big league job.

    4 Phillipe Aumont – Gatineau, PQ – 21- rhp- PHILADELPHIA

drafted 2007, 1st round by Mariners

#4 prospect in Seattle organisation (Baseball America)

rated 9d by Baseball HQ; Sickels: B-

A much hyped high-school phenom, his prospect status took a hit when the Mariners converted him to relief. Traded to the Phillies, he looks set to continue on a path to becoming a big league closer. He features a heavy sinker, a four-seamer in the high 90s, and an effective slider. He'll need to improve his command considerably and if/when he does he will be big-league ready. He should start at AA this spring.

          5 Tyson Gillies – Vancouver, BC – 21 – OF – PHILADELPHIA

drafted 2006, 25th round by Mariners

#8 prospect in Seattle organisation (Baseball America)

rated 8c by Baseball HQ; Sickels: C+

Involved in the Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee trade, along with fellow Canadian Phillipe Aumont. Gillies has been mentioned on a few prospect lists, but remains a sleeper who could be a year away from elite prospect status. It would not surprise me if Gillies turned out to be the class of this list. He has all the skills to become an everyday centerfielder at the top level – BaseballHQ notes his above average arm and range.

Though we must temper our enthusiasm due to the Cal League hitter-haven context, Gillies hit .341 with 60 walks/81 strikeouts at High Desert and was 44 of 63 in steal attempts. If he makes enough contact he should be a .290 plus hitter in the majors with walks and a bit of pop.

He'll start at AA Reading, with a possible mid-season promotion to AAA.

6 Rene Tosoni – Toronto, ON – 23 – OF – MINNESOTA

drafted 2005, 36th round by Twins

#12 prospect in Minnesota organisation (Baseball America)

rated 8c by Baseball HQ; Sickels: C

Though born in Toronto, Tosoni played high school ball for Coquitlam in the BC Premier League, then went to Chipola JC in Florida before the Twins re-drafted him in 2005.

He doesn't possess outstanding tools, but does everything reasonably well. Scouts expect him to hit for average and he seems like 4th outfielder material at this point. He was one of four Canadians on the 2009 World team in the Futures game.

Tosoni missed most of 2008 with a broken foot but had a bounce-back season at AA New Britain in 2009. With prospects Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks coming up fast, the Twins outfield picture is crowded and I hope that Tosoni isn't the one squeezed out.

7 Cale Iorg – Toronto, ON – 24 – SS – DETROIT

drafted 2007, 6th round by Tigers

#13 prospect in Detroit organisation (Baseball America)

rated 7d by Baseball HQ; Sickels: C

Well he WAS born in Canada. Cale is the son of Blue Jays icon Garth Iorg. He played high-school ball in Knoxville and then a year at University of Alabama before leaving on a two-year Mormon mission in Portugal, during which time he played no baseball.

Considering his lack of baseball activity, Iorg has handled the minor leagues well. He put up decent numbers in his first full season in the Florida State League (.251/.329/.405, 35w, 111k, 32xbh in 383 AB), before a down year in AA in 2009 . He has the defensive tools to stick at shortstop, but his hitting approach needs much refinement.

The two years of lost development will be difficult to overcome. Iorg's bat is still several years from being major league ready, so at this point he profiles as a utility infielder of the John McDonald variety.

8 Blake Hawksworth – North Vancouver, BC – 27 – rhp – ST.LOUIS

drafted 2001, 28th round by Cardinals

#8 prospect in St.Louis organisation (Baseball America)

rated 8d by Baseball HQ; Sickels: C

Though born north of the border, Hawksworth is a product of Sammamish, Washington.

Once the top prospect in the Cardinals organisation according to Baseball America (2003), Hawksworth's long detour-laden road to the big leagues came to a happy end in 2009 with 40 effective innings in the Cardinals bullpen.

He has a fastball-change-up combo with low 90s heat and good command. There is some speculation that the Cards will try him as a starter, though the likely course for him is to remain a key member of the bullpen in 2010.

9 Taylor Green – Comox, BC – 23 – 3b – MILWAUKEE

drafted 2005, 25th round by Brewers

#20 prospect in Milwaukee organisation (Baseball America)

rated 7c by Baseball HQ; Sickels: C

Another product of the BC Premier League, Green is one of 5 Canadians ranked among the top 30 Brewers prospects by Baseball America. Green started out at 2B but has since moved to the hot corner.

Green had two excellent years hitting for average and power with very good K/W numbers in A ball, before a wrist injury at the tail end of 2008 sapped his production in 2009. If he rebounds he could move into the top 5 on this list by next season.

10 Chris Leroux – Montreal, PQ – 25 – rhp – FLORIDA

drafted 2005, 7th round by Marlins

#18 prospect in Florida organisation (Baseball America)

rated 7c by Baseball HQ; Sickels: C

A converted catcher (to reliever) at Winthrop U., Leroux had TJ surgery just before the 2005 draft. After missing nearly two full seasons, Leroux has put up excellent numbers the last three as a minor league reliever, including 55K/17W and a 2.70 ERA in 60 innings last season at AA Jacksonville. Though blasted in 7 innings with the Marlins, Leroux's fastball/slider combo is good enough to assure him of more trials in the future.

Others to watch:


Cole Armstrong, C, 26 (White Sox)

Chris Robinson, C, 25 (Cubs)

Scott Campbell, 3b, 25 (Blue Jays)

Shawn Bowman, 3b, 25 (Mets)

James Van Ostrand, 1b, 25 (Astros)

Chris Dennis, OF, 21 (Brewers)

Wes Darvill, SS, 18 (Cubs)


John Axford, rhp, 27 (Brewers)

R.J. Swindle, lhp, 26 (Rays)

Scott Mathieson, rhp, 26 (Phillies)

Trystan Magnuson, rhp, 24 (Blue Jays)

Scott Diamond, lhp, 23 (Braves)

Phillippe Valiquette, lhp, 23 (Reds)

Alex Periad, rhp, 22 (Brewers)

Kyle Lotzkar, rhp, 20 (Reds)

Nick Bucci, rhp, 19 (Brewers)

Top 10 Canadian prospects | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Thomas - Monday, April 05 2010 @ 09:30 AM EDT (#213099) #
Nice article, Robert. The one quibble I have is that I'd certainly rank Lawrie ahead of Weglarz and maybe Aumont, too. It's not clear if Lawrie will stick at second base, and if he does I'm not sure he'll be an asset with the glove, but he would have an impact bat at second base. As you wrote in your article, if his hitting develops as projected than his bat would play in a corner outfield spot and anytime you can get a corner outfield bat playing a passable second base, that's a huge plus.
MatO - Monday, April 05 2010 @ 09:59 AM EDT (#213101) #
Weglarz is another fine Polish name.  The actual pronunciation of it is another tongue twister though not quite in the Rzepczynski class.
raptorsaddict - Monday, April 05 2010 @ 10:02 AM EDT (#213102) #
Love the idea of expanding the BB universe to include all the young Canucks out there trying to make the Show - you can never have too much Can-Con!

I also agree with your definition of who is a Canadian - spread that net far and wide. In my opinion, it should include anyone who could play for us at international level events.

johnny was - Monday, April 05 2010 @ 10:38 AM EDT (#213105) #
No disrespect to a pair of my boyhood heroes, but it's nice to see that long gone are the days when the best baseball talent this country produced included fringey players like Denis Boucher and Mike Gardiner.

RJ Swindle is someone for whom I've long been a cheerleader.  In 404 career minor league innings mostly as a reliever he`s put up numbers of 7.7/H9, 1.8BB/9, 9 K/9, and 0.3 HR/9.  And only two short-lived cups of coffee in the bigs because his big loopy 55-mph curve doesn't look like it should get hitters out.  If anyone deserves to be thrown a proverbial bone, it's this guy.

Also interesting is that only 2 of the top 10 players on the list, Lawrie and Aumont, were unavailable to the Jays draft team.  Someone who wants to invest more time can map out exactly who was selected where, but this does raise questions about how well the Ricciardi regime scouted talent in its own backyard.

davidcanavan - Monday, April 05 2010 @ 12:48 PM EDT (#213110) #

Canadian baseball has never had as much talent or depth as it does right now, especially with 10 or so guys expected to go in the top 10 rounds in this years draft. Improved coaching has contributed greatly to this growth, also many of the top junior baseball league in Canada use wood bats and so there is less of an adjustment going pro as opposed to many american highschool players who use primarily metal. I agree the Jays need to be more active in drafting quality canadian players. It seemed in the riccardi era many of the Canadains drafted were taken really late as organizational fillers, or went unsigned.

TimberLee - Monday, April 05 2010 @ 08:23 PM EDT (#213137) #

Yes, Yes, Yes!   Thanks very much for this info.  I look forward to reading updates as the season goes along.  I find it difficult to get reports on our guys all in one place like this.  The best part is that a number of these players seem to have a real chance of having a MLB career.

 Using your citizenship criteria, how many of us are there on opening day rosters?

VBF - Tuesday, April 06 2010 @ 11:43 PM EDT (#213195) #

Chris Leroux might have been born in Quebec but graduated a St. Joseph Jaguar out of Mississauga just months before David Francis (Braves) would be walking in those same doors to start his high school baseball career. Francis, ranked 18th overall in the Braves system last year by John Sickels, made news in 2008 for contributing the first six innings of a complete game no-hitter. He's been promoted twice since then with mixed results.

I also noticed a couple days ago that James Paxton has signed on with an Indy team in Grand Prairie (Texas, not Alberta). I was kind of hoping he'd be the next Goldeye, Viper, Capital, or Seal but this probably has alot to do with the facilities, climate and accessibility than anything else.

I had always wondered if the next generation of youth that had been disenchanted by the late 90s Jays and Expos would lose interest in playing the game but that doesn't really seem to be the case at all. The folks at Baseball Canada ought to be proud.


robertdudek - Sunday, April 11 2010 @ 05:40 AM EDT (#213425) #
Using your citizenship criteria, how many of us are there on opening day rosters?

I could be missing someone, but here are the Canadians on active roster and major league disabled list that I am aware of:

George Kottaras mil
Jason Bay nym
Joey Votto cin
Justin Morneau min
Matt Stairs sdp
Russell Martin laa

Blake Hawksworth stl
Erik bedard (dl) sea
Jeff Francis(dl) col
Jesse Crain min
Mark Teahen cws
Rich Harden tex
Ryan Dempster chc
Scott Richmond(dl) tor

Mark Teahen was not born in Canada, but was on Canada's roster for the 2009 WBC.
Top 10 Canadian prospects | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.