Canadians in the Majors – October 2
By Kevin Glew
This is my year-end rundown of how Canadians fared in the major leagues this season:
Jim Adduci, Burnaby, B.C., Detroit Tigers
Adduci enjoyed three separate big league stints with the Tigers in 2017, but he spent the last portion of the season with the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens after he was sent down on August 12. He was not called up by the Tigers in September. In 29 contests with the Tigers this season, the Burnaby, B.C., native went 20-for-83 (.241 batting average) and he finished with a .323 on-base percentage (OBP).
Andrew Albers, North Battleford, Sask., Seattle Mariners
With three shutout innings in relief for the Mariners on September 25, North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers notched his first major league save. He followed that up by allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings in a start on Saturday. The 6-foot-1 lefty was the feel-good Canadian baseball story of the year and has made a strong case that he's worthy of a big league contract in 2018. In nine games (including six starts) with the M’s, he went 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA and recorded 37 strikeouts in 41 innings.
John Axford, Port Dover, Ont., Free Agent
The Oakland A’s released Axford on August 1 and he did not sign with another team. The 6-foot-5 reliever had troubles finding his form this season after beginning the campaign on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury. In 22 appearances with the A’s, he walked 17 batters in 21 innings and posted a 6.43 ERA. Averaging 95 mph with his fastball, his velocity was still strong and this should help him garner interest as a free agent this off-season.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Despite playing only 117 games this season, Freeman managed to sock 28 home runs, the second-most in his major league career and set career-highs in on-base percentage (OBP) (.403), slugging percentage (.586) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (.989). After competing for Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic as a tribute to his late mother, Freeman was enjoying an MVP-calibre season before his wrist was fractured when he was hit by a pitch from Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Aaron Loup on May 18. He missed close to six weeks with the injury. Freeman’s mother, Rosemary, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Peterborough, Ont., eventually moved to Windsor, Ont., where she met Freeman’s father, Fred, and the couple moved to California. Freeman’s mother passed away after battling cancer in 2000 at age 47 when Freeman was 10.
Russell Martin, Montreal, Que., Toronto Blue Jays
Martin finished with 13 home runs and a .343 OBP in 91 games in an injury-riddled season with the Blue Jays. A positive about his 2017 campaign was that his defence behind the plate improved over the previous season. His dWAR rose from 0.3 in 2016 to 0.6 in 2017 and he threw out 20 per cent of base runners attempting to steal off him, up from 15 per cent the previous year. This marks just the third time in Martin's major league career that the team he has been on has not advanced to the postseason.
James Paxton, Ladner, B.C., Seattle Mariners
The Canadian lefty finished the season on a high note, hurling six shutout innings and striking out nine for the Seattle Mariners in the team’s finale on Sunday. The 6-foot-4 southpaw, who had two tenures on the disabled list in 2017, was given the option of shutting it down or making the start on the season's final day and he chose to pitch. Paxton, who was recently named Mariners Pitcher of the Year, completed the campaign with a 12-5 record and a 2.98 ERA in 24 starts, while accumulating 156 strikeouts in 136 innings.
Nick Pivetta, Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies
Pivetta pitched five scoreless innings for the Phillies against the New York Mets on the season’s final day to pick up his eighth win. It was the 24-year-old's third victory in his last three starts. In 26 big league starts this season, the 6-foot-5 right-hander went 8-10 with a 6.02 ERA and he fanned 140 batters in 133 innings.
Dalton Pompey, Mississauga, Ont., Toronto Blue Jays
Pompey, who did not play in the majors this season, reportedly started baseball activities again at the beginning of September, but it was too late for him to return to game action. The Blue Jays moved the speedy Mississauga, Ont., native to the 60-day disabled list on July 19 due to a nagging knee injury. Pompey did not play after appearing in a game for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons on July 8. The knee injury came after Pompey was sidelined for nearly two months with a concussion after taking a knee to his head when sliding into second base in Canada’s second game of the World Baseball Classic. In all, between class-A and triple-A, the fleet-footed outfielder was limited to 13 professional games in 2017 and he was 9-for-44 (.205 batting average).
Michael Saunders, Victoria, B.C., Toronto Blue Jays
Saunders went 0-for-2 in the Blue Jays’ final game on Sunday. In 12 contests with the Blue Jays since being recalled on September 1, he had three singles in 18 at bats. It had been a long road back to the big leagues for the left-handed hitting outfielder who after last season’s all-star campaign with the Blue Jays inked a guaranteed one-year, $9-million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. But the Victoria, B.C., native was released by the Phillies on June 25 after batting .205 with a .257 OBP in 50 games with them. He then signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays and batted .274 with two home runs in 35 games with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons before being promoted.
Jameson Taillon, Canadian Citizen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taillon, who has Canadian parents, finished the season on a strong note for the Pirates on Saturday, holding the playoff-bound Washington Nationals to one run on four hits in seven innings, while striking out five. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound hurler, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer on May 8, finished the campaign with an 8-7 record and a 4.44 ERA with 125 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings in 25 starts with the Pirates.
Jesen Therrien, Montreal, Que., Philadelphia Phillies
Therrien has undergone Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2018 season. He had been placed on the 60-day disabled list by the Phillies on September 11 after being diagnosed with damage to his right ulnar collateral ligament. Therrien posted an 8.35 ERA in 15 relief appearances in his first taste of big league action this season. Scouted by Canadian Alex Agostino, Therrien was selected in the 17th round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Phillies. The 24-year-old hurler was dominant in double-A and triple-A in 2017, posting a combined 1.41 ERA in 57-1/3 innings while registering 65 strikeouts.
Joey Votto, Etobicoke, Ont., Cincinnati Reds
Votto wrapped up his MVP calibre season with two doubles on Sunday. With those two hits, the Reds first baseman broke the franchise record by reaching base 320 times this season (He bested his own record of 319 set in 2015). Votto completed his 2017 campaign as the National League leader in OBP (.454), walks (134) and OPS (1.032), and also ended up third in the league in batting average (.320), tied for fifth in home runs (36) and sixth in slugging percentage (.578). For a summary of Votto’s statistical accomplishments in 2017, read this article.
Rob Zastryzny, Edmonton, Alta., Chicago Cubs
The 25-year-old lefty allowed at least two earned runs in each of his three relief appearances after being recalled by the Cubs on September 3. In all, in four big league games in 2017, he permitted 12 earned runs in 13 innings. In 17 minor league appearances – including 10 starts – between Rookie ball and triple-A this season, the Canadian southpaw posted a 5.17 ERA.