Welcome friends to another year tracking the GB eligible players in baseball’s minor leagues. Could this be the year we see a genuine, British rooting interest in ‘The Show’? Definitely maybe. There are some bullish roster placements for some of our most talented guys and a couple are placing highly within organisational rankings. It isn’t all good news, though: stalwart pitcher Jacob Esch – the last Brit to make the MLB with the 2016 Marlins – is without a club after scuffling last year in the Padres system, whilst BF&N favourite and podcast guest Jordan Serena was cut by the Angels following Spring Training and is on the hunt for a way to stay in organised ball. We wish both Jake and Jordan well in their efforts to find a club.
Likewise, GB qualified Oakland A’s pitcher Jharel Cotton will face a year on the sidelines recovering from Tommy John surgery – Godspeed for his recovery. Barry Enright is playing in Mexico’s top league (AAA equivalent) so technically doesn’t qualify – but we’ll still be keeping an eye on his progress.
But here are the guys to hang your hat on in the meantime…
Michael Roth – LHP, Iowa Cubs
Left Michael Roth is a stalwart of ‘Minoring in British’ after featuring for both the Giants and Rays AAA ball clubs last year. He fastened on with the Cubs for Spring Training this year and looked sharp in a few short appearances on the bump. The Cubs pen isn’t exactly loaded, and their rotation has a few red flags, so there’s a genuine possibility we could see Roth picking a spot start or appearing as a long man at Wrigley at some point this year.
Follow Michael on Twitter here.
PJ Conlon – LHP, Las Vegas 51s (Mets)
Belfast born Conlon is the only ‘true’ Brit in our countdown, having moved to San Diego in the early 90s. Whether his Catholic family identify as Irish or British is moot – we’ll take him either way! Like Roth, Conlon had an eye-catching spring leading many in Mets circles to peg him as a potential impact pen arm down the stretch – if he does so, he’ll break a 15 year skid for British born players in the bigs (Lance Painter in 2003). No pressure PJ.
Champ Stuart – CF, Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
Outfield speedster Stuart was one of the spark plugs of the GB team’s excellent showing at the 2016 WBC Qualifier in Brooklyn, but scuffled in AA last year posting a .222 avg in his second turn in Binghamton. He starts the season back in New York state, where his speed and fielding chops will be tested in an outfield battery with former college athlete Tim Tebow. At 25, this feels like an important time for Stuart to take a leap forward at the plate or risk being cut.
Lucius Fox – SS, Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays)
Highly touted shortstop Fox joined Tampa in the trade that took pitcher Matt Moore to San Francisco, since when he’s set about building a reputation for his speed on the bases and a solid hit tool. He starts 2018 back at High-A, where he ended 2017, but with hopes of a jump to AA or even AAA within the year. Baseball America tabs him as the number 8 prospect in one of baseball’s stronger farm systems, noting him as ‘…another potential solid piece to the Rays’ youth movement at the major league level.’
Anfernee Seymour – CF, Florida Fire Frogs (Braves)
Seymour is yet to make his GB bow, but qualifies on account of his Bahamian lineage. He repeats with the Fire Frogs, for whom he posted a solid .280 AVG, with 17 stolen bags in half a season in 2017.
Blake Taylor – LHP, St Lucie Mets
Do you see a pattern here? The Mets love a GB qualified player! Like Conlon, Taylor is a lefty but his arsenal is a little more overpowering than the command-first Ulsterman. Taylor works of a hard fastball which saw some success in Low-A last year. Promotion to St. Lucie is reward for Taylor, who, at 22 has age and development time on his side. Fingers crossed he shows progress throughout the year and advances through the system.
Like Conlon, Taylor also spoke to Extra Innings during his 2017 campaign – link.
Serving GB at Low A are a battery of Bahamians, all of whom are ‘high ceiling’ guys with big potential and good standing within their organisations. Like Stuart, they trade on speed and tools – all are some distance from the Majors but 2018 could be a good year to latch on as they begin to fulfil their potential.
Jasrado Chisholm – SS, Kane County Cougars (Diamondbacks)
For many, Bahamian teenager Jazz Chisholm was GB’s standout in the 2016 WBC. The young shortstop only turned 20 in February and, although beginning the year back at Low-A, remains highly thought of both within the organisation and by external evaluators. Baseball America ranks him 4th in their organisation rankings, and 18th amongst all shortstops, flagging an aggressive approach that leads to ‘…swings and misses, but can generate huge power’. They also note that he’s ‘…confident, talkative and well-liked by teammates and clearly enjoys playing the game’ – something those who followed in Brooklyn will already know.
Juan Hillman – LHP, Lake County Captains (Indians)
Lefty pitcher Hillman returns to Low A after a difficult 2017 in which he posted a 7-10 record and a 6.80 ERA. He’ll be hoping that this year sees a step forward, and takes the ball for the Captains’ second fixture of the season in order to try and get 2018 off to a solid start.
Todd Isaacs – LF, Lake County Captains (Indians)
Todd Isaacs is unquestionably the biggest character on this list. He, along with his cousin Fox (see above) organised the Bahamas biggest ever baseball event the ‘Don’t Blink Home Run Derby in Paradise‘ during the offseason – an event won by Blue Jays slugger Bo Bichette, which included Twins SS Nick Gordon and a host of other Bahamian sports stars. He also runs his own ‘Don’t Blink’ clothing label, named after his own personal motto – there are few dull moments with Todd around, as this interview with Extra Innings shows. On the field he took time to adjust to Low-A, but showed some potential at the plate in a curtailed season (9 HRs) and on the base paths with 18 stolen bases – he’ll be looking to consolidate and take a step forward this season.
Chavez Young – CF, Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays)
Rounding us out is Bahamian Blue Jay, Chavez Young who takes his first major step beyond rookie ball following a brief stop in short-season A-ball last year. This is a bullish promotion and speaks to his growing reputation within the Blue Jays organisation (where he is beginning to appear on organizational depth charts). Could be a sleeper to watch this year if you’re looking for an under-the-radar pick.