The choice of Canada as the destination for Harry and Meghan to begin their new life was an easy one. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (if we are still allowed to call them that) needed a destination befitting their status.
The USA is the land of the free, but Canada is the land of the elite; they don’t do mediocrity north of the Frontière Internationale.
Take baseball, for instance (note the effortless segue). Only 13 Canadian-born players appeared in MLB last season, despite the country being home to a population of 37 million and one-thirtieth of MLB franchises.
Fewer than 1% of all MLB players were born in Canada, yet pretty much they are all elite talents.Embed from Getty Images
Even though Russell Martin’s best days are behind him, Buster Posey was the only catcher to out-earn him last season. While Posey spends 20% of his time at first base, Martin has crouched behind the plate for more than 13,000 innings in a career which has lasted 14 years.
Since he debuted in 2006, there is little to choose between Martin and St Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina as the best defensive catcher.
Oh, and as it’s 2019 we’re talking about, Martin made four appearances as a pitcher … with an ERA of 0.00. #elite
Martin lies third on the all-time list of best Canadian baseball players, behind the latest inductee to the Hall of Fame, Larry Walker (72.7 WAR) and the Cincinnati Reds stoical Joey Votto (60.2 WAR). The first baseman is arguably the greatest player of the last decade not named Mike Trout.
Take a look at his stats:
- .307 AVG
- .421 OBP
- .519 SLG
- 150 OPS+
And he has maintained this #elite level for over 1,700 games.
But Canada doesn’t just produce elite hitters and catchers. Without wanting to seem oxymoronic, James Paxton is an underrated Yankee. The 30-year-old is a legitimate ace.
Over the last three years, Paxton has pitched like a stud, with one of the hardest fastballs and an elite strikeout rate. It’s only injury that has prevented him from reaching the innings totals associated with starting pitching aces.
And don’t forget, Paxton has the best record against the game’s best player by restricting Mike Trout to just .483 OPS. #eliteEmbed from Getty Images
Prepare yourself for another seamless transition.
The name Soroka originates from Ukrainian Jewish, meaning magpie. Magpies are among the most intelligent birds in the world. The cerebral approach to pitching (as well as his arsenal of four killer pitches) helped the Atlanta Braves, Mike Soroka, catapult himself from the game’s 53rd best prospect to a bonafide ace in his first full season in the big leagues.
Neither second-place in Rookie of the Year voting or sixth-place in NL Cy Young award voting seem to satisfactorily reward the right-hander for his 29-start, 2.68 ERA, 1.11 WHIP campaign. Jose Fernandez is the only other pitcher in history to produce these stats at 21 years old or younger. #elite
San Diego Padres left-handed first baseman Josh Naylor hit .315 with .936 OPS in Triple-A last season with almost as many walks as strikeouts. True, his first taste of MLB action was nothing exceptional, but he is probably still a better option at first base than Eric Hosmer, and he is only 22 years old. #elite
Another exceptional prospect who has the potential to become a household name within a few years is the St Louis Cardinals Tyler O’Neill. He raked in Triple-A with 1.078 OPS in 2018 and offers the greatest offensive threat in the Cardinals outfield. The former top-40 prospect is not yet 25 years old and looks like a sneaky pick to hit the first home run in London in June. #elite
Another former #elite prospect is San Diego Padres’ pitcher Cal Quantrill. Son of All-Star Paul Quantrill, he was taken with the eighth pick of the 2016 draft. At times he has struggled with the heavy burden of expectation, but the 24-year-old is vying for a spot in the Padres 2020 rotation.
Abraham Toro hit .324 AVG with 18 homers and .938 OPS across two levels of the minors last year to catapult himself into the Astros hot corner for a few games. The 23-year-old will need an Alex Bregman or Carlos Correa trade/injury to get more playing time in 2020, but he has #elite potential.
Another Canadian to play in MLB last season, albeit for just five at-bats for the Chicago Cubs, was veteran hitter Jim Adduci. He was pretty damn #elite for two seasons in Korea with .900 OPS.
Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta possesses an excellent slider, (at times) a devastating curveball, and is only an adjustment to his fastball away from being a dominant 30-game starter. The strikeouts dried up for the 26-year-old last season, so we didn’t see a repeat of stuff like his #elite 13-strikeout start against Cardinals.
In his first year with the franchise, the Chicago Cubs transformed Rowan Wick into a dominant reliever who pitched 68 innings across all levels to the tune of 2.10 ERA with 10.4 K/9. Look out for him in London as Craig Kimbrel’s #elite set-up man.Embed from Getty Images
And finally, Canadian-born Vlad Guerrero Jr. was the game’s number one prospect when he made his MLB debut last season. He joined a very exclusive list of just 18 players to hit at least 15 homers during their age-20 season. Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Johnny Bench, Willie Mays and Mike Trout to name just five. #NowThat’sWhatICallElite
I’m ignoring the 15 innings thrown by Blue Jays’ pitcher Jordan Romano as it spoils my narrative. His stats got worse as he progressed up the ranks: 1.86 ERA (Rookie Ball), 4.13 ERA (Double-A), 5.48 ERA (Triple-A) and 7.63 ERA (MLB). But 12 elite talents out of 13 Canadian-born players is a stunning success rate.
And while on the subject of elite Canadian talent, we are excited to announce that journalist Rachel Steinberg has joined the Bat Flips and Nerds podcast team. Make sure you subscribe to catch the latest news, views and interviews, all with a British (and sometimes Canadian) twist.