Seven Former OBJ Players in Big League Camp
Wednesday, February 17th might not have come soon enough for many baseball fans as the world continues to work through the coronavirus pandemic.
For millions north-of-the-border in Canada, much remains the same, snow on the ground and leaving home for essential purposes only as the battle continues to return to normalcy. But, for seven former Ontario Blue Jays players, today marked the beginning of Major League Baseball Spring Training in Arizona and Florida. Over the next few weeks, the players will get back into stride before gameplay begins during the last week of February.
Follow along all Spring as these seven look to break camp with the big league team:
RHP Jordan Balazovic, of Mississauga, Ontario enters his first Major League Spring Training with the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Florida. Balazovic currently sits as the 4th ranked prospect in the Twins organization and deservedly so after posting a stellar 2.69 ERA with 129 strikeouts over 93.2 innings in 2019 as he spent time with the Cedar Rapids Kernels (A) and Fort Myers Miracle (A-Advanced) before ending his season with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A).
The family affair begins this Spring in Goodyear, Arizona for the Cleveland Indians. OF Josh Naylor and C Bo Naylor of Mississauga, Ontario begin their path to the 2021 season together. Josh returns to MLB Camp for his third year, first with the Indians, meanwhile younger brother Bo makes his first appearance.
Josh comes to Arizona after ending the year with a stellar playoff performance against the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Series which included becoming the first player to record five hits in his first five career playoff at-bats. Meanwhile, Bo has quickly rose through the Indians ranks, entering 2021 as the 4th ranked Indians prospect. 2019 marked Bo's first full professional season where he put together 97 hits including 18 doubles, 10 triples and 11 home runs over 107 games for the Lake County Captains (A).
The Windsor, Ontario native, OF Jacob Robson returns to Lakeland, Florida for Tigers Spring Training as has been an annual occurrence since 2016. The speedy outfielder, unlike previous years, won't be coming from Canada this year. Robson spent most of his "off-season" overseas playing for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League to prepare for the 2021 season. In 2019, Robson played in 112 games for the Toledo Mud Hens (Triple-A) hitting .267 with 21 doubles, 3 triples and 9 home runs with 52 runs batted in.
RHP Jordan Romano, of Markham, Ontario is the seasoned veteran of the group headed south this Spring after two season with the Toronto Blue Jays at the Major League level. Romano by all accounts will look to fill out the backend of the Jays rotation this year as the team looks poised to make another run to the top of the American League East. Romano was off to a tremendous start to 2020 before an injury cut his season short, posting a 1.23 ERA over 14 innings with 21 strikeouts and only 5 walks.
Toronto native, IF Daniel Pinero, will join Robson in Lakeland, Florida to try to head north with the Tigers for Opening Day. Pinero enters his fifth professional season after attending the University of Virginia and winning at College World Series Championship with the Cavaliers. Dan put together a full season between the Erie SeaWolves (Double-A) and the Toledo Mud Hens (Triple-A) in 2019, collecting 96 hits including 25 doubles, 2 triples, 15 home runs and 52 runs batted in.
The wanted man, RHP Zach Pop of Brampton, Ontario is headed down to his second MLB Spring Training but with a new club in the Miami Marlins after an off-season that saw him change colours twice. On December 10th, Pop was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks as apart of the MLB Rule 5 Draft as not being protected by the Baltimore Orioles. A short few hours later, he was then traded to the Miami Marlins where he looks to make his jump the big leagues. Pop is coming off Tommy John Surgery but his numbers in years past are that of a video game. He twice posted a sub-1.00 ERA during his time with the Baltimore and Los Angeles organizations.
While these seven players get to work this week, five former Ontario Blue Jays await Minor League Spring Training which will begin once the MLB season gets underway.
Awaiting their time to head south is: OF Dasan Brown (Mississauga, ON) - Toronto Blue Jays, OF David Calabrese (Toronto, ON) - Los Angeles Angels, RHP RJ Freure (Burlington, ON) - Houston Astros, OF Gareth Morgan (Toronto, ON) - Los Angeles Angels and IF Tyrell Schofield-Sam (Mississauga, ON) - Oakland Athletics.