The World Baseball Classic puts the game’s best on display, but fans with a keen eye will be able to pick out a strong group of future stars on the field.
In the most recent edition of the tournament, in 2017, Team Canada featured a pair of exciting up-and-comers in the Cardinals’ Tyler O’Neill — then the 36th-best prospect in baseball — and No. 4 Padres prospect Josh Naylor. Six years later, O’Neill, now a two-time Gold Glove winner, and Naylor’s younger brother and current Guardians teammate, Bo Naylor, highlight Canada’s lineup.
Three of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects headline this year’s crop of top young talents: Brewers outfielder Sal Frelick (No. 30) will suit up for Team Italy, Mariners catcher Harry Ford (No. 49) returns to Team Great Britain after leading them in the WBC Qualifiers and the younger Naylor (No. 64) follows in his brother’s footsteps with Team Canada.
Here are the other prospects ranked within their organization’s Top 30 list that will head to the 2023 WBC. (The rankings listed are current as of the end of the 2022 season.)
POOL A (Taichung, Taiwan)
Frelick, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 Draft, reached Triple-A in his first full season as a pro last summer and finished in the top five among all Minor Leaguers with a .331 average between three levels. Fletcher found similar success in the upper levels of the Arizona organization, slashing .312/.378/.486 in 133 games.
The Curacao native impressed in his U.S. debut in 2022, striking out 10.1 batters per nine in the Florida Complex League. The 21-year-old can reach the upper 90s with his fastball and should sit there more consistently as his frame fills out.
Herrera’s strong offensive track record earned him a brief look behind the plate in the Majors last season and he could return there as Willson Contreras’ backup this year. Ramos hit 25 home runs between Single-A and High-A as a 21-year-old before showing off more impressive pop in the Arizona Fall League.
POOL C (Phoenix, Arizona)
Naylor isn’t the only notable name supplementing O’Neill and Freddie Freeman on Canada’s roster. Caissie, Clarke and Julien all flashed impressive power and speed during both the regular season and Arizona Fall League, with Julien winning the circuit’s Breakout Player of the Year Award. Bratt spent his age-18 season in Single-A and pitched like he was much older, finishing with a 2.45 ERA in 80.2 innings. Lopez received 10 at-bats in the Majors over the last two seasons but has spent most of that time as a contact-first shortstop in Triple-A.
Diaz mashed at the upper levels of the Oakland system, hitting .326/.366/.515 in 120 games before making 15 appearances in the Majors in September. He should benefit from sharing a locker room with veteran hitters like Gio Urshela, Donovan Solano and Jorge Alfaro.
Ford, born in Atlanta, qualifies for inclusion on the Great Britain roster since both of his parents hold citizenship in the United Kingdom. At the WBC Qualifiers in Regensburg, Germany, Ford mashed three homers in three games. Thomas, a Bahamas native, made a move to the bullpen in 2022 and posted a 3.02 ERA 37 Double-A outings.
Mexico: RHP Alan Rangel (Braves unranked)
Rangel was on Atlanta’s 40-man roster in 2022 — even spending a few days in the Majors, though he didn’t appear in a game — but was non-tendered and subsequently re-signed on a Minor League deal. That commitment, along with strong underlying metrics, is expected to help him jump onto the Braves’ Top 30 when it gets updated for the coming season.
(Rangel is a member of Mexico’s designated pitcher pool, meaning he can be added to the roster as a substitute in between rounds.)
Mostly composed of Jewish-American players, Team Israel’s roster features Gelof, a second-round pick in 2021, and Mervis, whose 36 home runs in 2022 were tied for the third-most in the Minor Leagues. Horwitz, like the other two bats, finished the year in Triple-A, while Gordon returned from Tommy John surgery to run a 2.35 ERA between three levels.
Perez is known for his defense and plate discipline, two tools that he displayed in 54 games at Single-A last season. Rodriguez was born in Nicaragua but was drafted out of a junior college in Florida in 2021. In his professional debut last summer, he pitched to a 3.07 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 107.2 innings as a 20-year-old in A-ball.
Hamel, who has Puerto Rican heritage, was the Mets’ third-round pick in the 2021 Draft and established himself as one of the organization’s top arms in his first full season as a pro. His 3.25 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 119 innings between Single-A and High-A earned him the Mets’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.