Welcome back! This is our first installment in this series since September 2019, so a number of the teams, levels, and names have changed. Two players from previous editions have logged significant major league time, while the remainder of players below will play their first official professional games in nearly two years when their minor league seasons begin. It has yet to be determined how the reduction in minor league teams will affect the opportunity and development of European talent, but there are no longer steps between the “complex” leagues and A-ball.
There are two recent additions to this list, as the Netherlands’ Darnel Collins joined his brother Darryl in the Kansas City Royals’ organization in January, while Alessandro Ercolani became the first native Sammarinese in pro ball when he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in April [link].
At Triple-A, veteran Czech catcher Martin Cervenka is now one phone call away from the New York Mets, while German Markus Solbach returns to the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers after spending the last minor league season-less year in Italy’s Serie A1.
This list includes anyone who spent all or part of their developmental years in European baseball. While European baseball can be proud of anyone who has represented their respective national teams or played club baseball here, this is intentionally a more select group. Please let us know if we’ve overlooked anyone.
Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies. Netherlands.
The 31-year-old shortstop has made it through the first month of the season with three home runs and a stolen base, hitting .241 with 17 RBIs. The Amsterdam native re-signed with the Phillies this winter for a second season. He’s in his 10th major league season overall.
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins. Germany.
The Berliner left-hander recently returned to action after dealing with coronavirus. Thanks to that stint away from the team, Kepler has logged only 16 games thus far. He has six extra base hits, although he’s yet to hit his first home run in the regular season. With three stolen bases, however, Kepler is already halfway to his career high. The 28-year-old Minnesota Twin is in year three of a five-year extension signed prior to the 2019 season. He’s primarily playing right field.
Martin Cervenka, New York Mets. Czech Republic.
Mets Alternate Training Site. The 28-year-old Kotlarka catcher spent his first several years with the Cleveland Indians, and he made it up to Triple-A in 2019 with the Baltimore Orioles. As a minor league free agent, he signed on for 2021 with the Mets. He’s been at their alternate site through April and will begin at Triple-A [link].
Markus Solbach, Los Angeles Dodgers. Germany.
Oklahoma City Dodgers. The righthanded pitcher, who went 5-1 with a 2.57 ERA at Double-A in the 2019 season, starts 2021 at the top minor league level. Solbach was electric for San Marino last summer, registering 53 strikeouts and a 0.30 ERA in 30.1 frames, with only eight walks and 15 hits surrendered.
Darryl Collins, Kansas City Royals. Netherlands.
Columbia Fireflies. The 19-year-old outfielder hit .320 in his 2019 introduction to professional baseball. He’ll make the jump to Low-A to start this season. MLB.com ranks him No. 23 among Kansas City’s prospects [link].
Leonardo Seminati, Cincinnati Reds. Italy.
Daytona Tortugas. The Italian outfielder ended 2019 in the rookie Pioneer League, where he hit .270 with nine home runs. He’ll open 2021 with his first Low-A action.
It has become increasingly more common for signings to continue to play domestically before heading to the U.S. and the following players fall in this category.
Marc Civit, Toronto Blue Jays. Spain.
CBS Sant Boi. Civit has appeared in relief in four of the team’s six games.
Delson Guzmán, Milwaukee Brewers. Spain.
Astros Valencia. Guzmán has pitched in three games for Astros teams at various levels in Spain, totalling four scoreless innings. He is 1-for-1 at the plate.
Frank Hernández, Chicago Cubs. Spain.
CBS Viladecans. The athletic outfielder is off to a scorching start for Viladecans, going 10-for-20 with three doubles, a league-leading (tied) two triples, and five walks. Hernández has struck out only once and help push Viladecans to a tie for first place in the Spanish Baseball League.
Rookie League / not yet assigned
Samuel Aldegheri, Philadelphia Phillies. Italy.
Yoan Antonac, Philadelphia Phillies. France.
Donny Breek, Minnesota Twins. Netherlands.
Jiorgeny Casimiri, Toronto Blue Jays, Netherlands.
Darnel Collins, Kansas City Royals. Netherlands.
Daniele Di Monte, Detroit Tigers. Italy.
Eduardo Dominguez, Los Angeles Dodgers. Spain.
Alessandro Ercolani, Pittsburgh Pirates. San Marino/Italy.
Arij Fransen, Cincinnati Reds. Netherlands.
Ettore Giulianelli, St Louis Cardinals. Italy.
Omar Hernandez, Kansas City Royals. Spain.
Anton Kuznetsov, Philadelphia Phillies. Russia.
Ernesto Wilson Martínez, Milwaukee Brewers. France.
Niklas Rimmel, Minnesota Twins. Germany.
Sem Robberse, Toronto Blue Jays. Netherlands.
Viktor Vecerka, Kansas City Royals. Czech Republic.