As MLB’s final four teams compete for a World Series Championship, minor league players have returned home with offseason goals, invitations to their organization’s instructional league, and/or plans for winter ball. Here’s a recap of the 2021 season for the 26 Europeans who suited up for MLB organizations. Nine of those players made their debut, with several turning in excellent seasons, while three will look to sign with new clubs over the winter.
Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies. Netherlands.
Gregorius had a down season, by his standards. He was the everyday shortstop for the contending Philadelphia Phillies as he battled lingering elbow soreness. A veteran of ten MLB seasons, the left-handed hitter finished the season with 13 home runs in 103 games played. He hit a career-low .209 with a .270 on-base percentage (.310 for his career). He’s under contract for one more year in Philadelphia.
Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins. Germany.
The left-handed hitter from Berlin also had numbers that were down from his peak seasons. Kepler contracted COVID-19 early in the season, and battled leg injuries in the middle, but he still managed to play 121 games. Kepler started the season as the Twins everyday rightfielder, and due to team needs he also played 22 games in centerfield (and was the designated hitter in four more). Kepler hit .211 with a .306 OBP. He had 19 home runs and 21 doubles, and he also stole 10 bases without being caught. Kepler has two more guaranteed seasons on his contract.
Martin Cervenka, New York Mets. Czech Republic.
Syracuse Mets. Cervenka played his entire 2021 season in Triple-A Syracuse in his tenth season of professional baseball. The Kotlarka catcher appeared in 72 games, finishing with a batting line of .183/.280/.344. The 29-year-old is known as a reliable defensive catcher. He’ll be a minor league free agent this winter, looking to continue his pursuit of major league opportunity.
Markus Solbach, Los Angeles Dodgers. Germany.
Oklahoma City Dodgers. After a 2020 hiatus in San Marino (with no minor league season in the USA), Solbach returned to the LA Dodgers and pitched at Triple-A (with one outing for Double-A immediately after an injured list stint in August). He started 9 games and appeared in 18 overall, finishing with an 8.12 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 18 walks in 47.2 innings. Solbach has 468 innings pitched in affiliated baseball since 2011 across three organizations, in addition to seasons in Italy, Germany, Australia, and US independent ball in between. The 30-year-old right-handed pitcher will again be a minor league free agent this winter.
Matteo Bocchi, Chicago Cubs. Italy.
South Bend Cubs. The author must apologize, as I realized during the 2021 European Championships that Matteo Bocchi has been missing from these updates. After a successful college career at the University of Texas, the Parma native pitched two seasons with the Chicago Cubs organization, with 2021 mostly at High-A South Bend and three games in Double-A. Bocchi was 2-1 with a 4.34 ERA and 74 strikeouts versus 27 walks and 54 hits in 64.1 innings. The right-handed pitcher, now 25 years old, was released in September. Here’s hoping he latches on with someone for 2022 so he can be given his due in this space.
Sem Robberse, Toronto Blue Jays. Netherlands.
Fangraphs No. 30, Prospects 1500 No. 35.
Vancouver Canadians. Robberse only turned twenty after the season completed, and yet he held his own after a late-season promotion to High-A. Across two levels, the Dutch right handed pitcher had a 5-7 win-loss record and 4.36 ERA. He started 19 games and relieved twice, while pitching 88.2 innings, striking out 90 and walking 38. Robberse is a starting pitching prospect, and he’ll enter 2022 spring training likely to be in the High-A rotation.
Samuel Aldegheri, Philadelphia Phillies. Italy.
Clearwater Threshers. Aldegheri, a left-handed pitcher, made eight appearances and pitched 21 innings in his professional debut. After striking out 14 batters in 8.2 innings in rookie ball, the Phillies quickly promoted the Verona native to Low-A, where his success continued. He compiled a 1-1 record with 17 hits, 32 strikeouts, and 10 walks.
Jiorgeny Casimiri, Toronto Blue Jays, Netherlands.
Dunedin Blue Jays. Casimiri bounced between the complex league and Low-A throughout the year, finishing with 11 games at the higher level and 13 in rookie ball. The 20-year-old from The Hague had a 3-3 record and 6.68 ERA in 31 innings, recording 36 strikeouts, 21 walks, and 33 hits overall.
Darryl Collins, Kansas City Royals. Netherlands.
Prospects 1500 No. 17, MLB.com No. 22, Fangraphs No. 23.
Columbia Fireflies. Collins played the full 2021 season with Low-A Columbia. Playing primarily outfield, the lefty-swinging, righty-throwing 20-year-old hit .246/.367/.338 with 5 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts. Encouragingly, he also walked 52 times against 55 strikeouts in 317 at bats.
Omar Hernández, Kansas City Royals. Spain.
Fangraphs No. 30.
Columbia Fireflies. The Cuban-born, Barcelona-raised catcher stayed in Low-A for the entire season after a 2019 debut in the Arizona rookie league. In 69 games played, Hernandez hit .174/.233/.274 with 3 home runs and 3 stolen bases without being caught. The Spanish prospect gunned down 34 percent of baserunners attempting to steal and committed only six errors.
Anton Kuznetsov, Philadelphia Phillies. Russia.
Clearwater Threshers. In his fourth minor league season, the Russian left-hander pitched six games (five at Low-A, one in rookie ball) and 12 innings before going on the injured list for the remainder of the year. He ended with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings.
Ernesto Wilson Martínez, Milwaukee Brewers. France.
Prospects 1500 No. 43, Fangraphs RV.
Carolina Mudcats. The Cuban-born left-hander, who moved to France as a teenager, had a productive season in the Brewers system. Now 22 years old, Martínez hit .274/.370/.492 in his fourth minor league season. He hit 11 home runs and stole 30 bases in 79 games. Martínez played mostly first base, as usual, but also made four starts in center field.
Leonardo Seminati, Cincinnati Reds. Italy.
Daytona Tortugas. The 22-year-old Italian played 69 games in 2021 in the former Florida State League. He overcame a concussion early in the year after a pitched ball hit him in the head, and he finished the year with 10 home runs and 6 stolen bases while hitting .211. He played outfield and third base.
Complex Rookie Leagues (10)
Yoan Antonac, Philadelphia Phillies. France.
FCL Phillies. After a brief debut (2.1 innings) following his 2018 signing, Antonac battled injuries and had not appeared since. The righty remained on the active roster for the 2021 season, totaling 19 innings across 15 games with a 7.11 ERA, 18 strikeouts, 11 walks, and 23 hits. The 6-foot-9 Montpellier native got a taste of full-season baseball with a brief Low-A promotion in August, and he should be in competition for a regular role at that level entering 2022.
Marc Civit, Toronto Blue Jays. Spain.
FCL Blue Jays. The Barcelona native pitched 16.1 innings in 12 games, striking out 17 and walking 19 for a 3-1 record and 8.64 ERA. Still just 19, the lefty will look to gain a more prominent role in 2022.
Darnel Collins, Kansas City Royals. Netherlands.
ACL Royals Gold. The Royals outfielder, who only turned 17 during the season, played the season in the Arizona complex league. He hit .228/.293/291 with six extra base hits in 38 games. He also stole two bases without being caught.
Daniele Di Monte, Detroit Tigers. Italy.
FCL Tigers West. The Monfalcone native pitched 17 games, 10 of them starts, in the Florida Complex League. The 19-year-old lefty finished with a 1-8 record and 9.84 ERA in 32 innings, as he struck out 33 and walked 29, allowing 40 hits.
Alessandro Ercolani, Pittsburgh Pirates. San Marino/Italy.
FCL Pirates Gold. Seventeen-year-old Ercolani pitched in 10 games, striking out 20 and walking eight, allowing 20 hits in 18.1 innings. He finished his debut season with a 2-3 record and 5.40 ERA.
Arij Fransen, Cincinnati Reds. Netherlands.
ACL Reds. Fransen debuted with the Reds in the Arizona Complex League, where he struck out 43 batters in 33.1 innings while walking only 3. He had a 3-1 record with a 3.78 ERA in 9 games, 5 of them starts.
Ettore Giulianelli, St Louis Cardinals. Italy.
FCL Cardinals. Giulianelli, an 18-year-old from Rimini, opened his professional career with 14 games pitched in the Florida Complex League. He struck out 22 and walked 11 in 14.2 innings, with a 0-2 record and 4.30 ERA.
Nicolo Pinazzi, Cincinnati Reds, Italy
ACL Reds. Pinazzi struck out 31 batters in his 17.1-inning debut season. He had 15 hits and 14 walks across 14 games, finishing with two wins, one loss, one hold, and 2.60 ERA.
Vojtech Mensik, Los Angeles Angels. Czech Republic.
ACL Angels. Mensik signed with the Angels after his college career at North Carolina State ended in the College World Series final. He did not play in official games with the Angels this summer, instead returning to the Czech Republic to join the national team for the European Championships.
Niklas Rimmel, Minnesota Twins. Germany.
FCL Twins. The 22-year-old righty from Berlin spent the entire season on the injured list before a late activation. Rimmel got in three games at the complex level in the last two weeks of the season, pitching seven innings, striking out seven, and walking one, with six hits allowed. He had a 3.86 ERA in those three starts.
Foreign Rookie Leagues (3)
Eduardo Domínguez, Los Angeles Dodgers. Spain.
DSL Dodgers Bautista. The Madrid native pitched 26 innings in the Dominican Summer League in his professional debut season. He had a 3-0 record and 4.85 ERA while striking out 18 and walking 14. He allowed 26 hits and recorded two saves.
Delson Guzmán, Milwaukee Brewers. Spain.
DSL Brewers 1. Guzman pitched two games in the Dominican Summer League before going on the injured list for the remainder of the year. In 4.2 innings, he allowed seven hits while walking three and striking out five. He finishes his debut season with an 0-1 record and 9.64 ERA.
Frank Hernández, Chicago Cubs. Spain.
DSL Cubs Blue. The Catalan outfielder, twin brother of catcher Omar above, hit .287 in the Dominican Summer League with nine extra base hits and 20 walks versus 26 strikeouts. He stole nine bases in 15 attempts.
All rankings are organizational, rather than an MLB Top 100.
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