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Sep '18 07

Season Recap of European Players at US-American Schools

By Gabriel Fidler

This spring, 75 baseball players with European connexions suited up for American universities, junior colleges, and high schools. We handed out weekly awards to a huge number of them: 12 different four-year players took home a Player of the Week, while nine were named Pitcher of the Week. Although a single hitter and one pitcher dominated the JuCo realm, six different athletes were Player of the Week and another five were tabbed top pitcher over a seven-day stretch.

As such, deciding on an All-Star Team of Europeans was difficult, with plenty of depth at catcher and outfield, in particular. Certain positions (first and second base) were a bit lighter, leading to the decision to list only a single all-star team of players at all levels. The resulting list, however, reflects the best of Europeans aged 24 and under, with many set for prominent role for their national teams in the near future.

European American University All-Star Team
C          Martin Mužík (.407/.497/.793, 22.7% caught stealing)
1B        Ari Sechopoulos (.273/.370/.591)
2B        Richard Brereton (.320/.383/.467, 13 SB; 3.60 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.49 K/9 as P)
SS         Tim Schaareman (.406/.468/.521, 23 SB, 18/23 K/BB)
3B        Martin Červinka (.295/.409/.402, 21/16 K/BB)
OF       Antoine Duplantis (.328/.381/.443, 19SB)
OF       Nick Kanavas (.358/.440/.432, 20SB)
OF       Julian Rip (.297/.415/.669)
P          John Doxakis (2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.87 K/9, .212 batting average against)
P          Nick Pantos (2.96 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 12.09 K/9)
P          Marius Balandis (3.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 9.78 K/9)
P          Matteo Bocchi (3.34 ERA, 8.63 K/9, .250 batting average against)

Three of these hitters and a pair of pitchers were then selected for our top awards: Pitcher and Player of the Year for four-year and two-year universities and JuCo Rookie of the Year. Finally, we tabbed a High School Player of the Year as well.

Four-Year Player of the Year
The decision to pick our Player of the Year for four-year universities was, by far, the most difficult one. Our top contenders included Richard Brereton, who handled a position change from the infield to centre while throwing more innings than anyone on the team. Despite that, the breakout GB star had the fifth-highest average of any player on our list while flashing some power and speed. Meanwhile, Sweden’s Antoine Duplantis came through on his preseason hype, delivering a .328 average and plenty of speed.

Our winner, however, is Tim Schaareman, the only European at a four-year university to hit over .400, almost 50 points better than the next-highest average. The Dutch shortstop simply never got cold, with three hits in three games representing his worst week, while he had seven-day spans of eight, eight, nine, and 12 hits. Schaareman claimed three Player of the Week nods, ranked nationally in several categories, and was named First Team All-Conference. As a result, he is our first European Player of the Year for Four-Year universities.

More on Schaareman here: [link].

Four-Year Pitcher of the Year
Early in the season, quite a few pitchers were in the running for Pitcher of the Year. Through April 15, only Paul Kirkpatrick (three) had multiple Pitcher of the Week nods as seven pitchers took home the first nine awards. From that point on, however, one pitcher won four of the next eight en route to an incredible season.

All John Doxakis to finish out the season was beat No. 1 MLB Draft Pick Casey Mize in the SEC Tournament and strike out 28 with a 0.95 ERA in his last three starts (19 innings). The lefty finished with a 2.70 ERA while batters hit .212 with 92 Ks in 93 1/3 innings despite pitching the entire season at 19.

There is one complicating factor to our naming Doxakis Pitcher of the Year among players eligible for European national teams: the hurler spent a month in the starting rotation for the USA Collegiate National Team and has never pitched for Greece. Should Greek Baseball succeed in recruiting him, however, the southpaw would instantly become one of the top pitchers for a European squad. For what it’s worth, had we limited the award to hurlers born in Europe, our selection would be Matteo Bocchi.

More on Doxakis here: [link]. More on Bocchi here: [link].

Junior College Player of the Year
Though a number of Europeans at junior colleges had excellent seasons, one player put on a three month-long showcase against opposing pitching, winning 9-of-14 possible Two-Year Player of Week honours. Martin Mužík is the clear winner here after putting up his second straight otherworldly season.

Mužík was recognised nationally by the NJCAA last year after an astonishing .406/.482/.744 line in 2017, but topped every category this year on his way to a Second Team All-American. He ranked in the Top 50 in NJCAA DII in five categories, including No. 17 in slugging (.793) and No. 23 (tied) in home runs (12) while batting .407. Should Mužík wish to continue his American university career, he will likely have plenty of options and, in the meantime, will play for the Netherlands at the European Super Six.

More on Mužík here: [link].

Junior College Pitcher of the Year
In a year that featured several interesting early season performances, two moundsmen had impressive seasons. The first, Marius Balandis, has a chance to develop into Lithuania’s second-ever pitching prospect after Dovydas Neverauskas. Balandis collected two JuCo Pitcher of the Week awards and another Rookie of the Week and finished with a 3.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 9.78 K/9.

However, Balandis was clearly a step behind the incredible Nick Pantos. Another pitcher who has yet to play for Greece, the right-hander was in the Top 40 in NJCAA DII in six categories, including strikeouts (90 in 67 innings, or 12.09 K/9) and ERA (2.96). Pantos claimed All-Region honours and has was electric enough to attract an offer from NCAA DI Old Dominion University.

More on Pantos here: [link].

Junior College Rookie of the Year
Although Pantos put up outstanding numbers and our winner was overshadowed by his own Czech teammate, Martin Červinka had a stellar stateside debut for Wake Tech. Like Pantos, he got better and better as the season went on, exhibiting the best plate discipline of any of the 75 players on our list, with some contact ability, power, and speed as well, all the while holding down the hot corner as a freshman.

Červinka won three of our Two-Year Rookie of the Week and had another two Player of the Week listings on his way to a .295/.409/.402 line. Červinka struck out only 16 times in 112 at bats, including just three in his final 46 at bats, and walked 21 times. He chipped in seven stolen bases and 35 runs in 37 games and will step out of Mužík’s shadow next spring.

More on Červinka here: [link].

High School Player of the Year
Although one high schooler on our list was drafted and several more played for their countries in summer tournaments, one hitter stood out above all the others. Though his name might not tip one off to his Scottish nationality, Gabriel Rincónes, Jr. looks like a player to watch in his final school season next spring.

Rincónes held down a starting spot in the outfield all year as a junior and responded well, with a hitless final game of the year pushing his average below .300 for the first time. Playing in the tough Florida high school season, Rincónes flashed power (two dingers, .480 slugging) and plate discipline (11 walks, .426 on-base percentage), finishing with a .299 average. With Scotland yet to gain admission to the Confederation of European Baseball, Rincónes looks like an intriguing possibility for Team GB.

More on Rincónes here: [link].

If you missed it, here is the full list of end-of-season updates for all 75 players eligible for European national federations:
Surnames A-C [link].
Surnames D-G [link].
Surnames H-K: [link].
Surnames L-P: [link].
Surnames R-S: [link].
Surnames T-Z: [link].

Complete list of Weekly Award Winners: [link].

Please let us know of any Europeans attending high school or university for the 2018-19 academic year.

1 Comment

  1. Comment by fred4945
    September 8, 2018 | 3:23 am

    Muzik’s story certainly puts things into perspective.

    He played at a lower-half NJCAA team, put up great hitting numbers…. but couldn’t earn a 4-year scholarship. Why? Well, he picked a juco that rarely got anyone into NCAA D-I, and never had anyone drafted out of the school. (I’d have sent him to an Arizona JuCo; he’d have gotten a D-I scholarship if he could have hit in that wood bat league.)

    Second, as you point out, he threw out just 23% of those who stole on him. And he had 15 passed balls this season. Probably a weak-arm LF.

    These “all stars” aren’t the success you try to make them out to be….but it is a VERY GOOD idea to get as many European 17 to 19 year-olds into junior college ball. Two years there and they will return to the Continent as superb assets to their local seniors teams and national teams. Junior college ball is a far, far better education than Rookie or A ball. First, the coaching is better in college ball. Second, they will actually play — and practice all year. (If they can stand staying away from home that long, they can even extend their growth by playing in summer collegiate leagues.)

    Good luck to them all. They are not only having great adventures, they are helping the development of European baseball.

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