Forget the NBA & NHL Lotteries, when it comes to uncertainty nothing tops getting your roster at the start of the Northwest League season. Canadians broadcaster Rob Fai looks into what we could see on Opening Day and then again two weeks later on Canada Day.
(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - Like a sealed envelope at an awards show, the roster for the 2017 Vancouver Canadians remains tightly sealed and perhaps yet to be discussed by the Toronto Blue Jays minor league coordinators. There are upward of 50 players down in Florida right now hoping that when extended Spring Training ends (first week of June) that they find their name on a roster assignment here to Vancouver.
For manager Rich Miller, his team will mostly be made up of players that are currently at "extended" with a few names that could ring a bell to fans of the Canadians. A season ago, INF Mattingly Romanin played in a dozen games before a wrist injury prematurely ended his season while Nick Sinay played in just one game for the Canadians before he was re-assigned to Bluefield of the Appalachian League where he hit .246 (47-for-191) with an intriguing 34 stolen bases. This season, Sinay is hitting .171 (7-for-41) with Lansing of the Midwest League in 15 games. Both could find their way to Vancouver to become everyday players as they try to get things back on track.
There should be a very heavy latin influence early on with the Blue Jays toying with the idea of a six-man rotation to give a bounty of pitchers some innings. LHP Julian Higuera went 1-3 with a respectable 3.92 ERA in five starts with Vancouver in 2016. Higuera, 21, is a left-hander that has upside and found the strike zone once reassigned to Bluefield as he struck out 35 hitters in just 39 innings.
With the Major League Baseball Draft set late this season (June 12-14), the Canadians may not have a single drafted player on its roster when play opens on June 15th in Eugene. Vancouver returns to Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium for the home opener on Tuesday, June 20th at 7:05pm and even then it would be unlikely to see more than just a few players ready to don the red and white of the Canadians as additional immigration paperwork tends to slow things up.
The pro to having players with a year or more of service under their belts to start the season is that they've seen the bright lights before and understand the rigors of a short-season with the bus rides and games every single day. Not that the college players don't but there is a definite transition and most haven't actually played in a game for a few weeks so the vets are actually a benefit early on.
You can bet by July 1st (Canada Day) that the roster for Miller's Canadians will look significantly different as the Blue Jays have a handful of picks early on and once processed it would be a good bet that those bright-eyed players would be more than ready to hear the roar of Scotiabank Field and its 6,500 fans each and every night.
The Northwest League season is broken into two halves with each set for 38 games a piece. Did you know in the Canadians eight years playing under this revised format that they have NEVER claimed a first-half pennant?! Yes, three Northwest League titles, five post-season appearances and not once have they had the luxury of planning for the post-season until the final few days of the season. In 2011, the Canadians tied for the North Division's best first-half record at 24-14 yet lost on a tie-breaker with Eugene. Revenge was served later on that year as Kevin Pillar, Aaron Sanchez and the Canadians topped the Emeralds to advance and later win the Northwest League Championship.
So bring a camera and by a scorecard this season as the player movement promises to be even more extraordinary than ever. Keep an eye here at www.canadiansbaseball.com for each and every player transaction and boxscore.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.