FORT WAYNE, Ind. - After a hiatus the past two Summer Olympics, baseball will be back for the 2020 Games, and several recent TinCaps are set to help their countries vie for bids to Tokyo.
Six national teams will compete for gold next year. The host, Japan, is an automatic qualifier. Additionally, Israel earned a spot in September, winning a tournament for African and European countries. So there are still four vacancies for next year's bracket and two will be claimed this month.
The 2019 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 is an international tournament that begins Saturday, Nov. 2. The 12-team field is divided into three groups of four.
Four players and one coach with TinCaps experience are among those in the event. Infielder Xavier Edwards , 20, is the youngest member of USA Baseball's roster. Edwards was a Midwest League All-Star for the TinCaps in 2019, as was right-handed pitcher Henry Henry , who is with the Dominican Republic. Fellow 2019 TinCaps righty reliever Franklin Van Gurp is on the roster for the Netherlands, while 2009 TinCaps first baseman Matt Clark is with Mexico. Michael Collins, who managed the 'Caps in 2014, is a coach for Australia.
The rosters are primarily composed of Minor League Baseball players and players from professional leagues around the world, though there are some players with MLB experience, including USA catcher Erik Kratz and pitcher Clayton Richard. Many former big leaguers are serving as coaches, such as Larry Walker (Canada) and Andruw Jones (Netherlands), as well as USA manager Scott Brosius and bench coach Willie Randolph. (Joe Girardi was originally Team USA's manager before stepping down in pursuit of a major league managerial job.)
USA is in Group A with Mexico, the Netherlands, and the Dominican Republic, playing in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Americans begin action on Saturday afternoon against the Dutch. Opening round play goes through Friday, Nov. 8.
Two of the four teams in each pod will advance to the Super Round in Japan that culminates with the championship final on Sunday, Nov. 17. Teams that don't qualify for the Olympics via Premier12 will still have a chance to grab one of the final berths in March, when there will be one qualifying tournament in Arizona and another in Taiwan. The 2020 Olympics are scheduled from July 24-Aug. 9.
TinCaps on 2020 Olympic Qualifying Rosters
- Xavier Edwards (2019) - USA
- Henry Henry (2018-19) - Dominican Republic
- Franklin Van Gurp (2019) - Netherlands
- Matt Clark (2009) - Mexico
- Michael Collins (2014) - Australia
- Xavier Edwards - As a 19-year-old for the TinCaps in 2019, Edwards proved to be one of the most electric players the franchise has ever seen. He started the Midwest League All-Star Game at second base for the Eastern Division and hit leadoff. Shortly after, on July 9, the Padres promoted Edwards to the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, where he finished the season. At the time of his call-up, Edwards was leading the MWL in batting average (.336) and hits (103). He had the second highest contact rate in the circuit, swinging and missing at only 4% of pitches and striking out in just 10% of plate appearances (the fourth lowest rate in the league). His .392 on-base percentage ranked third. On top of that, his 20 stolen bases were fourth most. For good measure, his 0.86 BB/K ratio was sixth best and four triples ranked in the top 10, too. Midwest League managers voted Edwards as the best defensive second baseman in the league and ultimately he was selected as the MWL's Second Baseman of the Year. MLB Pipeline rates him as the No. 5 Padres prospect and the 72nd best prospect in all of baseball. Edwards was drafted by San Diego with the 38th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of North Broward Prep in Florida.
- Henry Henry - In his second season as a TinCap, Henry earned a spot on the Midwest League Eastern Division All-Star roster at the age of 20. He finished the season tied for the third most appearances in the league (43) and fifth in saves (10), sporting a 3.32 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. For pitchers who worked 80-plus innings in the league in 2019, Henry had the fourth best K/BB ratio (5.00), as he struck out 80 against 16 walks in 81.1 innings. He allowed only three home runs. Henry's 2.70 FIP and 3.02 xFIP ranked third and fifth, respectively, for that grouping. The smiley righty with the same first and last name was a fan favorite. Henry was originally signed by the Padres as a 16-year-old in 2015.
- Franklin VanGurp - VanGurp was born on the part-Dutch island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean. He also spent part of his childhood in the Dominican Republic before eventually moving to Florida and going to Florida International University. VanGurp was drafted by the Giants in the 25th round in 2017. He was traded to the Padres in June and joined the TinCaps in August. The righty registered a 2.87 ERA in nine outings spanning 15.2 innings.
- Matt Clark - Clark was the opening day DH and cleanup hitter for the 2009 TinCaps. The LSU alum posted an .836 OPS against Midwest League pitching in the first half of the season with 11 homers, 22 doubles, and 55 RBIs in 64 games, earning a call-up to Lake Elsinore. Clark remained in San Diego's system through 2012. He played in Japan in 2013 and then made his MLB debut with the Brewers in 2014. Over the last four seasons, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound slugger has played in Japan and Mexico.
- Michael Collins - "Tubby," as known by friends, hails from Canberra, Australia. Collins managed the 2014 TinCaps to the Midwest League Eastern Division Championship Series. 13 players from that year's team have reached the big leagues, including Trea Turner, Franmil Reyes, Mallex Smith, and Josh VanMeter. Collins joined the Astros as a bullpen catcher in 2018 and was named catching coach in 2019.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.