February 28, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill will anchor the outfield for Canada at the World Baseball Classic.
The Maple Ridge, B.C., native, who has won two Gold Gloves as a left fielder, will likely play centre field for the national squad.
This will help prepare him for a position that the Cardinals potentially see him playing in the future. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said last week that O’Neill and Dylan Carlson are in competition for the team’s centre field position.
A veteran of five major league seasons, O’Neill will also hit in the middle of the order for Canada.
For my latest Canada World Baseball Classic Preview, here’s a rundown of the Team Canada outfielders:
Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.), Chicago Cubs
Chosen by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2020 MLB draft, this Junior National Team and Fieldhouse Pirates alum never played a game in the Pads’ organization before he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs as part of the package for right-hander Yu Darvish in December 2020. Since then, the left-handed hitting Canuck has played two seasons in the Cubs’ organization. After batting .302 with seven home runs in 54 games between Rookie Ball and Low-A in 2021, Caissie spent 2022 in High A and batted .254 with 11 home runs in 105 contests. Baseball America ranks him as the Cubs’ 13th best prospect. Caissie was primarily a right fielder last season, but he also played 22 games in left. My guess is that he’ll back up Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) and Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) to begin the tournament.
Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.), Oakland A’s
Selected by the Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB draft from the Cal State Northridge Matadors, this Junior National Team and Toronto Mets alum recorded a .365 on-base percentage (OBP) and hit 15 home runs and had 30 stolen bases in 93 games between class-A Stockton and Lansing last season. Clarke also became the first player in pro baseball history to hit inside-the-park homers in back-to-back games when he did so for Lansing on August 2 and August 3. The 6-foot-5 outfielder is in the A’s major league camp this spring. He has experience at all three outfield positions but has been used mostly as a centre fielder. Clarke will likely back up O’Neill in centre field to start the tournament.
Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.), St. Louis Cardinals
A third-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2013, this Junior National Team and Langley Blaze grad played parts of five seasons in the M’s organization before being dealt to the Cardinals for left-hander Marco Gonzalez on July 21, 2017. He made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 2018. His finest campaign came in 2021 when he batted .286 with 34 home runs and had a .912 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and captured his second consecutive National League Gold Glove in left field. O’Neill is coming off an injury-riddled 2022 campaign that saw him miss time due to hamstring issues, neck stiffness, a wrist injury and shoulder soreness. In all, in 96 games, he batted .228 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. O’Neill was on the Canadian roster at the World Baseball Classic in 2017. As noted earlier, he’ll likely start in centre field and hit in the middle of the order.
Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.), Kansas City Monarchs (independent American Association)
Selected in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers, this Junior National Team alum played parts of six seasons in the Tigers’ organization, including four games in the majors in 2021. After being released by the Tigers last July, Robson signed with the independent American Association’s Kansas City Monarchs and batted .288 with nine home runs 34 RBIs in 29 games. He recently re-signed with the Monarchs. Robson was also a standout for the Canadian national team in 2021 at the Americas Olympic Qualifier in Florida, going 8-for-19 (.421 batting average). The speedy outfielder, who stole 21 bases between triple-A Toledo and the Monarchs last season, will likely start in left field for Canada. My guess is he’ll either hit leadoff or ninth in Canada’s batting order.
Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) Chicago Cubs
Chosen in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB draft by the Cubs, this Okanagan Athletics alum was in his fifth season in the Cubs’ system when he received his first big league call-up last year. The 27-year-old Canuck proceeded to go 5-for-19 (.263 batting average) in six games for the Cubs. In 2018, Young was the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year, when he batted .300 with 19 doubles, eight triples, 16 home runs and 76 RBIs in 120 contests between Single-A South Bend and Myrtle Beach. Young is listed as an outfielder on the Canadian roster, but he has played more first base during his minor league career. He’ll be making his Team Canada debut. My guess is he’ll start in right field for Canada and hit somewhere between fifth and seventh in the batting order.