March 3, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
When Cal Quantrill throws a pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic this month, he’ll make history.
With his dad, Paul, having toed the rubber for the national squad in the 2006 tournament, Cal and Paul will become the first father and son to have pitched in the World Baseball Classic.
Earlier this week, Canadian manager Ernie Whitt provided Canadian Baseball Network writer Matt Betts with a tentative starting rotation for the tournament (see tweet below) that would see Quantrill start Canada’s first game against Great Britain, which is set to begin on March 12 at 3:08 p.m. E.T. at Chase Field, in Phoenix, Ariz.
For my latest Canada World Baseball Classic preview, here’s a look at the potential starting pitchers for Canada.
*Keep in mind that no pitcher can throw more than 65 pitches in a game in the first round.
Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), Cleveland Guardians
Quantrill honed his skills with the Ontario Terriers and the Junior National Team before starring at Stanford University. He was selected eighth overall by the San Diego Padres in the 2016 MLB draft and he’d play parts of three minor league seasons in their organization before making his big league debut on May 1, 2019. After being employed both as a starter and reliever during his major league tenure with the Pads, Quantrill was dealt to the Cleveland Guardians on August 31, 2020, as part of a package for right-hander Mike Clevinger. In 2021, he began the season in the Guardians’ bullpen but joined the starting rotation on May 31 and proceeded to go 8-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 22 starts. He was even better in 2022 when he led the Guardians and set a career-high with 15 wins (fourth in the American League). The 6-foot-3 right-hander also hurled a career-best 186 1/3 innings and posted a 3.38 ERA. His 32 starts were tied for the second-most by an American League starter. On October 11, when he started against the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, he became the first Canadian to start the first game of a postseason series since Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) did so for the Chicago Cubs on October 1, 2008.
Noah Skirrow (Stoney Creek, Ont.), Philadelphia Phillies
This Great Lake Canadians and Ontario Blue Jays alum honed his skills with the Liberty University Flames before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent in June 2020. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander has since pitched two professional seasons. He split his first campaign between Rookie Ball, High A and double-A and posted a 4.34 ERA, while collecting 60 strikeouts in 58 innings, in 18 appearances (including 10 starts). He spent 2022 with the double-A Reading Fightin’ Phils and went 5-8 with a 4.65 ERA and struck out 115 batters in 98 2/3 innings in 21 starts. Whitt told Betts that his tentative plan is to start Skirrow in Canada’s third game against Colombia. Skirrow will be making his debut with the national team.
Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.), Pittsburgh Pirates
Born in Edmonton, Alta., Zastryzny attended Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, Tex. and later pitched at the University of Missouri Columbia. A second-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2013, Zastryzny recorded a 4.41 ERA in 18 relief appearances with the Cubs from 2016 to 2018 and earned a World Series ring in 2016. From 2019 to 2022, he pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels organizations. After making one relief appearance for the Mets in 2022, the Canuck southpaw was designated for assignment and claimed by the Angels. He proceeded to post a 2.25 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Angels’ triple-A Salt Lake Bees before being called up and pitching in five games for the big league club. In December, he signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Whitt plans to start Zastryzny, who also toed the rubber for Canada at the WSBC Premier12 tournament in November 2019, against Mexico in the fourth game of the tournament. Although he has been used primarily as a reliever in recent years, Zastryzny did make six starts for the triple-A Syracuse Mets last season.
Other Potential Starting Pitchers
Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.)
After not playing in 2022, the 37-year-old Albers has been training (when not supply teaching) in his home province of Saskatchewan. In his 13-season professional career that has included big league stops with the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, as well as a successful tenure with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League, the veteran lefty owns a 3.70 ERA in 327 appearances, including 174 starts, spanning 1,462 2/3 innings. He has also made appearances at eight different tournaments for the Canadian national team and was a member of both Pan Am Games gold medal-winning teams in 2011 and 2015. He also pitched the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter for Canada against Colombia in the Americas Olympic Qualifier on May 31, 2021.
Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, Ont.), Texas Rangers
This 19-year-old Toronto Mets and Junior National Team alum is expected to pitch out of the bullpen for Canada in the World Baseball Classic even though he has been a starter in the Texas Rangers organization. Selected in the fifth round of the 2021 MLB draft by the Rangers, the prized lefty tied for first among Canadians in the affiliated minor league ranks in 2022 in wins (5), was second in ERA (2.45) and was third in innings (80 2/3) and tied for third in strikeouts (99). He averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings and was named the Low-A Down East Wood Ducks Pitcher of the Month for June and July and the Rangers’ Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month for July. For his efforts, he was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2022 Wayne Norton Award winner, as top Canuck pitcher in the affiliated minor league ranks.
Here is Canada’s World Baseball Classic schedule: