We have long held an interest in baseball at universities outside of the United States, but in preparing an article on the top European prospects in the United States, it occurred to us that we ought not to limit our list just to professionals and that we ought to consider higher education. That quest turned into a weekend’s undertaking as, in addition to the roughly dozen prospects of which we were aware, we found many more. There is no record of the number of Europeans at American universities previously, but we would hazard a guess that the number has increased in recent years.
The Under-23 European Championship raised the profile of several American university players, including Nolan Bond and Martin Mužík, with at least five joining university baseball teams after the tournament. Eleven of our Top 20 Prospects (link) from that tournament are among this list, with another three that would have made the cut had they already joined an American club (without which, we deemed them too old). After starting with those 11 and other prospects from the tournament, we searched for ” Country University/College Baseball Roster” for all the major countries and found many more.
Though more may be discovered, there are 43 players on this list. All the players listed have a European passport, but 11 have been raised or spent significant time in the United States. The list does not include any Caribbean players eligible for a European nation, partly because these islands often compete under their own names, but also because we have tracked down 59 that would qualify and more continue to emerge.
The Netherlands has the most players in American education with eight, while the Czech Republic and Great Britain have one fewer. Of GB’s six, however, all but one have spent most of their lives in the U.S. Surprises on the list are Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, and Slovenia.
We noted above that we did not want to limit our search for European prospects to professionals and, therefore, we have included three high school players on the list. More will be added as they are discovered, with national federations promising to send more names. Please do submit any high school or university players who are eligible for European countries.
The future for European national teams has several bright spots when it comes to positions. National teams always seem to be short on pitching and, including utility players, there are 18 right-handed hurlers and four southpaws. Catcher is usually another position of weakness, but six backstops are rostered. There are only six outfielders, while the right side of the infield is very poorly represented. The list does include three third baseman and two shortstops, but not a single first or second baseman.
Aiding our belief that the number of Europeans playing baseball in American education is growing is the size of the underclassmen (24) versus the final two years (14). Seven European players hung up their spikes after last season and four were in their second years (sophomores) and two in their first (freshmen). Somewhat obviously, no finalists (seniors) returned, while only one third-year (juniors) left. However, it is important to note that five of these played for junior colleges, meaning it is quite possible no university was interested in signing them. Several did have strong seasons, though.
For this initial introduction to European athletes, we have divided the list into four-year universities, which includes NCAA and NAIA, and lower levels of schooling—NJCAA (community and junior colleges) and high school. For each of the players, we offer some background of their play in previous seasons and for their national team, as well as the occasional quote for top prospects. Each university listed is linked to that team’s schedule and we have also linked to the player’s bio, when available.
Today, we discuss players with NCAA and NAIA programmes. Check back tomorrow for all the rest. In the future, all players will be in one update. The full list of players is here [Europeans in University 2018].
Finally, just for fun, we are going to give out weekly awards. Not all seasons have started, but here are our selections for the opening week or two of the season:
Four-Year University Players of the Week:
Richard Brereton had a grand slam against Oglethorpe last Tuesday and stayed hot against N.C. Wesleyan on Sunday. In game one, Brereton batted fifth as starting pitcher, collecting a single, double, and a walk at the dish. In game two, he was once again 2-for-3 with a base on balls but had a triple in the nightcap. He was listed on D3Baseball.com’s Team of the Week (link).
Jorin van Amstel had two four-hit games this week, as he went 10-for-18 with a double, homer, and two walks in four games.
We will select a Pitcher of the Week and Rookie of the Week when candidates present themselves.
Players Four-Year Universities
Jerremyh Angela, LHRP (SR, LSU-Shreveport (8-5), La.) [Bio]
Angela’s Pilots are 4-5 on the season, a rough start for a perennial NAIA World Series contender. The left-hander tossed a scoreless inning in a 13-6 loss against Lyon College (Ark.) on Feb. 9, walking one and tossing 16 pitches. Angela pitched in both ends of a doubleheader for the Pilots, who won 8-3 and 12-5 over Baker University (Kan.). In game one Angela gave up one run on three hits and a walk in an inning and two-thirds, while he returned for a scoreless ninth in the nightcap. The southpaw gave up a hit and a walk, striking out two as the Pilots ran their winning streak to five. It is worth noting that Angela transferred from Arizona Western CC, which features players this year from the Czech Republic, France, and the Netherlands.
Matteo Bocchi, RHP (JR, University of Texas [2-1], Tx.) [Bio]
Bocchi transferred to NCAA Division I Texas, the only European-born player to do so. Last year, he suited up for Odessa Junior College (Tex.), one of the most active American universities in recruiting Europeans (Josef Cihlar plays for OJC this year, see below). Bocchi was 6-4 with a 4.23 ERA for Odessa in 2017 but did not appear in the Longhorns’ opening weekend series against Louisiana-Lafayette. Bocchi signed out of the 2014 International Stars’ College Showcase along with Lukas Holub (see Update).
Christian Bokich, RHRP (RS SR, Lee University [3-8], Tenn.) [Bio]
Bokich is in his final year at Lee University, from which our lead writer, Gabriel Fidler, graduated. Bokich has suited up several times for Serbia and is passionate about growing the sport in his country of heritage. The righty was used infrequently last year as he battled injuries. In his only game this year, Bokich took the loss against Young Harris College on Feb. 13, giving up a run on three hits, though he did strike out a pair. He has appeared in 29 games in parts of three season, starting one. Bokich has struck out 39 in 41 2/3 (8.4 K/9), but injuries have no doubt contributed to his 1.75 WHIP and 6.70 ERA. We have a feature with Bokich coming up this spring about baseball in Serbia.
Nolan Bond, RHP (JR, University of Houston [2-1], Tx.) [Bio]
Bond, who has pitched for Great Britain in two tournaments, is now MLB Draft-eligible as he enters his third year at Houston. He did not appear for the No. 22-ranked Cougars in their opening weekend series against Holy Cross, which saw Houston win two-of-three, including a dramatic Sunday comeback.
After his second season at the University of Houston last year, the right-hander stood out among pitchers in the U23 Euros. In Britain’s first game, he retired the first 15 Austrians and earned the win after six hitless frames. That streak continued another 3 2/3 frames against Germany, and Bond struck out 15 (12.3 K/9), second-most in the tournament, surrendering only a .108 batting average, fourth among hurlers. This came on the heels of a 3.60 ERA and eye-popping 15-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 innings as a sophomore at UH.
“We knew Nolan was a special talent following his GB debut at the WBCQ, and today we got to see what that sort of talent looks like competing with his own age group,” noted Great Britain’s Head Coach, Liam Carroll. “He set a great tempo for our [championship] effort today with his presence and command of three pitches, and most excitingly, given the great hands he’s in at the University of Houston, we’re just scratching the surface of what this young man is capable of achieving.”
Richard Brereton, IF-RHP (SO, Emory University [4-4], Ga.) [Bio]
Emory AU’s 2017 Rooke of the Year is off to a sensational start to the 2018 season. Brereton earned a University Athletic Association Pitcher of the Week two weeks ago after earning the Eagles’ first win of the year in a start against Piedmont. He tossed five solid innings, striking out four and allowing two earned runs, but added a 5-for-8 day at the plate over two games, tripling and scoring four runs. After a grand slam against Oglethorpe last Tuesday, Brereton stayed hot against N.C. Wesleyan on Sunday.
In game one of a twin-bill, Brereton batted fifth as starting pitcher, collecting a single, double, and a walk at the dish. The righty had a fairly strong start, scattering four hits and two walks over four innings, but gave up five runs, three earned, and a home run. Brereton did strike out six. In game two, Brereton suited up in centre, where he also appeared against Oglethorpe. Batting in the two-hole, he was once again 2-for-3 with a base on balls but had a triple in the nightcap.
Brereton now hitting .483/.559/.828 in eight games for the Eagles. He leads team in runs (11), doubles (3, tied), triples (2), homers (1, tied), total bases (24, tied), slugging, on-base, walks (5), and stolen bases (2). On the mound, Brereton is 1-1 with a 6.92 ERA, but the numbers under the surface are much more promising: batters are hitting .276 against him with six walks in 13 innings. He will need to cut down on hard contact (10 singles, 4 2B, 2 HR given up) and nerves (5 WP, 2 BK), but is only 19.
In 2017, Brereton had a 2.48 ERA with good peripheral numbers in 32 2/3 frames, starting two of his 14 games and going 4-1 with a save. He showed excellent plate discipline at the bat on the way to a .382 OBP, hitting .244 with five stolen bases. Brereton led Great Britain in average (.391) at the U23 tournament, walking five times to only one strikeout and stealing a base. In addition to solid defensive work at short and third, Brereton gave a sturdy effort against a tough Spanish team on the mound. While he gave up four runs on nine hits in six innings, he did not walk a batter and struck out three.
Marek Chlup and Vojtěch Menšík, OF & IF (FR, North Carolina State University, N.C.)
It was announced earlier in the winter that Chlup and Vojtěch Menšík would play for NC State, but neither player is listed on the roster. Milujeme Baseball, the authority on all things Czech Baseball, assured us that “they will play this year”.
Chlup participated in MLB’s European Elite Camp from 2014-16 and its World Select team the latter of the three years. Despite being a year away from high school graduation, the right-handed hitter has seven years of international experience and has participated in the International Power Showcase, a Home Run Derby in Miami with alumni that include Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. Chlup hit .391/.464/.696 as the Czech cleanup hitter in the U23s.
Menšik took an incredible 11 walks in six games in the same tournament on the way to a .385/.680/.462 line, collecting several key hits in Czech Republic’s second-place run. He showed off his range at second with a 5.87 ranger factor and .968 fielding percentage.
Cecil Comenencia, OF-C (SO, Reinhardt University [6-4], Ga.) [Bio]
Comenencia appeared in parts of several seasons in the Honkbal Hoofdklasse and coached at the European Baseball School in the Netherlands. He is listed as a sophomore, but was not on the roster last year and does not appear to have transferred. Comenencia has yet to play in 2018, but spent 2017 with UVV Pickles in the Hoofdklasse, hitting .217/.280/.217 in seven games.
Conrad Cornell, OF (SO, Mercer University [2-1], Ga.) [Bio]
Mercer was rated the pre-season favourite to win the Southern Conference and started its season this past weekend against Bethune-Cookman University. Cornell appeared as a defensive substitution in left and right field in the season opener, which the Bears won 13-7. The Bears split the final two games of the series and Cornell appeared in the final as a pinch runner, failing to score. The Great Britain youth star was a defensive stalwart in 2017 and hit .261/.346/.391 with four stolen bases in 31 games, seven starts.
Kevin Desmedt, RHP (SO, University of Northwestern Ohio [9-7], Ohio) [Bio]
Desmedt has yet to enter a game in his career at UNOH, though he has witnessed strong NAIA baseball in his time. The Racers were 44-12 in 2017, including 28-1 in their conference. This year, they are 9-7 (6-0), although they are currently wallowing in a five-game losing streak. The right-hander went to school at the Belgian Baseball Academy.
Victor Draijer, OF (PG, Ouachita Baptist University [3-9], Ark.) [Bio]
Draijer is the only postgraduate student on this list, though he played for Tigers in 2016 as well. This year, he is off to a .207/.314/.241 start, dropping his career line to .258/.310/.352. Ouachita Baptist’s 5-4 win over Lyon College (Ark.) on Feb. 13 marked the first time this season two European nationals faced each other, as Lyon’s Brandon Giribaldie, a native of Willemstad, Curaçao played second and went 2-for-3 with a walk. Draijer was 1-for-4 with a base on balls in the matchup. The two clubs clash again on Mar. 20. The clash of Dutch university players does not end there, however, as OBU plays fellow Great American Conference foe Northwestern Oklahoma State University, which features our Co-Player of the Week, Jorin van Amstel.
svenskbaseboll, OF (JR, Louisiana State University [1-2], La.) [Bio]
Duplantis is the most accomplished player on this list, yet represents one of the most surprising countries: Sweden, from, where his mother hails. The LSU star is ranked No. 72 in the country by Baseball America among its Top 100 College Prospects in advance of the June MLB Draft, while he was No. 112 out of the Top 200 at any level. BA also tabbed him as one of the 25 best prospects in the elite Cape Cod League.
The accolades are no surprise, for Duplantis has earned numerous awards. He earned 2016 Freshman All-American from three different sources as he slashed .316/.358/.400 with 19 stolen bases. Duplantis followed that effort with places on the SEC and College World Series All-Tournament teams last year, hitting .327/.404/.419 with 13 swipes and superb plate discipline, with a 33-25 K-BB ratio. He has earned three weekly awards as well.
Duplantis has been chosen to wear No. 8 this year, a selection that recognises leadership and dedication to Tigers Baseball. Previous players to don the jersey include major leaguers Mikie Mahtook and Alex Bregman, with Duplantis only the sixth to be chosen. With the season starting only last weekend, the corner outfielder has played in only three games, going 3-for-11 with four walks and two strikeouts.
Luke Duris (Haverford College [0-0], Penn) [Bio]
Duris has represented France at several tournaments, including the 2017 Summer Universiade and the Under-18 and Under-16 European Championships. The Fords do not start their season until March 3. Haverford received votes in Collegiate Baseball’s NCAA Division III preseason poll.
Golubiewski is in his final year of university and has spent all of it as a pitcher, rather than where he plays for the Polish National Team at shortstop. Dayton’s season started this weekend and Golubiewski did not see any action. Another of our U23 Top Prospects, the righty transferred from Madison College (Wisc.) after last year.
Daniel Harrington, RHRP (SO, Columbia University [0-0], N.Y.) [Bio]
Harrington was hit hard in 12 innings his freshman year at Columbia (20 hits, 13 earned runs), but showed flashes of brilliance for Germany at the U23 Euros. Harrington struck out 7 of the 19 batters he faced over three appearances, though he surrendered three hits and five walks, leading to an unearned run. The Lions will kick off their schedule next weekend in Las Vegas against UNLV.
Paul Kirkpatrick, RHP (SR, Western Kentucky University [1-2], Ky.) [Bio]
Kirkpatrick has pitched for Great Britain in several events, including the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Brooklyn. Kirkpatrick’s season started this weekend with a big series at Memphis University. The Hilltoppers played farewell in claiming one win and losing a close opener, but Kirkpatrick did not take the hill despite WKU trotting out 14 pitchers in three games.
Kirkpatrick struggled last season as one of two pitchers to stay in the starting rotation all season. The London-born Houston native was 2-9 with a 7.55 for a Hilltoppers team that went 16-39 in a brutal Conference USA schedule. Kirkpatrick pitched much better than his numbers, though, walking only 14 in 70 1/3 and a .357 BABIP (batting average on balls in play, a measure of luck that stated the righty was fairly unlucky).
Martin Nicolay, C (FR, Averett University [1-5], Va.) [Bio]
Nicolay, who is in his first year in the United States, has yet to appear in a game for the Cougars. After training at the Belgian Baseball Academy, Nicolay appeared for a travel team, the V Marlins, in the same town as Averett, Danville.
Daniel Patrice, SS-P-1B (JR, Thiel College [0-0], Pa.) [Bio]
As a Pennsylvania school, baseball season starts later, and the Tomcats’ first game against Bluffton University is as part of a tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. that starts on Mar. 4. Last year, Patrice hit .381/.430/.500 with superb plate discipline (nine walks and 10 strikeouts in 36 games) as an Honourable Mention All-Conference player.
“Daniel has been a key member of our team for the two years he has been enrolled at Thiel College,” observed Tomcat Head Coach Joe Schaly. “We expect Daniel to continue to get better, and I know that his experience over the summer will benefit him a great deal. Daniel is a great young man, and he is a pleasure to coach. He has become a leader in our program, and I know that his best baseball is yet to come.”
Platt was discovered serendipitously on behalf of Great Britain Baseball by British Baseball League Commissioner Kevin Macadam (link) and was an instant spark to GB’s U23 squad, hitting .375/.630/.688 and excellent defence behind the plate. His OBP was second at the Euros and only one runner attempted to steal against him, by far the fewest of any regular catchers. Platt was a Third-Team All-Conference selection at Elon University after a .311/.430/.557 line with solid defence at the dish.
The Phoenix got off to a tough start to the season with a three-game sweep at home against Penn State, though each of the games was decided by two runs or fewer. Platt had a hit in each game, adding a walk and stealing a base in Friday’s game. Platt struck out four times in 12 plate appearances, but he caught 1-of-3 runners attempting to steal. Elon will have plenty of chances to right the ship this week, as they host five contests.
Matthew Rienzi, RHP (SO, St. Joseph’s College-Brooklyn [0-0], N.Y.) [Bio]
The Bears do not start their season until Mar. 3. Last year, Rienzi tossed 10 innings over eight relief appearances, finishing with a 7.20 ERA and 2.10 WHIP, striking out five.
Schaareman’s season started this weekend with back-to-back doubleheaders at Missouri Valley College and the fourth-year player from the Netherlands hit safely in all of them. Schaareman was 5-for-13 over the weekend, walking three times and striking out twice. He scored five runs and drove in six, including the game-winner in Saturday’s nightcap. Last year, Schaareman earned an American Midwest Conference Gold Glove Award while hitting .329 with team-leading totals of 55 hits, 39 runs scored, 13 doubles, four triples, four home runs and 15 stolen bases.
Jorin van Amstel, DH-UT (JR, Northwestern Oklahoma State University [7-4], Okla.) [Bio]
Van Amstel is one the hottest European hitters at any four-year university, playing in all of Rangers’ 11 games and leading the team in virtually every hitting category. The star designated hitter, who was signed out of the International Stars’ College Showcase, is hitting .442/.510/.674. He has 19 hits in the 11 contests, including four doubles and two dingers and has struck out only once in 49 plate appearances. Van Amstel already has two four-hit games, both this week, as he went 10-for-18 with a double, homer, and two walks in four games.
Dylan Verdonk, RHRP (SO, Seton Hall University [1-2], N.J.) [Bio]
Verdonk is yet another signing from the International Stars’ College Showcase, though the native of the Netherlands landed at, by far, the most prestigious university of any other player. Verdonk did not appear in the Pirates’ season-opening series at No. 23 NC State (which will feature two Czech players this year) as Seton Hall dropped 2-of-3. Verdonk has only appeared in eight games over his first two years, allowing two runs in 10 1/3 frames (1.74 ERA), allowing seven hits and six walks (1.26 WHIP) with four strikeouts.
James Wood, LHP (JR, Concord University [2-3], W.V.) [Bio]
The Mountain Lions did not play last week, and Wood has yet to take the mound in any of their five games. Wood has only appeared in two games in his career, both in his first season at Concord. He pitched a total of one inning, surrendering two runs on a walk and a triple.
Terrance Whittle, Head Coach (First Season, Stillman College, Ala.) [Bio]
Whittle has an impressive European coaching C.V., serving as Head Coach, Director of Baseball Operations, and director of Player Development with the Regensburg Legionaere in 1999. He also was an MLB Envoy Coach (2002-2010) and has done significant work in Nigeria and South Africa.