The 2019 European Championship starts today in Bonn and Solingen, Germany, with even more at stake that continental bragging rights. The top five teams will join South Africa in Bologna and Parma a few days after this tournament ends to battle for a single place in Tokyo. We preview each team’s rosters, highlighting major and minor leaguers, players who have attended American universities in the last few seasons, and young prospects for each nation.
Austria [link] features 5 of the youngest players in the tourney, including top prospects Tobias Kiefer and Konstantin Teufel, both of who were selected for the Elite Tournament, later dominating U18 qualifiers. Austria’s squad does feature Sammy Hackl, who just wrapped up a successful two-year stint at Arizona Western, where he slashed .282/.410/.463 and threw out 24.5% of runners [link to news]. Could he open the pipeline of Austrians to US universities?
Croatia’s roster [link] is made up mostly of veteran domestic players, with three competing in Germany, plus Oakland College’s Ron Krsolovič, son of Harford Community College’s Ken Krsolovič.
The roster for the Czech Republic [link] includes the NorfolkTides’ Martin Červenka, plus Wake Tech’s Martin Mužík [link to news], our 2018 JuCo Player of the Year, and 2018 Universities All-Star Martin Červinka [link to news], plus Lukáš Hlouch, Daniel Padyšak, and Ondřej Furko from the Elite Tournament at #FarnhamPark.
The roster for France [link] features plenty of familiar names, including Frédéric Hanvi, Andy Paz, and Leonel Céspedes, plus Thiel College’s Daniel Patrice [link to news] and McGill University’s Jonathan DuForest.
The final German roster [link] does, in fact, include Donald Lutz, as we guessed, making a return to his home country and host for the tourney. Tulsa’s Markus Solbach, Niklas Rimmel, and Rancho Cucamonga’s Sven Schueller also make the cut. Pascal Amon was one of our top Under-23 prospects in 2017 before washing out of the Dodgers’ minor league system.
Great Britain’s roster [link] contains a couple big names, headlined by big leaguer Barry Enright, who has been a candidate for GB in the past. Coming out of retirement to join the GB squad is Michael Roth, who had a memorable start at the Brooklyn WBC Qualifier in 2016, with honest comments that made for a refreshing post-game interview.
Also in the impressive British rotation is Hoofdoorp’s Paul Kirkpatrick [link to news], who was dominant against the Netherlands in the #U23Euros, plus Greg Hendrix and, potentially, Emory’s Rich Brereton [link to news], by far the deepest staff that has ever worn the Union Flag. Another key pitcher is Spencer Kreisberg, who came close to outdueling long-time big-leaguer Jason Marquis in Brooklyn and may well also earn a start for GB at the #BaseballEuros.
The catching staff will be led by newcomer Jamie Ritchie (not to be confused with the Edinburgh Rugby star), a 26-year old with incredible plate discipline (career .402 OBP) and stellar fielding marks in the high minors. Meanwhile Gary-South Shore’s Alex Crosby and Will Savage also suit up for GB. University players include Brereton and Ohio Wesleyan’s Conner Brown and former Mercer player Conrad Cornell [link to news].
Israel’s roster [link] might take the cake since it has no less than big leaguers Danny Valencia, Ty Kelly, & Ryan Lavarnway, with the latter two returning from the WBC. Also on that list is Jon Moscot, who is coming back from post-Tommy John retirement to help Israel try to qualify for the Olympics.
Italy’s roster [link] features two surprises: No Alex Liddi and the addition of John Andreoli, who was not on the preliminary roster and has only worn the Azzurri at the WBC. Andreoli was a sparkplug then and received a big league promotion in 2018.
The biggest name on Italy’s squad is former big leaguer Chris Colabello, now a veteran for the team. Alex Maestri, Nick Pugliese, and Giuseppe Mazzanti are other well-known names. Italy features former University of Texas and current EugeneEmeralds pitcher Matteo Bocchi, who we scouted in 2018. Also on the roster is the New Hampshire’s Alberto Mineo, who has played for Italy several times and has eight minor league seasons under his belt, but turned 25 only a couple months ago.
The Netherlands [link] brings a loaded roster to Germany that includes Lakeland’s Tom de Blok plus one of the top Dutch prospects, Dayton’s Hendrik Clementina. Two further interesting young names are the Twins’ Donny Breek and the Norfolk Tides’ Ademar Rifaela. Breek is only 19 and had a 0.74 ERA & 1.10 WHIP in 36.1 for the GCL Twins, striking out 38, with similar numbers in ’18. Rifaela slashed .249/.312/.423 as a 24-year old.
Otherwise, it’s a typical Dutch roster that includes Yurendell de Caster, Roger Bernadina, Curt Smith, Kalian Sams, Rob Cordemans, Diegomar Markwell, Tom Stuifbergen, Dwayne Kemp, and Dashenko Ricardo.
It’s a veteran roster for Spain [link], with former major leaguers (Jesús) Fernando Martínez, Rhiner Cruz, and Éngel Béltre returning once more, with the only prospect a good one, 17-year old Omar Hernández, who recently signed with the Royals.
It is also worth mentioning that Myrtle Beach’s Jhonny Bethencourt will also suit up for Spain for the first time. The 22-year old is a career .267 hitter with a .701 OPS in five minor league seasons. The roster also includes a variety of other long-time players like Óscar Angulo, Jesús Istariz, Ricardo Hernández, Leslie Nácar, and Blake Ochoa.
Sweden has two Stevens Tech players, the Empire 8 Conference’s 2018 Rookie of the Year Thomas Paulich and ’20 commit Leo Bristow [link]. Paulich is a .264 hitter as a two-year starter, while Bristow graduated and then led Sweden in hitting (.538/.625/.692) at the U18 Euros Qualifier. Stevens, of course, is coached by Latvia’s head coach Kristaps Aldins, giving the team a real Baltic Sea connexion.
The rest of Sweden’s roster plays mostly in the domestic league, plus a few players in Germany and the Czech Republic. It had three players at the Elite Tournament, with Leo Bäckström the only player to make the senior team.