As our rundown of European-eligible players proceeds through the alphabet, we dive into letters ‘K’ through ‘M’. These 12 athletes include players raised in Czech Republic, Israel, and Italy, plus dual citizens that suit up for Croatia, Greece, Ireland, and Poland. On the list are three players that grew up in Illinois, plus a pair of teammates that could very well square off in the next European Championship Qualifier (the ‘B-Pool’). For four of these athletes, their university career came to an end, while six of the list recorded their first collegiate season this spring. Among these are two of the most intriguing first-year players in Joey Kalafut and Vojtech Mensik (pictured above holding sleeve).
Joseph Kalafut, 1B-LHP (FR, Edgewood College [10-28], Wisc.) [Bio]
Kalafut was a game-changing signing for Edgewood College as the Poland national teamer immediately stepped into the lineup as a freshman and turned out to be the team’s best hitter. Kalafut struggled on the mound, but has secured a place in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.
It took Kalafut only eight at bats to get in a rhythm and, from the fourth game of the season, his average never dropped below .300. In fact, for about half the year, the rookie was hitting over .400, topping out at an even .500 on March 23after a 5-for-5 game came on the heels of four-straight multiple-hit games.
Kalafut never went hitless for more than two starts in-a-row and showed a keen batting eye, walking (26) more than he struck out (24). Although he was at his best in the early part of the season, he also had a 4-for-5, three-run performance against MSOE on April 22. Kalafut finished with .324/.457/.405 slash line. His on-base percentage was ninth in Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference and his average 26th in the 14-team league.
The promising youngster struggled desperately to find the strike zone on the mound, walking 21, hitting four, and throwing seven wild pitches in eight innings. In those five games (two starts), he had a 23.62 ERA and struck out only two.
Photo courtesy of Edgewood College Athletics.
Bobby Kametas, RHP (RS SR, Creighton University [41-13], Neb.) [Bio]
Kametas was a nice pickup for Greece this summer after a senior campaign in which he had a 2.36 ERA as batters hit only .115 against him. The right-hander struck out 28 in 26.2, walking 16 but giving up only 10 hits. Over his university career, he had a 3.28 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, giving up only 57 hits in 93.1 innings and striking out 103.
Mateos Kekatos, RHP-OF (SR, University of Toronto [21-12-2], Ont.) [Bio]
One of three Greek-Canadians on this list, Kekatos was rated the No. 1 university pitcher in Ontario before the 2019 autumn season, with teammate Dean Christidis ranked No. 13. Kekatos checks in at 6-4, 225 and has dialled his fastball up to 94 over the last year.
The available results, limited as always with Canadian institutions, match the stuff: 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP in five games. The righty struck out 37 in 33 frames with only 18 hits and three walks. The highlight was eight shutout innings with 10 Ks and only three baserunners at Guelph on Sep. 22.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Kekatos’ season is the difference from 2018, in which he walked 22 in as many innings, with only 11 strikeouts and a 5.73 ERA in what appears to be his first university season. Though he is more intriguing as a pitcher, Kekatos also saw time in the outfield and went 10-for-28 with only one strikeout and no free passes at the plate.
Matt Kozlak, SS (SR, Roosevelt University [14-28], Ill.) [Bio]
Kozlak had an impressive senior season for the Lakers, slashing .397/.527/.527 with 20 stolen bases. The team’s starting shortstop, he had 25 walks and 12 hit by pitches against only 16 strikeouts in 131 at bats. In four seasons and 170 games, the infielder slashed .342/.444/.431 with more walks (88) than strikeouts (81). He had 53 stolen bases while splitting time at second and short. Kozlak’s next assignment will be for Poland’s national team.
Ronnie Krsolovic, 3B (SR, Oakland College [11-37], Mich.) [Bio]
Krsolovič concluded his collegiate career with a five-game hitting streak, but much of the rest of the season was a struggle for Croatia’s national teamer. Starting as the Golden Grizzlies’ regular third baseman, Krsolovič slashed .212/.312/.320 across 47 games, starting all but one of Oakland’s contests. In the season’s final games, he was 8-for-19 with three doubles and a walk. Over four university seasons, he slashed .228/.357/.345, throwing 10.2 scoreless innings as a sophomore.
Assaf Lowengart, 3B (FR, San Joaquin Delta College [39-9], Calif.) [Bio]
Lowengart saw action in 14 games for the Mustangs, one of the top JuCos in California, if not the entire U.S. Already an international veteran for Israel, Lowengart received 13 plate appearances and collected two hits, a walk, and was hit once.
Brian McAuliffe, 3B (JR, Denison University [39-9], Ohio) [Bio]
McAuliffe rebounded from a down year in 2018 with a huge season that saw him named All-Conference and All-Region. Ireland’s third sacker doubled his previous career high in home runs in one season, mashing 10 round-trippers on the way to slugging .616. McAuliffe also had a 21-game hitting streak and hit safely in 29-of-30.
As the hitting streak alludes to, McAuliffe was quite consistent, failing to collect a hit in only nine games, while stroking three three-hit games. He had a pair of 3-for-4 games with a double on March 21 and May 1, but his best game of the season was a two-homer game against D-III No. 15 Wooster on Apr. 27. In that week’s games, he was 9-for-19 with a double, three dingers, and three walks.
McAuliffe’s final line read .329/.395/.616 with 18 walks and 32 strikeouts in 191 plate appearances. The only blemish on his season was an .879 fielding percentage, well down from a .957 mark over his first two seasons. After posting similar offensive numbers in one-third the at bats in his rookie campaign, Denison will hope for a big finish in 2020.
Mike McGee, C-2B (SR, Oakland College [11-37], Mich) [Bio]
Teammates with Croatia’s Ron Krsolovič, McGee played all but one game for the Golden Grizzlies. The Ireland national teamer hit .256/.353/.352 and showed excellent plate discipline with 22 walks and only 19 strikeouts in 176 at bats. McGee slashed .252/.341/.333 for his career.
Conor McNamara, RHP (JR, Marist College [27-26], N.Y.) [Bio]
McNamara moved out of the starting rotation in his junior year and the result was a big drop in home runs and an enhanced strikeout rate. Ireland’s right-hander struck out 36 in 34 frames, an increase of almost four strikeouts per nine innings. Batters continued to hit McNamara at an almost .300 clip, resulting in a 5.03 ERA, average for the Red Foxes’ staff.
Underlying those numbers, however, is that his ERA was bloated by one appearance against giants East Carolina, without which he would have a 3.66 mark. His best result came in a 4.2-inning relief appearance that took a tied game to extra innings and McNamara earned the win after striking out seven without allowing a run in the April 6 contest.
Other top games included 2.2 scoreless on March 24 and May 11, with four and five Ks in those games, respectively. McNamara will have one more season to show further improvements.
Vojtěch Menšík, IF (FR, North Carolina State University [42-19], N.C.) [Bio]
Menšík’s arrival in North Carolina was heralded well in advance and the Czech infielder did not disappoint, posting perhaps the best rookie debut of any European player ever. Playing in the elite Atlantic Coast Conference for the, at times, No. 1 team in the country, Menšík started at 3B in more than half the team’s games, appearing in 43 overall despite missing almost a month with injury.
Menšík’s first career home run was a grand slam against Minnesota on Mar. 2, while his four-hit day against NC A&T on Mar. 27 was one of seven multi-hit games. After returning for the ACC Championship, Menšík ripped two doubles and a single, swiping two bags against Wake Forest on May 23.
The result was a .250/.366/.367 mark and nine stolen bases in 128 at bats. Menšík did strike out 50 times, but grounded into a double play just once. The 19-year old also finished with a .965 fielding percentage and only three errors.
Giulio Monello, C (FR, Odessa College [38-22], Tx.) [Bio]
Monello continued a long list of Italians at Odessa and had a solid debut, claiming the Wranglers’ backstop position after missing the first month of the season. Monello showed a strong arm behind the plate, nabbing 13-of-31 runners attempting to steal (41.9%), though he did have seven errors and seven passed balls.
At the dish, Monello showed a fairly strong batting eye and a little pop, finishing at .258/.333/.391 with three stolen bases in 42 games. He was at his best in a four-game set from March 22-23 against fellow European-heavy Clarendon, going 4-for-13 with seven runs, four walks, and a stolen base. Monello had three hits on Apr. 12 and blasted a pair of four-baggers on Apr. 26.
Fred Mosier, C (FR, Middlebury College [26-13], Vt.) [Bio]
Mosier received limited playing time in his first campaign in the U.S., but made the most of his five at bats, drilling a pair of doubles and scoring once. One of only four British-raised GB players in the States, Mosier’s experience at the D-III school will likely prove substantial.
Photos of Vojtěch Menšík taken at MLB Elite Tournament, copyright Extra Innings UK.