In recent articles, we have looked at the historic circumstances that have permitted active minor leaguers to sign with European baseball clubs. At one point, eight such players were listed on rosters in the Italian leagues (one has since been released by his MLB organisation). Several more are anticipated in the Netherlands’ top circuit or, indeed, have already joined. We also broke the story on July 25 that Curaçao had become the third league with MiLB players. We look here at the full list of 18 such players, along with players rostered by American universities in these leagues, to conclude our discussion of these historical circumstances.
The Pandemic Contract Exception
MLB scouts have confirmed that these signings are due to what we have labelled the “Pandemic Contract Exception”, in which players have asked for a “loan” to a European club, which is permitted in the standard minor league contract [link]. The “loan” (to use the terminology of said document) is unusual only for the fact that players will suit up in Europe during the normal minor league season, which is unprecedented for minor league players that already have game experience [as discussed at this link].
As we discussed yesterday, signing a contract and remaining in, for example, Italy or the Netherlands to finish high school, is fairly standard practice, but players MiLB ball, returning for Serie A or Hoofdklasse competition and then, theoretically, returning to the minors the following season (in this case, 2021), is possible only through this exception.
A Surfeit of European Talent in Italy
As a result of the “Pandemic Contract Exception”, European baseball fans will have the chance to watch several bonafide—if raw—prospects in Hendrik Clementina (right) and Marc Civit. Twin Spanish prospects Omar Hernández and Frank Hernández and Italian minor leaguers Cesare Astorri and Ettore Giulianelli are also joining the league. Astorri has been scorching hot since the season started, dropping four bombs in 28 at bats.
There are some solid veterans as well, like Markus Solbach, who has pitched on three continents and was likely on the long list to pitch for the Dodgers had a full season occurred. Although he was under contract with Los Angeles when he signed his contract with San Marino, the German national teamer and Adelaide Bite (now Giants) record-holder has since been released. San Marino is surely grateful to have him, as he has struck out 18 with two hits and a single walk in 7.1 innings over two starts.
Nettuno boasts long-time Italian national teamer Alberto Mineo, released in May. We previously reported on the signing of Ray-Patrick Didder by Bologna. Meanwhile, Solbach will be joined in the rotation in San Marino by Alex Maestri, a similarly international journeyman.
The changes brought by coronavirus worked both ways, however. Several foreign players that had signed contracts for the year were told they could not play, including Marc-André Habeck, a returning player with Parma, and Great Britain’s Paul Kirkpatrick (right), who had a stellar 2019 in the Hoofdklasse and European Championships.
However, numerous Italians at American universities have joined FIBS teams. Maurizio Andretta (header picture), a Europeans in University All-Star in 2017-18, is playing for Montefiascone after losing his sophomore campaign for Odessa Junior College. His university teammate, Giulio Monello, is catching Solbach and Maestri in San Marino, which will make for incredible experience. Daniel Monti is rostered by Bollate after his first year at Odessa was wiped out, as with Andretta and Monello.
Frontier College’s Tommaso Giarola is under contract with Parma, a big assignment for a first-year university player with no spring season. U.S. teammate Matteo Oldano will play for Senago. A third Frontier player, Samuel DeSimone, is suiting up for Macerata.
Clarendon Junior College’s, Oscar Tucci who was meant to play his first season this spring, is on the roster for Macerata, where he will be joined by a third JuCo athlete, New Mexico JC’s Lorenzo Morresi. Morresi is teammates in the U.S. with promising Great Britain outfielder Ollie Thompson.
Three other known Italians at American universities could potentially join this list.
The Netherlands Poised for Prospect Additions
With the Hoofdklasse beginning play on July 23, a source tells us that Sem Robberse and Darryl Collins will return to the Netherlands to play, though they are not yet listed on rosters. Tom de Blok (right), Donny Breek, and Jiorgeny Casimiri are also confirmed.
Robberse had an electrifying debut at age 17 with the GCL Blue Jays in 2019 (0.87 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 10.1 IP), while Collins was similarly promising in a 48-game stint for the AZL Royals (.320/.401/.436).
Phoenix College’s Tijmen Takke—a 2019 MLB Elite selection—hit fifth for HCAW on Opening Night, which Arizona Western’s Luuk ter Beek started. The Matadors of Arizona Western were meant to have five Dutch players on the roster this spring, and it seems likely all will play at home instead. Nolan Beugeling started at shortstop for Hoofddorp and Delano Selassa occupied the same position for Amsterdam on the first day of the Hoofdklasse. Angelo Wicklert came on to close for Hoofddorp and took the loss, while the final Matador, Jeandro Tromp, came in late for HCAW.
Indian Hills CC’s Dave Janssen started for the Twins on Thursday, giving the Hoofdklasse seven players on the rosters of American community colleges.
Given the talent being produced in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which includes Curaçao and Aruba, we could potentially see a few more players of Robberse and Collins’ calibre agreeing to terms with Hoofdklasse clubs, assuming they can travel to the Netherlands. Names for which to look out are Denzel Bryson and Arij Fransen, plus seven other known university players who could make appearances as well.
Curaçao Set to Become Third League with Pros
As we announced on July 25, the Liga Aqualectra in Curaçao, which is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands, will feature at least seven current minor leaguers, including well-regarded prospect Stephan Vidal (picture above, with South Africa’s Garth Cahill).
The other professionals include Darren Seferina, Tilsaimy Melfor, Shervyen Newton, Shean Michel, Jonathan Willems, and Kevin Josephina. None have advanced out of rookie ball, but considering the quality of some Curaçaoan teams—like Wildcats KJ74 Guardians, which features Jair Jurrjens, Yurendell de Caster, and recently released Calten Daal and Juremi Profar—the young players should receive excellent experience. Games began on July 18.
Other intriguing young prospects that could appear in the Liga Aqualectra include Shèrten Apostel (right) and Aldrich De Jongh. More than a dozen Curaçaoan university players could also make appearances.
Other Potential Destinations for Minor Leaguers
The exception might also be good news for the División de Honor, the national league of Spain, the former of which opens on Aug. 30. It is entirely possible Civit and the Hernández twins (left, Frank Hernández) could return home for the late league if a return to the U.S. for fall instructional camp is deemed unnecessary travel, as it quite likely would be.
The various summer leagues in Puerto Rico and Canada could also benefit from young minor leaguers returning home. Although a recent case has shut down Japan’s Baseball Challenge League, it is possible that leagues in the Far East could look to foreign players this summer, though it is unclear whether MLB teams would give permission.
Germany and France will not reap any benefits given the restrictions of the former and the cancellation of the latter. With the Czech playoffs underway and most other leagues well into the season, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain are likely to be the only leagues boasting a big minor league or university signing. Stay tuned as the situation develops further.
All photos copyright Extra Innings UK.