The 2023 edition of the Vancouver Canadians will eventually play their first regular season game.
The opening three-game set against the Spokane Indians this past weekend was rained out. It had stopped raining Friday but the Thursday night/Friday morning rain made the field at Nat Bailey Stadium unplayable. The C’s have some rust to shake off but if they had not played the UBC Thunderbirds in preseason action last weekend, they would be all the Rusty the Tinman. Vancouver’s starting rotation has not been set but Macko and Dahian Santos were scheduled to start one of the doubleheaders over the weekend.
2023 Position Players
The Canadians have three catchers on the roster with Andrés Sosa and Jommer Hernández back in the fold for a second straight year. Sosa compiled an on-base percentage of .398 last year, fuelled by an August in which he slashed .361/.494/.639. The 2021 free agent signee was listed in the startling up for Wednesday’s preseason game but was replaced by Hernández. Sosa begins the year on the seven-day injured list. He told C’s Plus Baseball he played through a finger injury during the last few weeks of 2022 but his current malady is not known at this time.
Hernández provided an RBI single during the UBC game. The former Pirates farmhand belted his first two homers with the Canadians in 2022, both game-winning blasts in Spokane on July 24 and at home to complete a comeback win against Tri-City on August 4.
Newcomer Juan Gonzalez joins the C’s catching crew in 2023. The 22-year-old from La Guaira, Venezuela was Toronto’s 19th-round pick out of Miami Dade Community College in 2022. The 5-foot-9 backstop split last season with the Florida Complex League and Dunedin Blue Jays along with a brief cameo at Triple-A Buffalo where he drew a walk and stole a base.
Rainer Nuñez will be one of the offensive anchors in the early going for the C’s offence. The Florida State League 2022 batting champ continued to impress with the bat with a .321 batting average after being promoted to Vancouver in August. He’ll look to clear the fence once at the Nat after slugging all four of his home runs on the road, including homers in three straight games at Everett. The Dominican Winter League Rookie of the Year also walked off Tampa Bay with a single in Grapefruit League action on March 3.
Another returning corner infielder is Riley Tirotta who had 23 extra-base hit in 69 games with Vancouver before missing the rest of the year due to injury.
Alex De Jesus will be found on the left side of the infield once again with the C’s. He came over to the Jays organization in a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that saw 2022 C’s hurler Nick Frasso head to his native California on August 2. Michael Turconi is back in YVR as well after a late-season promotion from Dunedin to Vancouver. The former Wake Field shortstop batted .429 in the Northwest League and had a double and a walk in his three plate appearances this spring for Toronto.
Newcomer Estiven (pronounced ess-STE-ven, or S-Steven) Machado made his C’s debut in the preseason game versus UBC after spending time at second base and short with Dunedin in 2022. The switch-hitting Venezuelan signed with Toronto as a free agent in 2019.
2022 second-round picks Josh Kasevich (Oregon) and Cade Doughty (Louisiana State) also played Wednesday. Kasevich is expected to hold down the fort at the six-spot and provide contact and on-base ability after a .344 OBP with Dunedin. Doughty will be looked upon to add some power six home runs in 26 games for the D-Jays last year.
2022 returnee Glenn Santiago was on hand for Media Day on April 3 but he will begin the year on the Development List.
The outfield will have a familiar look to begin the season. Oakville, Ontario native Dasan Brown looks to build upon a strong finish with the C’s that saw him homer three times in the Northwest League final. Gabby Martinez looks to tap into more power to go along with his contact ability. After hitting 11 homers with Dunedin, the man from Maracaibo, Venezuela batted .324 with three homers before hitting .385 in the Northwest League final.
2022 Blue Jays third-round pick Alan Roden from Creighton did one thing very well in Dunedin—get on base with a .374 OBP. The Creighton Bluejay made his first game appearance at Nat Bailey Stadium Wednesday along with Devonte Brown. The non-drafted free agent from North Carolina State burst on the scene with an impressive Dunedin debut with a .926 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 27 games.
Like Santiago, 2022 C’s outfielder Garrett Spain was also in town for Media Day and start the season on the Development List. Curiously, 2022 outfielder/pitcher Mackenzie Mueller is listed on the outfield depth chart after there was word he was being converted into a hurler. His status is listed as ‘Injury – Full Season’.
Lefthander Adam Macko from Vauxhall, Alberta was slated to get the Opening Night on Friday. The former Seattle Mariner farmhand was acquired in the Teoscar Hernández trade last November. He has experienced pitching at the Nat on three separate occasions, including two starts in which he allowed just two runs against Monty’s Mounties last May.
Macko is expected to join a rotation that may 2022 returnees Dahian Santos, Michael Dominguez, Chad Dallas, Trent Wallace and Abdiel Mendoza.
Santos was the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Month with Dunedin last May and was called up to Vancouver in August. After struggling in his first two starts, the Venezuelan free agent signing in 2019 struck out 17 batters in his final two starts, including a 10 K effort over five innings in which he allowed two runs in a key early September win over Spokane to help the C’s eventually clinch a playoff berth. Had the Northwest League final gone the full five games, Santos would have gotten the start.
The potential Game 4 starting assignment would have gone to lefthander Wallace, who was robbed of the Florida State League Pitcher of the Month award last June despite a 27-5 strikeout/walk total in 17 scoreless innings but had to settle for Pitcher of the Week honours on June 19. After some initial struggles upon his promotion to Vancouver in mid-July, the Iowa Hawkeye settled in as a key part of the rotation down the stretch.
Dominguez endured some tough outings with Dunedin but began to find his form upon a late-July promotion to YVR. The Jefferson, Tampa High Schooler ended his year with a flourish by earning Northwest League Pitcher of the Week honours after six shutout innings and nine strikeouts against Eugene on September 7 to clinch the C’s playoff spot against the Emeralds. Dominguez held strong against Eugene with a one-run outing over five innings in Game 2 of the Northwest League final in Eugene, offsetting five walks with nine punchouts.
Hopefully Dallas will get to experience the thrill of victory again in 2023. His only win came in his pro debut with five shutout innings, retiring 15 hitters in a row after a leadoff walk in Tri-City on April 13. The 2021 fourth-round pick of the Blue Jays from Tennessee pitched well enough in a number of outings to get a win but did not get enough timely run support. His tough luck continued in Game 3 of the Northwest League final on September 16 when the Emeralds got to him for three runs (two earned) over 5-1/3 innings after holding them scoreless for the first four frames.
Mendoza began 2022 in the bullpen before getting stretched out for the rotation at the end of June. The former Oakland and Texas farmhand from Panama totalled six wins, one save and a 2.82 earned run average over 81 innings.
Other pitchers who could receive starting assignments include returnees Hunter Gregory and southpaw Naswell Paulino. Gregory pitched two innings of relief against UBC Wednesday but the Old Dominion hurler got six starts for the Canadians in 2022. Paulino began last year as a starter but two-thirds of his appearances came out of the bullpen in a multi-inning role in which the Dominican struck out 87 batters over 86-1/3 innings.
Newcomer Cooper Benson may also get the ball for the start of a game at some point in 2023. The lefthander—a 2021 17th round pick from Arizona State—racked up 51 strikeouts in 35 innings, including 35 Ks over 25 frames with Low-A Dunedin in 2022.
The arm barn will feature 2022 closer Connor Cooke who racked up his first nine professional saves, eight of them with Vancouver. The 2021 draft pick from the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns’ closer finished off Vancouver’s preseason win against UBC with a 1-2-3 seventh inning, hitting 99 miles per hour on the radar gun. Another 2022 returnee is T.J. Brock who lit up the gun at 100 miles per hour last season. The former Ohio State Buckeye will be joined by fellow 2022 draft picks lefty Mason Fluharty (Liberty) and Devereaux Harrison (Long Beach State) among the relievers expected to get the high-leverage outs.
Bullpen depth will be supplied by nine-game winner Justin Kelly as well as fellow returnees and Irishman Conor Larkin (Penn State), 2021-2022 righty Sam Ryan (Virginia Commonwealth) who earned his first Northwest League win last year and Brazilian righty Eric Pardinho who struck out 25 batters in 15 innings with the C’s in ’22.
Starting this year on the injured list (with the years they played for the C’s in parentheses) are Ben Baggett, Winder Garcia (2019), Roither Hernández (2021), Donnie Sellers (2017), Matt Svanson (2022), Anders Tolhurst, Geison Urbaez and C.J. Van Eyk (2021), the 2020 second rounder from Florida State who missed all of 2022 with Tommy John surgery on his right below.
The C’s first opponent will be the Tri-City Dust Devils Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. All games are on CanadiansBaseball.com. Tyler Zickel will also have the play-by-play on MiLB.TV.