5 Players We’re Watching in 2020

By JOE McFARLAND

If there were awards for misleading headlines, then we might actually be in the running with this one.

We here at Alberta Dugout Stories will obviously have our eyes on as many baseball players from our province in 2020 as possible, and we are very excited to start covering as many as we can.

With the baseball season just around the corner, we also thought it would be fun to put an early spotlight on some of the baseball players who have the potential to make a significant impact on the sport at their respective levels.

That all in mind, here’s a list of five players with interesting storylines heading into the new decade.

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Calgary’s Mike Soroka gets ready for another session of throwing in 2018. (Photo: Ian Wilson of Alberta Dugout Stories)

#1. Mike Soroka

Was there any doubt the Calgary kid would be on this list? After his 2019 season, the sky really appears to be the limit for the 22-year-old. The Tip O’Neill Award winner finished sixth in National League Cy Young Award voting and second in the National League Rookie of the Year race, thanks to a 13-4 performance and a blistering 2.68 earned run average.

The fascinating piece to this puzzle is who the Atlanta Braves picked up in the offseason. Cole Hamels will help bolster the rotation while they also signed Felix Hernandez to a minor league deal. While they lost infielder Josh Donaldson to the Minnesota Twins in free agency, they did sign outfielder Marcell Ozuna to pick up some of the offensive slack.

The Braves were a contender last year and are hoping to be back in the race again this year and the Lou Marsh Award finalist will obviously be a major piece to that puzzle.

#2. Erik Sabrowski

The San Diego Padres took the Edmonton southpaw in the 14th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft and many had high hopes that he would head quickly into a pro career.

However, that hasn’t happened yet as he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2019 season. It hasn’t been an easy road to recovery for the 22-year-old Cloud County product and former Edmonton Prospect. He has made the best of the situation though with regular posts on social media about the different drills and workouts he has been a part of.

How will that translate when he hits the field for the Padres? Time will tell. But he can be assured that many in his home province will be cheering him on.

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Ellie Jespersen looks on for Team Alberta at the National Championships in the summer of 2019. (Photo: Ian Wilson of Alberta Dugout Stories)

#3. Ellie Jespersen

Many Canadian baseball fans should have September 11, 2020 circled on their calendars as that day marks the beginning of the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Monterrey, Mexico. At the moment, Canada is ranked second in the world, only behind Japan, and there’s reason to be optimistic about this team and its youth.

Ellie Jespersen was one of five Alberta athletes to be named to the Baseball Canada Women’s National Team roster that won bronze at the 2019 Pan Am Games. The 16-year-old was joined by her sister Carrie as well as Madison Willan, Kaitlyn Ross and Kelsey Lalor on a team lauded for its young talent.

It would shock no one if Ellie, a member of Alberta’s “Royal Family of Women’s Baseball,” were to be a key contributing member of the national team heading into the fall.

#4. Matt Coutney

The expectations were high of the Wetaskiwin native while he was in this province and the same can likely be said after a couple of years south of the border.

The two-time Baseball Alberta 18U ‘AAA’ Player of the Year (2016-2017) started off his college career with the Colby Community College Trojans and tore up the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. He hit .426 with 26 home runs and 116 runs batted in over those two seasons on his way to All-Conference honours both seasons.

Coutney packed his bags to continue his education and baseball journey at Old Dominion University in the NCAA. If he keeps putting up those kinds of numbers in Division 1, one has to wonder if he will capture the attention of Major League Baseball scouts.

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Cesar Valero looks on during a stint with the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Okotoks Dawgs in 2019. (Photo: Ian Wilson of Alberta Dugout Stories)

#5. Cesar Valero

With big names like Matt Lloyd and J.T. Patterson graduated from college, we are kind of wondering who will pick up the offensive slack from a Dawgs Academy perspective.

Many eyes have been on Cesar Valero for a while as he worked his way onto Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team. Ranked as the top prospect in Alberta by Prep Baseball Report, the 18-year-old has played in almost every major event you can think of including the Tournament-12 in Toronto and the 2018 Area Code Games.

And while he wasn’t taken in the 2019 MLB Draft, that didn’t stop the youngster from being recruited by Oregon State University alongside fellow Dawg Micah McDowell.

As we said, there will be plenty of other players we will be watching. Look no further than Sabrowski’s fellow 2018 MLB Draft picks like LaRon Smith, 2019 picks like Lloyd, Adam Macko, Tanner Jesson-Dalton and Thomas Little, and future stars like Conor Pote, Matt Wilkinson and Kaitlyn Ross.

We will keep you cover at albertadugoutstories.com for all those and much more!

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