How many Quebecers will there be in Major Baseball in 2024? At the dawn of training camps in Florida and Arizona, we try here to give the clearest answer possible.
At the time of writing, only two Quebecers are part of the 40-man roster of an MLB club and will de facto be at their team’s training camp: Édouard Julien, with the Minnesota Twins, as well as ‘Abraham Toro, with the Oakland Athletics.
Otto Lopez was part of that group until Friday, when the Toronto Blue Jays decided to designate the infielder for reassignment in an effort to free up a spot on their 40-man roster. The team now has seven days to trade him or submit him on waivers.
As for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., although it is true that he was born in Montreal, we do not count him here: he did not play his minor baseball in Quebec and he represents the Dominican Republic on the international scene.
Ten other Quebecers are assigned to minor league teams, including Charles Leblanc, who was removed from the Miami Marlins’ 40-man roster after a short stint in the Majors in 2022. He signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels last November, after a full season at the AAA level in 2023.
Julien’s place in Minnesota is almost done. He finished seventh in the American Most Outstanding Rookie voting last year after hitting .263/.381/.459 with 16 homers and 37 RBIs in 109 games. He was later inserted into the Twins’ playoff roster.
Another indicator that his place is practically acquired: the Twins have just traded Jorge Polanco to the Seattle Mariners in return for four players. Eager to reduce their payroll, it is clear that the Twins will rely on the Quebecer – and his salary of US$770,000, very close to the minimum wage – to take care of second base this season. His place is to be lost, not to be won.
After a very difficult 2022 season in Seattle, Toro was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, who confined him to their AAA farm club for the entire season — except nine games. But he was excellent.
At the AAA level, he maintained offensive averages of .291/.374/.471 with eight home runs, 36 doubles and 58 RBIs in 96 games. During his brief nine-game recall in Milwaukee, he left an interesting calling card with eight hits in 18, including two home runs, nine RBIs and a .444 batting average.
The Brewers, however, traded him to the Oakland A’s, where he will have every chance in the world to showcase himself. Manager Mark Kotsay also indicated to MLB.com during the winter conference that his great versatility and the fact that he is an ambidextrous hitter could allow him to be in the lineup every day. FanGraphs.com even sees him as the starting third baseman against right-handed pitchers this season.
The 27-year-old comes at a pivotal point in his MLB career, but he appears to be in the right organization to make his mark.
Lopez now finds himself in the same situation as Leblanc last year with the Marlins: the team clearly tells him that he is no longer part of the plans.
He was clearly in a bind with the Jays. After very brief stints in 2021 and 2022, when he was used in one and eight games respectively, Lopez was only recalled for one game in 2023, in which he did not participate.
From a statistical point of view, he is coming off his worst season in the minor leagues and the specialized sites no longer even rank him among the Jays’ prospects for the minor leagues in the infield (FanGraphs.com places him at fourth-ranked shortstop at the AAA level).
That’s without counting the congestion in the infield in Toronto, with Bo Bichette, Whit Merrifield, Cavan Biggio, and others Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Justin Turner who are light years ahead of him.
If none of the 29 other clubs sign him, he will have to resign himself to doing his best at the AAA level and try to stir up envy.
Leblanc believed he had made his niche after playing 68 games in 2022 in Miami. But the Marlins made a series of trades to acquire several infielders, with the result that Leblanc was removed from their 40-man roster.
Annoyed by a back injury, Leblanc was unable to do himself full justice last season, as evidenced by his averages of .252/384/.423 with the Marlins’ AAA farm club.
Enjoying full free agency for the first time in his career, the 27-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Angels.
There’s traffic in the Angels’ infield, but Leblanc’s contract stipulates that he will be invited to the club’s main training camp. It’s up to him to prove that he can regain his level of play which allowed him to carve out a place with the Marlins two years ago.
The other Quebecers affiliated with MLB teams are not far enough along in their progress to hope to break into the Majors this season.
At the advanced A level in 2023 we found Miguel Cienfuegos (San Diego Padres), Cédric De Grandpré (Atlanta Braves), Nathan Landry (Boston Red Sox) and Anthony Quirion (Philadelphia Phillies).
At level A played Pier-Olivier Boucher (Braves), Archer Brookman (Detroit Tigers) and Nicolas Deschamps (Blue Jays). Jérémy Pilon (Tampa Bay Rays) played in the Rookie Leagues.
Ultimately, Conor Angel (Rays), Brandon Hernandez (St. Louis Cardinals), Jean-Christophe Masson (Blue Jays), Francisco Hernandez (Cardinals) and Mathieu Voros (New York Mets) were all released by their respective clubs in 2023.
No, Jacques Lanciault is not a top Quebec prospect, but we can say that his information is essential.
Long involved with the Quebec Junior Elite Baseball League (LBJEQ), Lanciault keeps an exhaustive and precise register of all Quebecers playing in American colleges and universities, in Major Baseball organizations, as well as in independent baseball.
His website, jacqueslanciault.com, is intended to be an indispensable resource and it was consulted for this article, particularly in order to find players playing in the lowest echelons of affiliated baseball.