The 2017 World Baseball Classic rosters have been released, and include 12 players who previously spent time in the Frontier League.
The World Baseball Classic list is headlined by Tanner Roark of the Washington Nationals, who becomes the first former Frontier League player to be added to Team USA. Roark made his professional debut with the Southern Illinois Miners in 2008, appearing in three games before the Texas Rangers selected him in the 25th round in the 2008 draft. Roark was traded to the Washington Nationals in 2010 and made his Major League debut on August 7, 2013. He finished the 2016 season with a 16-10 record and 2.85 ERA, ranking
Team Mexico also features a current Major Leaguer in Vidal Nuno of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nuno spent the first month of the 2011 season with the Washington Wild Things, recording a 2-3 record and 2.83 ERA in six starts before having his contract purchased by the New York Yankees. Nuno has appeared in 126 Major League games between the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Seattle Mariners. He was traded to the Dodgers last month.
Mexico also has former Joliet Slammer Jacob Sanchez on their roster. Sanchez made his professional debut with the Slammers in 2012, going 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA over 11 starts. He returned to Joliet to start the 2013 season, when he had a 2.36 ERA in five games before signing with the Chicago White Sox. He has pitched in the Oakland A’s system the past three years, and posted a 7-5 record with eight saves and a 3.10 ERA for the Double-A Midland RockHounds in 2016.
Three former Frontier League players are on Team Australia. Chris Oxspring is on the squad for the third time and also was a member of the silver medal winning Australian team for the 2004 Olympics. Oxspring made his United States professional debut with the 2000 Cook County Cheetahs with a 3.10 ERA over 14 games. Oxspring signed with the San Diego Padres for the 2001 season, and made his Major League debut on September 2, 20
Joining Oxspring on the Australian team are Mitch Dening and Justin Erasmus. An outfielder, Dening saw action in 15 games for the Washington Wild Things in 2010 after playing the three previous seasons in the San Diego Padres’ system. Dening spent the 2015 season with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in Japan’s Central League, helping the Swallows to the league title and a berth in the Japan Series. He also was on the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classic teams.
Justin Erasmus spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons in the Frontier League, seeing time with the Gateway Grizzlies, Joliet Slammers, and Schaumburg Boomers. He finished fourth in the Frontier League with 20 saves in 2013 to go with a 4-2 record and 1.57 ERA. Erasmus spent 2016 with the De Glaskoning Twins of the Dutch Major Leagues. He previously appeared in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for his native South Africa.
Team Italy returns to the World Baseball Classic with three former Frontier League players. Alessandro Maestri, who was also a member of the 2013 squad, was under contract with the River City Rascals in 2012 though he did not appear in a regular season game. Maestri was with the Hanwah Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2016.
Mike DeMark made his professional debut in 2006 with the Florence Freedom, appearing in 41 games with a 3.22 ERA before signing with the San Diego Padres. DeMark spent time with the Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Oakland A’s, advancing as high as the Triple-A level while appearing in Major League spring training games in 2009, 2010, and 2012. He finished second in the Atlantic League in 2016 with 35 saves while his 0.76 ERA for the Long Island Ducks was the lowest among relief pitchers.
Frank DeJiulio was with the Frontier Greys for the 2014 season, making four appearances. DeJiulio also spent 2016 in the Atlantic League, recording a 4-0 record and 2.55 ERA for the Long Island Ducks and the Bridgeport Bluefish.
Team Israel makes their first World Baseball Classic appearance in 2017, with 2009 Frontier League All-Star Dylan Axelrod headlining their pitching staff. Axelrod went 3-1 with six saves and a 2.51 ERA over 22 games for the Windy City ThunderBolts before signing with the Chicago White Sox. Axelrod has made 59 MLB appearances, including 34 starts, with a 9-15 career record for the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds. Alexrod spent 2016 with the New Orleans Zephyrs, Miami’s Triple-A affiliate, compiling a 9-7 record and 4.18 ERA.
Tyler Herron and Joey Wagman join Alexrod on the pitching staff. A former supplemental first round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, Herron made 14 appearances for the Kalamazoo Kings in 2010 with a 1-4 record, three saves, and a 3.50 ERA. Herron is currently in the New York Mets’ organization, finishing the 2016 season with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.
Joey Wagman was a 2014 Frontier League All-Star for the Rockford Aviators after recording a 6-2 record and 3.05 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). Wagman had his contract purchased by the Oakland A’s after the All-Star Game and is still in their organization. He finished 2016 with their Double-A affiliate, the Midland RockHounds.
The 2017 World Baseball Classic begins on March 6. Israel is in Pool A playing out of the Gocheok Sky Dome on Seoul, South Korea; Australia is in Pool B in the Tokyo Dome; the United States are in Pool C at Marlins Park in Miami; and Mexico is in Pool D at Estadio Charros de Jalisco, just outside of Guadalajara. The top two teams out of Pools A and B advance to second round games at the Tokyo Dome, while the top two teams from Pools C and D advance to San Diego’s Petco Park. Two teams from each of the second round sites will then advance to the finals at Dodger Stadium. All games of the 2017 World Baseball Classic are scheduled be televised on MLB Network.