When the dust settled on the 2015 European season, it can be said that the level of play in Europe in 2015 increased along with the overall satisfaction of clubs with regards to import performance. Since the 2015 European season started, there have been many more talented players register with the International Baseball Community who are now playing in Australia. Therefore the 2016 European seasons look to be even more stacked as clubs continue to raise the bar on their expectations in an import.
The International Baseball Community saw 72 of it’s members play in Europe in 2015 so it would take me days to summarize every single impact each member had. Therefore I decided to make top performers lists for pitcher, batters and coaches. I decided to only use those who played in first division leagues as it would be too difficult to rank players who competed across drastic levels of play.
Top 10 IBC Pitchers of 2015
When coming up with the following rankings I considered the level of play within the league and their respective era.
#1. Ricardo Hernandez – The former minor league left handed pitcher from Venezuela first came to Europe in 2011 to play in Spain. Since he spent a year in Italy with Nettuno and in 2015 he took his game to the Hoofdklasse (Dutch Major League) by signing with the Hoofddorp Pioniers. His 2.29 era and 8-3 record in 86.1 innings pitched in what many consider the top league in Europe earns him the top spot on this list.
#2. Jeff McKenzie – Jeff is a left handed pitcher who we placed with the top team in France, the Rouen Huskies. This Cal State Bakersfield graduate and former Chicago White Sox A-ball pitcher absolutely dominated the French Elite League with an era of 0.44 over 103.1 innings pitched. Jeff was awarded pitcher of the year and league MVP for his efforts while leading the club to another championship.
#3. Chris Mezger – This former USC Trojan continued to tear up Europe in his fourth straight season playing baseball on the continent. In 2015, his second season playing in the German Bundesliga with the Solingen Alligators, Chris won the best pitcher award for the Northern division after posting a 1.25 era over 86.1 innings pitched. Unfortunately his Alligators were unable to defend their title as champions as they bowed out in the semi-final to the Regensburg Legionäre.
#4. Jimmy Jensen – Jimmy played a year of pro baseball in the Pecos league before signing on to play overseas with the Attnang Athletics of Austria. He finished the season with a 1.44 era in 79 innings pitched and led the league in all significant pitching categories earning the award as the leagues best pitcher. Despite playing on one of the bottom teams in the league, he managed to finish with a 7-2 record. He also hit .325 on the season. Currently Jimmy is pitching in Sydney Australia with the McArthur Orioles in the New South Wales State League where he leads the league with an era of 1.29 and a 5-1 record.
#5. Yulman Ribeiro – The former Florida Marlins pitcher was very effective for the Godo Knights of the Italian Baseball League with an era of 2.12 and 38 strikeouts in 34 innings relief work. The Venezuelan right handed pitcher has been pitching in Europe since 2008 when he first played in the Spanish Division de Honor. He has since bounced around the IBL.
#6. Gabe Sandersius – This left handed pitcher from Texas Christian University was one of the OG’s of the International Baseball Community back when it was first starting out in late 2012. Gabe has utilized the website to the fullest to play in Europe and Australia ever since. Most recently Gabe returned for his second season in 2015 with the Munich-Haar Disciples of the German Bundesliga where he posted an era of 2.80 over 99.1 innings of work and striking out 83.
#7. Dylan Driscoll – The Amherst college grad was second in the Swedish Elite League with era of 1.24 in 58 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts, leading the Stockholm Monarchs to their third straight championship.
#8. Parker Talbert – The left handed pitcher from the University of Mary Washington wrapped up his second season in Sweden with a 1.70 era for the runner up Sölvesborg Firehawks while striking out 57 in 53 innings pitched.
#9. Kevin Bosson – A Cal Poly Ponoma grad, Kevin found himself on one of the bottom teams in the French Elite League in the Beaucaire Knights. As a result of the lack of pitching depth on the team, Kevin led the league in innings pitched with 109.2, striking out 108 and only walking 29 while posting an era of 3.28.
#10. Ryan Juarez – This Cal State Northridge and former Frontier League pitcher started his overseas career off in Australia playing in the Capital Territory State League for the 2014-2015 season. In the summer of 2015 he landed in Belgium with Deurne Spartans and his 3.06 era and 6-1 record played a large role in their club winning the championship by upsetting the Borgerhout Squirrels.
Chris Michals – In his fourth year in Europe, this utility player from Oakton Community College led the Zurich Barracudas to the national title in 2015, avenging their 2014 loss to the Therwil Flyers. Chris finished the season with an era of 2.3 and a batting average of .305.
Will Lee – Will is not an IBC member but was a teammate of mine this summer on the International Stars at Prague baseball week. The Australian native led the Bonn Capitals to the top of the northern German Bundesliga standings behind a stellar 1.44 era and 125 strikeouts (1st). He e also more than contributed with the bat hitting .453 on the season which was good enough for second amongst league leaders. This is why without a doubt he was names the MVP of the German Bundesliga North.
Top 15 IBC Batters of 2015
When coming up with the following rankings, I considered the overall level of pitching they were facing within their respective leagues. I also considered all offensive categories. Take this ranking with a grain of salt because in these regulars seasons of 20-40 games, a few lucky hops and a few bad calls can make the difference from the 15th spot to the 1st.
#1. Andrew Medeiros – This Westfield State University grad has built a reputation as a catcher who can crush the ball and steel bases. He first took his game overseas to Australia for the 2014-2015 season as a late signing and led a 1-3 team to a 24-3 record by hitting .462 with 17 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs and 21 stolen bases through 23 games. He took that hot bat over to Belgium for the summer of 2015 and did not take his foot of the gas as he led the Deurne Spartans to a championship behind a .466 batting average with 14 doubles, 2 triples and 10 homeruns while swiping 38 bases! The Belgian pitching is not the best in Europe but his combination of average, power and speed earn Andrew this top spot. Andrew is seeking to play in the Netherlands, Italy, or the Euro League Baseball for 2016.
#2. Mike Perrone – This Vassar College grad holds most offensive records at his former school and continued where he left off in his first overseas experience playing in the German Bundesliga for the Hannover Regents. Mike hit a remarkable .446 and had an OBP of .569. Mike is currently playing in the Queensland State League in Australia and is putting up similar numbers.
#3. Aaron Dunsmore – Aaron is a University of Dayton graduate who spent a year in the North American League playing for the Calgary Vipers. He took his game to Germany in 2015 by signing on with Heidenheim Heidköpfe, one of Germany’s elite clubs. The Canadian led his new club to their first championship since 2009 behind a .414 batting average.
#4. Daniel Sanchez – Daniel is a Venezuelan shortstop who has played professionally in Spain, Italy, and most recently Germany with the Solingen Alligators in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 he won a championship with the Alligators and in 2015 his .405 batting average helped lead the team all the way to the semi finals before bowing out to the Regensburg Legionäre.
#5. Gary Owens – Gary is another one of these two-way players that has been overseas for a long time. This former Pecos and Frontier league player signed on with the Bad Homburg Hornets of the German Bundesliga for the 2015 season and had another great season at the plate hitting .389 with 7 homeruns. He is currently playing in the South Australian Baseball League for the third winter in a row. His batting statistics were unknown at the time of publishing so he remains in honourable mention but if ranked would have fallen into the 5th spot.
#6. Ian Vazquez – The middle infielder from Belmont Abbey College took his game overseas in 2015 to play in the German Bundesliga for the Mannheim Tornados, one of the most successful clubs in the league’s history. Ian hit a very solid .374 with an on base percentage of .422, two very impressive numbers when considering the general belief that the pitching he is facing in the south of the Bundesliga is a stronger than in the north.
#7. Alex Lee – This Wofford College grad finally got his chance to play in a competitive league in Europe and he did not disappoint. In a league full of very solid pitching, Alex posted a .357 batting average, 9 doubles, 2 triples and 6 homeruns to go along with 10 stolen bases. Alex is currently playing the South Australian Baseball League and is hitting .339 while leading the league in stolen bases with 11 in as many attempts.
#8. Bobby Stevens – This Northern Illinois University grad and former AAA player for the Baltimore Orioles hit .347 in the Czech Extraliga with four dingers for Skokani Olomouc in his overseas debut.
#9. Lucas Hagberg – This University of San Diego grad has spent time playing in Australia, Czech Republic and most recently in Switzerland in 2015 with the reigning champs, the Therwil Flyer. Lucas finished the season batting .480, good enough to win the “Batter of the Year” honours for the top Swiss league.
#10. Jordan Liester – In his overseas debut as a member of the Chartres French Cubs of the French Elite League, Jordan finished fourth in the league with a batting average of an even .400. After graduating from Colorado Mesa University Jordan found his way to Australia for the 2014-2015 season where he also put up big numbers for the Malvern Braves of Melbourne.
#11. Will Thorp – Will comes from Lewis-Clark State College and played with the Adelaide Bite in 2014-2015. He is a heck of a defensive catcher and can swing the bat as well. Playing for the Dornbirn Indians in Austria in 2015, Will hit a ridiculous .471 and stole 12 bases as well. Will is currently playing in the Queensland State League in Australia and is seeking a club for the 2016 season in Europe.
#12. Scotty Mulhearn – An overseas veteran and all-around great utility guy, Scotty is a fan favourite and well known in international baseball circles. In 2015 he got his chance to play at a higher level of European baseball with the Tempo Titans of the Czech Extraliga. His .331 batting average with 4 hr’s and 8 sb’s combined with his ability to catch, pitch, play short and drink Czech beer like water earned him a call back for the 2016 season. This Australian was also chosen in the Australian Baseball League draft by the Canberra Cavalry for the 2015-2016 season.
#13. Melvin Perdue – This veteran of the Dutch first class is best known for his role in the movie Moneyball as Ray Durham! In 2015, he decided it was time for a change and took his game to Austria to play for the Attnang Athletics where he hit a whopping .450 with 3 bombs and 8 stolen bases. He also won the best batter award at Prague Baseball Week. Melvin is currently playing in the Western Australian State Baseball League and is hitting .352 after 13 games. Melvin is looking for a club for the 2016 season.
#14. Eric Brenk – Another Wofford College grad, Eric first took his game overseas in 2014 to the German Bundesliga to play with the Bad Homburg Hornets. After finding out he qualifies for a German passport due to his family heritage, he soon found himself as a high commodity for the 2015 season since he did not count as an import. The Bonn Capitals were the club that won him over and his presence brought immediate results as the shortstop posted a .330 batting average with 27 stolen bases while helping his team climb to the top of the north division. The Capitals bowed out in the semi-final to the eventual champions Heidenheim Heideköpfe but look strong going into 2016.
#15. Adam Greenberg – After graduating from the University of California, San Diego, Adam took his career over to Germany and has since returned to Europe for two more seasons. In 2015 he settled in with the Lucerne Eagles of the Swiss NLA and despite 7 intentional walks still managed to hit .430, with a slugging percentage of .737, OBP of .563, while hitting 3 homeruns and stealing 7 bases. Adam is another utility guy who spent some time on of the mound for the Eagles.
#16. Mike Stowers – This UC Santa Barbara grad debuted overseas in the Czech Extraliga with the Prague Eagles. His .329 batting average, 2 homeruns and 9 stolen bases earn him a spot on this list. He is currently playing in the South Australian Baseball League putting up very similar numbers and is seeking a club for the 2016 European season.
#17. Taylor Eichhorst – This San Diego Christian College grad took his big frame overseas for the first time in 2015 to play in the Swiss NLA for the Sissach Frogs. I was on the International Stars at Prague with Taylor and the kid hits mammoth’s. Unfortunately they were all foul in Prague but I was worried about my car that was near the clubhouse about 450+ ft away. Taylor finished the season hitting .410 with 7 homeruns and most likely with a ton of intentional walks being the only import on the Frogs.
#18. Eddie Murray – This UCLA grad took his game overseas for the first time and landed on the Paris University Baseball Club. He hit a very solid .342 over 20 games after being picked up late.
#19. Matt Martin – Matt Martin, from California Lutheran University, hit .331 on the season and was a major part in the Montpellier Barracudas making their way to the French championship for the first time in recent history. The team narrowly missed upsetting the Rouen Huskies from claiming their 10th championship in 13 years.
#20. Rob Herrmann – Overseas veteran Rob Herrmann has spent time playing in Australia, Germany and the past two years in France with the Montpellier Barracudas. In 2015 he hit .323 which was probably one of his lowest offensive showings, but his work behind the plate and overall leadership in addition to his good stick are what make him such a popular import overseas.
Corey Lyon – Corey is also not a member of the website but was another teammate on the International Stars at Prague Baseball Week and also deserved some recognition for his accomplishments in 2015. This Australian no doubt would have been at the top of this list if he was an IBC member. He played for Technika Brno in the Czech Extraliga and hit an amazing 15 homeruns (tied 1st) in 41 games with a batting average of .413 which was good enough for third amongst the league leaders. He led the league with 61 rbi’s and 52 runs, and a finished 3rd with a SLG% of .743.
Top 5 IBC Coaches of 2015
#1. Trevor Rooper – Trevor Rooper has been overseas for some time now coaching in the Netherlands, Austria, Australia and for the past three years in Sweden with the Stockholm Monarchs. In 2015 Trevor coached his team to their third straight championship under his watch. Currently he is engaged to a Swedish woman so it appears he will be returning for some time now. Congrats Roops!
#2. Kris Richards – This former Baltimore Orioles infielder decided to start his coaching career overseas and landed in the Czech Republic with Kotlarka Praha. In his first year as a head coach he led his team to their first ever Czech championship in the very competitive Czech Extraliga. He also spent time as the Czech U21 national team hitting coach.
#3. Clayton Carson – Clayton first took his career overseas in the summer of 2014 to Austria and has not returned home. He spent the winter of 2014-2015 as a player-coach in the South Australian Baseball League and in the summer of 2015 landed on with the Zurich Challengers. In recent history the top two spots in the Swiss NLA have been occupied by the Zurich Barracudas and Therwil Flyers which presented a great challenge for Clayton. He led his team to the playoffs and gave the cross town rivals and eventual champions a run for their money in the semi final by narrowly losing 2 games by one run apiece. Clayton is once again coaching for the same club in Australia for the 2015-2016 season and is one of the most saught after player-coaches on the international baseball scene going into 2016.
#4. Wayne Ough – This Australian National Team player and former New York Met (AA) has bounced around the European baseball scene for a number of years now. His ability to pitch, hit and coach make him very valuable and sought after. In 2015 he signed on with one of the top clubs in Croatia, Nada Split, which competes in the InterLeague as well as the Croatian top league. Despite his efforts pitching back-to-back games in games 6 and 7 of the championship series, Wayne was unable to help his team win the Croatian championship just falling short in this epic 7 game series battle.
#5. Ron Frazier – With the support of his family, this former high school and college coach first came overseas in 2014 to coach Nada Split and since moved on to Technika Brno for the 2015 season. He led his team to the playoffs and knocked off the Prague Eagles in the quarter final but they fell short in the semi final to Draci Brno. Ron is currently looking for a club for the 2016 European season.
Top 10 Biggest Upsets of 2015
#1. Kotlarka Praha (Kris Richards) defeating Draci Brno in the Czech championship for their first ever championship title.
# 2. Rimini sweeping Bologna in the Italian Baseball League championship series after Bologna was way out in front all season.
#3. Deurne Spartans (Ryan Juarez and Andrew Medeiros) defeating reigning champions Borgerhout Squirrels to claim the Belgian Baseball League throne.
#4. The Oosterhout Twins (Cody Chartrand) defeating Mampaey The Hawks to promote to the Dutch Hoofdklasse for 2016, the first time that has happened since 2009.
#5. Sweden rallying for 4 runs in the 9th inning of the European B-Pool Championship to defeat Austria 8-5 in front of their home crowd of over 2,000 fans.
#6. Lukas Hagberg and his Therwil Flyers (Switzerland) defeating host Alex Lee and his Ostrava Arrows (Czech Republic) to win their European Cup Qualifier.
#7. Second place regular season finishers Zurich Barracudas (Chris Michals) defeating first place Therwil Flyers (Hagberg) in the Swiss Championship and avenging their 2014 extra inning loss in the final game of the series.
#8. Czech National Team defeating the International Stars at Prague Baseball Week to prevent them from three-peating.
#9. Heidenheim Heideköpf (Aaron Dunsmore) defeating the host Regensburg Legionäre in a dramatic final game in Regensburg.
#10. Third place Montpellier Barracudas (15-13, Rob Herrmann & Matt Martin) defeating Templiers Senart (22-6) in the semi-final of the French Elite League.
Fourth place Wr. Neustadt Diving Ducks defeating first place Dornbirn Indians (Will Thorp) in the semi-final of the Austrian Baseball League.
Vienna Metrostars (Austria) beating out the Zurich Barracudas (Switzerland) and Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria) to win their European Cup qualifier to become the first Austrian team to advance in over a decade.
If you have any comments on any of these list I want to hear them! Let me know if you have an opinion on a player, coach or club that should be recognized for their accomplishments in 2015!
For more information on European baseball, the opportunities to play, the various leagues and levels of play, check out my new eBook: European Professional Baseball – Everything you need to know about playing baseball in Europe