Ranking the Best Dutch-Born Players in MLB

Jeremy Dorn@@jamblinmanAnalyst IIIOctober 26, 2013

Ranking the Best Dutch-Born Players in MLB

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    If you weren't swept up in "Honkbal" fever during the 2013 World Baseball Classic, you're officially behind the curve. Team Netherlands made a surprise run through the early rounds of the tournament to the semifinals in San Francisco and proved they can become an international baseball power.

    Maybe their success shouldn't have been such a surprise. The Kingdom of the Netherlands encompasses the Netherlands, Curacao, Aruba and other islands of the Netherlands Antilles, and some of baseball's best young talent calls those places home.

    The trend began with legendary pitcher Bert Blyleven and then was carried on by Curacao's Hensley Meulens and Randall Simon, as well as Aruba's Sidney Ponson. But now, more than ever, we see the Dutch infiltrating Major League Baseball and making their mark among the best players in the game.

    From Andrelton Simmons' brilliant defense for the Atlanta Braves to Roger Bernadina's blazing speed for the Philadelphia Phillies, and a handful of promising prospects in the minor leagues, the future belongs to the Netherlands and its young stars.

    Here, we rank the 10 best current players from the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Major League Baseball.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com or Nippon Professional Baseball's official website.

10. Jair Jurrjens

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    Birthplace: Santa Maria, Curacao

    MLB Affiliation: Detroit Tigers

    Remember him? Jair Jurrjens looked like a budding superstar with the Atlanta Braves a few years back, but injuries and poor performance forced him back to the minors. Now, Jurrjens is back with the Detroit Tigers, who originally signed him in 2003.

    In 23 starts between the Triple-A teams for the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles in 2013, Jurrjens went 7-10 with a 4.57 ERA. At just 27 years old, there is plenty of hope for Jurrjens to return to his stellar form and become a good starter in the major leagues again.

9. Wladimir Balentien

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    Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao

    MLB Affiliation: N/A (Yakult Swallows, Japan)

    Wladimir Balentien was originally signed in 2000 by the Seattle Mariners and played a few seasons with them before getting traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 2009. Balentien never produced with either team but also never got a full shot, only playing a career high of 96 games.

    In 130 games in Japan this year, the 29-year-old Balentien put up astounding numbers. He hit .330 with 60 home runs, 131 RBI and a 1.234 on-base plus slugging percentage. If that doesn't earn the outfielder another shot in the major leagues, I don't know what will.

8. Andruw Jones

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    Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao

    MLB Affiliate: (N/A) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 

    Andruw Jones was a revelation when he came up with the Atlanta Braves in 1996. The five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove outfielder has fallen on hard times over the last five or so years of his big league career, but he remains the most famous Dutch hitter of all time, with 434 career major league homers.

    For the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan this year, Jones hit .243 with 26 homers and 94 RBI in 143 games. At age 36, a comeback to Major League Baseball is unlikely for Jones, but he did hit 14 home runs for the New York Yankees a season ago, so a team desperate for power off the bench could take a flier.

7. Jonathan Schoop

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    Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao

    MLB Affiliate: Baltimore Orioles

    Jonathan Schoop has been a highly regarded prospect around baseball ever since signing with the Orioles in 2008. He is definitely part of the future infield in Baltimore and finally got a taste of big league action in 2013, when he hit .286 in 14 at-bats with one home run.

    Because Schoop just turned 22 on Oct. 16, he is an extremely valuable chip for the Orioles. They project him to play second base for them in the future and to add to an already-potent lineup that includes superstars like Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones.

6. Roger Bernadina

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    Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao

    MLB Affiliate: Philadelphia Phillies

    Before a midseason trade to the Phillies, Roger Bernadina spent his entire career with the Washington Nationals, who signed him in 2001 when they were still the Montreal Expos. Though Bernadina hasn't yet reached his full potential in the big leagues, he's made an impact every year in one way or another.

    In 2010, it was with his power—11 homers and 47 RBI in 134 games, despite being known more for his speed. From 2010-2012, it was those legs, as he compiled at least 15 stolen bases each year and was never caught more than three times. Bernadina is entering his prime and will make a good fourth outfielder for the Phillies next season.

5. Didi Gregorius

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    Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands

    MLB Affiliate: Arizona Diamondbacks

    Though he's fifth on this list, Didi Gregorius could very well become the best player of the bunch when all is said and done. After being signed by the Cincinnati Reds, Gregorius was traded away to the Diamondbacks, where he became the team's primary shortstop in 2013.

    In 103 games, Gregorius hit just .252 with seven homers and 28 RBI, but flashed brilliant potential both offensively and defensively throughout the season. He has a lot of power for a smaller hitter and made some eye-popping plays at shortstop. He is the future of the Diamondbacks infield.

4. Xander Bogaerts

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    BirthplaceOranjestad, Aruba

    MLB Affiliation: Boston Red Sox

    Not only is the 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts the top-ranked prospect for one of the best teams in baseball, but he's also been a key contributor to its run to the World Series this season. After coming up and hitting .250 in 18 games down the stretch, he stayed on the postseason roster and has been a valuable addition on both sides of the ball.

    So far, Bogaerts has 18 at-bats in the playoffs in which he's smashed three doubles and driven in a key RBI with a sacrifice fly. He will continue to play a big role for the Sox in the World Series and has an extremely bright future ahead of him as the franchise's third baseman.

3. Jurickson Profar

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    Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao

    MLB Affiliate: Texas Rangers

    Perhaps the best all-around minor league player in recent memory, Jurickson Profar finally burst onto the scene in late 2012 with the Rangers and hit a home run in his first career at-bat. In 85 games in 2013, Profar struggled in Texas with a .234 average.

    There is no doubt that Profar is as talented and versatile (he started games in the outfield, at second base, shortstop, third base and designated hitter for the Rangers this season) as they come. At just 20 years of age, Profar is the future of baseball and the pride of Curacao.

2. Kenley Jansen

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    Birthplace: Willemstad, Curacao

    MLB Affiliate: Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers signed the 6'5", 260-pound Kenley Jansen as a catcher in 2004 but converted him to a pitcher. That turned out to be a very smart move. Jansen, who can hit high 90s on the radar gun and has the most devastating cutter in baseball now that Mariano Rivera has retired, blossomed into one of the most dominant closers in the game in 2013.

    Jansen, who is 26 years old and signed through 2017, should provide the type of shutdown presence in the ninth inning for the Dodgers that every contender needs. On the year, despite only closing from July and on, Jansen saved 28 games and had a 1.88 ERA while striking out an amazing 111 batters versus 18 walks.

1. Andrelton Simmons

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    Birthplace: Mundo Nobo, Curacao

    MLB Affiliate: Atlanta Braves

    The 24-year-old shortstop has been passionately nicknamed "Simba" by his loyal Braves fans, but he very well may become king someday. Simmons smacked 17 homers and notched 59 RBI this season but had a rough batting average of .248 in his first full big league season.

    None of that matters when you play defense the way Simmons does. He is the no-brainer winner for a Gold Glove award at shortstop in 2013 and could become the first baseball player ever to win Dutch Athlete of the Year honors. There is no more overall promising future among baseball players from the Netherlands than Simmons.

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