Commentary

Dutch aren't filled with a lot of top talent

Despite big wins over the Dominican Republic, Netherlands' roster not at all loaded

Originally Published: March 11, 2009
By Steve Phillips | ESPN

Even though the Netherlands pulled off one of the most dramatic upsets in international sports history, it doesn't necessarily mean that its players will see additional opportunities to become major leaguers. The Dutch already have 10 players on their 28-man roster who are currently affiliated with big league clubs.

[+] EnlargeGene Kingsale
Christophe Elise/Icon SMIGene Kingsale, the Netherlands' leadoff hitter, last played in the majors for the Tigers in 2003.

Yes, only one of those players, Rick VandenHurk of the Florida Marlins, played in the majors last season. Still, I do not expect any of their unsigned players, with the possible exception of former big leaguer Sidney Ponson, to get a contract offer based on their play at the World Baseball Classic.

They have a mix of young guys and older Dutch pros. For example, one of their key players is Rob Cordemans, a 34-year-old pitcher who has played in more than 75 international games. He's a soft-tossing right-hander who isn't going to make any waves in the U.S. Back in 2006, the Atlanta Braves signed Australian pitcher Pete Moylan after his play in the WBC, but I don't see any unsigned guys like him on this Netherlands team.

But there are some interesting major league prospects among the 10 players who already have signed deals. Of those guys, I like VandenHurk, a right-hander, the most. He has a really great arm and outstanding stuff, and he's a tremendous competitor on the mound. He's a little too tough on himself sometimes. I think if he knew how good he really is, he could fulfill his potential. I project him as a possible No. 3 starter in the major leagues someday.

I also really like Tom Stuifbergen, a member of the Minnesota Twins' organization. He was injured last year and hasn't pitched higher than the Class A level, but he has good size and the potential to become a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter in the majors.

Another player who has stood out in the WBC has been Kenley Jansen, a switch-hitting catcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization. He hasn't hit much in his professional career and I'm not sure he ever will, but his arm strength alone gives him a chance to become a backup catcher in the majors. I would also strongly consider converting him to the mound because with his size and arm strength he has a chance to become an outstanding pitcher. He has an absolute gun for an arm.

Greg Halman is someone who intrigues me. He's a 21-year-old outfielder in the Seattle Mariners' organization. Last season between Class A and Double-A he hit 29 home runs and stole 31 bases. He runs well for a big guy (6-foot-4) and has the potential to be a very good offensive outfielder. He has been overmatched by the more experienced pitching in the WBC, but his tools are hard to deny.

One other kid who has really stood out and has been one of the most interesting players in Pool D is Juan Carlos Sulbaran, a right-handed pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds' organization. He signed with the Reds out of high school following the 2008 Beijing Olympics and hasn't participated in professional baseball yet. He came into the Netherlands' game against Puerto Rico on Monday and showed poise, presence and outstanding stuff for a 19-year-old. He has the size (6-foot-3) and arm strength to grow into a pitcher who can impact either the front of the game or the end of the game.

There is a small handful of other players on the Netherlands' roster who have an outside chance at making a big league roster someday. Alexander Smit, a left-handed pitcher in the Reds' organization, doesn't have overpowering stuff but has a chance to possibly serve as a No. 5 starter or a middle reliever. Dennis Neuman, a right-hander in the Red Sox's organization, could make the major league roster as a reliever at some point. There are a number of other guys who could make the majors as role players, including Hainley Statia. He's a Double-A shortstop in the Angels' system who has a good glove. Sharlon Schoop, who's currently in the Giants' organization, is a possible utilityman.

Guys like Ponson, Randall Simon and Gene Kingsale, who were kind of auditioning for jobs, have their best days behind them. I don't think any of the veteran players have overwhelmed anyone with their play in the WBC. Despite the thrilling elimination of the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands hasn't really done anything offensively so far in the tournament. The Dutch have scored some unearned runs and scratched and pieced things together. It really is remarkable that they beat the Dominican Republic twice, but they didn't do it with a roster of young phenoms who have scouts scratching their heads and wondering how they missed them. The Dominican hitters got themselves out a lot of the time. The Dutch team made pitches when it needed to, but didn't have the most extraordinary stuff.

The Dominican lineup is full of big league hitters, and veterans get their timing early in the season off the fastball and then adjust to off-speed stuff. A lot of the pitchers on the Netherlands' roster don't throw hard, but can roll the breaking ball in there or throw a changeup that can keep hitters off balance just enough. Because they've rarely trailed in games so far it has put pressure on opposing hitters to try to do too much and a lot of guys chased pitches out of the zone and in the dirt. That has benefited the Netherlands a great deal.

Still, I think this is a huge, huge boost for baseball in the Netherlands. Victories like this have an exponential impact on the growth of baseball in countries where the game has a lot of room to grow. Kids will be pretending to be Leon Boyd shutting down David Ortiz or Eugene Kingsale stepping up to the plate, just like generations of American kids have done with their own heroes. It will be a tremendous spark for the growth and development of baseball in the Netherlands and that is a great thing for the sport.

Steve Phillips is an analyst on "Baseball Tonight" and a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

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