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2023 MLB season: Which Canadian baseball players stood out?

The Toronto Blue Jays were not able to advance beyond the wild card round this year but the team and fans reminded MLB how passionate they are about baseball in the biggest Canadian market.

When the Blue Jays are in a big game, there is arguably no louder, more electric stadium in baseball. 

Canada has continued to churn out solid baseball talent over the years. Larry Walker, Justin Morneau and Joey Votto have been the stalwart names associated with Canadian born Major League Baseball players for decades.

But there is a newer wave of MLB talent from north of the border that are helping foster the continued growth of the sport in Canada.

Here is a list of notable current Canadian born Major Leaguers and a brief rundown on why they are notable.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Toronto Blue Jays)

There have not been many higher touted prospects in recent memory than Vladdy. Of course, he comes from Hall of Fame lineage and was born in Montreal while his dad played for the Expos, before they became the Washington Nationals.

Guerrero Jr.'s minor league highlights were all over social media well before he ever got a sniff in the big leagues.

At the ripe age of 24, he is a three-time All Star and was the MVP runner-up in 2021. There is still no telling how high his ceiling is.

Josh Naylor (Cleveland Guardians)

The Guardians are always known for their pitching and not exactly any kind of offensive prowess. Josh Naylor is a refreshing change as he is a bright spot in Cleveland’s lineup.

He had a career year in 2023 with 17 home runs and 97 RBI’s while hitting .308 and having an .842 OPS. Naylor did everything he could to will the Guardians win low-scoring games.

There just was not enough juice around him. At 26 years old, Mississauga native Naylor is someone the Guardians can build around in that lineup and we can expect to see him continue to produce in the AL Central.

Tyler O’Neill (St. Louis Cardinals)

Whenever Tyler O’Neill is on the field, he shows flashes of legitimate superstardom. The problem is in his six-year career, he has not spent near enough time on the field due to injuries.

O’Neill, now 28 years old, is a great outfielder, is very fast, and can thump the baseball with the likes of any other power hitter in the sport. Again, that's when he is on the field.

O’Neill played just 72 games and may be on the trading block based on the direction the Cardinals want to take their team after a brutal 71-91 year. If healthy, O’Neill could be a dark horse MVP candidate regardless of who he plays for - he proved that in 2021 when he finished eighth in the award's voting.

James Paxton (Boston Red Sox)

At 34 years old, James Paxton has had a very good 10-year career. Although he has slipped a little bit lately, he showed earlier this season he still has something to give to a contending team should his services be sought.

Paxton’s 162-game averages over 10 years are a .627 winning percentage and 3.69 ERA with 185 innings pitched.

If a team is in need of a 4th or 5th reliable, innings-eating starter, they can do a lot worse than James Paxton.

Michael Soroka (Atlanta Braves)

As a highly-touted pitching prospect for the Braves, there was plenty of hype around Michael Soroka in his first full season in 2019.

He lived up to it as he tallied a 13-4 record and 2.68 ERA in 174.2 innings pitched across 29 starts. With that, he earned an All-Star selection, Rookie of the Year runner-up, and a top-6 Cy Young vote.

Unfortunately, he has just nine starts since that season as he missed the entire 2021 and 2022 seasons with an Achilles tendon injury, as well as nearly the entire 2023 season.

Soroka was unremarkable in six starts in 2023 but remains a question mark in terms of how high his ceiling really is. Next year will be a big one for the 26-year-old.

Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds)

It is crazy to think that a player who debuted in 2007 in still in MLB. But here is Joey Votto.

In his age 39 season in 2023, Votto hit 14 home runs and had 38 RBI’s. He had a stellar 2021 with 36 home runs and 99 RBI, but naturally he has shown his age since then.

As far as any Reds fan is concerned, he should have a lifetime contract with the Reds as long as he wants to suit up.

Votto has been everything a fanbase could ask for since his debut. He never left the Reds even though he could have joined better teams and earned more money. Despite a tough last season and mystery ahead, Votto will be among the best Canadian born MLB players ever.

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