JTA — The 2023 MLB season is upon us, and it could be a historic year for Jews in professional baseball.
Last year, 17 Jewish players appeared in a game – probably a record. This season, the number could be even higher.
Among the Jewish players in the game this year are stars like Max Fried and Alex Bregman, rising major league talent like Harrison Bader and Dean Kremer, and a great wave of minor league prospects on the fringes. great gentlemen
With the dramatic World Baseball Classic over, there are plenty of stories for Jewish fans to keep an eye on, including several pairs of Jewish teammates — and even a possible trio.
Here’s a complete guide to every Jewish player to watch in 2023.
The big leaguers
- Max Fried, Atlanta Braves, starting pitcher: Fried is arguably the best Jewish player in baseball – and one of the best pitchers, period. Fried was an All-Star for the first time last season, finished second for the National League Cy Young award and has won three consecutive Gold Gloves for his defense. The Los Angeles native grew up idolizing fellow Jewish cleric Sandy Koufax.
- Alex Bregman, Houston Astros, third baseman: Bregman returned to form in 2022, hitting 23 home runs with 93 runs batted in as the Astros won the World Series. The two-time All-Star has become one of the best postseason hitters of his generation, setting all-time records for most home runs and RBIs among third basemen. Bregman was an active member of the Houston Jewish community.
- Joc Peter, San Francisco Giants, outfielder: Pederson is entering his second season playing for manager Gabe Kapler’s Giants. Last year was his best since 2019, when he hit 23 home runs, a .274 batting average and his second career All-Star selection. Pederson played for Team Israel in the 2023 WBC and even helped recruit other Jewish major leaguers to the team.
- Harrison Bader, New York Yankees, outfielder: Bader will likely begin his first full season in New York on the injured list – injuries that have kept him from playing for Team Israel, which he had promised to do. In parts of six seasons in the major leagues, he spent almost entirely in St. Louis, Bader is known for his elite defense in the outfield – he won a Gold Glove in 2021 – and last fall became a breakout star for the Yankees in the playoffs. Bader’s father, who is Jewish, told the Forward that his son is considering a formal conversion to Judaism.
- Dean Kremer, Baltimore Orioles, starting pitcher: Born in California to Israeli parents, Kremer was the first Israeli drafted into the MLB. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency during the WBC that Israel is “like another home.” Kremer was very good for Baltimore in 2022, posting a 3.32 earned run average (ERA) in 21 starts – highlighted by a complete game shutout against Bregman’s Astros in September.
- Roy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers, first baseman: Tellez has the most power of any Jewish player, hitting 35 home runs in 2022. In one game in May, Tellez hit two home runs on his way to a historic 8-RBI game for the Brewers. Tellez, who has a Jewish mother and a father of Mexican heritage, considered playing for Israel in the WBC but chose to represent Mexico.
- Eli Morgan, Cleveland Cavaliers, relief pitcher: Last year was Morgan’s first season in relief, and it seemed like the right move for the 26-year-old righty. Morgan appeared in 50 games for Cleveland, posting a 3.38 ERA – although his first half (2.83 ERA) was much stronger than his second half (4.26 ERA). Morgan originally planned to play for Israel in the WBC but ultimately did not make the team.
- Garrett Stubbs, Philadelphia Phillies, catcher: Stubbs played in 46 games for the Phillies as a backup behind JT Realmuto, the best catcher in baseball. Stubbs delivered the game-winning hit in Israel’s WBC singles victory, playing third base for the first time, and has already said he will play for Israel again in 2026. (His younger brother CJ is a catcher in the Astros system and replaced Garrett on Team Israel after an injury earlier this month.)
- Richard Bleier, Boston Red Sox, relief pitcher: After not making it to the major leagues until he was 29, Bleier blossomed into a reliable reliever over seven MLB seasons, with a career ERA of 3.06. Bleier was traded to Chaim Bloom’s Red Sox last offseason after two years in Miami — where his most famous (and infamous) moment was three at-bats last year. Bleier tried out for Israel in the 2023 WBC.
- Jake bird, Colorado Rockies, relief pitcher: Bird made his MLB debut last summer and would pitch in 38 games for the Rockies out of the bullpen. Bird was originally on the WBC Israel roster but dropped out at the last minute due to injury.
- Zack Weiss, Los Angeles Angels, relief pitcher: Weiss debuted in 2018, but it didn’t go well: he allowed four runs, including two home runs, without recording a record. That meant his earned run average was – and this is true – infinite. Four years later, Weiss made it back to the big leagues with the Angels, appearing in 12 games with a more respectable 3.38 ERA. After a strong stint with Israel in the WBC, Weiss is expected to factor into the Angels’ bullpen this season, although he may start the season in the minor leagues. Weiss has talked about attending Rosh Hashanah services as a minor in Montana.
- Dalton Guthrie, Philadelphia Phillies, utility player: Guthrie is the latest Jewish baseball player to make his debut, joining the Phillies in September. He played in 14 games for the National League champions, and even appeared in a postseason game. Guthrie is the son of former MLB pitcher Mark Guthrie, who played for eight teams over a 15-year career.
- Scott Effross, New York Yankees, relief pitcher: Effross will likely miss all of 2023 after undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (known as Tommy John surgery). Before his injury, Effross, who wears a Star of David necklace on the mound, was excellent for the Chicago Cubs and Yankees last year, with a 2.54 ERA in 60 games. Effross would have also played for Israel had he not been injured.
- Jared Shuster, Atlanta Braves, starting pitcher: Shuster was the top prospect in the Atlanta organization, and he had a great Spring Training. He secured the final spot in the Braves rotation to start 2023. He was a first-round draft pick in 2020 and played in the MLB Futures Game last year.
(Also worth noting: Chicago White Sox ace Dylan Cease, the 2022 American League Cy Young runner-up, does not identify as Jewish but was on Israel’s preliminary roster of eligible players for the 2023 WBC.)
Several Jewish players are on the verge of breaking into the big leagues – including a few who could even make Opening Day rosters.
- Matt Mervis, Chicago Cubs, first baseman: Mervis played for Israel in the WBC and although he starts the season in the minors, he is almost certain to be on the big league team this season. The Washington, DC, native belted 36 runs in the minors last year, hitting .309 with 119 runs batted in and rising through the Cubs’ system at a remarkable pace.
- Zack Gelof, Oakland Athletics, second baseman: Another player from Team Israel, Gelof starts the season in the minors but is expected to make his debut this year. The 23-year-old is Oakland’s No. 1 ranked prospect. 3 and was a second-round pick in the 2021 draft. (His younger brother, Jake, currently plays at the University of Virginia and is viewed as a potential first-round pick this year.)
- Spencer Horwitz, Toronto Blue Jays, outfielder: Horwitz played with Gelof and Mervis in the WBC, and will also begin 2023 in the minors. But the 25-year-old Maryland native is a candidate to break into the big leagues at some point this season as depth for the loaded Blue Jays.
Another minor leaguer with MLB experience
- Kevin’s Column, Atlanta Braves, outfielder: The MLB veteran signed a minor league contract with the Braves last season and has a chance to earn a spot on Atlanta’s bench entering the year. Pilar has embraced her status as a Jewish baseball player.
- Jake Fishman, Oakland Athletics, relief pitcher: The Team Israel pitcher made his MLB debut with (who else) the Marlins last season, and 2023 begins at the Triple-A level with Gelof. It could be called up as bullpen depth.
- Bubby Rossman, New York Mets, relief pitcher: Rossman made his debut last year with the Phillies, and it didn’t go well either. But after a strong stretch with Team Israel, Rossman begins the year in the New York Mets system. Despite his Yiddish-sounding name, Rossman is only 30.
- Ryan Sheriff, Boston Red Sox, relief pitcher: Sheriff has four years of Major League experience with the Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays. He signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox last season.
- Kenny Rosenberg, Los Angeles Angels, relief pitcher: Rosenberg made his debut for the Angels last April and appeared in three games during the season. He starts the year in the minors but has a shot to be called back up as bullpen depth.
- Robert Stock, Milwaukee Brewers, starting pitcher: Four MLB teams have been stationed in four seasons, plus a year in the Korean professional league last year. Stock went up for Israel in 2023 and will begin the season in Triple-A.