WBC Roster Preview: Czech Republic Ready To Play the Underdog
The Czech Republic heads to the World Baseball Classic for the first time in history, where they'll compete in a tough Pool B.
For the first time in history, the Czech Republic will send a team to the World Baseball Classic. While they didn’t enter the first two tournaments in 2006 and 2009, they failed to qualify for the 2013 and 2017 events before finally securing their spot in the 2023 tournament.
The Czech team qualified for this year’s tournament after going 3-1 in the qualifying event in Regensburg, Germany last September. They dropped their opening game to Spain by a score of 21-7 before winning three in a row, with their third and final win being a narrow 3-1 victory over the same team that crushed them in their opening contest.
The Czech Republic’s WBC roster will be made up of a ton of homegrown talent, as the club competes in Pool B alongside Japan, Korea, Australia, and China. Their tournament will begin on March 9th in Tokyo, Japan. The team is made up mainly of players who suit up in the Czech Extraliga baseball league, with players holding regular day jobs alongside their baseball careers. Manager Pavel Chadim, a known figure in the Extraliga, will lead them.
Position Players for the Czech Republic
Martin Cervenka and Daniel Vavrusa
Behind the plate for the Czech Republic will be Martin Cervenka and Daniel Vavrusa, with Cervenka likely getting most of the reps during the WBC.
Cervenka originally signed with Cleveland back in 2011, working his way through the minor leagues and eventually making it to Triple-A with the Baltimore Orioles organization in 2019. He spent the 2021 season in Triple-A for the Mets and eventually moved to the Extraliga, joining Eagles Praha. He led the Extraliga last season in hits (64), home runs (15), and RBI (49). During the qualifiers, Cervenka went 6-for-16 with two home runs, leading the team in batting average and RBI (5).
Vavrusa spent parts of two seasons in the Yankees Dominican Summer League in 2011 and 2012 and has been a member of the Kotlářka Praha since 2011. He retired in early 2021 but has since returned to play in the WBC.
William Escala, Jakub Hajtmar, Jakub Kubica, Vojtech Mensik, Milan Prokop, Filip Smola, Eric Sogard, and Petr Zyma
One of the top names to watch on the Czech Republic roster is Eric Sogard, who owns a career .246/.313/.338 slash line with 187 RBI and a .651 OPS through 11 seasons in the big leagues. He last played in 2021 with the Chicago Cubs but was DFA’d and released in late July of that year. Sogard was not on the squad during the qualifying tournament.
Sogard and William Escala were both born in the United States, making them the only position players on the squad born outside of the Czech Republic. Escala spent the 2022 season in Independant Ball with Sussex County.
The remainder of the roster is a mix of MiLB and Extraliga talent. Mensik spent last season with the Angels’ Single-A affiliate, while a majority of the infield played stateside for various college programs throughout their careers. Mensik led the infielders in batting average during the qualifying tournament (.357) and posted a team-high five walks.
Marek Chlup, Arnost Dubovy, Jakub Grepl, Marek Krejcirik, Matej Mensik, and Martin Muzik
Looking at the outfield group, the six players listed are mostly homegrown. Marek Chlup will be one player to watch, as the outfielder posted a .390/.488/.662 with 12 home runs, 75 RBI, and a 1.150 OPS with the North Greenville University Crusaders (DII). The right fielder went 6-for-17 in the qualifying tournament, adding two home runs and four RBI while scoring three runs of his own.
Pitchers for the Czech Republic
Jeff Barto, Filip Capka, Tomas Duffek, Lukas Ercoli, Lukas Hlouch, Michal Kovala, David Mergans, Marek Minarik, Jan Novak, Daniel Padysak, Ondrej Satoria, Martin Schneider, Jan Tomek, and Boris Vecerka
Heading to the rotation will likely be Filip Capka, Lukas Ercoli, and Tomas Duffek, who led the Extraliga in innings pitched with 101.1 IP, 98.1 IP, and 92.1 IP, respectively. Satoria could also factor into the rotation after pitching to a 3.57 ERA last season, but Ercoli had the best campaign of the group, posting a 2.29 ERA with 104 strikeouts. He sat just behind Capka (106) in third place on the strikeout leaderboards.
The Czech team could also repeat what they did in the qualifying tournament, where Ercoli, Minarik, Padysak, and Schneider all made starts, but some of them also earned reps in the bullpen throughout the tournament.
Schneider pitched a gem against Spain to clinch the WBC spot (6.1 innings with one earned run), while Minarik had a rough start against Spain in the first game but found a rhythm in the bullpen during game four. Ercoli went four innings against France in his only outing of the tournament, allowing just three hits and zero earned runs.