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WBC Preview: former Diamondbacks at the WBC (Part 1)

Ok, I swear, these will be my final articles in the WBC previews.

World Baseball Classic - Pool D - Game 1 - Italy v Mexico Photo by Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

In our first article we had a brief introduction on the World Baseball Classic and we took a look at Group A. In our second article we discussed Group B and, logically, in our third article we reviewed Group C that will play its games in Phoenix. Group D was subject in our fourth article. In the fifth article of WBC previews we took a look at the 13 confirmed Diamondbacks to play in the tournament.

In this final article we will briefly address the former Diamondbacks that will play in this tournament.

Ben DeLuzio (Italy)

Ben DeLuzio attended high school in Florida where he made a name for himself as a two-way sports player. His potential was that high that the Marlins selected him in the third round of the 2013 MLB Amateur draft, but the young right-handed batter decided to commit to FSU. He couldn’t impress in his 3 college years in Florida, nor in the Cap Cod leagues and in 2016 he signed as an undrafted amateur with the Diamondbacks.

DeLuzio played 5 seasons in the minor leagues for the Diamondbacks, from 2016 to 2021, but struck out a bit too much and didn’t walk a lot although his speed got him on base regularly. Nevertheless, a sub-par .271/.329/.458 for Reno in 2021 wasn’t enough for the Diamondbacks to add him to the 40-man roster and in the Minor league Rule 5 draft he was picked by the Cardinals.

He pretty much did the same for Memphis, the AAA affiliate of the Cardinals, as what he did in Reno, but the Cardinals did call him up in September 2022 to the big leagues, where he was used as a late inning replacement. At the end of the season he was non-tendered and signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs for the 2023 season.

He will probably start for Italy in center field.

Didi Gregorius (The Netherlands)

Last year we wrote not one but two articles on Didi’s background story. During his time in Arizona he was somewhat overshadowed by Chris Owings and was eventually traded to the New York Yankees as successor of Derek Jeter. His defence was enough to outweigh the somewhat underwhelming bat and he was a popular player in New York for five seasons.

In 2020 he was signed by the Phillies, but after a fine COVID-shortened season he had a bad 2021 season and an abysmal 2022 season, leading to the Phillies cutting him in August 2022.

Gregorius tried to boost his confidence in the Puerto Rican Winter League this off-season, but a .170/.242/.186 in 16 games will not have helped much. It is hard to see him getting a major league contract anywhere but a good showing for The Netherlands, where he will play either 1B or DH, can land him back into America.

Hensley Meulens (The Netherlands)

Hensley Meulens was the first player from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao to reach the MLB. He couldn’t live up to his prospect status during his time at the Yankees and when he made his appearances in the desert (.067/.067/.267 in 7 games) he was already forgotten by many. But his legacy was everlasting and after him many more from the tiny island would make it to the MLB.

His 1998 season with the Diamondbacks would be his last in the MLB. He played some independent baseball and in Korea and Mexico before retiring in 2002.

He immediately picked up a coaching career in the American minor leagues and in 2010 was named as hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants. He stayed with them until after the 2019 season and then served in different coaching roles with the Mets and Yankees. In 2023 he will be the new hitting coach of the Colorado Rockies.

Since 2013 he is the manager of The Netherlands’ baseball team.

Randall Delgado (Panama)

Delgado looked like a mainstay in Arizona, especially after the 2017 season, but an injury threw sand in the machine and ever since the right-hander hasn’t been able to return to the MLB. The 2018 season was his last of 6 seasons with the Diamondbacks, that he had joined in 2013 as one of a handful of players the Snakes got in the Justin Upton deal with the Atlanta Braves.

After being cut loose by Arizona in 2018, in 2019 he was briefly in the White Sox organisation for 2 months (10.80 ERA in Spring Training), pitched in independent baseball before throwing a 6.49 ERA for the Yankees AAA team.

Ever since he has been mostly absent in baseball, except for appearing in several winter leagues, but not throwing much, maybe due to continuous injuries like he suffered in his final two years in the desert (elbow, oblique, shoulder).

Humberto Mejía (Panama)

Mejía was pitching fine in the minors for Miami at Class A until COVID wrecked the Marlins’ 40-man roster in 2020 and Mejía was called up to pitch in the major leagues. He was subsequently dealt to Arizona in the Starling Marte deal.

Mejía was soon deployed in major league baseball for the Diamondbacks as well but gave up too much of everything: hits, homeruns and walks. A 7.25 ERA proved Mejía still had lots of work to do at minor league level, but couldn’t impress in AAA nor in AA.

In 2022 Mejía started the season in Reno, but after a 9.60 ERA in 15.0 innings, the Diamondbacks released the pitcher. Still just 25 years old (he will turn 26 when the WBC starts), the right-hander just recently signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets for the 2023 season.

Surely he will make a start for Panama this WBC.

Paul Goldschmidt (USA)

We can be very brief on Goldschmidt, because who doesn’t know the first baseman that was in the Diamondbacks’ organisation for 10 years? After a season that saw him achieve a career high OPS+ and an NL MVP award (and Silver Slugger and All-Star selection), the lost son returns to Phoenix and Chase Field to start at first base for the United States.

Óliver Perez (México)

We hardly missed you. Perez got out of his promised retirement didn’t go as planned although it might have been expected. The lefty reliever lasted just 4 innings and not even a month in Arizona before the Diamondbacks released the Mexican.

After that he returned to Mexico to take up his original 2022 plan of pitching in the domestic leagues. That is where he has kept his arm in shape and prepare for his final tricks at the WBC for Mexico before retiring from baseball altogether.

Taijuan Walker (México)

If there is one thing I still don’t understand, it is the Diamondbacks walking away from tendering Taijuan Walker a contract in 2019.

Walker was sent to Arizona together with Ketel Marte in exchange for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger (and Zac Curtis). At that moment he had already been in the major leagues for 4 seasons, the final two as a starter in the Mariners’ rotation.

He continued that job in the 2017 season and was one of the main contributors to the Diamondbacks’ play-off run, pitching 157.1 innings to a 3.49 ERA. He had a terrible showing in the first NLDS game against the Dodgers though, starting the game, but giving up 4 runs in just 1 inning of work.

Nevertheless, he was supposed to be a fixed name in the 2018 starting rotation until he needed TJ surgery just 3 games into the season. He returned from that by the end of the 2019 season and made a sole appearance before the Diamondbacks decided to non-tender him: the expected $5+MM was too much and a different agreement couldn’t be made.

After a work-out Walker returned to Seattle for $2MM for a shortened 2020-season and got traded to Toronto “mid”-season. It was a combined 2.70 ERA in 53.1 innings, which triggered the Mets in taking stake in Walker with a 3 year/$23MM contract. After an All-Star showing in 2021 and a good 2022 season, Walker opted out of the third year of the deal and signed a 4 year/$72MM contract with the Philadelphia Phillies for whom he will take the mound after conclusion of the WBC.