Frelick and Team Italy Start Strong in 2023 WBC
Sal Frelick was a hero in the early hours of Thursday morning (CST) as Team Italy defeated Team Cuba 6-3 in 10 innings. The Brewers #2 prospect played no small part in deciding the game, going 1-5 with a stolen base and scoring twice, including the go-ahead run in the 10th inning. Frelick’s speed and heads-up baserunning was on full display when it mattered most. Tied in the 10th inning, Italy teammate John Valente (Detroit Tigers organization) showed bunt. Frelick capitalized on the drawn-in infield and swiped 3rd base without a throw. Valente would single three pitches later, bringing in Frelick for the go-ahead run en route to victory.
(Sal Frelick highlight video from 3-9-2023 Team Italy vs. Team Cuba in the 2023 WBC; courtesy MLB.com)
Why Frelick’s WBC performance matters for the Brewers
While Frelick is away from the rest of the Brewers organization in Arizona, his playing time with Team Italy is no less important. In fact, given the stage of the WBC, it could be argued that positive results in the WBC would hold more significance than positive results in spring training. Frelick is already on the door of making the big league roster, and a great showing on the world stage could push him over the edge for a 2023 Opening Day debut.
As it stands now, the Brewers will be without Tyrone Taylor roughly for the first month of the season. Taylor was projected as the starting right fielder for the Brewers to start the season, but his injury prompted the Brewers to sign out fielder Tyler Naquin to a minor league deal. The biggest question looming for Milwaukee is who will be in right field on Opening Day: Frelick or Naquin? Another potential candidate in prospect Joey Wiemer likely needs a bit more polishing before being promoted to the Major Leagues.
Tyrone Taylor returned to Milwaukee for a PRP injection in his right elbow, Craig Counsell said. He’ll likely miss the first month of the season.
— Sophia Minnaert (@SophiaMinnaert) March 1, 2023
If Frelick has a great showing in the WBC, it makes the decision to keep him back even more difficult for the front office. The Brewers in recent years have shown great reluctance to start the service time clock with top prospects to avoid gaining Super 2 status and becoming arbitration eligible a year sooner than normal. Keston Hiura and Garrett Mitchell both were managed such that they would not accrue service time to reach Super 2 status. However, under the updated CBA teams now have incentives to promote young players and can be compensated with additional draft picks.
Furthermore, looking at the recent arbitration disaster between the Brewers front office and 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, it is just as easy to imagine Frelick being treated similarly, despite the benefits of bringing him up to the majors when he is ready.
Regardless, Sal Frelick is on the short list of names Brewers fans will become used to in the near-future and his performance in the WBC could determine how soon he becomes the next Brewers top prospect to hit the big league club.
Frelick and Team Italy will play twice on Friday (times in CST): 5AM vs Chinese Taipei and 10PM vs Panama (Tubi and FS1, respectively).
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