ON-FIELD’S BEST: IBL PLAYER POLL
While the 2020 Intercounty Baseball League season hangs in the balance due to the entire world being put on pause, the pandemic can't prevent us from shining a spotlight on the spectacular performances players put on over the last season.
As part of the IBL’s On-Field’s Best Series, we checked in with 55 players from across the IBL and asked them who this past season’s absolute best were in a ton of different categories. We also picked their brains about future expansion, the potential IBL Hall of Fame, and more.
There were a few rules, however, largely to keep things as fair as possible. Participating players could not vote for themselves, for a current IBL teammate or coach, or their own team for the few franchise-specific questions that came up.
Players could submit as many as three names max for anyone question if they felt a player (or other response depending on the category) was deserving. Most did.
Responses were 100% anonymous, allowing players to vote freely without the worry of being chirped for their honest opinions unless they themselves decided to publicizes that they took part of course.
A range of players were included too: American players, Canadian players, Dominican players, pitchers, players that have played more than a decade, those that have played less than a decade, and even a handful of rookies. We tried our best to ensure the pool of players taking part represented the IBL’s current locker-room landscape as closely as possible.
So, below are names you’d expect, some that will surprise you, those that are regularly celebrated, and many that are long overdue for recognition. Agree, disagree, or otherwise, the players in the league have spoken (we also mentioned the "next three" top vote-getters listed in order of votes received). Here is the IBL Player Poll…
Who was 2019’s Best Offensive Player (Most Lethal at the plate)
Winner: Jordan Castaldo (Barrie)
Next Three: Sean Reilly (Guelph), Justin Gideon (Hamilton), Tanner Nivins (Kitchener)
Jordan Castaldo on over 60% of possible player ballots and had a full 26 votes more than the next nearest player, Guelph’s Sean Reilly. Castaldo recorded a .453 average with fifteen home runs and forty-seven RBI, earning the IBL’s Triple Crown honour. He finished top of the league in several offensive categories and helped the Barrie Baycats finish first in the regular season. There is no surprise that his peers rated him so high above the rest of the players.
Who was 2019’s best defensive player?
Winner: Yorbis Borroto (Kitchener)
Next Three: Wilson Soriano (Welland), Ryan Spataro (Barrie), Justin Gideon (Hamilton)
As defensively outstanding as all the players are above, this one wasn’t even close. Yorbis Borroto, whose name appears in the IBL Player Poll more than anyone else, was again, a defensive dynamo this year. Kitchener’s Borrato is a freak of an athlete, is as agile and he is smart and has virtually all the other required tools to be the league’s most complete defensive package. And while appreciated for his defensive ability in this question, he was a legitimate contender in the offensive category too.
Who was 2019’s best Starting Pitcher?
Winner: Euclides Leyer (Welland)
Next Three: Adrian Salcedo (Barrie), Jasvir Rakkar (Kitchener), Juliandry Higuera (London)
We have some amazing pitching in the IBL but Euclides Leyer was regarded as last season's most lethal ace by the players poll. Recording a 2.57 ERA, Leyer has some serious power and movement on the bump. The Dominican talent had his best IBL season to date in 2019 and ended the season with a 7-2 record.
Who was 2019’s best Closing Pitcher?
Winner: Kelvin Pichardo (Hamilton)
Next Three: Miguel Lahera (Kitchener), Jon Fitzsimmoms (London), Adam Hawes (Barrie)
When it comes to shutting games down, look no further than Santiago, DR’s own Pichardo. A San Francisco Giants prospect recorded 46 strikeouts over 22.2 innings of work closing down the house.
Who is the Fastest Player in the IBL?
Winner: Ryan Santos (Toronto)
Next Three: Ryan Spataro (Barrie), Justin Gideon (Hamilton), DeAndre Asbury-Heath (Welland)
Those base paths get some use in the IBL and no one is quicker going 90 feet then Toronto’s Ryan Santos. The king of stolen bases with 24 bags in 2019, I would not want to be behind the dish when this guy takes off. In 2019, Santos was only caught stealing four times (must have been tired).
Who was last season's Top Import Player?
Winner: Euclides Leyer (Welland)
Next Three: Starlin Rodriguez (Barrie), Yorbis Borrato (Kitchener), Adrian Salcedo (Barrie)
Again, what more can we say about this guy that hasn’t been already said. Imports makeup only 18% of IBL rosters and are typically some of the top talent in the IBL. We would tend to agree that Euclides is at the top of the list.
Who was the Top Field Manager?
Winner: Angus Roy (Barrie)
Next Three: Luke Baker (Kitchener), Dean Castelli (Hamilton), Brian Essery (Welland)
No surprise here. This guy has led the Baycats to six straight championships, really what more do you need to say? Angus knows how to get the most out of his players and more importantly how to keep the core of your team together year after year. I am sure he will be missed in Barrie but new horizons bloom for that franchise.
If you could sign with one team in the IBL, where would you want to go?
Winner: Guelph Royals
Next Three: Barrie Baycats, Toronto Maple Leafs, Kitchener Panthers
A new era, beautiful ballpark, easy travel, and the chance to play alongside Sean Reilly doesn’t seem too bad, huh? It feels a bit odd for players to want (if they “had to” of course, as some players felt weird answering this one) to play for a franchise in just their second season since going dark, but with an impressive roster, strong new coach, and proven front-office leadership, playing baseball in the Royal City actually sounds pretty good.
If you could pick the next IBL expansion city, where would you put a franchise?
Next Three: Windsor, Oshawa, Mississauga
Stratford garnered the most attention in the player poll. With its rich IBL history with the Hillers and the fact that the IBL almost returned to the city not so long ago could be a good reason for the votes. The 1,000 seat National Stadium might need a little bit of tender love and care. Being built in 1920 and renovated in 1964, it housed the IBL’s Hillers, Nationals, and Storm from 1919 to 2008 with some years without a club.
If the IBL started a Hall of Fame, who would you induct first?
Winner: Paul Spoljaric
Next Three: Fergie Jenkins, Jamie Corke, Wayne Forman
One of the top pitchers to ever grace an IBL mound, Spoljaric was a starting pitcher with the Barrie Baycats of the Intercounty Baseball League. He signed with them in December 2007 and was a starting pitcher for the 2008 IBL season. Spoljaric also spent the previous six IBL seasons as a starting pitcher with the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Maple Leafs, he won two IBL Championships in 2002 and 2007.
What IBL player has the strongest social media game?
Winner: Stevie Lewis (Barrie)
Next Three: Braden Farrington (London), Grant Arnold (Hamilton), Glenn Jackson (Barrie)
Best Stadium in the IBL?
Winner: Labatt Park (London)
Next Three: Welland Stadium (Welland), Coates Stadium (Barrie), Arnold Anderson Stadium (Brantford)
Maybe it’s the picturesque skyline beyond the outfield wall or the fact it is the oldest continually used ballpark in the world, Labbatt is a cathedral to baseball and I have always said even if you don’t like baseball, you would be mesmerized by its beauty.
Best Atmosphere in the IBL?
Winner: Welland Stadium (Welland)
Next Three: Labatt Park (London), Coates Stadium (Barrie), Christie Pits (Toronto)
Is it the baseball hungry fan base or the crazy mid-inning shenanigans or the league's second-best stadium? Maybe it's all those things in one that make Welland Stadium one of the best atmospheres to play in the IBL. In only its first season in IBL play, the Jackfish managed to average 836 crazy fans per game that undoubtedly let the opposing teams know they were there.
Best Fans (Loudest, Passionate, Loyal)
Winner: London Majors
Next Three: Toronto Maple Leafs, Welland Jackfish, Barrie Baycats
There is no doubt that the London Majors have established one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in the IBL. Leading the IBL’s attendance each season in recent memory, the Majors fans are the most vocal on all social media platforms and in their community. Maybe it’s a London thing as the Knights and Lightning both also boast impressive fan bases in their respective leagues.
Best Playing Surface
Winner: Labatt Park (London)
Next Three: Coates Stadium (Barrie), Welland Stadium (Welland), Hastings Stadium (Guelph)
This goes hand in hand with the best stadium but the City of London’s staff does one of the best jobs in the league in keeping their playing field up to standard, needless to say, they are pros.
What is the perfect number of games in a season?
This has long been a debate inside the IBL. As some teams would like to play more games and some teams like the amount the way it is, this question was actually more split with 45% of players saying 36 was the right number and 50% of the players saying they would like more baseball. Only issues with more baseball would the need to shorten the postseason, but who doesn’t love some good postseason ball?