Brash, Julien, Naylor, Romano headline list of candidates for Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award

Brash, Julien, Naylor, Romano headline list of candidates for Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award

St. Marys, Ont. – With so many Canadians enjoying outstanding seasons in 2023, it will be a close competition for this year’s Tip O’Neill Award.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presents this award annually to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.

Blue Jays closer and reigning Tip O’Neill Award winner Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) followed up his superb 2022 campaign by tying his career-best with 36 saves and Seattle Mariners reliever Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) led big league pitchers in appearances with 78.

Meanwhile, Canadian position players also performed well. Despite missing more than a month with an oblique injury, Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) fell just three RBIs short of 100 and Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) set a record for most home runs by a Canadian second baseman in a major league season.

And they weren’t the only Canadians to star in the big leagues in 2023. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) belted 26 home runs for the Blue Jays, while Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) clubbed 11 for the Guardians. And Boston Red Sox teammates Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) and James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) had 10 and seven wins respectively.

Canadians were also excelling in international competitions. Zoe Hicks (Boissevain, Man.) went 6-for-9 for the Women’s National Team to help lead them to a 4-1 record at the Women’s Baseball World Cup. Meanwhile Matt Lloyd (Toronto, Ont.) was one of the top hitters for the Men’s Senior National Team, posting a .769 slugging percentage at the Pan Am Games Qualifier in June.

So, in a year with so many highlights, how do you choose which Canadian stood out the most?

That’s the dilemma the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame faces, and they would like your input to determine Canada’s top performer as they prepare to choose their 2023 James “Tip” O’Neill Award winner.

The Hall encourages you to vote for the players you think are worthy of this award by 5 p.m. E.T. on Thursday, November 23. You can e-mail your top three choices (please be clear on your first, second and third selections) to [email protected].

Fan votes will be one of the criteria the Hall will take into account when selecting the winner, which will be announced on December 7.

Here’s a summary of the prime contenders for the 2023 Tip O’Neill Award in alphabetical order. (The Hall also welcomes write-in votes for players not on this list):

Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont.)

After pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his debut for the Minnesota Twins against the Detroit Tigers on June 18, Balazovic proceeded to make 17 more big league appearances in 2023. In all, the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum posted a 4.44 ERA and struck out 17 batters in 24 innings. The 25-year-old righty also fanned 54 batters in 45 2/3 innings in 22 appearances for the Triple-A St. Paul Saints.

Tyler Black (Stouffville, Ont.)

The 20-year-old infielder split 2023 between the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers and the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, batting a combined .284 with a .417 on-base percentage (OBP) in 123 games. The Toronto Mets and Butler Prospects alum had 25 doubles, 12 triples, 18 home runs, 73 RBIs, 105 runs and 55 stolen bases. His combined 12 triples were the most in the entire affiliated minor league ranks and he also topped Brewers’ minor leaguers in runs, stolen bases and extra-base hits (55). For his efforts, he was named a Southern League All-Star and the Milwaukee Brewers co-Minor League Player of the Year.

Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.)

In his second big league season, Brash developed into a go-to late-inning reliever for the Seattle Mariners. He led major league pitchers with 78 appearances and had a 9-4 record and a 3.06 ERA. Armed with a devastating slider, he fanned 107 batters in 70 2/3 innings, good for a 13.6 strikeout-per-nine-inning rate. His 24 holds were the 11th most in the majors and he topped all Canadian pitchers in appearances and strikeouts per nine innings.

Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.)

After starting the year with a home run and four RBIs in three games for Canada at the World Baseball Classic in March, Caissie proceeded to have a breakout season with the Chicago Cubs’ Double-A Tennessee Smokies. In 120 games, he batted .289 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. He also had 31 doubles, a .399 OBP and a .918 OPS. For his efforts, he was named the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and the Cubs’ Hitting Prospect of the Year by MLB Pipeline. He was also selected to the Southern League’s All-Star Team, to the MLB All-Prospects First Team and to the Cubs Organization All-Star Team by Minor League Baseball (

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.)

The 24-year-old Blue Jays first baseman topped major leaguers born in Canada in several offensive categories, including hits (159), runs (78), home runs (26) and walks (67). He also led the Blue Jays in home runs, walks, and RBIs (94). For his efforts, he was selected to the All-Star Game, where he also won the Home Run Derby for the first time.

Zoe Hicks (Boissevain, Man.)

Hicks went 6-for-9 (.667 batting average) for the Women’s National Team to help lead them to a 4-1 record at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Ont., in August. This earned the team a berth in the finals next year. In this summer’s tournament, Hicks also had a double, three RBIs and a tournament-leading six walks. She topped the Canadian team in batting average, slugging percentage (.778) and OBP (.706). For her efforts, she was named Women’s National Team Most Valuable Player by Baseball Canada.

Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.)

After going 7-for-13 with two home runs as Canada’s leadoff hitter in the World Baseball Classic, Julien vaulted up the Twins’ prospects ranks and into the major leagues. During 109 regular season games with the Twins, Julien set a record for most home runs by a Canadian second baseman in a major league season with 16. He also topped Twins’ regulars in walks (64) and OBP (.381). His OBP was second among major league rookies and he led Canadian major leaguers in OBP and WAR (2.6). And when he belted a solo home run in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, he became the first Canadian rookie to homer in the post-season. For his efforts, he finished seventh in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Matt Lloyd (Toronto, Ont.)

Lloyd was one of the top performers for the Senior Men’s National Team in 2023. He went 4-for-13 (.308 batting average) with a double, triple, home run, four runs and three RBIs at the Pan Am Games Qualifier in Argentina in June. For his efforts, he was named the Men’s National Team Most Valuable Player by Baseball Canada. Lloyd also had a strong season with the independent American Association’s Sioux City Explorers, batting .321 with 14 home runs, 17 stolen bases  and 61 RBIs in 88 games.

Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.)

Although Naylor played five games for the Cleveland Guardians in 2022, the 2023 season was his official rookie big league campaign. Following a strong performance with Canada at the World Baseball Classic, Naylor proceeded to belt 11 home runs for the Guardians during the regular season. That set a new record for the most by a Canadian catcher in their rookie season. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum also had a .339 OBP, an .809 OPS, 30 walks and five stolen bases in 67 major league games.

Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.)

Despite missing more than a month with an oblique injury, the older Naylor put together his best major league season. He topped all Canadian big leaguers in batting average (.308), slugging percentage (.489), OPS (.843), RBIs (97) and stolen bases (10). In 121 games with the Guardians, he had 139 hits, including 31 doubles. He had the sixth highest batting average in the major leagues of any player who suited up for at least 120 games. He also garnered a 10th place vote in the American League MVP voting.

Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.)

O’Neill persevered through injuries to bat .231 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 72 games for the St. Louis Cardinals. The two-time Gold Glove Award-winning left fielder had 55 hits, 28 walks and five stolen bases. Five of his home runs came during the month of August.

James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.)

After missing nearly two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery and other injuries, Paxton posted a 5-1 record and a 2.73 ERA in his first 10 starts with the Red Sox in 2023. He finished the season with a 7-5 record and a 4.50 ERA, while striking out 101 batters in 96 innings. His 19 starts were tied with Guardians right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) for the most by a Canadian in the majors.

Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.)

In 38 appearances (16 starts), Pivetta tied his career-best with 10 wins and topped Canadian big league hurlers in innings pitched (142 2/3), strikeouts (183) and WAR (2.4). He was particularly effective as a long reliever, posting a 3.07 ERA in 22 appearances and striking out 78 in 55 2/3 innings. His 4.04 ERA was the lowest of any season in his career.

Zach Pop (Brampton, Ont.)

The 27-year-old right-hander recorded a 6.59 ERA and struck out 14 batters in 13 2/3 innings in 15 relief appearances for the Blue Jays at the start of the season. He suffered a hamstring injury on May 4 that sidelined him for over two months. He later joined the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons where he’d finish the campaign with a 5.51 ERA in 31 relief outings, fanning 32 in 32 2/3 innings.

Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.)

Shoulder woes would limit Quantrill to 19 starts with the Guardians in 2023, but this was still tied for the most by a Canadian big league pitcher. He completed the season with a 4-7 record and a 5.24 ERA in 99 2/3 innings. He registered a 2.76 ERA in his final six starts.

Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.)

Romano cemented his status as one of baseball’s elite closers in 2023. In 59 games, the hard-throwing Canuck recorded a 2.90 ERA and matched his career high with 36 saves, which was the second-most in the American League. Romano also collected five wins and struck out 72 batters in 59 innings and finished the season with a 2.1 WAR. For his efforts, he was selected to the All-Star Game for a second time.

Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.)

In one of the best comeback stories of the season, Soroka pitched his first big league games since he tore his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020. In seven appearances (six starts) with the Atlanta Braves, Soroka went 2-2 with a 6.40 ERA. He fanned 29 batters in 32 1/3 innings. He spent the bulk of the campaign with the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers, going 4-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 starts, striking out 92 in 87 innings. He was named International League Pitcher of the Month for the month of August. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox on November 17.

Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.)

After a solid performance for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, Toro was impressive in his limited major league action with the Milwaukee Brewers this season. In nine games, he went 8-for-18, good for a .444 batting average with two home runs and nine RBIs. He spent the majority of the campaign with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds where he hit .291 with a .374 OBP with eight home runs and 58 RBIs in 96 contests. He was traded to the Oakland A’s on November 15.

Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.)

After missing the first 72 games of the major league season while recovering from shoulder surgery, the Cincinnati Reds slugger returned to bat .202 with 14 homers in 65 games in 2023. The seven-time Tip O’Neill Award winner, who recently turned 40, had 42 hits, 27 walks and a .433 slugging percentage.

Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.)

In two stints with the Cubs this season, Young had eight hits – including three triples and two home runs – while scoring eight runs. His final promotion came on the heels of his excellent Triple-A campaign with the Iowa Cubs that saw him bat .310 with 21 home runs and 72 RBIs in 90 games. He also homered and had three runs in four games for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. Following the season, he was claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals after being taken off the Cubs’ 40-man roster.

Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.)

After starting for Canada against Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, the veteran lefty proceeded to post a 4.79 ERA in a career-high 21 big league appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. He recorded a win in relief on Opening Day and on August 24, he made his first major league start since September 29, 2016. The 31-year-old southpaw also registered a 4.41 ERA in 15 appearances for the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.

The Hall’s Tip O’Neill Award is named after Woodstock, Ont., native James “Tip” O’Neill who was one of Major League Baseball’s first legitimate stars. With the American Association’s St. Louis Browns in 1887, O’Neill set then big league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases, while compiling a major league record .492 batting average. Walks were counted as hits in 1887, but if O’Neill’s average was calculated by today’s standards, it would be .435, the second-highest in big league history to Hugh Duffy who hit .440 in 1894.

Past winners of the James “Tip” O’Neill Award:

1984 – Terry Puhl
1985 – Dave Shipanoff
1986 – Rob Ducey
1987 – Larry Walker
1988 – Kevin Reimer
1989 – Steve Wilson
1990 – Larry Walker
1991 – Daniel Brabant
1992 – Larry Walker
1993 – Rob Butler
1994 – Larry Walker
1995 – Larry Walker
1996 – Jason Dickson
1997 – Larry Walker
1998 – Larry Walker
1999 – Jeff Zimmerman
2000 – Ryan Dempster
2001 – Corey Koskie
2001 – Larry Walker
2002 – Eric Gagné
2002 – Larry Walker
2003 – Eric Gagné
2004 – Jason Bay
2005 – Jason Bay
2006 – Justin Morneau
2007 – Russell Martin
2008 – Justin Morneau
2009 – Jason Bay
2010 – Joey Votto
2011 – Joey Votto
2011 – John Axford
2012 – Joey Votto
2013 – Joey Votto
2014 – Justin Morneau
2015 – Joey Votto
2016 – Joey Votto
2017 – Joey Votto
2018 – James Paxton
2019 – Mike Soroka
2020 – Jamie Romak
2021 – Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
2022 – Jordan Romano