By Scott Barancik, editor

Israel’s final roster for the 2023 World Baseball Classic was revealed this evening.

It’s darn good.

The 30-man list features MLB athletes such as All-Star LF Joc Pederson (Giants) and P Dean Kremer (Orioles), red-hot prospects 1B Matt Mervis (Cubs/AAA) and 2B/3B Zack Gelof (Athletics/AAA), and 2021 Summer Olympics stars 1B Danny Valencia (retired MLB) and C Ryan Lavarnway (free agent).

Longtime general manager Peter Kurz told Jewish Baseball News the roster is Israel’s strongest ever.

“We’ve come a long way since our international debut at the 2012 WBC qualifiers,” he said.

Ian Kinsler, a four-time MLB All-Star who is managing Israel for the first time, said the team “will play a hard-nose style of baseball with a lot of energy.”

“We expect to surprise people,” he added in an email.

The 30-man roster

FirstLastPositionCurrent LevelHighest Level
MattMervis1B/DHCubs (AAA)AAA
RyanLavarnwayCatcherFree agentMLB
ZackGelofIFAthletics (AAA)AAA
TyKellyIFFree agentMLB
NoahMendlingerIFCardinals (A+)A+
MichaelWielanskyIFFree agentAAA
AlexDickerson *OFFree agentMLB
JakobGoldfarbOFFree agentA
SpencerHorwitzOFBlue Jays (AAA)AAA
BrandonGold (R)StarterRockies (AAA)AAA
ColtonGordon (L)StarterAstros (A+)A+
DeanKremer (R)StarterOriolesMLB
RobertStock (R)StarterBrewers (AAA)MLB
JakeBird (R) RelieverRockiesMLB
RichardBleier (L)RelieverRed SoxMLB
DanielFederman (R)RelieverOrioles (A+)A+
JakeFishman (L)RelieverAthletics (AAA)MLB
AndrewGross (R) RelieverRays (AA)AA
RobKaminsky (L)RelieverFree agentMLB
EvanKravetz (L)RelieverReds (AA)AA
KyleMolnar (R)RelieverFree agentA+
BubbyRossman (R)RelieverFree agentMLB
JacobSteinmetz (R)RelieverD'backs (rookie)Rookie
JoeyWagman (R)RelieverFree agentAA
ZackWeiss (R)RelieverAngelsMLB
JoshWolf (R)RelieverGuardians (A)A
* Not Jewish but is married to a Jewish woman and thus qualifies to play

(NOTE: Some mobile users may be unable to see all columns in this table. Click here for an Excel spreadsheet.)

Nearly half the athletes on Israel’s roster have MLB experience. Phillies backup catcher Garrett Stubbs, for example, is strong on defense, hits for power despite a small frame, and helped guide Philadelphia’s pitching staff to the 2022 World Series. Relief pitcher Richard Bleier (Red Sox) has amassed a 14-6 record with 5 saves and a 3.06 ERA over a 7-year MLB career. Fellow reliever Jake Bird (Rockies) made his MLB debut in 2022.

We will play a hard-nose style of baseball with a lot of energy. We expect to surprise people.

Ian Kinsler, manager of team israel

Israel’s roster also features some of the hottest prospects in baseball:

  • 1B Matt Mervis (Cubs/AAA) hit a combined .309 with 36 HRs and 119 RBIs across three levels in 2022, the most RBIs of any minor leaguer since 2019. projects that Mervis — the Cubs’ 2022 Minor League Player of the Year — will break into the Majors in 2023.
  • 2B/3B Zack Gelof (Athletics/AAA) hit .270 with 18 HRs, 66 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases across two levels in 2022. According to, he is the 5th-ranked second baseman in the minor leagues and likely will get called-up by Oakland in 2023.
  • 1B/LF Spencer Horwitz (Blue Jays/AAA) hit a combined .275 with 12 HRs, 51 RBIs, and a .391 on-base percentage across two levels in 2022. In November, Toronto added him to its 40-man roster.
  • P Colton Gordon (Astros/High-A) made his minor-league debut in 2022, and it didn’t take long for Houston to recognize his promise. After an eye-popping season in which he held opposing teams to a .182 batting average and just 0.8 walks/hits per inning, Gordon was sent to the prestigious Arizona Fall League to face some of baseball’s top prospects. Once there, he notched a Pitcher of the Week award.

P Jacob Steinmetz (Reds/rookie), a 19-year-old Orthodox Jew who made his pro debut in 2021, is the youngest man on the roster. Valencia, twice Steinmetz’s age at 38, is the oldest.

Assaf Lowengart, a shortstop at tiny Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, is the only native Israeli. But Baltimore’s Kremer is a Hebrew speaker with dual citizenship, and some other teammates obtained Israeli citizenship in order to play for Israel in the 2021 Summer Olympics. Bullpen catcher Tal Erel also is Israeli.

Each of the 20 countries competing in the WBC has a Designated Pitchers Pool, a small group of hurlers it can add to the roster for the tournament’s second or third rounds, if desired. Israel’s DPP includes minor-league prospects Jake Kalish (Angels/AAA) and Jake Miednik (Mariners/Single-A), former minor leaguer Alex Katz, 43-year-old sabra Shlomo Lipetz, and Dodgers reliever Adam Kolarek, whose wife is Jewish.

“I think the strongest part of our WBC roster is the pitching staff, although we should be able to score runs and put pressure on the opposing team,” Kinsler said.

Israel’s management lineup features a number of former pro ballplayers. Kinsler will receive support from bench coaches Brad Ausmus and Jerry Narron, hitting coach Kevin Youkilis, pitching coach Josh Zeid, bullpen coach Nate Fish, first-base coach Tyger Pederson (Joc’s older brother), third-base coach Blake Gailen, and scouts Simon Rosenbaum and Alex Jacobs.

(Earlier this week, the Texas Rangers hired former teammate Kinsler to serve as special assistant to the team’s general manager.)

Some MLB standouts will not appear in blue and white at the quadrennial tourney, which begins March 8. P Scott Effross (Yankees), for example, is injured. 1B Rowdy Tellez (Brewers), son of a Jewish mother and a father with Mexican heritage, received invitations from both Israel and Mexico but chose to represent the latter.

OF Harrison Bader (Yankees) expressed interest in joining Team Israel but pulled out due to injury. Phillies rookie RF Dalton Guthrie also will be absent.

Israel’s first game will take place March 12 against Nicaragua. The two teams will square off at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Valencia’s hometown.

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