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Oh Yeah, That Guy!: Stefan Welch

You might not remember Stefan Welch, but he had an excellent week back in 2011.

World Baseball Classic - Australia Qualifier - Day 4
Stefan Welch
Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

July 19 to July 25 (2011): 11-23, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 0/0 SB

Stefan Welch was born on August 12, 1988 in Adelaide, the capital city of the Australia’s South Australia state. While soccer, football, rugby and cricket are much more popular sports, Welch was drawn instead to baseball because his father, Darren Welch, was a baseball player himself, having played in the 1988 Olympics on the Australian national baseball team. Following in his father’s footsteps, Stefan began playing ball himself, playing on local amateur teams in Adelaide. His high level of play drew the attention of Tony Harris, a scout who was working for the Mets at the time who was intimately familiar with the Australian baseball scene as a coach on the Australian national team. In 2005, at the age of 16, the Mets signed Welch as an international free agent.

Because of his background, Welch was not assigned to the Dominican Summer League or Venezuelan Summer League, as is generally customary when it comes to young international free agents. He remained in Australia in 2006, playing in the Claxton Shield Championships, the annual baseball championship between the different Australian states, and then came to the United States in 2007. He made his professional debut with the GCL Mets, hitting .288/.346/.353 in 36 games with 0 home runs, 1 stolen base in 2 attempts, and 11 walks and 22 strikeouts. He was assigned to the Kingsport Mets in 2008, and hit .281/.316/.447 in 63 games, with 4 home runs, 4 stolen bases in 4 attempts, and 11 walks and 40 strikeouts. He was promoted to the Savannah Sand Gnats at the end of the year, appearing in 5 games and going 5-19 with a home run.

He started out the 2009 season with the Australian national team, on their roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but never actually came to bat during the competition. After the WBC ended, the 20-year-old returned to the Savannah Sand Gnats. He appeared in 26 games for them and hit .239/.271/.359 with 2 home runs, 0 stolen bases in 0 attempts, and 4 walks and 19 strikeouts. That July, he was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets. He appeared in 56 games for them and hit .278/.350/.412 with 5 home runs, 0 stolen bases in 0 attempts, and 20 walks and 37 strikeouts. When the season ended, he returned to Australia, where he played in the 2009 Baseball World Cup.

Welch repeated High-A in 2010, spending the entire year with the St. Lucie Mets. Appearing in 133 games, he hit .256/.325/.395 with 8 home runs, 2 stolen bases in 3 attempts, and 37 walks and 126 strikeouts. When the season ended, he returned to Australia, playing in newly formed Australian Baseball League. Appearing in 40 games for the Adelaide Bite, Welch hit .201/.298/.383. He repeated High-A once again in 2011, once again spending the entire season with St. Lucie. Appearing in 129 games, he hit .271/.361/.438 with 16 home runs, 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts, and 57 walks and 105 strikeouts. Though only 22, Welch was signed as an international free agent in 2005, and as such, was eligible to become a free agent when the season ended. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates that November, and then returned to Australia to play for the Bite for the 2011 ABL season.

He began the season with the Bradenton Marauders, Pittsburgh’s High-A affiliate, and was promoted to the Altoona Curve, their Double-A affiliate that June. After hitting .265/.320/.429 with 8 homers and 4 steals in 61 games with the Marauders, Welch barely missed a beat, hitting .266/.359/.402 with 5 home runs and 3 steals in 67 games with the Curve. He re-signed with Pittsburgh that November and then returned to Australia to play for the Bite for the 2012 ABL season and then for the Australian national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He struggled when the season began, hitting .149/.250/.216 in 29 games and was traded to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for cash considerations. The Red Sox assigned him to their High-A affiliate, the Salem Red Sox, and he hit .292 /.409/.476 with 10 homers and 3 steals in 75 games. As had become customary, he returned to Australia that winter to play for the Bite.

The Red Sox assigned Welch to the Portland Sea Dogs, their Double-A affiliate, for the 2014 season. He played all 105 games he played that year with them and hit .222 /.336/.360 with 3 homers and 1 stolen base. He did not sign with an affiliated minor league club that winter and ended up spending the rest of his professional career in Australia, playing for the Bite every winter, with the exception of the 2017 season. After hitting .196/.319/.275 in 40 games for the Bite in the 2018 season, the 29-year-old announced his retirement. Having played for Adelaide for nearly an entire decade, he retired as the all-time club leader in games (284), hits (258), runs scored (160), home runs (35) and RBI (169).

At the plate, Welch stood open at the plate, holding his hands high and wrapping his bat behind his head. Owing to slightly-above-average bat speed, his hit tool was his best asset, showing the ability to hit for a solid average. In his later years as a professional, he developed some power, but was mainly a gap hitter. Augmenting his hit tool was his eye, which generally was advanced in relation to his age and level of experience. Defensively, Welch played all over the field but profiled better in the infield corners. His arm was strong enough and he had enough range to play the position, but fit best at first base owing to his lack of any one carrying tool in the field.