Pita Rona Released by O’s

December 24th, 2014

It was a small piece in the Baseball America Minor League Transaction column, mixed in with names like Jason McCracken, Kris Richards and Eun Chul Choi. In New Zealand it made big headlines with the Orioles using this publicity to strengthen their international program there. Pita was a 6′7″ softball player who played on the New Zealand national team with his father. At 6′7″ the Orioles thought he could make a good firstbaseman. The conversion to baseball did not take. In his two years in rookie ball he hit .176 with just three of his 13 hits going for extra bases.

Myworld did see him play in Taiwan with the New Zealand under 21 team against Korea. Because we arrived late for that game we did not score it, but his at bats were not impressive against the Korean pitchers (three whiffs in four hitless at bats). Overall he hit .211, which matched his OBA and slugging percentage. Three other players on that team hit over .300.

He did sign a seven year deal with the Orioles. That means he should have five more years of paycheck from them. In New Zealand softball is a very popular sport and as a 17 year old he starred with his father on the New Zealand national team. If no other major league team takes an interest in him he can always go back to softball.

Maeda and Kaneko Sign Japanese Contracts

December 24th, 2014

It does not appear any premier pitchers will be coming over from Japan to play in the major leagues. The Hiroshima Carp did not agree to post Maeda and he signed a one year contract for 300 million yen. He has asked the Carp to advise him what he needs to accomplish to be posted next year, but the Carp may not have an interest in letting him go for the maximum $20 million posting fee. So major league teams may have to wait until he becomes an international free agent.

Chihiro Kaneko agreed to sign with his old team the Orix Buffaloes. He agreed to a four year contract for $2 billion yen. Minor surgery and disappointment with major league offers appear to have convinced him to stay in Japan. He was an international free agent but what offers he received from major league teams did not convince him to leave Japan. The four year contract will take him to his mid 30s.

That leaves shortstop Takashi Toritani as the only premier player left to transfer to the major leagues. According to yakubaka the Toronto Blue Jays have offered him a major league contract, but salary and years have not been satisfactory. He is being offered a nice salary by the Hanshin Tigers to stay in Japan. The San Diego Padres, who have been turning over their roster have also expressed interest. They are in need of a shortstop after letting Evereth Cabrera go because of character issues.

It could be an empty year for the Japanese press reporting on new players from Japan performing in the major leagues.

Average Major League Salary Inches to $4 Million

December 24th, 2014

So you want to be a major leaguer. You can certainly buy a lot of Christmas presents with their average salary. According to major league baseball, the average salary for a major league baseball player is now $3.7 million per year. In 1992 it had passed the $1 million mark, in 2001 it hit $2 million and in 2010 it reached $3 million. So for Christmas tell Santa to slip a baseball glove under the tree and teach your child to throw lefthanded.

For comparison, the average wage in the United States is $43,041. The challenge is living on a minor league salary until you can win that major league job. Their pay is generally between $3,000 to $7,500 for a five month work schedule. That is below the poverty level, unless they can find another job during the remaining seven months to supplement that salary.

Orioles Taking One Step Back

December 23rd, 2014

The last three years have been unexpected surprises for the Orioles. While there is still plenty of time to put the coal in the hot stove to heat up some more trade talk or free agent signings the Orioles are in the minus column with respect to lost players. In 2015 they will be minus the bats of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They have not signed anyone to replace them. They also lost relief pitcher Andrew Miller, who was a late season acquisition from the Red Sox. While they signed Wesley Wright to a free agent contract, he is far from the talent of Andrew Miller.

So what do the Orioles look like at those positions. Steve Pearce can go back into left or right field. His defense will not match Markakis, but if his bat stays on cue the offensive production will be better. The Orioles will need to find a bat to fit into the leadoff spot and hope the 2014 season from Pearce was not a one shot wonder.

The player they may ask to replace Markakis in right field would be their Cuban signing Dariel Alvarez. They are impressed with his arm and he had a solid season in AA and AAA combining for a .306 average with 15 homeruns. At 26 years of age (if his age can be believed) he should be ready to debut on the major league team.

Replacing Nelson Cruz at the DH spot will be tougher. The Orioles are trying to resign Delmon Young. He generally only becomes a starter against lefthanded bats. This would allow Buck to rotate players among the DH spot against righthanded pitchers, making the defense oriented David Lough free to patrol the outfield while Pearce or Chris Davis move to the DH spot. Or they could still put Alejandro De Aza in left field, though he reminds me more of a fourth outfielder type.

Last year Chris Davis played a lot of third base after Manny Machado went down with his second knee injury. This could give the Orioles a bit of flexibility, moving Chris to third to allow Manny to DH and bringing prospect Craig Walker up to play first. Defensively, if the Orioles had their say, they would prefer to play Ryan Flaherty at third, but his bat has been about as impotent as David Lough.

The bullpen will miss the setup role Andrew Miller gave to Zack Britton. That role will now have to be filled by the inconsistent Tommy Hunter, who lost his job as the closer in 2014. The other option is to hope for improvement from Brad Brach. They could also cross their fingers in the belief that submariner Darren O’Day can fill the role, his delivery not negatively impacted by his increased exposure to hitters. None of those pitchers have the history of success achieved by Andrew Miller his last couple of years.

What makes Oriole fans optimistic is bounce back seasons from Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy, healthy seasons from Manny Machado and Matt Wieters and improvement from second year player Jonathan Schoop. They also have a number of young pitchers percolating in the farm system in Mike Wright, Tim Berry, Zack Davis and the resurgence of Dylan Bundy from his surgery that could find themselves in the starting rotation. Those improvements it is hoped will make up for the losses of Markakis, Cruz and Miller.

Pirates Win Negotiating Rights for Kang

December 22nd, 2014

The Pittsburgh Pirates were the team with the winning bid for Jung-Ho Kang. Now they have to negotiate a contract. The Pirates seem to have a set infield, but it is an infield that could use some depth. Kang has said that if he doesn’t play short he would prefer to play third over second.

The Pirates had Pedro Alvarez at third. His defense was horrendous so they moved him to first. They were able to do that because of the year Josh Harrison had. He was a utility player the year before. Now you have to wonder if his 2014 season was an outlier, a career year. Harrison hit .315 with an OPS of .837. Prior to that he had never hit better than .272 or an OPS higher than .699. If Harrison reverts back to a utility type player the Pirates can move Alvarez back to third or put another utility type player in Sean Rodriguez at third.

At short they have Jody Mercer. If you were to grade Jody on a bell curve he would be right in the middle. His defense is not spectacular, but it is not bad either. His bat is geared toward the number 8 spot in National League lineup, but there are worse offensive shortstops. Most assume Kang will not have the defense to play short in the majors so Mercer looks pretty secure here. The alternative is the no hit Pedro Florimon.

At second base they have Pittsburgh native Neil Walker. It would be difficult to move him from second. The only hope for that is if his back acts up and he has to spend extensive time on the DL. Sean Rodriguez would be the primary back up here as well. They could also go with a couple of their AA prospects in Alen Hansen or Gift Ngoepe.

So it appears the Pirates will negotiate with Kang with the expectation he will start the season as a second utility player behind Sean Rodriguez. Time will tell whether they think it is worth signing him to a multi year contract for $5 million. Sean Rodriguez is in his third year of arbitration eligibility. Last year he made $1.4 million. He should get a raise next year but it won’t be for $5 million. He becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. It will be interesting to see how the Pirates view Kang and how Kang views himself.

Years ago Seong-Yeop Lee became a free agent and negotiated with the Dodgers in an attempt to play in the major leagues. Like Ryu, he wanted a clause in his contract that he could not be sent down to the minors. The Dodgers refused. Lee ended up going to Japan where he had a pretty good career there. Lee has now returned to Korea where he has 549 career homeruns (159 in Japan).

Ku Pao Wins High School Baseball Tournament

December 22nd, 2014

Ku Pao Commercial High School defeated Taoyuan Agricultural and Industrial High School 4-2 to win the coveted “Black Leopard Crown” as the high school champions. Ku Pao pitcher Chen Hu helped his cause by breaking a 2-2 tie with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. A wild pitch scored the fourth run. Chen sealed the victory by getting the final three outs in the ninth, his fourth inning of work for the game.

Last year Taoyuan had eliminated Ku Pao from the tournament in the semi-final, so the championship victory was even more gratifying. For Taoyuan, it was a second straight loss in a championship game. The team that beat them in the finals last year, Ping Jen High School took third place with their 8-4 win over Kao Wan Vocational High.

Last year the tournament saw only 51 teams in its debut. This year the number of teams increased to 137.

You can read more about the tournament here:

Taiwan high school tournament

Philipinnes Wins Hong Kong Tournament

December 22nd, 2014

The Hong Kong Red team had destroyed its competetion by combined scores of 61-1. They did not score less than 15 runs in any of the three games. The Philippines held them to one run in their 6-1 victory in the championship game, scoring three runs in the first inning to cruise to the win. The Red team committed seven errors in the game. They had only committed three errors in the first three games of pool play, all of the errors occurring in the third game. Perhaps that was a trend.

Taiwan won the third place game 9-0 as a result of a forfeit. Perhaps Korea had too many players leaving the day of the playoffs to field a team. The Hunters from Moscow rallied for two runs in the seventh inning to nick the Hong Kong Blue team 5-4. The Hong Kong blue had just rallied for four in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead. The battle for last place saw the Tigers from Vladivostok crunch the team from Singapore 20-0. The Singapore team committed nine errors in the game and 26 in the tournament, but at least they showed up to play their final game.

Watching Cuban Baseball

December 22nd, 2014

When the New York Times writes about baseball they write a pretty good article. Linked is a story of watching Cuban youth play baseball, on dirt fields with bats marking the baselines, on abandoned basketball courts, using balls wrapped up with duct tape. Sometimes they use bottle caps and sticks because bats and balls are scarce in Cuba. It reminds me of Americans who travel to Cuba who are always popular with the players when they arrive in Cuba because they usually bring presents that are not available in Cuba, a new pair of cleats, a cup or a glove. Soccer is slowly creeping in on the popularity of baseball in Cuba, but it is still a distant second as a sport of choice.

You can read the article at the link below:

Cuban baseball

Hong Kong Baseball Tournament

December 21st, 2014

There are two undefeated teams in the Hong Kong International Baseball Open and they will play for the championship today. They are not the two teams from the traditional powerhouses of Taiwan and Korea. Hong Kong Red has destroyed their opponents by a combined score of 61-1. The three teams who have played them are the Singapore, Korean and Russian Hunters team.

The Philippines team has not been quite as dominate in their victories, defeating the Hong Kong Blue 8-2, upsetting the Taiwan team 5-1 and dominating the Russian Tigers team 15-0.

The standings after the first three days of play:

Ateneo Blue Eagles Philippines (3-0), Hong Kong Red (3-0), K9 United Korea (2-1), Shin Chang Taiwan (2-1), Russian Moscow Hunters (1-2), Vladivostok Tigers, Russia (0-2-1), Hong Kong Blue (0-2-1) and Singapore Ravens (0-3)

Hong Kong Red and the Philippines will be playing for the championship while the Korean and Taiwan team will battle for third place. Singapore will play Vladivostok for the last place position.

You can follow the scores here:

scoreboard

Padres Stockpile on Outfielders

December 21st, 2014

Myworld was impressed with how the Padres improved their outfield situation via trade in just one week, filling all the outfield positions. The problem is, they had a pretty good group of outfielders prior to their trades, and they did not trade any of them away. Now they have an excess of outfielders, nine players to play just three positions.

For those sleeping under a rock, the Padres traded for outfielders Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton. As bait for those outfielders, the Padres used younger prospects, most of whom were not on the team’s 40 man roster. The three outfielders also are no longer true centerfielders, with Matt Kemp barely passing a physical because of two arthritic hips. The plan at this time is to use ex-catcher Wil Myers to play centerfield, but his range his better suited for a corner outfield spot.

The Padres were a little disappointed in the production of their previous outfield. Three of those players play a better centerfield than the three outfielders they acquired, but their offensive production was non-existent. There are those who will argue Petco Park will make any bat invisible. Those three outfielders are Abraham Almonte, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable.

Almonte is still young. He came from Seattle hitting just .198, but improved his average with the Padres to .265 to finish the season at .230. His slugging was a meager .333 and his OPS .609. Cameron Maybin has had trouble staying healthy. Last year he only played in 95 games, hitting just .235. In 2013 he only played in 14 games. His offense was invisible as his physical presence. Will Venable showed that the 2013 season may have been an outlier, when he slugged 22 homeruns. Last year, and in the two seasons prior he failed to hit double digit in homeruns. His batting average dipped to .224.

Other players they can put in the outfield is the constantly injured Carlos Quentin. In his last three years he has not played over 86 games and last year plundered along at just .177. Seth Smith is a lefthanded bat that may be their best hitter of the returning outfielders. Last year he hit .266 with 12 homeruns. He is not a strong defensive outfielder, but the Padres were impressed enough with his bat that they re-signed him and promised he would not be traded. Then they fired that general manager and a new general manager has to figure out if he wants to honor that promise.

There is also the promising youngster Rymer Liriano, who did not play at all last year because of injury. He was called up late last year and only hit .220 in a little over 100 at bats. The Padres can stick him in the minor leagues to give him more experience.

They also have infielders Alexi Amarista and Tommy Medica who played a lot of outfield last year. Alexi will be competing with Clint Barmes for the shortstop job and Medica may have to tough it out in the minor leagues until Yonder Alonso shows he can not do the job at first base. At least if Amarista does not win the shortstop job he will be a utility player.

The Padres are limited to a 25 man roster. Normally 11-12 of those are reserved for pitchers. After you account for two catchers and five to six infielders this will give the team 5-7 players for the outfield. Talk about putting a wrench in roster flexibility. Expect the Padres to continue to trade to eliminate some of that outfield depth.