The Natural Revisted in Korea

April 27th, 2017

Korea Joongang Daily writes an interesting piece on LG Twins Hyung-Jong Lee who was a star pitcher in high school. After a loss in the high school championship game he was drafted by the LG Twins. That high school loss ate at him and he could never find success as a pitcher. Fortunately for Lee he did not have to get shot to change his career to a hitter, but a few failures along the way careened into his path.

The Twins drafted him in 2008 and paid him a huge six figure bonus ($383,000) to sign as a pitcher. He won his first game as a Twin in 2010 but an elbow injury shortened his career on the mound. While he was rehabilitating Lee was involved in an insubordination incident for a post he made on social media. He announced his retirement and pursued a career as a professional golfer. That career did not last long and he returned to the Twins, this time as a hitter.

In 2016 he hit his first professional KBO homerun. Memories are long in the KBO. Despite the homerun he was sent back down to the equivalent of the minor leagues in Korea. Lee was eventually brought back up but he only got 147 at bats for the year.

Lee is now the leading hitting for the resurging Twins to begin the 2017 season, a Twins team who find themselves in third place in the KBO. At 27 years of age Lee has reinvented himself as a hitter with a .417 batting average and three homeruns. He has also stolen five bases with three homeruns.

Major league fans thought it was a great accomplishment for Rick Ankiel to resurrect his career from pitcher to hitter. Lee has done the same, but early in the 2017 season his .413 batting average trails only Dae-Ho Lee for second in the KBO. Dae-Ho is another player who has returned to Korea after playing a number of years in Japan and the United States.

Another Perfect Game and Other Prospect Notes

April 27th, 2017

Domenic Mazza LHP (Giants) - Not really considered a prospect. Players drafted in the 22nd round as Domenic was in 2015 fall far from that criteria, unless large bonuses are associated with their name to get them to sign. Mazza did make some press by throwing the second perfect game of the year and the first nine inning perfect game in South Atlantic League history. For Domenic that is a welcome start after lasting under three innings and giving up seven runs in his first start of the season. During that game he gave up Tim Tebow’s first professional career homerun, publicity he would just as soon avoid. The lefty needed only 85 pitches to toss his perfecto.

Dane Dunning RHP (Nationals) - It was pay back time for the ex-National as he threw six innings of two hit ball against Low A Hagerstown, a Nationals farm team. For Dunning that was his third consecutive shutout outing to lower his ERA to 0.35. He has only given up two runs in four starts with only one of them earned. He has a 2/33 walk to whiff ratio in 26 innings and the opposition is hitting him at a .143 clip. He was traded to the Nationals along with Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito for Adam Eaton. Dane is making the Nationals begin to regret that deal.

Nik Turley LHP (Twins) - In his fourth appearance and second start Nik Turley gave up his first run. He also struck out 14 in the seven inning outing, at one point striking out eight hitters in a row. In 20.1 innings he has now struck out 36 hitters with a 0.44 ERA and a .076 opposition average. At age 27 his prospect status is sagging but the Twins starting rotation could use some help.

Michael Kopech RHP (White Sox) - Michael was throwing bb’s in his six inning one hit shutout. The 2014 first round pick of the Red Sox struck out eight in his outing. The opposition is only hitting .145 against him but 14 walks in just 18 innings have plagued him. During his one hitter he walked four. The Red Sox traded him to the White Sox as part of the Chris Sale trade.

Dinelson Lamet RHP (Padres) - Myworld remembers writing about Dinelson a lot last year. After a 13 K performance in his third start he came back with a 9 K performance, throwing seven innings of shutout ball. Like Kopech, Lamet does not give up a lot of hits (.171 opposition average) but his walks could be tapered down (9 in 20 innings). After four starts the Dominican has seen his ERA lowered to 0.45.

Ronald Acuna OF (Braves) - After dominating in Australia Acuna is wreaking his wrath on Florida State League pitchers. The Venezuelan banged out three hits, including his second homerun of the year and five RBIs. Acuna was a double short of the cycle. Strikeouts have been a bit of a problem with 25 in 17 games, but his last two games in which he went 5 for 9 have come without a whiff. He has 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts.

Alex Jackson C (Braves) - Another Fire Frog, Jackson has seen his bat come alive now that he is no longer a Mariner. In the same game Acuna banged out three hits Alex collected three hits including a homerun and two RBIs. Alex was a double short of the cycle. The three hits raised his average to .338. While with the Mariners he struggled to get his average above the .250 neighborhood. The Braves have returned Alex back to his high school position as a catcher.

Willie Calhoun 2B (Dodgers) - The homerun drought has ended for Willie with his first yesterday. Last year the 5′8″ slugger bashed 27 over the fence. Despite the paucity of homeruns Willie has been hitting with his average at .333.

Jorge Alfaro C (Phillies) - The Phillies don’t have room for Jorge behind the plate for their major league team. So they will show patience with him as he assaults AAA pitching. Back to back three hit games in which he hit a homerun in each game raised his average to .377. The Phillies would like to see some improvement on his 1/17 walk to whiff ratio (22/105 in 2016).

Edward Olivares OF (Blue Jays) - With the two perfect games comes the first cycle that myworld has become aware of in the minor leagues. Edward singled, doubled, tripled and homered in a four RBI event a couple days ago. His batting average needed the outburst as it was sitting at .172 before the game. Edward now has a four game hitting streak to raise his average to .231. He has driven in 8 of his 14 runs during that streak.

Jason Vosler 3B (Cubs) - Jason is not considered one of the more touted Cub prospects. Last year he hit three homeruns. In a game last night Vosler equaled his 2015 homerun out put with three dingers to give him four for the year. The third baseman drove in six runs to double his RBI output for the year.

Top Prospects from Mexico

April 26th, 2017

Julio Urias finally made it to the major leagues. He had appeared as the top prospect from Mexico the last couple years. Daniel Castro was fourth on the 2016 list. He made it as a Braves utility player grabbing 130 at bats to lose his rookie eligibility. A .200 average gave Castro his free agency and now he is with the Rockies playing at AAA. Luis Cessa got some starts and bullpen appearances last year with the Yankees. He is back in AAA giving the Yankees some depth in the starting rotation.

The top ten of 2017 lacks star power with Julio Urias no longer eligible. Another Urias unrelated to Julio appears on this list. Myworld has finally given up on Manny Banuelos and Luis Heredia, eliminating them from the 2017 list. Banulos is pitching for the Angels. Heredia has spent what seems like a lifetime with the Pirates but has yet to leave A ball.

1. Luis Urias 2B/SS (Padres) - Luis does not have a lot of tools except a bat that rips the gaps. His speed is average or below and his power is absent. For his career he has been caught stealing more than he has had success. A utility role could be in his future. He lacks the range to play shortstop on a permanent basis but if his .317 minor league average continues in the majors he could always play second base. Back to back four hit games put his average at .357. An 8 game hitting streak has kept that average up (.343). Last year he hit his first homeruns in his professional career, sending six over the fence. This year he has slugged two, so the power may be developing.

2. Jose Albertos RHP (Cubs) - The Cubs paid $1.5 million to the Mexican team who owned the rights to Albertos. He made his debut last year with one start. He will spend his time in extended spring training as an 18 year old waiting for the start of Arizona Rookie League. Reports have Joes hitting the mid-90s with his fastball with a good changeup. He has a long way to go before he makes an impact with the Cubs.

3. Francisco Rios RHP (Blue Jays) - Rios surprised in his first year of full season ball, dominating in six starts at Low A (1.20 ERA). He struck out 12.9 hitters per nine innings and limited the opposition to a .193 average. When promoted to High A his rather ordinary stuff was exposed and his success waned. His fastball sits at 91-92 with two breaking pitches (slider and curve) and a change. He does throw strikes but his lack of velocity makes it important he locate his pitches to prevent hard contact.

4. Victor Arano RHP (Phillies) - The Phillies acquired Arano from the Dodgers back in 2014 for Roberto Hernandez. The Dodgers had purchased him from the Mexico City Red Devils. Arano was moved to relief last year where he achieved some success. His fastball showed more velocity out of the pen, hitting the mid-90s which created more swings and misses. Last year he struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings compared to the previous year as a starter when he struck out just 5 hitters per nine. His slider is a good pitch and in the bullpen he does not need to rely on a third pitch. He started the 2017 season on the disabled list.

5. Jose Cardona OF (Rangers) - Jose was signed out of Mexico in 2011. In his first four seasons he hit only one homerun. It also took him awhile to escape the rookie league. In 2015 he cracked the full season league and burst out with 10 homeruns with 30 stolen bases. He did even better the following year in the hitter friendly California League hitting 14 homeruns with a .300 average. Starting this year in AA his power has yet to show with only three extra base hits. He plays a solid defense and could make it as a fourth outfielder.

6. Giovanny Gallegos RHP (Yankees) - The Yankees signed Giovanny a year after signing Manny Banuelos. The Yankees converted him to the bullpen in 2014 and he has not made a start since. The last couple years he has pitched in AAA with some success, limiting the opposition to a .178 average. The Yankees will use him as depth to their bullpen, adding him to their 40 man roster this year. His fastball hits the mid-90s but his other pitchers are dicey with a curveball and change. 106 whiffs in 78 innings last year and 14 whiffs in 8 innings this year makes him an attractive option, despite only having a fastball to get hitters out.

7. Isaac Paredes SS (Cubs) - In 2015 the Cubs paid the Mexico City Red Devils $800,000 for Isaac. He hit .305 as a teenager in the rookie league earning a promotion to full season ball. He has sure hands but lacks the range to play short. The power may not come to play third so expect his future to be at second. He played for the 15 and under Mexican national team.

8. Jose Luis Hernandez RHP (Astros) - Jose was signed out of Mexico by the Astros in 2015. He does not throw hard, hitting the radar guns in the high 80s to low 90s. At 6′0″ he also lacks height as a righthander. His secondary pitches with above average location will determine his fate. He starts the 2017 season on the disabled list.

9. Fernando Perez 1B (Padres) - Last year Fernando was limited to 44 games because of injuries. He plays the same position as Luis with a less impressive stick. He does show some pop with 18 homeruns and 95 RBIs in 2014. The Padres have moved him to first base where he needs to show power to stick at the position. This year he has slugged three homeruns with a .479 slugging.

10. Christian Villanueva 3B (Padres) - Christian did not play last year because of a fracture right fibula. He was declared a free agent and signed with the Padres. This season he has started on the disabled list. He plays third base. The Padres lack a player with the skills of Kris Bryant playing that position. The Padres hope he gets healthy and can show the power he did with the Cubs when he hit 20 homeruns in 2015.

Pirates Promote First African Born Player

April 26th, 2017

Just a day after promoting the first Lithuanian born player to the major leagues the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted the first African born player. Gift Ngoepe was promoted by the Pirates as depth to the infield after the injury to David Freese. Gift was born in South Africa and lived in a clubhouse of a semi-professional baseball team because his mother worked as their cook and clubhouse person. The team gave her free room and board and Gift got plenty of exposure to baseball.

Gift is a solid defensive shortstop who is not gifted with the bat. The Pirates have Kevin Newman as their shortstop of the future with Jody Mercer their shortstop of the present. The best bet for Gift for an extended stay in the major leagues would be as a utility player.

Hot Prospects for April 24

April 26th, 2017

A couple players identified as hot prospects, Christian Arroyo and Cody Bellinger were recently promoted to their major league team. They will not be the last.

Raimel Tapia CF (Rockies) - Tapia hits .300 no matter where he plays. The one concern is his lack of power. While he has speed his defensive tools are not ideal for center and his absence of power makes a corner position suspect. A rocket of an arm makes right field his best fit. Tapia slapped three hits yesterday to increase his average to .356. The Rockies outfield could get crowded with the improved health of David Dahl and Ian Desmond so expect Raimel to get most of his time in AAA. He did play two major league games early this season finishing 0 for 7.

Andrew Pullin LF (Phillies) - Reading is a hitter’s ballpark. Last year Pullin hit 10 homeruns in 46 games there. Yesterday he slugged two to put him at five for the year. That is halfway towards his production of last year. One of those homeruns was a grand slam to give him a big 5 RBI night. Pullin has gone 11 for 19 in his last four games to raise his average to .381. Last year in his 46 games at Reading Andrew hit .346.

Joe Rizzo 3B (Mariners) - Rizzo made a late debut to the season going 4 for 5 in his second game to raise his average to .625. A 2 for 4 day the next day dropped his average to .583. Rizzo was a second round pick of the Mariners in 2016. The one big criticism with Rizzo is how much power can he pack in his 5′9″ frame.

Jon Duplantier RHP (Diamondbacks) - More shutout innings for Duplantier. In four appearances, three starts he has gone 20.1 innings without allowing an earned run. Yesterday he threw five innings, allowing just three hits, striking out 8 without walking anyone. Opponents are hitting .121 against him. Jon was a third round pick last year appearing in only one inning. He did not allow a run in that inning.

Gregory Soto LHP (Tigers) - In his third start Soto tossed six shutout innings. That increases his 2017 shutout streak to 17. Gregory struck out eight and walked two. His fastball can touch the mid-90s but sits more comfortably in the low 90s. Expect him to get promoted soon to High A.

Grayson Long RHP (Angels) - Grayson got a quick promotion to AA where he threw six shutout innings in his first start. He only allowed one hit, a leadoff single to start the game but did not allow a hit after that.

MLB All Stars to Visit Korea and Taiwan

April 25th, 2017

Major league baseball is in discussions to have an All Star team visit Korea for offseason exhibition games according to Yonhap News Agency. It could be held sometime in November along with a stop in Taiwan. Major league baseball has not played a game in Korea since an exhibition game with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1958. It is expected the teams would play in the domed stadium Gocheok Sky Dome, which is where the WBC games were played in Korea.

Major league baseball played exhibition games in Taiwan in 2011. The last exhibition trip to Asia was Japan in 2014 for games against the NPB All Stars.

Passing of Wayne Graczyk

April 25th, 2017

One of the nicest men in the world passed away. Wayne Graczyk died of a heart attack at 68. He is the man who published the Japan Baseball Fan Handbook and Media Guide. If you wanted to know about Japanese baseball that was a good start to your education. When I watch baseball I like to keep score and having that handbook with the English names of the Japanese players and their uniform numbers was critical.

Wayne also wrote articles for Baseball America when they needed something on Japan. He also was a writer for the Japan Times English paper. Any foreigner who played baseball in Japan knew Wayne, not because he was a reporter who wrote for the Japan Times but because he was a nice guy who was willing to help a player in a strange environment. He made you feel comfortable.

I’ve been to Japan four or five times to watch baseball. Each time Wayne was there to guide me through the intricacies of the game in Japan. There was one conversation we had where I wondered why no Japanese pitcher threw hard. Every pitcher I saw had a radar reading of high 80s to low 90s. He proceeded to name the pitchers who could throw mid-90s. My perception of baseball was limited when compared to Wayne. He always expanded that horizon after just one day of conversation.

He will be missed. For a nice article on him go to this link:

Wayne Graczyk

Hot Prospects for the Weekend - Arroyo Makes the Most of the Weekend

April 25th, 2017

Myworld was coaching volleyball over the weekend in Minnesota. The Twins were in town but all my time was spent in the gym. Now that we are back it is time to look back to see who was hot over the weekend.

Christian Arroyo SS (Giants) - My world has never been enamored with Arroyo but his bat is certainly changing my mind. It is difficult to find a hitter hotter than Christian. He had his first 0 for of the season on Thursday but bounced back with a 4 for 6 Sunday that raised his average to .446. After that outburst the Giants promoted him to their major league team to help at both third base and shortstop. His OPS for his first 16 games in AAA is 1.171.

Demi Orimoloye OF (Brewers) - Unlike Christian Demi is a player who flashes some impressive tools. His challenge has always been in his ability to make contact with the ball. An 8 game hitting streak raised his average to .300. He hit four homeruns while driving in 9. What is most impressive about his at bats is only two whiffs in his last 24 at bats. For the year Demi has five homeruns with five stolen bases. Before the season is over his average will probably dip below .250.

Luis Urias 2B/SS (Padres) - Back to back four hit games raised his average to .357. Luis scored five runs in his second four hit game. The native from Mexico is not supposed to carry any power in his bat but a .650 slugging percentage includes a couple homeruns with six doubles and three triples. Eleven of his 21 hits have gone for extra bases. A second baseman coming into this season the Padres have used him 14 games at short early in the season.

Amed Rosario SS (Mets) - Met fans are clamoring for the promotion of Rosario. He is a better fielding shortstop than what they currently have on their major league roster. A 6 for 9 streak in his last two games has raised his average to .403. Only four of his 27 hits have gone for extra bases but the Mets will not complain about his 23 singles when combined with his gold glove fielding potential.

Marcus Wilson CF (Diamondbacks) - Marcus sprayed the Midwest league with four three hit games in a six game span to raise his average to .411. He drove in 11 runs during that streak with three homeruns. The Diamondbacks drafted Marcus in the second round of the 2014 draft, moving him up slowly because of his .244 career average coming into this season. His biggest challenge is an ability to make consistent contact.

Bo Bichette SS (Blue Jays) - The son of Dante has a 12 game hitting streak that has raised his average to .373. He was able to play for Brazil in the qualifier last year because of his Brazilian mother. Brazil failed to qualify for the 2017 WBC but Bo was not the reason hitting .400 with a .538 OBA. Bo has hit one homerun this year and that was on opening day as he splits his time between shortstop and second base.

Anthony Alford OF (Blue Jays) - Another Blue Jay prospect with a hot bat is Alford who had a streak of five games of two hits or more in six games to raise his average to .469. He hit two homeruns and drove in five during the streak with four stolen bases. Anthony has a potent combination of power and speed that will result in a quick ascent through the minors now that his focus is on baseball.

Tyler Mahle RHP (Reds) - Tyler threw the first nine inning no hitter of the season, a perfect game 1-0 win over the Mobile Bay Bears. He threw only 88 pitches in his complete game no hitter striking out eight. Tyler was a seventh round pick of the Reds in 2013 and has a checkered minor league career. The 2017 season has started out well with only two runs given up in his four starts for a 4-0 record and a 0.68 ERA. The opposition is hitting him at a .082 clip.

Jack Flaherty RHP (Cardinals) - Another pitcher who has started his season 4-0. In his four starts Jack has only given up one run for a 0.33 ERA. In his last two starts he has not allowed a run in 13.2 innings, giving up just eight hits. A 3/24 walk to whiff ratio and .161 opposition average could result in a promotion to the big club before the year is out.

Merandy Gonzalez RHP (Mets) - The Colombian has yet to give up a run in his three starts in the Low A South Atlantic League. The 20.2 shutout string has been because of a 1/18 walk to whiff ratio with a .143 opposition average. Merandy stands only 6′1″ but his fastball can still cross the plate in the mid-90s with an above average curve ball to keep hitters off balance.

First Lithuanian to Pitch in Major Leagues

April 24th, 2017

Dovydas Neverauskas was promoted to the Pirates yesterday. Chad Kuhl had a rough start giving up nine runs in less than two innings. That gave Dovydas an opportunity to pitch the last two innings of the Cubs 14-3 rout of the Pirates. Myworld is not aware of any other Lithuanian that has pitched in the major leagues.

Dovydas had yet to give up a run in his five relief appearances for his AAA team, limiting the opposition to a .138 average. He did give up a run making his major league debut.

The Pirates signed Dovydas for $60,000 as a 16 year old back in 2009. His fastball can hit the high 90s but his breaking pitches are only adequate (slider and cutter). His minor league numbers show some inconsistency so it will be interesting how much success he will have with the Pirates.

The Pirates added him to their 40 man roster last year to prevent him from becoming a six year minor league free agent.

Chavis Leads More Hot Prospects

April 21st, 2017

Michael Chavis 3B (Red Sox) - The 2014 first round draft pick has come back from injury with his bat on fire. A three homerun game after a homerun the day before has given him four homeruns in two games. In four games he is hitting .467 with 8 RBIs. His third homerun in yesterday’s game was a two run walk off homer giving the Salem Red Sox a 7-6 win over the Wilmington Blue Rocks. At some point the Red Sox need to find a replacement for Pablo Sandoval. Chavez is hitting .467 in the four games.

Christian Arroyo SS (Giants) - Christian has not shown the power for third or the range to play short. His bat is rocking early in the 2017 season. He hit his third homerun, his second in two days to equal the number of homeruns he hit in 119 games in 2016 in 12 games in 2017. A four hit game gives him four multi hit games in five games to raise his average to .479. Christian currently has a 12 game hitting streak since the start of the season.

Cody Bellinger CF - 1B (Dodgers) - Cody is seeing more games in centerfield to get his bat in the lineup. That should have Joc Pederson looking in the rear view mirror. Cody blasted two homeruns yesterday to give him five for the year. 16 whiffs in 13 games is Joc Pederson like but his .360 average is not. He played his second game in centerfield during the two homer game.

Brett Phillips RF (Brewers) - Brett also hit two homeruns including a grand slam to drive in six runs on the same day. The two hits gave him four consecutive games with two hits or more to raise his average to .318. Brett also coaxed two walks in the game to double his total for the year.

Bobby Bradley 1B (Indians) - Bobby Bradley started the season 3 for 28. His power is starting to show his last two games with his second and third homeruns of the year. Last night he drove in five to almost double his RBI total to 11, four more than his hit total. A 4 for 10 spree in his last three games has raised his average to .184. Bradley has big time power with 83 homers his last three years.

Tyler Krieger 2B (Indians) - In the same game that Bobby Bradley hit a three run homer and drove in five runs Tyler was a triple short of the cycle in a four for five day. He was two RBIs short of Bradley in the RBI production. Tyler has slashed hits in seven of his eight games for a .419 average.

Jon Duplantier RHP (Diamondbacks) - Jon pitched 5.1 innings of no hit relief, walking just one and striking out six in a game Kane County eventually won 1-0. The 2016 third round pick has yet to give up an earned run in 15.1 innings, allowing just five hits. The opposition is hitting him at a .104 clip and he has an impressive 4/20 walk to whiff ratio.

Dylan Cease RHP (Cubs) - Dylan threw six no hit innings in his last start, walking three and striking out seven. With his triple digit fastball many think his best role could be in relief as a closer, but in three starts he has only given up one run, a solo homerun in 15 innings for a 0.60 average. The opposition is hitting .125 against him and he has struck out 22 in 15 innings. Great Lakes got a hit in the seventh inning in a game they lost 3-0.