Top Ten Dominican Prospects - National League

February 9th, 2016

The following are the top ten prospects from the Dominican Republic who play in the National League. Last week we debuted the top ten prospects from the Dominican Republic who play in the American League. We forgot to mention some of the graduates from the top ten in the American League last year who made an impact in the major leagues. The two big names were 1) Miguel Sano and 3) Luis Severino with a special appearance from the number two prospect Raul Mondesi who made his major league debut in the World Series last year and was bumped to number one.

From the National League the only graduate no longer eligible for the top ten prospect list is number one Maikel Franco. Some players have remained on the list and some have fallen off. The Nationals seem to have developed a stream of Dominicans ready to make an impact in the major leagues. These names do not end with the top ten list. You can see the list from last year from the National League at the link below.

1. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - A 50 game drug suspension will delay his arrival to the Cardinals rotation. Alex was a favorite to win a spot in the rotation this year. Now he will need some starts in the minor leagues to strengthen up his arm before he sees the Cardinal rotation this year. It shouldn’t take long for him to reach the rotation with a fastball that easily ticks into three digits. His curve is also a good major league pitch, allowing him to keep his pitches down, allowing only one homerun in his 102 innings pitched last year. His stuff was dominant in High A and AA as he averaged more than 13 whiffs per nine innings. Alex will need to improve his command to be successful at the higher levels as he walked about a hitter every two innings last year. Hitters struggle against his assortment of pitches, flailing away at close to or below a .200 clip. Alex signed a $950,000 bonus with the Cardinals.

2. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) - The over the fence power has yet to show but many feel that is an eventuality. In two years in the States he has a career average of .334, hitting .370 in the rookie league before being promoted to a short season league and hitting .343, all at the tender young age of 18. His gazelle like speed allowed him to steal 24 bases in 29 attempts. He covers a lot of real estate in centerfield, but has the arm to also play right field. The year ended with an impressive 18/33 walk to whiff ratio. Once his power arrives this could be a player to watch. The Nationals were able to acquire him for only a $225,000 bonus payment.

3. Reynaldo Lopez RHP (Nationals) - Pitching at High A was a little more of a challenge for Reynaldo. In 2014 he dominated at the lower levels with an ERA of close to 1.00. While his strikeout rate rose last year his ERA also ballooned by almost three runs to 4.09. He gave up four more homeruns than last year and the opposition average increased by more than 100 points. The fastball still touches triple digits, sitting in the mid-90s and his curve ball is a swing and miss pitch. An improvement in location and the mix of his pitches should improve his 2016 season, getting him to AA. The Nationals signed Reynaldo to the bargain based price of $17,000.

4. Manuel Margot OF (Padres) - The Red Sox included Margot in the trade for Craig Kimbrel. The Padres are stocked in the outfield, but none of those players covers centerfield like Margot. Making contact and speed is his game with enough power to slice the gaps. If he is forced to move to the corner his bat may not profile well for the position. Last year he hit over .275 at two levels, peaking at AA. His ability to make consistent contact could see those averages rise as he learns to control the bat. Last year he stole 39 bases making him a prime candidate for the Padres leadoff role as early as 2017. The Red Sox signed Margot for a bonus of $800,000.

5. Amed Rosario SS (Mets) - Amed is not as flashy as some of the American League Dominican shortstops. The Mets signed him $1.75 million in 2012 and wait patiently for him to learn his craft. With the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera as their shortstop the Mets can show some patience with Amed. His defense is probably better than what the Mets can produce at shortstop now, but his bat still needs a lot of work. As he matures he could develop more power, but it will be a challenge for him to reach double digits in homeruns. He is destined for AA in 2016 after hitting only .100 there in a brief 10 at bat trial. There is some speed in his legs but they are not used to steal bases, stealing only 13 last year in 17 attempts. If the power fails to develop he could fit comfortably in the number eight hole, providing good defense to prevent runs from scoring rather than driving them in.

6. Wilmer Difo SS/2B (Nationals) - Myworld believes he would make a better shortstop than Trea Turner. From what we have seen his arm is stronger. Wilmer made his major league debut this year, playing in short bursts and hitting to the tune of .182 in 11 at bats. Once he makes it to the major leagues he has the potential to hit over .300. His fielding percentage at shortstop was close to 50 points higher than Turner but one of them must move to second. With the signing of Brendan Ryan, Stephen Drew and Dan Murphy the Nationals appear to have a lot of veteran options in the middle infield area. Difo may have to wait for next season to make an impact with the Nationals.

7. Eloy Jimenez OF (Cubs) - The Cubs outfield is a bit crowded for the bonus baby who signed for $2.8 million as the number one international free agent in 2013. Next year Eloy should see a first season in a full season league. The last two years he has displayed his skills in the short season leagues weaving together an OPS of .702. This was all done as a 19 year old. No current Cub minor leaguer can claim the power that exists in his bat. His speed fits best in a corner outfield position, with enough arm to play right field.

8. Jeimer Candelario 3B (Cubs) - Jeimer signed for $500,000 in 2010 and it has taken him awhile to climb up the minor league ladder. His batting average has also increased with each level he has risen, climbing to .291 at AA Tennessee. Kris Bryant will have to move to the outfield if Jeimer wants a major league opportunity with the Cubs. He may not develop the power to profile at third base and he will certainly not supplant Bryant at the hot corner. His power is restricted to the gaps with 35 doubles last year. At this point he may be a better defensive option at third than Bryant, but his bat is not close to reaching his power production.

9. Francellis Montas RHP (Dodgers) - The Dodgers acquired Montas in the trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox. His fastball can touch triple digits, but sits in the higher 90s. Last year he made his major league debut with the White Sox striking out 12 hitters per nine innings, a better rate than he has achieved in the minor leagues. Poor command and weak secondary pitches may leave him in the bullpen. Conditioning is another area he needs to work on as his body is a little doughy. Expect him to compete for a job in the Dodgers bullpen.

10. Raimal Tapia OF (Rockies) - Another career .300 hitter in the minor leagues with the speed to play centerfield and the arm to play right. Last year he hit a career high 12 homeruns so the power could eventually develop to make him a five tool player. His stolen base totals of 97 in a three year period are evidence of his speed, but he has also been caught 54 times showing he still needs a lot of work on his game. His career average is .314 but that comes with a poor 24/105 walk to whiff ratio in High A last year. This could drop as he rises up the minor league ladder with pitchers taking advantage of his weak points.

Top Dominican Prospects 2015

Gurriel Brothers Defect

February 8th, 2016

Despite the protestations that they would wait until Cuba allowed the two brothers to play legally in the major leagues reports have surfaced that Yulieski Gurriel and his younger brother Lourdes have defected. The last couple years have been a bit rocky for the Gurriel brothers in their dealings with the Cuban baseball association and their selections of national team players. The two also failed to complete their contracts with the Yokahama Bay Stars in Japan, preferring to rest for the Cuban season.

Yulieski is the player ready to play now for a major league team. He plays both third and second, with third his best position. While many have touted his fielding myworld has noticed he is prone to making errors. Some have attributed that to the boredom of playing in the less talented Cuban League. In the Series del Caribe he committed three errors, two at second base and one at third base. Yulieski has the opportunity to hit 20 plus homeruns in the major leagues but at 31 years of age his window is closing.

The big prize is Lourdes Gurriel, who at 22 maybe the best hitting prospect of all the Cubans currently looking for a contract. The big question mark on him is his defense. He has tried playing short, second and third with little success and lots of errors. His most recent position has been the outfield, which is where he may be best suited. At 6′2″ he has the potential to hit for a lot of power, but has yet to find a starting role for the Industriales.

The two brothers are close so a team willing to sign them both could be at an advantage. A third brother Yunesky plays for the same Industriales team but would receive no interest from major league teams. He is a light hitting outfielder who is older than Yulieski so his time has passed.

Mexico Wins Series del Caribe 2016

February 8th, 2016

For the third time in four years Mexico won the Series del Caribe, defeating Venezuela in the finals 5-4. It was an undefeated six game run for the veteran team from Mexico who ruined the retirement party for pitcher Freddy Garcia, who announced he would retire after pitching the championship game. He pitched just over five innings, allowing just two runs, exiting the game with the two teams tied at 2-2.

Jorge Vazquez ended the game with a walk off homerun to lead off the bottom of the ninth hit off Renee Cortez on a 2-0 count. Cortez had come on to pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning to retire the last two hitters. The Yankees had signed Vazquez a number of years ago out of Mexico, but he never reached the major leagues despite his propensity for hitting the ball over the fence.

Mexico scored the first two runs off Freddy Garcia on a Chris Roberson RBI ground ball single to right field. A Garcia wild pitch eventually scored Roberson from third.

Jose Martinez continues to swing a hot bat, his leadoff single in the fifth preceding a two run homer from Hernan Perez over the left field fence to tie the game. Jose Martinez got on base again to lead off the seventh, striking out and reaching first when the catcher let the ball get away. Hernan Perez advanced him to second with a single and a Sandy Leon bunt load the bases. Teodoro Martinez drove in the go ahead run with a single but Perez was thrown out at the plate. A sacrifice fly by Alex Romero upped the Venezuelan lead to 4-2.

Mexico staged a two out rally in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, an error by Venezuela being crucial to the cause. Yuniesky Betancourt started the rally with a single and a missed catch by first baseman Felix Perez advanced them to second and third. Sebastian Valle, an ex Phillies prospect recently signed by the Yankees drove them both in with a single.

Venezuela had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the eighth. Justin Greene threw out Luis Ugueto as he tried to score on a Sandy Leon single that would have given Venezuela a 5-4 lead. It was the second runner Venezuela had thrown out at home in the game. The last year Venezuela won the Series del Caribe was in 2009. Puerto Rico has the longest streak of futility among the five teams having last won the Series del Caribe in 2000.

Mexico and Venezuela Trounce in Series del Caribe Semi-Finals

February 7th, 2016

Mexico got a bit of revenge by beating Cuba 7-2 in the semi-finals of the Series del Caribe playoffs. Last year Cuba defeated Mexico 3-2 in the finals. Venezuela had no trouble with Puerto Rico pounding them 13-3. It will be Mexico playing Venezuela for the championship.

Hector Daniel Rodriguez shut down Cuba for the first six innings and ex-teammate Yuniesky Betancourt battered the Cuban pitching staff for four RBIs to lead Mexico to the victory.

Mexico opened up the scoring in the fourth inning with a double by Alex Liddi and two walks to load the bases with no outs. Betancourt squeezed one through the hole into left field to drive in the first run. That ended the day for Vladimir Banos, bringing on Cuban relief ace Livan Moinelo. He walked in a run and was not allowed to face a second hitter. Yander Guevara came in and got a double play grounder but a third run scored. With the impotent Cuban offense three runs would be tough to overcome.

Erick Rodriguez made it four runs with his RBI single in the sixth. In the top of the seventh Cuba finally got to Hector Daniel Rodriguez. A walk and two singles, the last by Osvaldo Vazquez gave Cuba one run and runners on first and third with one out. Rodriguez was lifted after a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Lourdes Gourriel. Jose Adolis Garcia flew out to center, not deep enough to score the runner from third. Stayler Hernandez grounded into a double play to virtually end any hope for Cuba repeating as Series del Caribe champions.

Mexico and Betancourt iced the game in the bottom frame with a three run double. Cuba scored one more run in the eighth on a Alfredo Despaigne double. They even loaded the bases after a couple walks. Osvaldo Vazquez could not drive any of the runners in, striking out to leave them loaded. Cuba stranded 12 runners on base in the game.

Venezuela scored 10 runs in their last three innings of hitting to pound Puerto Rico 13-3. Jose Martinez had a three run homerun to finish the day with four RBIs and lead the offense. He finished the day with four hits, three runs scored and a double short of the cycle. Not much else to say about this game. Two more ex-Cubans Adonis Garcia and Dariel Alvarez combined to drive in three runs, Alvarez driving in two. The Cuban team could use a few more players who could drive in runs.

Bandits Win the Claxton Shield

February 6th, 2016

For the first time ever the Brisbane Bandits are winners of the Claxton Shield, the Australian baseball championship, sweeping the Adelaide Bite in a best of three playoff. Donald Lutz, who learned his baseball playing in Germany blasted a three run homerun in the third to get the scoring started. Australian native Travis Blackley pitched six innings of one run ball to keep the lead intact. He allowed a solo shot to Kyle Petty in the sixth after Brisbane had built a 5-0 lead.

The bullpen did the rest, retiring nine of the ten batters they faced. Matt Timms pitched two shutout innings, issuing one walk. Bandits closer Ryan Searle finished the Bite off retiring them in order in the ninth.

The Bandits won the opener 7-4 with Bralin Jackson and T.J. Bennett hitting solo shots. Bennett drove in three runs with a two run single in the four run third that gave the Bandits a 5-1 lead. Donald Lutz also drove in a run in the inning with a triple and Mitch Nilsson drove him in with a double.

Angus Roeger made it close with a three run homer in the fifth to pull the Bite to within 5-4. A Bennett solo shot in the sixth gave the Bandits an insurance run and a throwing error in the eighth by pitcher Dallas Gallant gave the Bandits a 7-4 lead. Ryan Searle left no doubt about the win, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth, all three hitters taking mighty swings and misses.

Cuba Eliminates Dominican Republic

February 6th, 2016

It was an embarrassing showing for the Dominican Republic, usually the favorites to win the Series del Caribe. They lost their third straight extra inning game the last one to Cuba 4-2 to be eliminated from the playoffs. Mexico remained undefeated with their 8-4 win over Puerto Rico. In the first round of the playoffs Mexico will battle Cuba while Puerto Rico tangles with Venezuela in the two semi final matches. Last year Cuba beat Mexico in the finals after winning only one game in the round robin, eliminating the host team Puerto Rico to squeak into the playoffs. They will try to repeat that history in this playoff but they have no Frederich Cepeda to get hot. He is in Nicaragua playing in their winter league.

An error by pitcher Fernando Rodney and a walk put the first two runners on in the ninth, ensuring there would be no bow and arrow display by Rodney in this game. After a bunt advanced the runners to second and third Rodney was able to strike out the next two batters. Rafael Soriano came on to pitch to Jose Adolis Garcia (brother of Adonis) and he grounded a ball up the middle into centerfield to score both runners and give Cuba a 4-2 lead.

The Dominican Republic put their first two runners on in the bottom frame on a walk and hit by pitch. After both events the Cuban manager replaced the Cuban pitchers Miguel Lahera and Yunier Cano. Jose Angel Garcia gave up a bunt that advanced the runners to second and third. Lew Ford pinch hit for Pedro Lopez and struck out. Leury Garcia grounded out to end the game and end the Dominican Republic’s hope for a Series del Caribe championship on their home turf. For the second year in a row the host club was eliminated from the playoffs.

Cuba had scored their first run in the second inning on an error by third baseman Diory Hernandez put the leadoff batter Alfredo Despaigne on base. A two out double into left field by Yeniet Perez scored Despaigne to make it 1-0 Cuba.

The Dominican Republic came back in the bottom frame, scoring their only runs of the game. Diory Hernandez and Alex Valdez got on base via singles setting up the two out two run double from Wilkin Castillo.

Both teams missed on opportunities to score in the fourth. Cuba had runners on second and third with just one out but Yoelvis Fiss struck out and Yeniet Perez flied out. The Dominican Republic loaded the bases without getting the ball out of the infield on two walks and an infield single but Zoilo Almonte stranded the three runners with a ground out.

Cuba tied the game in the eighth on a triple by Stayler Hernandez and a sacrifice fly from Yulieski Gourriel. Cuba got two runners on in the ninth but Lourdes Gourriel lined into a double play, Yeniet Perez wandering too far off first. Perez injured his ankle on the play sliding back to first and had to be removed from the game.

Miguel Lahera pitched four and two thirds innings of shutout relief for Cuba to get the win.

In a game to determine number one seeding Mexico prevented the officials from having to do a tie breaker by exploding for six runs in the eighth to break a 2-2 tie. Cyle Hankerd smashed a pinch hit two run double to break the tie. Ramon Urias followed with a two run double to extend the lead. Jeremias Pineda and Justin Greene continued the two base barrage with RBI doubles to make it four doubles in a row for the inning.

Pineda, Greene and Jorge Vazquez led the 16 hit attack for Mexico with three hits each. Mexico was sloppy in their fielding, their four errors giving Puerto Rico three of their four runs.

Top Ten Dominican Prospects - American League

February 6th, 2016

Normally myworld starts out with the top ten prospects of Europe and then by June we get to the Dominican Republic, struggling to find the time to put together the lists as the baseball season is in full swing. This year we thought we would start with the Dominican Republic since the Series del Caribe is being played there this year. This is an informal list since we don’t see all the players, but those players who we do see who make an impression get rated highly. So below is the list of top prospects from the Dominican Republic who still have rookie eligibility if they should make a major league roster.

1) Raul Mondesi Jr SS (Royals) - The only player in major league history to make his debut in a World Series game. His father is the slugger of the same name who played outfield for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Raul is more a defense/speed type of player relying more on hitting the gaps than launching balls over the fence. His defense is gold glove but his bat is tough to measure since he hits against pitchers four years older than him. Last year he hit just .243 in AA as a 20 year old. His career walk to whiff rate has been poor, averaging about four whiffs per walk. His OBP was only .279. Alcides Escobar plays ahead of him in Kansas City. He plays a solid defense, hitting .257 with a .293 OBP, but Mondesi is expected to have more power. If Mondesi wants a major league role he will need to learn to take more walks to up the average and OBP, otherwise the Royals will stay with what they have.

2) Jorge Mateo SS (Yankees) - Mondesi has good speed. Mateo has game breaking speed, stealing 82 bases last year between Low A and High A. Stolen base numbers tend to drop as players reach the higher levels and catchers get better with throwing out runners and pitchers are more proficient at keeping runners close to the base. His defense will not be stellar but he has the range and arm to play the position. The bat is expected to develop some power, though last year he only carried two balls over the fence. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop for the next couple years the Yankees can be patient with him, giving him a full year in AA. If his bat shows he is ready for the major leagues now they can also move him to second base. Jorge is one month older than Mondesi.

3) Nomar Mazara OF (Rangers) - Another 1995 birther the Rangers shelled out $4.95 million to sign him. That first year there were some concerns with his bat. Those fears have been erased after last year when he hit .296 between AA and AAA while slugging 14 homeruns. He is not a fast runner so his defense in the outfield is a bit suspect. His arm is strong enough to play right field. Nomar needs to exhibit power to justify the Rangers putting his subpar defense in the outfield. Expect to see him in the outfield with the Rangers next year with no superstars blocking his path.

4). Rafael Devers 3B (Red Sox) -Devers is a hitting machine who appears to have the tools to play the hot corner. If he slows down he could move to first, though his offensive game will not make him as attractive as a first baseman. Last year his average dipped below .300 at Low A for the first time in his career. He did show gap power with 38 doubles and 11 homeruns. Rafael will still be a teenager as he debuts in High A next year so he should only get stronger. Some of his 38 doubles may climb over the fence.

5) Gary Sanchez C (Yankees) - The good news is he is better than Jesus Montero at the catcher position. A strong arm should keep him at catcher. His other tools such as calling a game and framing a pitch are not as strong. The Yankees signed Brian McCann as a free agent so Sanchez could use McCann as a mentor in a valuable role as a back up. A move to first base would lesson his bat potential. Gary made his major league debut last year achieving two at bats and failing to get a hit. His bat should be good for 20 plus pops per year and his arm can neutralize a running game. Expect a few more major league at bats and he gains experience in the minor leagues. Sanchez was signed the same year as Miguel Sano, who was considered a better prospect but Sano appears to have passed Sanchez having played the major leagues and almost winning the rookie of the year award.

6) Willy Adames SS (Rays) - Willy was the targeted player the Rays received for trading David Price. He was a bit young for his league last year, playing High A at 18 years of age, when most players will be first exposed to the minors in a short season league. The arm is there to play shortstop and there is no player blocking him at the position. Realistically, he will make his debut sometime late in 2017. Currently his game is mainly gap power (24 doubles). Speed is not his game and he swings and misses too much with 123 whiffs in less than 400 at bats. His walk rate is high putting his OBA at .342. Next year Willy will begin the season in AA. Whether he gets promoted to AAA or the majors will be dependent on how far his bat advances.

7) Francis Marte RHP (Astros) - Francis was acquired from the Marlins in the Jarred Cosart trade. His fastball has hit the triple digits but generally sits around the mid-90s. His curve is major league quality, but he lacks a third or fourth pitch. He still has time to find a third pitch to stay in the rotation. Last year he rose from Low A to AA, averaging over 9 whiffs per nine innings. His walk rate is low but AA hitters did hit him at a .311 clip. That will be where he starts in 2016. At 6′1″ 225 he will need to watch his weight.

8) Michael Feliz RHP (Astros) - A lack of a secondary pitch may relegate Feliz to the bullpen. His fastball can hit the high 90s, but in a starting role he sits in the mid-90s. A slider/change combination are his other pitches. Last year he made his major league debut with a 7.88 ERA in five bullpen appearances. He seems to bounce around between a starting and a relief role. The major leagues is a tough place to learn a second pitch so expect him to start the season in AAA.

9) Adrian Rodon SS (Rays) - The Rays normally do not break the bank signing international prospects. They did for Adrian, signing him for a $2.95 million bonus. Last year he made his professional debut but as a 17 year old he only hit .166, striking out in more than a third of his at bats. He has all the defensive tools to play short with a strong arm and soft hands. The one concern is his lack of speed which could relegate him to second base. It would not hurt for Adrian to repeat the Gulf Coast League to achieve some success.

10. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. OF (Jays) - Myworld started it with the son of an ex major leaguer and we will end it with the son of an ex-major leaguer. The father will be eligible for the Hall of Fame this year. The son is just getting his career started, signing last year for a bonus of $3.9 million. At 6′1″ and 200 pounds he is more solidly built than his father but whether that will translate to a better bat only time will tell. He did not play in the minor leagues last year and will probably begin his season in a short season league. He lacks the arm of his father so he could be relegated to left field. The Jays have indicated a move to third base, interesting for a player with a below average arm.

Dominican Republic and Cuba to Battle to Avoid Elimination

February 5th, 2016

Last year Cuba beat host Puerto Rico to eliminate them from the playoffs. That win turned the momentum around for Cuba, motivating them to win the Series del Caribe after looking awful in the round robin. Their pitching was better yesterday, but they dropped to 0-3, losing to Venezuela 3-1. Puerto Rico shocked the Dominican Republic with a walk off homerun in the bottom of the 14th to win 2-1, the third straight one run loss for the Dominican Republic and the second in a row in extra innings as a result of a walk off hit. Cuba will again play the host team to avoid elimination and at the same time knock the host team from the playoffs. Only time will tell if history repeats itself.

Neftali Soto gave Puerto Rico their second win and an appearance in the playoffs with a walk off homerun in the bottom of the 14th, defeating the host Dominican Republic 2-1. The Dominican Republic had just brought in Wirfin Obispo to pitch. His first pitch was a ball. His second pitch was deposited over the left centerfield wall.

For the Dominican Republic the homerun ruined an excellent pitching performance by starter Cesar Valdes. He pitched the first seven innings and limited Puerto Rico to just three hits, walking none and striking out six. He was pulled after throwing just 76 pitches, 58 of which were strikes.

The only run scored in the game through the first eight innings was on a Jimmy Paredes solo shot in the fifth. Rafael Soriano came on to pitch the ninth to give the Dominican Republic the win. He retired the first two hitters before giving up a double to Juan Silva. The walk off hero Neftali Soto then touched him off for a triple to tie the game. The Dominican Republic chose to walk Kennys Vargas intentionally and Soriano retired pinch hitter Jesmuel Valentin on a fly out to take it to extra innings.

The Dominican Republic got an additional four innings of shutout relief from Ramon Garcia. He was replaced by Obispo to start the 14th inning where Soto made his second pitch a game winner. Fernando Cruz pitched two innings of relief for Puerto Rico to get the win. Soto finished the day a double short of the cycle.

It was a day when the Cuban starter got to the third inning before Vladimir Banos was pulled for ineffectiveness. Livan Moinello pitched better than the one out he recorded yesterday, going four shutout innings in relief to keep Cuba in the game. The offense could only generate one run and Venezuela made the three early runs pay off in their 3-1 win. It was a game that saw Adonis Garcia a Cuban defector playing for Venezuela face off against his brother Jose Adolis Garcia.

Venezuela used seven different pitchers, none of them lasting more than two innings to quiet the Cuban bats. A third error in the series by Yulieski Gourriel set up the first run, this error made while he was playing third while his first two errors were at second base. It allowed Dariel Alvarez to reach second. That error was followed by an error by first baseman Ariel Borrero but it paid off for them when Alvarez was thrown out at home on the play. A single by Hernan Perez moved Jose Martinez to third where he scored on a fly ball hit by Sandy Leon.

In the third Venezuela got a lead off single from Juniel Querecuto. Alex Romero lined a double to left field to score Querecuto with the second run. Jose Martinez drove in the second run of the inning grounding a single to left and ending the day for Banos. Venezuela had jumped to an early 3-0 lead.

Cuba scored their only run in the seventh when Jose Garcia led off the inning with a triple. He scored on a ground out when Venezuela chose to retire the runner going to first than getting the out at home.

Cuba was restricted to six hits. Yulieski Gourriel and Jose Garcia each had two hits. Cuba did put runners on first and third with one out in the ninth after a single and error, the fourth error by Venezuela in the game. Yorbis Borroto struck out and Yulieski Gourriel grounded out to end the inning and the game.

Puerto Rico will play Mexico today. A win by Puerto Rico will put them in a three way tie with Mexico and Venezuela for first place in the round robin. Cuba and the Dominican Republic will do battle to determine the team eliminated from the playoffs.

Baseball Fans Flock to Peoria to See Superstar

February 5th, 2016

Those baseball fans who only follow major league baseball may not be familiar with the name Shohei Ohtani. But Japanese fans know who he is and there is no player in major league baseball quite like him. He is a 21 year old player who throws fastballs in the high 90s, occasionally hitting triple digits. Nothing special about that. Many major leaguer pitchers can meet those numbers. But that is not all Ohtani can do. He can also hit fastballs over 400 feet with a sweet lefthanded swing not seen since Ken Griffey Jr. (embellished for effect since many left handed swings look sweet from the good hitters, regardless of who they are).

Shohei pitches and plays outfield for the Nippon Ham Fighters. The last player in the major leagues to hit double digits in homeruns and record double digits in wins as a pitcher in the same year was a player by the name of Babe Ruth. Shohei Otani accomplished that feat in 2014. The Japanese do not have to look in their history books to see their Babe Ruth. He plays in Japan right now for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Nippon Ham Fighters are training for the first two weeks in February in Peoria, Arizona. Curious fans can come out to the Padres/Mariners spring training park to watch him pitch. Or hit. For a point of reference, Yu Darvish pitched for the Nippon Ham Fighters before departing for the major leagues. The Nippon Ham Fighters gave Otani the number 11 uniform number of Yu Darvish. Shohei at this point is a better pitcher than Darvish. Throws harder too. Some may argue he has the potential to be a pretty good hitter too.

At some point the Nippon ham Fighters may post Ohtani for the maximum $20 million posting fee. For that amount there may be 30 major league teams who will bid for him. Currently, Ohtani is worth more than the $20 million posting fee in the revenue he brings in to the Nippon Ham Fighters with ticket and uniform sales. A major league team lucky enough to acquire him would earn more than the $20 million they posted for him and the $25 million per year they would probably have to pay him to have him sign a contract. If the Cuban 16 year old Yoan Moncada can get a $31 million bonus from the Red Sox, Ohtani could easily ask for $50 million. It would be the reality of the market.

For now, Ohtani will pitch in Japan. The major leagues will be deprived of having the opportunity to have one of the top five pitchers in baseball pitch for their team. They will get to watch him in the World Baseball Classic as he mows down major league hitters and dream what it would be like to have him on their roster.

A word of warning to any major league team that wants to fork out the $50 million it will take to sign him. Shohei Ohtani is not satisfied with just pitching. He wants to also play the outfield. You give him both and the $25 to $30 million per year it will take to sign him and you will have your Babe Ruth. Only like many of the Japanese players who come to the major leagues to play, his best years will have been played in Japan.

Matt Murton Signs Minor League Contract with Cubs

February 4th, 2016

Many fans will not be familiar with the name Matt Murton if they do not follow Japanese baseball. Matt has not appeared in a major league game since 2009. He has played seven seasons in the Japanese professional league (NPB) playing for the Hanshin Tigers and pulling the equivalent of an Ichiro Suzuki by breaking the Japanese record for hits in one season (214 hits in 2010 when he hit .349 in his rookie season held by Ichiro Suzuki). His career average while playing seven seasons in Japan was .310.

At 34 years of age he may not be an impact player with the Cubs. There is a chance he could make the team as a fourth or fifth outfielder, or do well enough in the minors that the Cubs would consider him as a option for depth in case of injury. The Hanshin Tigers chose to release him after the 2015 season rather than sign him for another year, even though Matt expressed an interest in extending his career in Japan.

Matt was a first round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2003, traded to the Cubs along with Nomar Garciaparra.