Mexico - 2017 WBC Review

February 25th, 2017

Overview - Mexico has its own professional league. The longer league plays in the summer but they also have a winter league that competes in February in the Series del Caribe with four other countries. Mexico has been one of the better countries in the tournament winning three of the last four Series del Caribes until last year when Puerto Rico won.

Major league teams must pay Mexican teams for the right to use players from Mexico. Mexican teams draft locals young so the opportunities do not exist for major league teams to scour Mexico for young talent. This payment of players is part of an informal agreement that was put in place when a Mexican team owner bought a number of major league players who were in contract disputes. Fearing a rise in salary the major leagues agreed not to raid Mexican League teams for players and the Mexican League in turn would not raid the major league teams for players. Most of the bonus paid to a Mexican League team for a player like Julio Urias goes to the team. Very little of that bonus money is ever pocketed by the player.

When the baseball world cup was being played Mexico did not field a lot of competitive teams. Most of their players were committed to playing in their summer leagues so the rosters have always been watered down. The last medals Mexico won was in 1961 and 1965 when they won silver medals. They also won silver medals in 1943 and 1944 and a bronze in 1941.

Mexico also had difficulty overcoming the United States and Cuba in the Pan Am games, which was a vehicle for teams to qualify for the Olympics. They won bronze medals in 1951, 1963, 2003 and 2007 but they have never been able to finish higher than third. While they have never been to an Olympic event they have been able to upset the United States in an America’s Cup game to eliminate them from appearing in the 2004 Olympics, four years after the United States won gold in the 2000 Olympics.

Mexico has competed in all three World Baseball Classics. In 2006 they were able to advance to the second round after finishing in a three way tie for first with the United States and Canada at 2-1. The United States and Mexico advanced based on the tie breaking formulae in place leaving Canadian fans fuming. They did not advance past the second round, winning only one game, but that game brought them satisfaction. The 2-1 win over the United States was the second time in two years they had eliminated the United States from a major event. With the loss to Mexico the United States did not advance to the final four.

In the 2009 WBC Mexico was able to advance to the second round. After being spanked by Australia 17-7 in the opening game they played them again in a losers bracket game with the loser going home. This time Mexico did the spanking with a 16-1 win. In the final game against Cuba they got spanked again 16-4. The lack of pitching did not bode well for them in the second round and they lost both games, first to South Korea (8-2) and then to Cuba (7-4).

In the most recent 2013 WBC Mexico was able to beat the United States again, but they lost to Canada and Italy to fail to advance for the first time in the three WBCs. The bright spot was the victory over the United States but because of their last place finish in the pool they had to qualify for the 2017 WBC. They did that with wins over Czech Republic and Nicaragua, getting an opportunity to host a tournament.

Because Mexico was ranked as one of the top 12 teams in baseball they qualified for the Premier 12 in 2015. A fourth place finish in their pool allowed them to advance to a single elimination playoff round. They were able to beat Canada 4-3 in the first game but this time the United States got revenge by eliminating Mexico 6-1.

Mexico hopes to advance to the second round in this WBC tournament, but the pool they are in will not make it easy.

Current ranking - Mexico is currently ranked sixth in the World Baseball Rankings, their highest ranking ever. There is a lot at stake for them to advance to the second round. They are the highest ranked team in their pool with Venezuela just below them at seventh and Italy at number 11. Puerto Rico, which finished second in this tournament in 2013 is ranked 12th but they may have a better roster than they had in 2013.

Roster

Pitchers - Jorge de la Rosa, Yovani Gallardo, Giovanny Gallegos, Jaime Garcia, Miguel Gonzalez, Luis Mendoza (DPP), Vidal Nuno, Roberto Osuna (DPP), Oliver Perez, Sergio Romo, Fernando Salas, Jake Sanchez, Joakim Soria, Carlos Torres

Designated Pitchers Pool - Miguel Aguilar, Andres Avila, Marco Estrada, Carlos Fisher, Rafael Martin, Mario Meza, Ivan Salas, Julio Urias

Catchers - Xorge Carrillo, Sebastian Valle

Infielders - Japhet Amador, Daniel Castro, Luis Alfonso Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Laird, Esteban Quiroz, Jose Manuel Rodriguez

Outfielders - Jose Aguilar, Khris Davis, Efren Navarro, Chris Roberson, Alex Verdugo

Strengths - The bullpen should be strong with Roberto Osuna, Sergio Romo, Oliver Perez and Joakim Soria all capable of shutting down opponents after the sixth inning. The starting pitching may not be as strong in the first round as the second with Yovani Gallardo, Jaime Garcia and Jorge de La Rosa all solid starters. If they can get past the first round Julio Urias and Marco Estrada can be added to the rotation from the designated pitchers pool. If Adrian Gonzalez is healthy the Mexican team is set at first base with he and Japhet Amador providing the power. Amador failed in his major league opportunity and is now playing in Japan but his bat can carry the ball a long way. Brandon Laird can provide additional pop at third base. He is one of the top power hitters in Japan and was a top prospect with the Yankees before heading to Japan.

Weakness - They have no major leaguer behind the plate. Sebastian Valle was once a top prospect but now he is a journeyman. The outfield has been hit by the loss of Khris Davis. If he is unable to play this outfield becomes weak. Alex Verdugo is a top 100 prospect and Chris Roberson is a star in the Mexican league, but neither are a strength. Up the middle is where teams win games and Mexico is weak there. Shortstop, second base, centerfield and catching all lack any player with major league quality, though Daniel Castro is a solid utility player.

Prospects to Watch - Alex Verdugo is a top 100 prospect on most lists. He is a Dodger outfielder who carries all five tools, though none of them at a high level. He is the only prospect myworld would be interested in.

Expected Finish - Mexico will battle but will fall short advancing to the second round if they can’t upset either Venezuela or Puerto Rico. Myworld just likes the roster of Venezuela and Puerto Rico better. If Julio Urias was in the starting rotation in the first round Mexico would have a better shot at pulling an upset.

MyWorld’s Top 100 Prospects - 100 -91

February 25th, 2017

They are not really our top 100 prospects. They are a collection of top 100 lists that we have put together and then assigned values, i.e. 10 points for a number 1 and 9.9 for a number 2 all the way down to a .1 for a number 100. The numbers are compiled and averaged. Below are the 100-91 prospects.

100. Bobby Bradley 1B (Indians) 0.85 - When Bradley is ready for the major leagues Carlos Santana will move to DH. There is pop in is bat, but also a lot of swing and miss. He will hit 30 plus homeruns in the majors but may also fall below .250 with his average. Don’t expect an upgrade over Santana at first base and his lack of speed makes the outfield not an option.

99. Casey Gillespie 1B/3B (Rays) 0.88 - Casey will have to hope for a better career than his brother Conner. The Rays drafted him in the first round but he appears to be more a gap hitter. The homeruns will not be frequent but he could hit for a decent average with lots of doubles. It doesn’t hurt that he is a switch hitter and can play two positions, though he appears to be more suited defensively for first base.

98. Franklin Perez RHP (Astros) 1.03 - The Venezuelan has increased his fastball to where it is now hitting in the mid-90s. At 6′3″ and 220 pounds he has a good frame for pitching. He also throws two breaking pitches (slider and curve) and a change so he has the repertoire to start. Another good season at High A will raise his profile.

97. Grant Holmes RHP (Athletics) 1.03 - Originally drafted by the Dodgers in the first round in 2014. They soured on his numbers and less than overpowering fastball (92-95) trading him to the Athletics in the Rich Hill and Josh Reddick trade. Lefthanded hitters had his way against him (.303) and in five starts California League hitters smacked him around for a .355 average. He will begin his Athletic career in High A.

96. Luiz Gohara LHP (Braves) 1.05 - The Brazilian pitcher can throw hard, his fastball zipping across the plate in the mid to high 90s, sometimes even hitting triple digits. His big issue is getting control of his pitches. Lefties with hard fastballs tend to take a bit longer to develop. His secondary pitches also need improvement (slider/change) otherwise he will end up in the bullpen.

95. Cody Reed LHP (Reds) 1.2 - Cody also has a slider/fastball combination, but his fastball sits more in the 93-95 range. He got beat and battered a bit in 10 starts with Cincy (7.39 ERA, .328 opposition ave) so it will be back to AAA where he needs to enhance the change to give him a third pitch. He also gave up 12 homeruns in the majors in just 48 innings of work.

94. Jahmai Jones OF (Angels) 1.23 - The Angels do not have the strongest farm system but the second round pick in 2015 has been a pleasant surprise. Speed is his best asset with developing power. He does not have any one outstanding tool, but he has five above average tools that will play.

93. Tyler Beede RHP (Giants) 1.25 - Beede was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. He’s been a bit slow to develop for a pitcher drafted out of college, but his fastball had dropped in velocity as he tried to acclimate to professional baseball and pitching twice a week instead of once. The fastball is back in the low 90s and there is more swing and miss in the hitter’s swing. He could make his major league debut this year after starting the season in AAA.

92. Ronald Acuna OF (Braves) 1.32 - Acuna had it rough over the winter having to play baseball in Australia. The Venezuelan has the potential to bring to the major leagues five impressive tools, with the speed to steal bases and play centerfield, the arm to play right and the hit tool to fit in the .300 neighborhood and as he matures the power to fit in a corner outfield.

91. Albert Almora OF (Cubs) 1.32 - With Dexter Fowler gone via free agency Cub fans will see a lot more of Almora patrolling centerfield. He has excellent defensive tools. The big concern is whether his bat can survive against major league pitching. In a brief major league 100 plus at bat debut Almora hit .270 with a .763 OPS. They will take that kind of production with his defensive tools.

India Constructs First Baseball Field

February 24th, 2017

India has constructed its first baseball field, six acres of green that will host five international trainers to improve the Indians baseball skills. The Co-founder of Grand Slam Baseball Raunag Sahni helped support the development of the field along with major league baseball and Play Global.

It may also one day be used to host the West Asia baseball tournament, which is currently being played and hosted by Pakistan. Six teams are entered in the tournament, India, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Nepal, Iran and Pakistan. The winner of the tournament will compete in the Asia Baseball Championships held this year. Pakistan is the defending champ of the West Asia baseball tournament, but there skill level still falls far below that of Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Cardinals Sign Jose Garcia

February 24th, 2017

The Cardinals signed Jose Adolis Garcia, who is the younger brother of Adonis Garcia for a bonus estimated at $2.5 million. Major league baseball declared Garcia a free agent in December. Adonis Garcia had originally signed with the Yankees but has bounced around since. He was a couple years older than his younger brother Jose when he defected.

At 6′1″ Jose is a couple inches taller than his older brother Adonis. He should hit for a little more power than his older brother, who also began his career as an outfielder before the Braves moved him to third base. His defense in the outfield is a battle for consistency. Garcia struggled in the Japanese minor league system hitting just .234 with a .396 slugging percentage. In four games with the NPB Yomiuri Giants Jose went 0 for 7 with three whiffs. Those poor numbers did not discourage the Cardinals from still signing the 23 year old.

Jose could start the season in extended spring training but at age 23 the Cardinals would prefer he move quickly through their minor league system. Don’t be surprised if he begins his minor league career in low A with some time in extended spring training.

Korea - 2017 WBC Review

February 23rd, 2017

Overview - This may be a tough year for Korea. A number of injuries to their local stars and injuries or reluctance of major league teams to have their Korean players participate in the WBC has impacted the quality of talent on the roster. One player Jung-Ho Kang was removed from the roster because of multiple DUI offenses, one involving a hit and run.

Korea has always played second fiddle to Japan for baseball supremacy in Asia. In the Asian baseball championships Japan has dominated, allowing Korea with an occasional gold medal to keep their interest in the competition. The last Asian championship in 2015 Korea won the gold medal. They have also had some success in other international events that have put the spot light on them as a team to watch.

The biggest event that catapulted them to prominence was probably the 2008 Olympics. This was two years after the 2006 WBC when they surprised the world by going undefeated in the first two pools before losing in the semi final round to Japan 6-0. It left a bitter taste in Korea’s mouth after they had defeated Japan twice to have to settle for third place after only one loss in the tournament.

In what was thought to be the last Olympics for baseball Korea again ran through their competition in pool play with a 7-0 record. They defeated the United States 8-7 with two runs in the final frame to win the game, Dae-Ho Lee hitting a homerun in the game. Hyun-Jin Roo was the winning pitcher as they shutout Canada 1-0 and Dae-Ho Lee hit his second homerun of the event in their 5-3 victory over Japan. Of their seven wins, four were by one run.

In the semi-finals South Korea shocked Japan again 6-2. Hyun-Jin Ryu got the start against Cuba and Seung-yeop Lee hit his second homerun of the Olympics and South Korea won another one run ball game, defeating Cuba 3-2 to win the gold medal. South Korea had made a statement to the baseball world that they were a force to contend with.

In the old baseball world cups Korea got their ascension to prominence with a bronze medal finish in 1978, their first baseball medal in international competition. They improved to a silver in the next baseball world cup in 1980 and then won the gold medal in 1982. The 1982 gold medal was tainted by the fact the best team in the world, Cuba did not participate in this event. After that Korea won a bronze in 1990 and silvers in 1986, 1994, 1998 and 2005. The reward for many of these players was an exemption from the compulsory military service all Korean males have to complete in their youth.

Korea continued their success in the 2009 World Baseball Classic winning pool A and finishing second in the second round to advance to the semifinals. There they walloped Venezuela 10-2 to play Japan in the championship match, a team they had already beaten twice in the tournament and lost to once. Japan defeated them in the finals in 10 innings 5-3. This was just another untimely loss in the life of baseball for Korea.

Korea stumbled in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, failing to get past Taiwan and Netherlands, with the three tied for first place at 2-1. South Korean fans felt a little ripped off not being allowed to advance after only losing one game. They got a measure of revenge in the Premier 12 where they got past the first round despite losses to Japan and the United States. In the single elimination playoff stage they eliminated Cuba, upset Japan and then knocked off a team of minor leaguers from the United States 8-0 to win the gold medal.

Now they are hosting the first round of the WBC in a brand new state of the art stadium. It will be a tough pool with Taiwan, Israel and the Netherlands in it. One interesting note about the Korean team - their manager does not want to use the designated pitcher pool. He will win with the 28 players currently on the roster.

International Ranking - Korea is currently ranked third, fueled by their recent gold medal victory in the Premier 12. The Netherlands will be their toughest test despite their ninth place ranking, but this team has a bevy of major leaguers on their roster. Taiwan, who is ranked fourth is another tough test. Israel is ranked 41st, but that is a bit misleading since their roster is sprinkled with players who have major league experience.

Roster

Pitchers - Woo-Chan Cah, Won-Jun Chang, Si-Hwan Jang, Hyun-Seung Lee, Chang-Yong Lim, Jung-Woo Lim, Seung-Hwan Oh, Hee-Soo Park, Dae-Eun Rhee, Chang-Min Sim, Jong-Hyun Won, Kyu-Min Woo, Hyeon-Jong Yang

Catchers - Tae-Gun Kim, Eui-Ji Yang

Infielders - Kyoung-Min Hur, Ha-Seong Kim, Jae-Ho Kim, Tae-Kyun Kim, Dae-Ho Lee, Jae-Won Oh, Sok-Min Park, Geon-Chang Seo

Outfielders - Hyun-Wook, Choi, Yong-Kyu Lee, Byung-Hun Min, Kun-Woo Park, Ah-Seop Son

Strengths - The one major leaguer they have is Seung-Hwan Oh, the closer for the St Louis Cardinals. Oh was also a closer in Japan. There was some controversy about including him on the roster because of his affiliation with gamblers. If he comes back to the KBO to finish out his career he will have to serve a suspension because of the violation. Dae-Ho Lee played in the major leagues last year but signed a lucrative contract to return to Korea. He played a few years in Japan but in his early years he was one of the most prolific homerun hitters in baseball. Lee holds the international baseball record for most consecutive games with a homerun with nine. Geon-chang Seo is the only Korean player to finish with 200 hits in a season. He will play second base for the Koreans. Offense tends to reign supreme in the KBO so offensive numbers have to be taken lightly, but the power source for Korea appears to be Sok-Min Park who hit 32 homeruns. He will handle third for Korea. Tae-Kyun Kim was second in hitting at .365 in the KBO. His defense is limited to DH or pinch hitting.

Weakness - The starting pitching may be better than given credit for because of the offensive oriented KBO. Hyun-Jong Yang was the only Korean pitcher to reach 200 innings with a 3.68 ERA. Woo-Chan Cha will be their other ace. The fact that a number of their players who left for the major leagues such as Shin-soo Choo, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hyun-Soo Kim, Jung-Ho Park and Byung-Ho Park are not playing for the team because of their need to fight for roster spots decreases the quality of the team. Even the recently signed San Francisco Giant third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang is not on the roster.

Prospects to Watch - This is an older team. Some of the younger players such as Ha-Seong Kim myworld does not know enough about to comment.

Expected Finish - Myworld thinks the Koreans have enough to escape into the second round, but that is probably as far as they get.

30 Teams in 30 Days - New York Yankees

February 23rd, 2017

Overview - The Yankees are in rebuilding mode. If they could find takers for Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley they would go with an even more youthful team. The talent is there to make a difference. Last year they didn’t do a lot well, finishing near the bottom in most of the offensive, fielding and pitching categories. They also have to hope the arm of Masahiro Tanaka stays together. Starting pitching is where their depth gets dicey. The Yankees also had Gary Sanchez hit 20 homeruns in 52 games and hope he does not become another Shane Spencer. They also had Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge become the first rookies to hit back to back homeruns in their first at bats.

Strengths - The Yankees traded Brain McCann to the Braves after Gary Sanchez hit 20 homeruns in 52 games. His homerun production will probably not be as great next year but he has the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns. He also has a strong arm for controlling a running game. Didi Gregorius is making Yankees fans forget Derek Jeter. The shortstop is not noted for his power but last year hit 20 homeruns and slugged .447. Didi is also a good defensive shortstop, committing just 15 errors and showing Yankee fans what a rangy shortstop looks like. The bullpen will be strong with Dellin Betances setting up Aroldis Chapman. Dellin was not comfortable in the closers role last year for the Yankees but he is now in his more comfortable set up role. Tyler Clippard will take over the seventh inning role. The Yankees need their bullpen to give them about three innings each game to make up for a young pitching staff.

Weakness - They are relying on talented rookies to fill two positions. Aaron Judge could hit 30 plus homeruns but he also could strikeout 170 times and bat .210. The Yankees have Aaron Hicks they can use to protect Judge if he struggles. Greg Bird was supposed to take over the first base position last year but missed the whole season because of injury. He is healthy now and will take over first base. The Yankees signed Chris Carter as a backup should Bird falter. Despite their stellar bullpen last year their pitching was 15th in ERA. That is the fault of the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka is the ace but he has been troubled by a balky elbow that could need surgery. C.C. Sabathia had a decent season last year but he will be 37 years old and his stuff is not as good as it once was. Michael Pineda continues to tease, but the repertoire is there for him to become a top of the rotation pitcher. After those three it will be a battle between rookie and second year pitchers. Chase Headley will put up no more than vanilla offensive numbers at third base. Last year he slugged 14 homeruns and drove in 51.

Impact Prospects - Aaron Judge is expected to be the starting rightfielder. At 25 he does not have much to prove in the minor leagues. His power can be 30 plus but he needs to improve on his ability to make contact. Clint Frazier is another outfielder who could see time in centerfield if Jacoby Ellsbury misses significant time due to injury. Ideally the Yankees would like to see him play most of his season in AAA. He has the potential to be a 20/20 player. Chance Adams and Jordan Montgomery have a chance to see some time in the rotation. Adams limited the opposition to a .145 average in 12 starts at AA. Montgomery finished with an ERA of 0.97 in six AAA starts. Chad Green dominated in AAA last year but when called up to the Yankees coughed up 12 homeruns in just 46 innings.

Prospects to Watch - Gleyber Torres is the Yankees top prospect. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop the Yankees can be patient with him. The shortstop with all five tools should start the season in AA. Blake Rutherford was the Yankees first round pick in 2016. He hit .389 in a short 89 at bat trial in the rookie league. The Yankees could start the outfielder in Low A this year where a below average arm could relegate him to left field. Jorge Mateo may have to move to second with the arrival of Torres. The main asset for Mateo is his speed though his stolen base numbers dropped from 82 to 36 last year. Jorge showed some deceptive power, but also some character flaws, suspended for objecting to no promotion to AA after the All star break. Dustin Fowler is an 18th round pick that broke out last year. He shows speed for centerfield and enough power to hit 12 homeruns. His speed gives him excellent range in centerfield. The Yankees are waiting for Miguel Andujar to show he is ready for third base. The power is there but the defense is still in question. The Yankees would prefer not to move him to first since they have Greg Bird as a fixture there. From the pitching stand point James Kaprielian is a 2015 first round pick out of UCLA who could be moved up quickly. Injuries last year limited him to three starts. Justus Sheffield is a high profile left hander who throws in the mid-90s who was acquired from the Indians in the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Expected Finish - Myworld anticipates the starting pitching will hold up and Aaron Judge and Greg Bird will hit for power. This will get them a finish of third place in their division, missing any playoff opportunity.

Japan 2017 WBC Review

February 22nd, 2017

Overview - Japan is a two time champion of the World Baseball Classic. They are also the number one rated baseball power in the world based on their showing in international events. This makes them the team to beat in the WBC.

They have not always been a strong international baseball power. The Baseball World Cups did not have them finishing in the medal rounds until 1976 when they won a bronze medal, though like the United States they are handicapped by having a professional league running at the same time the World Cup events were being held. The teams were mostly composed of players from their college teams or from their industrial leagues. After that first medal Japan won three more bronze medals in 1980, 2003 and 2007 with their best finish a silver medal in the 1982 World Cup.

The same handicap plagues Japan that hinders the United States when the Olympics are played. Japan runs its professional leagues during the summers when the Olympics begin so their teams are composed mainly of players from college or their industrial leagues. They have won bronze medals in 1992 and 2004, with a silver medal in 1996. In the last Olympics in 2008 they did have a roster of professional players and finished in the top four to make it to the medal rounds but lost to the eventual gold medalist South Korea 6-2. The United States beat them in the bronze medal game 8-4 with a roster composed mainly of minor league ball players. The finish was a big disappointment to the Japanese, who were hoping for a gold medal in what was defined as the last Olympics in baseball.

Japan is the strongest of the three Asian powers with Korea second and Taiwan third. Japan had won five straight Asian baseball championships before Korea broke their streak in 2015. Japan finished third that year falling behind Taiwan.

Doing well in the 2017 WBC will atone for their disappointing finish in the Premier 12 where they finished undefeated in pool play but again lost to the eventual champion South Korean team in the semifinals 4-3. They did win the bronze medal by bashing Mexico 11-1, but like they are a thorn to the side of Cuba, South Korea is a thorn in the Japanese side.

In the WBC they won the opener downing Cuba in the finals. They again had some troubles overcoming South Korea, losing to them in the opening pool and the second pool. In the semi-final medal round it was Koji Uehara who pitched seven innings of shutout ball to give Japan a 6-0 win and a trip to the gold medal game against the Cubans. Daisuke Matsuzake got the start in the Cuban game Japan won 10-6.

Showing that it was no fluke Japan again won the gold in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. They still had trouble beating South Korea, losing to them in the finals of pool one. After going 1-2 against South Korea in the tournament, they played them in the finals and beat them 6-2. In the game prior to that they had eliminated the United States by spanking them 9-4.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic was a disappointment because they could not make it three in a row. They did not even get a chance to play South Korea in this event, because they were eliminated in the first round. In the semi-finals of the medal round Puerto Rico beat them 3-1 throwing a pitcher by the name of Mario Santiago.

Current International Ranking - Japan is the number one ranked team in baseball. The highest ranked team in their pool is Cuba at number 5. Japan has always been a thorn in Cuba’s attempt to advance in the WBC. Australia is number ten and China is number 18. This may be the weakest pool of the four.

Roster

Pitchers - Ryo Akiyoshi, Shintaro Fujinami, Yoshihisa Hirano (DPP), Ayumu Ishikawa, Kazuhisa Makita, Hirotoshi Masui, Yuki Matsui, Naoki Miyanishi, Takahiro Norimoto, Toshiya Okada, Kodai Senga, Tomoyuki Sugano, Shota Takeda

Designated Pitchers Pool - Kenta Ishida, Yuta Iwasada, Tatsushi Masuda, Masahiko Morifuku, Yusuke Nomura, Daichi Ohsera, Hirokazu Sawamura, Yasuaki Yamasaki

Catchers - Seiji Kobayashi, Shota Ohno, Motohiro Shima

Infielders - Ryosuke Kikuchi, Nobuhiro Matsuda, Hayato Sakamoto, Kosuke Tanaka, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Tetsuto Yamada

Outfielders - Shogo Akiyama, Norichika Aoki, Ryosuke Hirata, Sho Nakata, Seiya Suzuki, Seiichi Uchikawa

Strengths - They may not have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Shohei Otani on this roster, out due to an ankle injury and the only major leaguer on the roster is Norichika Aoki, but do not underestimate this talent. The starting pitching is still deep with Takahiro Norimoto and Tomoyuki Sugano as solid one two aces in any rotation. One of their top young starters Shintaro Fujinami will be relegated to the bullpen. On the infield they have a power hitting shortstop in Hayato Sakamoto and a 24 year old second baseman that any major league team would love to have on their roster in Tetsuto Yamada. He can steal 30 bases and hit 30 homeruns. They list Yoshitomo Tsutsugo as an infielder but he is really part of a talented outfield and may be relegated to a DH role. The 25 year old is another player who can hit 30 homeruns and steal 30 bases. In the outfield in his place could be Norichika Aoki, Seiya Suzuki and the veterans Sho Nakata or Seiichi Uchikawa. This team has more All Stars than positions for these players to play.

Weakness - Catching lacks a superstar but this team does not really have a glaring weakness. It will be interesting to see how their power plays out against major league pitchers. This is not the Japanese team of punch and judy hitters that slash the ball to the opposite field that United States audiences are used to watching. There are some sluggers on this team, and those sluggers can steal bases.

Prospects to Watch - Shintaro Fujinami was a more heralded pitcher than Otani when they were both coming up through high school. He was selected number one in the draft by more Japanese teams than Otani. Takahiro Norimoto is a strikeout machine and is always on top of the league in that category. Yuki Matsui stands only 5′8″ but he gets hitters out. He had a rough year last year as the Rakuten Golden Eagles closer. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Tetsuto Yamada hit for both power and steal bases. They could probably start for most teams in the major leagues, Tsutsugo as an outfielder and Yamada as a second baseman, though Yamada is not considered a defensive standout at his position. Seiya Suzuki is another talented outfielder scouts will be watching for major league potential.

Expected Finish - They should advance to the final four and will be myworld’s favorite to win their third WBC championship.

Italy 2017 WBC Review

February 21st, 2017

Overview - Italy and Netherlands are always battling it out for supremacy in European baseball. Netherlands has lately gotten the better of Italy when it comes to international events. Italy can still battle the Netherlands when it comes to the European events.

The biggest event in European baseball is the European Cup. It usually is played every two years. Since 1969 either Netherlands or Italy has won the European Cup. Netherlands has won it 15 times, including the last two championships and six of the last eight championships. Italy has won the event nine times. Since the start of this event in 1954 only Spain (1955) and Belgium (1967) have knocked Italy or Netherlands off the first place perch.

In 2016 Spain finished in second place, knocking the Italians to the bronze medal finish. In 2007 Great Britain and Spain prevented Italy from even seeing a medal. The Netherlands has finished in first or second place since 1969.

Italy has competed in a few World Cups but have yet to finish with a medal. Their overall record in these events is 55-108. Italy has competed in all the Olympics since 1992, failing to qualify in the most recent one in 2008. Their best finish was in 1996 when they claimed sixth place.

Italy participated in the first World Baseball Classic in 2006 but did not pass the first round. They did beat Australia but Venezuela and the Dominican Republic got the best of them. The 2009 WBC saw the same disappointment of being eliminated from the first round, losing to Venezuela twice. They did pull off the upset of the tournament by beating Canada, giving Italy one win and giving them the luxury of not having to qualify for the 2013 WBC.

In 2013 they finally passed the first round, again defeating Canada and slipping past Mexico. They scored two runs in the top of the ninth to defeat Mexico 6-5 after a two run double from Anthony Rizzo. The only loss for them was to the United States. In the double elimination second round Italy took two one run losses to the eventual finalists Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico broke out for three runs in the eighth to win their game 4-3, Rizzo driving in all three runs for Italy. Italy scored all their runs in the first inning in the 5-4 loss to the Dominican Republic, Chris Colabello hitting a three run homerun in the first to get things started. The Dominicans battled back with three runs in the seventh to close out the scoring.

Because Italy was ranked as one of the top 12 teams in international baseball they were eligible to compete in the Premier 12. They lost all five games they played.

It will be interesting to see what team shows up for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the 2013 version of the WBC who almost qualified for the final four, but they had Anthony Rizzio or the 2015 version of the Premier 12 who were missing players from the major league 40 man roster. At least the 2017 version has Chris Colabello returning.

International Ranking - Italy ranks 11th. Two of the three teams playing in their pool rank ahead of them with Mexico 6th and Venezuela 7th. Puerto Rico is ranked 12th but they went to the finals with the Dominican Republic in the 2013 WBC. All three of those rosters are stocked with major league roster players. Italy has some major and minor leaguers but they are fringe players.

Roster

Pitchers - Tiaga de Silva, Mike DeMark, Nick Fanti, Frailyn Florian, Sam Gaviglio, Tommy Layne, Luis Lugo, Alex Maestri, A.J. Morris, Trey Nielsen, Orlando Oberto (DPP), Jordan Romano, Carlos Teran (DPP), Pat Venditte

Designated Pitchers Pool - Filippo Crepaldi, Frank DeJulio, Jose Escalona, Luca Panerati

Catchers - Drew Butera, Francisco Cervelli, Marco Sabbatini

Infielders - Gavin Cecchini, Chris Colabello, Daniel Descalso, Alex Liddi, Drew Maggi, Rob Segedin, Alessandro Vaglio

Outfielders - John Andreoli, Mario Chiarini, Brandon Nimmo, Sebastian Poma

Strengths - While they have no major league stars they do have some major league pieces. Catching is their strong suit with Francisco Cervelli a solid backstop and Drew Butera a good number two. The infield should be strong. Chris Colabello returns to the 2017 team where he provided some heroics in 2013. Daniel Descalso will be a good defensive option at second base while Cecchini could be the starting shortstop. Alex Liddi was the first born Italian player to play his baseball in Italy. He will share third base with Rob Segedin, who impressed many with his numerous homerun clouts in spring training last season. It will not be a star studded infield but it will be filled with major or minor league players.

Weakness - Myworld does not see a starting pitcher in this group. They will rely on local talent to get them through the first innings and hopefully hand the ball off to Tommy Layne, Pat Venditte, Alex Maestri or Tiago Da Silva. The outfield lacks major league talent, except Brandon Nimmo, who will fill centerfield. Nimmo and Colabello are not noted for their major league pop but they will probably hit 3-4 in this lineup.

Prospects to Watch - Nick Fanti is a young pitcher in the Phillies organization drafted in the 21st round. He did strike out 11 batters per nine innings and allowed just one homerun in 69 innings. Myworld does not know much about him, other than he is young. Gavin Cecchini was a first round pick of the Mets in 2012. He does not have the defensive chops to play short in the major leagues and may lack the power to play a corner position. The last two years he has hit .317 and .325 so the bat is there for a utility role. Brando Nimmo is the outfield version of Cecchini. He was a first round pick in 2011 out of Wyoming and lacks the defensive skills to play centerfield, but lacks the power to play a corner.

Expected Finish - This is a pretty evenly bracketed pool. Venezuela is the cream of the class with the other teams duking it out for second place. Italy lacks the starting pitching to get out of the first round.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Toronto Blue Jays

February 20th, 2017

When we did the Rays we forgot to give our assessment of how we did last year with our AL East predictions. They were not as good as our AL West and Central. We had picked the Yankees to win what we thought was a weak division. We also missed on the Orioles, picking them for the bottom of the Division. Myworld will no longer under estimate the Orioles. The Blue Jays were the only prediction we got right for this division. The Red Sox were picked for third. The last place Rays we picked for fourth. Despite what I thought was a weak division both wild card teams were from this division.

Overview - The Blue Jays will find it hard to replace a 40 homerun bat in the lineup. Kendry Morales was a good signing but he is no Edwin Encarnacion, to borrow on a familiar quote. The Blue Jays also need to have a resurgence in the bat of Jose Bautista, but to borrow another cliché, Father Time remains undefeated. It is possible that at 36 years of age Jose may have to deal with regular injuries. Myworld also does not see the pitching staff repeating their excellence in 2017, though we do like Aaron Sanchez. It will be hard to replace the innings of R.A. Dickey.

Strengths - You have to like the left side of their infield with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitski. Josh has the potential to hit 40 plus homeruns and Troy can hit 30 plus. The trouble with Troy is he is injury prone and he will be 32 entering this season. If he goes down the Blue Jays do not have a lot of quality depth behind him. The catching should be solid with Russell Martin behind the plate. He had a down year average wise (.231) but he did slug 20 homeruns and the veteran catcher knows how to run a pitching staff. Speaking of pitching, the Blue Jays led the AL in ERA led by Aaron Sanchez, who is starting to come into his own with a 15-2, 3.00 ERA. The Blue Jays have put in the trash can any more thoughts of using him in relief. J.A. Happ also had a Cy Young type season (20-4, 3.18), finishing sixth in the voting. While we are confident Sanchez can repeat his numbers we are not so confident with Happ. Any downfall from Happ should be made up with a better season from Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37), who struggled a bit last year. Marco Estrada gives them four good starters, a luxury most good teams do not have.

Weakness - Melvin (ex-B.J.) Upton had a nice season last year, but most of that was with the Padres. He hit only .196 when he was with Toronto. The .196 numbers were more indicative of his bat the last couple years. If he doesn’t hit the Blue Jays can always call on Dalton Pompey and hope the youngster can put it together. Kevin Pillar is a stellar defensive centerfielder, but his bat is very light. If Jose Bautista does not find production this outfield could be very light. First base will be a battle between Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak. Pearce could be the missing outfield piece in left field against lefthanders if Upton does not pan out. Both players are usually better pieces used off the bench than as starters. The Blue Jays overall age also worries me, with most of their starting lineup hitting the 32-33 age range, which could result in significant disabled list visits.

Non-Roster Invitees to Make Roster - Jarod Saltalamacchia has a good chance to make it as the backup to Russell Martin. The Blue Jays only have two catchers on their 40 man roster and Jarod is probably a better choice than Juan Graterol. Gavin Floyd, Matt Latos and Brett Oberholtzer are good options in the starting rotation if injuries should occur to their regular starters during spring training.

Impact Prospects - Dalton Pompey may no longer be considered a prospect anymore but he is the best minor leaguer who has a chance to make a big impact on the major league roster in 2017. A couple years ago he was supposed to take over their starting center field job. It will be interesting to see if Lourdes Gurriel is ready for the big leagues. He is the younger brother of Yulieski and has numerous offensive tools. His glove is a question mark, but myworld feels his best fit may be in the outfield. In Cuba he made too many errors as an infielder. Rowdy Tellez hit for power last year (23 homeruns) in AA. The Blue Jays don’t really have anyone at first base to prevent him from being called up if he has another monstrous year. Reese McGuire could be a mid-season callup if injuries were to happen to Russell Martin. He was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2013 but has never reached his first round billing potential.

Prospects to Watch - The Blue Jays have a number of young players to keep an eye on. The most well known name is Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who does not have the arm of his father nor the swing at everything mentality, but he has an impact bat. He is also an infielder (third base). Richard Urena played 30 games in AA. He is the shortstop of the future for the Blue Jays. He has the defensive tools to play the position. Anthony Alford is a tooled up outfielder who spent much of his youth playing football. Now that he is focusing on baseball the Blue Jays hope to be rewarded with a power hitting outfielder. On the pitching front Sean Reid Foley is the top prospect. He does not have an overpowering fastball but he does miss bats with 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings in the Florida State League. Conner Greene is a starter who may be the most ready to make the major league roster but a 4.19 ERA and only a 33/48 walk to whiff ratio tells myworld he needs another year in the minors. Jon Harris is their 2015 number one pick who did not put up overwhelming numbers in High A.

Expected Finish - We feel a little uncomfortable picking the Blue Jays for fourth in this division behind the Yankees. The offense will lose much of its potency while the pitching staff labors to keep runs to a minimum. That is not a recipe for success.

Israel 2017 WBC Review

February 18th, 2017

Overview - Israel does not have much of an international history in baseball. They did try to run a professional league with United States financial backing but that fell through. Major league baseball still favors them and selected them for a qualifier in 2012. They won their first two games, including defeating the eventual winner Spain but they lost to Spain in the finals 9-7.

Back to the drawing board and this time Israel went undefeated, beating Great Britain twice and Brazil to qualify for the WBC. This will be their first significant international baseball event.

The rules for the WBC allows you to play for a country if you can obtain a passport from that country. That usually means you were born there or had a mother or father who was born in that country. For Israel you can obtain a passport if you are Jewish. It is an easier standard to meet allowing Israel to stock their roster with Jewish major leaguers.

Current International Ranking - Israel is currently ranked 41st in the international rankings, the lowest of any team who qualified for this event. They will be playing South Korea (3), Taiwan (4) and the Netherlands (9). That will be some tough company to beat.

Roster

Pitchers - Dylan Axelrod, Corey Baker, Jeremy Bleich, Craig Breslow, Danny Burawa, Gabe Cramer, Tyler Herron, Jake Kalish, Alex Katz, Dean Kremer, Shlomo Lipitz, Jason Marquis, Troy Neiman, R.C. Orlan, Joey Wagman (DPP), Josh Zeid

Designated Pitchers Pool - Richard Bleier, Scott Feldman, Jake Fishman, Brad Goldberg, Kenny Koplove, Jared Lakind, Ryan Sherriff, Zack Thornton

Catchers - Ryan Lavarnway, Nick Rickles

Infield - Scott Burcham, Ike Davis, Cody Decker, Nate Freiman, Ty Kelly, Tyler Krieger

Outfield - Zach Borenstein, Sam Fuld, Blake Gailen, Mike Meyers

Strengths - They have a veteran in Jason Marquis who can shut down a team for one game. Some bullpen pieces in Josh Zeid, Craig Breslow and Danny Burawa who can hold teams down in the later innings. It will be interesting to see what Ike Davis has left. He could be another Chris Colabello who led Italy in the last WBC. Nate Freiman is another power bat but too much swing and miss put a dead end to his major league career.

Weakness - Not enough fire power for this division. Overall their pitching and hitting will be weak. They have a number of journeyman minor leaguers such as Zach Borenstein and Sam Fuld trying to lead this offense.

Prospect to Watch - Tyler Krieger was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He had labrum surgery so missed the 2015 season but hit .299 at two levels in the minors (Low A/High A). His one big attribute is his speed.

Expected Finish - If they win a game and do not have to qualify for the 2021 WBC that would be an accomplishment. They will not advance past the first round.