Gigantes One Win Away from Advancing

January 24th, 2015

Gigantes1 Estrellas 0

Carlos Peguero drove in the only run with his solo shot in the sixth and Giovanni Soto threw five plus innings of three hit ball to put the Gigantes within a game of advancing to the Series del Caribe. The bullpen retired the last ten hitters for Estrellas, Ramon Ramirez pitching a perfect ninth to pick up his fifth save. Randy Boone gave up the solo shot to Peguero.

Jalisco 5 Culiacan 0

Juan Delgadillo quieted the Tomateros bats on five hits through six innings of work to even out the series at one game apiece. Marquez Smith closed out the scoring with a two run homer in the seventh. Leo Heras also drove in two runs for the Charros.

Mayaguez 2 Santurce 0

Pete Parise pitched another gem, tossing seven innings of four hit ball to give the Indios a two games to one edge in their seven game series. Fernando Cabrera pitched the ninth to pick up his fifth save. Martin Maldonado stroked two doubles to drive in one and score one while Luis Montanez drove in the other run.

Cuban Roster for Series del Caribe

January 24th, 2015

After the disappointment of last year Cuba has loaded up their roster this year for the Series del Caribe that begins February 2. Last year’s champion Pinar del Rio will represent Cuba but they are also allowed to supplement their roster with other players. It is a strong resemblance to the Cuban national team. To be fair, many of the Caribbean teams are represented by talented players at the higher levels of the minor leagues. Cuba was just a little overmatched last year putting a team together to face the professional players. This year they hope to be a bit more competetive.

The below roster was provided by Baseball America:

Catcher - Yosvani Alarcon, Frank Morejon, Yosvany Peraza

First Base - Alexander Malleta, William Saavedra

Second Base - David Castillo, Luis Yander La O

Shortstop - Lourdes Gourriel, Dainier Moreira

Third Base - Donald Duarte, Yulieski Gourriel

Outfield - Alexei Bell, Frederich Cepeda, Alfredo Despaigne, Giorbis Duvergel, Yadiel Hernandez, Osniel Madera, Roel Santos

Pitchers - Freddy Alvarez, Eryls Casanova, Vladimir Gutierrez, Jonder Martinez, Hector Mendoza, Livan Moinelo, Norge Ruiz, Yosvani Torres, Yoanni Yera

Myworld will be in Puerto Rico to catch all the action.

Tomateros Strike First Against Charros

January 22nd, 2015

Gigantes 5 Estrellas 1

Gigantes took a three to two lead in games with their win. Leury Garcia drove in two runs and scored a run with his three hits from the lead off spot and Alexi Casilla followed him in the batting order with two hits and two RBIs. Parker Frazier pitched five plus innings of two hit ball, his only blemish a solo homerun from Junior Lake accounting for one of the two hits he gave up. The bullpen shut down the Estrellas bats to one hit in the final three innings.

Culiacan 11 Jalisco 8

Dave Sappelt hit his seventh homerun of the round robin, topping the number he hit during the regular season to lead the Tomateros offense. It was his first Culiacan homer after coming over from Mexicali. The fifth inning shot was part of a six run explosion that put the game away. Joey Meneses drove in three runs with his four hits and Rico Noel and Ramiro Pena each drove in a pair. Japhet Amador hit a three run homer for Jalisco and Jose Manuel Rodriguez drove in four runs, two of them with a homerun.

Santurce 3 Mayaguez 2

It took 14 innings but the Crabbers finally squeezed out the victory when Robert Andino took a walk with the bases loaded. Joel Pineiro and Reinier Roibal each gave up two runs, Pineiro working seven innings and Roibal going six. Travis Ballew got the win with his two innings of shutout relief work.

La Guaira (5-10) 3 Caribes (11-5) 1

Ramon Ramirez handcuffed the first place Caribes for six shutout innings, limiting them to just three hits. The Tiburones scored all three of their runs in the first two innings. Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his second save. Amicar Gaxiola made his first start for Caribes and got hit hard early.

Aragua (7-8) 6 Zulia (6-9) 1

Freddy Garcia went the first two innings and Robert Zarate followed with five innings of shutout ball to put Aragua one game short of .500. Wuilmer Becerra slugged a solo shot and scored three runs with his three hits. The last three hitters in the Tigres lineup scored five of their six runs.

Guillermo Heredia Departs Cuba

January 22nd, 2015

Another reason myworld has a more difficult time following Cuban baseball is the rash of departures or suspensions of Cuban ballplayers, making the rosters littered with names of players who are now strangers to me. Once a player is suspended from Cuban baseball because of a suspicion of leaving, he will make that departure a reality. So the punishment of a four year suspension which is meant to discourage departures from other players ultimately forces the suspended player to leave the island if he wants to continue to play baseball. It doesn’t hurt the situation when major league teams throw a million dollars his way.

Baseball America reports centerfielder Guillermo Heredia has departed Cuba. He was the centerfielder for the Cuban team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC). His defense is excellent and many had him very highly rated, but he struggled with the bat. Even on his own team Matanzas he lost the centerfield job to another player because of his struggles with the bat.

Now he has left the island to find a major league team willing to present him with a million dollar contract. Because he is older than 23 with more than three years in the Nacional Series he is not subject to the international salary cap. It will take at least a year before he is cleared to play major league baseball in the United States while the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) considers his situation. That would mean two seasons in a row without playing any baseball, so it may be good if he can play some winter league ball next year to show teams he can still play. The risk there is it may show teams he is not the hyped up prospect he was when he played for Cuba in the WBC.

Rodney Meets His Bow and Arrow Proteges

January 21st, 2015

Fernando Rodney made the bow and arrow infamous around the world after the Dominican Republic won the World Baseball Classic Championship in 2013. The South Korean team representing Songpa Little League mimicked the routine after they clinched their Little League World Series last year.

This year Fernando Rodney is visiting South Korea and he stopped by the Songpa Little League facilities, providing them a one hour clinic for the players. He told them how proud he was watching them replicate his bow and arrow routine that he had to visit them to thank them. You can read the rest of the story here:

Rodney

Cuba Ready for Third Break

January 21st, 2015

The Cuban season was interrupted for its first break when the national team went to compete in the Central/South American games. The second break happened when the regular season ended and the final eight was determined. Now they are ready to break for a third time to prepare for the Series del Caribe. The last three round robin games are being played Tuesday through Thursday. They will restart the season again on February 12.

If the major leagues interrupted their seasons so frequently myworld would lose interest in it. Which is probably why we are negligent updating the results of the Cuban round robin action. We have just lost interest. Play is expected to carry on until March 19. The two top teams will then play a best of seven playoff where our reporting will begin again.

Which may be the reason Yulieski Gourriel has delayed his reporting date to the Yokahama Bay Stars until early April. Industriales may be playing their season until the end of March. Alfredo Despaigne would be subject to the same delay in reporting.

As it stands now Matanzas and Granma are the top two teams. The Industriales is in third place five games back. Don’t know if they will continue the season if this separation continues and there are only three games left and four games separating the third place and second place teams.

There really has not been anything drawing me to the league, with the various websites monitoring the play having difficulty putting the statistical numbers together with a number of players added to the final eight teams. Some websites have just discontinued updating the numbers accumulated during the round robin, which further decreases my interest.

The big homerun bats in the league are from Granma and neither of them are named Alfredo Despaigne. Lazaro Cedeno and Umani Guerra each have 13 homeruns for the Stallions. Alfredo Despaigne has not played enough games to catch them, but give him the end of the round robin and he may get there. Yosvani Alarcan has 11 homeruns for Artemisa.

Freddy Alvarez from Pinar del Rio is the top pitcher with a 1.64 ERA. Pinar del Rio will be representing Cuba in the Series del Caribe in Puerto Rico. Cuba hopes they are a better representative than the team that showed up last year, finishing fifth out of the five teams.

Indios Take Opening Win in Puerto Rico

January 21st, 2015

Gigantes 5 Estrellas 3

Gigantes evened their series with Estrellas at two games apiece. Mel Rojas Jr and Wilson Betemit homered for Gigantes. For Rojas his two run shot in the third gave the Gigantes a 2-1 lead. Ramon Ramirez gave up a solo homerun to Audy Ciriaco in the ninth but retired the remaining hitters to pick up his fourth save. Lew Ford also homered for Estrellas, a solo blast in the seventh.

Mayaguez 8 Santurce 2

Mayaguez exploded for seven runs in the second inning to cruise to their opening playoff win in the championship series for Puerto Rico. Daniel Ortiz slugged a two run homer in the inning and Luis Figueroa and T.J. Rivera each drove in two runs. Ozzie Martinez collected three hits from the leadoff spot and crossed the plate two times. Zach Segovia silenced the Santurce bats on two hits through six innings, striking out seven to pick up the win.

Caribes (11-4) 16 Magallanes (8-6) 5

Caribes played a statement game with their slaughter of Magallanes to clinch the top spot in the Venezuelan round robin. Felix Perez slammed two homeruns and drove in five, hitting a grand slam in the sixth to lead the offense. Exicardo Cayones, who replaced Perez in right field also went deep slugging a two run homer in the eighth. Ehire Adrianza banged out four hits in six at bats to score three runs and drive in two.

Aragua (6-8) 11 La Guaira (4-10) 5

The Tigres banged out 15 hits in their win. Five different players shared in the onslaught with two RBIs each.

Cubs - 2015

January 20th, 2015

General - Theo Epstein would like to take the Cubs to the same place he took the Red Sox, a World Series championship. That would build his legacy. He has certainly collected a group of solid position player prospects who are slowly filtering their way up to the major league club. Pitching was a little shallow on the 40 man roster so he signed free agent Jon Lester. They may still be a year away from contending but they are certainly close. They did have to experience one of those awkward situations by firing manager Rick Renteria after promising him another year as manager, because Joe Maddon became available after exercising his option of leaving the Rays after Andrew Friedman departed for the Dodgers. Life can get very complicated sometimes. The only thing Cub fans are hoping for is avoiding a sixth straight last place finish.

2015 Additions - Dexter Fowler is a nice addition to patrol centerfield. The two teams he has played for, the Rockies and Astros have had a history of second division finishes. They supplemented the outfield with the free agent signing of Chris Denorfia, who was used as a fourth outfielder by the Padres to hit left handed pitching. They signed free agent pitchers Jon Lester and Jason Hammel to augment a pitching staff short on quality depth. They have revamped their efforts behind the plate by trading for Miguel Montero and signing David Ross as a free agent. Ross is a typical backup who plays solid defense.

Catcher - Miguel Montero was acquired from the Diamondbacks to give the Cubs a solid offensive player behind the dish. The last couple years he has failed to hit over .200 against lefthanded pitching so David Ross was signed as a free agent to possibly back him up. The Cubs still have Wellington Castillo who caught for them last year. He hit .301 against lefthanders so if he is not traded it could become a natural platoon. Both Castillo and Montero slugged 13 homeruns, but Montero is more willing to take a walk. Ross is the better defensive player but is short on offense.

First Base - Anthony Rizzo has arrived as a quality player after being traded by Epstein to the Padres and then acquired back when he took over the Cubs. His bat has finally found consistency while he slugged 32 homeruns and had an OPS of .913 last year. The Cubs may use Mike Olt to back him up at first. Olt can also play third. He shows some power as evidenced by his 12 homeruns, but he also hit only .160 striking out 100 times in 225 at bats for a .248 OBA.

Second Base - Javier Baez is another player who struggled to make contact, hitting just .169 with 95 whiffs in 213 at bats. His OBA was a dreadful .227, but he did hit 9 homeruns. The Cubs will not tolerate those numbers to start the season. Arismendy Alcantara played this position before Baez was brought up. He moved to centerfield, but with the acquisition of Fowler he may turn into a super sub. He hit only .205 with a .254 OBA, dreadful numbers that will not earn a starting spot in the lineup despite the 10 homeruns. The Cubs traded for Tommy LaStella who may ultimately take over the position if Baez and Alcantara show they need a little more time in AAA. LaStella came from the Braves and is about as vanilla as you can get for a second baseman, with a .250 average and little power. At least his OBA flies over .300 (.328).

Third Base - The trade of Luis Valbuena leaves a hole at third that the Cubs have said will not be taken by Kris Bryant at the start of the season. It is hard to fathom they would start the season with Mike Olt at the position, though he did put up some good AAA numbers with the Rangers, but that was a few years ago. Junior Lake could move from left field to third base but he stumbled a bit last year (.211) and there are concerns about his defense at the position. Chris Coghlan, another player they have out in left field also played here with the Marlins. The former rookie of the year resurrected his career with a .283 average and a .804 OPS. If both Alcantara and Baez have good springs they could move one of them to third, or fit Alcantara in left and move Coghlan to third.

Shortstop - Despite the wealth of shortstops the Cubs have at this position Starlin Castro will not move from here. He does seem to have some issues with hanging around places or people where bullets fly and allegations of rape exist so you have to wonder about his lifestyle. Javier Baez was a shortstop in the minor leagues so he can play here when Castro needs a rest.

Left Field - They have a platoon here of the righthand hitting Junior Lake and Chris Coghlan. The problem with this platoon is Chris still hit higher against lefthanders than Lake so Chris could see most of the time here. One of these players could also move to third base. Chris Denorfia could see the time here against lefthanders if Junior Lake continues to struggle, or one of these two players are moved to third base. Alcantara played a lot of center last year and if the Cubs want to get his bat in the lineup they could give him some time in left field. Super defensive player Matt Szczur has a bat more suited for center field. He has very little power but could be used as a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement.

Center field - Dexter Fowler was acquired to give the Cubs a true centerfielder. Despite the speed he shows in playing defense it doesn’t translate to stolen bases. He was a magnet for reaching first base with a .375 OBA. Ryan Sweeney and Alcantara are other options here strictly in a backup capacity. Sweeney is geared more towards being a fourth outfielder, though he may lose that position to Szczur.

Right Field - Jorge Soler is one of the few prized position prospects that had success with the Cubs last year, hitting .292 with a .903 OPS in limited at bats. In AA his slugging average was over .800, in AAA over .600 and in the majors .573. He will be given every opportunity to start. Chris Denorfia can play all three outfield positions, but is best used at a corner. In 2013 he slugged 10 homeruns, but last year he lost his power, only sending one over the wall.

Starting Pitcher - Jon Lester will be the ace. Last year he split his time between Oakland and the Red Sox. Despite his 16-11 record he could not lead either of these teams far into the playoffs. He did throw 220 innings with 220 whiffs, which is what you want to see from your ace. Jason Hammel started with the Cubs and pitched well (2.98) was traded to Oakland and did not pitch so well (4.26). He has had a checkered history of success. The Cubs hopes he likes Wrigley. Jake Arrieta was the ace of the staff last year (2.53). The Orioles have seen a modicum of success from him in the past but then he would lose it. The Cubs hope he has permanently found it. Those are the three veteran locks. Kyle Hendricks will be a lock based on what he accomplished in his 13 starts in his rookie season. Except for the strikeouts his major league numbers were better than his AAA so the jury is still out on whether he can sustain his success. The fifth spot will be decided in spring training. Travis Wood got the most starts last year but achieved little success (5.03). Felix Doubront could not win a starting spot with the Red Sox but had some success late in the year with the Cubs. If Tsuyoshi Wada pitches like he did in Japan and can replicate the 3.25 ERA he had in his 13 starts last year with the Cubs the job is his. He will never wow you with his velocity but his command is second to none. Former number one pick of the Tigers Jacob Turner was acquired late in the year from the Marlins and struggled with both teams. He may need another year in AAA if he has options left. Edwin Jackson is another option, but he is a long shot. The only reason the Cubs keep him is because of his multi year albatross of a contract.

Closer - Hector Rondon saved 29 games last year for the Cubs. In 2013 his ERA was 4.77 with nary a save. Don’t know if his stuff is sustainable for the closer role. If he struggles the Cubs can turn to Jason Motte, who had a season and a half of success closing for the Cardinals before he lost his mojo.

Other relievers - Pedro Strop returns to his setup role. Righthanders hit only .168 against him and he struck out 10.48 hitters per nine innings. Neil Ramirez had similar numbers appearing in fewer games. Zac Rosscup will be used against lefties (.200) and Jackson will share the long man responsibilities with Justin Grimm. Spring training will establish the other roles.

2015 rookies - The big rookie is Kris Bryant. At best the Cubs will wait until mid year before promoting him. Last year he hit 43 homeruns between AA and AAA. He won’t hit 40 homeruns in the minor leagues this year because if he continues on the same pace some of his homeruns will leave major league parks. Jorge Soler is still a rookie and he is poised to have a Yasiel Puig type of year, hitting over 20 plus homeruns with an average close to .300. He was an offensive machine in AA and AAA and did not slow down when promoted to the major leagues. The Cubs have a lot of depth in the starting rotation but their most talented pitcher in the minor leagues, C.J. Edwards could earn a promotion. He may start his major league career in the bullpen because of durability concerns. Last year injuries limited him to 12 starts. Pierce Johnson is a 2012 number one pick and is next on the depth chart for prospect starting pitchers. Matt Szczur could replace Sweeney as the Cubs fourth outfielder, but he won’t have a big rookie impact.

2015 Finish - It is a tough division not to finish in last place for a sixth straight season. The one team they have hope of surpassing is the Milwaukee Brewers. They will need to climb over .500 to finish ahead of the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates. They need another year of experience from some of their super prospects before they can accomplish that.

Nats Create Buzz While O’s Enveloped in Silence

January 20th, 2015

The Nats created some buzz with the signing of Max Scherzer. The seven year $210 million contract that actually has deferred payments until 2028 when the Lerners will no longer own the team give them a superstar pitching staff. Who will be considered the ace in a rotation of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark. It is a good problem for Matt Williams to have.

The reality is paying ace money for a fifth starter is like using a bazooka to eliminate an anthill. It is overkill. You only need four starters once the playoffs begin. Expect the Nationals to trade one of their starters to build up their farm system. They will need it after a number of players depart for free agency after this season. Denard Span, Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Doug Fister all become free agents after this year.

The Nationals did trade away one of their possible 2016 free agents when they sent Tyler Clippard to the Athletics to acquire Yunel Escobar. That trade gives them a shortstop if they choose to trade away Ian Desmond. It also gives them a second baseman if they choose not to trade Ian Desmond.

The Nationals also traded Stephen Sousa and Ross Detwiler, players whose time was due to get major league opportunities with none visible for them on the Nationals roster to enhance their farm system. One of the players acquired in the Souza deal is Trea Turner, who could be the future shortstop for the Nationals after Yunel Escobar fills the position in 2016, though he is supposed to be the player to be named later so you won’t see him in the Nationals minor league system until sometime in June. Check the Padres minor league roster prior to that.

The Orioles meanwhile have been silent with their transactions. It is a team that has lost Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Hundley to free agency and have done little to replace them. They have made a number of minor league free agent signings but the extent of their movement has been to sign Wesley Wright to replace Andrew Miller in the bullpen.

The Orioles will have their own free agent departures after this year with Chris Davis and Matt Wieters departing. They have not done a lot to address those future absences unless relying on the minor league system to fill in the holes. For 2015 the team can hope for improved seasons from Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy to make up for the departed free agents.

The biggest controversey with the Orioles has been whether Dan Duquette will be traded to the Blue Jays for prospects. Ironic this could be the biggest trade of the year for the Orioles. Based on the lack of activity in the front office the absence of Duquette may not be missed. He has been a savior of the Orioles franchise since taking over the helm, leading them to two playoff appearances in three years. The reality is Andy McPhail built the foundation of this Oriole team. Duquette completed the structures to make it playoff worthy.

The Nationals also may host an All Star game in 2018. Many thought the O’s would host an All Star game in 2017, but because of their dispute with major league baseball over the MASN contract the 2017 All Star game was given to the San Diego Padres. 2016 through 2018 would be three national league teams in a row to host the games. Their was discussion of rewarding the Orioles the game in 2017 but that is no longer a reality.

So while the Nationals create the Buzz the Orioles wait and watch. The performance of the two in 2015 will determine who took the better course of action.

Perez Gives Gigantic Performance

January 20th, 2015

Gigantes 4 Estrellas 0

Rafael Perez stopped the bleeding for the Gigantes, giving them their first win in the best of nine series. He pitched six plus innings to tame the Estrellas bats on two hits. He also improved his round robin record to 3-0 and dropped his ERA to 0.34. Moises Sierra led the offense with a 3 for 3 performance. Carlos Paulino drew two walks allowing him to cross the plate for two of the Gigantes four runs. Estrellas still leads the series two games to one.

Culiacan 9 Mexicali 8

Culiacan jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, then watched the lead crumble before winning it in the 11th to advance to the finals against Jalisco in the Mexican Winter League championship. Oscar Robles and Issmael Salas each banged three run homers to give Culiacan what appeared to be a comfortable 8-2 lead. Dave Sappelt then put on his superman cape and slugged a three run homer in the fifth and a solo shot in the ninth to tie the game. He now has six homeruns in the round robin, more than any other player. Joey Meneses led off the 11th inning with a double and when a bunt by Sergio Gastelum was thrown into the outfield by Francisco Rodriguez, Meneses crossed the plate with the winning run.

Caribes (10-4) 5 La Guaira (4-9) 2

There has got to be a reason they are still playing these games. With only three days left in the round robin Caribes and Magallanes have clinched the top two spots. Gorkys Hernandez smashed a two run homer among his three hits and scored twice from the lead off spot to lead Caribes to their win.

Zulia (6-8) 3 Magallanes (9-5) 2

Magallanes was dropped from their top spot, but with only two more games to play the most losses they can accrue is seven. The three remaining teams in the round robin all have at least eight losses. Alex Torres picked up his third win for Zulia, allowing just one run in his six innings of work. He tapered his wildness by only walking one but he gave up seven hits.