Pirates and Tigers in the Cuban Finals

April 1st, 2015

The two teams going to the finals took different paths to win their final game. One went with an arm, the other their bats to get to the championship.

The Ciego de Avila Tigers got nine innings of three hit shutout ball from Yander Guevara to beat the powerful bats of the Granma Stallions 3-0. Raul Gonzalez drove in two of the three runs with a double in the fifth inning. Ariel Borrero drove in the first run in the opening frame with an RBI ground out.

The Isla de la Juventud Pirates battered the Matanzas Crocodiles with ten runs in the 11th inning to win their final 15-5. The Crocs entered the ninth with a 4-3 lead, but a wild pitch tied the game and a Croc error set up a squeeze bunt to give the Pirates a 5-4 lead. The Crocodiles tied it in the bottom frame with a sacrifice fly.

Four different pitchers were used by Matanzas to tame the Pirate bats, but each of them allowed at least one run, the go ahead run scoring on another Croc error. Luis Rivera led all players with four hits. Julio Martinez bashed a homerun in the 11th inning to fuel the uprising.

The two top teams from the round robin have now been eliminated. Isla de la Juventud has an opportunity to win their first Cuban championship.

Matsumoto Leads High School to Spring Koshien Win

April 1st, 2015

Teppei Matsumoto saved his best for the last two games. In the semi finals he hit two grand slams to lead his high school Tsuruga Kehi to an 11-0 win. His first grand slam was in the first inning. The second grand slam was in the second inning. After taking a 10-0 lead after two it was up to Shota Hiranuma to complete the shutout. That he did with 117 pitches, allowing just four hits.

The next day the game was a more tightly played contest with Tokai Daigaku Fuzoku Daiyon in the finals. Both teams scored single runs in the opening frame. After that the aces took control, Shiiya Osawa shutting down Tsuruga and Hiranuma shutting down Tokai. Matsumoto came up in the eighth with a runner on second and instead of walking him Osawa chose to pitch to him. Matsumoto drove one over the fence for a two run homer and a 3-1 lead. That is three homeruns in the last two games, the semi-finals and finals.

Shota Hiranuma gave up his eighth hit in the ninth inning, but hung on to get the victory. He finished the outing with 146 pitches. If this had been the summer koshien high school tournament, their names would be etched in glory, but the spring tournament is not as popular. Only 17,000 attended the final on a rainy day.

Rasmus Blast Leads Astros Over Braves

April 1st, 2015

The Houston Astros locker room was a bit happier after Colby Rasmus smoked an opposite field shot over the left field fence with two runners on, hitting the top of the fence before bouncing into the grass beyond the fence. The Astros had been behind 5-3, the homerun giving them a 6-5 lead in a game they would win 8-5. The homerun ball was delivered by Brady Cuniff.

The game started poorly for the Braves with the Astros tagging the pedestrian fastball of Wandy Rodriguez. Jose Altuve pulled a double that bounced over the left field fence. Jonathan Villar followed by yanking a ball deep into left center, bouncing off the top of the fence before returning to the field of play for a double. Luis Valbuena pulled a single into left field to make it 2-0. Rodriguez started mixing in more curveballs and became more effective, striking out two of the next three hitters to contain the damage.

Wandy struck out the side in the second inning and in five innings of work struck out seven. When he did not locate his pitches the Astros hit him hard. Jed Lowrie hit his first pitch in the fourth inning just inside the left field foul pole for a homerun to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.

Asher Wojciechowski shut out the Braves in the first three innings. Back to back doubles by Freddie Freeman and Kelly Johnson in the fourth scored the Braves first run. Jonathan Singleton made a poor diving effort on a ball bounced past the first base bag on the Freeman double. Singleton proved the adage the bigger you are the harder it becomes to dive to the ground.

The fifth inning was not a good inning for Asher, but Singleton again opened the floodgates. Asher began the inning hitting Chris Johnson on a high and inside first pitch. Eric Young followed with a hustle double down the right field line, advancing Johnson to third. Asher appeared to have squelched the rally with minimal damage when he struck out Jace Peterson and jammed Nick Markakis with a harmless grounder to first. Singleton dropped the grounder and all hands were safe, the Braves scoring their second run.

Kevin Chapman came on and he was cannon fodder. After striking out Freddie Freeman for the second out (and what should have been the third out) he hit Kelly Johnson in the hand to load the bases. An A.J. Pierzynski single up the middle scored two and an Alberto Callaspo single scored the fourth and final run of the inning. The Braves had stormed back to take a 5-3 lead and the tomahawks were chopping.

Brandon Cuniff came on to relieve Rodriguez in the sixth and walked his first two hitters. Colby Rasmus mashed an opposite field shot into left field for a three run lead. Cuniff would give up two more hits in the inning, but limit the damage to those three runs.

The Astros scored two insurance runs in the eighth, this time an error by Braves newly installed first baseman Phil Gosselin starting the inning off. Like Singleton he dropped a grounder he had scooped up, then kicked it when it hit the ground. A walk to Robbie Grossman and a double by Gregorio Petit down the left field line scored two runs.

The Braves put runners on second and third with two out off James Hoyt. A.J. Pierzynski lined a ball into short right field, straight into the glove of the second baseman, who had been shifted there. Without the shift it would have been a two run single.

Game Notes: Last time we saw Chris Carter he was a triple short of the cycle in three at bats. Monday he struck out in all four plate appearances. Last night he struck out in his first two plate appearances and walked in his third and last plate appearance of the night. Astro fans have learned to tolerate his slumps…The Astros put runners on first and third with no out in the fourth inning. Jonathan Singleton went the opposite way for a shallow fly to left that could not score the runner to third. Robbie Grossman grounded into a double play…There was a three man umpiring crew for the game tonight…Colby Rasmus hit a double off a lefthander, a good sign. The bad news is the lefthander was Wandy Rodriguez…Jonathan Singleton had a poor game and did not help his staying on the roster. He, Chris Carter and Evan Gattis are poor defensive first baseman. The Astros have been playing Marwin Gonzalez at first base late in games. He may end up the defensive replacement for the three options they have to start first base.

Vazquez Leads Ciego de Avila to One Win from Finals

March 31st, 2015

Ciego scored nine runs in their last two innings to maul the Granma Stallions 9-4. For the Tigers it is their third win in a row over the Stallions after losing the opener. The Stallions charged to a 4-0 lead, powering three homeruns in the fifth inning. Adrian Moreno hit a solo shot and Alfredo Despaigne rocked a two run blast. Yordanis Alarcon finished the scoring with a solo job. All three homeruns were off Vladimir Garcia, who had shut down the Stallions for the first four innings.

Lazaro Blanco shut down the Tigers for the first six innings. Osvaldo Vazquez hit a two run shot off Blanco in the seventh, his fourth homerun in the three game winning streak for the Tigers to half the lead (he had hit only three homeruns to begin this series). The Stallions went to their bullpen in the eighth and it was disaster. The Tigers struck for seven runs, Humberto Morales driving in the first two with a single to tie the game at 4-4. Yeniet Perez stroked the go ahead single to make it 5-4 and two run doubles from Andy Zamora and Jose Garcia put the game away.

Dachel Duquesne got credit for the win with three innings of one hit shutout ball.

Colabello Leads Blue Jays Over Astros

March 31st, 2015

The balls were flying out of Osceola Stadium. Chris Colabello hit a solo homerun in the first and added two singles to lead the Blue Jays over the Astros 7-4. Colabello made an out on a ball that appeared to be travelling over the right field fence for what would have been his second homerun in two at bats but George Springer leaped and caught the ball just before it travelled over the fence.

The Blue Jays also had a two run homerun hit by Danny Valencia over the 410 marker in centerfield off starter Brett Oberholtzer. One out later Colabello followed with a homerun pulled over the left field fence.

Jose Altuve got one run back for the Astros, leading off the bottom of the first with a walk. He stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Evan Gattis drove him in with a high hopper to third that he beat out for an infield single, scoring Altuve.

Justin Smoak led off the second inning with a homerun. Jason Castro responded back in the bottom frame leading off with a homerun. The Astros scored a second run when Jake Marisnick doubled and was driven in on a single by Jose Altuve. Altuve was thrown out at second when the ball thrown home was cut off at third and the throw made to second to nail Altuve.

In the top of the third George Springer robbed Chris Colabello of a homerun. George led off the bottom frame and drove a 2-0 pitch from Daniel Norris over the right field fence in almost the same spot he had robbed Colabello earlier.

The Blue Jays broke the 4-4 tie in the top of the fourth on an RBI triple hit by Jon Berti that bounced off the top of the left field wall. The hit scored Munenori Kawasaki, who had singled to start off the inning. They added two more insurance runs in the eighth on an RBI double from Ryan Goins and a ground out by Sean Owchinko.

Blake McFarland retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out two of the last three hitters he faced to pick up the save.

Game Notes: Daniel Norris struggled early, but he finished strong, striking out five of the last six hitters he faced…Jake Marisnick has trouble making contact on any pitch that appears to have a bend in it…Brett Oberholtzer had very little break to his curveball tonight. The ball was just spinning and he was getting tattooed. He gave up three homeruns in his first two innings and failed to get past the fourth.

Crocs Stay Alive

March 30th, 2015

The Matanzas Crocodiles stayed alive in the semi-final series with a 13-0 slaughter of Isla de la Juventud. The game lasted seven innings because of the slaughter rule, Yoanni Yera going the first six innings and allowing just three hits. He struck out six. Yurisbel Gracial was the offensive star with his three hits, including a homerun and five RBIs. Yadiel Hernandez also collected three hits and crossed the plate three times. Nine of the 17 hits off the Pirate pitchers went for extra bases. Isla de la Juventud still leads the series three games to two.

In the other series Ismel Jimenez threw a nine inning shutout against the Granma Stallions in the 6-0 win by Ciego de Avilla to give them a two games to one series lead. Ismel struck out seven and allowed only three hits in the game. Three homeruns in the fifth ignited the Tiger offense, Ariel Borrero providing the big blow with a two run bomb followed by a Yoelvis Fiss solo shot to make it back to back. Osvaldo Vazquez later hit a solo shot in the inning. Osvaldo drove in the second run in the fourth with a single. Borrero added an RBI single in the opening frame.

Box scores for the games can be found below:

Cuban playoff results

Eovaldi and Yankees Shutout Astros

March 30th, 2015

Nathan Eovaldi had his curveball working. Everyone knows about his mid-90s fastball but he had a number of hitters swinging and missing at his breaking ball. He also showed command, not issuing any walks in his four plus innings of work, though he did run three ball counts to three of the four hitters he faced in the second inning. Nathan allowed just three hits and struck out five in the Yankees 7-0 win.

Chase Headley got the scoring started with a solo shot off Scott Feldman in the third inning. The Astros just moved all four infielders to the right side of the infield after throwing out Brendan Ryan trying to steal. Chase beat the shift powering a 3-1 pitch over the right field wall. That is one way of beating a shift.

They added two more runs in the fourth. Alex Rodriguez started the inning with a single, poking it down the right field line. A single by Slade Heathcott drove in a jogging A-Rod, who was later removed from the game (not aware if one led to the other). If the Astros realized how slow A-Rod was running towards home they may have had a play on him, but perhaps A-Rod was trying to bait them. A wild pitch scored Rob Refsnyder with the second run of the inning.

The Yankees put the game away in the sixth scoring four runs. Brad Peacock started the inning and struggled. Back to back doubles by Stephen Drew and Rob Refsnyder scored one run. Chase Headley drove in two with a single. An error by Luis Valbuena allowed the fourth run to score.

The Yankees shut down the Astros. The only threats from their offense was putting runners on second and third in the fourth and ninth innings, but they failed to score in either inning.

Game Notes: Aaron Judge is a big boy with a power bat. Myworld does not see a lot of jump in his bat, putting him short of Giancarlo Stanton power. He stands at the batter’s box straight up and down, which gives him a large strike zone…George Springer had a rough day with three whiffs in three at bats. His replacement in the order Alex Presley also struck out…Alex Rodriguez made his debut at first base, making all the plays there. He was removed after only playing three innings worth of defense. Interesting that in the top of the inning he failed to hustle home on a single to right, but there was no throw on him…Jonathan Galvez dropped a ball in four territory playing left field. He is obviously more comfortable playing the infield…Robert Refsnyder continues to show a good bat with two doubles and a walk. He still needs a lot of work on his defense. Myworld has been impressed by the prospects the Yankees are putting on the field…Chase Headley finished a triple short of the cycle, adding a walk and a whiff to his five at bats…Eddie Rodriguez got a bat at the DH spot. He was born in Villa Clara, Cuba but went to school in Miami. He left Cuba with his family when he was eight years old, travelling by boat. He was drafted by the Reds in the 20th round of the 2006 draft…Michael O’Neil got a pinch hit at bat and struck out. He is the nephew of Paul.

Ranking the Top Major League Farm Teams - 2015

March 29th, 2015

This is an informal ranking of the top major league teams with the best prospects being developed in the minor leagues. You can see the previous rankings at the link below. The top farm team of 2011 was the Kansas City Royals, who appeared in the 2014 World Series. In 2012 it was the Seattle Mariners, who are expected to find themselves in the playoffs this year. The Chicago Cubs were selected as the best farm system in 2014 and have repeated this year. Expect them in the World Series next year, or the Saint Louis Cardinals, who were voted the best farm system in 2013.

Of course the opposite is true. The Giants won the World Series last year, but since 2011 their best rating has been 23. In 2009 and 2010 they were rated in the top five so perhaps that has had an influence. The Baseball America ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Chicago Cubs (1) 43.1 - Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are the big superstars. Billy McKinney and Pierce Johnson are at the lower level. A number of prospects are found in between.

2. Minnesota Twins (2) 42.45 - Like the Cubs they have two big time prospects in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Lesser named prospects such as Eddie Rosario and Nick Bundi give the minor league system depth.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (7) 30.02 - They have two of the top pitching prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (3) 28.22 - Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Julio Urias give them a powerful threesome.

5. Boston Red Sox (5) 28.01 - This list was put together before the signing of Yoan Moncada, which would bump them up to number three. They do have Blake Swihart and Henry Owens as top level prospects and Rusney Castillo was their top Cuban until the Moncada signing.

6. Colorado Rockies ((8) 27.79 - Jon Gray and David Dahl are high level prospects.

7. Texas Rangers (11) 25.51 - Joey Gallo is a big time prospect with big time power. Nomar Mazara could replace his shoes next year.

8. New York Mets (4) 25.02 - The top prospect is Noah Syndegaard. Mid-level prospects Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo show promise.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (6) 22.62 - Archie Bradley has mixed reviews as a top prospect. Braden Shipley could surpass him. Yoan Lopez and Touki Toussaint are two pitchers to watch. Yasmany Thomas and Jake Lamb are the top position prospects.

10. Houston Astros (10) 21.69 - Who they selected as the first round pick hurt, but they still have Carlos Correa and Mark Appell. Next year they hope to make up for that.

11. Washington Nationals (12) 20.4 - Lucas Giolito was a nice gamble pick that could pay off like Anthony rendon. Trea Turner was counted as a National even though he is currently a Padre.

12. Toronto Blue Jays (9) 20.11 - They traded a number of top pitching prospects to make a playoff run but kept Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez, who are ready to make a contribution now. Dalton Pompey is expected to start in center.

13.Kansas City Royals (13) 17.27 - Brandon Finnegan, who made a World Series contribution is not even their top prospect. Raul Aldaberto Mondesi, Kyle Zimmer and Sean Manaea are rated above him.

14. Atlanta Braves (14) 16.97 - No top level prospects, but Jose Pereza and Mike Foltynewicz could provide immediate help.

15. Philadelphia Philles (22) 16.65 - A trade of Cole Hamels could put them higher on this list next year, but J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola are two good prospects to begin their rebuilding process. Maikel Franco can provide immediate help.

16. Cincinnati Reds (16) 16.14 - Robert Stephenson is considered one of the better pitching prospects. Jesse Winker is a possible power source.

17. Baltimore Orioles (28) 14.98 - Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey give them two top level pitching prospects. After them it gets slim.

18. San Diego Padres (14) 13.19 - They traded a number of top level prospects for immediate help in 2015. Matthew Wisler, Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe remain with high risk status.

19. Cleveland Indians (23) 12.98 - Francisco Lindor is considered a top level prospect. Clint Frazier has the potential to reach the same level next year.

20. Chicago White Sox (20) 11.81 - Carlos Rodon is ready to join Chris Sale to be starter 1a. Tim Anderson is down a couple notches.

21. Seattle Mariners (24) 10.07 - Alex Jackson and D.J. Peterson will provide some big bats. Pitching is a concern.

22. New York Yankees (18) 9.65 - Luis Severino is their top level pitcher and Aaron Judge is ready to provide power, but after watching some of their players in spring training we’d have them rated higher if we wanted to make this list more subjective.

23. Los Angeles Angels (27) 8.62 - Andrew Heaney has been struggling this spring. Sean Newcomb falls a couple levels below. Not a lot of help in the farm system.

24. St. Louis Cardinals (15) 8.43 - Farm system is always under rated but drafting conservative college level players provide vanilla prospects like Stephen Piscotty and Marco Gonzales who will make a contribution but not with super star numbers.

25. Miami Marlins (25) 5.45 - Tyler Kolek was their top pick last year. After him the names are less impressive.

26. Tampa Bay Rays (17) 4.64 - Drafting lower in the order gives them less talented picks. Steven Sousa and Daniel Robertson are their top prospects and they were acquired via trade. Justin O’Connor is their top drafted prospect.

27. San Francisco Giants (26) 4.29 - Who needs prospects after you win a World Series? Andrew Susac can provide immediate help as a backup catcher. Kyle Crick could add to their rotation.

28. Milwaukee Brewers (21) 1.36 - Jimmy Nelson has a rotation spot. Orlando Arcia is ready for shortstop next year.

29. Oakland Athletics (19) 1.07 - They trade prospects for immediate help. Franklin Borreto was a rare prospect they acquired this year.

30. Detroit Tigers (30) 0.86 - Derek Hill and Steven Moya are the only players worth talking about, but they may be traded for immediate help before the season is out.

2014 top farm teams

Kuroda Wins First for Carp

March 29th, 2015

Hiroki Kuroda won his opening day start pitching seven innings of shutout ball in the Hiroshima Carp’s 2-1 win over the Yakult Swallows. He struck out five and walked one, allowing just five hits. Jesus Guzman scored a run in the fifth after drawing a two out walk and drove in a run in the seventh with a double. Deunte Heath pitched the ninth to get the save despite adding some gray hair on his manager by giving up two hits.

Two teams have started the season 3-0. The Hanshin Tigers won their first game without a walk off hit beating the Chunichi Dragons 10-8. The Seibu Lions won their third game in a row with a 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes. The Dragons and Buffaloes have started the season 0-3.

Pirates a Win Away from Finals

March 29th, 2015

Last year Matanzas was upset and did not make it to the finals. Isla de la Juventud is one win away from dealing Matanzas another upset playoff series loss to advance to the Cuban finals. They scored three runs in the eighth, the go ahead run scoring on a passed ball to give the Pirates a 6-5 lead. Danier Galvez drove in an insurance run with a single and defensive replacement Leonardo Urguelles smoked a triple to drive in the final run for the 8-5 win. Danny Aguilera worked his second inning of relief to notch the victory, improving his record to 12-0.

It was a sloppy game with seven errors, four by the Crocodiles to allow the first four runs scored by the Pirates to be unearned. The boxscore for the game can be found below: