Reds - 2015

January 26th, 2015

General - The Reds were expecting a lot from their top salaried players Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Philips and Jay Bruce. Votto only played in 62 games, the season ended early for Bailey after 23 unimpressive starts, Phillips played 121 games but only hit .266 with very little power (.372 slugging) and Jay Bruce was a mess hitting just .217 with 149 whiffs. After reaching the playoffs for two seasons in a row the Reds were absent from the race last year and have now traded two of their starting pitchers, Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon to make room for a youth brigade of pitching that the Reds hope solve their starting pitching problems for years to come. It may take a year of maturity before that comes to fruition.

Key Additions - They traded one of their young surplus pitching prospects Ben Lively to get the aged bat of Marlon Byrd from the Phillies. Byrd is two years shy of 40 but still hit 25 homeruns last year. The trades of Alfredo Simon and Matt Latos got them youth that will not help them for 2016. Anthony DeSciafani, acquired from the Marlins in the Latos trade could compete for a starting rotation spot. Eugenio Suarez, who saw some time with the Tigers last year could win a utility spot. Not a lot has been done to improve the 2014 club.

Catcher - Devin Mesoraco may have had the best offensive year for the Reds. He hit .273 with 25 homeruns and a .893 OPS. The Reds are hoping to sign him to an extension to keep him around longer. They have defensive specialist Tucker Barnhart to compete with Brayan Pena for the back up job. Pena may have the edge because of the better bat and the ability to play first base.

First Base - The Reds signed Joey Votto to a multi year contract and they are already seeing the ravages of that long term deal come apart. He only played 62 games last year, hitting with little power when he played (.409 slugging). Votto does get on base a lot (.390 OBA) with walks and plays a good defense. If Pena makes the team he will be the backup, but Todd Frazier increased his versatility by playing a lot of games here. They also have the German Don Lutz who has a lot of pop, but a .176 average shows he is far from ready.

Second Base - Brandon Phillips is another player they hope will bring them a better year. A .678 OPS is not what they expected from Brandon when they signed him to an extension. Kris Negron did a good job as a utility player and can play here. Skip Schumacher is a more natural second baseman but is a little short with the bat.

Third Base - Todd Frazier had a break out year with his .273 average and 29 homeruns. The ex-Little League hero also stole 20 bases with an OPS of .795. The Reds hope to see the same kind of production from him in 2015. Negron showed the pop to play this position when Frazier was moved to first after the Votto injury. His bat was very productive against lefthanded pitching (.318).

Shortstop - Zack Cozart had an uninspiring year, hitting just .221. His defense is not at that level where he can battle the Mendoza Line to be effective. The Reds acquired Eugenio Suarez from the Tigers in the Simon deal to give them an alternative if Cozart continues his struggles. Suarez played 85 games for the Tigers last year but his bat would not be much of an improvement (.242) though he may have a flashier glove. The Tigers will probably have Suarez start the season in AAA and allow Negron to fill the shortstop hole when Cozart is not available, but Suarez will see any extended time.

Left Field - Marlon Byrd and his 38 year old legs will fill this hole. The Reds hope he can continue to send balls flying over the fence, despite the reality that most players lose their power after they pass 35 years of age. Byrd seems to be bucking that trend. Skip Schumaker will be asked to fill the position to rest the Byrd legs, but he is not really a permanent position here. Don Lutz needs to show he can hit if he wants to be put out here. His defense is no better than Byrd. Jason Bourgeois is on the 40 man roster and is an ideal defensive replacement, but he has been no better than a fourth outfielder for other teams.

Center field - Billy Hamilton did not wow the league with his speed stealing only 56 bases, but caught 23 times. It is difficult to steal bases when you don’t get on base (.292 OBA). The Reds hope to see some improvement in his second year. Schumaker is the primary back up in centerfield with Bourgeois also available. If Hamilton should struggle again the Reds have Kyle Waldrop or Yorman Rodriguez available for mid-season callups in the minor leagues.

Right Field - Jay Bruce needs to improve on his .217 average and .373 slugging percentage. He only hit .161 against lefties. This may be where the Reds get the bat of Kris Negron in the lineup against lefthanders. Schumaker and Bourgeois continue to be the backup alternatives but offer no long term hope if Bruce continues to struggle with the bat.

Starting Pitching - Johnny Cueto is the fifth highest paid Red and he earned his paycheck. If not for Clayton Kershaw he would have won the Cy Young award in the National League with his 20-9, 2.25 ERA. He got 23 second place votes and six third place votes. The Reds hope to get a complete season from Homer Bailey. He has fallen short of his first round draft pick status but makes a solid number two starter. There is a big drop after that with Mike Leake following him. Last year lefthanders hit .290 against Leake. The Reds were a little disappointed in the performance of their rookie phenom from last year Tony Cingrani. They hope to get a better year from him in 2015. He will be competing with a bevy of minor league pitching prospects as well as Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg for the final two spots. Myworld would take Cingrani and the pitching prospects. ERAs tend to be a little higher with the Reds park playing more as a hitters haven.

Closer - Aroldis Chapman is the closer premier with his 17.67 whiffs per nine innings. He saved 36 games last year. The Reds signed Cuban Raisel Iglesias, who also throws hard and pitched in the bullpen for Cuba, but the hope is to work him as a starting pitcher. The Reds do not really have a viable alternative, but Jumbo Diaz and his 315 pound frame and 18 saves last year in AAA.

Other Relievers - They did not get a lot of success from their bullpen last year. They have Sam Lecure coming back and Manny Parra will attempt to do a better job of getting lefthanded hitters out. Both had poor opponent averages (.277 and .283). The big boy Jumbo Diaz had some success last year and may see a more prominent role in 2015 as a setup man. He gets his fastball into the three digit velocity but at 315 pounds may not be that flexible off the mound. Spring training should be a battle of the other not so attractive options.

2015 Rookies - Pitchers who have a chance to win a staring role begin with the high 90s fastball of Robert Stephenson, who is probably the top prospect in the Reds. Expect more of a mid season callup from him. Anthony DeSciafani saw some time with the Marlins last year and would be the favorite to win the fifth spot if he has a good spring. He had some success in AAA but struggled when called up to start five games. Michael Lorenzen was a first round 2013 pick but is moving up the ladder quickly. Daniel Corcino is another option. He may also see a role in the bullpen if he doesn’t start. Raisel Iglesias is the Cuban reliever whose arm needs to be stretched out in the minors as the Reds seek to make him a starter. If he has success he could be up by midseason. On the non-pitching side Yorman Rodriguez could see some time in the outfield, especially if Jay Bruce struggles. Back in 2008 the Reds signed him to what once was the highest bonus signing of any foreign player. Kyle Waldrop is another outfield bat that may make an impression. Tucker Barnhart plays exceptional defense, so he could see a role as a backup. His weak bat prevents him from being a viable starter.

2015 Finish - The Reds still have a lot of work to do to see the playoffs in 2015. Their pitching is still young and they need to see better years from their four highest paid players to compete with the Cardinals and Pirates. Even the Cubs are getting closer in talent level to them.

ABL Playoff Participants Decided

January 26th, 2015

The Sydney Blue Sox may have lost their last regular season game to the defending champion Calgary Cavalry to have identical won/loss records, but it didn’t really matter since they had beat them the previous day to clinch a playoff spot by winning any tie breaking scenarios. They will face two time champion the Perth Heat in a best two out of three matchup. The winner of this series will face league champion the Adelaide Bite.

The Bite and the Heat were the only two teams with winning records in the ABL this year. The last place Melbourne Aces will have to be content with the homerun exploits of Kellin Deglan, who broke the ABL record with 16 homeruns. The Bite have Aaron Miller, who finished second in the league in homeruns with 12.

The Bandits lost the last two games against the Perth Heat, the first of those losses also eliminating them from any playoff chances, even if they had won on the last day to create a three way tie.

Franco Leads Gigantes to First Dominican Championship

January 26th, 2015

Estrellas 2 Gigantes 1

Estrellas extended the Dominican championships for one more day with this win. Luis Jimenez hit a solo shot in the second and Evan MacLane pitched five shutout innings to get the win. Marcus Mateo came on in the ninth to close it out for his third save in the round robin.

Gigantes 12 Estrellas 5

Maikel Franco brought the Gigantes their first Dominican championship, hitting two homeruns and driving in seven to end the series after eight games, five to three. He hit a grand slam in the second inning to allow the Gigantes to pull out in front 6-0. He drove in the first run in the opening frame with a sacrifice fly. He added an RBI single in the sixth and a solo shot in the eighth to drive in seven of the 12 Gigantes runs. Gigantes had second place finishes in 2008/9 and 2009/10 but have never represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe. This will be their first opportunity. Estrellas last time representing the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe was in 1967/68, but Gigantes did not have a team then. The Gigantes did not begin playing as a franchise until 1996. They are located in San Pedro de Macoris, at one time famed for raising shortstops. That job now seems to have been taken over by Curacao.

Culiacan 4 Jalisco 2

Culiacan takes a three games to one lead with their victories on Saturday and Sunday (see below). Issmael Salas slugged a solos shot in the second inning and crossed the plate twice to lead the offense in the Saturday game. Arnold Leon shut down the Charros bats for eight innings on just four hits and two runs. Oscar Villarreal worked the ninth to earn his third save of the round robin. Rico Noel also scored twice hitting in the leadoff spot with his two doubles.

Culiacan 3 Jalisco 1

Eric Farris got game number four off to a rising start with a two run homer in the first inning. Salvador Valdez tamed the Charros bats, then turned it over to the bullpen, who used five different arms to close out the victory. Oscar Villarreal had trouble closing out the ninth, giving up a run on two walks, a hitbatsman and a hit. Jose Meraz came on to get the last out with the bases loaded to put the Tomateros up three games to one.

Santurce 6 Mayageuz 0

The Indios were limited to five hits by Jorge Martinez and four bullpen mates. The Crabbers banged out 14 hits, led by Ruben Sosa and Robert Andino, the top two hitters in the order who collected three hits each. Reymond Fuentes hit two triples to score twice and Anthony Garcia and Ruben Gotay each hit solo homeruns.

Santurce 9 Mayaguez 1

Santurce is now a game away from playing in the Series del Caribe in their home stadium with their thrashing of Mayaguez. Neftali Soto drove in three runs to lead the offense. Ivan Maldanado got the job done from the mound hurling five shutout innings. Mayaguez needs to win the next two to advance.

Caribes 6 Magallanes 0

Alexi Amarista always shows a little bit of pop in Venezuela, more so than he does in the major leagues. He slugged a two run homer and added a double to lead Caribes to the victory in the championship series opener. Ehire Adrianza also drove in two runs. Daryl Thompson got the win with seven plus innings of four hit shutout ball.

Caribes 8 Magallanes 5

Caribes took a two games to zero lead in the best of seven series. Balls were flying out of the park with Magallanes slugging three solo shots and Caribes two solo shots and two two run blasts. Three of the homeruns for Caribes were in the third inning when Gorkys Hernandez and Ehire Adrianza went deep with no one on base. Felix Perez added a two run blister in the inning after an Alexi Amarista double to put Caribes up 4-2. Balbino Fuenmayor put the game away with a two run blast in the eighth. The turning point in the game was not a homerun but an error that broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh. A two out throwing error by Yangervis Solarte allowed Jose Castillo to cross the plate and give Caribes a 6-5 lead.

Australia 18 and Under Qualifes for World Cup

January 26th, 2015

The Australia 18 and under team qualified for the World Cup that will be played in Japan in September of this year. They went undefeated through the championships, beating Guam in the final match 10-0. Four different pitchers limited the Guamanians to just to two hits in the six innings.

The game was scoreless after two innings, but the Aussies pulled away with crooked numbers in the next four innings. Australia finished the tournament undefeated, scoring in double figures in all six games they played except one, when they were limited to 8 in one of their wins over New Zealand.

There were only three teams in the tournament. New Zealand came in second at 3-3, losing all three of their games against Australia and Guam ended the tournament winless at 0-6. The most competitive game was the opener when New Zealand just nipped Guam 1-0. After that game the rest of the matches were decided by at least five runs or more.

You can review the results of the matches here:

results

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.