Indians Continue to Focus on Titles

January 23rd, 2019

The Indians farm system has been just strong enough to churn out decent enough prospects that they can trade them for veterans. They were ranked by myworld at number 15 last year, right in the middle of the pack and in years past usually sit around the lower part of the top ten. The highest ranked prospects they have had are Trevor Bauer (2013) who was acquired from the Diamondbacks and appeared at number five and Francisco Lindor (2015) who appeared at number six. Both prospects have made impacts on their major league roster. Last year the only two players who appeared in Top 100 lists were Tristan McKenzie and Francisco Mejia, but both appeared high enough to elevate the Indians status in the prospect rankings. Francisco Mejia was traded mid-year to the Padres.

Myworld saw Tristan McKenzie pitch in the NY Penn League a couple years ago and were quickly mesmerized. We liked the length in his arms making it hard for hitters to pick up on the ball. His skinny frame seemed to indicate that an increase in velocity on his low 90s fastball would increase once he fills out. The fastball still sits in the low-90s but his curveball gets lots of swings and misses and his change is an effective pitch. A 6′5″ frame that is not troubled with poor command makes him a future ace in the waiting. Last year he had success in AA (2.68 ERA and .191 opposition average) so the major leagues is not far away.

Another tall drink of water at 6′6″ 2018 first round pick Ethan Hawkins. A shoulder injury impacted his draft status dropping him all the way to the last pick of the 2018 draft. The faulty shoulder limited him to three innings on two starts last year. His fastball blazes across the plate in the high 90s but his secondary pitches need some improvement before he can be considered as an ace pitcher. The 2019 season will be critical to see if he can keep his health. He pitched for the gold medal winning 18 and under USA baseball team in 2018, one of ten players on that team selected in the first round.

The big thing Sam Hentges has going for him is a fastball he can hit in the mid-90s. Another large framed pitcher (6′6″) drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 draft he lacks a consistent secondary offering and struggles with control. Last year he had moderate success in High A as a starter but opposing hitters tagged him at a .260 clip. The Indians will give him another year in the rotation in an attempt to master his command.

The Venezuelan Luis Oviedo owns the best fastball of all the Indians prospects. It sits in the mid-90s and can tick higher. A good changeup makes the fastball look even more imposing. Establishing a breaking pitch will cement his spot in the rotation. He limited the opposition to a .190 average last year. Next year he should begin the season in Low A.

Chih-Wei Hu has bounced around since signing with the Twins out of Taiwan in 2012. He made his major league debut with the Rays in 2017 and got another five relief appearances with the Indians last year. He is not overpowering and at 6′0″ there could be durability concerns as a starter, but his pitch mix is varied. The change and his low 89s fastball location are his two best pitches but he also carries two breaking pitches and a palmball. Major league hitters only hit him at a .149 clip in his 13 major league innings. The Indians will probably use him out of the bullpen to begin the 2019 season and fit him in the rotation when a need exists.

Noah Naylor was the Indians first round pick in 2018. He is the brother of Josh, but his ability to catch and his better physique may ultimately make him a better prospect. He still needs a lot of improvement on his defense behind the plate, but his arm is solid. His bat should show enough power to hit 20 plus homeruns and he showed some good plate discipline with 21 walks in 33 games for a .381 OBA. If catching does not happen the bat is strong enough for him to see time at first base.

It appeared Bobby Bradley continued to improve his ability to make contact, striking out just 105 times in 97 games. It did not seem to help in his batting average (.214) but he did improve to .254 when promoted to AAA. Power will be his game. He has hit 20 plus homeruns since being drafted in the third round in 2014. DH appears to be his best position and his speed limits him to one base at a time, unless he bombs a pitch over the wall. If the power does not show in abundant quantities the major leagues will not happen.

Nolan Jones still has some developing to do. The 2016 second round pick has an excellent glove for third base. An ability to take a walk put his OBA for the 2018 season at .405. That will allow him to hit for a decent average (.283) with decent power that should improve as he matures. Last year Nolan slugged 19 homeruns. If for some reason he can not play third the legs carry enough speed for him to be able to play outfield.

The Indians signed Yu-Cheng Chang out of Taiwan in 2013. In 2017 he slugged 24 homeruns to open eyes as a possible slugging shortstop. That power unfortunately came with a lower average (.220). Last year the power was more muted with 13 homeruns but the batting average increased to .256. He may not have the range to stay at short, but if he moves to third he will need to show the power to fit the position. Next year he should make his major league debut if the Indians feel he is ready.

Tyler Freeman may not have the range to stick at short and lacks the power to play third. The supplemental second round pick in 2017 did hit .352 in rookie ball with 29 doubles to show he can spray the gaps. If that offense continues a move to second could be a possibility. Expect his role to be more of a utility player.

The one weakness the Indians have had is developing outfielders. They traded with the Nationals to acquire Daniel Johnson. Daniel was kind of the third wheel behind Juan Soto and Victor Robles. The tools are there for him to hit for power and average. With the Nationals his bat was second to Soto and his speed was second to Robles. With the Indians he has the ability to be one of their top outfielders. His defensive tools make him a better fit for right field.

The Indians paid George Valera $1.3 million in 2017. He lived in New York but moved to the Dominican at 13 years of age. A broken hamate bone limited his season to six games. The bat has the ability to mix power with contact so he should be a solid offensive player, making a move to right field a good fit.

Will Benson was the Indians 2016 first round pick. His arm is a rifle making him a perfect fit for right field but his legs carry some speed to make centerfield another option. Last year he hit 22 homeruns while showing good patience at the plate with 82 walks. What he needs to improve on is his ability to make contact with 152 whiffs in just 123 games. That struggle to make contact drove his average down to .180. In his three years in the minor leagues he has yet to hit over .238.

Professional Baseball Hires First Female General Manager

January 22nd, 2019

The Kiwoom (ex-Nexon) Heroes hired the first female general manager for professional baseball. She is Im Eun-Ju and she is not a stranger to being a first. She was also the first South Korean woman to become a FIFA referee. Her title is also that of team president. Myworld knows that no female has ever become general manager in the major leagues. We are pretty certain that Japan and Taiwan have not ever placed a female as general manager in their professional leagues, so we will call her a first.

While she will oversee baseball operations, Park Joon-Sang, a male, will oversee marketing and business operations. He will also carry the title of President. The Kiwoom Heroes have overtaken the franchise previously operated by the Nexen Heroes, who had financial and legal difficulties and decided to abandon their KBO team.

Im is an athlete having also played soccer for the women’s national soccer team. Her qualifications for the general manager position were learned after her playing days were over when she took over the administration of the men’s soccer program. She was the CEO and GM for two different soccer clubs from 2013 to 2018. She has very little baseball experience so there may be a bit of a learning curve as she goes about her duties.

Kudos to the KBO and the Kiwoom Heroes for their forward thinking.

CPBL Considers Expansion

January 22nd, 2019

CPBLstats.com reports on the possible expansion of one baseball team to the CPBL and the delay in the participation of another. It was reported by CPBLstats that the Ting-Hsin International Group will revive the Wei-Chuan Dragons, one of the more popular teams in the CPBL until they dropped out of the league in December 1999, one month after winning the Taiwan Series.

Before playing in the CPBL the team would have to pay a $19 million fee and play in the minor leagues for two years. While they play in the minor leagues they would accumulate players by participating in the CPBL draft beginning with the July 2019 draft. They would possibly host their games in the Taipei Dome in Kaohsiung City.

One team that has delayed their participation in the CPBL is a team from Australia. They were supposed to join the CPBL playing in the minor leagues for two years beginning in 2019. They have asked for a postponement to their participation in the league until 2019 or 2020. Taiwan also plans to add a Taiwanese team to the Australian Baseball League in 2019.

Australia’s delay in creating a team for the CPBL may be the large expense for forming a team. It may also be a reluctance of some teams in the CPBL from accepting a team from Australia. Australia is looking to seek clearer guidance on the path for the team to eventually join the CPBL. Communications from the two sides will continue to determine feasibility. It would seem to make sense if they agree to the return of the Wei Chuan Dragons as a fifth team in the CPBL they would need to find a sixth team to balance out the schedule.

Las Tunas Wins First Cuban Championships

January 19th, 2019

When myworld first discovered Cuban baseball, Las Tunas was one of the teams you could count on to finish at the bottom of the standings. With defections and many of the top players bolting for the United States the landscape has changed for Cuban baseball. For the most part teams in the Nacional Series are composed of players who grow up in their barrio, except for the Capital which can sometimes acquire top players from other barrios. With the Cuban season now composed of two parts to a season players are drafted from teams outside their barrio from the teams who failed to advance in the second half. It has played havoc for websites attempting to keep statistics for players.

The Lumberjacks finally won their first championship after downing the Orangeman of Villa Clara in five games. Jorge Johnson was the big bat for Las Tunas. In the final game, an 8-4 win Johnson went 3 for 5 with a homerun and four RBIs. Alexander Ayala also contributed with a 4 for 4 day with a homerun and two RBIs. Yadian Martinez went 5.2 innings of shutout relief to allow the Lumberjacks to come back from a 4-2 deficit after four innings, picking up his second victory in two days.

In the opening game of the championship series Jorge Johnson went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Daniel Castro and Jorge Aloma each went deep and drove in four runs. The first bullpen victory was recorded by Yudier Rodriguez, who worked 2.2 innings while allowing just one hit.

The Johnson bat remained hot in game two with a 2 for 5 day, his first homerun of the series and three RBIs. Jorge Aloma kept pace with a 3 for 3 performance and two runs scored.

The Lumberjacks came up short in game three 9-4. Villa Clara exploded for six runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. The Johnson bat became boring with a 1 for 4 performance. Jorge Aloma went hitless in three at bats. William Saavedra was the big bat for Villa Clara with one homerun and three RBIs and two runs scored.

Las Tunas came back in game four with a 7-5 win despite the quiet bats from Johnson. Jorge Aloma did contribute two hits but Yasiel Santoya drove in three runs to prove the difference in the game. Yadian Martinez got the win out of the bullpen despite giving up two runs, surviving three innings which was enough to get the win.

The Johnson bat returned in the final game to finish the five game series with 10 RBIs. The down side of the series is the celebration was held at the Villa Clara park. Myworld is confident Las Tunas residents will give them their celebration when they return home.

Brisbane Blasts Nine Homeruns in ABL Action

January 17th, 2019

It is a little difficult to follow the ABL since the website is unable to show standings or stats but an ABL record was set when the Brisbane Bandits blasted nine homeruns in their 21-5 victory over the Korean expansion team Geelong-Korea yesterday. Riley Unroe, T.J. Bennett, Andrew Campbell, Donald Lutz, Wynton Bernard, David Sutherland, Wade Dutton and Daniel de La Calle all went deep. Calle went deep twice, including hitting a grand slam meaning Logan Wade was the only player in the starting lineup who failed to hit a homerun.

On the Geelong side, Byeong-Geun Kim served up four homeruns in less than four innings of work. Jae-Gon Lee coughed up five blasts in a little over four innings of work. Lee was left in long enough to give up 15 runs during that time to raise his ERA to 13.98. On the bright side Hwi Kwon threw one inning of perfect relief in the ninth to lower his ERA to 10.58.

Korea to Call Games Because of Fine Dust

January 17th, 2019

The KBO will now call games not just because of rain but because of pollution. The calculation gets very complex, way beyond myworld’s level of understanding but if “the level of particles 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter (PM-10) is expected to exceed 300 micrograms per cubic meter (㎍/㎥) for more than two hours. For ultra fine dust, or particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, (PM-2.5), the warning is put in place when the level is expected to remain over 150㎍/㎥ for longer than two hours”. Myworld will leave it to the experts to make that call.

The call to cancel the game will be made one hour before the first pitch. It is not clear what happens if the dust particles reach that level while the game is in play. Fine dust issues caused the cancellation of three games that were supposed to be played on April 6, 2018.

Eye-Bee-Gar Pirates Pillaging for Playoffs

January 16th, 2019

From 2012 to 2017 the Pirates appeared in the Top Ten for the quality of their prospects. This may have helped them in their playoff appearances from 2013 to 2015. Unfortunately, the trades of Andrew McCutcheon and Gerritt Cole lacked prospects with the name value to see them appear in the top ten in 2018 and probably 2019. The players who made an impact for the Pirates from 2012 to 2017 were Gerritt Cole, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Austin Meadows, Starling Marte, Josh Bell, and Tyler Glasnow. Prospects they are still waiting on are Mitch Keller, Kevin Newman and Nick Kingham. Prospects who failed to live up to their Top 100 hype were Alen Hanson, Luis Heredia and Reese McGwire, though there is still some time for prospects to pass or fail. The Pirates who made top 100 lists in 2018 include Jordan Luplow, Colin Moran, Austin Meadows and Mitch Keller. Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow have been traded so their Pirate contribution will consist of those players the Pirates obtained in the trades.

The Pirate prospect who could make the most impact is Oneil Cruz. He could also turn into a big bust. At 6′6″ it is hard to believe the Pirates still plan to keep him at shortstop. As he matures and the body gains weight his range could be limited and myworld can’t imagine how he gets his rear end near the ground at that height to field ground balls. A move to right field or first base is probably in his future. The bat carries light tower power that kind of remind me of the shots I witnessed from Giancarlo Stanton (then called Mike) when he was still a prospect. The large frame gives the pitcher an extended strike zone, but Oneil did a good job of making contact last year. Next year should see him get a taste of AA with a major league arrival sometime in 2020.

A player ready for his major league debut in 2019 is 2014 second round pick Mitch Keller. Like aged wine the Pirates have been letting him breath in the minor leagues. Last year he had success at AA (2.72 ERA) but struggled at AAA (4.82 ERA). This gives the Pirates an excuse to leave him in the minors to begin 2019 regardless of how well he pitches in spring training to get one more year of service time from him. His fastball reaches the high 90s but sits in the mid-90s with quality secondary pitches and excellent command to reach ace potential. In AAA he struggled a bit with his command resulting in hitter’s raking him at a .280 clip. Expect Mitch to be with the Pirates by mid-season next year.

Nick Burdi was a Rule V pick that had trouble staying healthy last year. He will have to spend the first 90 days on the major league roster in order for the Pirates to keep him. Before his Tommy John surgery in 2017 his fastball sat in the high 90s and often reached triple digits. Because of his lack of command and a third pitch his minor league career has been spent in the bullpen where the Pirates hope to develop him as a closer. If he can gain better command of his fastball/slider combination he can be an impact in the pen.

That is it for the pitchers. The middle infield will see a battle for shortstop. They may not have knock me out tools, but they should do no worse than Jody Mercer. Kevin Squared, which is Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer should battle for the shortstop job next year. The loser of that battle will probably play in a utility role or move to second base. Kevin Newman may have the better defensive tools, especially with the arm. He also had a little more major league success when both were called up last year(.209 vs .135). Both will hit for a decent average but will not generate a lot of power. Kramer did surprise with 15 homeruns and a .492 slugging in AAA last year but if either get in double figures in homeruns in the major leagues the Pirates should be grateful.

Cole Tucker is another possibility for the shortstop position. What separates him from the Kevin Squares is the speed to steal 30 plus bases a year. This speed also gives him the ability to cover more ground at shortstop. Like the Kevins his bat is a little vanilla, lacking power to make an offensive impact. Tucker will probably spend the entire year in AAA waiting for one of the Kevins to fail.

Ke’Bryan Hayes was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2015. He is the son of Charlie, who spent 14 years in the major leagues. Early in his career it did not look like Hayes would have the defensive chops to stay at third. Now his glove is considered a plus. What he needs is to develop some power to fit at the corner infield position. Last year his power was restricted to the gaps with 31 doubles but only seven homeruns for a .444 slugging percentage. That is borderline offense for a corner infielder. The good news is the seven homeruns was just one short of the eight he hit in his three previous seasons. After hitting .293 in AA he will begin the 2019 season in AAA. There are no sure fire starters at the major league position so a good spring and a good start in AAA could see him with the Pirates by mid-season.

Another shortstop to watch is Ji-Hwan Bae, whose $300,000 signing by the Braves was voided because of their violation of international cap rules. The Pirates swooped in and shelled out $1.2 million to sign him, using some of the international bonus money the Giants gave them in the McCutcheon trade. Like many of the middle infielders coming out of Asia Bae has good speed and smooth actions at short. The big question is whether he will show enough bat to see the major leagues. Last year he hit .271 with a .349 slugging percentage in the Rookie League. Depending on how his spring goes he could see a full season league to begin the 2019 season.

In the outfield the Pirates hope USA star Travis Swaggerty shows some swag. He was the Pirates first round pick in 2018 after impressing for Team USA. His defense is centerfield quality with the power to hit 20 plus homeruns. The speed is also there to steal 20 plus bases. The five tools are all there but they are not at the elite level. There was a little struggle making contact in his minor league debut, but the bat showed some pop with five homeruns in 52 games. He struggled a bit when promoted to full season (.129) but that could have been fatigue setting in after a long college season.

The Pirates are hoping to get something from Bryan Reynolds (Andrew McCutcheon trade) and Jason Martin (Gerritt Cole), both with tools that remind myworld of fourth outfielders. They lack burner speed to play center, the arms are better suited for left and the power does not fit a corner outfield slot. The Pirates hope to get some production from them to justify the trades or see Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove and Kyle Crick do better than average for the Pirates in 2019.

Rockies Seeking Path to Playoffs

January 14th, 2019

The Rockies appeared in the top ten for prospects as measured by myworld from 2015 to 2017. In 2016 they were the top team for prospects. As these players graduated to the major leagues their ranking in the top ten disappeared last year. Now they are ready for the playoff chase. John Gray, David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Kyle Freeland, Raimel Tapia and German Marquez all have made contributions to the Rockies roster in the last couple years. Brendan Rodgers and Riley Pint are poised to make contributions in 2019. Eddie Butler and Forrest Wall have been traded for playoff pieces. Rodgers, McMahon and Pint were the only prospects named in Top 100 prospect lists last year. The cupboard is not bare.

Brendan Rodgers is prepared to make an impact in the major leagues in 2019. The 2015 first round pick may have to find a position not occupied by Trevor Story or Nolan Arenado, which may mean a move to second base. The Rockies chose to say bye to D.J. LeMahieu which may open a spot for Rodgers. The bat is capable of hitting for a high average as well as socking 20 plus homeruns a year. The glove has the ability to play solid defense. A .232 average in a short stint in AAA may be evidence that a month of seasoning is needed before he is called up. Ironic that this would give the Rockies an extra year of control with that month of seasoning. Ryan McMahon will be given the first opportunity to win the second base job.

Another middle infielder to watch out for is Garrett Hampson, a third round pick in 2016. He lacks the gold card tools of Rodgers but his bat makes good contact, allowing him to hit .314 in AAA. The power is not there for him to carry balls over the fence, but with his speed and contact ability he could be an excellent two slot hitter. Last year he stole 36 bases with a .396 OBA while also making his major league debut, hitting .275. The glove is smooth, which could allow him to play second or fill in as a utility player.

Ryan Vilade is another possibility for the middle infield position, though he still has some time to percolate through the system. The 2017 second round pick has good pop for a middle infielder but lacks quickness to cover ground defensively. His best position may be third base or a move to the outfield where a strong arm would fit in right field.

Colton Welker is the expected replacement for Nolan Arenado at third base. The 2016 fourth round pick has hit over .300 at every level he has played, breaking out enough power to hit 13 homeruns last year. Currently his power is gap oriented but as he fills out the homeruns should increase. Colton has the glove and arm to play third. Next year he should see some time at AA with his major league debut coming sometime in 2020.

The Rockies have two players who will vie for first base. Tyler Nevin has the pedigree. The son of Phil and a supplemental first rounder in 2015 saw most of his time at third base. His best position may be at first base where he has shown the ability to be a solid defensive player. Injuries have limited him to less than 100 games his previous years. The 2018 season saw him hit 100 games giving him an opportunity to display his power with 13 homeruns and a .328 average. Next year he should see AA. If he can stay healthy he could see the Rockies sometime next year.

Grant Lavigne is another supplemental first round pick, drafted in 2018. At 6′4″ with very little speed and a weak arm his only viable position appears to be first base. Defensively he has the glove to play there. What separates Grant from other power hitters is his excellent plate discipline with a 45/40 walk to whiff ratio. This allowed him to slay rookie level pitchers last year for a .350 average. Despite his lack of speed he also showed the baserunning instincts to steal 12 bases. The 2019 season will be a test to show that he can deliver in a full season league.

The Rockies appear to be set in the outfield with David Dahl and Raimel Tapia. They have no sure fire prospects down at the lower levels. The catching situation seems a little bare if Tom Murphy does not pan out. That leaves us with the pitchers.

Riley Pint has the triple digit fastball to become an ace. The 2016 first round pick was limited to four starts last year because of injuries. A lack of command has also plagued his effectiveness. Entering into the 2018 season he had a 82/115 walk to whiff ratio. Last year it was 11/8. The secondary pitches are there for him to be a starter but getting them to cross the plate to get ahead in the count has been a challenge. A healthy year is needed from him next year.

Peter Lambert does not throw as hard but he can hit the mid-90s with his fastball. The 2015 second round pick can also find the plate. He survives on his command and changeup to retire hitters, limiting AA hitters to a .236 average and a 2.23 ERA. A promotion to AAA saw hitters exploit him for a .320 average. He struggled with the higher altitude and will need one more year of seasoning there before earning a promotion to the Rockie Mountain High.

Ryan Rolison was the Rockies first round pick in 2018. He dominated at the Rookie level with an excellent curveball, restricting hitters to a .149 average. Time will tell whether that bender will continue to dominate at the higher levels. His fastball sits in the low 90s so the heat is there for him to succeed somewhere in the middle of the rotation.

Jesus Tinoco throws the ball hard. He was one of the players Colorado got for Troy Tulowitski. If he could improve his changeup it would make his fastball better. Last year he started 26 games at AA but finished with a 4.79 ERA. Without an improvement in command or the change his best role may be in the bullpen.

Twins Time is the Present

January 12th, 2019

The Twins last won the AL Central in 2010. They went on a rebuilding path when the major leagues expanded the wild cards to two teams, building a farm system that was rated number one by myworld in 2015 and was in third in 2013 and 2014. That appeared to pay off when they made the playoffs in 2017 as one of the two wild cards. Last year they took a step backward when injuries and poor years from their top rookies from 2017 imploded their hopes for back to back playoff appearances.

From the 2013 to 2015 prospects like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, Aaron Hicks (traded to the Yankees in 2015 for John Ryan Murphy) and Kyle Gibson contributed to their wild card run. They are still awaiting contributions from Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon while players like Alex Meyer and Oswaldo Arcia failed to live up to expectations. Last year Brent Rooker, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon and Royce Lewis appeared on Top 100 prospect lists.

The Twins have a luxury of talent up the middle starting with their top prospect and the number one pick in the 2017 draft Royce Lewis. At this point his bat is far superior to his glove, with the ability to hit for average and a modicum of power. With his sprinter’s speed he could easily achieve 20/20 (homeruns/stolen bases) when he reaches the major leagues. Last year he hit .292 with 14 homeruns and 28 stolen bases at the two A levels. The defensive tools are there to play shortstop, though they will not be of the elite quality because of a throwing arm that may be a little short and inconsistent. Next year he should see some time in AA, which could mean a September callup.

Nick Gordon is the half brother of Dee Gordon and the son of Tom Gordon. Like his brother Dee, Nick started his minor league career as a shortstop but he has been used more at second base now in deference to the rise of Royce Lewis. The 2014 first round pick does not have the speed of his brother Dee but he could have a better bat. Last year he hit .333 at AA in 42 games but struggled when promoted to AAA (.212). His slugging percentage also dropped from .525 to .283. His ultimate role could end up as a super utility player moving around from second, short and the outfield. His lack of speed limits his range which makes playing regularly at shortstop a liability.

The player with the best defensive tools at short may be Wander Javier. A torn labrum required surgery and prevented him from playing in 2018. In 2017 he did hit .299, showing the power to spray the gaps. The concern with Javier is the ability to stay healthy. In 2016 he was limited to nine games because of hamstring issues. The more you see of a player the more his flaws stand out. The 2019 season should see Javier make his full season debut and give a better impression of where his tools best fit.

Another Dominican signed a year after Javier is Yunior Severino. The Twins doled out $2.5 million to sign him after the Braves were forced to release him for rules violations. That was $600,000 more than the Braves paid for him initially in 2016. Severino looks to have a plus bat that can hit for power. Last year in rookie ball he hit 8 homeruns and slugged .424. His lack of speed will limit his range at short and make second base a more viable alternative for him. He should open next season in full season ball.

Staying in the infield we may see Brent Rooker at first base. The 2017 first round supplemental pick was used in left field but lacks the arm and the speed to be a viable option out there. There is a lot of power in his bat as evidenced by his 22 taters last year, but also a lot of swing and miss with 150 whiffs in 130 games. The other concern for Rooker is his righthanded bat. Teams have a reluctance to promote righthanders to the first base position. After slugging .566 in 2017 and dropping to .465 last year, Rooker will have to return to those 2017 levels to force the Twins not to care which side of the plate he bats from.

In the outfield one of their best prospects is Alex Kirilloff, the Twins first round pick in 2016. Though he does not seem to get too much credit for his arm, myworld thought he had the best throwing arm among the prospects we saw at the prospects game, even after coming back from Tommy John surgery. The power makes him a good fit for right field and after hitting .348 at the two A levels batting titles could be within his sights. Alex will start the 2019 season in AA with a full promotion to the majors expected for 2020. If he continues to hit over .330 with 20 plus homeruns his promotion could be sooner.

Trevor Larnach was the Twins first round pick in 2018. His lack of speed and an underwhelming arm may make left field his best spot. That means he will have to hit to justify using him in a power spot. The power is there. Last year he slugged .500 with five homeruns while hitting .303 at two lower minor league levels. Since he was drafted out of Oregon State the Twins will hope his bat develops quickly and he will be ready for them by mid season 2020.

Akil Baddoo is a possibility for centerfield. The speed is there for him to cover the acreage, but the arm is better suited for left field. His bat may not carry enough juice for him to land in an outfield corner, though his speed turns singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Last year he hit 11 triples and his 11 homeruns put him in the triple double category, getting double figures in both doubles, triples and homeruns.

The Twins hope to get some contributions from their pitchers. They have always had a tendency to draft control pitchers rather than pitchers who throw heat. Stephen Gonsalves fits that mold of the lefty who does not throw hard but retires hitters with command and a baffling change. Gonsalves dominated in the minor leagues (2.76 ERA and .184 opposition average) but struggled in his major league debut (6.57 ERA and .283 opposition average). He fought with his control (22/16 walk to whiff ratio in 24.2 innings) though that appeared to be a problem in his 100 innings in AAA (55/95 walk to whiff). The Twins will probably send him down to AAA to work on rediscovering that strike zone.

Brusdar Graterol is not the typical Twins pitcher. The Venezuelan can hit triple digits with his fastball. The secondary pitches need some improvement but he did show the ability to find the plate. Last year he struck out more than a hitter per inning and kept the ball in the park, forcing hitters to pound the ball into the ground. If his secondary pitches improve and he continues to hit three digits consistently with his fastball he could easily fit at the top of the rotation. At 6′1″ that may be a lot to ask but the bullpen as a closer is another option.

Lewis Thorpe is a lefty from Australia who has an atypical low 90s fastball that can reach higher. Most lefthanders from Australia struggle to see 90. He missed two seasons (2015 and 2016) because of Tommy John surgery and returned in 2017 to show why he was coveted by the Twins out of Australia with a splendid 2.69 ERA in 15 starts. He doubled down on that with 25 starts in AA and AAA last year with a 3.54 ERA. He can get swings and misses (157 K’s in 129 innings) but if his command is off he can be hit (.250 opposition average). He can also be prone to the flyball which could result in a number of homeruns. Next year he should make his major league debut.

Tyler Jay, a first round pick in 2015 and Kohl Stewart, a first round pick in 2013 have about seen their shelf life expire. Tyler Jay had trouble staying healthy and will move to a bullpen role. In shorter spurts his fastball can reach the mid-90s and there is always room for a lefthander in the bullpen. Kohl still throws hard but his challenge is finding the strike zone. Getting behind in the count forces him to throw it to the middle of the plate where he gets hit hard (.301 opposition average). Last year he made his major league debut and pitched well. The bullpen may also be his best spot.

Lastly, myworld does not know much about Ryan Jeffers, the Twins second round pick in 2018. He did hit .344 at two minor league stops in his first taste of professional ball. His defensive tools at this point are not his strength but it is reported he has the arm to stay behind the plate. Footwork, calling and framing pitches are still tools he needs to work on.

Las Tunas and Villa Clara into the Finals

January 10th, 2019

The series only went five games for both Las Tunas and Villa Clara to advance to the Cuban finals. Both teams lost the fourth game after winning the first three but Las Tunas won the fifth game on the road while Villa Clara got to celebrate at home.

Las Tunas defeated Ciego de Avila 4-3 scoring early on a three run homerun by Yosvani Alarcon. Ciego battled back to score two in the second and one in the third, Yorbis Borrotto driving in two. Yoanni Yera for Las Tunas and Lazaro Blanco for Ciego shut down the bats for the next three innings. Las Tunas was able to score their final run in the seventh, getting a gift from right fielder Oscar Colas, who held on to the ball too long and then fired past the catcher to allow the go ahead run to score. Yoalkis Cruz retired Ciego in order in the ninth to clinch the win.

Jorge Johnson and Jorge Aloma each contributed three hits for Las Tunas.

The game was not so tight in Villa Clara with the Orangeman battering Sancti Spiritus 12-2 to win their semifinals. The game ended after seven innings because of the slaughter rule. Stayler Hernandez, Yurien Vizcaino and William Saavedra each contributed three RBIs in the slaughter. The Orangeman picked apart Sancti Spiritus with 13 singles and a double in the seven innings and also drew 8 walks. Freddy Alvarez went the full seven innings to pick up the victory.

Las Tunas will now play Villa Clara in the finals. Villa Clara last won a championship in 2013. Las Tunas has yet to win a Cuban championship. Granma had won it the last two years and prior to that Ciego de Avila had won back to back. Sancti Spiritus had last won in 1979, but they were eliminated by Villa Clara. With the many defections it is a changing landscape in Cuban baseball. If the new agreement between major league baseball and Cuba is allowed to go into effect it will be interesting to see how that will impact the Cuban landscape. Granma had not won a championship until they went back to back. Now could it be Las Tunas with an opportunity to win their first championship.