Las Tunas Takes the Opener in Cuban Semi-Finals

March 8th, 2021

Granma will wait more than a week for an opponent to be decided in the championship game. Staying sharp will be a challenge. Las Tunas took the first step in an effort to be that opponent with their 4-2 victory over the Matanzas Crocodiles in their opening game. The rubber armed Carlos Juan Vierra went the route in the 4-2 win. Vierra almost pitched a shutout in game two of the quarter-final game, going 8.2 innings but being removed because of pitch count rules determining his eligibility for other games in the five game series.

Andres Quiala got things started for Las Tunas with a solo homerun in the first inning, depositing a Yera pitch into the Matanzas bullpen in left field. The two teams traded runs from that point and went into the eighth inning tied 2-2.

A Matanzas error on a dropped fly ball by right fielder Yadir Drake to lead off the inning opened up an opportunity for Las Tunas. They took advantage. Quiala faked a bunt and then hit a hard ground ball infield single off the glove of the shortstop, who was moving over to cover second base. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base. Yosvani Alarcon bounced a single over the outstretched glove of the third baseman to drive in the go ahead run. When the left fielder Ariel Sanchez dropped the ball an extra run was allowed to score.

While the fielding of Matanzas was sloppy, second baseman Anibal Medina made an incredible play in the second inning. On a ground ball up the middle he made a back hand play on the ball. With the ball still in his glove Medina made a perfect backhand flip to the shortstop, who threw to first to retire the hitter.

Yoanni Yera went eight innings for Matanzas but was victimized by the sloppy fielding of his defense in the eighth. Only two of the four runs he allowed were earned. He deserved a better fate.

Vierra gave up back to back singles in the ninth after he retired the first two hitters. He retired the final batter on a foul ball out to the catcher. Vierra is not a power pitcher. All of the pitches myworld saw registered below 90 on the radar gun. For Vierra the Las Tunas manager did not seem too concerned about pitch count. He allowed Vierra to throw 129 pitches to finish the game.

Top Puerto Rican Prospects

March 6th, 2021

The major league draft has been a drain for youths who wish to play baseball in Puerto Rico. Prior to being included in the draft major league teams followed international rules and signed Puerto Rican players once they reached 16 years of age. Once Puerto Rico was included in the draft major league teams could not sign players until after they completed high school.

The challenge with that is many high schools in Puerto Rico do not play baseball. So if a youth beyond 16 wants to continue his baseball career he has to go to one of the academies. If the family does not have money that can be a drain on the pocketbook, though myworld is certain scholarships are offered to talented prospects with pay back coming once the youth signs a contract.

Last year, in the 2020 shortened five round draft no Puerto Rican was selected by major league baseball. The draft will now be chopped to twenty rounds from the traditional forty rounds. That will make it even tougher for Puerto Rican youngsters to be drafted. That is a loss for baseball, as youths now turn to soccer or basketball for their sport of choice. If not for the academies, baseball would probably be dead in Puerto Rico.

Below are the top ten prospects to watch from Puerto Rico. I could have missed someone because many Puerto Ricans now travel stateside to continue their baseball careers. Willi Castro is the only player to graduate from last year’s list. He was the third rated prospect. Edwin Rios saw some major league time.

1. Heliot Ramos OF (Giants) - I believe he may have been the last Puerto Rican drafted in the first round, selected by the Giants in 2017. Ramos has above average grades in all the tools categories, but power and a strong right field arm may be his best tools. While he has the speed to play center, it is not in the burner category, so right field could be his best fit. Much of the speed he had when drafted has been lost as he has matured and gotten bigger. The power should equate to 25-30 homeruns per year, though hitting homeruns in the Giants stadium is not easy. He did recover from a poor 2018 season when he slugged just .396. In 2019 he raised his average 45 points (.290) and his slugging average almost 100 points (.496). Expect him to make his major league debut sometime late in 2021, especially if he has a good spring.

2. Mario Feliciano C (Brewers) - Mario was the 75th player selected in the 2016 draft, a second round supplemental pick. Puerto Rico has been known for developing catchers with the Molina brothers, Sandy Alomar Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Benito Santiago, just to name a few. Mario hopes to add his name to that list. His arm is top notch, but his bat could be even better. In 2019 his bat broke out for 19 homeruns with a .270 average. There is still too much swing and miss in his game (143 whiffs in 119 games) and he needs to improve in the other defensive areas of the game, such as pitch framing and calling a game. He played three games in AA in 2019. That may be where he starts the 2021 season with a callup possible this year. Catchers can sometimes take longer to develop so don’t expect a larger role for him until 2023.

3. Edwin Rios 3B/1B (Dodgers) - The Dodgers resigned Justin Turner, but for baseball he is at that age where he will need soe down time to rejuvenate. Expect Edwin to be that replacement. The sixth round 2015 pick saw a lot of power in 2020, with eight homeruns in just 32 games. While his slugging average reached .645 his OBA was only .301. In a brief appearance with the Dodgers in 2019 he slugged .617 with a .393 OBA. That year he also hit a career high 31 homeruns in AAA. So the power in his bat is a real threat. His defense at third can be a little awkward as might be expected from someone who is 6′3″ so his best position could be first base. If the DH arrives in the National League next year he could see a more permanent presence in the Dodgers lineup. Expect him to be with the Dodgers in 2021 playing a bench role to cover the corner infield positions.

4. Matthew Lugo SS (Red Sox) - The second round 2019 second round pick has some pretty impressive blood lines. He is the nephew of Carlos Beltran. If he can harness just half of Beltran’s production the Red Sox would consider him a success. The power genes have so far not appeared with Matthew as they did for Carlos. In his first and only minor league season in 2019 he only hit one homerun and slugged .326. The Red Sox hope the power will come as he matures. His defensive actions at short may rely more on his quickness than his speed. Matthew carries above average speed to stick at short and his arm is strong, but it will never measure up to the elite shortstops on defense. The Red Sox have Jeter Downs rated ahead of him for a middle infield spot, but with a good 2021 season Matthew could put himself on the spot light. Expect him to start the 2021 season in A ball, with a Red Sox arrival time delayed until 2023.

5. Jose DeLeon RHP (Reds) - Jose has been on this list for a number of years. It took until the 24th round for the Dodgers to draft him in 2013. That would not make him a drafted player in 2021. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2017 season but arm injuries limited his first year with the Rays and Tommy John surgery prevented him from playing in 2018. The Rays traded him to the Reds after the 2019 season. Now that he is finally healthy he could be a back end rotation piece or fill a bullpen role for the Reds in 2021. His fastball has increased a couple ticks, getting to the low end of the mid-90s spectrum. His change has been his best pitch, but with the increased velocity on his fastball there is clearer separation. A slider gives him a third pitch to be a starter. The Reds gave him five opportunities to pitch in the bullpen in 2020 but he gave up 12 runs in those six innings, walking 11 and striking out 10. At 29 years of age he needs to make the Reds pitching mix for the 2021 season or be released to the free agent market. Whether he makes the team will be dependent on his spring performance.

6. Erik Rivera LHP/OF (Angels) - The Angels love their duality. After signing Shohei Ohtani from Japan as a pitcher/hitter they have made a practice of drafting players who have the ability to pitch and hit. Erik was a fourth round pick in 2019 for his ability to both hit and pitch. With a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a big bender curveball and change his best rout to the majors may be his arm. There is power in his bat, but that comes with a lot of difficulty making contact. In 2019 he struck out 31 times in 21 games. Erik should start the 2021 season in A ball, with a more games behind the mound than at the plate.

7. Yan Contreras SS (Reds) - Yan did not get drafted until the 12th round of the 2019 draft. Right now defense is his game and the tools are there for him to stick at shortstop. The big question is whether his bat will hit enough to see the major leagues. Currently, he lacks any kind of power, but the hope is that at 6′2″ that power can be developed. In his 20 game minor league debut in 2019 he hit only .145. He did show the ability to walk with 14 and his two triples and four stolen bases in five attempts does show some game like speed. It will be a stretch for him to be a major leaguer, but 2021 will see his journey start in A ball.

8. Jivani Moran LHP (Twins) - A seventh round 2015 draft pick. His first year with the Twins they put him in the rotation, but after that most of his time has been spent in the bullpen. The strikeout numbers are very impressive, but that is not because of the velocity of his fastball. His career totals are 224 whiffs in just 158 innings. Those swings and misses can be attributed to his change that is unhittable at the minor league level. Those strikeout numbers increased at AA (13.1 per 9 innings) but his ERA sky rocketed (4.98). The big challenge will be whether his change can fool major league hitters. That test may come sometime in 2021.

9. Edwin Diaz utility (Athletics) - The 2013 15th round pick has been shuttling around the game a bit. The 2019 season could see him make his debut as a utility player for the Athletics. In 2019 he played a lot of third and short. Edwin lacks the range to play short on a consistent basis and his bat lacks the power to be a starter at third, but if you need a fill in he could be a valuable commodity to play both. His minor league career high for homeruns is 15 in 2018, but he hit 14 in 2019. His batting average can be a bit problematic, sitting in the low .200s the last couple years. The Athletics have a shortage at the middle infield position so the 2021 season will be an opportunity for Diaz to fill a role. At 25 years of age, his time is now.

10. Delvin Perez (Cardinals) - To be honest myworld could not find anyone else. Delvin was a first round pick of the Cardinals in 2016. Perez dominated in the Puerto Rican leagues, but his bat has fallen short in the minor leagues. The defensive tools are there but the bat is awfully silent. The lack of a 2020 season gave him no opportunity to improve on his paltry .325 slugging percentage in 2019. His career slugging percentage in the minor leagues since being drafted is .317. Defensively, he made 24 errors in 2019 at short and that will also need to improve. His best hope is some power develops, he gains some defensive consistency and he rises up the minor league ladder after a successful 2021 season in High A.

Las Tunas Advances to Semi-Finals

March 5th, 2021

Santiago rallied for two runs in the sixth to tie the game, but Las Tunas responded with a volcanic six run eruption in the home half to take command in their 10-2 win. They now advance to the best of seven semi-finals where they will play Matanzas in a repeat of the semi-finals last year. Matanzas won that match up.

Alejandro Meneses tamed the Santiago bats through the first five innings, allowing just two hits. He had some trouble finding the strike zone walking three. Santiago was able to figure him out in the sixth and their bats finally scored after being shutout for 24 straight innings. They started the inning with back to back doubles from Yoelkis Guibert and Edilse Silva to break the shutout streak. A two out double by Yaicel Perez scored Silva to tie the game. Manager Pablo Civil called on his son Alberto Civil to get the final out to keep the game tied. Civil went on to finish the game with 3.1 shutout innings, allowing just two hits.

Carlos Font struggled in the even numbered innings, perhaps because he was making his third start of the four game series, this one on only one day of rest. He wasn’t particularly sharp in that second start, but Santiago was in a must win situation and went with their best pitcher for game number four.

Las Tunas got to Font in the second, a Rafael Vinales double and Yordanis Alarcon single scoring the first run. Vinales went deep in the fourth with a solo shot to increase the lead to 2-0. Font was able to retire one hitter in the sixth, but an error allowed the lead off hitter to reach and Alarcon drove him in with a two out single. That ended the day and ultimately the year for Font.

Santiago went to the bullpen but they were of no help. Andres de la Cruz RBI mashed a double to increase the lead to 4-2. A two out double from Yuniesky Larduert further expanded that lead. Andres Quiala finished off the scoring with a two run single.

Las Tunas expanded the lead to 10-2 with a two run homer from Yordanis Alarcon. That would give him four RBIs on the day. They could not score the final two runs to shorten the game because of the slaughter rule, but Civil kept Santiago scoreless to advance them to the semi-finals.

Mike Piazza to Coach Italy in European Chamionships

March 4th, 2021

There will be 16 teams in the European championships to be played in Italy on September 12-19. Mike Piazza appears to be set to coach Italy. He was supposed to coach Italy in the 2021 World Baseball Classic, but that was postponed. So now he gets the opportunity to coach Italy in the European championships.

The Netherlands have won 23 European championships. Italy has won ten. The only other two countries that have won the championship are Spain (1955) and Belgium (1967). Israel won the qualifier for the Olympics that will be played in 2021.

Twelve of the 16 teams have been decided and positioned into groups. Four additional teams will be added in qualifying tournaments to be played in June of this year. Below are the pools for the European championship:

Group A - Italy, Austria, Belgium and qualifier

Group B - Spain, Croatia, Germany and qualifier

Group C - Israel, Great Britain, France and qualifier

Group D - Netherlands, Sweden, Czech Republic and qualifier

KBO Salaries Drop

March 4th, 2021

For the second straight year salaries for players from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) have dropped. Yonhap News reported that the average salary, excluding rookies and foreign players, for the 532 players remaining was $108,720. In 2020 that average salary was $128,319. In 2019 it had reached a record $139,073. The rookie salary is equivalent to $23,996.

The KBO claimed this drop was because of the departure of a number of veteran players, either through retirement or playing major league baseball. The league is also getting younger, with the average age dropping from 27.3 to 27.1. When trying to decide between keeping an aging veteran or a minimum wage rookie, when both players have an equal level of production, most teams will go with the rookie.

The recently signed Shin-soo Choo is the highest paid player in the KBO, excluding foreign players (about $2.4 million). The champion NC Dinos Eui-ji Yang is the second highest paid player and ex-major leaguer and now Kiwoom Heroes first baseman Byung-ho Park is third. Choo’s teammate of the old Sky Wyverns (still no official team name yet) Choi Jeong is the fourth highest paid player making a little over $1 million. So now you see the incentive of players wanting to go to the major leagues or even the KBO where the salaries are much higher, even if you go from a starter to a utility player.

The Padres signed Ha-Seong Kim to a four year contact for $28 million per year with an option that could increase that to $39 million. That is $7 million guaranteed, where the highest paid Korean player in the KBO is Choo at $2.4 million.

Myworlds 2021 Top Prospects 40-31

March 3rd, 2021

The continuation of our Top 100 prospects for 2021.

40 Brailyn Marquez LHP (Cubs) - A left handed arm who hits triple digits on the radar gun is a prized commodity. When he signed in 2015 for $600,000 he was already hitting the low 90s. Like a weed in a garden he has grown to 6′4″, a nice frame for a pitcher. His secondary pitches (slider and change) need further refinement and he has issues finding the strike zone. If this continues Brailyn could find himself in the bullpen. If his secondary pitches improve and he locates his pitches better he could find himself in the number one starter’s slot. The Cubs have developed a number of hitters through their farm system, but finding pitching has been a challenge. Marquez could be the first pitching star developed by the Cubs in the Theo Epstein era. He did make his major league debut last year, appearing in relief in one game, retiring only two batters while walking three and giving up two hits. He left after that outing with a 67.50 ERA. He could find himself in the Cubs rotation or bullpen by mid-season of 2021.

39. Brennen Davis OF (Cubs) - Another Cub, but Brennen was a second round pick of the 2018 draft. He signed for $1.1 million. Brennen has all the tools you look for in a superstar player. He has the speed to stick in center, the arm to move to right, the bat to hit .300 and the power to slug 20 plus homeruns per season. A finger injury limited him to 50 games in his lone full season minor league opportunity. He hit .305, slugged eight homeruns for a .906 OPS. He is also a very good athlete, having starred in basketball in high school and winning the defensive player of the year honors while leading his team to a state championship. A absent 2020 season hurt Brennen in the development department. He will probably start the 2021 season in High A and hope to be playing in Wrigley sometime late in 2022 or 2023.

38. Nolan Gorman 3B (Cardinals) - The Cardinals are loaded with third baseman. They traded one of them to Colorado but in return obtained one of the best third baseman in the game in Nolan Arenado. That creates some difficulty for the 2018 first round pick to squeeze into the starting lineup. Nolan has some impressive power, but his ability to make consistent contact is a concern. Last year he struck out 152 times in 125 games to keep his average at .248. On defense Nolan has a strong arm, but lacks quickness to be an elite defender. His lack of speed makes him a liability if he was to move to the outfield. Nolan may have to move to first base or be traded if he wants to have a major league career as a third baseman. Once he learns to make better contact he could be a 30 plus homerun hitter in the major leagues in 2023.

37. Jordan Groshans 3B/SS (Blue Jays) - While Jordan is listed as a shortstop, he lacks the range to play the position on a permanent basis. The 2018 first round pick of the Blue Jays has the power to move to third. He just has to be fortunate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a defensive liability at that position. A foot injury ended his 2019 minor league season early after only 23 games. He hit .337 with two homeruns for a .482 slugging. At 6′3″ he is expected to develop more power to be a good fit at third. Jordan walked 13 times in those 23 games for a .427 OBA. This walk total almost equaled his 2018 half a season when he played 48 games. The 2021 season may be the year Jordan moves permanently to third, starting off in High A and hopefully moving up quickly so he can arrive with the Blue Jays sometime in 2023.

36. Christian Pache OF (Braves) - There is speed and quality defense from this 2015 Dominican who signed for $1.4 million. Whether he wins any gold gloves is not a detraction of his defensive prowess, but whether his bat will be good enough to play as a major league regular. If his rating for speed, arm and defense were reversed and applied to his hitting tools Pache would be a super star top five prospect. He made his major league debut last year, playing in two games and coming to the plate four times. In 2019 he hit .277 and reached double digits in homeruns for the first time (12). His first two years in minor league ball covering 689 at bats he failed to hit a homerun. His strikeouts can be excessive (122 in 130 games) and his speed does not create stolen base numbers. He will start the 2021 season in AAA and provided he puts up good numbers will earn his way to the starting centerfield spot before the All Star break.

35. Dylan Carlson OF (Cardinals) - The first round 2016 pick is a plus in the tools department. He has the speed to play center, the arm to fit in right, the bat to hit for power and the patience to lay off pitches out of the strike zone. Like many prospects who did not have a 2020 minor league season, he made his major league debut last year and struggled. In 110 at bats he hit just .200 with a .252 OBA the result of a poor 8/35 walk to whiff ratio. He had his breakout season in 2019 when he hit 26 homeruns with a .292 batting average in the minor leagues. The 2021 season will be key to determine if he can replicate those numbers and get another opportunity to play in the major leagues. With a good spring it would be tough for the Cardinals to send him down.

34. Emerson Hancock RHP (Mariners) - Not a lot is known about the 2020 first round pick other than what he did in college pitching for Georgia. He may have been the best pitcher in college early in 2019, but an injury forced him to miss a couple weeks. When he returned from the injury and extending in the shortened 2020 season he has not been as dominant. He has a deep repertoire with a mid-90s fastball that can rise into the high 90s. two quality breaking pitches and a top of the bell change. He also has solid command of his pitches and carries himself at 6′4. The tools are there for him to be an ace. The 2021 season will confirm whether he can meet those expectations. He will probably start the season in A ball and as a college drafted player move quickly once he achieves success. The Mariners seem to be in no rush to promote players so don’t expect Hancock to see the Mariners until late 2022 or 2023, or when they are ready to make a playoff run.

33. O’Neil Cruz SS (Pirates) - Can a player who stands 6′7 really fit at shortstop? The Pirates hope so. Originally signed by the Dodgers in 2015 for $950,000, they traded him to the Pirates for Tony Watson. He has grown three inches since the signing. The power he can generate when he extends his arms is impressive, but his strike zone is large. A very strong arm gives him an opportunity to move to right field but his athleticism give the Pirates hope he can continue at short. A foot injury limited his 2019 season to just 73 games. He also stayed in the Dominican for much of the 2020 season, got into a traffic accident where two people were killed. There was some concern he could be criminally charged for creating the accident, but he is in spring training so everything appears to have been resolved. He should make his Pirates debut in 2021 after starting the season in AA.

32. J.J. Bleday OF (Marlins) - Myworld witnessed one of his homeruns in the College World Series. The Marlins were also pretty impressed, making him the fourth player selected in the 2019 draft. The Marlins had him start his career in the Florida State League, where he hit .257 with a .379 slugging percentage. His lack of speed will never allow him to fit in center, but he has a strong arm and plays a solid defense without a lot of speed. In his college career he walked more than he struck out, but his first minor league season that did not ring true with a 11/29 walk to whiff ratio in 38 games. J.J will be a fast riser up the Marlins minor league season, beginning 2021 in AA with a major league promotion in 2022.

31. Nate Pearson RHP (Blue Jays) - You can probably count the number of pitchers who throw harder than Nate on one hand. His fastball visits triple digits regularly and he combines it with a excellent slider. The Blue Jays 2017 first round pick also has an above average change and the command to stick in the rotation. His 6′6 frame makes him a terror for batters to face. In 2019 he limited minor league hitters to a .176 average, striking out 119 hitters in just 101.2 innings. Last year he made his major league debut, struggled with his command (13 walks in 18 innings) resulting in five homeruns and a 6.00 ERA. The Blue Jays hope he can find his command issues and if so he could squeeze into the Blue Jays starting rotation out of spring training in 2021.

Las Tunas With Another Shutout Takes the Win

March 3rd, 2021

This time the opening game starter and the pitcher who retired the last batter in game two Yudier Rodriguez worked seven innings of the 7-0 shutout over Santiago. Yosbel Alarcon threw the final two innings to complete the whitewash. While Rodriguez only allowed four hits, he had trouble finding the plate, walking five while striking out seven.

Las Tunas scored all of their runs in the first five innings. They scored three in the first, two of the runs scoring on an error. Wilmer Font, the game one starter for Santiago gave up hits to the first three hitters he faced. The third hit ricocheted off the glove of left fielder Ariel Benavides to allow two runners to score. Rafael Vinales drove in the third run with a single.

Las Tunas chased Wilmer Font in the third inning, though Font may have taken himself out of the game with his erratic pitching. He walked the first two hitters, then served up an RBI double to Yosvany Alarcon. A third walk to load the bases ended his outing. A Yordanis Alarcon sacrifice fly that was inches short of being a grand slam and a Andres de la Cruz single put Las Tunas on top 6-0.

de la Cruz drove in the final run in the fifth inning with a single. A one out walk and bad hop single that bounced over the head of the second baseman set up the final run. All nine hitters in the Las Tunas lineup got at least one hit.

Las Tunas just needs one more win to advance to the semi-finals Matanzas.

Las Tunas and Santiago Series Finally Played; Las Tunas Wins to Even Series

March 1st, 2021

On January 26 Santiago defeated Las Tunas 7-4 in their first game of a quarterfinal series. Because of a corona virus outbreak in the eastern part of the country the two teams were unable to play their second game until February 28. That is more than a month between games. Las Tunas was able to even the five game series at one game apiece with a 3-0 win.

Carlos Viera pitched a dominant game, going 8.2 innings of shutout work. He gave up just four hits, walked none and struck out six. He only faced 28 hitters. The only reason he was removed from the game (according to baseballdecuba.com) is that he was approaching 100 pitches. Cuban playoff rules restrict a pitcher’s use if he throws 100 or more pitches in a game. So if he throws 99 pitches he is available to pitch in game four. If his pitch count hits 100 he would not be available to pitch in game four. Yudier Rodriguez came on to get the last out, a strikeout, after Yoalkis Cruz gave up a single to the only hitter he faced.

The big bat for Las Tunas was Denis Pena. He hit a solo homerun in the seventh to increase Las Tunas lead to 2-0. His RBI single in the ninth upped that cushion to 3-0. A wild pitch allowed the first run to score in the second inning. Yosvani Alarcon had gotten on base via an error to lead off the inning and came around the bases to eventually score on the wild pitch.

Alberto Bicet pitched a good game. He went seven innings, allowing two runs, but only one earned. He gave up five hits and also struck out six.

Perhaps it is Cuban restrictions that no starter can pitch back to back games, but despite the more than one month break Carlos Viera and Alberto Bicet were not the starting pitchers in the game played January 26. Ironic that the starting pitcher for that game Yudier Rodriguez got the last out of the second game.

Myworlds Top 2021 Prospects 50-41

February 28th, 2021

Shortstops dominate this ten, especially if you fit in Jeter Downs as a shortstop. Righthanded pitchers follow with four. The cool thing about today is that spring training games for the major leagues began. Looking at box scores again was a pleasant experience.

50. Max Meyer RHP (Marlins) - Meyer is a 2020 first round pick, the third player taken in the draft. He starred at Minnesota, beginning his college career as a closer and then moving into the starting rotation as a sophomore. At only 6′0″ he does not have the height that scouts would like to see in a righthander, but his fastball sits in the mid-90s, touching triple digits on occasion. He also has a nasty slider that he used quite effectively closing for the collegiate national team. Those two pitches will allow him to reach the major leagues as a closer. Where he fits will depend on the development of his change. Meyer has no issues with command, so if his change can represent a solid third pitch he could fit in a rotation. If it lags behind he could always fill the role of the closer. As a college drafted pitcher his window is short, much shorter if the Marlins want to use him out of the bullpen. If used in relief he could be in the major leagues in late 2021, but service time issues will probably delay his arrival until 2022 as the Marlins tune him up to be in the rotation.

49. Brandon Marsh OF (Angels) - Early in his career the second round 2016 pick had trouble generating power. At 6′4″ the build and strength exists for him to carry the ball a long ways. He was also projected as a right fielder. Those attitudes have changed now. For a big man he does have excellent speed that will allow him to patrol centerfield. Presently Mike Trout could be a barrier and in the future Jordyn Adams will be his nemesis for that spot. The arm could easily allow him to fit in right field. The expected power in his bat has yet to manifest itself, with just a .408 slugging percentage the last two years. The 2021 season may change that. Marsh improved on his swing and miss proclivities in 2019 from 2018. In 2018 he struck out 158 times in just 127 games, while in 2019 that improved to just 99 times in 101 games. His speed will make him a threat on the basepaths, with the possibility to eclipse 20 steals per year. With some good numbers Marsh could see the Angels outfield sometime in 2021. Jo Adell will get the first opportunity to play the outfield, but if his struggles continue Marsh is next on the depth chart.

48. Alek Thomas OF (Diamondbacks) - The second round 2018 pick of the Diamondbacks carries three impressive tools. His lefthanded bat scorches line drives through the infield which could make him a consistent .300 hitter. He also has impressive speed that will make him an above average defensive centerfielder and a pest once on the bases. What is lacking in his game is the ability to hit for power, and an arm to fit in right field. The homerun numbers could reach the double digit teens, but with greater strength he may be able to improve on those numbers. A quick release may allow him to stay in centerfield. A move to left would require greater power numbers in his bat. His career minor league slugging average of .455 is not bad. Alek should see the Diamondbacks sometime in 2022, after starting this year in AA.

47. Jeter Downs SS/2B (Red Sox) - The supplemental first round pick of the Reds has already bounced around a couple times. The Reds first traded him to the Dodgers in the Yasiel Puig/Matt Kemp trade and the Dodgers later traded him to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts/David Price transaction. He was named after his father’s favorite shortstop. His overall tools are not extraordinary, but he is above average in all categories. The arm and range exist for him to stay at shortstop, but those tools work better for him at second base. If he had a monster bat the Red Sox could choose to keep him at short. His bat should carry decent power and swim around the .270 pool. In 2019 he combined for 24 homeruns and he also stole 24 bases. Where he plays in the middle infield could be determined by the Red Sox needs. He will start the 2021 season in AA and is just a phone call away from making his major league debut.

46. Logan Gilbert RHP (Mariners) - The Mariners 2018 first round pick stands an imposing 6′6″. That height becomes more imposing when you have to stand in the batter’s box to face his mid-90s fastball. Fortunately for hitters he has pretty good command of his pitches. The slider is his preferred breaking pitch and the change is an impressive third offering. In his lone season in 2019 he rose to AA, going 10-5 with a 2.15 ERA. The opposition only hit .198 against him and he had a fabulous 33/165 walk to whiff ratio. The Mariners are still rebuilding and service time appears to be an issue with Mariners personnel, so despite his quick ascent in 2019 Gilbert will probably not size up for a Mariners uniform until 2022, unless for some reason the Mariners find themselves in the playoffs in 2021.

45. Spencer Howard RHP (Phillies) - This 2017 second round pick throws hard. His fastball sits in the mid-90s but it consistently bleeds into the high 90s. His changeup may be his second best pitch, which if played off his fastball makes him tough to hit. He also throws two breaking pitches, with the slider being his preferred pitch. Shoulder issues limited his 2019 season to 15 starts. He was pretty dominant during those starts with a 2.03 ERA and a .173 opposition average. He carried a 16/94 walk to whiff ratio in 71 innings. This performance put him on the Phillies radar and he made his major league debut in 2020. It was not awe inspiring performance (5.92 ERA, .300 opposition average). His command deserted him in the major leagues with 10 walks in 24 innings and six taters. This should be a wake up call for what he needs to do to have success in a major league rotation. Expect him to return to the Phillies rotation sometime in the middle of the 2021 season and achieve a little more success.

44. Noelvis Marte SS (Mariners) - The Mariners signed him for $1.55 million in 2018. He has yet to play state side, but he put up some impressive numbers in the Dominican Summer League (.309/.371/.511) with 9 homeruns and 17 stolen bases. He carriers some speed but as he has grown bigger some of that speed has disappeared. This could limit his range at short and force a move to third base. Fortunately, the bat contains enough power that he could be a fit at third base. His arm can be a little erratic, but it is strong. The Mariners will probably start him somewhere in A ball in 2021 with a major league arrival time delayed until 2023. The baseball world will know more in 2021 what he can do once he hits stateside.

43. Nolan Jones 3B (Indians) - The second round 2016 pick has some thunder in his bat. Many considered him the best high school bat in the 2016 draft. He tends to be extra patient at the plate, walking 96 times in .2019. The last three minor league seasons he has had OBAs over .400. That patience at the plate also results in a lot of strikeouts, more than one per game. If he can reach his projected 30 per year homerun power the Indians will accept the abundant swings and misses. While he played shortstop in high school, his lack of foot speed limits his range and has forced a move to third base. His 6′4″ height creates challenges for his defensive prowess, but he should be able to stick at the position. The Indians could move him to AAA in 2021, which means a late season callup could be in his future in 2021.

42. Ronny Mauricio SS (Mets) - While he is listed at shortstop, this 2017 international signing will eventually move to third base. The Mets shelled out $2.1 million to sign him, so they have faint hopes they can keep him at short. His lack of foot speed creates range issues. The move to the hot corner will put pressure on him to develop more power. His current minor league slugging percentage is .374. His power is limited to the gaps, but at 6′3″ the Mets are confident that his strength will grow with maturity. Ronny will probably begin the 2021 season in High A. With Bret Baty projected to be the Mets third baseman of the future it will be interesting to see where Ronny is destined when he is ready to reach the Mets sometime in 2023.

41. Jazz Chisolm SS (Marlins) - The Marlins traded a successful pitcher in Zac Gallen to get “all that Jazz”. The Diamondbacks signed him out of the Bahamas for just $200,000. The hope is that Jazz will make that trade look beneficial in 2021. His first spring training at bat this year was a homerun. He made his major league debut in 2020 but struggled for a .161 average. In his last two minor league seasons he has slugged 46 homeruns. Making contact has been his biggest challenge. In those last two minor league seasons he whiffed 296 times in just 224 games. The defensive tools are there for him to stick at shortstop. If he does not improve his contact ability he could be a 30 homer, .230 average type of player who can steal 20 bases per year. The Marlins will give him another opportunity to play shortstop in 2021, but they are probably grooming him more for 2022 to be a starter.

Granma Pounds Pinar to Advance in Cuban Playoffs

February 28th, 2021

In three of their four wins Granma scored more than 10 runs. In the other victory they scored nine. So the 13-3 drubbing by Granma over Pinar del Rio was no surprise. Pinar had scored two in the first to take an early 2-0 lead. After that it was all Granma, with the game shortened to eight innings because of the slaughter rule. Granma advances to the finals with a 4-2 series win.

Raico Santos drove in three runs to lead the offense. Alexquemer Sanchez scored three times and drove in two runs to also contribute. Sanchez drove in a run in the four run second that tied the game and added a solo shot in the fourth. Guillermo Garcia blasted a two run homer in the seventh. Santos drove in two of his three runs in a five run seventh that put the game out of reach.

Leonardo Martinez only needed to go 5.2 innings to get the win for Granma. Pinar ace Vladimir Banos was roughed up for four runs in 1.2 innings.

Granma must now wait for the finish of the Las Tunas/Santiago five game series which Santiago leads 1-0, and then the winner must still play Matanzas in a best of seven semi-final game.