Archive for the 'Braves' Category

Holt and Red Sox Embarrass Yankees

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

Not a lot of close games as the Dodgers and Astros advance. The Red Sox embarrassed the Yankees in New York.

Boston Red Sox 16 Yankees 1

The utility player Brock Holt became the first player ever to hit for the cycle in a post season game in the Red Sox 16-1 rout over the Yankees. He finished the cycle with a two run homerun in the ninth inning off Yankee catcher Austin Romine. The first two games of the series saw him sit the bench.

Nathan Eovoldi was making his post season debut. At one time Eovoldi had pitched for the Yankees with minimal success. He had started the season with the Rays but was traded to the Red Sox in July. He has also pitched for the Dodgers and Marlins, missing the 2017 season because of Tommy John surgery. Yesterday he saved the Red Sox bullpen working seven innings and allowing just one run to get his post season win, lighting up the radar gun with a half dozen pitches that hit triple digits.

The Red Sox blew the game away with a seven run fourth inning, Holt capping the inning with his hardest hit, a two run triple.

Houston Astros 11 Cleveland Indians 3

The Astros completed their sweep against the Indians. The Indians had a 2-1 lead after five. The Astros battered the Indians bullpen for 10 runs in the next three innings, a six run eighth putting the game out of reach. Collin McHugh got the win with his two innings of shutout ball. McHugh was bumped to the bullpen because he did not make the starting rotation after spring training. He shined with the shorter role.

George Springer went deep with two solo shots and Carlos Correa blasted a three run homer in the six run eighth. Marwin Gonzalez got the big hit for the Astros with a two run double to break a 2-2 tie.

Los Angeles Dodgers 6 Atlanta Braves 2

David Freese has been a clutch post season performer. In 2011 he slugged five homeruns and drove in 21 in 18 post season games. This year the Dodgers acquired Freese from the Pirates to be a role player. The role he was asked to play last night was as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning with the Braves ahead 2-1. Freese put the Dodgers back on top with his two run single. Machado clinched the post season series with his three run homer in the seventh. Neither player was on the Dodgers roster when the season started.

The Dodgers will now face the Brewers in the National League championship series. Kershaw and not Ryu will get the opening nod start for the Dodgers.

Brewers Sweep Rockies; Braves Stay Alive

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Last year Wade Miley had trouble getting anyone out. The opposition hit him at a .287 clip while he was pitching for the Orioles, finishing with an 8-15 record with a 5.61 ERA. It was his second straight season with an ERA over 5, spanning a career where his ERA rose every year starting with the 2012 season.

This year Miley had a career year, starting the season in the minor leagues, getting a call up in May but missing a couple months with an oblique injury. When he pitched he was exceptional, limiting the opposition to a career low .237 batting average while going 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts.

Last night the Brewers called on him to continue the magic and he threw zeroes for 4.2 innings to lead the Brewers to a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rockies, extending their winning streak to 11 games. It was the second consecutive game in which the Rockies were shutout.

The Brewers got homeruns from some unexpected players in this game, when you considered the season they had or the season they were expected to have. The great fielding shortstop Orlando Arcia, who only hit .233 during the regular season bashed a solo shot in the ninth. Keon Broxton, who spent much of his 2018 season in the minor leagues made it back to back with a pinch hit homer. Jesus Aguilar, who was not the starting first baseman when the season started but hit 35 homeruns after injuries and homeruns put him in the starting lineup hit a solo shot in the fourth, his first career post season hit. The 38 year old catcher Erik Kratz also contributed with three hits and is now hitting .625 for his post season debut.

The Braves kept their series alive getting a grand slam homerun from rookie Ronald Acuna to take a 5-0 lead. Acuna became the youngest player since Mickey Mantle to hit a grand slam homerun. Mickey who? After the Dodgers came back to tie the game at 5-5 it came upon the longest tenured Brave, veteran Freddie Freeman to break the tie with a solo homerun in the sixth.

The Braves called on their young pitching staff to keep the victory alive, rookies Touki Touissant and A.J. Minter each tossing an inning of shutout ball, before Arodys Vizcaino closed out the ninth to pick up the save, striking out Muncy, Machado and Dozier with two runners on. Viz knows how to increase the gray hairs of all those who watched the game.

Unsung Heroes in this Foursome of Playoff Games

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

Myworld continues to look at some of the unsung heroes in these playoff games. Those players who were not really expected to contribute, especially when you looked at their career path before the 2018 season started.

Houston Astros 7 Cleveland Indians 2

The usual suspects in George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve went deep in the Astros win. An unusual suspect also went deep in Martin Maldonado, a seventh inning shot that turned the momentum on the Indians. The Indians had scored two in the sixth to cut the lead to 4-2 but Maldonado’s solo shot in the seventh tamed their celebratory mood. Prior to the season Maldonado was an Angel. The Astros acquired him after an injury to Brian McCann. They liked his defense. Yesterday they liked his offense as well. To many Astro fans he has become an angel.

Justin Verlander did not allow a hit through the first five innings. When he got in trouble in the sixth, giving up two runs the Astros called on Ryan Pressly, not a usual choice in the Astros pen. Pressly also started his 2018 season with another team (the Minnesota Twins) stitching together an ERA north of 3 in his six years with Minnesota. Since being acquired from the Twins Pressly has appeared in 26 games with the Astros, limiting the opposition to a 0.77 ERA and a .136 opposition average. He retired all five hitters he faced, striking out Edwin Encarnacion to end the inning, though he did allow both inherited runners to score on a wild pitch and a ground out.

Boston Red Sox 5 New York Yankees 4

J.D. Martinez slugged a three run homer for the Red Sox. There were no unsung heroes unless you want to tout the defensive play of Sandy Leon behind the plate, stopping many balls from crashing into the back stop.

Milwaukee Brewers 4 Colorado Rockies 0

The Brewers went up 2-0 on the Rockies. The pitching staff shut down the Rockies offense, but it was the usual suspects quieting the bats. For the Brewers it was their tenth straight win.

Myworld has to go to our third catcher named as an unsung hero, the 38 year old Erik Kratz, who was appearing in his first playoff game in his career, a career that has always found him as the back up catcher for the seven or so major league teams he has played for since 2010. He started this year as the back up catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, hitting only .236 during the regular season, which was above his .211 career average. Yesterday, besides calling a good game that did not allow the Rockies a run, he also got a clutch hit in the eighth inning, a two run single that turned a 2-0 game into a 4-0 game. It has been since 1905 when a position player older than Erik Kratz started his first playoff game, that player being the equally non-descript Lave Cross, a third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Asked if that was the biggest hit of his career Kratz remarked that he did hit a homerun in a AAA playoff game. Come on Erik. I’d take a two run single in a major league playoff game over a homerun in AAA.

Los Angeles Dodgers 3 Atlanta Braves 0

The Braves bats have certainly had a power outage. After being shutout by Ryu the day before they were also shutout by Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw pitched 8 innings of shutout ball, striking out three. Manny Machado swatted a two run homer in the first and Yasmani Grandal hit a solo shot in the fifth. This game was absent unsung heroes, but in the playoffs Kershaw has always struggled. Coming into this playoff game his playoff ERA sat at 4.35. The eight shutout innings lowered his ERA to 4.05. That still falls far short of his career regular season ERA of 2.39.

Ryu Leads Dodgers to Game One Playoff Win; Two Rookies Shine for Brewers

Friday, October 5th, 2018

If you had to choose between Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu for your opening day playoff pitcher which one would you choose? Most would say Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers chose Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Ryu has been having a solid year with a 1.97 ERA, which would get him Cy Young consideration if he had more than 15 starts. Ryu has had difficulty staying healthy this year with a three month battle with a groin issue. After coming over from Korea in 2013 he pitched two good seasons for the Dodgers. He missed all of 2015 and all except for one start of the 2016 season because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. In 2017 he got 24 starts but they were rather blah starts, failing to get him on the Dodgers post season roster. He was always a big game pitcher in Korea so the Dodgers chose him to start game one against the Braves.

All Ryu did was pitch seven innings of shutout ball, giving up four hits and striking out eight while walking none, proving his big game exploits are not just limited to Korea. The Braves had no chance against Ryu. Next they will have to deal with Kershaw.

Another unsung hero was Max Muncy. Last year everyone’s surprise team for making the playoffs the Oakland Athletics released Max Muncy. They had too many corner infielders and did not have enough room for him on their roster. He had played for them a little bit in 2015 and 2016 but struggled to stay above the Mendoza line, failing to get his OPS above .600. He did not play in the major leagues in 2017 spending all his time in the minor leagues.

The Dodgers picked him up even though they had rookie of the year Cody Bellinger to play first base. By mid-season Muncy had won the starting first base job, his 35 homeruns almost equaling that of Bellinger last year (39). The Dodgers decided to make an outfielder out of Bellinger, giving the first base job to Muncy.

He made that look good last night with a three run homer off Mike Foltynewicz to give the Dodgers an early 4-0 lead. It was his first official post season at bat. He had walked in the first inning in his first post season at bat. With Ryu tossing zeroes the Dodgers were the easy winner 7-0 in the opener and Ryu and Muncy share the spotlight of unsung heroes becoming heroes in these playoff rounds.

The Milwaukee Brewers had a couple rookies become unsung heroes in these playoff games. Rookie Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers top pitching prospect entering the 2018 season was given the opportunity to start the opening playoff game against the Rockies. This despite the fact he had only made four major league starts during the regular season. Most of his appearances had come in relief.

He almost pitched a perfect three innings against the Rockies. He walked one, but that was okay because that runner was caught trying to steal second base.

He was followed by another rookie prospect Corbin Burnes. He had made 30 relief appearances during the regular season, vulturing a 7-0 record during those 30 games. He pitched two shutout innings, striking out two and giving up one hit. Unfortunately, he could not vulture another win after being given a 2-0 lead on a Christian Yelich two run homer in the third because Brewer closer Jeremy Jeffress coughed up the lead in the ninth.

No worries. In the 10th the Brewers got a walk from Christian Yelich and a walk off single from Mike Moustakas, who was a Kansas City Royal at the start of the season, to win the game 3-2.

Myworld’s Top Righthanded Pitching Prospects

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Myworld tends to gravitate towards heat but the reality is that those pitchers who can record outs win games. It does not matter how hard a pitcher throws the ball if they fail to record outs. Below is myworld’s top 20 right handed pitchers, excluding any 2018 draft picks. Since there is so much talent here we thought we would expand the list.

1. Mitch Keller (Pirates) - He may not throw the ball as hard as a number of pitchers on this list but he still gets it to the plate in the mid-90s. He also has a good curve and change with control to throw the pitch to the four quadrants of the plate. He has a history of retiring hitters, averaging more than a strikeout per inning and limiting the opposition to a .215 average coming into the 2018 season. In six starts in AAA he is finally struggling (6.67 ERA) but he is struggling with his command. He should be in the Pirates rotation by mid-season 2019 if not making the Pirates rotation at the beginning of the year with a good spring.

2. Forest Whitley (Astros) - The Astros have traded a number of prospects but they have kept their 2016 first round pick. At 6′7″ 240 pounds he has an intimidating presence on the mound. That size and mass also allows him to zip the ball across the plate in the mid 90s. He also carries a hard slider that drops down, hitting the radar in the low 90s. His swing and miss offerings gave him 13.7 whiffs per nine innings his first two seasons. A 50 game suspension for violating major league baseball’s drug testing forced him to miss the first part of the 2018 season. After six starts an oblique injury has knocked him out since July. The good news is none of that missed time is attributed to an arm injury, but it does stall his development process.

3. Michael Kopech (White Sox) - The Red Sox drafted him in the first round in 2014. They included him in a trade to acquire Chris Sale. After watching Chris Sale throw in the high 90s on Sunday myworld does not see Kopech reaching that level. He may throw harder, hitting in the triple digits more consistently than Sale but he lacks the command of his pitches. In his last six starts in AAA he has been having success, giving up two or fewer runs to lower his ERA to 3.81. With Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito already in the rotation Kopech should join them at some point next season. It is possible he could get a September callup if the White Sox want to use a 40 man roster spot on him.

4. Sixto Sanchez (Phillies) - As his heat rises so does the Dominicans prospect status rises. His fastball has been clocked in the triple digits, but sits in the mid-90s. The fastball also explodes towards the plate after hitters see his plus changeup. His last four starts Sixto had only given up two earned runs in 25.2 innings of work, walking 4 and striking out 29. Elbow tenderness put him on the disabled list after his June 3 start. The Phillies say it is minor but June has turned to August and Sixto has still not pitched. The way he had been dominating he possibly could have helped the Phillies in their pennant drive.

5. Brent Honeywell (Rays) - The Rays second round 2014 supplemental pick had an opportunity to make the Rays rotation to begin the 2018 season. An elbow issue resulted in Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season. He will probably not be ready to pitch for the Rays until 2020 since most of the 2019 season will be subject to rehabilitation and pitch counts. Prior to the surgery his fastball hit the mid-90s and he had a full repertoire of pitches that included a screwball. Time will tell how those pitches will be impacted after the surgery. His command was good but it may take some time for him to recover after the surgery.

6. Mike Soroka (Braves) - The Braves 2015 first round pick out of Canada was originally not on the list. The Braves had called him up in May and it appeared he would be a part of that rotation. Shoulder issues have not allowed him to pitch since June and his season appears done after just five major league starts, retaining his prospect status. He is a pitcher who does not have a dominating fastball, sitting in the low 90s, but he has good command and a dropping slider that retires hitters. AAA hitters could only hit .204 against him this year. Major league hitters had a little more success (.288). It will take an impressive spring for Soroka to start the 2019 season in the major leagues. The Braves will want to be patient with him and control his pitch counts early in the 2019 season.

7. Hunter Greene (Reds) - Another hard thrower who consistently hit triple digits with his fastball. The 2017 first round pick was sidelined by the elbow sprain that requires Tommy John surgery. This will sideline him for most of next year. He struggled last season and at the beginning of the 2018 season. Just as he was starting to pitch well he experienced the elbow pain. At the end of May his ERA sat at 7.18. When he was placed on the disabled list his ERA dropped to 4.48. The surgery will delay his major league debut until at least 2021. His best use may also be out of the pen.

8. Tristan McKenzie (Indians) - When the 2015 first round supplemental pick puts some more meat on his 6′5″ 165 pound frame the low 90s fastball should juice up to the mid 90s. His long arms give him a nice whip like action and his curveball is a good swing and miss pitch. A solid change gives him three good pitches with good command of those pitches despite his height. In AA the opposition is hitting just .204 against him. Coming into this season he had a career .196 opposition average. Triston is tough to hit with his flailing arms firing darts across the plate. Expect him to make his major league debut sometime next year and be a fixture in the Indians rotation by 2019.

9. Dylan Cease (White Sox) - The Cubs are always looking for pitchers but they traded their sixth round 2104 pick to acquire Jose Quintana. Dylan has always had trouble finding command of his pitches and developing a third pitch to make it as a starter. His fastball has hit triple digits, sitting in the mid-90s and his curve is a decent swing and miss pitch. It appears his command and change are improving. After pitching well in the Carolina League (2.89 ERA) he was promoted to the Southern League where he has pitched even better (1.94 ERA). In eight starts the opposition is hitting just .170 against him with 64 whiffs in 46 innings. Hitters have petitioned for a cease and desist order on his fastball. The White Sox rotation is packed in the minor leagues, but with this kind of success next year he should earn his way into the rotation.

10. Alex Reyes (Cardinals) - Whether it is a drug suspension, Tommy John surgery or back injuries, some event has been blocking Alex from pitching in the major leagues. At one point he was the top pitching prospect in baseball. He should have been in a major league rotation two years ago. There are not an infinite number of next years that he can count on. His fastball flashes across the plate in the mid to upper 90s. His curve and change are quality pitches. The one knock you could have on him was his lack of command. With all this inactivity that may be more of an issue. At this point he may have to settle for bullpen work just to stay healthy. The one bright spot of last season is he did get four starts in the minor leagues without allowing a run in 23 innings and followed that up with one start in the majors without allowing a run in four innings. That is 27 innings without allowing a run in 2018. Expect him to get a major league opportunity next year working out of the bullpen to begin the season.

11. Touki Toussaint (Braves) - The Diamondbacks traded their 2014 first round pick to dump salary (Bronson Arroyo) because they felt he would never find the plate. His early years he struggled with ERAs at 5 or greater. At 6′3″ he had good pitcher’s height and with a fastball in the high 90s he was someone the Braves felt they could be patient on. The light bulb has turned on this year for Touki with a 2.93 ERA and .208 opposition average in the minor leagues in 16 AA starts. That led to a promotion to AAA where the success continued (2.01 ERA). Last night he made his major league debut, and though it was only the Marlins he held them to one run on two hits in six innings. The Braves have a number of pitchers competing for the starting rotation but Touki has elevated his status with his 2018 season.

12. Franklin Perez (Tigers) - It has not been a good season for the Tigers top prospect coming into this season. He was one of the players they acquired at the beginning of the season for Justin Verlander. At 6′3″ with a mid-90s fastball you expect domination. Injuries have limited him to seven starts this season, starting with his back and moving to his shoulder. Those seven starts produced a 6.52 ERA. The Tigers will hope for better next year.

13. Michel Baez (Padres) - The 6′8″ Cuban flamethrower will be a force in a couple years. A fastball that sits in the mid-90s with a devastating change is a duo leaving hitters perplexed. He also squeezes in a curve and a slider. This is his second season in the States and he has already reached AA. He was mesmerizing in his 17 AA starts (2.91 ERA) with an opposition average of .229 and 92 whiffs in 86.2 innings. A little hiccup in his first AA start (11.57 ERA) shows he has some work to do. The rebuilding Padres hope he will be ready for their rotation in 2020 when he makes his major league debut.

14. Matt Manning (Tigers) - It is tempting to rate the 2016 first round pick ahead of Perez. He is having a solid season in the minors, pitching well enough in Low A (3.40 ERA) to get a promotion to High A (2.90 ERA). During that time the opposition is hitting just .205 against him. His fastball touches the mid-90s with a solid curve and change combination. What keeps him behind Perez is his lack of command. At 6′6″ that may take some time to improve. He has walked 44 in his 96 innings this year, which is a slight improvement over his walk rate last year. Next year he should hit AA and then compete for the rotation of the rebuilding Tigers in 2020.

15. Jon Duplantier (Diamondbacks) - Last year there was no pitcher as dominating as Duplantier. The last pitcher to have an ERA lower than 1.39 in the minors was the Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. This year the third round 2016 pick has not been as dominating, but most pitchers would take his numbers (2.03 ERA, .200 opposition average). Injuries delayed the start of his season and bicep tendinitis sidelined him for two months. He missed much of the 2016 season with injuries. If he can avoid those injuries his low to mid-90s fastball, slider, curve and change are enough to retire hitters better than most pitchers. With the success he is having at AA he could reach AAA next year and perhaps compete for a rotation spot in spring training.

16. Kyle Wright (Braves) - The 2017 first round pick can get his fastball in the upper 90s. At 6′4″ he has a good frame with the requisite quality secondary pitches to dominate in the rotation (slider, curve and change). Drafted out of college the Braves have moved him up their minor league system quickly, giving him six starts at High A last year (3.18) ERA) and moving him through AA and AAA this year (3.59 ERA). His numbers are kind of blah (less than a strikeout per inning and a .232 opposition average) and myworld has not seen him pitch, which is a reason for the lower rating. Myworld expects him to compete for a spot with the other young hurlers for a Braves rotation spot in 2019.

17. Adonis Medina (Phillies) - At 6′1″ Adonis lacks the height scouts look for in their right handed starting pitchers. His low to mid-90s fastball and quality change are enough to put the Dominican on this list. His struggles in High A (4.63 ERA) made it tempting not to include him. He has almost hit as many batters (9) as he has given up homeruns (10). Right now he needs to develop consistency. There are too many dominating outings where he hits double digits in strikeouts mixed in with clunkers where he gives up seven runs. The dominating outings show his potential. Next year he should reach AA and if he finds that consistency he could be competing for a rotation spot in 2020.

18. Alex Faedo (Tigers) - Alex dominated in the 2017 College World Series and the Tigers selected him with their first round pick in 2017. With the number of innings he pitched last year in college the Tigers shut him down for the minor league season. This year the Tigers have been aggressive with Alex starting him in High A and promoting him to AA. He has had his struggles in AA (4.54 ERA) giving up 11 homeruns in just 39.2 innings. The slider was his swing and miss pitch in college but he needs to use his mid-90s fastball to set up his slider to the major league hitters. If they know it is coming they won’t swing at the pitch. With his struggles at AA the Tigers may start him there in 2019. A mid-season promotion to the majors is a possibility but don’t expect to see him as a permanent piece in the rotation until 2020.

19. Albert Abreu (Marlins) - He has the tag of the hardest thrower in the minors. The Yankees traded him to the Marlins to acquire Giancarlo Stanton. He hits triple digits with regularity with his fastball and his curve and change are good enough to reach the majors as a starter. Last year he got 9 starts in the Florida State League (4.19 ERA). This year injuries have seem him bounce on and off the disabled list keeping him at High A where his numbers have not shown improvement (4.30 ERA). As hard as he throws he doesn’t stack up a lot of strikeouts. Next year he should get his shot at AA.

20. Brusdar Graterol (Twins) - Tommy John surgery prevented the Venezuelan from playing in 2016. When he was hitting triple digits with his fastball in 2017 the scouts took notice. He has a good fastball/slider combination with the requisite secondary pitches to make it as a starter. This year he dominated in Low A (2.18 ERA) which got him a promotion to High A. There he has had his struggles (4.06 ERA, .287 opposition average) in his seven starts. If he can stay healthy he will compete for a Twins starting rotation spot in 2021. At 19 years of age he has plenty of time to learn his stuff.

Gonzalez Comes up Big for Nats

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Gio Gonzalez has had difficulty winning the big game. He came up big yesterday against the Atlanta Braves tossing seven innings of one run ball in the Nationals 6-3 win over the Braves. This was the final game of the four game series after the Braves had won the first two out of three. A win by the Braves could have sent a dagger into the hearts of the Nationals hope to make the playoffs. Gonzalez big outing gave them another day to stay alive.

Gonzalez was bailed out of some tough situations in the first three innings. On a hit and run Freddy Freeman ripped a rocket to Michael Taylor in centerfield. Ozzie Albies had already rounded second and was easily doubled off first to end the inning. He gave up a leadoff homerun to Nick Markakis in the second, put two runners on base but struck out the pitcher to end the threat. In the third a double by Freeman and a single by Markakis could have scored a run but Adam Eaton threw a strike home and Freeman slid right into the tag for the third out. Gonzalez gave up just one hit in the next four innings, though he was bailed out on a nice diving catch by Michael Taylor.

Nationals killer Anibel Sanchez cruised through the first two innings, but just like the first game of a double header on Tuesday a comebacker knocked Sanchez out after the second inning. He was able to recover and get the out at first to end the inning but did not come out to start the third inning.

Instead, the Braves went with Wes Parsons to make his major league debut and the Nationals feasted. Gonzalez got things started with a single with one out in the third. Adam Eaton singled off the pitcher Parsons foot and the ball caromed into leftfield. Parsons did some warm up tosses and seemed to be okay. Or maybe not. He walked Trea Turner on four pitches and threw three straight balls to Juan Soto before walking him on a 3-2 count to force in a run. Anthony Rendon came within feet of hitting a grand slam, but the ball was caught at the wall, Eaton scoring the second run on the fly ball to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead.

In the fourth inning Michael Taylor blasted a ball into centerfield for a homerun. Another run was added in the sixth after a leadoff single by Rendon and a Daniel Murphy double into the right centerfield gap. Rendon slid into home just ahead of the throw.

Ronald Acuna Jr. went deep off Justin Miller in the eighth to close the gap to 4-2. The Nationals put the game away in the bottom frame with RBI singles from Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds.

Ryan Madson worked the top of the ninth and gave up a run on a sacrifice fly hit by Dansby Swanson. His struggles continue as he gave up singles to the first two hitters he faced, creating some anxiety for the Nats fans.

Game Notes: The game may have changed in the second inning after a diving stop by Daniel Murphy stole a hit away from Ender Inciarte. That would have put runners on first and second with one out and a walk to Dansby Swanson would have loaded the bases…This was the first win by Gonzalez after 11 starts. His last win came on May 28. During that time he was 0-6 with a 6.37 ERA…Anibal Sanchez left the game with a left calf contusion. He hopes to be able to make his next start…Bryce Harper was a late scratch from the game yesterday, replaced by Michael Taylor. He was bothered with a swollen shin after being hit for a second time in that area. Michael Taylor made a couple excellent defensive plays and slugged a homerun after being inserted into the lineup.

Braves Earn Split with Nationals

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

After being thrashed in the opener 8-3 the Braves battled back in the second game to win 3-1, earning a split with the Nationals in the Tuesday doubleheader. To stay ahead of the Nationals for one of the wild card spots all the Braves have to do is play .500 against the Nationals. They have two more games against them the next two days.

In the opener Max Fried pitched two shutout innings but was taken out of the game after being hit in the back for the last out on a line drive hit by Spencer Kieboom. He still had the presence of mind to chase after the ball and throw Kieboom out, but in the top of the third the Braves pinch hit for him with Kevin Guasman. It was later learned he strained a groin trying to avoid the ball and was placed on the disabled list.

Kolby Allard came on in relief. He shut out the Nationals in the third but in the fourth the Nationals erupted. Two players who fans would like to take on more of a leadership role with this rudderless Nationals team are Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Both started the fourth inning with booming homeruns, Harper’s a liner deep to the bleachers in right and Zimmerman’s a tomahawk no doubter to the deepest part of the park in center. Jefry Rodriguez helped his cause by lining a single to left that advanced Spencer Kieboom to third. Jefry advanced to second on the throw to third. Trea Turner and Juan Soto made it 4-1 with RBI singles.

It was a short outing for Jefry Rodriguez but he did his job. He gave up his first three hits of the game in the fourth for the Braves first run. Johan Camargo drove in Freddy Freeman with the first run with a seeing eye single through the shortstop hole. Rodriguez pitched one more inning in the fifth and was done for the day.

The Braves tacked on one more run in the sixth off reliever Matt Grace. Ozzie Albies started the inning with a double. Nick Markakis drove him in with a line single to centerfield. Justin Miller was called on to retire the last two hitters to keep the lead at 4-2.

The Nationals responded just as they did in the fourth inning when the Braves scored a run. They responded with a four spot. Rookie reliever Shane Carle was the victim. He walked three of the first four hitters he faced, and though it will say Juan Soto was walked intentionally that was after the count went to 3-1. A fly ball by Anthony Rendon to Nick Markakis scored Spencer Kieboom. A single to left by Bryce Harper tacked on another. Ryan Zimmerman blasted a double over the head of the left fielder to plate the final two runs of the inning.

The Braves scored a final run on a Charlie Culberson pinch hit solo homerun in the ninth.

An odd play happened in the third. With Trea Turner on first Soto hit a deep fly to center. Ender Inciarte leaped near the fence and the ball appeared to hit his glove where Adam Duvall backing up caught the ball in the air. An umpire did call “no catch”, but Trea Turner thinking it was a catch hustled back to first. After review it was confirmed the ball hit the wall and not Inciarte’s glove. Soto was credited with a single but called out for passing Turner on the basepath, which was the original call. The only thing the Nationals could appeal was that Soto never passed Turner on the basepaths.

The second game turned into an old fashioned pitcher’s duel between the veteran Max Scherzer and the youngster Sean Newcomb. Sean buckled in the first inning by giving up a solo shot to Juan Soto, who bopped one into the left bleachers for his 14th homerun. That surpassed Mickey Mantle for the most homeruns by a teenager, putting Soto now fifth in the major leagues for the most homeruns by a teenager in a season.

Scherzer buckled in the sixth when he gave up a lead off homerun to Charlie Culberson. He did put runners on first and third with no out in the fourth, but he got out of that inning with a strike out, pop up and ground out.

It was 1-1 going into the ninth. The Nationals called on Kelvin Herrera to pitch that inning after Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth. Freddy Freeman started the inning rifling a single to left. Nick Markakis followed with his own line shot single to left. Kurt Suzuki lined one to third but Anthony Rendon made a diving catch. The crowd was getting restless because Herrera appeared to be throwing meatballs. Ender Inciarte hit one down the line past first base for a double. The ball kicked off the fence and then scooted by Harper. Harper appeared to be in no hurry to retrieve the ball once it got past him and then heaved a wild throw to home allowing Inciarte to advance to third (the scorer gave him a triple).

At that point Kelvin Herrera shrugged his shoulder, the trainer came out and Herrera was taken out of the game with a tight shoulder. Justin Miller came on to pitch. They intentionally walked Johan Camargo to set up a double play, but did not need it when Miller struck out both pinch hitter Adam Duvall and Ozzie Albies to end the inning.

The Nationals rallied in the bottom half off new closer rookie A.J. Minter. Ryan Zimmerman started the inning with a double. With one out Michael Taylor was hit by a pitch. With runners on first and second Matt Wieters tagged a line drive that was snagged by Camargo at third. He found Zimmerman too far off the bag at second and was able to double Zimmerman for the third out. Myworld can not fault Zimmerman for being off the bag as hard as that ball was hit (105 miles per hour on the exit gun). It would have been part of his normal lead and instinctively you do not return back to second on a ball hit that hard.

Game Notes: Greg Holland made his Nationals debut and looked a bit rusty. He walked the leadoff man and had 3-2 counts to the next two hitters, but what saved the day for him was he struck out the last three hitters. Myworld would not call it a good outing despite the box score results (one walk and three whiffs). He did get some swings and misses…Juan Soto went 2 for 2 with three walks in the first game. He may be reading too much of his press clippings. In the second game he struck out three times on called third strikes. There has been lots of talk about his patience at the plate but he still needs to stay aggressive. He stranded three runners with those called third strikes…With rain on the horizon and lightening flashing in the background the umpires just wanted to get the first game over before any downpour came. With two outs in the ninth Dansby Swanson hit what appeared a game ending grounder to Anthony Rendon. Rendon casually threw to third but the ball sailed over the head of Zimmerman. One more batter and a strikeout and the game was over. The rains never came…Later reports state that Max Fried had to leave the game with a left groin strain. He was placed on the disabled list…Shane Carle was also placed on the disabled list after his outing with right shoulder inflammation…Herrera exited his game with shoulder tightness. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday before a decision is made on his status…Soto is tied with Phil Cavaretta for fifth place with 14 homeruns for a teenager. Ken Griffey Jr. is next on the list with 16. Teammate Bryce Harper is second with 22 and Tony Conigiliaro stands atop the list with 25.

The top Lefthanded Pitchers in the Minors

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

Most of these pitchers are starters but that does not preclude them from working out of the pen once they reach the major leagues. Lefthanders generally lack the velocity of righthanders by a couple miles an hour on average. For some reason their pitches seem to move more. Or at least that is the perception. Perhaps there is a study out there that explains why or why not. Below are myworld’s top lefthanded pitchers still in the minor leagues.

1. MacKenzie Gore (Padres) - The Padres 2017 first round pick has been battling blisters. Those blisters have put him on the disabled list twice. Gore has at least three quality pitches in a 92-95 mile per hour fastball, curveball and change that he can throw to get hitters out. He also has the command to locate those pitches. The lower pitch counts starve Gore for wins (1-5) but opposing hitters are only batting .228 against him. This year he has pitched all season in Low A. The Padres will be patient with him promoting him a level at a time until he reaches AA.

2. Jesus Luzardo (Athletics) - The Nationals drafted him in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Parkland High School, where the shootings occurred in Florida. Last year the Nationals included him and Blake Treinen in a trade for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching the 2016 season. He appears to be healthy now, dominating at High A (1.23 ERA) to earn a promotion to AA. There has been no let down at the higher level (2.29 ERA). Hitters are only pinging the ball at a .191 clip against him. He can light up the radar in the high 90s and has a quality curveball and change. Good command limits the solid contact. Expect him to compete for a spot in the Athletics rotation next year if they want to eat up a early 40-man rotation spot on him.

3. Justus Sheffield (Yankees) - Height is not as important with lefthanders as righthanders. Justus stands 5′10″ but can still light the radar in the high 90s. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with a quality slider and change. The 2014 first round pick started the season in AA but after only five starts (2.25 ERA) was promoted to AAA where he continues to thrive (2.31 ERA). The opposition is hitting just .191 against him. His command can be a little spotty but it has improved as he has gained experience. He may get a September callup to work in the bullpen or the Yankees could wait until next year to promote him for their starting rotation.

4. A.J. Puk (Athletics) - After being drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft Puk was on his way to earning a spot in the Athletics rotation this year until the dreaded sprained elbow turned into Tommy John surgery. At 6′7″ he falls just short of being Randy Johnson intimidating. His fastball holds in the mid-90s but can register at the higher readings. He spins a quality slider and has a good change. What is his Achilles heel is his lack of command. He won’t pitch this year and hopes to get some innings in early next year. The surgery will delay his major league debut until 2020.

5. Luiz Gohara (Braves) - He has the potential to transform into the physique of Bartolo Colon, which is not good when you are 22. His fastball hits the high 90s with great regularity and he has a plus slider to complement the fastball. A lack of a third pitch and inconsistent command could send the Brazilian to the bullpen. Luiz was expected to compete for a rotation spot but struggles in AAA (5.56 ERA and .275 opposition average) have kept him in the minors. Nine of the 47 hits he has given up this year have left the yard. A little less of Luiz (265 pounds) could help his pitching mechanics and the velocity on his fastball.

6. Adrian Morejon (Padres) - Myworld remembers when the Cuban dominated at the 15 and under World Cup. A year later, at 16 he had left Cuba for the major leagues. The Padres signed him for a $11 million bonus. That would be enough cash for a 16 year old to survive without parental support. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s. The change is probably his best pitch. Still in his teenage years Adrian has already reached High A where his 3.36 ERA is pretty impressive for the California League.

7. Kolby Allard (Braves) - The radar readings for the number one pick of the 2015 draft are not impressive, sitting in the high 80s to low 90s. He relies on doing what lefties do best, putting lots of movement on the ball and showing quality breaking pitches and changing speeds effectively. His command also limits quality barrel of bat on ball contact. His ultimate destination may be to the bullpen where he retires lefties and righties equally well. Kolby made one major league start this year and did not far well, giving up 9 hits and five runs in five innings. He generally limits the opposition to a .250 average in the minor leagues.

8. Stephen Gonsalves (Twins) - The 2013 fourth round pick does not light up the radar either but entering the 2018 season Stephen has limited the opposition to a .202 average. His change is above average making the velocity of his fastball appear to have more smoke. This year he continues to dominate (3.04 ERA and .188 opposition average). At some point the Twins will find room in their rotation for him. Perhaps September of this year will be his debut. Expect him to compete for a rotation spot next year.

9. Seth Romero (Nationals) - The Nationals first round 2017 pick has the stuff. Whether his character flaws will allow him to show that stuff in the major leagues is open to question. He was kicked off his college team Houston after being suspended twice. The Nationals suspended him at the beginning of the year for his tardiness. That is all in the past as he shows off his mid-90s fastball at Hagerstown (Low A) where the whiffs are prevalent (31 in 23 innings) and the opposition is hitting him at .211 but the ERA is bloated (4.24 ERA). If he behaves himself the promotions should come quickly. If he continues to have character flaws he will be buried in the minors.

10. Logan Allen (Padres) - The fastball is pedestrian but the eighth round 2015 pick has a swing and miss pitch that dives as it crosses the plate. At AA the opposition is hitting him at a .199 clip and he has struck out more than a hitter per inning. Logan is the third lefthander on the Padres on this list but he is ahead of Gore and Morejon and should get the first opportunity to make the rotation. His best fit may be in the bullpen because of a lack of quality pitches other than his change.

Myworlds Top Centerfield Prospects

Monday, July 30th, 2018

These are the shortstops of the outfield. They usually have burner’s speed. Ideally it would be nice to have a productive bat but defensively they need to stop the runs. Ideally, these players would be five toolers with the arm to throw and the legs to steal bases. Power is probably the last thing you need from the centerfielder.

Mike Trout started his major league career as a left fielder, deferring to the defensively superior Peter Bourjos. Bourjos struggled with the bat and Trout was moved to centerfield while Bourjos became a bench player. Sometimes teams will stick with the veteran (Andrew McCutchen) even though the rookie (Starling Marte) is the better defensive centerfielder.

Myworld did not include any of the players we named as left fielders or right fielders, or at least we hope we did not include them. Some of those corner outfielders could still pan out as centerfielders depending on how the roster shakes out.

1. Victor Robles (Nationals) - At one time he was considered a better prospect than Juan Soto. The success Soto has had in the major leagues has moved him to the second best Nationals outfield prospect, but still one of the top ten in the minors. An elbow injury early in the 2018 season sidelined him for much of the year but he has recently returned to AAA. He has all five tools. If not for his injury he would have been called up before Soto. Last year he made his major league debut but hit only .250. This year he has been showing some impressive discipline at the plate, walking 11 times to just 8 strikeouts. Victor should see some time with the Nationals in September. If Bryce Harper leaves as a free agent Robles could fight for the centerfield job with Michael Taylor.

2. Jo Adell (Angels) - Jo was a first round pick of the Angels in 2017. While he only played half a season he still displayed all five tools. His defense is top notch in center, his bat can hit for power and average and his legs can steal bases and cover a lot of real estate in center. He won’t be a prolific basestealer since he will eventually fit in the middle of the order. This year he is hitting .296 with a .557 slugging average. The Angels would like to see some improvement on his 14/60 walk to whiff ratio. Expect him to reach AA before the season is done and find himself in the Angels lineup sometime before the 2019 season is complete. It will be interesting if he moves Trout from centerfield or if Adell is the player who is forced to move to one of the corners.

3. Jesus Sanchez (Rays) - Jesus is another five tool player. His power began to show last year when he hit 15 homeruns in Low A. This year he has already deposited 10 balls into the bleachers. Jesus has the speed to cover ground in center, but he does not steal a lot of bases (six this year to put his career total at 23). His career minor league slugging percentage is .492, but this year he sits at .472. He is probably still a couple years away from competing for the Rays center field job.

4. Leody Taveras (Rangers) - The Dominican has already reached High A at 19 years of age. This is already his third year in the minor leagues. Leody possesses all five tools but his batting average and power have yet to appear in High A. His slugging percentage is only .317. Perhaps the Rangers have been too aggressive with him. Last year in a full season at Low A he hit .249. He needs to improve his ability to make solid contact, though his strikeout rate is not high (71 in 98 games). Don’t be surprised if the Rangers keep him in High A to begin the 2019 season. A lot will depend on his ability to finish out the 2018 season.

5. Esteven Florial (Yankees) - Last year Estevan had a break out season hitting .298 with 13 homeruns and 23 stolen bases. He finished the season with an impressive .850 OPS. A promotion to High A has seen him revert to the struggles he had prior to the 2017 season with a .247 average and 56 whiffs in 46 games. He is only slugging .343 which is more than 100 points below his career average. The Florida State League has some large parks so perhaps he is having some struggles coping. In rehab assignments at the Gulf Coast League he is hitting over .500 in 31 at bats against pitchers that match his 20 years of age.

6. Christian Pache (Braves) - Pache covers a lot of territory in center field. In his first two seasons covering close to 700 at bats he had yet to see a ball carry over the fence. His batting averages have been solid (.290) but his slugging has been weak (.358). This year he has found his homerun swing with 8 without sacrificing his average (.287). He makes decent contact but the Braves would like to see him walk more to raise his .311 OBP. The Dominican is probably still a couple years away from patrolling center field but Ronald Acuna could force him to find another position. Christian has more speed but Acuna has a stronger arm.

7. Jeren Kendall (Dodgers) - Myworld is not enamored with his strikeout totals. Last year he struck out 45 times in 40 games, but in college he also had the propensity to whiff. If he can improve his contact rate he has the speed and defensive tools to win gold gloves. The Dodgers currently lack a true centerfielder but Jeren may still be a couple years away. This year he is showing some power with 10 homeruns, but his propensity to swing and miss (117 whiffs in 85 games) keeps his batting average low (.223). A first round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2017 the Dodgers were hoping Kendall would acclimate to the minor league pitching quicker than he has so far. His speed could make him a 20/20 player once he reaches the major leagues.

8. Monte Harrison (Marlins) - Monte was a second round pick of the Brewers in 2014. He was one of the players sent to the Marlins in the Christian Yelich trade. The Brewers outfield situation was crowded and Monte struggled with his bat early in his minor league career. Last year he broke out with his power hitting 21 homeruns split between Low and High A. The Marlins promoted him to AA and his power is still there (13 homeruns) but his average has struggled (.233). He has regressed in his ability to make contact with a worrisome 166 whiffs in just 104 games. His speed combined with his power will make him a 20/20 major leaguer but he needs to improve his ability to make contact if he wants to see a major league outfield. Lewis Brinson has been playing centerfield for the Marlins but he has had difficulty generating offense.

9. Khalil Lee (Royals) - A local boy (Flint High School) who was drafted by the Royals in the third round in 2016. He is a five tool player that can handle all three outfield positions but the Royals would prefer he play center. As a high school draftee the Royals have been aggressive with his promotion. This year he went from High A to AA where he has combined for a .253 average with six homeruns. His patience at the plate is good with 48 walks in just 71 games at High A. Khalil still has a couple years to play in the minors before the Royals need to put him on the 40 man roster so expect him not to arrive until 2020.

10. Jorge Mateo (Athletics) - Last year the Athletics gave Jorge a lot of centerfield time. This year all his time has been at shortstop or second base. We see those two positions blocked for the immediate future and Jorge is ready to get his major league opportunity now. He is not the prolific base stealer he was in 2015 when he stole 81 bases. Last year he found his happy feet with 52 stolen bases, but this year he has slowed again with only 18 in 28 attempts. Jorge shows some sneaky power with 12 homeruns last year, but this year the bat has been quiet. His .236 average and .285 OBA will not get him promoted in 2018 but we still like the potential for Mateo to make an impact in the major leagues. His speed is indicative of the 31 triples he has hit in the last two seasons.

Braves Benefit from Cheating Ways

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Major league baseball punished the Atlanta Braves for multiple rules violations when signing amateur players. Some of those violations included underreporting the amount given to five foreign players subject to international cap rules and then overreporting the amount given to a foreign player that was not subject to the international cap rule, then giving the overpayments to the five players. If those overpayments were given to the five players the Braves would have exceeded their salary cap and been subject to a penalty where the following year they could not sign any players for bonus payments greater than $300,000.

As a result the Braves were able to sign nine players for contracts greater than $300,000 the following year in which they should have been penalized. The Atlanta Braves were forced to release those 14 players and allow them to sign with other clubs. There were other signing violations to a domestic draft pick and recently signed foreign players who had yet to join the Atlanta Braves. They lost a third round pick in the 2018 domestic draft and the two foreign players who had yet to join the club had their contracts voided, becoming free agents.

Other penalties the Braves were forced to endure in addition to the release of the 14 players, the loss of a third round pick and the voiding of two international contracts was the lifetime ban of GM John Coppolella, the one year suspension of assistant Gordon Blakely and the restriction placed on the Braves that will not allow them to sign a player for more than $10,000 for the 2019-2020 international signing period. For the 2018-2019 international signing period the Braves are restricted to international contracts of less than $300,000.

What major league baseball did not do was to limit the international salary cap bonus of $4,983,500 allotted to them. Since the Braves will not exceed that amount because of the restrictions placed on them they traded some of that international salary for Brad Brach. Brach should help the bullpen in the Braves pennant race, perhaps a trade they would not have made if not for the penalties. It appears major league baseball gave the Braves some wiggle room where they could still take advantage of their international money.