Archive for the 'Braves' Category

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.

Top Minor League Third Base Prospects

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Below are myworld’s Top minor league third base prospects for 2018. Nick Senzel would be here but we listed him as a second base prospect since we don’t anticipate him playing there with Eugenio Suarez signed to a long term contract.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays) - The son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Sr. may be the best prospect in baseball right now. He is on the disabled list currently with a leg injury. Prior to the injury his bat could not be quieted hitting .407 with 11 homeruns in AA in just 53 games. His OPS was 1.124. If not for the injury he could be up with the Blue Jays playing third base. The concerns over his inability to play the position have evaporated. His arm is strong like his dad and his glove has developed more consistency. Unlike his dad he does not swing at everything, having the patience at the plate to take a walk. His 20/21 walk to whiff ratio is impressive for a hitter with power.

2. Austin Riley (Braves) - Another player currently on the disabled list since early June. Prior to that the 2015 supplemental first round pick was tearing it up in both AA and AAA. Combined he is hitting .308 with 10 homeruns and a .922 OPS. Last year he slugged 20 homeruns. If not for the injury he also could be playing with the Braves. He does swing and miss a lot (66 in 53 games) and ideally the Braves would like to see him show more patience. This lack of patience could be exploited by major league pitchers. He has improve his quickness at third base and should be an above average defensive player.

3. Kevin Maitan (Angels) - At one point he was with the Braves signing for $4.25 million out of Venezuela in 2016. The Braves had to release him after they were found in violation of international salary cap rules. The Angels signed him for $2.2 million. Signed as a shortstop his body has gotten too stocky in the lower half to play the position. The Angels have still played him five games at short and two at third in the Rookie League this year. He has made four errors in the seven games he has played, three of them at short. His bat has been explosive with a .433 average. His only extra base hit of his 13 hits has been a homerun. Maitan is only 18 years old and should develop power as he matures in the minor leagues.

4. Lucas Erceg (Brewers) - The 2016 second round pick has a big time power bat. Last year he hit 15 homeruns with 33 doubles. Improving his plate discipline (35/95 walk to whiff ratio) would help improve his batting average (.256) and consistency at the plate. Waiting to swing at his pitch rather than the pitchers would increase the homerun output. This year in AA his power has dropped with only five homeruns and a .342 slugging average. His walk to whiff ratio has improved (21/44) but his batting average has not (.235). It may take him some time to acclimate to AA pitching. He should have a good glove for third though he needs to be more consistent there as well and reduce his error total (13 in 64 games).

5. Taylor Ward (Angels) - Originally drafted as a catcher in the first round of the 2015 draft the Angels felt his bat would be better served if he did not have to catch. His arm was good for behind the plate and he showed some of the other intangibles needed for catching but his bat was a disappointment. This year he moved to third and his bat has exploded, hitting .336 with 9 homeruns between AA and AAA. Defensively he has been a bit shaky with 8 errors in 47 games but the Angels hope with continued repetition he will adapt to the position. If he continues to hit as he does expect him to make his major league debut sometime in September to help the Angels make the playoffs.

6. Randy Cesar (Astros) - The Astros signed the Dominican back in 2011. He played a couple years in the Dominican League and a couple years in the short season leagues. In 2016 in the New York Penn League he showed what he could do with a .389 average. This year he is setting the Texas League on fire, breaking their record for the longest hitting streak at 37. As his frame has filled out his power is starting to develop. This year he is hitting .354 with 8 homeruns and a .927 OPS. Better patience at the plate (14/58) could enhance those numbers. His defense at third is a bit marginal with 9 errors 39 games. He also has played some first base this year to improve his versatility. Wherever he plays the Astros have a crowded position but as long as his bat plays the Astros will find room for him.

7. James Nelson (Marlins) - James was a 15th round pick in 2016. He is the nephew of former 2004 first round pick Chris Nelson, who did not have a long major league career. As a 15th round pick James does not come with the high expectations. A quick bat has produced 41 doubles in 145 games with a .302 average. That got him the Marlins player of the year award last year. This year he has spent most of his time on the disabled list. Recently activated he is hitting .300 in eight games in High A. With Brian Anderson seeing most of his time in the outfield the third base job is open for him in a couple years.

8. Nolan Jones (Indians) - The second round 2016 pick has a power bat, last year slugging 4 homeruns with a .482 slugging in the short season league. He showed excellent patience at the plate with 43 walks for a .430 OBA. This year that power is being shown for the first time in a full season league with 8 homeruns and a .425 slugging. His patience is still there (40 walks, .385 OBA) leading to a .266 average. Defensively he still needs to find more consistency at third, committing 13 errors in 50 games. A move to the outfield is still a possibility.

9. Colton Welker (Rockies) - The fourth round 2016 pick has Nolan Arenado in his way at third. By the time Colton is ready for the major leagues Nolan will be a free agent or signed to a long term deal. In the California League Colton is showing good pop with 7 homeruns, 16 doubles and a .448 slugging percentage. A lack of speed will prevent a move to the outfield. This year his third base play has improved so he appears to have the arm and glove for the position. A lack of quickness may impact his range, but if his bat continues to hit for power the Rockies will keep him at third.

10. Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates) - The son of Charlie was drafted in the first round by the Pirates in 2015. His power has been a disappointment, a tool he will need to play this position. Last year he only hit two homeruns with a .363 slugging. This year in AA he has improved on that with three homeruns and a.428 slugging, still a bit short of what teams are looking for in a third baseman. He is a plus defender, so if the bat develops the glove will be an asset at the position.

Franco Homer Leaders Stripers Over Punchless Bulls

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Carlos Franco hit a two run homerun in the opening frame and it proved to be the difference in the Gwinnett Stripers 3-2 win over the Durham Bulls. In the three days myworld was in Durham the Bulls only scored four runs in three games, losing them all. Management helped me pack my bags for departure last night (kidding).

Kolby Allard got the start for Gwinnett. He is another small pitcher (listed at 6′1″ but not big of frame) with a fastball that sits in the high 80s and low 90s. The Braves drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft. If he makes the rotation it will be back end. Myworld does not think he will be as effective against hitters the third time through the order. He has a nice curve ball and locates his pitches well, but the stuff appears too predictable the third time through the order.

That proved true last night. Allard allowed two hits and one walk in his first four innings of work. One of those runners was picked off in the second when he broke for second as Allard tossed to first. In the fifth the Bulls seemed to have figured Allard out. The first four hitters in the lineup got hits to score one with an out recorded when leadoff hitter Andrew Velasquez tried to stretch a single into a double. With two out Kean Wong blooped a hit over short to score the second run to close the 3-0 Striper lead to 3-2. The Bulls got two hard outs in the sixth and Allard did not come out for the seventh. He did strike out seven in the game.

The Bulls started Yonny Chirinos. He is an extremely slow worker, especially with runners on base. His fastball can hit 95 but sits in the low 90s. In the first he gave up a leadoff single to Danny Santana. A wild pitch advanced him to second, but with two out it did not matter when Carlos Franco blasted his eleventh homer to straight away centerfield to give the Stripers an early 2-0 lead.

They scored another run in the fourth, two singles and a walk loading the bases. Chirinos walked Xavier Avery to force in a run and it appeared his day was about done. Sean Kazmar Jr grounded a pitch up the middle. Second baseman Brandon Lowe made a nice diving stop, then glove flipped the ball to shortstop Andrew Velasquez at short, who threw to first to complete the double play and keep Durham in the game. Chirinos retired the first two hitters in the fifth and was removed from the game one out from pitching five innings, throwing 72 pitches. Perhaps Jared Sandberg had something to do last night and couldn’t wait for each pitch from Chirinos.

Defense continued to play a big part of the remaining part of this game. Xavier Avery made a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth inning to prevent a blast by Justin Williams from hitting the top of the wall, or at least going over. Shortstop Sean Kazmar made a nice play in the ninth on a slow roller hit by Velasquez, his throw barely beating the runner to first with Brandon Lowe advancing to third. If he doesn’t make that play it would be first and third with one out in a one run game with the tying run on third. Catcher Nick Ciuffo made an excellent play behind the plate on a ball that hit the dirt and bounded away from him. He was still able to retrieve the ball and gun it to second to retire Michael Reed. Second baseman Phil Gosselin made a good play on a hard grounder that went off the glove of Carlos Franco in the sixth for a rare 3-4-3 play to get one out.

In the ninth the crowd witnessed a scary incident. Josh Ravin came on to pitch the inning to close out the game. His first pitch was lined up the middle by Justin Williams, hitting Ravin in the forehead. After stumbling off the mound he collapsed to the third base side of the mound. Eventually he was able to get up on his own power, holding a towel to his forehead and hopped on a cart to take him to a hospital.

Evan Phillips came on to finish the game. He stranded Lowe at third, striking out Ji-Man Choi swinging for the third out. It was the second time in two days Choi struck out when a homerun would have won the game.

Game notes: Gwinnett changed their name from Braves to Stripers. Don’t know if the lime green uniform jerseys are new but they certainly are flashy…Yuta Okazaki was born in Tokyo, Japan and is listed as a catcher for the Stripers. He went to college in the United States (Rollins and University of Connecticut), played in the Independent League for a couple years and signed with the Braves for the 2018 season. He is 26 years old…Myworld enjoyed the empanadas sold at the park. They have six flavors and myworld would recommend them. You get three for $9…At the game a girl was wearing a t-shirt with “Cocks” in big letters. Below that was University of South Carolina. I know the Gamecocks have played the USC Trojans in a football game headlined “Trojans Smother Cocks” but myworld does not know if the Gamecocks have ever played the Oregon State Beavers?…Jason Hursh struck out the side in his inning of work for the Stripers…In the third inning myworld noticed Nick Ciuffo looking at a tablet he pulled from his back pocket after the Bulls recorded the second out. Myworld is pretty certain he was not looking at his email while behind the plate but he may have had notes on this tablet and reviewed it to remind himself how they were going to pitch to the next hitter Dustin Peterson…Jamie Schultz has some good stuff for the Bulls. His balls dance at 96-98, but he has trouble locating them. The three hitters he faced in the seventh and eighth failed to put the ball in play as he struck out two and walked one. Just watching him warmup four or five balls hit the back stop…Andrew Kittridge was not as impressive with his stuff, but he faced six hitters in the fifth and sixth innings and no hitter put the ball in play. He walked two and struck out four…The nine pitchers combined for 22 whiffs, 11 for each side.

2018 Top Ten Venezuelan Prospects - National League

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

This completes our top ten lists from around the world. I put this together before the season started so players like Ronald Acuna might not be considered prospects anymore. Eiias Diaz and Jose Martinez graduated from this list because of their major league time last year.

1. Ronald Acuna OF (Braves) - Hard to believe he was only number four on the list from last year. After one year in the minor leagues he shot up to the best prospect in baseball (tied with Shohei Ohtani from myworld’s list). After a short 17 game warm up in AAA where he looked a bit rusty, hitting just .232 Acuna was promoted to the Braves. He started out strong but has cooled down to a .265 average with 5 homeruns. A knee injury in late May put him on the disabled list. He will be a player who provides all five tools, gold glove defense in centerfield, a strong arm, power, speed and the ability to hit for average.

2. Keibert Ruiz C (Dodgers) - When the 2017 list was put together Keibert was playing in rookie ball. Maybe myworld should have noted his .374 average in 56 games. Last year in full season ball his bat kept on raking, hitting .316 between Low and High A. He also showed a little bit of pop with 8 homeruns and good patience at the plate with a 25/53 walk to whiff ratio. He needs a little work on his defensive game and teams are not afraid to run against him. Last year he only caught 26 runners while 91 achieved success. This year he is 11 for 43 in catching base stealers. The bat has also cooled this year in AA (.255). At 19 he is one of the youngest players in AA and playing at a very demanding position. The Dodgers will show some patience with his development.

3. Anderson Espinoza RHP (Padres) - Last year he appeared at the top of the list but Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2017 season and dropped him down a couple notches. Ironic the Padres acquired Espinoza for Drew Pomeranz, then complained about a pre-existing injury and it was Espinoza to miss the 2017 season because of injury. He still has not started the 2018 season and will probably pitch a rehab in rookie ball before he sees full season. Prior to the surgery Espinoza hit mid to high 90s with his fastball and threw a plus change. Only time will tell whether those pitches will be impacted after the surgery.

4. Andres Gimenez SS (Mets) - Many consider him the best fielding shortstop in their system, and that is including Ahmed Rosario. Whether he can push Rosario off of shortstop once he establishes himself is another story. The big question with Andres is whether he can hit. There is very little power in his bat, but last year he showed a good ability to make contact in his first season at Low A, hitting .265. This year in the pitcher friendly Florida State League he has shown some pop in his bat, hitting .273 with four homeruns, 13 doubles and a .421 slugging percentage. A move to second base is still a possibility, but Andres is still a couple years away from seeing the major leagues.

5. Gabriel Arias SS (Padres) - Another gold glove potential shortstop with a rocket for an arm. The Padres paid him a $1.9 million bonus in 2016 to sign him. Last year he got his first exposure to playing in the minor leagues, hitting .265 with nary a homerun. Still a teenager at 18 entering the 2018 season he is hitting just .212 in Low A, but he did hit his first homerun. The Padres would like to see him make better contact as he strikes out like a power hitter (61 times in 55 games). His fielding has been a little erratic with 16 errors in 49 games at shortstop.

6. Eduardo Diaz OF (Diamondbacks) - The Diamondbacks got a bargain when they signed Eduardo, shelling out just $10,000 on him. Last year he exhibited some power, hitting .312 with 7 homeruns and a .510 slugging percentage. He has the speed and the arm to play center or right field. As he gets older and packs some more muscle on his frame there could be more juice from his bat. This year that juice is absent, with a .226 average and only two homeruns in 31 games. A poor 3/36 walk to whiff ratio shows a lack of patience and possible pitch recognition.

7. William Contreras C (Braves) - The brother of Wilson with similar tools. The bat can hit for power and the arm is above average. The last three years since his signing he has only played rookie ball, hitting .295 with a .414 slugging percentage in those three years. This is his first year in full season ball and he is impressing with a .290 average and .410 slugging percentage. The power will improve as he matures. There are still some things he needs to work on from his defensive side of the game, such as lessoning his 8 errors in 22 games at catcher, but he has a long ways to go before reaching the major leagues.

8. Yonathan Daza OF (Rockies) - A late bloomer since he signed in 2010. Last year he broke out for a .341 average. His power is restricted to the gaps, but it did get him 34 doubles with 87 RBIs, a lot of runs driven in for a player who only hit 3 homeruns. He also showed some speed with 31 stolen bases. That speed will allow him to play centerfield. This year in AA Yonathan is hitting .306 but the stolen base speed has been absent with more caught stealings (5) than stolen bases (4). The Rockies outfield situation is very crowded so he will probably stay in AA the entire season.

9. Ranger Suarez LHP (Phillies) - Last year his velocity jumped to the Low 90s and his strikeout rate increased to over one per inning, putting him on many prospect lists. He also dominated at Low A with a 1.59 ERA in 14 starts. Signed in 2012 Ranger shows control and pitching smarts from having to survive with a less than explosive fastball. In 2017 he only got 8 starts in AA but the Phillies thought that was enough and promoted him to AA to start the 2018 season. The numbers have not been awe inspiring but with a 3.25 ERA in 10 starts the results have been good.

10. Arquimedes Gamboa SS (Phillies) - Arquimedes has the tools to be a solid defensive shortstop. There was some questions about his bat, but last year at Low A he hit .261 with 6 homeruns, respectable numbers for someone with his defensive chops. His power will stay below average, but with the speed to steal double digits and the ability to hit over .260 would put him at a utility role at worst and a starting shortstop job at best. This year in High A his hitting is making progress (.273) and he shows enough patience at the plate to have his OBA rise to .351.

2017 top Venezuelan Prospects - National League

Draft Picks in the Top 100

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Fangraphs did an updated top 100 (actually 133) including recently drafted players on the list. Myworld would not be bold enough to create a top 100 including draft picks until we see them play in rookie leagues and their familiarization to the wood bats. Below are the players listed in the top 100. There is no Brady Singer even after he outdueled Casey Mize in the Super Regional game.

31. Casey Mize (RHP) Detroit
33. Nick Madrigal (2B) White Sox
57. Joey Bart (C) Giants
68. Travis Swaggerty (OF) Pirates
77. Alec Bohm (3B) Phillies
93. Matthew Liberatore (LHP) Rays
95. Nolan Gorman (3B) Cardinals
96. Jarred Kelenic (CF) Mets
97. Jonathan India (3B) Reds
98. Carter Stewart (RHP) Braves
100. Cole Winn (RHP) Rangers

If this list proves accurate this should be a nice draft for third baseman.

Top Minor League Catching Prospects

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Below are the names of the top minor league catching prospects as identified by myworld. Catchers like Chance Sisco and Carson Kelly are not included since they will get enough major league playing time this year to lose their rookie status. We’ll list the top prospects at each position as well as lefthanded and righthanded pitchers. But first we start with the catchers:

1. Francisco Mejia (Indians) - During the AFL the Indians tried him at third base. With the bat of Jose Ramirez picking up they are now looking at him in left field. Catcher is his main position but the Indians would like to get his bat in the lineup. In 2016 he hit .342 at two levels. Last year he hit .297 at AA. A 13 at bat major league debut saw him struggle with a .154 average. His defense would not be good in left and his power would be short of what is expected of the position. Behind the plate his arm is supposedly a rocket but his results at gunning down runners last year stood at 30 percent. This year it is down to 10 percent. While it is early his bat this year is mired in the .197 range. As the weather warms his bat should pick up but 28 whiffs in just 29 games is uncharacteristic.

2. Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers) - The Venezuelan came into this season with a three year career average of .330. It gets tougher with each level he rises. Last year at the A levels he hit .316. In AA this year he has seen it drop to .283. He makes consistent contact but the balls are more gap oriented rather than carrying over the fence. His defense behind the plate still needs some work, with an average throwing arm susceptible to the stolen base. The bat should get him in the major league lineup with a possible September callup if his average continues to stay north of .300.

3. Tom Murphy (Rockies) - It won’t be long for Murphy to get a call to the Rockies. Injuries have kept him down in the minors. Last year he was slated to be the starting catcher but a fractured right forearm kept him out to begin the season. When he got the callup he only hit .042 in 24 at bats. The bat carries some pop with 19 homeruns and a .647 slugging percentage in 2016. This year the pop has returned with 9 homeruns and a .631 slugging average. His propensity for the swing and miss (31 K’s in 29 games) could make it a struggle in the major leagues. A strong arm allows him to control the running game. Tom needs only 40 more at bats to lose his prospect label and with the way the ball is carrying off his bat that should happen this year.

4. Jake Rogers (Tigers) - There may not be a stronger defensive catcher on this list. More runners are thrown out stealing this year (14) than successfully stealing a base (11). His movement behind the plate is crisp and he embraces a leadership role. Last year his bat showed some power with 12 homeruns. He also showed some atypical speed for a catcher with 13 stolen bases. This year has been a struggle with a .185 average in 25 games at AA. If his average does not pick up he will see the full season in AA.

5. Zack Collins (White Sox) - Zack probably has the most power on this list. The first round pick in 2016 slugged 17 homeruns in High A. There is a propensity to whiff with 118 whiffs in 101 games keeping his average below .250. His defense is also a bit dicey with a below average arm that encourages a running game. A move to first is a possibility if his defense is found to fall short. This year his bat continues the trend of power (5 homeruns), low average (.238) with lots of whiffs (37 in 32 games).

6. Danny Jansen (Blue Jays) - Another player known more for his bat than his defense. Last year at three different levels he combined for a .323 average with 10 homeruns putting the 16th round 2013 pick on the spot light. His bat continues to stay hot in AAA with a .311 average and a .883 OPS. He has not been able to control the running game (8 stolen bases in 10 attempts).

7. Daulton Varsho (Diamondbacks) - His father named him after his favorite catcher Darren Daulton. Now Daulton is making a name for himself behind the plate. The 2017 supplemental pick hit .311 and barraged pitchers for 7 homeruns in 50 games in short season. His arm is not strong so a move to another position is a possibility. He has the speed to move to left field. This year the Diamondbacks skipped him past Low A to High A where he is hitting .271 with 4 homeruns. His speed and instincts for running the bases has already racked up 10 stolen bases.

8. William Contreras (Braves) - The brother of Wilson has the same potent bat with the ability to hit for power. His arm is strong but his catching tools are still raw. So far this year he has only caught 18 percent of those runners attempting to steal against him. The Braves do have a surplus of talented catchers in the minor leagues so William will have to produce with the bat to get a chance.

9. M.J. Melendez (Royals) - The 2017 second round pick has a defense first mentality with a rocket arm and the ability to call a quality game. His bat also possesses power but an inability to make contact could keep his batting averages low (60 whiffs in 46 games). Last year he hit .262 but this year he is down to .237. What is impressive is his five triples in 25 games showing legs that can run the bases. It will be tough to take the catching job away from Salvador Perez, but the Royals can be patient with a couple more seasons of development before considering him for the big league club.

10. Tomas Nido (Mets) - Injuries to the Mets catching corp gave Nido an opportunity to win the major league job. A .135 average in 37 at bats got him demoted to the minors. The Puerto Rican’s catching tools are strong. The bat could be a question. While it has some power with 8 dingers last year the average should reside south of .250. He should get another chance with the Mets before the year is out.