Archive for the 'Braves' Category

Top Catching Prospects

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Myworld attempts to identify the top ten catching prospects in the minor leagues. This is my opinion based on numbers since we have not seen all of these players play. For the next couple weeks we’ll try to go around the diamond.

1. Adley Rutschman (Orioles) - The first pick in the 2019 draft. The last time the Orioles drafted a catcher in the first round (2007 fifth overall pick) his name was Matt Wieters. Matt has had a good career in the major leagues but when he was in college his bat was going to make him special. That bat never really showed up. Like Matt, Adley is a switch hitter and comes with the same two way press clippings, a powerful bat who can play the defensive game. He makes good contact, walking more than he struck out in college and has the potential to hit for power. He also has a strong arm that can control the running game. At 6′2″ he is solidly built but still agile enough behind the plate. In his professional debut he has walked (5) more than he has struck out (4), but his batting average is less than desired (.176). It is a small sample size of only 34 at bats and it comes after a heavy college season. Adley should get enough experience that he should play in the full season league next year.

2. Joey Bart (Giants) - A similar story for Bart who will eventually be called upon to replace Buster Posey, who has had a good career with the Giants. Like Wieters, Posey was a fifth overall pick (2008) but his offensive game has been better. At 32 years of age his catching shelf life is about to expire and Bart is poised to replace him. Joey was a first round pick in 2018 and was the second overall pick, coming out of the same college as Wieters (Georgia Tech). His first season in rookie ball he shined with 13 homeruns and a .364 average. Those are the kind of numbers we expected from Adley. Joey is also a two way player with a powerful arm to control the running game and a good bat to hit in the middle of the lineup. At 6′3″ he is also a big catcher but very agile behind the plate. For the 2019 season the Giants started him in the California League where his bat continues to shine (.270, 12 homeruns) with a .815 OPS. His speed and ability to make contact is not as strong as Adley but he should make an impact with the Giants by 2021.

3. Will Smith (Dodgers) - Will was a first round pick of the Dodgers in 2016. At the start of the season he wasn’t even considered the best catcher in the Dodgers system. After the way he has handled major league pitching this year (.326, 6 homeruns, 1.199 OPS) he may not be eligible as a rookie next year since he is now the Dodgers starting catcher in the middle of a playoff race. Based on his career minor league numbers (.236 average) the batting average should not stay at that level, but his power is real. He also has a strong arm and is showing good maturity with a veteran Dodger pitching staff in a playoff race. Keibert Ruiz will find it tough to wrest the catching job from Smith, but the Dodgers appear to be set at catching for the long term. This year Will did hit .269 with 20 homeruns in just 60 games at AAA, where the baseballs may have been a little juiced. For a power hitter he makes good contact.

4. Miguel Amaya (Cubs) - With Wilson Contreras behind the plate the Cubs are not in an immediate need to find a catcher. They found Miguel in Panama, where they signed him for $1.25 million in 2015. His defensive game at this point is above his offensive game, but his power began to show last year with 12 homeruns in his first exposure to the full season leagues. A promotion to the Carolina League for 2019 has seen some offensive struggles (.232) but he has shown some patience at the plate (.347 OBA) and continues to display his power (8 homeruns). His defensive game has improved to such a point that he may be one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues. Despite his offensive struggles Miguel should see AA next year and Wilson should start looking in the rear view mirror at his next replacement.

5. Francisco Alvarez (Mets) - The Mets have had a number of promising catchers that have performed less than their expectation once they reached the major leagues. Francisco comes from the catching haven of Venezuela and signed in 2018 for $2.7 million. He did not play last year. At 17 years of age he still has some work to do on his defensive game. He has been pretty impressive with the bat in his first year hitting .462 with two homeruns in just 26 at bats. The Mets promoted him to Kingsport where he continues to rake with a .355 average with two more homeruns. His OPS sits at an impressive 1.073. At 5′11″ and 220 pounds Francisco is a bulky catcher. To stay agile behind the plate he will have to watch his weight. A promotion to the full season league next year is expected.

6. Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers) - Keibert was signed out of Venezuela in 2014 for $140,000. Will Smith has been a step ahead of him on the catching ladder. Keibert was signed for his defense, but his bat has been pretty impressive as well, with a .309 career average entering the 2019 season. The power may not be as great as Smith but he has a better ability to make contact and hit for a higher average. Both players have a strong defensive game. This year Keibert struggled a bit in AA, where he played last year (.254) but a promotion to AAA has seen him increase that average (.324). The Dodgers could leave Ruiz in AAA next year as insurance to an injury to Smith but at some point they will have to make a decision who their starting catcher is.

7. Ronaldo Hernandez (Rays) - Ronaldo was signed out of Colombia in 2014 for a bargain price of $225,000. No catcher on this list has a stronger arm than Hernandez. The other parts of his game still need some work. The Rays converted him to catcher after signing him so his experience is still limited behind the plate. Last year Ronaldo played his first year in a full season league and clubbed 21 homeruns. His career average entering the 2019 season is .306. Playing in the pitcher friendly Florida State League he is hitting .274 with 7 homeruns. His .413 slugging is about 70 points under his career minor league average. The Rays will show patience with him but he could be the Rays first home grown catcher in more than a decade.

8. Shea Langeliers (Braves) - Shea was a first round pick of the Braves in 2019, the ninth player selected in the draft. His defensive tools are supreme with an arm equal to Hernandez. He was considered the best defensive catcher in college baseball. His bat could be a question mark, but he did break an NCAA tournament record with 11 RBIs in one game. The Braves debuted him in Low A where he has struggled with the bat (.211). When you consider the Orioles have started Adley in the rookie leagues the immediate promotion of Shea to full season was an aggressive move. They may start him in Low A to begin the 2020 season but he could be up with the Braves very quickly.

9. Sam Huff (Rangers) - Sam was a seventh round pick in 2016 out of high school. Catchers drafted out of high school usually do not have the same success as catchers drafted out of college. At 6′4″ Sam is large for a catcher but his athleticism and strong arm keep him behind the plate. His large frame gives him exceptional power. Last year he hit 18 homeruns at Low A. The downside was a troubling 23/140 walk to whiff ratio. This could hurt him average wise as he sees more advanced pitching. The Rangers repeated him at Low A this year and after hitting .333 with 15 homeruns in just 30 games they quickly promoted him to High A. The homerun numbers have slowed (10 in 70 games) but the average still remains high (.278). He still continues to struggle to make contact (23/116 walk/whiff ratio in 101 games) so that will have to be monitored. His defense is strong enough that if he hits below .250 with 20 plus homeruns he should make it as a starter.

10. William Contreras (Braves) - The younger brother of Wilson. His offensive game is probably just above his defensive game at this point. He has a strong arm behind the plate, good athleticism and with more experience should be an upper level defender like his older brother. His offensive game has the same potential for power as his brother. Last year he hit 11 homeruns at Low A but failed to hit a homerun in his 83 at bats in the Florida State League. That is where he started his 2019 season and though his offensive numbers were not great (.263, 3 homeruns) he was still promoted to AA. William makes good contact and his power should improve as he matures. Expect him to be with the Braves sometime late next year as a September callup.

Donaldson Does the Doo

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

The Washington Nationals made a nice comeback on Wednesday, scoring three runs in the last two innings to tie the game at 4-4. They went with Sean Doolittle to start the tenth and after getting Freddie Freeman to ground to short to go 0 for 5 he could not do the same with Donaldson. Josh gave the ball a ride over the centerfield fence, despite a leaping effort from Victor Robles to give the Braves a 5-4 win. It was the first hit of the day for Donaldson. The Nationals had two runners on in the bottom frame with Anthony Rendon up. He hit a hard liner to left that had promise but Adam Duvall was able to chase it down to end the game.

The Braves Mike Soroka was tough on the Nationals. He allowed a solo homerun to Juan Soto in the second that tied the game. They had runners on first and third with one out in the fourth but Kurt Suzuki lined out to Freeman who stepped on first for a double play. In the sixth Trea Turner hit one into the gap for a double. Instead of holding Kendrick at third to have second and third with no out Kendrick was sent home and thrown out easily. That hit was just the third off Soroka. He went seven innings allowing just three hits.

Anibal Sanchez was not as consistent as Soroka. He also gave up a solo homerun in the second, to Adam Duvall, his third in two games against the Nationals. Duvall was batting .529. Sanchez loaded the bases with one out in the inning when Dave Martinez chose to walk the weak hitting Yohan Camargo intentionally. Myworld did not like the strategy, but pitcher Soroka grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to prevent Ronald Acuna from coming up.

In the third Acuna led off with a double and Ozzie Albies made it back to back. Acuna grounded his past a diving Rendon down the third base line. Albies grounded his past a diving Parra down the first base line. Sanchez was able to get out of the inning with no further damage.

The Braves nicked him again in the fourth on back to back two out singles from two of the weakest hitters in the lineup, Camargo and Soroka. Ronald Acuna drove a single into right center to score Camargo. Adam Eatton cut the ball off before it could get to the wall otherwise Soroka would have scored.

The Braves drove Sanchez from the mound in the sixth inning when back to back doubles from Ender Inciarte and Tyler Flowers almost landed in the same spot down the right field line. Tanner Rainey was able to end the rally, but Parra made a heads up throw to third on a ground ball to retire Flowers to make it easier on Rainey. Normally first baseman are content with getting the out at first.

The bullpen held the Braves allowing the Nationals to whittle at the lead. In the eighth Matt Adams clobbered a two out pinch hit homerun into the right field bleachers off Anthony Swarzak. The Braves brought in Luke Jackson to start the ninth but he gave up back to back singles to Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon. The Rendon hit was picked up in the hole by Camargo but he could not get a grip on the ball when making the throw. That brought in Sean Newcomb to close the game. He walked Juan Soto on four pitches to load the bases. He threw two balls to Kurt Suzuki and instead of waiting for a strike Kurt swung at the next pitch and lined a single to left field to score Eaton.

The Nationals had the bases loaded with no outs and down by just one, 4-3. Gerrado Parra came to the plate. He fouled two off trying to lift the ball into the outfield for a SF. The next pitch he hit the ball hard, but on the ground. The Braves were able to turn a 6-4-3 double play. Brian Dozier then struck out on a 3-2 pitch to send the game into extra innings.

Josh Tomlin came on to pitch in the bottom of the tenth to get the save. Adrian Sanchez hit a one out single when both Freeman and Tomlin went for the ball and no one covered first. A walk to Turner put runners on first and second with one out. Tomlin got Eaton to pop out and Rendon hit the hard liner to left to end the game.

Game Notes: The way Adam Duvall is hitting the Braves are not missing Nick Markakis. With the return of Inciarte from injury it gives him a place to play in centerfield, Acuna plays in right field and Austin Riley and Duvall share playing time, though the way Duvall is hitting he is getting most of that playing time…Tanner Rainey was hitting the radar at 100 and 101, lowering his ERA below 4. With the new acquisitions of Daniel Hudson, Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elias his bullpen time could be reduced…The Braves had two runners thrown out trying to advance to third on ground balls to the infield. Flowers was an unconventional 3-5 ground out. Adam Duvall got thrown out at third on a grounder to short…Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson almost combined to go 0 for 10…Anthony Rendon appears to be running better. He went from first to third on a Suzuki single showing good speed in his legs as he motored to third…Howie Kendrick showed no speed in his attempt to score from first on the Turner double. It appeared he hit a wall of goo as he rounded third and could not race through it…The Nationals finished 2-4 at home in back to back series with the Dodgers and Braves, the two teams they will have to beat if they make the playoffs and want to advance to the World Series. Conversely the Braves went 4-2 on the road against the Phillies and Nationals…Ronald Acuna stole his 25th base in the fourth inning. That made him the third player in major league history to have 25 steals and 25 homeruns aged 21 or younger. The other two are Mike Trout and Andrew Jones.

Rendon Slam Triggers Nats Win Over Braves

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth inning Anthony Rendon came up with the bases loaded and two outs. Chad Sobotka fell behind in the count 2-0 and grooved a fastball that caught too much of the plate. Rendon blasted it deep into the left field bleachers for a 6-2 lead. That is all the Nationals needed in their 6-3 win.

Dallas Keuchel got the start for Atlanta. The Nationals got to him early. In the first inning Adam Eaton was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored when Juan Soto lined a single into centerfield. A Howie Kendrick single and a Brian Dozier walk loaded the bases but Victor Robles grounded to short to end the threat.

The Nationals scored again in the second, gifted again by Keuchel with a leadoff walk to Yan Gomes, the first of his four walks in the game. Patrick bunted him to second and Trea Turner drove him in lining a pitch down the left field line for a double.

Patrick Corbin was sharp for the Nationals. He shut down the Braves bats not allowing a hit in the first three innings. In the fourth a single by Freddie Freeman started the rally, his first of three hits in the game. A wild pitch advanced Freeman to second. With two outs Anthony Rendon made a tremendous diving catch on an Adam Duvall hit down the line. He got up, threw to first but the ball sailed over the head of the first baseman Howie Kendrick allowing Freeman to score from third. A Johan Camargo singled advanced Duvall to third but Corbin was able to whiff Austin Riley to end the inning.

Freeman also started a Brave rally in the sixth with his single up the middle. Dozier made a diving stop on a hit by Donaldson but the ball rolled towards first base. Dozier chased it, quickly flipped to first but Kendrick could not dig the ball out, Freeman advancing to third on the throw. Adam Duvall hit a ball deep to left field, Juan Soto leaped and caught it at the edge of the top of the fence to possibly rob Duvall of a three run homerun. Freeman tagged and scored on the fly ball to tie the game at two.

In the bottom frame the Nats struck back and it was again the kindness of Keuchel that hurt him. He walked Yan Gomes for the third time in the game. Adrian Sanchez pinch hit for Corbin and lined a single through the third base hole. Chad Sobotka came on to relieve Keuchel, striking out Turner for the second out. Adam Eaton walked to load the bases and that brought up Rendon to provide his heroics.

The Nationals bullpen came through in the seventh and eighth. Wander Suerro retired the Braves in order in the seventh. Fernando Rodney gave up a one out single to Freeman but retired the next two hitters. That brought on an appearance from Sean Doolittle, who was not seen in the Dodger’s series. He gave up a one out homerun to pinch hitter Charlie Culberson that carried over the left field bullpen, but otherwise struck out all three other Braves hitters he faced.

Game Notes: Soccer stars Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle threw out the first pitches. They got a little crossed up when throwing out their pitches, Mallory throwing a pitch to the National who was to catch the first pitch from Rose, leaving Rose to throw her pitch to the National stationed to catch the pitch from Mallory (or vice versa - I forgot who threw the ball first)…In the month of July Stephen Strasburg has driven in more runs (6) than earned runs he has given up (4)…Brian Dozier should have been charged with two errors in the game. He bobbled a ball in the first inning and in the sixth his errant throw allowed Freeman to advance to third…Dallas Keuchel was at 99 pitches after the fifth inning. With his fastball only at 87-89 he needs command of his pitches to be effective. That command does not seem to be there yet…In the seventh Jeremy Walker walked the first three hitters he faced. He was bailed out on a caught stealing by Dozier, the first batter he walked. In total he threw 14 balls and 7 strikes…The grand slam for Rendon was his third of his career and it got him to 500 RBIs for his career…The Braves were missing Nick Markakis (broken wrist) and Dansby Swanson (heel injury) from their lineup…Max Scherzer is back on the DL with his upper back strain.

Top Venezuelan Prospects National League

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

There have been some graduations from the list put together last year. Rookie of the year Ronald Acuna had a pretty good year and is no longer considered a prospect. He was the top player on the National League list. Other than that no other graduating player. With all the internal strife in Venezuela the quality of prospects out of the country has dropped. The National League seems to have a lot of promising catchers. The top five players on this list appeared here last year. The bottom five are all new to the list.

1. Keibert Ruiz C (Dodgers) - After Acuna won rookie of the year last year Ruiz went from number two to the top spot. In his first couple years in the minors he hit over .300, entering the 2019 season with a .330 career average. His bat took a bit of a dive last year with a .268 average. The Dodgers kept him in AA for a second season and the hitting has continued to suffer (.245). Not noted for his power his slugging percentage has really dipped from .401 last year to .321. The bright note is his ability to make contact is strong (28/21 walk to whiff ratio) and his defense has not suffered. His arm is not strong so he will not control a running game but his ability to block pitches in the dirt is solid. If his bat had been strong myworld would have expected a promotion sometime this year. With the Dodgers in a pennant race it may not be until next year when Ruiz wears a Dodger uniform.

2. Andres Gimenez SS (Mets) - At one point Amed Rosario was the Mets shortstop of the future. Defensive struggles have the Mets talking about moving Rosario to centerfield, which would open up a spot for Gimenez at shortstop. The bat is not as strong as Amed but his defense is superb. If Rosario stays at short the Mets could always convert him to a utility player. Last year he carried a useable bat, hitting over .277. This year the bat has dipped to .232 in AA. Andres lacks the speed of Rosario but he still has the ability to steal bases (16). The biggest issue for Gimenez is the rise of Ronny Mauricio, coming up from A ball.

3. William Contreras C (Braves) - The younger brother of Wilson carries his brothers pop with the bat and his strong arm. The bat has struggled a bit this year with a .263 average and .368 slugging percentage in the Florida State League but that is a pitcher’s park. Myworld only became aware of Wilson when he was at AA but at this point the older brother has more power. William may develop that power but it has yet to surge with regularity. His arm is strong enough to catch and he has the intangibles to fit behind the plate defensively. The Braves have Alex Jackson in AAA but William is the stronger hitter and better defensively. Alex may have more power. William may have to wait until next year to debut for the Braves.

4. Anderson Espinoza RHP (Padres) - The world continues to wait for the Espinoza breakout. He was one of the top minor league pitchers in baseball until Tommy John surgery felled him. He has not pitched since 2016, missing more than two seasons. Despite standing only 6′0″ his fastball hit the high 90s. Scouts compared him to Dennis Martinez. Originally signed by the Red Sox in 2014 for $1.8 million they traded him to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz, the Red Sox ironically complaining about the trade because of a perceived undisclosed injury to Pomeranz. A second Tommy John surgery in August of last year will delay Espinoza’s return until mid 2020.

5. Ranger Suarez LHP (Phillies) - The Phillies signed Ranger for the bargain basement price of $25,000 in 2012. He lacks an over powering fastball, sitting in the low 90s but a excellent change enhances the velocity of the fastball. Swings and misses are not part of his game with just 6.6 whiffs per nine innings. He also has excellent command of his pitches, throwing to the corners and hoping for soft contact. Last year he had some success at AAA (2.74 ERA), which led to a promotion to the major leagues. That proved to be a challenge with a 5.40 ERA and a ,339 opposition average. This year he started his season in AAA and that was a struggle (5.68 ERA and .281 opposition average). Despite those poor numbers he did get promoted to the Phillies where he worked out of the bullpen. At best he is a back of the rotation pitcher. If that does not work out he could still be used out of the pen as a middle reliever.

6. Francisco Morales RHP (Phillies) - Francisco was not the bargain as Suarez. He has a little more pop to his fastball, with his mid-90s velocity motivating the Phillies to pay $900,000 to sign him. Francisco has a plus slider but still needs more consistency with his change to give him a third pitch. Francisco has more swing and miss with his pitches. This year is his first season in full season ball and his swing and miss has not lessoned. He has given up some homerun balls (7) in just 62.1 innings, which is responsible for his high 3.90 ERA.

7. Francisco Alvarez C (Mets) - The Mets have had trouble finding a catcher. At 17 years old and signed in 2018 for $2.7 million Francisco will not provide any immediate answers. This is his first year of minor league baseball and the Mets have already promoted him to the rookie leagues where he has shown some pop with the bat with three homeruns in 15 games. He is also torching rookie league pitchers for a .404 average and a 1.189 OPS. He is still learning the tools of catching but the arm is strong so that is a start. If the bat continues to rake he could be one of the youngest players in full season ball next year. That is quite an accomplishment for one so young, especially at a position that is so demanding. Mets fans will have to wait at least four years before seeing him in a Mets uniform.

8. Jesus Tinoco RHP (Rockies) - Tinoco was the throw in player the Blue Jays included in the Troy Tulowitski trade. Jesus has a pretty good fastball and breaking ball combination. His change still needs work if he wants to be in the starting rotation. Coming into the 2019 season his career ERA was 4.75 with an opposition average of .286. There is also not a lot of swings and misses to his pitches. This year he has career numbers in AAA with a 4.34 ERA and a .259 opposition average. His strikeout numbers continue to be disappointing. Jesus made his major league debut this year with 7 bullpen appearances. He has been prone to the homerun ball in the NL (5 homeruns in 13 innings).

9. Diego Cartaya C (Dodgers) - Diego may be a stronger defensive player than Ruiz. He only signed in 2018 for $2.5 million and did not play last year. Only 17 years old Diego was recently called up to play in the Arizona Rookie League. His .200 average and 2/17 walk to whiff ratio is evidence that he has a long ways to go. A player to watch as possible trade bait with Ruiz and Will Smith ahead of him in the minors. Time will tell if the power will develop but at 6′2″ he has a large frame.

10. Israel Pineda C (Nationals) - The Nationals signed Pineda in 2016 for $450,000. He spent his first two years in short season ball hitting .277. He is still a teenager so there is a lot of development to do. This is his first year in full season ball and where his average has struggled (.212) but he has already hit a career high 5 homeruns. His arm is above average with the ability to throw out greater than 40 percent of the runners who attempted to steal against him last year. The Nationals have a lot of young depth at catcher in the minor leagues so it will take at least five years before Israel makes his debut.

A Doo-Littleless Pen Shines

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

There were a number of people who thought Dave Martinez had lost it Friday night. First he brought in Tony Sipp in the eighth, a lefty to face Freddie Freeman with the Nationals up 4-3. This is a lefty who has had trouble getting lefties out facing a future Hall of Famer. Tony struck out Freeman, then gave up a double to Josh Donaldson. When fans looked into the bullpen to look for Tanner Rainey warming up all they saw was Trevor Rosenthal. He of the 19.90 ERA. Did anyone tell Davey this was the Braves he was playing? It was like a nightmare for Nats fans. Pinch me to wake me up.

He allowed Sipp to face the lefty hitting Nick Martinez. Nick hit a harmless fly to left. Fans did their best to calm their racing hearts. Out walked Martinez from the pen. The hearts began running like it was a President’s race. In from the bullpen with the tying run at second came Trevor Rosenthal. To face the rookie Austin Riley. Who had clubbed a two run shot off Stephen Strasburg earlier in the game. This can not be a reality that I am witnessing.

Gotta give Trevor credit. He threw strikes. Worked the count to 1-2. Austin then hit a slow roller to Anthony Rendon. It appeared Anthony lost the ball briefly as you could see it hanging like a snow cone from his glove, but he was able to recover and throw Riley out at first. Disaster averted. Now quit fooling around. Bring in Doolittle.

But for the ninth that was Wander Suerro warming up in the bullpen. He of the above 5 ERA and no career saves on the back of his bubble game card. There have been some blown saves on the back of that card. Now the hope was the Nationals would score some insurance runs to give Suerro some cushion. A lot of insurance runs. That was not to be. They went down 1-2-3. In came Suerro to protect a 4-3 lead. Mercy. Mercy. Someone take me to the hospital. I think I’m about to lose it.

What does Suerro do? He walked the leadoff batter. Ozzie Albies lined his first pitch into centerfield for a base hit. This did not look good. Not good at all. Davey would be roasted tomorrow. Charlie Culberson came up. The Nationals expected him to bunt. He did not and after getting two strikes he flew out harmlessly to right. Suerro was now facing the rookie of the year last year Ronald Acuna Jr., who has been known for a few of his clutch hits, more game winning hits than Suerro has saves. Wander was not phased and blew a 93 mile per hour cutter past him for strike three.

Now it was Dansby Swanson up with Freddie Freeman on dice. Matt Grace of the ERA above 6 was now warming up in the bullpen. This did not look like it was going to end well. Dansby swung at the first pitch he saw. He blooped it into right field. Dozier raced back for it. Robles came charging in. It looked as if it was going to fall with two bodies colliding into each other. Robles slides to avoid crashing into Dozier. He reaches out with his glove and catches the ball. Nationals win. What a game.

Now it is off to Omaha for myworld to watch some College World Series. Davey is a genius. If he is going to make a playoff run he is going to have to trust his bullpen, even those pitchers who did not get the job done at the start of the season.

Stat of the Week

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Baseballsavant.com carries some interesting statistical numbers. Last week we listed the top ten players for speed. Some of the names surprised us. This week we list the top ten players in exit velocity on average and distance to see how they marry. Not too many surprises here.

Exit Velocity

1) Joey Gallo (96.3) - Having a career year in batting average (.276) with 17 homeruns.
2) Nelson Cruz (94.5) - At 38 years of age his homerun numbers are going down, but it appears he still hits the ball hard.
3) Josh Bell (94.4) - Having a career year with 18 homeruns and leading the NL in RBIs (57).
4) Christian Yelich (93.8) - Gunning for another MVP award with 23 homeruns leading major league baseball.
5) Gary Sanchez (93.4) - A good bounce back year for him with his 19 homeruns already exceeding last year’s totals in less at bats.
6) Shohei Ohtani (93.3) - He can still throw the ball harder than he hits, but that exit velocity is still impressive.
7) Josh Donaldson (93) - The flyer the Braves took on him signing him to a big one year contract is paying off
8) Franmil Reyes (93) - One of the best young hitters in baseball. Staying with the big boys with his 19 homeruns
9) Carlos Santana (92.9) - Not changing his evil ways against American League pitchers. Homerun numbers are down (12).
10. Yoan Moncada (92.9) - Finally reaching his number one prospect potential. Also only 12 homeruns but a .284 average.

Tommy Pham just missed the top ten at number 11 with an average exit velocity of 92.8.

The top ten in average homerun distance has some surprise names because some of the players on the list have not hit a lot of homeruns. So myworld took a look at the average distance a player hits the ball and the top ten from that list:

1) Gary Sanchez (236) - He appears in our top ten exit velocity.
2) Jay Bruce (233) - He has blasted 18 homeruns but a low batting average indicates a lot of soft contact in his game.
3) Anthony Rendon (229) - They call him Tony Two Bags because of all the doubles he hits into the gaps.
4) Joey Gallo (227) - Number one on our exit velocity list
5) Jorge Polanco (225) - Not noted for his homerun pop but lots of doubles this year. His 10 homeruns is approaching his career high of 13.
6) Justin Smoak (222) - Seems to be having a quiet year with a .237 average and only 12 homeruns and 6 doubles.
7) Mike Trout (220) - About time this superstar appears somewhere on this list.
8) Daniel Vogelbach (219) - We never saw his major league homerun production coming.
9) Brandon Belt (218) - His offensive numbers seem to be down. Perhaps a lot of fly ball outs to the warning track.
10) Cody Bellinger (216) - If not for Yelich he would be gunning for the NL MVP honors. A NL league leading .362 average

As far as distance, the top five homeruns for distance have been hit by Nomar Mazara (482), Ketel Marte (482), Keon Broxton (474), Josh Bell (474) and Mike Trout (473). Marte and Broxton are two interesting names I wouldn’t associate with power, though Marte has been hitting some homeruns this year.

A lot more interesting stats at baseballsavant.com. Hope to give you more next week but you can check the numbers yourself.

Major League Draft Prospect Stewart Signs Japanese Contract

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

There have been Japanese players who have wanted to forgo the Japanese draft and sign major league contracts. Those players ultimately played in Japan with Shohei Ohtani recently posted to the major leagues. No significant Japanese player has bypassed the Japanese draft to sign with a major league team.

Carter Stewart, who was drafted eighth by the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 draft has signed a six year $7 million contract with the Softbank Hawks. He failed to sign his contract with the Braves after a medical exam discovered a ligament issue in his wrist and the Braves significantly reduced their initial offer. He enrolled in a junior college to remain eligible for the major league draft and was projected to be selected somewhere in the second round.

That is a moot point now that he has signed a Japanese contract. This commits him to the Hawks for at least six years. The Hawks are not known for posting their players so an early departure does not seem possible. He will begin his Japanese career in the minor leagues and enjoy a cultural and educational experience.

Braves Hope to Repeat with Pitching

Friday, April 12th, 2019

The Braves are the last team reviewed by myworld for their prospects. Myworld rated them the top minor league system for prospects in 2017 and 2018 and number three in 2016. The last time the franchise was in the top ten for prospects was in 2010 and 2011 when they finished with the third rated system both years. Some of the players on that team that are still making an impact on the newer version of the Braves are Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman and Arodys Vizcaino. Two other top prospects are Mike Minor and Craig Kimbrel.

Some of the top prospects from the 2016 and 2017 seasons are - Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Kolby Allard, Aaron Blair, Mike Soroka, Kevin Maitan, Sean Newcomb, Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Touki Touissaint, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna and Luiz Gohara. Some of the top prospects from the 2018 team are Ronald Acuna and Austin Riley and their gang of pitchers, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Joey Wentz and A.J. Minter. Cristian Pache is another highly rated position prospect from 2018.

This year the Braves top prospects are pitchers. Trying to find the best one is like trying to identify the winner in a beauty contest. Mike Soroka was a first round pick in 2015. The Canadian should have been in the Braves rotation in 2019 but injuries ended his season in 2018 after five starts. Prior to his shoulder issues he was the Braves best pitching prospect with a low 90s fastball, excellent control and above average slider. The shoulder issues still lingered this spring, putting a delay to his 2019 start. At 6′5″ he has a good frame for pitching. By mid-season he should be in the rotation if he has success in AAA and the other pitchers are struggling.

Touki Toussaint is another first round pick ready for the rotation. He was drafted in the first round in 2014 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they traded him to the Braves to eliminate salary (Bronson Arroyo). Finding the plate was the biggest issue for Touki when he was with the Diamondbacks. The fastball comes to the plate in the mid-90s and he has a plus curve and change. He started finding the plate more frequently with the Braves which reduced his walks and ERA. Last year he got five starts with the Braves but struggled finding the plate, walking 21 in 29 innings. The Braves felt a little more seasoning was needed in AAA.

Ian Anderson was the Braves first round pick in 2016. His fastball also sits in the mid-90s with a knee buckling curveball and plus change. His walks have been a little high (49 in 119 innings last year) but it is not expected to be a long term concern. Last year he made his AA debut reaching four starts. He gets lots of swings and misses with his pitches. He should start the season in AA but with the surplus of starting pitching in the minor leagues it will be tough for him to crack the Braves rotation in 2019.

Kyle Wright was the first round pick of the Braves in 2017. Drafted out of college he rose quickly, already appearing in four major league relief appearances last year. His fastball sits just south of 95 with decent secondary pitches (curve and slider). Walks have caused a problem for him but he elicits soft contact. Last year the opposition hit him at a .152 clip in four AAA starts. Kyle may be a player the Braves call up by mid-season.

Joey Wentz was a supplemental first round pick in 2016. He spent a couple months on the disabled list last year with an oblique injury, limiting him to just 16 starts and 67 innings. The one plus he has is he throws lefthanded, something the pitchers above him don’t do. His fastball sits in the low 90s with a quality curve and change. He does not get a lot of swings and misses with his pitches, but the opposition could only hit .206 against him. The 2019 season should see him starting at AA.

Other pitchers with a long shot to make the rotation include Bryse Wilson, Luiz Gohara and Kolby Allard. Bryse has a flaming fastball that reaches the high 90s. The 2016 fourth round pick needs improvement on his secondary pitches (curve and change). Gohara may have the best fastball hitting triple digits and can keep hitters off balance with strong secondary pitches. Only his slider is above average. His change is still a work in progress, which could limit him to the bullpen. Staying in shape could also be an issue, with the down side reducing his fastball to pedestrian levels. Allard is a lefthander who does not throw hard. The 2015 first round pick relies more on his curve and change. His fastball rarely reaches 90. He is a back end of a rotation starter or situational reliever.

On the position front Austin Riley is their top prospect. The Braves signed Josh Donaldson to fill the position for one year and then Riley takes over in 2020. The 2015 first round supplemental pick hits for big time power, last year slugging 18 homeruns. His defensive tools, including a rocket arm should keep him at third. When he arrives with the Braves he should be an annual lock for 30 plus homeruns per year.

Cristian Pache is their best fielding centerfielder. The Braves don’t have an immediate need for that position with Ronald Acuna and Ender Inciarte playing with the big club now. Pache has gold glove potential. The bat is a little light, lacking in power but his speed could make him effective as a second lead off bat in the nine spot. Improving his patience at the plate (20/97) would enhance his ambitions to become a major league player. He will start his season in AA and is an injury away from contributing to the Braves.

Drew Waters, the Braves second round 2017 pick has a little more bat but is not as strong defensively in the outfield. The speed is there to play center but it pales when compared to Pache. His arm is strong enough to play right. His bat has some pop to it and with his speed there is the potential to be a 20/20 player. Like Pache, Waters needs to improve his patience at the plate (29/105). Drew will start the 2019 season in High A with a quick promotion to AA if he has continued success.

Alex Jackson was a first round pick of the Mariners. They moved him to the outfield from catching where he failed to hit. The Mariners traded him to the Braves where they returned him to catching. His bat seemed to find some life going back to his old position. Last year he again struggled with the bat, his average barely squeezing above .200. Defensively he has a strong arm, but his other tools need a lot of work. Preventing balls from greeting the back stop is the biggest concern. Last year he played in AAA so he is an injury away from the major leagues.

The Braves catcher of the future is probably William Contreras. He is the younger brother of Wilson. Like his younger brother, he has a strong bat with the potential for power. His defense is also above average with a strong arm to slay baserunners. He is still a couple years away from appearing in the Braves lineup.

NL East Predictions

Friday, March 29th, 2019

The last of our division predictions.

1. Philadelphia Phillies

Strengths - The new guys. Bryce Harper is the most publicized new guy, but there were more important additions prior to the Harper signing. The trade for J.T. Realmuto provides a more experienced catcher to lead a younger starting rotation. They traded their previous catcher Jorge Alfaro to upgrade at this position. The same holds true for Jean Segura, a quality shortstop who they acquired from the Mariners, including in the trade their previous shortstop J.P. Crawford and again upgrading this position. Signing Andrew McCutchen as a free agent upgrades left field from a defensive stand point and moves the big bat of Rhys Hoskins to first base where his power belongs. Seranthony Dominguez won their closer job last year and did a good job in saving games. Newly acquired David Robertson provides the team choices at the closer position and gives the team an experienced arm in case Dominguez falters.

Weakness - The starting rotation looks slim after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez all have talent but suffer from youthful inconsistency. They certainly fall short of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves starting rotation. Defense is not a strength here. No gold glovers covering the infield or outfield.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Most of their top prospects who were close to the major leagues were traded. What’s left are mostly relievers like Enyel de los Santos and Ranger Suarez. Ranger could help in the rotation but his ceiling is as a fifth starter.

Expected Finish - It will be a four team battle but the Phillies will rise to the top because of improvement in their offense, provided injuries don’t eat into their depth.

2. Washington Nationals

Strengths - The top three starters are the best trio in baseball. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin can not be matched by any other team, provided they stay healthy. That is no sure thing for Strasburg and Corbin needs to show that last year was not a fluke. The left side of the infield with Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner is strong both offensively and defensively. Turner provides the speed while Rendon shows the power.

Weakness - The Nationals have failed to make the playoffs twice, both times when they were favored to win the division. When they make the playoffs they get eliminated in the first round. Much of that is blamed on a lack of leadership in the locker room. That is still a problem, with too many quiet players reluctant to lead. Max Scherzer is the one vocal leader but pitchers are tough to lead since they only appear in the lineup every five days. The outfield lacks depth. Adam Eaton gets injured a lot. This could create a problem if Victor Robles struggles as a rookie and Michael Taylor stays inconsistent.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Victor Robles will not make as great an impact as Juan Soto. His defense will be better but the bat will not be as productive. The speed should create havoc on the bases provided he has the instincts to make the right choices. Carter Kieboom shined during spring training, hitting two homeruns off Justin Verlander. He could be called up by mid-season once injuries eat away at depth. Tanner Rainey has trouble finding the plate but the fastball hits triple digits. The Nationals traded Tanner Roark for him so expect him to get an opportunity.

Predicted Finish - They will fight with the Braves for the wild card spot and win it by a game or two. Starting pitching will prove the difference.

3. Atlanta Braves

Strengths - The depth of the Braves starters is impressive. It is being used early with the injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Guasman. Not a good start to the season. The rookie of the year Ronald Acuna should have a better year his sophomore season, moving from the leadoff spot to the middle of the lineup. Freddie Freeman is a potential MVP at first base.

Weakness - When the Braves were winning consecutive division titles one of their weak areas was the bullpen. This could create a problem in 2019. A.J. Minter served as the closer last year but he will also start the season on the disabled list. Arodys Vizcaino is another option but he has had trouble staying healthy.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Lots of possibilities to fill the rotation to begin the year. Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka and Bryse Wilson are part of the first wave. Ian Anderson and Luiz Gohara are the second options. On the offensive side Austin Riley could be ready for third base. If Josh Donaldson struggles to stay healthy or his bat fails the Braves will not hesitate to bring up Riley. Kolby Allard is a lefthander who lacks explosiveness with his fastball. Command is his strength and he could fill out the bullpen.

Predicted Finish - Starting pitching lacks experience and this will prove critical as they fall short of the Nationals for the last wild card spot.

4. New York Mets

Strengths - Starting pitching if they stay healthy. They don’t get any better than Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young last year. Noah Syndergaard has the potential to win a Cy Young but has struggled to stay healthy the last two years. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are two other talented pitchers who have spent much of their career on the disabled list. The acquisition of Edwin Diaz gives them a 50 save closer from last year.

Weakness - Too many hopes and ambitions. They hope Amed Rosario will be one of the best shortstops in baseball. They hope Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith can provide answers at first base. And they hope Yoennis Cespedes can come back healthy to enhance an outfield lacking in power, except for Michael Conforto. They hope Wilson Ramos can stay healthy for a full year and Robinson Cano does not start feeling his age. And they hope their starting rotation stays healthy. All those hopes will not come to fruition.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Peter Alonso has a powerful bat that has the potential of hitting 30 plus homeruns. His defense is not good but if his bat can be productive the Mets will take the tradeoff. Tomas Nido will act as the back up for Ramos, but this will result in a lot of playing time to keep Ramos healthy. Andres Gimenez and Luis Guillorme will vie for the Mets utility job. Both are superior defensive players but Gimenez may have the better bat.

Predicted Finish - Health and lack of depth will drop them down to fourth but they will stay competitive for a playoff spot into September.

5. Miami Marlins

Strengths - They have the strength to play poorly enough to fight for the first pick in the 2020 draft, if they can be called a strength. Brian Anderson may lack the power to play third but he is the one bat to fear in the lineup. Starlin Castro is a veteran bat who will probably be traded before the year is out.

Weakness - Two of their three outfielders they traded, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich both won MVPs the last couple years. The outfield the Marlins are trotting out this year would be hard pressed to make an All Star team in AAA. Starting rotation will not limit runs and it will get ugly. Same holds true for the bullpen. A lot of ugly on this roster. This team would be more competitive in AAA.

Prospects to Make an Impact - The Marlins have no motivation to use up service time on another wasted season. Isan Diaz could be called up mid-season after Castro is traded. He has been highly touted but his strikeouts have hampered his offensive performance. Sandy Alcantara has made the rotation. His fastball is impressive but his command is lacking.

Predicted Finish - They will fight with the Orioles and Royals for the first pick in the 2020 draft.

Top 100 - 30-21

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Though the Braves added one more righthanded pitcher after including three in the 40-31 prospect list, the White Sox dominated this ten with two righthanded pitchers and an infielder.

30. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) - The Canadian pitcher and first round pick of the Braves in 2015 was limited to 11 starts last year because of injury, five of those starts in the major leagues. At 6′4″ with a fastball that sits in the low 90s but can touch mid 90s he has the quality secondary pitches to be a perfect fit as a mid-rotation starter. Injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Guasman could improve his opportunities. The Braves will be in a pennant race but it may be wise to limit his innings and start his 2019 season in AAA. What sets Soroka apart from other pitchers is his excellent command. He throws it to all quadrants of the plate and appears to have a purpose for each pitch.

29. Nick Madrigal 2B/SS (White Sox) - Nick was a first round pick of the White Sox in 2018. He played second base for NCAA champion Oregon, but he could have just as well played shortstop. At 5′8″ he is small in stature but his bat sprays line drives to all parts of the park. His bat will not hit for a lot of power, but batting titles could be in his future. The arm may be better suited for second base but if Nick can make it as a shortstop he would increase his value to the lineup. He should rise quickly, finishing at AA in 2019.

28. Dylan Cease RHP (White Sox) - The Cubs traded Cease to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade sacrificing a pitcher for the future for one that could help them in the present. The sixth round pick in 2014 throws in the mid 90s and can hit triple digits. His secondary pitches lack consistency and he has trouble finding the plate. Last year he had success in AA with a 1.72 ERA, limiting the opposition to a .168 average. The White Sox are in rebuilding mode. Dylan will probably start the season in AAA and be promoted to the major league team by mid-season if he shows success in AAA.

27. Mitch Keller RHP (Pirates) - Last year Mitch Keller struggled for the first time since being drafted in the second round in 2014. He finished with an ERA of 4.82 in 10 AAA starts. His fastball hits the mid-90s and reaches the high 90s. Normally it is unhittable, but AAA hitters assaulted him for a .280 average last year. Both his fastball and curveball are the best in the Pirates system so they expect a bounce back. He is a better alternative than Nick Kingham or Jordan Lyles in the rotation so after a few starts in AAA he will be the Pirates number five starter by mid-May.

26. Francisco Mejia C (Padres) - With Manny Machado at third and the Padres outfield crowded Mejia will have to make it as a catcher. His arm is one of the strongest in baseball but his other tools for the position are fringy. Austin Hedges is the better defensive catcher but Mejia has the better bat. The Padres acquired the Dominican from the Indians last year for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Francisco has the potential to hit for a high average with good gap power. Last year he slugged 17 homeruns. If he starts the season with the Padres he will be the starting catcher with Hedges taking on the back up role.

25. Austin Riley 3B (Braves) - The Josh Donaldson signing delayed the arrival of Riley to the Braves by one year. The 2015 first round pick is a potential All Star who can provide quality defense and hit bombs far over the fence. If Riley has an Achilles heel it is his penchant for not making contact. The Braves will accept that as long as it comes with light tower pops. Last year Riley played at AAA hitting .282 with 11 homeruns. His .456 slugging average was below his norm. For the 2019 season he will start the season in AAA and if Donaldson is injured or struggles to find any offensive consistency Riley will be with the Braves by mid-season.

24. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - Drug suspensions, Tommy John surgery and injured lat muscles have kept Alex on the prospect lists two years longer than he would like. He was supposed to be in the Cardinals rotation a couple years ago. Because of his injuries he may start the year in the bullpen to lesson his innings and could move into the rotation towards the end of the year. His fastball is electric, consistently hitting the mid-90s and shaving the triple digits. He’s also got excellent secondary pitches which would make a move to the bullpen a waste. If he can’t stay healthy enough to stay in the starting rotation Alex would be a top notch closer. He should start the 2019 season in the Cardinals bullpen.

23. Casey Mize RHP (Tigers) - Casey was a first round pick of the Tigers in 2018. He has lept ahead of the other Tiger pitching prospects by being the first player selected in that draft. The fastball flashes across the plate in the mid-90s but what makes it so impactful is a quality splitter that gets a lot of swings and misses as it dives out of the strike zone. As a college drafted pitcher Casey should rise quickly. Last year he got four starts in High A, but hitters attacked him for a .295 average. High A is where he should begin his 2019 season.

22. Michael Kopech RHP (White Sox) - He owned the best fastball in the minor leagues, reaching triple digits consistently and sitting north of 95. Tommy John surgery will put a halt to his 2019 season. Command of his pitches had been his biggest impediment, but just when he appeared to be mastering his control he was felled by his UCL. Prior to his injury he did get four starts in the major leagues and they hit him at a blistery .328 clip. It will be probably sometime in mid 2020 before he can again try to make an impact with the White Sox.

21. Luis Urias SS/3B (Padres) - The 2016 signing out of Mexico will begin the 2019 season playing shortstop for the Padres. Once Tatis is called up he will move over to second base. The arm is strong enough to play short but the range is lacking. Second base he could win gold gloves. His bat lacks power but will fill the gaps. In time Luis could win batting averages. Rookie of the year will be within his grasp for 2019 if his teammate Fernando Tatis does not take it away from him.