Archive for the 'Cardinals' Category

Myworld’s Top Righthanded Pitching Prospects

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Second Base Prospects in the Minor Leagues

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Second base prospects are usually shortstops shifting over later in their minor league careers because someone else has taken over the position, or they lack the arm or range to play the position. It is not common a player is drafted or signed as a second baseman, eventually making it to the major leagues at that position. Yoan Moncada is one of the few players who started as a second baseman after he fled Cuba and he stayed there. Any player who has significant major league time or just got called up like David Fletcher are not considered for this list.

1. Nick Sezel (Reds) - He was drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft as a third baseman. The Reds just signed their current third baseman Eugenio Suarez to a long term contract. One of those players will have to move to second. This year Nick has played more games at second than third. What has prevented him from being called up is Scooter Gennett and his .340 plus batting average. Nick will provide big time power wherever he plays. Last year he mashed 14 homeruns with a .521 slugging percentage. This year he is a little down with three homeruns and a .452 slugging percentage in AAA. He has yet to make an error at second and his speed is deceptive. Last year he stole 14 bases in 20 attempts. This year he is seven for eight. Expect him to be an impact player with the bat no matter the position.

2. Keston Hiura (Brewers) - Keston was a first round pick in 2017, despite playing most of his season in college as a DH. An elbow injury kept him from throwing. He has avoided Tommy John surgery and returned to playing second base in the minor leagues. Last year he led Division I college hitters in batting average at .442. He also hit .371 in his 42 game minor league debut, 27 of those games in Low A. In only three of those games did he play second base. This year the Brewers have been aggressive with him starting him at High A where he hit .320 with seven homeruns and recently promoting him to AA where he has not missed a beat (.341). In those 61 games 25 have been played at second base while the rest were played as a DH. His range factor has not been good but the 25 game sampling has been limited and he has committed two errors. He will not be a stellar defensive player but he will supply some potent offense at the position.

3. Brendan Rodgers (Rockies) - Brendan was a first round pick of the Rockies in 2015. He has played most of his games at shortstop but he has played 17 games at second and 12 at third. With Nolan Arenado at third and Trevor Story at short, second base seems to be his best alternative, especially with Ryan McMahon struggling with the bat at the major league level. The bat has supplied some decent power with 18 homeruns and a .567 slugging percentage last year. This year in AA he has supplied 13 homeruns and a .537 slugging percentage. The defense should be above average for second but the bat will play at any position. Expect him to get a callup, September at the latest and be used as a utility player.

4. Luis Urias (Padres) - Luis was signed out of Mexico in 2013. He started as a second baseman, then moved to shortstop. The Padres have returned him to second, but he continues to play both third and short as well. Luis has a nice contact bat. With his defensive versatility he can be used as a super utility player. He does not have a lot of power in his bat but he has a tremendous ability to make contact, walking more than he has struck out. Coming into this season he carried a .310 average with a .396 OBA. This year at AAA he is struggling a bit with a .262 average but still carries a respectable .380 OBA. He has shown a little bit of power, hitting a career high six homeruns. The speed is not there for him to steal bases. With Fernando Tatis Jr. expected to take the future shortstop position the Padres have given Luis more playing time at second base than short.

5. Nick Gordon (Twins) - Nick is the half brother of Dee Gordon, both of them sharing the same father Tom, who was a pitcher in his major league career. Dee also started as a shortstop but his inconsistency on defense forced him to move to second. Nick does not have the speed of Dee but was considered a better defensive player. With Royce Lewis behind him and expected to be the future shortstop of the Twins and Nick lacking the range to be a stellar defensive player at short, many feel that second will be his best position. He is still playing most of his games at short, but he has played many games at second. Last year he struggled to make contact, striking out 134 times in 122 games to lower his average to .270. His power is more to the gaps than over the fence so the Twins would like to see him make better contact. This year that was accomplished and he raked in AA with a .333 average with five homeruns and a .525 slugging. That resulted in a promotion to AAA where he is hitting .289 but without any homeruns and a .398 slugging. Don’t be surprised to see the Twins promote him before the year is out.

6.Jahmai Jones (Angels) - The Angels shifted Jones to second this year because of the surplus they saw in their outfield. His arm was considered fringe relegating him to left with Mike Trout in center. Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are two outfielders with more powerful arms so it made sense to move Jones to second. Last year his power started to develop with 14 homeruns and he hit near his career minor league average of .281. His power is still more to the gap and with decent speed he can turn a lot of singles into doubles. Learning a new position has been a challenge this year. He has already committed 10 errors in 51 games at second and has struggled with the bat (.246). The Angels consider this a long term project and will be patient with him, expecting some set backs.

7. Domingo Leyba (Diamondbacks) - Last year Domingo was limited to 23 games because of a shoulder injury. It kept him out for the first part of 2018. The injury has forced a move to second base. The Dominican signed in 2012 has shown a solid bat. He played mostly at short but many figured that with a below average arm his best position would be second. Coming into the 2018 season he carried a .287 career average with a .408 slugging. This year Domingo is hitting .289 with a .447 slugging and a 10/11 walk to whiff ratio. If he can continue to make solid contact his bat will be an offensive weapon at second base.

8. Max Schrock (Cardinals) - Another contact hitter but drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft. The Nationals traded him to Oakland (Marc Rzepczyski) who traded him to St. Louis (Stephen Piscotty). Everywhere he goes he shows he can hit with a .331 average in 2016, a .321 average last year and .285 this year. His bat has been a little less potent in AAA this year. He does not have the best defensive qualities but reminds me a lot of Daniel Murphy, who has yet developed the pop.

9. Isan Diaz (Brewers) - A second round supplemental pick in 2014 the Puerto Rican burst onto the scene with a .360 average in his first season at Rookie ball. Replicating those offensive numbers has not been easy, with his average dropping to .264 the following year and further dropping to .222 last year. The good news is his bat is showing signs of life with a .424 average in his last 10 games, raising his overall average to .238. The bad news is he plays the same position as Keston, and like Keston his defense is not that strong to win the position with his glove. He still has too much swing and miss in his bat. If he can solve that the bat will take care of itself.

10. Lourdes Gurriel (Blue Jays) - The younger brother of Yuli and a defector from Cuba in 2016, Lourdes did not show his bat in a brief appearance in the major leagues (.206). He did get 68 at bats but myworld is confidence that another callup will not happen until September. His fielding is too inconsistent to play short, though he only made one error in 19 games this year after making 10 in 28 games last year. His bat should get him back to the big leagues. This year he is hitting .306 between AA and AAA. The power should come as he gets stronger. Expect him to compete for the second base position next year, especially if Devon Travis continues to struggle.

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.

United States 18 and Under Team Dominates MLB Draft

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Last year in Thunder Bay Canada the United States 18 and under team won the gold medal, defeating Korea 8-0 for their fourth consecutive gold. Matthew Liberatore pitched six shutout innings in the game to get the win. Triston Casas drove in three runs with a double and homerun to trigger the offense. Brice Turang made the first team as a shortstop, Alek Thomas and Michael Siani made it as outfielders and Ethan Hankins was named the top starting pitcher. Major league teams were paying attention. Ten players on the United States 2017 18 and under World Cup team were drafted in the first round by major league teams. Only 16 high school players were taken in the first round, and that does not include Canadian Noah Taylor, who played for Canada’s 18 and under team and was drafted in the first round by the Indians giving them two world cup stars.

Below are the ten players taken in the first round of the major league draft:

6. Jarred Kelenic (OF) Mets - first high school player selected in draft
7. Ryan Weathers (LHP) Padres - didn’t allow a run in 9.2 innings. Won two games.
16. Matthew Liberatore (LHP) Rays - won championship game, 2-0 with 0.00 ERA in 12 innings
19. Nolan Gorman (3B) Cardinals
21. Brice Turang (SS) Brewers - Hit .364 and made all-tournament team as shortstop
23. Anthony Siegler (C) Yankees
26. Triston Casas (3B) Red Sox - drove in 13 runs and voted MVP of the tournament
27. Mason Denaburg (RHP) Nationals
30. J.T. Ginn (RHP) Dodgers
35. Ethan Hankins (RHP) Indians - Voted top pitcher with 27 whiffs in 12 innings

Alek Thomas, who made the all tournament team as an outfielder was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the second round (63rd pick) and Mike Siani who also made the all tournament team was drafted in the fourth round by the Cincinnati Reds (109th pick).

Ryan Rolison, who played on the 2015 18 and under team was drafted in the first round (22nd pick) by the Colorado Rockies as a lefthanded pitcher out of Ole Miss.

Musgrove Leads Pirates to Win Over Cardinals

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Myworld is in Pittsburgh and watched Joe Musgrove pitch and hit his way to a Pirate win over the Cardinals in his 2018 debut. Musgrove pitched seven innings of shutout ball and his first major league hit ignited a rally in the sixth inning that led to the Pirates first three runs in an 8-1 win.

Joe Musgrove was one of the players the Pirates acquired from the Astros in the Gerritt Cole trade. This was his 2018 debut after experiencing shoulder issues and he went seven innings giving up just five hits. It wasn’t until the sixth inning until he went to a two ball count on a batter. Colin Moran, Michael Felix and Jason Martin were also acquired in the trade. Moran is the starting third baseman for the Pirates. Michael Felix is a key piece in the bullpen of a surprising Pirate team who many felt were on the rebuild road.

Musgrove also used his bat last night to begin a rally for the Pirates. Cardinal pitcher John Gant had shutdown the Pirate bats for the first five innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven. He was mixing slow breaking balls with his mid-90s fastball, perplexing many Pirate hitters with swings and misses. Musgrove led off the sixth inning bouncing a single into right field for his first major league hit. Josh Harrison then forced Musgrove to use his speed to round the bases lining a pitch into right centerfield for a double. Musgrove slid home for the first run of the game.

Gant was replaced in the game after hitting Francisco Cervelli with a pitch. With runners on first and third and one out the bullpen for the Cardinals imploded. Josh Bell mashed the first pitch from Brett Cecil into deep left field to score Harrison on a sacrifice fly. Corey Dickerson lined a pitch into the right field corner. Dexter Fowler was slow getting to the ball and another run scored while Dickerson stopped at third. Moran could have made it two more but his drive that cleared the right field bleachers was just foul. He lined the next pitch to second to end the inning.

In the seventh Cecil gave up a slow bounder to Meadows, who beat the throw to first. The rookie phenom outfielder who has had trouble staying healthy is hitting over .400 in his major league debut. That brought in John Brebbia, who also experienced trouble retiring Pirate hitters. Meadows stole second. Jody Mercer hit a slow bounder to the third base side of the mound. Brebbia turned to throw to third but no one was covering. When he turned again to throw to first Mercer had beaten the throw. A one out walk to Gregory Polanco loaded the bases where Francisco Cervelli cleared them with a drive that collided with the right field scoreboard for a double. Polanco was able to turn balls hitting the scoreboard into singles but Fowler could not.

The Pirates brought out Michael Felix to pitch the eighth. He failed to preserve the shutout giving up a monstrous shot into right center by Tommy Pham that cleared the seats. It would be the only run the Cardinals would score in the game.

The Pirates scored two more runs in the eighth with back to back triples. Meadows lined one down the left field line that eluded Ozuna. Mercer followed with a shot into the left centerfield gap and hustled into third for the second triple. A Josh Harrison single finished the scoring giving the Pirates an 8-1 shellacking of the Cardinals.

Game Notes: Myworld had to have the Pierogies at Ms. Ts. When in Pittsburgh you got to have the pierogies…Don’t like the net behind home plate. It blocks out a clear view of the video board for those sitting in the lower level seats. Many major league teams set up a net to protect fans from foul balls…The Cardinal outfielders seemed to be lacking a bit in range. Fowler is struggling with a .160 average and seems to lack hustle. The Pirates legged three hits that should have been doubles and turned them into triples…Harrison Bader pinch hit for Ozuna. On an 0-2 count he seemed to make a last minute half swing to make contact on what may have been a third strike. He bounced it in front of the plate where he was tagged out…Beer in Pittsburgh is much cheaper than at Nationals park. A six dollar difference, though the Nationals will argue that you are paying for premium beer…The Pirates do a Pierogi race instead of a President’s race…Meadows finished the day with two hits to raise his average to .448. His OPS is 1.345.

Top Cuban Prospects National League

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

The only player to graduate from last year’s list is Albert Almora, who is more a fourth outfielder. Four National League teams seem to be more prolific in signing Cuban players, but too date those expenses have not panned out. Below are the top ten Cuban prospects who play on National League teams, or at least four of them.

1. Michel Baez RHP (Padres) - The Padres signed him in 2016 for a mere $3 million. He stands tall at 6′8″ with a fastball that slices the plate in the mid-90s but often hits the high 90s. Quality secondary pitches (slider, change and curve) moved him not just to the top ten list but the top prospect on the list. Last year was his first taste of professional ball and he dominated at Low A striking out 12.7 hitters per 9 innings. He did have a tendency to give up the long ball, allowing 8 homeruns in just 59 innings, leaving his ERA at 2.45. This year a promotion to High A has been more of a struggle with a 4.29 ERA and a 11/20 walk to whiff ratio in 21 innings. The good news is he has yet to give up a dinger. Prior to leaving for Cuba he pitched one year in the Series Nacional, walking more hitters (16) that he struck out (14). With his large frame throwing strikes may always be a challenge.

2. Yadier Alvarez RHP (Dodgers) - Not as tall as Baez (6′3″) but still good pitcher’s height. His fastball also hits the mid-90s with lots of readings in the high 90s. That motivated the Dodgers to sign him for $16 million. Lack of quality secondary stuff and poor command make it a challenge for Alvarez to retire hitters. Last year he had a 50/97 walk to whiff rate in 92 innings. In order for him to stick in the rotation he will need to improve his secondary offerings and command or make a move to a closer role. The 2018 season still sees him in the starting rotation but still struggling with control (20 walks in 15 innings) at the AA level. The Tulsa Drillers put Yadier on the disabled list the beginning of May with a groin injury.

3. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) - He may not throw as hard as Baez but the Padres liked him enough to give him a franchise record setting $11 million bonus. The lefty starred in the 15 and under World Cup in Mexico City striking out 12 United States hitters in a complete game victory. Royce Lewis and Hunter Green were part of that United States team. For a lefthander carrying a fastball that hits the mid-90s is a quality pitch that most teams would envy. He also has a change that shouts swing and miss as well as quality breaking pitches. Pitching in the hitter friendly California League Adrian is holding his own with a 3.57 ERA in seven starts and a 14/36 walk to whiff ratio in 34 innings. The Padres hope he fills a solid spot in the middle of the rotation.

4. Yusniel Diaz OF (Dodgers) - The Dodgers spent $15.5 million for Diaz in 2015. As he fills out his tools will be prolific. The power began to show last year at AA with his .491 slugging average with three homeruns in 31 games. The growth may detract from his speed, leaving him best suited for a corner outfield, but with an arm for right field. The Dodgers started his 2018 season back in AA where he showed increased power (.513) with three homeruns in his first 20 games. A hip issue put him on the disabled list mid-May so that will stall some development time. The Dodgers have thrown a lot of resources at Cuban players with little result. They hope Yusniel will not develop into one of those busts.

5. Vladimir Gutierrez RHP (Reds) - Don’t know where the Dodgers were when the Reds shelled out $4.75 million in 2016 to sign Vladimir. He has a fastball that flashes mid-90s with decent secondary stuff to keep him in the rotation. Last year was his first year stateside where he started 19 games with a 4.46 ERA. His pitches seem hittable (.267) and can carry a long way (10 homeruns) but the Reds have a need for starting pitchers. This year the Reds have promoted him to AA where his struggles with getting hit continue (6.08 ERA and .270 average). Again the long ball seems to bother him (8 homeruns) and perhaps a bit of a temper (8 hitbatsman and 8 walks).

6. Jose Adolis Garcia OF (Cardinals) - The younger brother of Adonis Garcia is taller (6′1″) which allows him to carry more power. He won an MVP award in the Nacional Series in 2015/2016 and was briefly farmed out to Japan. The Cardinals signed him early in 2017 for $2.5 million and started him out in AA. His arm is a cannon but he still needs improvement moving to the ball. His bat and legs gave him 15 homeruns and 15 stolen bases between AA and AAA. The Cardinals outfield is very crowded but with the struggles of Randall Grichuk the Cardinals may give Garcia an opportunity before the year is out. He needs to show a little more consistency with the bat (.218) at AAA if he wants to get a callup. Better patience at the plate (8/40 walk to whiff ratio) will help with that.

7. Jose Israel Garcia SS (Reds) - The Reds paid the other Jose Garcia a $5 million bonus. His glove is smooth but his bat is a question. A 6′2″ frame seems to show some power could develop. The 2018 season is his first opportunity to show what he can do. So far it has been disappointing. In Low A he is only hitting .189 with a 5/33 walk to whiff ratio. He has also committed 10 errors, eight of them at shortstop.

8. Jorge Ona OF (Padres) - The Padres spent $7 million to sign the hulk like 220 pound outfielder. His large frame makes him a slow runner but an above average arm gives him an opportunity to choose his corner. His best position may be DH. What attracted the Padres to Ona was his prodigious power. He showed some of that with 11 homeruns in his first stateside season last year. There were also a lot of swings and misses to his game (115 whiffs in 107 games), dropping his average to .277. This year the Padres have started him in High A where his walk to whiff ratio has digressed (9/47) dropping his OBA from a .351 to .298. He still shows the potential to hit for power, but developing more patience at the plate is needed to draw more of that out.

9. Randy Arozarena OF (Cardinals) - The crowded outfield has dropped Randy to AA. The Cardinals signed Randy for $1.25 million in 2016, a relative bargain for Cuban prospects. He shows a nice combination of power and speed which could allow him to finish as a 20/20 player. Currently his power is restricted to the gaps (32 doubles) but he carried 11 over the fence. In the winter league in Mexico that power was displayed with 14 round trippers and a .558 slugging average. A demotion to AA and a .654 slugging average in 13 games could give him another opportunity for AAA or even with the Cardinals as a September callup.

10. Jonatan Machado OF (Cardinals) - Machado could give the Cardinals an all Cuban outfield. The Cardinals signed him for $2.35 million in 2016. As a young teenager he struggled in his first year (.209) in the Dominican League but stateside last year he broke out in the Gulfcoast League (.323). A taste of full season ball this year (.185) has shown that Machado needs a lot of work with the bat. At 5′8″ he does not have a lot of power, but relies more on contact. His best bet is to improve on his defense to play centerfield. His lack of power is not a good fit for a corner position.

Top Prospects from South America

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

No major league graduates from the first top prospect list from South America last year. The top prospect Jorge Alfaro got more major league time and the 2018 season should see him as a regular major leaguer. The number two prospect Luz Gohara and the number five prospect Thyago Vieira, both flame throwers from Brazil made their major league debuts. Gohara got five starts for the Braves while Vieira made one relief appearance for the Mariners. After that the cupboard gets bare. Below are the top ten prospects in the minor leagues from South America for 2018.

1. Bo Bichette SS (Brazil/Blue Jays) - He played for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. His mother is Brazilian and his father is Dante Bichette, once a Blake Street bomber for the Rockies. His brother Dante Jr. played briefly for the Yankees. Myworld saw him hit three homeruns in an exhibition game and thought he would be a star, but one game does not make a major leaguer, especially in spring training. Now Bo is trying for major league status. Last year was a breakout season for him hitting .384 in Low A and getting promoted to High A and hitting .323. His career minor league average is .372 after getting drafted in the second round in 2016. He does not have the power of his dad, but the batting average will play. Currently, shortstop is his position but there are many who think he does not have the range to play there in the major leagues. The dilemma: his teammate Vladimir Guerrero plays third while another player with major league bloodlines Cavan Biggio plays second. This year Bo is hitting .299 in AA. With Troy Tulowitski seeing his last days as a shortstop the Blue Jays will give Bo every opportunity to succeed at short.

2. Jorge Alfaro C (Colombia/Phillies) - Injuries delayed his permanent arrival to the major leagues. He was signed by the Texas Rangers and included in the deal that got the Rangers Cole Hamel. There is big time power in his bat and his arm has the strength to zip the ball to second base. Those are his strengths. One concern with his bat is his poor walk to whiff ratios (16/113 last year) which could lead to struggles against savvy major league pitchers. Last year he hit .318 with five homeruns in just 29 games to earn the starting catchers job. He lacks speed on the bases and is prone to the passed ball (12 last year), so those are his defensive deficiencies. This year his .235 average with the Phillies is evidence his poor patience could impact his batting average rising to .250 consistently in the major leagues. If the power is there he should stick as the starter.

3. Luiz Gohara LHP (Brazil/Braves) - Despite his ability to throw in triple digits the Mariners traded him to the Braves for Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith. There was concern with his doughy physique keeping him from his major league aspirations. Last year he got five starts for the Braves and overpowered hitters with his high 90s fastball. A lack of a quality third pitch resulted in major leaguers hitting him at a .283 clip. An injury in spring training prevented him from competing for a starting role for the Braves in 2018. His first three starts in AAA have been a struggle to find the plate walking seven hitters in just 12 innings with the opposition assaulting him at a .347 pace. That kind of production will delay any major league appearance until he can start retiring minor league hitters.

4. Jesus Luzardo LHP (Peru/Athletics) - Luzardo was born in Peru but attended high school in Florida. His high school Parkland was involved in a mass shooting and he has done a lot to help the school heal. The Nationals were able to draft him in the third round in 2016 because Tommy John surgery had dropped his draft status. He was one of the players they traded to the Athletics for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Last year he only pitched 43 innings but his lefthanded arm was able to sling fastballs across the plate in the mid-90s, resulting in 48 whiffs. At 6′1″ he is not a tall pitcher but his secondary pitches should augment his fastball. The Athletics promoted him from Rookie ball to High A where he only started three games before they promoted him to AA. A 1.23 ERA and 25 whiffs in just 14.2 innings was a reason for that. If he continues at this rate he could see some major league time in September, though that would be optimistic for the 20 year old.

5. Eric Pardinho RHP (Brazil/Blue Jays) - As a 15 year old he was pitching for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. That motivated the Blue Jays to shell out $1.4 million to sign him in 2017. It’s possible Bo Bichette could have recommended him highly after playing behind him. At 5′9″ the righthander is very short. Despite the stature his fastball sits in the low 90s and can hit the mid-90s. He still needs to make improvements on his secondary pitches, though throwing strikes is not a problem. The 2018 season will be his first and it will start in the short season leagues.

6. Luis Escobar RHP (Colombia/Pirates) - Luis has climbed three spots from his ranking last year. The 2017 season was his first in full season ball where he went from 68 innings pitched to 132. A sizzling mid-90s fastball resulted in a lot of swings and misses (168 in 132 innings pitched) resulting in the South Atlantic League strikeout lead. His curveball has a nice break and his change is still in the development stage. Trying to find control of his pitches is his biggest downfall with 60 walks in 132 innings. This year he has started in the Florida State High A where his strikeout rate is not as prevalent (22 in 26 innings) but hitters still have trouble making hard contact (.213 average).

7. Meibrys Viloria C (Colombia/Royals) - Last year he was rated third based on his .376 batting average. The 2017 season saw him debut in Low A where he only hit .259. More strikeouts and less walks were the main culprit in the batting average drop. His power is more gap to gap but as he gets stronger he should reach double digits in homeruns. The arm is strong allowing him to gun down 40 percent of the runners who attempted to steal against him. The Royals have a number of catchers in the minor leagues rated ahead of him so his task will be to find that patience to replicate his 2016 season. After a slow start in High A he has gotten that average up to .250.

8. Oscar Mercado OF (Colombia/Cardinals) - Mercado was five years shy of being a teenager when he left Colombia for Florida. He was impressive enough at his high school the Cardinals drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft. While a shortstop in his early years he struggled to generate any kind of offense. A move to centerfield last year put the pressure off him and he slugged a career high 13 homeruns with a .287 average. The speed is there to steal 40 bases each season. The Cardinals outfield is crowded but a .319 average in AAA is enough to draw attention to himself. If he can play centerfield and hit for double digits in homeruns he will be more than a fourth outfielder.

9. Thyago Vieira RHP (Brazil/White Sox) - The Mariners signed Thyago two years before they signed Luiz. But like Luiz they were not impressed with his triple digit fastball and traded him to the White Sox for international slot money when they had hopes of signing Shohei Ohtani. Lack of quality secondary pitches have kept him in the bullpen. He also lacks the swing and miss one would expect for his triple digit fastball (7.4 whiffs per nine innings). If he can find a breaking pitch to throw for strikes he could become closer material. His 2018 season in AAA has come with more whiffs (20 in 11 innings) but more walks (9) and a higher opponent batting average (.295).

10. Ronaldo Hernandez C (Colombia/Rays) - The third catcher from Colombia on this list. Myworld smells a trend. Ronaldo played on the 18 and under Colombian team as a 15 year old in 2013. The Rays signed him the next year for $225,000. All he has done since his arrival is hit, with a .326 minor league career average in his first three years, all in Rookie short season ball. Each year his slugging average increased, climbing to .507 last year. A strong arm resulted in a 57 percent success rate against runners trying to steal against him. This year he has made his debut in full season ball and is hitting .302 with a 17 percent success rate in gunning down runners. It is still early so there is plenty of time to change those numbers.

2017 South American Prospects

Top Puerto Rican Prospects

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Compared to previous lists, last year’s Puerto Rican prospect list only graduated one player because of major league service time. Rio Ruiz got 150 at bats with the Braves, but a .193 batting average did not guarantee a return. Five players saw some major league time but not enough to lose their rookie status. Jorge Lopez got one major league appearance with the Brewers while Joe Jimenez pitched in 24 games for the Tigers, rewarding them with a 12.32 ERA. Jose Deleon got one appearance for the Rays. Tomas Nido saw a few games behind the plate for the Mets as did Victor Caratini see some plate action with the Cubs. That is six major leaguers from the top ten, but none of them with the potential impact of Carlos Correa, Joes Berrios, Francisco Lindor or Javier Baez, players who had appeared in previous lists. Below are the top ten prospects from Puerto Rico in the minor leagues.

1. Heliot Ramos OF (Giants) - Heliot has the tools to be a difference maker, something not seen from the list last year. He was a first round pick of the Giants in 2017. His power and speed, with a plus arm make him a potential five tool player. One cause for concern was his lack of patience in the Arizona Rookie League where he had a 10/48 walk to whiff ratio in 35 games. Those whiffs did not prevent him from hitting .348 with six homeruns and a 1.049 OPS. The Giants started his 2018 season in Low A where the cold weather in Salem has quieted his bat (.259 average, .397 slugging). When the weather warms up the bat should start producing.

2. Delvin Perez SS (Cardinals) - Perhaps the comparisons to Carlos Correa were unfair. A failed drug test also dropped his draft status. The Cardinals still made him a first round pick in 2016 but at the back end of the first round. It’s been two years and he has yet to clear the fence. He struggled last year in rookie ball hitting just above .200. A hit by pitch broke a bone in his hand and mercifully ended his season early. His defense is above average but if his bat doesn’t produce a utility role may be his best bet. Delvin could see a third year in the rookie leagues. He has yet to appear in a game in 2018.

3. Joe Jimenez RHP (Tigers) - With his mid-90s fastball Jimenez was being groomed to be the closer for the Tigers. A 12.32 ERA in 24 appearances with the opposition hitting him at a .356 pace tempered those expectations. Command has been a problem and major leaguers will take advantage. Joe made the Tigers roster to begin the 2018 season with promising results. He has yet to give up an earned run in 10 appearances, with the opposition hitting him at a .171 clip. That is quite a bit of improvement from his numbers last year. At this rate he should stick in the Tigers bullpen and graduate from this list.

4. Victor Caratini C (Cubs) - Caratini can hit, but Wilson Contreras is ahead of him behind the plate. A move to first is a possibility but the Cubs have Anthony Rizzo there. So Caratini will take his bats where he can get them, filling a utility role. His bat is much better than his glove. Last year at Iowa he hit .342 with 10 homeruns and a .558 slugging percentage. To start the season he will play as the back up to Contreras and Rizzo. The at bats will not be plentiful but it should be enough to lose his rookie status. Expect him to be a role player for his career.

5. Isan Diaz 2B/SS (Brewers) - Isan has not been able to replicate his .360 average from his rookie league season in 2015. Last year he struggled with a .222 average. The power is there with double digit homeruns all three seasons. His defense is not stellar so he needs to hit to get in the lineup. The Brewers have been playing him at short, but his best position is second base. Last year he committed 21 errors at the two positions in just 102 games, 14 of them at second base. The Brewers have started him at AA to begin the 2018 season and his .198 average would be a further decline of his batting average. His prospect status is fading.

6. Jorge Lopez RHP (Brewers) - The Brewers appear to be moving Lopez to the bullpen. A 6.81 ERA at AAA Colorado Springs in 2016 dropped his prospect status. His fastball may be better suited for the bullpen, with his curveball a quality second pitch. The key is being able to find the plate. His move to the bullpen last year saw him lower his ERA. This year he has returned to AAA where he has picked up two saves. At 25 years of age the Brewers may put him on the roller coaster, calling him up from AAA when they need an arm for the bullpen.

7. Jose Deleon RHP (Rays) - Drafted by the Dodgers they traded him to the Rays for Logan Forsyth. The Rays were hoping to use him in their rotation last year but injuries limited him to eight minor league starts. His mid-90s fastball from previous years had trouble reaching 90 last year which made has change less effective. He also had some issues finding the plate. The Rays were hoping to get some starts from him in 2018 but Tommy John surgery will end his season. The Rays will have to hope that his fastball will return when he is healthy for the 2019 season.

8. Tomas Nido C (Mets) - Nido is an above average defensive player with a strong arm good enough to gun down 45 percent of those runners attempting to steal against him in AA last year. There is some power in his bat when he connects but there is still too much lack of barrel of bat on ball contact. Last year he hit just .232 at Binghamton. The Mets have had some injuries behind the plate, with Travis d’Arnaud out for the year, giving Nido an opportunity to show what he can do. Currently he is hitting only .182 but his ability to play defense will give him more opportunities.

9. Edwin Rios 1B/3B (Dodgers) - At 6′3″ and 220 pounds Edwin has big time power that is not seen often in Puerto Rico. Last year he hit 24 homeruns between AA and AAA but with Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner ahead of him at first and third his opportunity for playing time with the Dodgers may be limited. He is much better defensively at first base, with below average skills at third base. Left field is a possibility but his speed is limited there. An injury to Justin Turner this year seemed like an opportunity for Rios, but he has started the season dinged up and has yet to appear in a game. The injuries were said to be minor but he has yet to appear in a game this year.

10. Nelson Velasquez OF (Cubs) - Nelson was a fifth round pick in 2017 by the Cubs, but he was the first position player they drafted. He showed some plus power in the rookie leagues with eight homeruns with the speed to steal five bases. His poor routes may prevent a centerfield option but the arm is powerful enough to fit in right. He still is quite raw as a player but shows great potential. The 2018 season has been spent in extended spring where he may need to wait for the rookie leagues to begin play in July.

2017 top Puerto Rican Prospects

Predictions - NL Central

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

This is the strongest division in the NL. We’d like to select the Milwaukee Brewers to surprise but we just don’t like the pitching.

1, Chicago Cubs

Overall - Their farm system will no longer offer them any help. The position players are still young and able to contribute. It is the starting rotation that may see some cracks, with little depth behind four veteran starters.

Strengths - 1) Infield. They are solid all around, providing a combination of excellent defense and productive offense. Anthony Rizzo is the big bat with his 32 homeruns and 109 RBIs. At second base Javier Baez came into his own, slugging 23 homeruns. Addison Russell struggled last year with his offense hitting only.239 with 12 homeruns but his defense is solid. At third base is the slugging Kris Bryant with his 29 homeruns. They also have Ben Zobrist who can rotate around any of those positions.
2) Starting pitching. Signing Yu Darvish as a free agent gives them four solid starters. The Cubs have built this rotation through free agent signings and trades. Kyle Hendricks was acquired from the Rangers but was developed in the Cubs minor leagues. Jon Lester was acquired as a free agent back in 2014 and Jose Quintana was acquired via a trade from the White Sox last year. All four pitchers have the potential to win 15 games.
3) Catching. Many are calling Wilson Contreras the top catcher in the National League. His 13 errors need to be reduced but he should increase his 21 homeruns from last year.

Weaknesses - 1) Bullpen. Brandon Morrow is not a proven commodity in the closer role. In his injury marred early years as a starter many felt he would be better used as a closer. That time has arrived now that he is turning 34 years old.
2) Right field. Jason Heyward won a gold glove. His bat has been a big disappointment, especially for a corner outfielder. Last year he slugged .389.

Top Rookie - Victor Caratini will get most of the rookie playing time as the back up catcher to Contreras. He can also play first and third base in a pinch and Joe Maddon likes his flexibility. No other rookie should contribute.

Top Prospect - The farm system is a little barren. Adbert Alzolay is considered their top prospect. He had success at High A and AA but may fit best as a mid-rotation starter.

Expected Finish - First Place. They will again battle the Dodgers in the National League championship series.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Overall - The starting rotation will be young, but the arms are talented. If they can get Alex Reyes on track this rotation has the ability to be dominant.

Strengths - 1) Catcher. Yadier Molina may be aging but he is still the heart and soul of this team. His 82 RBIs led the team.
2) Left Field. The Cardinals traded for Marcell Ozuna to provide more production in the lineup. His 37 homeruns and 124 RBIs is the kind of production a championship lineup needs from their team.
3) Ace. Carlos Martinez has the potential to turn into one of the top five starters in the National League. His 217 strikeouts were only topped by three pitchers in the National League. Expect him to get better as he gains experience.

Weaknesses - 1) Bullpen. They have no established closer, 31 saves departing when Seung-Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal left the team. Alex Reyes may eventually win the job, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery and may not be able to pitch until mid-May. Luke Gregerson was signed as a free agent to fill that role but he will also start the season on the disabled list and accumulated one save last year.
2) Young Back End of Rotation. The Cardinals hope that rookie Jack Flaherty and second year starter Luke Weaver can anchor the back end of the rotation. Miles Mikolas has also come over from Japan to show that he has improved on his rookie season with the Rangers.

Top Rookie - Jack Flaherty will get the biggest and earliest test. He will slide in the fifth spot of the Cardinals rotation. Alex Reyes will eventually get a callup in May but will start his career in the bullpen to prevent his arm from throwing too many innings. Reyes has the potential to be the better starter in 2019.

Top Prospect - Alex Reyes. He has missed two years because of drug suspensions and injuries. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching last year.

Expected Finish - Second Place but enough to get one of the two wild card spots.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

Overall - They will have some bashers in the lineup but their pitching could also give up a lot of runs. A trade of some of their outfield depth for a starting pitcher would make this team better.

Strengths - 1) Outfield. They have more quality outfielders than positions for them. Christian Yelich will fit in left with a bat that can hit over .300 with 20 plus homeruns. He was acquired in a trade from the Marlins. Lorenzo Cain was signed as a free agent. He made the Royals offense roll and will now get that machine rolling for the Brewers. Domingo Santana had a breakout year last year with 30 homeruns. The Brewers tried to trade him to make room for Ryan Braun in the outfield. With no DH he may have to rotate between first base and the two corner outfield positions.
2) Third Base. The Red Sox needed a third baseman last year. Before the season started they traded Travis Shaw to the Brewers for Tyler Thornburg feeling that Shaw was not an answer to their third base quandary. All Shaw did was hit 31 homeruns and drive in 101 runs. That kind of production may have gotten the Red Sox to the World Series.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting Pitching. This is what separates the Brewers from the Cubs and Cardinals. Losing Jimmy Nelson hurt. Zach Davies did win 17 games last year but he only struck out 5.8 hitters per nine innings and the opposition hit him at a .275 clip. Chase Anderson also had a solid year but there is some question whether he can repeat. Rookie Brandon Woodruff will probably fill the fifth spot in the rotation.
2) Catcher. Steven Vogt struggles on defense and last year did not hit enough. Manny Pina is better suited for a back up role though he did well when thrust into a starting role. Replicating those numbers may be difficult.

Top Rookie - Brandon Woodruff will slot into the fifth spot in the rotation.

Top Prospect - Keston Hiura their first round 2017 pick has shown he can hit. It will not take him long before he is playing second base for the Brewers and challenging for batting titles.

Expected Finish - They will squeeze into the second wild card spot with their third place finish in the Central.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

Overall - The Pirates would like to have fans believe the team is not rebuilding but trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerritt Cole was the waving of the white flag.

Strength - 1) Closer. Felipe Rivero was a nice acquisition by the Pirates a couple years ago. He dominated left handed hitters who only hit .082 against him.

Weaknesses - 1) Shortstop. Jody Mercer has always been a pedestrian shortstop. He carries no quality offensive or defensive tools, though he hit a career high 14 homeruns last year.
2) Third Base. They will turn to rookie Colin Moran to fill this position. Last year it appeared he came into his own until a hit by pitch knocked him out after a seven game major league debut. David Freese will act as insurance in case Moran fails.
3) Starting Pitcher. They traded their ace Gerritt Cole. Jameson Taillon has the potential to be an ace but he was too hittable last year (.290 opposition average). The pitching staff is filled with pitchers whose ERA was north of 4.00 last year.

Top Rookie - Colin Moran appears to have a shot to start at third base. A starting pitcher like Nick Kingham or Mitch Keller could squeeze into this rotation.

Top Prospect - Mitch Keller is their top pitcher. Austin Meadows their top position player. Both will get opportunities to play for the Pirates this year.

Expected Finish - Far out of the playoff race where the motivation will be to trade more veterans and finally admit this is a rebuilding year.

5. Cincinnati Reds

Overall - The rebuild has gone slower than expected. It is a big surprise to see Joey Votto still on the roster.

Strengths - 1) First Base. Joey Votto may be the best hitter in baseball. Last year he was second in the MVP voting despite the Reds last place finish. Votto drove in 100 runs and walked 134 times.
2) Corner Outfield. Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler each hit 30 plus homeruns. The small park could have something to do with that but not many teams have that kind of power in their corners.
3) Second Base. Scooter Gennett hit four homeruns in one game and 27 for the year. His 97 RBIs was tops among second baseman in the National League.

Weaknesses - 1) Shortstop. Jose Peraza may be better suited for second base. His speed should produce more stolen bases and his OBA needs to get over .330 to make him effective.
2) Starting Pitching. Homer Bailey is the ace until he gets traded, but he has yet to pitch effectively since his return from injury. After Homer the pitching is young. Luis Castillo showed some success last year but the others are a work in progress. Last year no pitcher reached double digits in victories.
3) Centerfield. Other than speed and defense Billy Hamilton provides little production. His inability to get on base (.299 OBA) limits his speed opportunities.

Top Rookie - Tyler Mahle will be tried in the starting rotation. Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Rookie Davis have all struggled. The new blood keeps on flowing but being rejected by the host.

Top Prospect - Nick Senzel. He could become a gold glove third baseman but the Reds may try him for some games at short. Not a lot of shortstops carry the thunder he has in his bat.

Expected Finish - Another last place finish.

Top Ten Canadian Prospects

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Nick Pivetta was the only player to graduate from the top ten list from last year, but it was not a good season for the Philly righthander (8-10, 6.02). The Phillies will give him another opportunity to prove his value in the rotation. Seven players repeated from last year’s list with a shift in placement. Curtis Taylor and Gareth Morgan dropped out of the list. Below is the 2018 top ten minor league prospects from Canada. To qualify for this list you have to be eligible to win rookie of the year, eliminating Dalton Pompey, who was out most of last year and has not seen major league action in a couple years. Myworld predicts a return of Pompey in 2018.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B (Blue Jays) - Born in Montreal, Canada from a Hall of Famer from the Dominican. This is the second country Vladimir appears in after placing second in the top Dominican prospects list in the American League. Here he is number one. The following is a cut and paste from our Dominican article. His father was voted into the Hall of Fame this year. Everyone wants to compare him to his father. The arm is not as strong and he lacks the propensity to swing at everything as his father did. There was some question as to whether he could hang at third but he seemed to dispel those rumors showing average defense. He may not carry his father’s power, but the power is beginning to emerge with 13 homeruns between Low and High A. He has also shown patience at the plate with a 76/62 walk to whiff ratio, evidence that he has the same ability to make contact as his father, he just waits for better pitches to hit. This will benefit him as he rises up the minor league ladder, hitting AA in 2018.

2. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) - Like most Canadians pitchers, he is not an overpowering pitcher. That did not prevent the Braves from using a number one pick in 2015 to draft him. His fastball can hit 95 but usually glides into the plate in the Low 90s. His ability to pitch, command those pitches and offer quality secondary pitches separates him from most pitchers. Righthanders really struggle against his repertoire, hitting just .209 against him in AA. His strikeout numbers will never be flashing but he will eliminate baserunners with double play groundouts. Soroka could find himself pitching for the Braves by midseason in a very crowded rotation. It all depends on his success at AAA to begin the 2018 season.

3. Cal Quantril RHP (Padres) - The son of Paul, the Padres selected Cal in the first round of the 2016 draft out of Stanford, despite his undergoing Tommy John surgery his sophomore season. Cal was born in Port Hope, Ontario. His fastball carries a little zip, chasing the plate in the upper bracket of the low 90s. What makes Cal special is a quality changeup that makes his fastball carry a little extra charge to it. Enhancing his breaking pitches will improve his stock. Last year he was tagged pretty good with righthanded batters hitting over .300 against him in AA. That is where he will repeat the 2018 season.

4. Tyler O’Neil OF (Cardinals) - The son of a Canadian weight lifter, the Cardinals would like to see less bulk weight lifting from Tyler and more repetitions with lighter weights. Tyler was drafted by the Mariners in the third round of the 2013 draft. The bulky Tyler generally hits between 25 and 35 homeruns per year. Last year he bombed 31 over the fence. That power usually comes with a lot of swings and misses and lower batting averages. His speed is not quick enough to cover center, but a strong arm and average speed allows him to be a solid defender in right. The 2018 season could be his opportunity to debut in the major leagues. The Cardinal outfield is a bit crowded, but if his bashing continues in AAA it will be difficult to keep him down.

5. Josh Naylor 1B (Padres) - Josh was a surprise first round pick of the Marlins in 2015. A knife incident brought up character issues and the Marlins traded him to the Padres. At 6′0″ and close to 250 pounds Josh may have to watch his weight if he hopes to continue his professional career. He hits the ball a long ways with light tower power in batting practice, but that has not translated into the games. Despite his large size his athleticism allows him to run well and play an adequate defense at first base. With the eight year contract given to Eric Hosmer that puts Naylor in a black hole. He will start the season in AA and hope to impress some team in need of a first baseman to trade for him.

6. Adam Hall SS (Orioles) - The Orioles drafted Hall in the second round of the 2017 draft. He only got nine at bats in the rookie league but six of them went for hits for a .667 average. An oblique injury ended his season early. This may rob him of an opportunity to play full season ball next year. It appears he has the tools to stick at short with a good arm and decent range. His power is limited to the gaps now but with maturity and a better read of pitches that could increase. The 2018 season will be a big one for Hall to gauge whether he is geared for short.

7. Andy Yerzy C (Diamondbacks) - Yerzy was a second round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2016. His first year in rookie ball was uneventful. His second year in rookie ball he smashed 13 homeruns and slugged .524. That should earn him a full season Low A team for 2018. His 6′3″ height gives him some problems defensively. He struggles with throws to second and handling pitches in the dirt. If his power continues to progress his bat could be moved to first base. His lack of speed makes a move to the outfield unrealistic. The D-backs will still continue to tutor him as a catcher in hopes he will improve as he gets more repetitions, beginning in the Low A league in 2018.

8. Miles Gordon OF (Reds) - Gordon has played three consecutive seasons in the Rookie League. The Reds drafted him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, but at that time his primary sport was hockey. Last year he had his breakout year, slugging his first eight homeruns of his minor league career and slugging .530, almost .200 points greater than his previous season. Like Yerzy that kind of production will get him promoted to a full season league in 2018. Gordon has the speed to fit in center but may be better suited for a corner.

9. Landon Leach RHP (Twins) - A second round pick in 2017 with a nice 6′4 inch frame that can sling the ball in the high 90s. For the most part he sits in the Low 90s. His secondary pitches are still a work in progress. He pitched as a closer out of his high school so there is not a lot of use in his arm. When he was not closing he was catching for his high school team and the Junior National Canadian team. Now he has the opportunity to focus on the mound full time. He will probably start the 2017 season in extended spring training and pitch again in the Rookie League to continue to develop his mechanics.

10. Demi Orimoloye OF (Brewers) - Myworld still likes his tools. The results are slower than expected, with an inability to make contact and recognize pitches leaving him off prospect lists. He was projected to be a first rounder in 2015 but he dropped to the fourth round where the Brewers selected him. He was actually born in Nigeria so if he makes the major leagues he could be the first Nigerian to play in the major leagues. Last year he played at Low A, slugging 11 homeruns with 38 stolen bases. His 40/139 walk to whiff ratio kept his average at .214, though he did hit .252 against lefthanders. His speed will allow him to play center and his arm will fit him in right. The bat just needs to develop more consistency. He should see High A in 2018.