Archive for the 'Athletics' Category

The top Lefthanded Pitchers in the Minors

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myworlds Top Centerfield Prospects

Monday, July 30th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Leftfield Prospects in the Minor Leagues

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

It is tough to identify left field prospects. Teams like to see power from this position, but it usually fits a player who is lacking one or two tools. Sometimes a team will move a corner infielder here, or they may have two corner outfielders who have the ability to play right field. If a team is blessed with too many centerfielders the player with the lesser arm will move here. The players identified below have played some left field in the minor leagues, but that still may not be their ultimate position as they rise through the ranks.

1. Taylor Trammell OF (Reds) - Taylor was a first round supplemental pick in the 2016 draft. He has the speed to play center but his arm is short and if he doesn’t fit in center his best position will be left. In the Florida State League the Reds have moved him around all three outfield positions. The bat should provide power while his legs will steal bases giving the Reds a possible 20/20 player or better. In the pitcher friendly Florida State League he has only sent six balls over the fence but he has hit .295 with 16 stolen bases. He shows good patience at the plate with a .394 OBA. The Reds have been promoting him one level at a time so expect him not to play AA until 2019.

2. Julio Pablo Martinez OF (Rangers) - Julio signed out of Cuba for $2.8 million. The speed is there to play center. The arm may be better suited for left. While he is listed at 5′11″ reports list him more at 5′9″. He dominated when he played in the Dominican Summer League hitting .409 with a 1.288 OPS. That resulted in a promotion state side. It will take him awhile to get used to minor league pitching. Cubans have struggled when they are first exposed to breaking pitches, especially the slider and Julio has struck out in 23 of his 21 games, struggling with a .234 average. At 22 years of age you would like him to make the adjustments in a league dominated by high schoolers. Most of his time has been in centerfield but he has seen three games in left. Adonis Garcia came over as a smallish centerfielder and eventually moved to the infield. Myworld believes Julio has more tools than Adonis, but time will tell.

3. Yordan Alvarez OF (Astros) - The Dodges originally signed the 6′5″ Cuban for $2 million but then traded him shortly after to the Astros. The best position for Yordan may be first base, but that position is a bit crowded in the Astros organization. He is not a bad runner but his arm is below average. That won’t be a problem if Yordan continues to dominate with the bat. In AA he hit .303 with 13 homeruns and a .949 OPS. The Astros are looking for some production from the leftfield position and if the players they put out there continue to struggle Yordan may get the opportunity. First he must master AAA where in minimal at bats (19) he is hitting only .105.

4. Josh Naylor OF (Padres) - At 5′11 and 250 pounds Josh is a big guy who can hit the ball a long way. The Canadian was a first round pick of the Marlins and traded to the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Since he has already made eight errors in 54 games for an .899 fielding percentage myworld does not see how the Padres can make him a left fielder. At AA Texas he is finally showing the bat that made him a first round pick. He has already hit a career high 12 homeruns and his .319 average is his highest since his rookie season in 2015. A 46/47 walk to whiff ratio shows a rare combination of power and contact. Expect him to get a September promotion.

5. Willie Calhoun OF (Rangers) - The Dodgers drafted the 5′8″ slugger in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and stuck him at second. He did not fit there defensively and when the Dodgers traded him to the Rangers they moved him to left. With Leody Taveras destined for center Willie and Julio Pablo will have to fight it out for the left field position. Julio is probably the better defensive player but Willie packs more pop in his small frame. Last year he hit 32 homeruns. This year he only has seven, but he tends to warm up with the weather. Willie has hit 26 doubles with a .300 average.

6. Christin Stewart OF (Tigers) - A first round pick in 2015. Christin is the typical bat first and defense later type of player. His best position may be as a designated hitter. His arm is weak and his speed is below average. That weak defense has kept Christin in the minors. The last two years his bat has produced 24 and 28 homeruns. This year he has already slugged 17 homeruns, 15 of them in AAA. Expect the rebuilding Tigers to give him his major league debut this year where he will play primarily at the DH position with spot starts in left field.

7. Brent Rooker OF (Twins) - Brent was a first round pick of the Twins in 2017. The speed in his legs are best suited for first and his arm is below average. First base is the position he played in college, but to get his power bat in the lineup the Twins have been giving him a lot of time in left field, despite his defensive weaknesses. This year he has slugged 15 homeruns with a .493 slugging average. Reducing his swings and misses (107 in 86 games) could increase his average (.264) and his power numbers.

8. Chris Shaw OF (Giants) - The dilemma for the first round 2015 pick is Brandon Belt at first base. That happens to be the best position for Chris. His legs are plodding but his arm is decent for the outfield. Getting his bat in the lineup without having to trade Belt or keep Buster Posey behind the plate during his declining years is the reason for his outfield move. Last year he hit a career high 24 homeruns. This year he has already slugged 18. A 13/104 walk to whiff ratio in just 67 games is a cause for concern and a reason for his low .255 average. Major league pitchers will exploit that lack of patience weakness but the Giants will find out if Chris can hang when they call him up in Sepember.

9. Lazaro Armenteros OF (Athletics) - The Athletics shelled out $3 million to sign the Cuban in 2016. He is a toolsey outfielder except for his arm. The speed is there to play center but because he expects to get bigger as he matures left field should be his ultimate position. After playing in the Rookie league last year the Athletics have him in the full season Low A league this year. Injuries have limited him to 36 games but he has shown the power to play corner with five homeruns with a .469 slugging percentage. Still a teenager at 19 the Athletics can be patient with Lazaro, giving him a full season in Low A.

10. Buddy Reed OF (Padres) - Buddy Reed was a second round pick of the Padres in 2016. He is a better defensive leftfielder than Naylor but lacks the burner speed to play center and the rocket arm to fit in right. At 6′4″ the power had yet to manifest itself in his first two years. This year he has broken out with 12 homeruns with a .542 slugging percentage. While he does not have great speed, he has shown the base stealing acumen to steal 33 bases this year. The .324 average in the California League has gotten him a promotion to the less pitcher friendly San Antonio ball park. If the power continues the Padres will have to find room for him in what is turning out to be a crowded outfield picture.

Top Minor League Shortstops

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

This is the cream of the crop. The players who have the potential to help your team to the playoffs. Willy Adames received a promotion and will probably be with the Rays for the rest of the year so he was not considered. Brendan Rodgers and Nick Gordon were identified on our second base list while Kevin Maitan was listed with the top third base prospects. That is not to say they would appear on this list, but they were not considered because of their major league status or being chosen for another position.

1. Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres) - Hard to believe the White Sox traded him for James Shields. They were border line contending when they traded him. The next year they were selling off their veterans for prospects. This is a trade they would want back. Tatis is not a great defensive player at this position. An eventual move to third is a possibility for this Dominican whose father played third base for the Cardinals and hit two grand slams in one inning. That could be the ultimate position for Junior. What is attractive about him is his bat. It has the potential to hit for .300 with 20 plus homeruns. This year he is hitting .285 with 14 homeruns in 77 games at AA. If there is one weakness in his game it is his ability to make contact. This year it has gotten worse with 97 whiffs in 77 games. One thing that has been reduced has been his errors. Last year he made 30 errors at short. This year he has only committed 9 errors.

2. Bo Bichette (Blue Jays) - Another son of a major leaguer (Dante) who also may move to second base. His bat is good enough for third but that will be Vladimir Guerrero Jrs position and the way Cavan Biggio is hitting second base could be occupied. The Blue Jays would like to see him succeed at short, but his range will be limited. The bat should play anywhere. Coming into the 2018 season the second round pick in the 2016 draft had a career .372 average. The Blue Jays have been aggressive with him, promoting him to AA after just 40 games in High A last year. His bat has slowed a bit, hitting .278 but he is making good contact and hitting the gaps for power with 21 doubles. He also has stolen 26 bases in 32 attempts. At short he needs to improve his consistency with 16 errors. A lack of range will not be tolerated if he commits a number of errors to go with that.

3. Royce Lewis (Twins) - Royce was the very first pick in the 2017 draft. The tools are there for him to stay at shortstop with solid range and a strong arm. He also has a good gene pool with his mom being a pretty talented softball player while playing for San Jose State. He just needs to improve on his consistency. The Twins are having him repeat at Low A where he finished last year. He is hitting .319 with 8 homeruns to run his slugging percentage to .491. His speed is also showing on the bases with 19 steals in 23 attempts. One area of improvement would be his patience at the plate. Currently his K to whiff ratio is above 2 to 1 (43/19) which would be an indicator that he is swinging at too many pitcher’s pitches. Considering his age (19) there is plenty of time for him to improve on that part of his game.

4. Carter Kieboom (Nationals) - His father played baseball in the Netherlands but moved to the United States to attend college in Illinois, where he also played baseball. His brother Spencer is a catcher in the Nationals system, Tommy John surgery preventing him from playing for Netherlands in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Carter was the Nationals first round pick in the 2016 draft. Spencer was a fifth round pick of the 2012 draft. It is obvious who has the tools. Carter may eventually have to move to second since his range and arm fall into the average category for short. If he sticks at short he will be an offensive oriented player who will struggle to help you on defense. After showing good power in High A this year, hitting 11 homeruns for a .494 slugging the Nationals promoted him to AA Harrisburg. In AA his bat continues to shine with a .375 average and two homeruns in 12 games. The Nationals have kept him at short despite his 14 errors in 68 games.

5. Kevin Smith (Blue Jays) - The fourth round pick in the 2017 draft has the tools to play shortstop. He earned the position as a freshman out of Maryland and played there for three years. The range may not be great but there is consistency in fielding the balls that he gets to. He also showed a little power in his bat, hitting 8 homeruns last year in the rookie league and going a perfect 9 for 9 in stolen bases. The one area of concern was his patience at the plate (16/70 walk to whiff ratio). This year his bat has been electric. A .355 average with 7 homeruns and a 1.046 OPS got him a promotion to High A. The bat continues to shine there with a .311 average and a .892 OPS. He is a year behind Bo but is probably the better defensive alternative of the two. Expect him to ultimately be the shortstop of the Blue Jays.

6. O’Neil Cruz (Pirates) - At 6′6 we can’t see the Dominican staying at short. His 24 errors in 71 games has put his fielding percentage just above .900. The Pirates did play him more at third his first couple years, but this year all his games have been at short. The long length gives him a large strike zone where last year he struck out 132 times in 105 games. This year his contact rate has improved and his power has taken off with 10 homeruns and a .525 slugging percentage. His long legs have enabled him to leg out seven triples. Unless his consistency in the field improves myworld sees him moving to third. At 19 years of age the Pirates have time to see if his consistency improves at short.

7. Nicky Lopez (Royals) - The Royals selected Nicky in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. They have been so impressed with his progress that in 2017 he skipped Low A and started in High A, hitting .295 to be promoted to AA. The defensive tools exist for him to be an above average shortstop. His instincts around the baseball field will allow him to play above his tools. The power is not there but his line drive swing will find the gaps. This year he raked at Arkansas hitting .331 with two homeruns. That got him a promotion to AAA. In his first three games there he hit .417 with two homeruns. The Royals have a couple defensive players at short who have struggled providing offense this year. Don’t be surprised to see Lopez promoted to the Royals for a September debut. The only thing holding him back would be to keep him off the 40 man roster so they can protect other players in 2019.

8. Jasardo Chisholm (Diamondbacks) - Lucius Fox is his half brother. The Diamondbacks signed Chisholm out of the Bahamas after watching his half brother play. Fox has the better speed but Jazz has the better defensive tools. He needs to improve his consistency on defense, committing 18 errors in 63 games. His bat was not supposed to carry a lot of power but this year he has already swatted 12 homeruns for a .475 slugging percentage. Improving his patience at the plate (27/77 walk to whiff ratio) could improve his .249 average. Time will tell if he can sustain the power. At 20 years of age he should fill out more and get stronger. If the power stays he could turn into an offensive oriented shortstop who plays a solid defense.

9. Gavin Lux (Dodgers) - Lux was the Dodgers first round pick in 2016. With Corey Seager at short Gavin would be the ideal player the Dodgers could trade to provide veteran help in a playoff run. Or they could move him to second. His uncle Augie Schmidt was the second overall pick in the 1982 draft but did not make a major league impact. After a poor 2017 season Gavin did not look deserving of his first round status. This year he seems to have found his bat, though his numbers are enhanced by the hitter friendly California League environment. He is hitting .310 with 8 homeruns and a .894 OPS. His fielding at short has lacked consistency so the Dodgers have been giving him some time at second base. Last year his speed allowed him to steal 27 bases in 37 attempts. This year he has been limited to seven stolen bases in 14 attempts.

10. Richie Martin (Athletics) - Richie was a first round pick of the Athletics in 2015. The big knock on him was his lack of a bat, which dropped him down the prospect ladder. Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto rated ahead of him with Marcus Semien the major league alternative. The defensive tools are gold glove caliber if he can find his bat. This year at AA the bat has been located. He entered this season with a career average of .236. In the Texas League he is hitting .311. The power is still absent limiting him to a bottom of the order placement in the lineup but the glove will make up for his lack of run production. If he continues to hit over .300 the Athletics may give him a September opportunity.

Top Ten Prospects from Venezuela - American League

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Venezuela has been overtaken by the Dominican Republic and even Cuba in the number of quality prospects in baseball. The political situation there has made major league scouts reluctant to travel to Venezuela. This forces Venezuelan prospects to travel to the Dominican Republic or other countries to be seen. The top ten from the American League list in 2017 did not have any top ten prospects graduate and become ineligible for the list this year. Franklin Barreto is the only player who saw significant time in the majors. Anthony Santander was a Rule V pick but did not stay healthy enough to lose his rookie status. Myworld put this list together before the season started so Gleyber Torres will obviously graduate from this list after this year. Below are the top ten prospects from Venezuela playing in the American League before the start of the 2018 season.

1. Gleyber Torres SS/3B/2B (Yankees) - Tommy John surgery last year prevented him from making his major league debut. It did not take long into the 2018 season before the Yankees called him up to fill a hole at second. He has performed well enough (.294, 10, 28) that he should stay with the Yankees all year and compete for the rookie of the year award. Last year he was number one on this list. Didi Gregorius at short and the performance of Miguel Andujar at third forces Gleyber to make his home at second base. He should hit over .300 and be a 20 plus homerun hitter in the major leagues.

2. Franklin Perez (RHP) Tigers - Franklin Perez was acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander deal. A right lat strain during spring training this year has delayed his season. It was expected he would miss three months but the Tigers will be patient with him. He has a fastball that hits the mid-90s but what separates him from the other pitchers with mid-90s fastballs is his control and a quality curve that freezes hitters anticipating the fastball. His change is also a pitch he can use to keep him in the starting rotation. Last year the strikeout numbers were not there, falling below a strikeout per inning. In high A he was tough to hit (.191) but in AA he was less of a mystery (.266). Expect some time in rehab at perhaps Low A or a rookie league before the Tigers assign him to their AA team.

3. Franklin Barreto (SS/2B) Athletics - The Athletics seem to like Marcus Semien as their shortstop and Jed Lowrie is having a career year playing second so Franklin will have to show even more patience this year before earning a starting spot in the major leagues. He was acquired from the Blue Jays back in 2014 in the Josh Donaldson trade. Last year he made his major league debut, getting 71 at bats but only hitting .197. This year he got a brief 6 at bat callup and did not get a hit. During his major league time his strikeout rate is above 40 percent. He shows some power with 15 homeruns last year, but his struggles making contact leave him as a question mark if that power can present itself in the major leagues. Last year he played most of his games at shortstop and committed 18 errors in 83 games. This year he is playing more at second base. He will have to wait until Jed Lowrie cools down before seeing significant major league time this year.

4. Kevin Maitan (SS/3B) Angels - Last year he was number two on the National League list. The Braves lost him to the Angels when he was declared a free agent after the Braves were found violating the international salary cap rule. At one time he was considered the top international prospect in baseball. He has grown heavier in the lower half since, turning into a Carlos Baerga type build which has lowered his prospect status. Many feel he no longer has the range to play short. Last year he made his stateside debut in the rookie leagues as a 17 year old. The reviews were mixed, but with a new organization he gets a fresh start. The Angels will start him in the Rookie Leagues once they get started at the end of the month. Where they put him will define his role.

5. Jairo Solis (RHP) Astros - The Astros signed Solis in 2016 for $450,000. His fastball has shown increased velocity since the signing, hitting 96 but sitting in the low 90s. At 6′2″ and only 160 he should gain some more velo as his 18 year old frame fills out. Last year he missed a lot of bats with an above average slider and change, striking out 10.1 hitters per nine innings in rookie ball. After some time in extended spring he was given an opportunity to pitch at Low A but in his first start retired only one batter. His second start he went five innings. He has yet to strikeout a hitter and walked five. If he continues his early season struggles the Astros may return him to the Rookie Leagues to give him some confidence.

6. Brusdar Graterol (RHP) Twins - Signed at 16 for $150,000 in 2014 he had to have Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2016 season. He returned last year and his fastball jumped almost 10 miles per hour after his surgery, hitting the mid-90s and reaching triple digits. Quality breaking pitches and good command have changed his prospect status and he has jumped ahead of Fernando Romero as having the best fastball in the Twins organization. His second year after Tommy John he is dominating at Low A (1.95 ERA) striking out more than 11 hitters per nine innings and limiting the opposition to a .192 average. Expect a promotion to High A after the All star break.

7. Thairo Estrada SS (Yankees) - A gunshot wound to the hip in Venezuela delayed the start of his season. He played eight games at AAA after a rehab in the Florida State League and only hit .152. The Yankees put him back on the disabled list in early May and he has not returned. Last year in AA he hit .301 and played a smooth shortstop. His bat carries little power but he makes good contact. The tools fall short for him to make it as a starter, but he could be used as a utility player.

8. Yohander Mendez (LHP) Rangers - Last year he was number three on the list. His fastball is not overpowering and his breaking pitches are below average. What he possesses is a quality change that makes his fastball look livelier. Last year in the major leagues he got seven relief appearances and was hit pretty hard, with not a lot of swings and misses. With only two pitches this may end up his role in the majors. This year he has returned to the rotation in AAA with less than stellar results. Hitters are hitting .294 against him and his strikeouts are not there. This did not prevent the Rangers from recently promoting him and using him in the bullpen. If he is going to make the starting rotation he must improve on one of his breaking pitches (slider or curve).

9. Samir Duenez (1B) Royals - Last year Samir broke out for power with 17 homeruns. The Royals signed him way back in 2012 and have been waiting for that. He won’t turn 22 until June 11 so there is still time for Samir to develop. While he is not fast he is excellent at running the bases, collecting 26 stolen bases in 2016. This year the Royals are having him repeat AA where his power has ticked up a little bit with five homeruns and a .451 slugging. His defense is not gold glove but it is adequate to fill the position. With Lucas Duda at first the Royals do not have a quality first baseman preventing him from getting a major league callup in September. The Royals 2017 first round pick Nick Pratto may prevent him from keeping that position long.

10. Carlos Hernandez (RHP) Royals - The Royals only spent $15,000 to sign him last year because he was 19 years old. At 6′4″ he had a nice pitcher’s frame and could whip the ball across the plate in the mid-90s. His breaking pitch was below average and he did not have much of a change but the Royals saw some future in his arm. Last year in rookie ball he struggled (5.49 ERA). Promoted to full season ball this year his numbers have gotten better (4.03 ERA). He just needs innings to improve on his pitches.

2017 Top Venezuelan Prospects in the American League

Top Cuban Prospects in the American League

Friday, May 18th, 2018

A number of Cubans have signed contracts with large bonuses but not a lot of them are seeing major league playing time. At least yet. The Dodgers have thrown a boatload of money at Cuban prospects but have gotten very little benefit from those signings. One, Alex Guerrero is now tearing it up in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.

Last year a couple players from the 2017 top Cuban prospects in the American League top ten list saw some major league playing time that they are no longer eligible for the 2018 list. The top prospect Yoan Moncada is one of them. Problems making contact have resulted in some initial struggles in the major leagues, but he seems to be doing better in 2018 now that he has the starting second base job for the White Sox. The fourth rated prospect Yandy Diaz also graduated, but a lack of power at a position (third base) where power is expected has put him back in the minor leagues to begin the 2018 season. His best bet may be as a utility player. The ninth rated prospect veteran Yulieski Gurriel made it as a first baseman with the Astros, a position he did not play in Cuba. The eighth rated prospect Guillermo Heredia plays superb defense but has still not shown the bat to be nothing more than a fourth outfielder. The suspension of Robinson Cano may move Dee Gordon back to second, giving Heredia another opportunity to show he can make it as a starter.

With Norge Ruiz dropping from the 2017 list that leaves five open spots for new players to appear on the 2018 list. Below are the top ten Cuban prospects playing for American League teams.

1. Luis Robert OF (White Sox) - if the White Sox can keep Jose Abreu they could have a lineup with one third of their players originating from Cuba. The White Sox shelled out a record $26 million bonus to sign Luis. With the new international cap restrictions Luis may be the last of the big time Cuban signings. Luis has the five tools to make him a superstar. So did Yasiel Puig. What he does with those tools will determine his fate in the major leagues. His best tool is his speed with an arm that will allow him to move to right field. At 6′3″ he has the bulk to hit for power. Many Cubans struggle hitting the diet of breaking pitches they see when they get to the States but Luis showed decent contact last year playing in the Dominican League. A sprained thumb has delayed the start of his 2018 season until mid May. Last year in the Dominican League Luis hit .310 with 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts, three homeruns and a .536 slugging average in 28 games, missing a lot of time with minor injuries. Hopefully his tightly wound up body is not plagued by injuries, something that has hampered the production of Yoenis Cespedes.

2. Julio Pablo Martinez OF (Rangers) - The Rangers lost out on the Shohei Ohtani signing, but they did sign Martinez for $2.8 million. Martinez does not have the size of Robert (5′8 to 5′10″) or the 100 mile per hour fastball of Ohtani but he has a collection of speed and power that makes him attractive. His speed may be a tick faster than Robert but his arm is not as strong. His power is also short of Robert. His speed resulted in a number of stolen bases in Cuba and should allow him to stick in centerfield. If he fails in center it will send him down the same path as Adonis Garcia, a fourth outfielder who lacks the power to play corner. Julio had a career .430 slugging average in Cuba but much of his career there was played as a teenager. The Rangers have not assigned him to a minor league team as of yet. When ready he is expected to play at Low A.

3. Lourdes Gurriel 2B/SS (Blue Jays) - In Cuba the teams there could not find a position for him. The Blue Jays are also finding it difficult to fit him at a position. He started as a shortstop in Cuba but has played second and third. A lack of consistency in the field has resulted in him moving to a number of positions. Myworld would like to see how he handles the outfield where his oldest brother Yuniesky plays. Lourdes is the younger brother of Yuli Gurriel and the son of Lourdes who played on the Cuban national team that won a number of gold medals in Olympic and World Cup play. Last year the Blue Jays tried him at second and short. At short his fielding percentage was .837 in the Florida State League. This year his fielding has been more consistent at second and short, even seeing eight games in the major leagues at short and committing just one error. His bat is what teams want to see in the lineup. The Blue Jays are filled with players of famous fathers who played in the major leagues (Guerrero, Biggio, Bichette, Dwight Smith) and Gurriel is another whose father could have played in the major leagues. The power is there for him to hit 20 plus homeruns if he can show a little more patience at the plate and not swing at pitcher’s pitches.

4. Yordan Alvarez 1B/OF (Astros) - The Dodgers originally signed Alvarez for $2 million but traded him to the Astros before he ever played a game. At 6′5″ Yordan is a big guy oozing with power potential. Defensively his best position may be first base. The Astros are using him in left field. A lack of speed and arm makes that the only outfield position he would be best fitted for. Last year a wrist injury limited him to 90 games. It also sapped his power, his slugging average dropping from .658 in Low A to .393 in High A. In his first 27 games this year he was slugging .542 but a collision at third base but him on the disabled list again. Myworld hopes this does not become part of a pattern.

5. Lazaro Armenteros OF (Athletics) - He came with a lot of hype. The nickname for him was Lazarito. The hype may have been a bit exaggerated. A below average arm and lack of burner speed has put him in left. It is hoped that as his body fills out he will hit for power to fit the position. In his debut in the rookie league he did hit four homeruns and slugged .474 as an 18 year old. The strikeouts are prevalent, but he did steal 12 bases in 15 attempts. The Athletics assigned him to Low A in early May where in 10 games he is hitting .324 with two homeruns. The Athletics paid him a $3 million bonus. If he is restricted to left field his bat needs to show some power if they want to get their money’s worth.

6. Cionel Perez LHP (Astros) - Cionel was a bit upset when the Astros originally offered him a $5.15 million bonus in 2016 then reduced it to $2 million when they found problems with his elbow. Not an overpowering pitcher with a fastball in the low 90s the elbow was not an issue last year when he started 16 games. His results were rather ordinary with AA hitters mashing him at a .294 clip. The start of the 2018 season has seen different results with AA hitters flailing away at a .229 clip with a 1.59 ERA in five starts. The Astros are quite satisfied with their starting pitching at the moment so Cionel may have to wait until the 2019 season to get a major league opportunity.

7. Rogelio Armenteros RHP (Astros) - Rogelio was an unheralded Cuban prospect who signed for $40,000 in 2014. He is a crafty pitcher who relies on an above average change that makes his low 90s fastball appear faster. He also controls the plate with above average command. Since signing he has been carving up minor league hitters to a .231 average. After limiting AAA hitters to a .207 average last year in 10 starts he has not had the same success this year, getting tagged for a .274 average. His last two outings have been better, giving up just one earned run in 10.2 innings. Expect him to pitch the full season in AAA, unless injuries decimate the depth the Astros have in their starting rotation.

8. Yanio Perez OF/3B (Rangers) - The Rangers signed Yanio for $1.14 million in 2016 after he starred for Cuba in 2013 in the 18 and under World Cup. He played two uneventful seasons in Cuba as a teenager before leaving for the United States. His lack of speed restricts him to the outfield corners. The Rangers moved him to third base this year but he was injured after just three games and has yet to return. Power is what the Rangers are hoping from him. Last year he hit 14 homeruns in his professional debut at Low and High A. They won’t see that if he doesn’t avoid the disabled list.

9. Andy Ibanez 2b/3B (Rangers) - Ibanez was a star in the making in Cuba, the youngest player to make the World Baseball Classic team. The Rangers signed him in 2015 for $1.6 million after he played three years in Cuba as a teenager. His tools are not off the charts and his lack of speed and power restrict him to second base, where Rougned Odor currently plays. Even at second base his defense does not make up for what appears to be an average bat. Last year he hit .265 in AA with six homeruns and a .400 slugging average. This year he is in AAA hitting an impressive .325 with two homeruns and a .447 slugging average. If he can keep putting up those 2018 numbers that could get him a major league opportunity but it won’t be long term. There just isn’t enough there.

10. Elian Rodriguez RHP (Astros) - Elian replaces Norge Ruiz as the number 10 on this list because he has more flashy tools. At 6′4″ he has a good pitcher’s frame. His fastball zips across the plate in the mid-90s as he attacks hitters with quality stuff. At 20 years old he is also young enough to improve. The Astros signed him for $2 million last year. He was roughed up a bit in the Dominican League, walking 30 hitters in just 25 innings and getting ripped for a .313 average. He has yet to appear in a game this year but will probably begin his season in the rookie level leagues.

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

Samurai Japan to Play Major League All Star Team

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The Japan National Team will play a major league All Star team in a six game series in November. The series will begin November 9 and be played in Tokyo Dome (three games), Mazda Stadium (Hiroshima for one game) and Nagoya Dome (Chunichi for two games).

Major league baseball has also stated that two major league teams, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, will open their season in Japan next year at the Tokyo Dome (home of the Yomiuri Giants). The two teams will play exhibition games prior to their openers against two Japanese teams. The Athletics and Mariners also opened their season in Japan in 2012.

Predictions - AL West

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Most of the free agents have been signed so now it is time for myworld to make our Division predictions. With a number of teams in rebuilding mode many of the races will be limited. Below is myworld’s prediction for the AL West.

1. Houston Astros

Overall - They return a veteran team that only got better with the acquisition of Gerritt Cole. This creates a seven deep rotation. They led the American League in hitting by 20 points and bring all their bats back. Their pitching should be improved with Cole on the bump.

Strength - 1) Starting pitching. No team can claim a big three of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole. That trio should combine for 60 wins. Lance McCullers is a home grown starting pitcher who will slot in the fourth spot. Few pitchers were hotter than Charlie Morton at the end of the year. He will fit in the fifth spot. Waiting in the bullpen for the opportunity to start will be Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, who combined for 18 wins last year.
2) Up the middle. No team has a foursome up the middle like the Astros. MVP Jose Altuve starts the machine rolling at second base. Carlos Correa is a potential superstar who reminds many of Alex Rodriguez in his glory days. George Springer moved from right field to center last year and will get most of his time there. Brian McCann may be the weak link of this group, but he still has some swag behind the plate. Those four combined for 100 homeruns last year.
3) Utility - Marwin Gonzalez is a good dude to have. He plays everywhere except catcher and spent most of his outfield time in left field. Utility players usually do not come with 23 homeruns and 90 RBIs.

Weakness - 1) Catcher. At 34 Brian McCann may be headed for the down side of his career. His defense has tailed off a little. Behind him is Evan Gattis, another weak defensive catcher. Gattis may be better off in the DH role.
2) First Base. Yuli Gurriel did a good job there last year but his best position is third or second base. He will miss the first couple weeks of the season giving the Astros time to test youngsters A.J. Reed or Tyler White. Marwin Gonzalez will probably see most of the time there until Gurriel is healthy.

Top Rookie - Kyle Tucker is having a hot spring. Defensively he may be better at center than Springer. If he continues to hit in the minors the Astros may be tempted to move him to left, taking away playing time from Marwin Gonzalez, or move him to center where Springer can return to right and Josh Reddick can shift to left.

Top Prospect - Forest Whitely. His season will be delayed by 50 games because of a drug suspension but the 2016 first round pick can be dominating on the mound. At 6′7″ with a mid-90s fastball he can be scary to face.

Expected Finish - The Astros have a lot of depth in the rotation and Marwin Gonzalez can cover almost any position if an injury should occur. Astros should take this division in a walk away.

2. Los Angeles Angels

Overall - The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. Add the best player in Japan to Mike Trout the best player in the United States and you have a pretty good duo. The pitching needs to stay healthy if the Angels want to stay with the Astros.

Strengths - 1) Mike Trout. He is the best player in baseball and as long as he stays healthy enough for centerfield the Angels will be tough.
2) Shortstop. Andrelton Simmons won the gold glove last year. Many consider him the best defensive shortstop in baseball. Last year his bat came to life with 14 homeruns and a .278 average.

3) Shohei Ohtani - The Angels hope he will help on the mound and with the bat. If he doesn’t hit the Angels may try to convince him to abandon the hitting.

Weakness - 1) Starting pitching. It needs to stay healthy. Their projected rotation has no starter with more than 25 starts. Garrett Richards and Shohei Ohtani could be a potent one/two but the duo each started less than 10 times. What follows them is back end of the rotation starters.
2) First Base. Albert Pujols is not the player he used to be. With his foot problems his best position could be DH but the Angels want to start Shohei Ohtani there in between his starts on the hill. So Pujols will try his hand at first where he only played six games last year.
3) Catcher. Can’t say we are enamored with the offense of Martin Maldonado or Rene Rivera. Their defense is strong but their production on offense will be lacking.
4) Bullpen. No established closer. They may eventually settle on Cam Bedrosian, who has better stuff than Blake Parker. Blake had 8 saves last year while Cam settled for 6.

Top Rookie - Shohei Ohtani. In Japan he could blow hitters away with his 100 mile per hour fastball. When he was not pitching he could mash fastballs 450 feet. He could be the first player in the major leagues to reach double digits in wins and homeruns. He has already done that in Japan. The last player to do that in the major leagues was a player named Babe Ruth.

Top Prospect - Taking Ohtani away from the equation the next best prospect is five tooled outfielder Jo Adell. The 2017 first round pick has excellent power and speed. Eventually he will replace Mike Trout in centerfield, a daunting task.

Expected Finish - They need Albert Pujols to extend his hot streaks and Ohtani not to struggle on inside fastballs. Having the best player in Japan and the United States should give them enough wins to capture the second wild card spot and second place in the West.

3. Texas Rangers

Overall - The Rangers may have passed their prime. They appear to be in that in between spot where age is settling in at a couple positions.

Strengths - 1)Infield. Adrian Beltre needs to defy his 39 years of age and Roughned Odor must show that last year’s .204 batting average was a fluke. Joey Gallo also struggled to hit for average (.209) and will take over first base. Odor and Gallo combined for 358 whiffs. They also combined for 71 homeruns. Elvis Andrus plays a good shortstop and his 20 homeruns and 88 RBIs was just a bonus. He needs to show those numbers were not a fluke.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting pitching. Cole Hamels did not have a good year by his standards (4.20 ERA) but he will be the Rangers ace. For the Rangers to do well he needs to pitch well. Behind him you have too many question marks in Martin Perez, Doug Fister and Matt Moore. The Rangers park tends to be a hitter’s park and these pitchers should see some nasty splits.
2) Bullpen. There is no established closer. Matt Bush was not good at it last year but may be their most established closer. Alex Claudio picked up 11 saves but he has trouble retiring righthanded batters. Perhaps the Rangers will go with a platoon closer.

3) Left Field. With the demotion of Willie Calhoun this position appears to have a big hole. The Rangers may settle for a group of Shin-Soo Choo, Drew Robinson and Ryan Rua. Willie will be back up when his service time is limited.

Top Rookie - Willie Calhoun may have already been sent down but he will be back up when April turns to May. His defense in left field is a concern but his bat could be good enough for 30 plus homeruns.

Top Prospect - Leody Taveras began to show some power last year. He will probably be promoted to High A to play there as a teenager. Leody is a gold glove candidate for centerfield with the speed and patience to fit into a leadoff role.

Expected Finish - The pitching staff will give up a lot of runs and the offense lacks the power to mount a come back. A third place finish with a lot of air between them and the Angels is the best they can hope for.

4. Seattle Mariners

Overall - An offense that is too pedestrian, relying on two aging veterans and a pitching staff that saw its prime whizz past them without a playoff appearance. There is no Wow in this lineup or on the mound.

Strengths - 1) Designated Hitter. Nelson Cruz missed another 40 homerun season by one. His 119 RBIs led the American League. Whether his 38 year old bat can continue his offensive production is open to question.
2) Second Base. At 35 Robinson Cano is getting up in age. His stolen base numbers have dropped to one and his power has fallen below the .500 slugging standard of power hitters, but his production is still quality for the position.
3) Shortstop. Jean Segura is one of the better offensive performers in the American League. Last year he hit 11 homeruns.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting Rotation. Felix Hernandez having success is the key. Without him they can only bring the brittle James Paxton as a quality rotation pitcher. It is bleak behind Hernandez and Paxton with pitchers released by other teams. Hisashi Iwakuma was limited to six starts last year because of injuries and signed a minor league contract. He won’t be ready until mid-season.
2) First Base. Ryon Healy will get the first shot. He was acquired from the Oakland Athletics. There is power in his bat with 25 homeruns but Oakland traded him because they had better options. Dan Vogelbach brings little defense to the position and may be best used as DH. Mike Ford is an unproven third option who was dumped by the Yankees.
3) Corner Outfield. Ben Gamel will miss the first month of the season. With very little depth that will force the Mariners to settle for light hitting Guillermo Heredia or the 44 year old Ichiro Suzuki, whose bat speed leaves him far below .300. Mitch Haniger played well in his 96 game stretch in right field but needs to stay healthy. There is little quality behind Gamel or Haniger.

Top Rookie - Veterans sprinkle most of the positions but Dan Vogelbach could get enough at bats rotating between first base and DH.

Top Prospects - Injuries have forced Kyle Lewis to spend too many days away from the diamond. He was hoping for a healthy year this year but knee problems shortened his Arizona Fall League stint. He had five tool potential but the knee issues could limit his speed.

Expected Finish - Too much vanilla to finish any higher than third. Their farm system will also provide little help.

5. Oakland Athletics

Overall - The Athletics seem to be floating in an ether of nothingness. It is almost as if they are not trying to be good. They make trades but seem to get no advantage from these trades. Players are traded two years before they reach their free agency which does not give the Athletics a lot of use from their players.

Strengths - 1) DH - Khris Davis has slugged 40 homeruns two years in a row. His arm and glove are not strong for the outfield so the Athletics feel a move from left field to DH is best for the defense. Some players hit better when they are more involved in the field. Give Davis a bat in his hands and he will become one of the more productive hitters in the DH slot.
2) Corner Infielders - They have two promising youngsters to fill their corner infield positions in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. Olson slugged 24 homeruns in just 59 games. Both players will get on base via the walk and have the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns given a full season.

Weakness - 1) Left Field. The Athletics will go with Matt Joyce who struggles to hit lefthanders, which may bring out Davis to play left field. Joyce was able to show power last year with 25 homeruns, but he has been bounced around the league. Consistency has always been his weakness.
2) Catcher. Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley bring minimal offense. This will probably be a platoon since Maxwell has trouble hitting lefthanders.
3) Second Base. Jed Lowrie has always been a backup wherever he plays. Last year he had a career year. It will be interesting to see if he can repeat his production. Franklin Barreto is a good option behind him, but he is unproven.

4) Starting Pitching. Young and lacking anyone that can be called an ace or number two starter. Sean Manaea is the ace until Puk gets called up to fill the rotation.

Rookie - The Athletics always seem to have a plethora of rookies fill their roster. Dustin Fowler appears to have won the centerfield job. Franklin Barreto must wait until Lowrie struggles or gets injured before he gets an opportunity. Watch out for A.J. Puk.

Top Prospect - A.J. Puk, the Athletics first round pick in 2016 is having a good spring. It may not take much to get him a promotion and with the injury to Jharel Cotton his opportunity may be now.

Prospects Impressing in Spring

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Below are some of the top prospects impressing in spring. This may not lead to a trip with the major league club in April, but it has opened the eyes of major league managers when they have a need for a player. Also, much of their production may be coming against similar minor league prospects. Myworld does know that Tim Tebow struck out on three pitches against Max Scherzer. He would be a tough assignment for any prospect.

Ronald Acuna (Braves) - He hit his first homerun of the spring yesterday and is hitting .429. The trade of Matt Kemp certainly created a nice hole in left field for Acuna but there are still a few free agent outfielders to sign.

Ryan McMahon Utility (Rockies) - Ryan is hitting .409 with one homerun, strafing the gaps with three doubles. The Rockies may not have room for him at first base but could use him in a utility role if they think they could give him the at bats.

Willie Calhoun LF (Rangers) - His defense may be short but his bat is hitting .389 with one homerun. The Rangers left field spot is open for him to win.

Fernando Tatis Jr SS (Padres) - Still a little young to see time with the Padres in 2018 but he is hitting .381 with one homerun and 8 RBIs. He has also stolen three bases in three attempts.

Franklin Barreto SS (Athletics) - He may not be hitting for a high average (.294) but his .882 slugging percentage is enhanced by two triples and two homeruns. He has scored more times (6) than he has hits (5).

Miguel Andujar 3B (Yankees) - After hitting four early in the spring his homerun pace has slowed. He is still hitting .429 with a 1.579 OPS.

Scott Kingery 2B (Phillies) - Maikel Franco is not hitting so perhaps the Phillies will try Kingery at third. He has blasted three homeruns with a .389 average and a .944 slugging percentage

Kyle Tucker OF (Astros) - His homer pace has slowed after hitting three early in the spring but a .333 average and 8 RBIs would be nice production if the Astros are in need of an outfielder.

Luis Arias SS (Padres) - Five of his seven hits have been doubles, creating a .538 average. As he has done in his minor league career he has more walks (4) than whiffs (2).

Lewis Brinson OF (Marlins) - Luis is gunning for the Marlins centerfield position with a .400 average. Four of his six hits have been doubles but he has also struck out five times in 15 at bats.

Sandy Alcantara RHP (Marlins) - Sandy is another Marlins acquisition they would like to see perform. He has pitched in two games with one start and worked five innings for a 1.80 ERA. Only three whiffs but a .235 opposition average and no walks.

Tyler Mahle RHP (Reds) - He has been getting innings (6.2) with three relief appearances and seven whiffs. The opposition has struggled with a .190 average but a 4.05 ERA could keep him in AAA.

Chih-Wei Hu RHP (Rays) - Hu has pitched three perfect innings in his two appearances. The Rays could use him in their bullpen.

A.J. Puk LHP (Athletics) - One start and one relief appearances has given him five innings where he has only allowed one hit, an unearned run and struck out four.

David Paulino RHP (Astros) - David is gunning for the Astors bullpen with his two relief appearances with five whiffs in 4.2 innings. He has only allowed one hit but walked two.