Archive for the 'Cuba' Category

Under 15 World Cup Scheduled for Tijuana in October

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Tijuana, Mexico is becoming a hot spot for baseball. First it was announced that the Women’s World Cup of Baseball would be played there November 12-21. Now the WBSC has made it a double header by announcing that the Under 15 World Cup will be played in Tijuana on October 30 to November 8. That is back to back World Cup events held in one city.

In the last World Cup held in 2018 the United States defeated Panama, while Taiwan finished third. The teams that will be competing in this 15 and under World Cup are:

Africa: South Africa
Americas: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, United States and Venezuela
Asia: Taiwan and Japan
Europe: Germany and Italy
Oceania: Guam

Women’s Baseball World Cup Scheduled for November

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

It was originally scheduled for September 11-20 but had to be cancelled because of the corona virus. It has now been scheduled for November 12-21 in Tijuana, Mexico. Twelve teams will be competing in this event. They are:

Americas: United States, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela
Asia: Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines
Europe: France
Oceania: Australia
Wild Card: Cuba, Dominican Republic and Netherlands

Japan is the defending champion and has won the last six events. They have not lost a game in their last 30 contests. Taiwan lost in the finals to Japan. Canada defeated the United States for the bronze medal. The 2018 games were played in Vierra, Florida.

Cuban Dream Team

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The Cuban Dream Team could be better if they were not limited to just players who have played in the major leagues. There are a number of Hall of Famers who dominated in international tournaments that probably could have been good major league ball players, but in the early days it was rare for players to defect. The Cuban arrival to major league baseball is still in its infancy when compared with the Dominicans arrival. So the team may not be quite as good but they have some stars. Again, to qualify for the Dream team the player has to be born in Cuba and played in the major leagues. Myworld used Baseball Reference as its focal point to identify the players.

Starting Lineup

Minie Minoso CF
Tony Oliva LF
Tony Perez 1B
Jose Canseco RF
Rafael Palmeiro DH
Yuli Gurriel 3B
Yoan Moncada 2B
Yasmani Grandal C
Bert Campaneris SS

Bench

Eli Marrero C, Jose Abreu 1B, Zoilo Versalles UTL, Leo Cardenas UTL, Yoenis Cespedes OF, Yordan Alvarez OF

Starting Pitching

Luis Tiant, Dolf Luque, Jose Fernandez, Mike Cuellar, Livan Hernandez

Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman, Raisel Iglesias, Diego Segui, Danys Baez, Pedro Ramos, Camilo Pascual

Luis Robert and Jorge Soler may put themselves on this team next year just as Yordan Alvarez put himself on this team based on his rookie performance. Gurriel had a breakout season last year, but was always one of the top players in the Cuban League with Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes. Myworld was torn between Paul Casanova or Marrero as the back up catcher. The team probably has too many first base/DH types that are poor defensively and too many utility players that do not shine offensively when you think of a Dream team. The starting pitching is rock solid, even with the abbreviated opportunity Fernandez had to pitch. The bullpen was a little shy of arms so myworld was forced to add two long relievers in Pascual and Ramos who can both start and relieve. This team will compete.

Comparing Yoenis to Yoelkis Cespedes from Cuban League Numbers

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

July 2 is coming up and that is the time major league teams normally sign international prospects. This year could be a little different because of the corona virus and the suspension on scouting. Most teams have had their players for this year committed by 15 and probably already have informal contracts in place so there probably should not be that big an impact on signings. The one player getting a lot of buzz is the half brother of Yoenis Cespedes, Yoelkis. When you compare their Cuban numbers you have to wonder why, unless it is a down year for international prospects.

Yoennis was a stud in the Cuban League. You look at his Cuban numbers and as a 20 year old through his early years he was among the league leaders in homeruns, hitting between 15 to 33 his last year, finally defecting at the age of 26. His first couple years he had walk to whiff ratios of 28/65 and 34/59 but after that the number of walks to whiffs were about equal in his last six years. His career Cuban batting average was about .319.

His major league seasons have been impressive when healthy, but staying healthy has been an issue. His best season was in 2015 when he hit 35 homeruns, followed the next season with the Mets when he hit 31. After that his last three years have been major disappointments, plagued by injuries. One has to wonder about his motivation to continue playing.

Looking at the Cuban numbers for Yoelkis brings up some rather unimpressive stats. This is a league that has also been watered down with defections. The pitching is not as strong as when Yoenis played.

Yoelkis put in four years in the Cuban League, half the time as his brother. Both started their careers at 18 years of age. Yet according to the stats on Baseball Reference, Yoelkis highest homerun numbers are just six. Yoennis hit 9 hist first year, 15 his second year and 23 his third year with a career batting average of .319. Yoelkis has just 12 homeruns in his four years in the Cuban League with a career batting average of .287. His walk to whiff rate is also not impressive (37/133).

Finally, if you look at slugging numbers Yoennis slugged .585 over his eight year career, including slugging over .500 in his first four years in the Cuban League. Yoelkis has a career .415 slugging average and has yet to reach the .500 slugging mark in his four years of Cuban ball.

Myworld would be cautious about spending big bucks for Yoelkis, based on the numbers in baseball reference. He is also listed at 5′7″ for his height where Yoennis is shown at 5′10″. We see nothing more than a fourth outfielder or organizational player in the minor leagues, if those numbers at Baseball Reference are accurate.

Top Cuban Prospects - National League

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Myworld had a tough time finding that sure number one Cuban prospect for the National League. Last year Adrian Morejon was number one. This year he has dropped. Yadier Alvarez and Yoan Lopez graduated from last year’s list. With just two players dropping (Adolis Garcia and Vladimir Gutierrez) that left room for only four new players on the list. Below are the top Cuban prospects in the National League for 2020.

1. Jose Garcia SS (Reds) - He jumped all the way up from number 9. Perhaps I was too influenced by the kind of spring he was having before the corona virus hit. Unlike Luis Robert, the number one Cuban prospect in the American League Jose is not blessed with extraordinary tools. The Reds signed him for $5 million in 2017. He moved from second to short and has shown he possesses the glove and the arm for the position. His bat was a question mark. The first year he hit just .245 in Low A with a .344 slugging average. Last year he improved his hitting in High A with a .280 average and a .436 slugging. Most of the increase in slugging was due to his 37 doubles, an increase of 15 over last year. Garcia will mainly be a gap hitter, though his 6′2″ frame could reflect double digit homerun power as he matures. Jose should play AA next year. With a good season he could get a callup in 2020, but more likely 2021.

2. Randy Arozarena OF (Rays) - He went from not appearing on this list last year to number 2. At 25 he may be a little old to be a highly rated prospect. The Cardinals traded him this year in the Matthew Liberatore trade to free some outfield space. The Rays outfield is a bit crowded as well but Arozarena should find himself somewhere in the lineup before the season ends. The Cardinals signed him for $1.25 million in 2016. His power seems to be improving with 15 homeruns between AA and AAA with a slugging percentage of .571. This led to a promotion to the major leagues where he added one more tater. He has the speed to cover centerfield and the arm to play right. As a centerfielder he would probably be average defensively, but put him on the corner and he could win gold gloves. He hopes to build on his 2019 season and earn a starting role in 2020 for the Rays.

3. Victor Victor Mesa OF (Marlins) - He and his younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. defected on the same day. Victor Victor got the brunt of the bonus money signing for $5.2 million while his younger brother signed for just $1 million. Victor Victor is five years older than his younger brother so in due time Victor Jr may develop into a better player. Their dad is a Cuban Hall of Famer and one of the reasons Victor Victor left Cuba was the pressure the Cuban fans placed on him to meet their expectations of the son of a Hall of Famer. The transition has been a struggle. In High A he hit only .252 which resulted in a promotion to AA where he only hit .178 for a .235 average. He failed to have a ball sail over the park in 464 at bats and only slugged .263 with a .274 OBA. If he had put those numbers up in Cuba they would be roasting him but in the minor leagues he is barely noticed. Defensively he has great speed to cover ground in centerfield with a very strong arm. He does make good contact with the ball but the exit velocity is lacking. If he wants to make it to the major league he needs to do it with a better bat. At 24 years of age in July his best bet is to play AA to get him close to the major leagues for a 2021 debut.

4. Michel Baez RHP (Padres) - At 6′8″ Michel has a dominating presence. The Padres signed him for $3 million in 2016. Last year he made his major league debut, getting 23 relief appearances. As a starter his command just wasn’t there and a quality breaking pitch was lacking. His fastball/change combination were better suited for the bullpen. His fastball reaches 99. In AA he averaged 12.7 whiffs per nine innings, but that dropped to 8.5 in the major leagues. Expect him to start the year in the Padres bullpen.

5. Malcolm Nunez 3B (Cardinals) - The Cardinals are a little crowded at third with Nolan Gorman and Elehuris Montero ahead of him in the minor leagues. Malcolm was signed for only $300,000 in 2018. The Cardinals were rewarded with a power bat in 2018 where a .414 average and 13 homeruns with a .774 slugging average in the Rookie League put him on the prospect map. He could not replicate those numbers last year, struggling with a .183 average in Low A. He got sent back down to Rookie ball where he hit .254, still not near his average of the previous year. His burly physique will limit him to third base or first base. His foot speed is too slow to make it as an outfielder. His power will reward his team for putting his bat in the lineup but a position may be lacking. Perhaps when he is ready the National League will have the DH. That will be around 2023 if he can get past Rookie ball.

6. Andy Pages OF (Dodgers) - Compared to what the Dodgers have spent on Cuban prospects Pages was a bargain at $300,000. They signed him in 2018 when international salary caps were in place, protecting the Dodgers against themselves. Last year was the first full year Andy played in the United States and he showed some excellent power, slugging 19 homeruns in Rookie ball. He also hit for an acceptable .298 average despite 79 whiffs in just 63 games. Pages has average speed and could survive in centerfield, but his strong arm makes him a better fit for right. At 19 he is still young, but the tools he has are impressive. There is still a couple years of minor leagues he has to play before he is ready to wear a Dodger uniform, but he is certainly a player to watch.

7. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) - Last year Morejon was first on this list. An off year where he got lit up in a brief major league appearance (10.13 ERA) calls into question whether his stuff is good enough to be a top of the rotation starter. Major league hitters mashed him at a .385 clip. Even his AA outings were disappointing (4.25 ERA), although he whiffed 11 hitters per nine innings and limited opponents to a .215 average. His fastball hits the mid-90s but he has too many outings where he just doesn’t know where it is going. His secondary pitches also show promise for the rotation. Another issue that keeps coming up is his susceptibility to getting injured. He has yet to pitch over 70 innings in a season. This could result in an eventual move to the bullpen. Last year his season ended early because of shoulder issues, so he will start the 2020 season in AAA. Eventually, if the injuries keep occurring he will be moved to the bullpen.

8. Johan Oviedo RHP (Cardinals) - The Cardinals signed Oviedo for $1.9 million in 2016, the same year they also signed Arozarena. At 6′6″ Johan has intimidating size, but all that length makes it difficult for him to throw strikes. At 22 he is still young. He dominated at High A going 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five starts. His mid-90s fastball can get swings and misses but his inability to find the plate resulted in 64 walks in 113 innings at AA for a 5.65 ERA in 23 starts. He may have to repeat AA in 2020 but a good year could see him crack the Cardinals rotation. He should be ready to compete for a spot in 2021.

9. Ronald Bolanos RHP (Padres) - Bolanos is the third Padre on this list. They signed him in 2016 for $2.25 million, the same year as the signings of Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon. He started his season in High A, but before the year was done he found himself wearing a major league uniform. The fastball hits the mid-90s and the breaking balls (slider and curve) are solid. His change still needs work as does the command of his pitches. In his major league debut he walked 12 batters in 20 innings resulting in a 5.95 ERA. The Padres have a lot of options for their starting rotation, so if Bolanos still struggles to find the plate he could be another arm used out of the bullpen. The 2020 season should see him work more innings for the Padres.

10. Victor Mesa Jr OF (Marlins) - Myworld was torn between Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers and Victor. Miguel may lack the power or defense to play third and his speed would be a detriment to the outfield. Without power first base would not be a good fit. So we went with Victor Jr., who signed for $1 million, $4 million less than his brother. Last year saw him have a better year than his older brother, hitting .284 in Rookie ball with the only homerun among the Mesa brothers. Like his older brother, Victor Jr. is not expected to have a power bat but his speed is not as fast as his brother. Playing a corner outfield without that power is not a good fit. He is only 18 so there is plenty of time to work on improving the bat. He is still a few years away from playing for the Marlins.

Top Ten Cuban Prospects - American League

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Cuba has not yet passed the Dominican Republic for their quality of prospects, but they are getting close to passing Venezuela if they have not done that already. The American League is the weaker conference for Cuban prospects, though if you would add WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to each of the players totals in the top ten the American League might come out on top because of their top prospect.

A couple players graduated from last year’s list. The number two prospect Yordan Alvarez made an impressive debut for the Astros, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award. His teammate, Cionel Perez did not make as impressive a debut, and will need to improve upon his showing if he wants to pitch int the Astros pen. The lefthanded pitcher allowed lefthanders to hit .300 against him, something he needs to improve on if he wants to be effective in the bullpen.

Four players dropped from the list. This leaves six new players to be added. Below are the top ten Cuban prospects from the American League.

1. Luis Robert OF (White Sox) - There is a lot of pressure on Roberts as baseball people are calling him the new Mike Trout. The White Sox have shown so much confidence in him that he is already guaranteed to make $76 million before he even makes a major league appearance. This includes a 26 million bonus when he signed with the White Sox out of Cuba in 2017. His first complete year in 2018 was not so hot when he failed to hit a homerun in close to 200 at bats. A thumb injury bothered him all that season. Last year he broke out with 32 homeruns and 36 stolen bases, becoming one of two 30-30 players in the minor leagues. He has the speed to play centerfield and steal bases, the strength to hit for power and the ability to make hard contact to hit for a high average. There is a bit too much swing and miss in his at bats but that is an issue most teams will take from their power hitters. Luis will be the starting centerfielder for the White Sox this year based on the six year $50 million contract he signed.

2. Roberto Campos OF (Tigers) - Hard to rate Roberto this high when he has yet to play in a minor league game but there is a lot of buzz about him. The Tigers shelled out $2.85 million to sign him. He allegedly left Cuba at 13 years of age and the Tigers hid him for a couple years at their minor league facilities in the Dominican Republic, before signing him. He defected with his older brother after winning the MVP award in a youth international tournament in the Dominican Republic. He lacks the speed to play center but his arm should be good enough for right. At 6′3″ he has good size to have the ability to hit for power. Since he has not really played competitive baseball in about three years it is difficult to predict how he will hit, especially when going against the tough breaking pitches. The Tigers could start him in the Dominican Summer League before promoting him to the major league club. He is still a few years away from impacting the Tigers major league roster.

3. Yusniel Diaz OF (Orioles) - The Orioles gave up Manny Machado for a trio of Dodger minor leaguers. Yusniel was the key to that group. His prospect status has taken a hit as he becomes mired in the quagmire that is AA, the 2019 season completing his third year in Bowie/Tulsa. The Dodgers paid a $15.5 million bonus to sign him back in 2015. So far he has not quite lived up to the hype. His power has remained hidden, stuck on 11 homeruns for three consecutive years with a modest .440 slugging average. Leg injuries last year limited him to just 76 games. If he had played a full season he could have been promoted to AAA. Yusniel has decent speed, but better suited for a corner, a good arm to fit in at right field and a decent hit tool that gives him a .278 minor league average. If he wants to avoid the stigma of a fourth outfielder he needs to improve his power numbers. Next year he should start the season in AAA with a possible promotion to the Orioles if a need arises or his bat shows the major league brass that he is ready.

4. Alexander Vargas SS (Yankees) - Alexander got a year under his belt after the Yankees signed him for $2.5 million in 2018. He played as a 17 year old in the Rookie level, hitting .233 at two levels, with little power (.373 slugging). Speed is his main asset at this point with 15 stolen bases in just 48 games. He showed a good ability to get on base with a 18/28 walk to whiff ratio. The Yankees appear to be very crowded at the shortstop position, but Vargas may have some of the best defensive tools among that group. If he can gain more strength to hit for power he could be an impact player. Right now he is a few years away from making a major league impact.

5. Lazaro Armenteros OF (Athletics) - When he left Cuba he touted himself as a player with multiple tools and was going to be known as Lazarito, eventually having a similar reaction to the name “Ichiro”. That has not happened yet and may never occur. Lazarito has to learn to make better contact. He reminds me a lot of Blue Jay prospect Demi Orimoloye or long ago Dodger prospect Jose Gonzalez, players who struggle to hit anything with a break. Lazarito struck out an amazing 227 times in 126 games, hitting just .222. He did show his power with 17 homeruns and his speed with 22 stolen bases. A weak arm will limit him to left field, which makes it more important that he develop his power, which might rely on increased contact. Next year he should see AA, unless the Athletics feel he would benefit from one more season in High A.

6. Orlando Martinez OF (Angels) - From Orlando down to Yolbert are new players to the top ten. Orlando was signed in 2017 for the bargain price of $250,000. At 22 he is a bit older and it didn’t help that he missed two months last year because of a broken finger. There isn’t really anything flashy about his game. He runs average so a corner outfield spot would be better for him. He did slug 12 homeruns last year but his power is suspect (.434 slugging). Defensively, the arm is above average but it is not a rocket. So his best bet will be to make it as a fourth outfielder. Next year he will play in AA where a promotion is just a hot streak away.

7. Bryan Ramos 3B (White Sox) - The Sox are doing a good job at putting together a Cuban National team for their roster. Bryan was signed for $300,000 in 2018. At 17 years of age last year was his first in the Arizona Rookie League and he did well, hitting .277 with a .415 slugging percentage. The power may not show yet in a game because pitchers are a little ahead of him, but give him more experience and the power will be seen. He plays third base now, but his position is yet defined. He runs well enough that he could move to the outfield where his arm is strong enough to play right field. He could also move to second where his power would be a bonus. At 17 he is still a long way from playing for the White Sox. Expect him to see time in extended spring training with another Rookie League assignment mid-season.

8. Yordys Valdes SS (Indians) - Yordys was a second round pick of the Indians in 2019. He was born in Cuba where his dad was a Series Nacional player, but moved to the States when he was 12. Defensively he was considered one of the best high school shortstops in the draft. Offensively, there is a lot of work to be done. In Rookie ball he hit just .179 with 53 whiffs in 43 games. While he is not a fast runner, he showed good instincts with 15 stolen bases. Imagine what that amount would be if his OBA was greater than .251. If he can find his bat he could be an exciting player, but that may take another year of Rookie ball and at least three years of minor league ball before he starts wearing an Indians uniform.

9. Yolbert Sanchez SS (White Sox) - Yolbert signed with the White Sox for $2.5 million in 2019. He played last year in the Dominican Summer League. At 23 years of age next year he should start at a full season league. Defensively he is solid with a strong arm. Like Yordys, what will break him is whether his bat is enough to start in the major leagues. He did have a nice 15/12 walk to whiff ratio in the DSL but that was against pitchers younger than him. He should have been a little more dominating than his .297 average and .441 slugging. Next year will be a critical year for him. It is important that his bat play well so he can advance quickly.

10. Julio Pablo Martinez OF (Rangers) - We had him at number 4 last year. The Rangers collected a lot of international money in an attempt to sign Shohei Ohtani. When that did not happen they used $2.8 million of that for what they hope is the next best thing. At 5′9″ Julio is not a big guy. His quick bat allows him to hit for better than average pop but whether it will be enough to be more than a fourth outfielder is open to question. The speed is there to play center so that puts some pressure off him to hit for the power of a corner. Last year at High A he struck out 144 times in just 113 games. Hitting breaking pitches has been the challenge. He did make enough progress in the second half to earn a promotion to AA. He will be 24 when the season starts so the clock is ticking. He is at that age where prospects become journeyman if they have yet to see the major leagues.

Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela Qualify for U-23 Baseball World Cup

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

The host Nicaragua did not lose a game in the Americas qualifier and will be going to Mexico in October for the WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup. They defeated Cuba 1-0 in the championship match. Cuba also qualified by finishing in second place.

Venezuela defeated Colombia 9-0 to finish in third place and become the third qualifier for the U-23 World Cup. The United States did not participate in the event.

The teams that have qualified for the U-23 Baseball World Cup to be played in Mexico in October are:

Africa - South Africa
Americas - Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua
Asia - Japan, Taiwan and China
Europe - Czech Republic and Germany
Oceania - New Zealand
Wild Card - Korea

Honkball Announces Five Teams

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Haarlem is a pretty cool city to watch baseball. You have the downtown area with a number of nice eating establishments and a little out in the suburbs you have the ball park where the Honkball tournament is held. It is also held in late June/early July where the sun stays out until 10 PM, or so it seemed. Loved the fact that bicycles seemed to outnumber automobiles as the mode of transportation.

Honkball has announced five of their teams for their tournament for June 26 to July 5 at the Pim Mulier Stadium in Haarlem. Netherlands, Cuba, Germany, Japan and Taiwan are the teams that have been added to the tournament. They are looking at adding a sixth team from the United States, but Curacao is an easy alternative if they cannot attract a team from the United States.

The Netherlands is normally their national team. You may recognize some ex-major or minor leaguers from their rosters. Roger Bernadina is a name some may recognize. Japan and Taiwan are teams whose rosters are filled with players from industrial leagues or colleges. Japan is the defending champions and Taiwan has won the tournament in the past. Cuba will probably be a mixture of veterans and youngsters depending on where Cuba wants to go. Germany will probably be a team composed of their national team players that could include Donald Lutz.

So enjoy the tulips, windmills and baseball in Haarlem. It will be a week difficult to beat for a vacation.

World Baseball Classic Officially Announces Qualifiers

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

The World Baseball Classic has officially announced their qualifiers, both to be played in Tucson in March. The games will be played at the Kino Sports Complex.

Pool 1 (March 12-17) - Brazil, France, Germany, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa

Pool II (March 20-25) - Czech Republic, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines and Spain.

The top two teams from each pool will qualify for the World Baseball Classic that will be held March 2021. All 16 teams who participated in the 2017 World Baseball Classic have qualified for the 2021 event. Those countries include the defending champion United States, Australia, Canada, Cuba, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Venezuela

Matanzas Wins First National Championship

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

One thing the defections have done to Cuban baseball is turn the league around. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. In 2017 and 2018 Granma won their first Cuban titles Last year it was Las Tunas. This year the Matanzas Crocodiles downed Camaguey Bulls in six, winning the sixth game 11-2. For Camaguey they had not won a championship so no matter the result it would have been the fourth consecutive year a first time champion would be crowned in Cuba.

A six run sixth broke the game wide open. Noelvis Entenza ensured the victory by throwing six shutout innings. He gave up two in the seventh inning, turned the ball over to Jonder Martinez and Jonder closed out the game.

Cesar Prieto and Erisbel Arruebaruena each hit solo homeruns for Matanzas. Erisbel was one of those players who defected, but could not make it with the Dodgers and returned to Cuba.