Archive for the 'Cuba' Category

Top Cuban Prospects National League

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 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.

Victor Mesa Leaves Cuba

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Victor Mesa Jr. has left Cuba for an opportunity to play major league baseball. He is the son of Victor Mesa Sr. who played 19 years in Cuba and managed the 2013 Cuban World Baseball Classic team. Think of a mix of the Gurriel family and Leonys Martin. The father has a long tradition of playing baseball in Cuba and Victor Mesa and Leonys Martin play a similar game. Victor Mesa Jr. also played for Cuba in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Victor Jr. played in six games for Cuba in the 2017 WBC but got only seven at bats hitting .333.

Victor started playing in the Cuban Nacional Series as a 16 year old with Matanzas back in 2012. He has the speed to play centerfield and steal 30 plus bases. There is very little power in his bat though at 21 years of age that may still develop. He did hit .354 and .355 in his last two seasons in the Cuba with OBAs at .400, but those numbers will be greatly reduced in the major leagues, especially with the lack of quality pitching in Cuba.

At 21 years old he will be subject to the international bonus cap, even though he has played six years in Cuba. His younger brother, Victor Victor also defected with him. Not much is known about the younger brother.

Countries Established for Women’s Baseball World Cup

Friday, March 30th, 2018

The Women’s Baseball World Cup will be held at Space Coast Stadium in Vierra, Florida from August 22 -31. The following teams have qualified to compete in this tournament. Japan is the class of the group (rankings in parenthesis).

Asia - Japan (1), Taiwan (6), South Korea (7), Hong Kong (10)

Americas - Canada (2), United States (3), Venezuela (5), Cuba (9), Dominican Republic (NR), Puerto Rico (NR)

Europe - Netherlands (8)

Oceania - Australia (4)

Cubans Playing in Italy

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

A number of Cubans who have played on the Cuban National team are playing for baseball teams in Italy. A couple years ago the Cuban Baseball Federation publicly advertised their players were for loan. Only Japan has taken advantage of that process, though some players have played in the Can Am League. The following Cuban players are playing in Italy for the summer:

Parma Baseball

Ulfrido Garcia LHP
Erlys Casanova RHP
Frank Camillo Morejon, catcher

Polisportiva Padule

Vladimir Banos RHP
Yordany Alarcon, infielder

Cagliary Baseball

Eddy Abel Garcia RHP

Bologna Athletics

Frank Montieh RHP

Beisbol Sala Balanza

Jose P. Cuesta RHP

Unipol Bologna

Jorge Martinez RHP

This should add some competitive juices to the IBL. Information for the above obtained from baseballde cuba and mister baseball.

Rangers Sign Cuban Julio Pablo Martinez

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

Julio Pablo Martinez is considered the next superstar from Cuba. The Rangers were able to sign the 21 year old for only $2.8 million, his bonus restricted by the recently imposed international salary caps. If he had been eligible to sign last year he may have gotten a $20 million bonus.

Julio showed some rare speed in the Cuban league, where stolen bases are not abundant. His last season there (2016/2017) he was able to steal 24 bases while hitting .333. As is quite common in Cuba his walks (52) exceeded his whiffs (30) but don’t expect that to happen once he hits stateside. His ability to make contact is a concern. He did slug .498 but most of his power was restricted to the gaps. As his body matures his power should increase. His most impressive stat was his .469 OBA, evidence that even as a 21 year old pitchers in Cuba feared him.

Julio was good enough to make the Premier 12 roster for Cuba. He did not get a lot of playing time, only eight at bats, where he struck out in five of those eight at bats. He doubled and singled in two other at bats to hit .250 and was also credited with a stolen base. Yulieski and Lourdes Gurriel were also part of that Premier 12 team.

Julio is stated to be 5′10″ but on baseball reference he is listed at 5′8″. I’d be more confident with his future success if he was 5′10″.

Nicaragua Takes Cuba to Ten Before Falling

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Cuba swept Nicaragua but the last game was not easy. Nicaragua had a 3-2 lead going into the top of the ninth. Wilber Bucardo was going into his third inning of work but could not hold the lead. Frederich Cepeda tied the game with an opposite field RBI single between short and third to tie the game. Cuba then rallied for three in the 10th to secure the victory, Lazaro Cedeno getting the big hit with a double down the third base line that scored one with the second run scoring after the throw skipped past the catcher. Vladimir Garcia came on to pitch the bottom of the tenth, walking two but getting a ground out double play to end the game.

Guillermo Aviles strung together three hits for Cuba to continue his hot hitting. Nicaragua got three hits from Jilton Calderon, including a two run single in the sixth to give Nicaragua a promising 3-1 lead. Elmer Reyes scored two of the three runs for Nicaragua.

Freddy Alvarez got the call to start for Cuba and pitched five innings of one run ball. Nicaragua started Gustavo Martinez, who had trouble finding the plate, walking five hitters in his three innings of work. Despite the heavy doses of walks he allowed only one run to cross the plate. Cuban slugger Frederich Cepeda was walked three times.

Evereth Cabrera batted leadoff in the game and collected one hit with one walk in five at bats.

Cuba Wins Game Two Against Nicaragua

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Cuba scored two runs each in the first three innings and coasted to a 7-1 win over Nicaragua in their second game of a three game series at newly built Dennis Martinez stadium. New Cuban National team player Jorge Tartabull drove in two runs with a single. Alexander Ayala drove in two runs without benefit of a hit. Roel Santos and Juan Torriente led the way from the top two spots in the order, combining for five hits and each scoring two runs. Lazaro Cedeno went a perfect 4 for 4 and also scored two runs.

Vladimir Banos went six innings for Cuba, giving up only four hits and striking out five. Carlos Teller could not survive past the second inning for Nicaragua, giving up four runs on six hits.

Interesting to see the names of some ex-prospects like Dwight Britton, Elmer Reyes and Ivan Marin playing for Nicaragua. Evereth Cabrera did not play this game.

Cuba Tops Nicaragua

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

In a three game exhibition series Cuba took the first game 6-4. The high light of the series is that it is being played in the new Dennis Martinez stadium. Nicaraguans have always had a passion about playing against Cuba and judging by the photos it was a well attended event.

The rosters for the two teams:

Cuba

PITCHERS (10) Lazaro Blanco, Erlys Casanova, Ulfrido Garcia, Yariel Rodriguez, José Angel Garcia, Alain Sanchez, Vladimir Garcia, Freddy Alvarez, Bladimir Banos, Misael Villa
CATCHERS (2) Frank Morejon, Yunior Ibarra
INFIELDERS (8) Guillermo Aviles, Juan Carlos Torriente, Carlos Benitez, Yordan Manduley, Alexander Ayala, Lazaro Cedeno, Raul Gonzalez, Yorbert Sanchez
OUTFIELDERS (4) Frederich Cepeda, Roel Santos, Jorge Tartabull, Raiko Santos

Nicaragua

PITCHERS (13) Wilton López, Carlos Teller, Gustavo Martínez, Fidencio Flores, Wilber Bucardo, Jorge Bucardo, José Elías Villegas, Berman Espinoza, Juan Bermúdez, Jason Aburto, Ernesto Glasgon, Armando Montenegro, Pedro Torres.
CATCHERS (3) Janior Montes, Rafael Estrada, Ronald Rivera
INFIELDERS (8) Darrel Campbell, Ofilio Castro, Benjamín Alegría, Iván Marín, Elmer Reyes, Edgar Montiel, Moisés Flores, Iván Hernández.
OUTFIELDERS (5) Jilton Calderón, Dwight Britton, Renato Morales, Javier Robles, Norlando Valle
UTILITY (1) Williams Vásquez.

Cuba jumped out to an early 2-0 lead off Nicaraguan starter Wilton Lopez, a Carlos Benitez high hopping seeing eye single with two out in the first inning scoring the first run.

Lazaro Blanco did not pitch well for Cuba giving up all four runs to Nicaragua in the second inning. Norlando Valle started the scoring with an RBI double into the left field corner and Ofilio Castro got the big hit for Nicaragua with a 2-run single into centerfield to break a 2-2 tie.

Wilton Lopez couldn’t retire any of the three hitters he faced in the fourth inning. With the infield in a throwing error by Evereth Cabrera allowed the go ahead run to score. Fidencio Flores replaced Lopez on the mound and except for one walk retired 9 of the 10 Cuban hitters he faced.

Guillermo Aviles finished off the scoring by pulling a pitch into the right field bleachers to give Cuba a 6-4 lead. Vladimir Garcia came out to pitch his second inning of shutout relief to close out the victory for Cuba.

Alain Sanchez pitched 4.2 innings of shutout relief to keep Cuba in the game. He yielded to Vladimir Garcia to open the eighth.

Cuba and Japan Complete Honkball Itinerary

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

The six teams have been selected for Honkball. It will be played July 13-22 at Pim Mulier Stadium in Haarlem. Haarlem is one of those quiet, pleasant cities that have more bikes on the roads than automobiles. It also has canals, windmills, a town square and a baseball stadium. The stadium is just a couple miles from the town square. Myworld could not pick a better spot to relax in a tranquil setting and then spend your time at the ballpark.

The six teams participating in the tournament are:

Netherlands, Curacao, Italy, Taiwan, Cuba and Japan

After the last Honkball tournament there was some discussion to end the tournament. The crowds are loyal with fans waiting two hours inside the stadium waiting for the second game to be played. When you buy a ticket it is for the day, with the first game scheduled for 2 PM and the evening affair for 7 PM. There is a tented area and a stage for a band, so if the crowd is large enough a band could be made available to entertain those who wait the couple hours inside the stadium for the second game to start.

Despite the decent crowds the organizers were not able to collect enough revenue to continue the tournament. Lack of advertisers and sponsors are the large revenue generators for most tournaments. Another group has stepped in to hold the tournament. Hopefully they will be more successful in continuing the tournament every two years.