Archive for the 'Cuba' Category

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.

Japan is Number one in Both Men’s and Women’s Baseball

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Japan has achieved the top rating in both men’s and women’s baseball. The United States is second in men and fifth in women. For men the United States team bypasses a number of tournaments such as the World Cup Under 23, and play amateurs in the Premier 12, which prevents them from accumulating the points that Japan earns. The United States women are hampered by the culture of forcing talented players to pursue softball, where it is a high school recognized sport, abandoning baseball. This eliminates talented female baseball players from continuing with the sport.

Below is the Top 12 Ranking for each gender.

Men’s Top 12

1. Japan (6,127 points)
2. United States (4,676)
3. Korea (4,622)
4. Taiwan (4,352)
5. Mexico (3,375)
6. Australia (3,249)
7. Netherlands (2,690)
8. Cuba (2,641)
9. Venezuela (2,624)
10. Dominican Republic (2,512)
11. Puerto Rico (2,013)
12. Canada (1,873)

The top 12 is significant since a team qualifies for the Premier 12 by being ranked in the top 12 for baseball.

The women’s top 12.

1. Japan (2,505 points)
2. Canada (1,947)
3. Taiwan (1,852)
4. Venezuela (1,736)
5. United States (1,524)
6. Australia (1,182)
7. Korea (955)
8. Cuba (947)
9. Dominican Republic (717)
10. Hong Kong (520)
11. Netherlands (500)
12. Puerto Rico (371)

In women’s softball the United States is ranked number one with Japan at number two. For the men in softball Japan is ranked number one. The United States is sixth, behind Argentina, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

Cuban Playoff Update

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

They have gotten to the championship round in the Cuban playoffs. Camaguey swept Industriales in a best three of five while Matanzas allowed Las Tunas to win the opener before taking the next three to advance to the finals.

Leslie Anderson was the hero in game one with his homerun and four RBIs on a 4 for 4 day in the Camaguey opening day 9-8 win over Industriales. In game two Yosamar Cousin threw six shutout innings to win 7-5. The Camaguey bullpen almost let the lead get away, giving up five runs in the last two innings. Yariel Rodriguez quieted the Industriales bats for eight innings, giving up just two runs in their 3-2 win. Lazaro Blanco pitched the ninth inning to close out the victory.

Las Tunas won the opener 5-4 tallying a run in the bottom of the ninth to take the game. Matanzas took the next three to win the series. Freddy Alvarez pitched six strong innings to give Matanzas a 4-2 win and even the series. Yurisbel Gracial drove in two runs in the fifth with a single to give Matanzas a 3-2 lead. Tamichel Perez pitched three innings of shutout relief to close out the victory. Matanzas completed the sweep with a 11-6 win, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings. Again Gracial was the hitting star with four RBIs.

In the championship Matanzas has jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the best of seven series. Matanzas won the opener over Camaguey 5-3, with Javier Camero driving in all five runs with two homeruns to secure the victory. His grand slam in the seventh inning put Matanzas up for good.

Camaguey got eight innings of shutout ball from Yosimar Cousin to win 8-0 and even the series. Matanzas fought right back and got six innings of shutout ball from Yoanni Yera to win game three 6-1. Yasiel Santoya drove in two runs and scored twice to lead the offense. Matanzas won game four 5-3 to take a 3-1 series lead over Matanzas.

Cuban Colas Leaves Japan Seeking Major League Opportunity

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Cuban prospect Oscar Colas has left Japan to seek a contract with a major league baseball team. Most news sources are saying he hit .302 with 11 homeruns, but this was all in the minor leagues. He played for the Softbank Hawks and they had two other Cuban veterans ahead of him in Yursibel Gracial and Alfredo Despaigne playing for the big club. Colas was not going to see a lot of playing time with the Hawks with their foreign player quota restriction.

There are reports that the outfielder has been clocked at 95 miles per hour and he is lefthanded. At 21 years of age he still may be young enough to develop.

Colas did get 18 at bats with the NPB Hawks and hit .278 with one homerun. He also struck out six times, a high strikeout rate. He was also hit by pitch twice, which is high for only 18 at bats. In the minors he had a 19/61 walk to whiff ratio in 252 at bats. That lack of contact and patience is a cause of concern. He was only hit by pitch once in those 252 at bats.

WBSC America’s Qualifier Pool

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

The United States failed to qualify for the Olympics in the Premier 12. Their Southern neighbor Mexico qualified, as well as Korea. This leaves four of six countries qualified for the Olympics, Japan (host), Israel (European/Africa qualifier), Korea and Mexico (both from Premier 12). The Americas qualifier is the next to last opportunity countries have to qualify for the Olympics. The second and third place finishers become eligible for the final qualifier in Taiwan, to be held in April..

Below are the pools:

Pool A

United States, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua

Pool B

Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and Colombia

The United States has been fielding a team of minor league prospects. While these players have been competitive they have yet to qualify the United States team for the Olympics. The same prospect heave team is expected for the Americas qualifying round to be held from March 22-26.

The final qualifier will be held in Taiwan from April 1-5.