Archive for the 'Astros' Category

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.

Myworld’s Top 100 Prospects - 10 -1

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

For the first time we had a tie for the number one prospect. To break that tie we will give it to the less professional player.

10. Bo Bichette SS (Blue Jays) 9 - His dad was a slugger for the Colorado Rockies. His mom is from Brazil, allowing him to play for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier. While shortstop is his current position the concern is that he may not carry enough range to play it at the major league level, so a future position at second base is possible. The power is there but not as great as his father. Based on his minor league numbers his hit tool could be better with a .384 batting average at Low A and a .372 two year minor league average. The second round 2016 pick should join the other famous Blue Jay son compatriot Vladimir in AA to start the 2018 season.

9. Michael Kopech RHP (White Sox) 9.08 - The 2014 first round pick throws gas, allegedly hitting 105 on one stadium radar clock. When it is his time to pitch in the majors he will replace Aroldis Chapman for most fastballs to hit triple digits. His secondary pitches are good enough to force hitters not to sit on his fastball. His one big negative is an inability to throw strikes in stretches. Last year he got three starts in AA. His career minor league ERA is 2.74. The 2018 season will see him start it in AA with an appearance at the major league to occur sometime before the season ends.

8. Kylie Tucker OF (Astros) 9.12 - The younger brother of Preston carries more impressive tools than his older brother. The first round 2015 pick has the speed to play centerfield with the arm that could shift to right. The bat carries power, especially when the arms from his 6′4″ frame can extend. Last year he hit 25 between High A and AA. In spring training he has already dazzled with four long balls. The lefthanded bat also seems to rake against lefthanded pitching, eliminating any platoon concerns. When he reaches the major leagues he could hit 30 plus homeruns with 20 plus stolen bases, though as his 6′4 frame fills out those stolen bases could drop. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AAA with regular promotions to the major leagues when the Astros need outfield depth.

7. Nick Senzel 3B (Reds) 9.26 - The Reds were talking about moving the number one 2016 pick to shortstop. The down side with that is it would make him an average shortstop on defense but at third base he has the potential to be a gold glover. Having his power bat at a middle infield position would make him attractive. In AA last year he slugged .560 with 10 homeruns with his 14 doubles giving him 40 for the year. That gap power could turn to over the fence power as he matures. Nick also has a .315 career minor league average so having a .300 plus average with 30 plus homerun potential would make him an attractive player at either short or third. The Reds could start him at AA if they want to use him at short but his bat could be ready for the major leagues now.

6. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) 9.48 - The power has not appeared yet but when it does Victor should be a five tool player who will patrol centerfield once Bryce Harper leaves for free agency. After a September callup the Nationals kept him on their playoff roster. This year the Nationals outfield is a bit crowded for him to get playing time but he will be the first player called up if a significant injury occurs to knock out a National for significant time. Last year he had a career high 10 homeruns with 27 stolen bases. His speed should result in 30 plus stolen bases each year but his base stealing acumen is still absent. Victor should start the 2018 season in AAA where his power should start developing into 20 plus homerun numbers.

5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays) 9.7 - His father was voted into the Hall of Fame this year. Everyone wants to compare him to his father. The arm is not as strong and he lacks the propensity to swing at everything as his father did. There was some question as to whether he could hang at third but he seemed to dispel those rumors showing average defense. He may not carry his father’s power, but the power is beginning to emerge with 13 homeruns between Low and High A. He has also shown patience at the plate with a 76/62 walk to whiff ratio, evidence that he has the same ability to make contact as his father, he just waits for better pitches to hit. This will benefit him as he rises up the minor league ladder, hitting AA in 2018.

4. Gleyber Torres 2B/3B (Yankees) 9.72 - Gleyber missed most of last season because of Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow. If not for that absence he may be the starting second baseman for the Yankees in 2018. The Yankees will try to do without him for the first month of the season to get his bat acclimated to pitching while in AAA. He also needs to get used to second base, having played short and third for much of last season, though he did squeeze in ten games at second. Gleyber was originally a shortstop but his speed and consistency at the position will not replace Didi Gregorius. His bat should hit north of .300 with 20 plus homeruns. When April turns to May Gleyber should be in the Yankees lineup.

3. Eloy Jimenez OF (White Sox) 9.72 - Eloy was acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade. The expectation is that when Eloy is ready he will come with 30 plus homerun power. Last year he hit 16 at High A between the two franchises, but really took off at Winston Salem with a .346 average and a .682 slugging. This resulted in a promotion to AA where his hitting continued with three more homeruns and a .353 average. A below average arm may make his best fit left field. His legs lack the speed for center, though they are adequate running the bases. Expect him to start the 2018 season in AA and if he continues to rake the White Sox will find room for him in their outfield.

2. Shohei Ohtani RHP (Angels) 9.88 - He crushes fastballs 450 feet. He can hit triple digits with his fastball. The parks in Japan tend to be shorter than the United States so his power production may drop. His fastball can also be a little straight so major league hitters could have more success against his power arm. Ohtani does have a number of other quality pitches he can throw, but he also has some less than quality pitches he tries to squeeze across the platee. If he sticks with his best pitches he should have more success. It will be interesting if the wear and tear of hitting at the DH spot will begin to sap the strength for his pitching. The Angels have stated they plan on going to a six man rotation, but some pitchers on the team prefer a five man. Ohtani will pitch for the Angels to begin the season and should win the rookie of the year award in the American League.

1. Ronald Acuna OF (Braves) 9.88 - The Braves have an opening in the outfield. Acuna is raking in spring training. It would be hard not to take him north with them in April. At 20 years old Andrew Jones starred for the Braves, but Ronald could pass him for production. The potential five tool player slugged 21 homeruns last year while stealing 44 bases. That will translate to 30/30 capability in the major leagues. His defense should also win gold gloves in centerfield. Like Torres, when April turns to May Ronald should be in the outfield for the Braves if he fails to travel north with them after spring training.

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.

Myworld’s Top 100 - 20 - 11

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

The penultimate 10. Two players from this list will already miss a chunk of the season or all of it. There are four cut and pastes from my top ten Dominican prospects list.

20. Willy Adames SS (Rays) 8 - Willy has the tools to play short for the Rays in 2018 and could fill that position with a good spring. He has a better bat than Adeiny Hechavarria with much greater power opportunities with the possibility of consistently hitting at the lower ends of the double digits in homeruns. The gaps will be peppered with his line drives resulting in about 40 doubles per year. If he can make better contact he could fit at the top of the order but he may be better suited in the six or seven slot. The Rays acquired Adames from the Tigers back in 2014 in the David Price trade and may finally be getting some reward for it four years later. A start in AAA would delay his major league clock.

19. Forest Whitley RHP (Astros) 8.06 - Forest is the second big time starter in the Astros system suspended by baseball for a drug issue. Last year it was David Paulino. The 6′7″ 2016 first round pick is the top prospect of the Astros and will have to wait 50 games into the season before he gets his season started. He got as high as AA last year, dominating as a 19 year old with a 1.84 ERA and a .157 opposition average. This suspension could be used to the Astros advantage, saving him innings if they choose to promote him later in the year to the major leagues to be used in the bullpen for a playoff race. Forest throws his fastball in the mid-90s and has shown an assortment of quality secondary pitches that puts him at close to 14 whiffs per nine innings. The Astros would like to be patient with him but if he continues to dominate it would not surprise to see him in the Astros bullpen by August for the playoff run.

18. Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres) 8.08 - The son of Fernando Sr, who hit two grand slams in one inning off the same pitcher. Tatis hopes to play shortstop but many suspect the 6′3″ infielder will have to move to third base where his father played. Last year his power played out for 22 homeruns. It will be more than enough to fit at the corner, where he could end up being a Gold Glover. The Padres acquired Tatis from the White Sox for James Shields, a trade the White Sox may ultimately regret now that they are in a rebuilding mode. Tatis is a very patient hitter who is not afraid to draw a walk (75) leading to a .390 OBA last year. The Padres skipped him past High A for the 2017 season, moving him from Low A to AA. The 2018 season should see him start in AA.

17. Mitch Keller RHP (Pirates) 8.42 - The second round 2014 pick has a fastball in the mid-90s and a 6′3″ height that gives it good plane as it travels across the plate. The Pirates consider his curveball the best in the system, giving him two quality pitches. He shows excellent command of the two pitches giving him the potential to be the ace of the staff should his change develop into a quality third pitch. The Pirates are in a rebuilding mode and have no reason to call him up this year. Last year he rose up to AA where he will probably start the 2018 season.

16. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) 8.44 - The Cardinals expected Reyes to be in their rotation two years ago but a drug suspension put a halt to that. Last year was supposed to be his debut but Tommy John surgery squelched another opportunity. For the 2018 season the Cardinals will start him in the bullpen to prevent him from throwing too many innings. His fastball should consistently click triple digits from the bullpen where he could end up in the closer role before April turns to May. He and Michael Kopech may have the best fastballs in the minor leagues but what separates the two is Alex has quality secondary pitches that should make him an ace in the rotation. The one area he needs to improve on is command. He tends to walk a hitter every two innings. The beginning of the 2018 season should see Alex start in the bullpen, eventually moving to their closer, or the Cardinals could put him in the rotation close to the end of the season to use him in the playoffs.

15. Lewis Brinson OF (Marlins) 8.56 - The Marlins lost outfielders Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, probably one of the best trio in baseball. It will be tough to find three quality outfielders to replace them. Lewis Brinson was one of the acquisitions from the Brewers for Yelich. The Marlins hope two other outfielders, Magneuris Sierra and Monte Harrison will equal the three they let go. Brinson with his five tool talent will patrol centerfield. He has the power to be a slugger taking a little bit of the strengths of Yelich and Ozuna. His speed does not allow him to steal a lot of bases but it does allow him to roam massive territory in center. With the rebuilding Marlins he could find himself in centerfield to show fans some of the value they got for their tanking.

14. Francisco Mejia C (Indians) 8.62 - Last year Francisco made a name for himself with a 50 game hitting streak and a .342 average. The numbers were not quite as glamorous as last year but he still hit .297, .352 against lefthanders. That got him a promotion to the major leagues where he struggled with a .154 average in 13 at bats. He has an arm that can stop a running game but needs to work on some of the other subtleties of the catching game, i.e. framing pitches, calling the game and preventing passed balls. He did show some power last year with 14 homeruns and a .490 slugging percentage. Since he did not play any AAA last year the Indians may start him there but if Yan Gomes continues to struggle with the bat Francisco could be called up. The Indians also worked with Francisco a little at third base, which could be another option to get his bat in the lineup and leave Gomes behind the plate.

13. Walker Buehler RHP (Dodgers) 8.68 - When you think of the Dodgers you are always thinking of ace pitchers. The 2015 first round pick has the potential to take over from Kershaw as the new ace of the Dodgers staff, once Kershaw has left for free agency. Tommy John surgery forced Walker to miss the 2015 season and almost all of the 2016 season, but he has bounced back with a fastball that sits in the high 90s. Some think his curveball is the best in the Dodgers minor leagues. Despite his quality stuff he did not dominate in the minor leagues, fashioning an ERA of close to 4 despite the opposition hitting him at a .220 clip. Despite the pedestrian numbers the Dodgers still promoted him to the major league club where he struggled in the bullpen, major league hitters tagging him for a .306 average. Walker will probably start the season in AAA to allow the Dodgers to be conservative with his innings useage. He has yet to reach 100 innings in a season but if he shows success the Dodgers are not averse to using him again in a bullpen role with hopefully better results.

12. Brendan Rodgers SS (Rockies) 8.9 - Rodgers has not ceded the shortstop position from Trevor Story, though the Rockies have been giving him some starts at second base so the transition would not be so difficult in case he has to move. His big problem with the shortstop position is his lack of range and his proclivity to commit errors. What will get him in the lineup is his bat, with the potential to win batting titles. His power bat has the ability to hit 20 plus homeruns, possibly more with the atmosphere in Colorado. The Rockies appear to be satisfied with Story at short and can wait a couple more years before Brendan is ready to knock at the major league door. AA is where he should start the 2018 season.

11. Brent Honeywell RHP (Rays) 8.98 - Tommy John surgery has ended the 2018 season for Brent. He had all the pitches including the enigmatic screwball to be an ace starter. He tried to follow in the path of Blake Snell, but now his trip to the major leagues will be delayed by one year. The fastball sits on the high side of the low 90s with four other quality pitches to average 11.1 whiffs per nine innings at AAA. With all those pitches AAA hitters were still able to hit him at a .268 pace. How he comes back from the surgery will be key to the future of the Rays rotation.

Top European Prospects

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

The pickings are a bit thin. Prospects from Curacao are included in this list since they are considered a part of the Netherlands. Even players from Curacao have dropped in talent. From the list last year Ozzie Albies and Dovydas Neverauskas saw major league time, with Ozzie getting enough playing time at second base to lose his rookie eligibility. Myworld is generous in our classification of European. If they are eligible to play on a World Baseball Classic team they will be included on this list. The only exception we made was for Israel since religion and not birth of a sibling or residence determine origin. For the most part it is the same cast of characters from last year.

1. J.B. Bukauskas RHP (Lithuania/Astros) - This could be a stretch. His Wikipedia page identifies him as having a Lithuanian background. There is an article detailing that background linked but it is in Lithuanian. He was actually born in Ashburn, Virginia but if Lithuania ever got a WBC team they would find a way for J.B. to play on it. After dominating at the high school and college level he was a first round 2017 pick of the Houston Astros. He is not a tall pitcher at 6′0″ but he carries a fastball that sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s. The slider is his swing and miss pitch and what will bring him success in the major leagues. Last year he only pitched 10 innings of minor league ball after a heavy college workload. As a college pitcher he will start the season in a Low A full season league.

2. Carter Kieboom SS (Netherlands/Nationals) - Another player born in the States whose dad played baseball as a youngster in Netherlands only to leave for college in the United States. Kieboom was the Nationals first round pick in 2016. With Trea Turner ahead of him and no exceptional tools to stay at short could force a move to second. Last year he played all his games at short. The bat will get him to the major leagues with decent power (.497) and hit tools (.296) at Low A Hagerstown. The 2018 season should see him play at High A. For the short term the Nationals see no need to move him from short.

3. Dovydas Neverauskas RHP (Lithuania/Pirates) - Dovydas made headlines for being the first Lithuanian to pitch in the major leagues. There has been some discussion that Joe Zapustas, who debuted in 1933 lived in the area that would be considered Lithuanian but was considered Russia during that time. He played two games in the outfield. So without a doubt Dovydas is the first pitcher from Lithuania. He has pitched his whole career in the bullpen, carrying a fastball that hits the high 90s. The absence of quality secondary pitches prevents him from pitching in the rotation. Last year he made his major league debut (3.91 ERA) earning the right to continue his roller coaster ride up and down the transaction ladder when bullpen help is needed. A good spring will see him in the major league bullpen but myworld suspects he will begin the season in AAA.

4. Ray-Patrick Didder OF/SS (Netherlands/Braves) - The Curacao native is one of the better athletes in the Braves minor league system and one of their fastest players. His ability to fly had the Braves move him from short to center where he can cover maximum acreage. The bat needs to be more dangerous for him to be considered for a major league job. There is little pop in his bat and last year he hit .230 in High A. There are also too many swings and misses (123 whiffs) with his bat. The speed and defense could allow him to be a fourth outfielder type. At 23 years of age he needs to be promoted to AA to have relevance.

5. Tom de Blok RHP (Netherlands/Tigers) - A strong performance in the World Baseball Classic with the Netherlands got him a contract with the Tigers. He had originally signed with the Mariners as a 17 year old but was not ready for baseball. He made his debut a couple years later with the Tigers pitching in Low A. At 6′4″ he has good height for a pitcher. It is possible that with more work in his delivery his low 90s fastball could gain velocity. He pitched in both the bullpen and as a starter but myworld suspects he will settle in the bullpen. The 2018 season should see him begin at High A.

6. Sven Schuller RHP (Germany/Dodgers) - Sven has good height at 6′3″ allowing him to put up some good numbers in Low A (1.49 ERA) but struggled a bit when promoted to High A (5.25 ERA). All his appearances were in relief. His command abandoned him in High A with lefthanded hitters battering him at a .310 clip. Up until last year he had pitched his first three years in rookie ball. A repeat of High A is expect for the 2018 season.

7. Ademar Rifaela OF (Netherlands/Orioles) - The Curacao native had a breakout year last year slugging 24 homeruns at High A Frederick. A lack of speed prevents him from being a defensive asset in the outfield but if his bat continues to produce the Orioles will find a place for him. His lefthanded bat seemed to have good success against left handed pitching (.265) so that could prevent a platoon role for him. The big test is whether he can replicate his numbers when promoted to AA where he will face better pitching.

8. Marten Gasparini OF (Italy/Royals) - He surpassed Max Kepler with his $1.3 million bonus being the highest paid for a European player. The Royals signed him as a shortstop but his fielding was very erratic resulting in the Royals shifting him to center field last year. His speed will allow him to be an adequate defender once he learns his routes. The bat is the big question mark. He just has not shown he can hit. A repeat of Low A saw his average rise from .196 to .227. Poor plate discipline are the big cause of his troubles, not being able to recognize pitches as they come to the plate. This will get tougher as he rises up the minor league ladder. Myworld suspects the Royals will promote him to High A for the 2018 season, but spring training could have an impact on that.

9. Martin Cervenka C (Czech Republic/Orioles) - Martin signed with the Orioles as a six year minor league free agent. Myworld liked the way he handled himself when he watched him in Taiwan a couple years ago. An Oriole scout was sitting with me during one of the games myworld was watching him play. Don’t know if this had any influence in his signing with the Orioles. Last year he replicated his 2016 break out season with a .278 average and a .418 slugging percentage. He also threw out 40 percent of those runners who tried to steal against him. Myworld should see more of him if he is assigned to Bowie for the 2018 season.

10. Spencer Kieboom C (Netherlands/Nationals) - The older brother of Carter. His best bet to make it is as a backup catcher in the major leagues. In 2016 he did appear in one game when he replaced the injured Wilson Ramos. His bat is not strong enough to produce a lot of offense and his defense does not justify putting his soft bat in the lineup. In the last two years he has only thrown out baserunners at less than a 25% clip. An injury to the Nationals catching corp could give him an opportunity to fill a back up role, but that would require him to be added to the 40 man roster. He will bide his time in AAA for the 2018 season, possibly reuniting with his brother at some point.

Myworld’s Top 100 Prospects - 80 - 71

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Below is our top prospects from 80-71.

80. Yordan Alvarez OF (Astros) 2.34 - The Dodgers originally signed Alvarez in 2016 as they restocked their farm system with Cuban players, paying him a $2 million bonus. Soon after they traded him to the Astros for Josh Fields, not much of a return for a player with that bonus. The Astros have used him at both first base and left field. His bat is what will get him to the major leagues. At 6′5″ his lefthanded bat began showing some power at Low A with a .360 average, 9 homeruns and a .658 slugging in 32 games. The power was not as great after being promoted to High A (.393) but he showed no difficulty hitting lefthanded pitching (.355). It will take an excellent spring to start the season higher than A ball but at 20 years of age the Astros can be patient with him.

79. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) 2.38 - He was the Cuban version of Luis Ortiz except he won the 15 and under MVP in the World Cup in 2014. A couple years later he left Cuba providing the Padres an opportunity to sign him for a $11 million bonus. At 6′1″ he does not have an intimidating presence, but his fastball can reach the mid-90s and at 19 he already has a degree in pitching with a good curveball and change. He made his major league debut last year with seven starts in short season ball (3.57) and six more in low class A (4.23). He had his way with lefthanded hitters dropping their averages below .200 but righthanded hitters had their way with him hitting him close to .300. He needs to find a pitch that is more effective against right side hitters. It would not surprise myworld if he starts the 2018 season at Low A and getting promoted once he achieves success. Don’t expect him to be anything more than a mid-rotation starter.

78. Stephen Gonsalves LHP (Twins) 2.4 - Gonsalves is a lefty like Morejon but at 6′5″ he has a much larger frame. Despite his height he does not throw as hard as Morejon, but he can hit the mid-90s. Command and a quality change are the secrets to his success. He limits the walks, hits the corners and finished with a quality 2.68 ERA in AA. AAA was a bit of a struggle with righthanders assaulting him at a .350 clip in four starts. Another year in AAA would be good with a mid season promotion on the horizon. The fourth round pick of the 2013 draft had a career 2.13 ERA and limited the opposition to a .195 average entering the 2017 season. He knows how to miss bats and limit quality contact despite his lack of premium velocity.

77. Jon Duplantier RHP (Diamondbacks) 2.48 - Jon was a third round pick in 2016 but not because of a lack of talent but a concern for health. He missed the entire 2015 season for Rice because of shoulder injuries. After he was drafted he was limited to just one inning because of elbow issues. The 2017 season saw a break out season with his mid-90s fastball and quality curveball sifting through minor league bats for an ERA of 1.39 between Low A and High A. The last pitcher with an ERA that low in the minor leagues was a pitcher by the name of Justin Verlander. He struck out 12.36 hitters per nine innings in 12 starts at High A. At 6′3″ and 225 pounds if he can stay healthy he will be an innings eater. The 2018 season should see him start at AA and if he remains as dominant as last season expect a mid-season promotion.

76. Mickey Moniak OF (Phillies) 2.56 - The Phillies made him the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. He is one of those outfielder’s who may not have the range to fit in center or the power to earn a corner spot. The speed is good but it is not burner speed and will not accumulate stolen bases. What one has to hope for is his baseball instincts will inflate his stats and he will become a better player than his skills. His numbers were not eye popping in Low A (.236) with only a .180 average against lefthanders. He has the makings of being a fourth outfielder. The Phillies hope a stint in High A will lead to improvement with greater strength and more experience.

75. Tyler O’Neil OF (Cardinals) 2.58 - Tyler is a strong kid drafted by the Mariners in the third round of the 2013 draft. The Mariners traded him to the Cardinals where he hopes to crack one of the outfield spots. There is good power in his bat where he slugged 31 homeruns last year. He has the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns consistently in the major leagues. His difficulty in making contact (151 whiffs) will keep his average at around .250 or below. A solid arm will make him a fit in right but with his bulky frame he may be a better fit in left. A good spring could see him traveling north with the Cardinals but myworld expects him to start the season in AAA.

74. Matt Manning RHP (Tigers) 2.64 - A second Tiger who could eventually fit in their starting rotation making the Top 100. Matt was a first round pick of the Tigers in 2016. At 6′6 with a fastball that can come across the plate in the high 90s can prove intimidating to hitters. His secondary pitches could use some improvement but he has the potential for a plus curve and solid change. In his debut season in 2016 at Rookie level play he struck out 14.6 hitters per nine innings. Manning continued to rack up the K’s in the New York Penn League (9.72) and Low A (13.25). A little trouble with his command in Low A saw his ERA climb (5.60) but hitters still had difficulty making hard contact (.209). Manning should start the 2018 season in Low A with a quick promotion to High A once he achieves some success.

73. Jorge Alfaro C (Phillies) 2.78 - Jorge was a top prospect for the Rangers for a number of years. The Colombian was traded to the Phillies for Cole Hamels in 2015. Injuries have dogged him and stalled his ability to make quick advances up the ladder. The 2016 season saw him get a September callup. The 2017 season saw him take a more extended role with the Phillies, hitting .318 with 5 homeruns and a .514 slugging. He has a power bat and his defense is good enough to stay behind the plate. His big issue is whether his lack of patience (16/113 walk to whiff) will result in prolonged slumps in the major leagues. Expect him to win the starting catching role over Cameron Rupp for the 2018 season.

72. Michael Chavis 3B (Red Sox) 2.8 - Chavis was the Red Sox first pick in the 2014 draft. He plays the same position as Rafael Devers with a weaker bat. His defense is not strong enough to justify putting him at third over a superior bat. His bat does carry some pop as his 31 homeruns last year showed. He also cut down on his strikeouts which helped him hit for a higher average. The Red Sox could move Devers to first or try Chavis in left field. Both moves would help the offense but sacrifice some defense. Chavis will spend one more year at AAA as the Red Sox try to figure out what they will do with him. The best solution may be to use him as trade bait to acquire a veteran pitcher for a playoff run.

71. Blake Rutherford OF (White Sox) 2.82 - The Yankees selected Rutherford in the first round of the 2016 draft. With a surplus of outfielders they traded him to the White Sox for Todd Frazier, who became a free agent after the 2017 season. After more exposure to him there was concern his defense was a better fit for left field because of a weak arm. The lack of power in his bat made that a cause for concern. Those concerns may have been confirmed after a wasted year least year where he only hit two homeruns and slugged .349 in Low A. The positive spin is he hit lefthanders better than righthanders so the struggle may be an aberration. The question is whether the White Sox repeat him at Low A or give him a promotion to High A and hope he produces.

Myworld’s 2018 Top 100 Prospects - 100 - 91

Monday, January 29th, 2018

It is now time for myworld to rank our top 100 baseball prospects. It is not really my personal rankings but a measurement system used taking the top 100 rankings of Haven, CBS Fantasy Baseball, MLB.com, Baseball America and Fangraphs. There may be some that we miss and myworld refuses to access the paid subscription sites. You can see past lists at our website starting from 2008 when Jay Bruce was the number one prospect.

100. Anderson Espinoza RHP (Padres) 1.02 - Not much activity on Espinoza since he was inactive after Tommy John surgery last year. Prior to that he was considered a Pedro Martinez clone because of his mid-90s fastball and small stature (6′0″). It will be interesting to see what he gains or loses from the surgery. The Padres acquired him from the Red Sox in the controversial Drew Pomeranz trade. Pomeranz was determined to be damaged goods but it was Espinoza that ultimately had the season ending surgery. An excellent fastball and curve give him the pitches to be a starter but he could move to the bullpen if durability becomes an issue. Expect the Padres to limit his innings as his arm gains strength.

99. Domingo Acevedo RHP (Yankees) 1.02 - Another Dominican but Acevedo stands 6′7″ with a mid-90s fastball that can also reach triple digits. He also has a good change and once he gets more consistency with his slider he could be dominant. The high spending Yankees only had to pay a $7,500 bonus to sign him back in 2012. He dominated at AA with a 9/1 whiff to walk ratio but a promotion to AAA led to some control issues in his two starts. Expect him to start the season in AAA with a possible promotion should he have the same success in AAA that he had in AA.

98. Luis Ortiz RHP (Brewers) 1.06 - Originally a first round pick of the Rangers, they traded him to the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy. He won the MVP for the United States 18 and under gold medal team back in 2013. There have not been a lot of highlights since then. Injuries have limited his innings and he has yet to reach 100 innings since being drafted in 2014, but he did reach a high of 94 innings last year. His fastball reaches the mid-90s but he isn’t an overpowering pitcher, striking out just 7.5 hitters per 9 innings at AA and being a bit homer prone with 12 of his pitches leaving the park. This should be the year he makes his major league debut provided he achieves success in AAA. At best he fits in as a mid-rotation starter.

97. Zack Collins C (White Sox) 1.1 - The 2016 first round pick is noted more for his bat than his glove. The bat had enough juice to hit 17 homeruns in High A with two more added in a brief AA callup. Finding the backstop was a common occurrence with Collins with 16 passed balls evidence of his lack of flexibility behind the plate. He also had trouble hitting lefthanded pitching with a .167 average dropping his overall average to .223 in High A. He takes a lot of walks (76) but stirs a breeze a lot with his swings (118 whiffs). He should start the 2018 season in AA. If his defense does not improve behind the plate he should have the bat to move to first. His 6′3″ frame is tall for a catcher.

96. Carter Kieboom SS (Nationals) 1.12 - He may be a Marlin after we write this with his name being discussed in the J.T. Realmuto trade talks. The Nationals drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft. His brother Spencer is a catcher in the Nationals system while his father played baseball in the Dutch leagues. Carter has the bat that should play with good power but his speed will fall short in the stolen base department. If he can’t overtake Trea Turner at short his best position would be second, with the power lacking for third. Next year should see him continue his progress in High A either in the Nationals system or the Marlins.

95. Albert Abreu RHP (Yankees) 1.12 - A second Yankee righthander on this list who can throw in the mid-90s but can dial it up to the high 90s. Abreu is a little below Acevedo in the development chart. The Astros originally signed him for $175,000 but the Yankees were able to acquire him in the Brian McCann trade. His secondary pitches need to be more consistent to play off his fastball but if they don’t develop the bullpen could become his home. Albert could start the season in High A where he finished with a 4.19 ERA last year and was fairly hittable (.252). A promotion to AA will occur once he shows he can tame Florida State League hitters.

94. Yusniel Diaz OF (Dodgers) 1.24 - The Dodgers have spent a king’s ransom for Cuban prospects and the only player to see some success is Yasiel Puig, who some would argue has yet to reach his potential. Diaz signed for $15.5 million back in 2015. He played in the junior national leagues in Cuba. There is some potential for power in his bat. Last year he hit 11 homeruns between High A and AA with a .333 average in AA in a 31 game trial. His speed is best suited for a corner outfield with an above average arm that will allow him to play in right. You don’t want him stealing bases as his 9 for 23 success rate spells doom. He also committed 13 errors in the outfield. The Dodgers may assign him to AA where he will continue to refine his game trying to improve his defense and jump on the bases.

93. Monte Harrison OF (Marlins) 1.26 - A trade from the Brewers to the Marlins for Christian Yelich could provide Monte an opportunity for a quicker path to the major leagues. The speed is there for him to cover centerfield with an arm to play right. His power seemed to break out last year with 21 homeruns. Combine that with his 27 for 31 success rate in stolen bases and you have the potential for at least a 20/20 player. With some improvement in making contact (139 whiffs) could make him an impact player. A good spring with the Marlins could start him in AA. They will need to show something soon for their Christian Yelich trade but an appearance in the major leagues will probably have to wait until 2019.

92. J.B. Bukauskas RHP (Astros) 1.28 - J.B. was the Astros first round pick in 2017 out of North Carolina. He throws a fastball in the mid-90s that has hit triple digits. If Lithuania should need a player for a World Baseball Classic team he could be eligible. J.B. got three starts and 10 innings in his professional debut but two of those starts were at Low A. Expect him to start there in 2018. At 6′0″ he is not a large pitcher so there could be some concern about his durability as a starter.

91. Adbert Alzolay RHP (Cubs) 1.36 - Coming into the 2017 season the Venezuelan was not on any prospect lists. His small stature (6′0″) and lack of an overpowering fastball left him off any lists. He gained a couple ticks on his fastball last year to hit the mid-90s and he achieved some success against righthanders in AA limiting them to a .197 average. He also struck out close to 9 hitters per 9 innings. It will be interesting if he can repeat that success in 2018 or if his Cub pedigree enhanced his prospect status. The 2018 season will determine that.

Myworld’s Top Ten Righthanded Pitchers

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

The last group of position players rated by myworld. This is the largest and most important one since no playoff teams can survive without an ace. Most of your aces throw from the right side. Below is myworld’s top ten right handed pitchers and others to watch:

1. Shohei Ohtani (Angels) - A coup for the Angels to sign the best pitcher coming out of Japan since Yu Darvish. The big question is whether his elbow can hold up. If so he could become the best pitcher in major league baseball. If not he could transform himself into an All Star power hitting rightfielder. Right now, the Angels plan on him doing both, restricting his offensive performance to DH duties. To protect his elbow the Angels may go to a six man rotation. No major league starting pitcher had an average velocity higher than Otani last year, though injuries limited his starts. His splitter is also a pretty good pitch but he limited that offering severely after his elbow issues. He still has a number of other pitches in his repertoire to retire hitters. For the Angels to compete in the playoffs he needs to turn into their ace. In order to do that he needs to stay healthy, something he had trouble accomplishing in Japan.

2. Jon Duplantier (Diamondbacks) - Last year he finished with an ERA of 1.39 after 24 starts. No pitcher in the history of minor league baseball has had a lower ERA since Justin Verlander and we know what kind of pitcher he became once he arrived in the major leagues. Like Ohtani the biggest concern with Duplantier is the health of his arm. Both shoulder and elbow problems have restricted his innings. In 2016 a balky elbow limited him to just one inning after he was drafted in the third round in 2016 and a shoulder injury impacted his college appearances. His fastball reaches the mid-90s and is complemented by a plus curveball and change. Last year the opposition hit him at a .192 clip in addition to his 165 whiffs in 136 innings. After having success in High A last year he should start the season in AA, but that could depend on the success of his spring. A September callup is a possibility with a good season but it will probably be restricted to the bullpen.

3. Tristan McKenzie (Indians) - Myworld has already stated that the last 19 year old we saw pitch impress me so much was Clayton Kershaw. We can still picture the smile on Joe Torre’s face after Kershaw was done pitching his one exhibition inning. That same smile will appear on the face of Terry Francona after he sees Tristan pitch. A 6′5″ inch preying mantis with long arms and a skinny frame should start slinging the ball in the high 90s once he puts some meat on his bones. His curveball and change are plus pitches resulting in a plethora of swings and misses. Like Duplantier he should start the season in AA and if the Indians need rotation help for the playoffs don’t be surprised if they do not call him up. Because of his youth and his sleight frame the Indians will be protective of his innings.

4. Michael Kopech (White Sox) - The Red Sox first round 2014 pick was acquired by the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade. Kopech throws harder than Sale, hitting triple digits with his fastball. Many scouts say he is the hardest thrower in the minor leagues. Throwing hard and getting outs are two different issues. A promotion to AAA saw the opposition average increase from .184 to .263, though the sample size for AAA was very small. Kopech has a good slider which allows him to get a number of swings and misses. With a good spring he could squeeze into the rotation but the White Sox have a number of pitchers higher on the depth chart to consider first. Myworld suspects mid-season will see his major league debut.

5. Franklin Perez (Tigers) - The Venezuelan started his career as a third baseman. The Astros converted him to pitcher because they liked his arm. His fastball can light up the radar in the high 90s with a couple good breaking pitches and a plus change to keep hitters guessing. The Astros traded him to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander deal, initially signing him to a $1 million bonus in 2014. At 6′3″ he still has some frame to fill out. After starting the season at AA it should not take him long to find himself in the Tiger’s rotation, unless they do not want his option clock running by placing him on the roster too early.

6. Hunter Greene (Reds) - There was some talk of making him a two way player, but playing shortstop and having him pitch was felt to be too demanding. His fastball spits the plate in triple digits, giving Ohtani and Kopech a run for the hardest fastball. His secondary pitches could still use some polish. If they fail to develop he could always be used as a closer, or put back in the lineup as a shortstop. The first round 2017 pick struggled in his three minor league starts, giving up 8 hits in his 4.1 innings of work. Hunter may need more time in extended spring training before joining a full season team.

7. Alex Reyes (Cardinals) - Reyes has had some bad luck. First he was suspended in 2016 for 80 games after testing positive for drugs, then missing 2017 to Tommy John surgery. Prior to the surgery Reyes hit the high 90s with his fastball. Control has been his big issue, which could be corrected if he did not miss so much time due to suspensions and injuries. Alex did not play last year and will need some time in extended spring training and then in the minor leagues before the Cardinals risk him for the rotation. They will limit his innings since he has only pitched in 111 innings the last two years, all of those pitched in 2016. By mid-year he could be ready for a short relief role, fitting perhaps into the closer role.

8. Brent Honeywell (Rays) - He falls short in velocity when compared to the other pitchers on this list. The supplemental first round pick in 2014 can hit the mid-90s with his fastball but settles in the low 90s. The big pitch that gets the most publicity is the screw ball, which he does not throw that much, but it is a unique pitch. His change is also a pretty good pitch, enhancing the velocity of his fastball. Last year he pitched at AAA and struck out more than a hitter per inning but the opposition hit him at a .268 clip. He may stay around the plate too much making his pitches more hittable. Next year he should start the season in the Rays rotation. The team has already lost one pitcher to free agency (Chris Archer) and have another on the trading block. Spring training will seal his fate to begin the 2018 season.

9. Sandy Alcantara (Marlins) - Another one of those Cardinal finds in the Dominican Republic who slings the ball across the plate in triple digits. The Cardinals included him in the Marcell Ozuna trade giving the Marlins the benefit of his triple digit fastball. He sits in the high 90s using a slider as his breaking pitch. His change shows good potential but his command needs work. Last year he walked 54 in 125 innings and the opposition hit him at a .262 clip. Despite the heat on his fastball he struck out less than a batter per inning. Better command will result in better location of his pitches and more swings and misses. He could start the season in the Marlins rotation with a good spring, but more likely will see AAA. Last year he made his major league debut pitching eight games in relief.

10. Mitch Keller (Pirates) - He seemed to arrive out of nowhere in 2016 to become a top ranked pitcher. He was a second round pick in 2014 and with his fastball hitting the mid 90s and a plus curveball and change he had a breakout 2016. Last year he did not disappoint limiting the opposition to a .202 average and whiffing a hitter per inning. Mitch is a pitcher who mixes his pitches well and locates them with precision. Last year he started six games in AA, which is where he will start the 2017 season. A good spring and an excellent start to the season will see him make his major league debut by mid season.

Others to Note:

Mike Soroka (Braves) - A first round pick in 2015. The Canadian does not throw hard but he locates well. At 6′5″ he has a good pitcher’s frame. Expect him to see the Braves rotation by mid season.

Touki Toussaint (Braves) - Once he overcomes his lack of command he will rise quickly. His fastball reaches the high 90s and his long arms give it a good whip like quality. He will start the season in AA.

Hunter Harvey (Orioles) - A first round pick and son of closer Bryan Harvey has seen his career stalled by injury. The 2018 season he hopes will be a complete season where he can unleash his mid-90s fastball to go along with his excellent curveball. A late season promotion could be in his future, but the Orioles want to be patient with him and control his innings.

Jesus Liranzo (Orioles) - Every pitch out of his arm hits the radar in triple digits with an easy delivery. He is probably slated for the bullpen because of a lack of control and secondary pitches. He is one of those pitchers who could have a breakout career if he can find a second and third pitch and the control improves. Watch out for him in the Orioles pen or rotation in 2018.

Dylan Cease (White Sox) - A sixth round pick of the Cubs in 2014 he began to draw attention to himself when he started humming his fastball in the triple digits. The Cubs traded him to their cross town rival White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade. The White Sox have a lot of young depth in the rotation and Dylan needs to improve his command. He will start the season in High A.

Alec Hansen (White Sox) - Myworld likes his 6′7″ frame and his long wing spans that allows him to sizzle his fastball in the high 90s. He gets a ton of swings and misses and the opposition struggled against him, hitting just .216. He is another pitcher who needs to locate his pitches better. That will be done as he starts the season in AA.

Dane Dunning (White Sox) - The Nationals first round pick in 2016 who they traded to the White Sox for Adam Eaton. Don’t be surprised to see three ex-Nationals in the White Sox rotation next year in Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Dunning. His fastball reaches the mid 90s with good secondary pitches. Next year he will begin the season in AA.

Tyler Mahle (Reds) - The Reds 7th round 2015 pick made a name for himself in 2016 with a 9 inning no hitter. He had a breakout season last year catapulting him to the major league rotation for four starts. His fastball has good velocity and he has excellent command of four pitches. Expect him to fill the Reds rotation next season.

Riley Pint (Rockies) - The fourth pick in the 2016 draft hits the triple digits but tends to sit on the high side of the mid-90s. He also has got excellent command of four pitches. Despite his stuff his strikeout rate was disappointing and the opposition hit him at a .264 clip in Low A. Next year he will start the season in High A.

Matt Manning (Tigers) - The Tigers will have an excellent rotation in a couple years with Perez, Manning, Faedo and Beau Burrows. Manning stands 6′6′ and rains mid to high 90s fastballs on hitters. The 2016 first rounder has the pitches to shine at the top of a rotation, beginning that ascent at High A in 2018.

Alex Faedo (Tigers) - The 2017 first round pick has an excellent fastball slider combination. Last year he pitched Florida to the College World Series championship and was held back by the Tigers. Another top of the rotation starter should begin his year in Low A and as a college drafted pitcher move quickly through the Tigers system.

Forest Whitely (Astros) - The Astros 2016 first round pick is a popular conversation piece during trade talks. At 6′7″ and 240 pounds his mid-90s fastballs sizzle across the plate. His tall frame does not seem to impact his command. With a good season in AA he should fit in the Astros rotation by mid-season.

Walker Buehler (Dodgers) - The Dodgers first round 2015 pick made the Dodgers bullpen last year. His control wavered a bit in the major league callup, but he has four above average pitches that he can throw for strikes. The Dodgers will want to limit his innings after Tommy John surgery in 2015. He will start the season in AAA and by mid-season could be in the rotation or used out of the bullpen.

Yadier Alvarez (Dodgers) - The Dodgers signed the Cuban for $16 million. His velocity hits triple digits but he has trouble finding the plate. If he continues to struggle throwing strikes he could move to the bullpen, but he has the pitches to fit in the rotation.

Jorge Guzman (Marlins) - The Marlins were able to pry this Dominican with the triple digit fastball away from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton trade. There is a challenge of finding the plate and the lack of a third pitch may relegate him to the bullpen.

Domingo Acevedo (Yankees) - Another Yankee Dominican with a triple digit fastball, Domingo dominated at AA and shows better command of his pitches than Guzman. He also has three pitches to fit into a rotation. Expect him to start the season in the AAA rotation but with a good spring he could be going to New York in April.

Sixto Sanchez (Phillies) - At 6′0″ he is not a tall pitcher but his arm can sling a fastball to the plate in the mid 90s. Sixto also shows good command of his pitches. A good spring could see him start the season in AA but after only five starts in High A the Phillies may want to begin his 2018 season in the warm weather of Florida.

Anderson Espinoza (Padres) - Another small pitcher (6′0″) with a small frame (165 pounds), Espinoza succumbed to Tommy John surgery late in 2016 and did not pitch in 2017. It will be interesting how his mid-90s fastball responds. Noted for his plus change Anderson will probably start the season in extended spring training and see his first games in Low A if he is ready before July or in rookie ball if the Padres want to show patience. The hope is that he ends the season in High A.

Michael Baez (Padres) - A 6′8″ Cuban with high 90s heat. The Padres shelled out $3 million for him at the end of 2016 and last year he made an impressive debut. The opposition hit him at a .188 clip and he struck out 89 in 63.2 innings. He should start 2018 in High A.

Jack Flaherty (Cardinals) - The Cardinals 2104 first round pick has been percolating up the Cardinals minor leagues for a few years. Last year he made his major league debut and the Cardinals hope to see more of his mid-90s fastball in the rotation. What sets him apart is an excellent change that enhances the velocity of his fastball. A good spring could see him in the rotation.

Myworld’s Top Ten Lefthanded Prospects

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

The story on lefthanders is they do not throw as hard as righthanders, but their ball moves much better. Don’t know if there has been a study to explain why that happens. Righthanders are generally better to have on your staff because hitters who bat from the same side as the pitcher tend to struggle more and there are more righthanded hitters in baseball. Baseball has all sorts of givens that are based on anecdotal evidence such as short righthanders are not as effective as short lefthanders and right handed power hitting firstbaseman are usually ignored in favor of firstbaseman who can hit lefthanded based on the prevalence of right handed pitching. Personally, myworld will take pitchers who can get hitters out or hitters who can hit regardless of their physical characteristics. So here are my top ten lefthanded pitchers to watch and others to keep an eye on.

1. A.J. Puk (Athletics) - You have to like a pitcher who stands 6′7″, consistently hits the high 90s with his fastball and throws lefthanded. If he doesn’t find a spot in the rotation he could be a knock out closer. He does have a pretty good slider and if his changeup gets better he will have the pitches to settle at the top of a rotation. Tall pitchers tend to have problems finding the strike zone and that is true with A.J. He got as far as AA last year. Hitters at the A level struggled against him(.196) but the AA found his pitches more hittable (.256). The 2016 first round pick should see the Athletics rotation by mid season if he shows success at AA.

2. MacKenzie Gore (Padres) - The third player selected in the 2017 draft dominated at the rookie level in his professional debut, limiting the opposition to a .184 average, a 1.27 ERA and 14 whiffs per nine innings pitched. The Padres were conservative with him allowing him to pitch three innings per start. With those limitations he could rear back on his fastball, hitting the mid-90s. He has a deep selection of quality secondary pitches that will be effective as an ace in the rotation. Next year he will start the season in Low A and at the most optimistic won’t be ready for the Padres until 2020, building up innings and arm strength in the minor leagues. As his innings extend maintaining the fastball velocity and getting hitters out the second and third time he faces them in the order will be tested.

3. Justus Sheffield (Yankees) - At 5′11″ if he threw from the right side he would be bullpen fodder. The Yankees first pick in 2014 throws lefthanded and despite his small stature has good velocity and movement on his fastball. He did not get a lot of swings and misses with his repertoire in AA (7.9 per nine innings) but lefthanders only hit him at .217. His challenge is to retire righthanded hitters more consistently (.276). The Yankees will be in the thick of a playoff race next year and it is tough for rookies in New York to have success in that type of environment. Expect the Yankees to be patient with him. If he can improve his pitches against righthanders he could see some time in the rotation next year, otherwise it could be bullpen opportunities against lefthanders when the Yankees need arms.

4. Yohander Mendez (Rangers) - He stands tall (6′5″) but his fastball stands out more for its sink than velocity. His best pitch is also the change which makes the fastball appear to have greater velocity. He was able to retire both lefties and righties equally (.228 average) in AA which gave the Rangers confidence to promote him to the show. Giving up the long ball could be his Achilles heel, allowing 23 in AA and 3 in his 12 innings with the Rangers. With the Rangers all his appearances were in relief. The Rangers signed a number of fringe starting pitchers as free agents so Mendez will spend the first part of the season in AAA. His success and the back end of the rotations failures will determine his future.

5. Seth Romero (Nationals) - The Nationals have had success with players who have fallen in the draft because of injury. Romero did not have an injury that resulted in his drop, but he was kicked off his college baseball team because of character flaws. Most teams will tolerate a few character flaws for a lefty who touches mid-90s with his fastball. He got a lot of swings and misses with his pitches (14 K’s per nine innings) but had trouble retiring lefthanded hitters (.364). He should start the season in Low A and with success should rise quickly as a pitcher drafted out of college.

6. Jay Groome (Red Sox) - The Red Sox 2016 first round pick stands 6′6″ and looks like a giant on the mound. The curveball is said to be his best pitch but his fastball can hit the mid-90s. At 220 pounds he could fill out some more adding some velocity. He got battered and bruised a bit in Low A, but his command was poor (5 walks per nine innings) resulting in 6 taters in just 44 innings. That gave him an ugly 6.70 ERA. The good news is lefthanded hitters struggled (.184) but not righthanders (.287). He also got a lot of swings and misses (11.77 K’s per nine innings). It would not hurt for him to repeat Low A to find some success before being promoted to High A.

7. Stephen Gonsalves (Twins) - Even though he stands 6′5″ he is one of the softer tossers on this list. His fastball only crosses the plate in the low 90s but he complements it with an excellent change. At AA hitters could only muster a .207 average against him. A promotion to AA saw more barrel on the ball contact (.293) but he did continue to get swings and misses with his pitches, averaging a strikeout per inning. Expect to see him start the year in AAA and find himself promoted to the Twins once he has achieved some success. If the Twins need a lefty in the bullpen that could be his short term role, but long term he will fit in the middle of the rotation.

8. Adrian Morejon (Padres) - Adrian is one of the many investments the Padres have delved in from Cuba. He was the MVP of the 15 and under World Cup and left Cuba shortly after that. At 18 he has already pitched at High A. He is not overpowering with his fastball, sitting in the Low 90s, but he has command of all his pitches and his short stature (6′0) forced him to know how to pitch. The velocity could increase as he gets stronger but currently his pitches are hittable (.265 opposition average). He was the ace of the Cuban youth teams he played for but myworld feels he might fit more in the middle of a rotation. If his fastball shows better velocity he could creep higher. As he rises up each level he needs to show he can miss bats or consistently get poor contact on the balls that are hit.

9. Kolby Allard (Braves) - The Braves are loaded with lefthanded pitching but Kolby may be the best of the group. The Braves 2015 first round pick was bothered by back problems soon after being drafted but last year seemed to show he has recovered from that. His fastball sits in the low 90s but a good curve ball and change give him three quality pitches he can show hitters. Gohara and Fried made their major league debuts last year while Allard toiled in AA all season, so they may be ahead of him in the depth chart. Kolby’s success at AA last year (3.18 ERA) will put him in the pecking order to make the Braves rotation this year. He is not the kind of pitcher who will miss a lot of bats, but he should eat up innings and limit run production, fitting in the middle of the rotation.

10. Tanner Scott (Orioles) - The sixth round 2014 pick throws heat, consistently hitting 100 plus with his fastball. The Orioles limited him to three innings per start, which restricted hitters from seeing him a second time, but a .188 opposition average against him shows the lack of success they had the first time they faced him in the order. His lack of command and secondary pitches may relegate him to the bullpen, but he could be one of those pitchers who develops that second and third pitch in the minors and turns into a monster. Tanner will start next season in AAA. If all he can throw is a fastball hitters will communicate to him how badly he needs other pitches.

Others to Watch

Anthony Banda (Diamondbacks) - A good fastball/curveball combination. Improved command could see better results. Started four games in the majors last year and with a good spring and a trade of Greinke he could find himself in the rotation next year.

Luiz Gohara (Braves) - Luiz was acquired from the Mariners for two minor leaguers. Last year the Brazilian made his major league debut featuring a fastball that hits triple digits. Lack of command and weight issues could give Luiz problems in the future. He also needs to develop a third pitch (change) or be relegated to the bullpen where pitchers with his velocity and lack of command thrive.

Max Fried (Braves) - Lucas Giolito was the star of his high school team but Max got drafted higher after arm issues dropped Lucas in the draft. Tommy John surgery also felled Fried but last year he bounced back after a slow start, making his major league debut. Throwing strikes is a challenge and a start in AAA could be good for him. He did dominate in the Arizona Fall League which was indicative how he turned his season around last year after a horrendous start.

Alex Wells (Orioles) - His twin brother Lachlan pitches for the Twins. The Australian is not blessed with impressive stuff but he was able to get hitters out in Low A. His fastball travels in the high 80s/low 90s with no high quality secondary pitches, retiring hitters mainly on location. Next year he will settle in High A. The higher up the minor league ladder he climbs the greater the test of how his pedestrian pitches survive against better hitters.

D.L. Hall (Orioles) - The Orioles 2017 first round pick has a good fastball but struggled throwing strikes in his 10 inning professional debut. The Orioles have had issues developing pitchers drafted in the first round, often seeing them become more effective after they have left the organization (Jake Arrieta).

Cionel Perez (Astros) - The Cuban is slight of frame (5′11″) but still juices the fastball into the Low 90s. The Astros spent $2 million plus another $2 million penalty to sign him. Hitters found him not to be a mystery hitting him at a .266 clip. He’ll start the season in AA but myworld anticipates Perez in the Astros bullpen by mid-season.

Jesus Luzardo (Athletics) - The Athletics acquired Jesus from the Nationals in the Ryan Madsen/Ryan Doolittle trade. At 6′1″ he doesn’t stand as tall as Puk but his fastball has been clocked in triple digits, sitting in the mid-90s. He had Tommy John surgery in high school so there are concerns about the number of bullets he still has left in his arm. He won’t be ready for the Athletics until 2019, building up his innings in the minor leagues.

Brendan McKay (Rays) - Myworld likes him better as a firstbaseman but the fourth pick in the 2017 draft has a pretty good curve and hits the low 90s with his fastball. If he focuses on pitching the improvements could be exponential.

Ryan Yarbrough (Rays) - Myworld thinks Ryan is a bit underrated. Last year he drifted through AAA like knife through mayonnaise. He gets swings and misses from his low 90s fastball and his 6′5″ height gives him an imposing presence. Don’t be surprised to see him at the back end of the rotation for the Rays next year, especially after the Rays trade one or two of their veteran pitchers. Myworld liked what we saw of him last year.

Astros Prospects Still Flying High

Monday, December 11th, 2017

The Houston Astros followed the Chicago Cubs blueprint in building for their World Series win in 2017. They traded veterans, acquired prospects and lost a bunch of games. Those losses gave them high picks in the draft and they acquired a number of other top prospects with those picks. They probably would have traded Jose Altuve if another team had expressed an interest in him, but he was a bit on the short side and still not an All Star. Once the George Springers and Carlos Correa’s developed into major leaguers the Astros reversed themselves and began trading some of their surplus prospects to take them into the playoffs. The organization is still stacked with prospects waiting for their turn to show the Astros what they can do.

Pitching is their strength, though they could trade a couple of those prospects to grab a more reliable veteran. Forest Whitley at 6′7 may be the best of the pitching prospects with his mid to high 90s fastball. He was the Astros first round pick in 2016, the 17th pick in the draft, climbing from Low A to AA where he combined to strikeout 143 batters in just 92 innings. Last year he only threw 91 innings so the Astros will gobble up innings in the minor leagues before they expose him to the toil of the major leagues. Expect him to see a role towards the end of the 2018 season.

David Paulino, another 6′7″ tower had settled into the rotation last year until a drug failure forced him to end the season early. With his character tainted it will be interesting what role he plays next year. His fastball also hits the mid to high 90s but he has had trouble staying healthy. That health and the drug suspension have limited him to a high of 85 innings in 2016 since signing in 2010. Last year he survived 43 innings before being suspended. Expect him to start the season in AAA to limit his innings and get his mojo back.

The hardest thrower may be Jandel Gustave, who regularly hits triple digits with his fastball. He blew out his elbow in April and missed all of 2017. With his lack of command and secondary pitches his best use is in the bullpen, but with his Aroldis Chapman type heat he could be their closer of the future. He will need to spend some time in the minors to regain arm strength after the surgery.

Other pitchers on the cusp are the 2017 first round pick J.B. Bukauskas, who stands only 6′0″ but still throws in the mid-90s. A college drafted pitcher with good secondary offerings he should rise quickly after beginning his career in short season. Expect a quick rise to AA in 2018. Cionel Perez is a lefthander signed out of Cuba. He does not throw hard but has a mixture of pitches to keep hitters off balance. Elian Rodriguez is another Cuban signing who throws hard but lacks command. A 30/19 walk to whiff ratio in 25 innings tells the tale on him, though the Astros shelled out $1.9 million to sign him.

On the position side Kyle Tucker is their top prospect. He is the younger brother of Preston Tucker who played briefly for the Astros. While Kyle has the potential to be an All Star Preston is more a fourth outfielder utility type. Preston has the speed to play center but the arm to fit in right. The power bat was explosive enough to slug 25 homeruns last year.

Colin Moran led the NCAA in RBIs, which led to him being drafted by the Marlins in the first round in 2013. His bat fell silent with the Marlins and they accepted their losses trading him to the Astros for Jarred Cosart. Last year Moran had a break out season with 18 homeruns in 79 games. This led to a promotion to Houston where after three games he fouled a pitch off his face and missed the rest of the season. Whether he can replicate his production last year is open to question, but Alex Bregman seems to have this position sewn up to begin the 2018 season.

Yordan Alvarez was one of many Cubans signed by the Dodgers. They traded him to the Astros for Josh Fields. Yordan has a left handed bat with the potential for power at 6′5″ and 230 pounds. His defensive tools for the outfield need work but at 20 years old the Astros can show some patience with him.

J.D. Davis is another third baseman who projects for power. Last year he hit 30 homeruns, with four of those swatted in the major leagues. His defense is not as strong as Bregman or Moran so he may have to wait his turn or move to first base to get his opportunity. His legs do not carry a lot of speed to fit in the outfield.

A.J. Reed has seen too much time in the major leagues to be considered a prospect. There is no room for him on the major league roster with a crowded first base situation. A.J. Reed carries more power than Yuli Gurriel but lacks the consistent bat. His time will eventually come and with injury he will fit in the DH slot.