Archive for the 'Cubs' Category

Playoff Baseball - Time for the Non Superstars to Shine

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Expect the unexpected. When playoff baseball begins it is usually the non-superstar that steps into the spotlight. It happened last night in a five hour 13 inning marathon that saw the Rockies pull out the win over the Cubs 2-1.

Kyle Freeland pitched well for the Rockies. He did not give up a run in his 6.2 innings. Jon Lester matched him for the Cubs, allowing one run in his six innings. The first two RBIs of the game were driven in by Nolan Arenado for the Rockies and Javier Baez for the Cubs. All the mentioned players are having solid years and would be expected to contribute in the playoffs.

And then the game went into extra innings. It lasted an hour past midnight before Tony Wolters, who came into the game with a .170 batting average, delivered on a go ahead two out RBI single to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead. The Rockies had already used Wade Davis in the game, so they had to call on Scott Oberg to save the game. He had struck out the one batter he faced to end the 12th inning, living up to his vulture reputation where he was 8-1 during the regular season. He proceeded to strike out all three batters he faced in the 13th inning. Take that Wade Davis.

The Rockies have been in three cities in three days to play three games. They now get a day off before travelling to their fourth city to play the Milwaukee Brewers in a semi-final NL championship game.

Bote Haunts Nationals Again

Friday, September 7th, 2018

The last time David Bote batted against the Nationals he hit a walk off grand slam homerun in front of a national audience for Sunday night baseball. Forward to D.C. a couple weeks later and he enters as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth. He gets another chance to beat the Nats batting in the tenth with a runner on second. He lines a pitch into right center just past the glove of Victor Robles for a double, driving in the go ahead run in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Nationals. Most of the baseball world has not heard of David Bote. Against the Nationals he is their nightmare.

Stephen Strasburg got the start for the Nationals. He was not sharp, throwing a lot of pitches with his velocity still sitting at 94. In the third he retired the first two hitters but became unhinged after that. Javier Baez touched him for a bloop single into left field. Anthony Rizzo beat the shift by lining a ball into right center past Wilmer Difo, who was playing in short right field. Because Baez was going on the pitch he scored easily, even though the Nationals cut the ball off before it reached the warning track. Ben Zobrist followed bouncing a single off the first base bag to score Rizzo to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

The Nationals bounced back in the bottom of the fourth. Bryce Harper grounded a pitch past the first baseman into short right field. Javier Baez fielded the ball and threw to the pitcher covering first. The ball zipped past the pitcher putting Harper on and tacking an error to Baez. Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into right center for a triple, scoring Harper. With two outs Mark Reynolds drove a pitch over the left field bullpen to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. All three runs off Kyle Hendricks were unearned, though that error against Baez was a tough call.

The lead did not last long. Ex-Nat Daniel Murphy drove a single into left field. Anthony Rizzo bounced a ground ball to third. Rendon made a back hand play of the ball, tried to make a sidearm/underhand throw to first and sailed it over the head of Reynolds. Murphy advanced to third where he would score on a Ben Zobrist fly ball.

In the bottom frame the Nationals re-captured the lead on a two out single by Trea Turner scoring Spencer Kieboom from third. Kieboom finished the day 3 for 3 to raise his average over .200. He was bunted to second by Stephen Strasburg and advanced to third on an Adam Eaton ground out.

With a 4-3 lead could the Nationals bullpen hold it? Justin Miller could not. He gave up a leadoff single to Kris Bryant in the eighth. Albert Almora followed with a single to center. Victor Robles made the throw to third, but it was too late to get Bryant and Almora advanced to second on the throw. Trea Turner made a nice back hand play on a ground ball hit by Wilson Contreras in the hole. He could not get Bryant out at home but his throw to second was able to nail Almora, who had strayed too far off second base.

With the score tied the Nationals had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. A Juan Soto double into the right field corner put runners on second and third with one out. Justin Wilson, a left handed pitcher came on to relieve right hander Cal Edwards and struck out Mark Reynolds, who is a killer against left handed pitching. That was a move going against the books. Another right hander Wilmer Difo flied to shallow left to end the inning.

The walk off man Ryan Zimmerman came up in the ninth and grounded to second. That brought the game to the tenth where the hard throwing Jimmy Cordero was called on to pitch. He was short of the task. Albert Almore and David Bote hit back to back doubles to score one and Taylor Davis tacked on an insurance run with a single to right.

Jesse Chavez came on to close out the game. The Nationals rallied on a Trea Turner walk and Anthony Rendon single to put runners on first and third with one out. The Nationals super rookie Juan Soto could not get the job done, striking out and Mark Reynolds lined out to center to end the game.

Game Notes: A sparse crowd for a Cub game. Daniel Murphy was given an ovation prior to the game but there were not a lot of Nationals fans at the park. As the game continued the seats filled, but it sounded like most of the seats were occupied by Cubs fans. The attendance was announced at 32,000. It would have been a sell out if the Nationals were still in the playoff hunt…Wilson Contreras seems to be wearing down. In past seasons injuries have given him a rest during the season. He hit three weak grounders and a shallow fly ball. There appears to be no juice left in his bat…Part of me wonders if Michael Taylor might have caught that line drive hit by Bote into right center. Taylor knows how to track down fly balls. Robles seemed to make an inefficient route when trying to catch the fly ball hit by Bote…Terrence Gore came in as a pinch runner and stole second base. He now has more steals (23) than major league plate appearances (15).

Top Puerto Rican Prospects

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Compared to previous lists, last year’s Puerto Rican prospect list only graduated one player because of major league service time. Rio Ruiz got 150 at bats with the Braves, but a .193 batting average did not guarantee a return. Five players saw some major league time but not enough to lose their rookie status. Jorge Lopez got one major league appearance with the Brewers while Joe Jimenez pitched in 24 games for the Tigers, rewarding them with a 12.32 ERA. Jose Deleon got one appearance for the Rays. Tomas Nido saw a few games behind the plate for the Mets as did Victor Caratini see some plate action with the Cubs. That is six major leaguers from the top ten, but none of them with the potential impact of Carlos Correa, Joes Berrios, Francisco Lindor or Javier Baez, players who had appeared in previous lists. Below are the top ten prospects from Puerto Rico in the minor leagues.

1. Heliot Ramos OF (Giants) - Heliot has the tools to be a difference maker, something not seen from the list last year. He was a first round pick of the Giants in 2017. His power and speed, with a plus arm make him a potential five tool player. One cause for concern was his lack of patience in the Arizona Rookie League where he had a 10/48 walk to whiff ratio in 35 games. Those whiffs did not prevent him from hitting .348 with six homeruns and a 1.049 OPS. The Giants started his 2018 season in Low A where the cold weather in Salem has quieted his bat (.259 average, .397 slugging). When the weather warms up the bat should start producing.

2. Delvin Perez SS (Cardinals) - Perhaps the comparisons to Carlos Correa were unfair. A failed drug test also dropped his draft status. The Cardinals still made him a first round pick in 2016 but at the back end of the first round. It’s been two years and he has yet to clear the fence. He struggled last year in rookie ball hitting just above .200. A hit by pitch broke a bone in his hand and mercifully ended his season early. His defense is above average but if his bat doesn’t produce a utility role may be his best bet. Delvin could see a third year in the rookie leagues. He has yet to appear in a game in 2018.

3. Joe Jimenez RHP (Tigers) - With his mid-90s fastball Jimenez was being groomed to be the closer for the Tigers. A 12.32 ERA in 24 appearances with the opposition hitting him at a .356 pace tempered those expectations. Command has been a problem and major leaguers will take advantage. Joe made the Tigers roster to begin the 2018 season with promising results. He has yet to give up an earned run in 10 appearances, with the opposition hitting him at a .171 clip. That is quite a bit of improvement from his numbers last year. At this rate he should stick in the Tigers bullpen and graduate from this list.

4. Victor Caratini C (Cubs) - Caratini can hit, but Wilson Contreras is ahead of him behind the plate. A move to first is a possibility but the Cubs have Anthony Rizzo there. So Caratini will take his bats where he can get them, filling a utility role. His bat is much better than his glove. Last year at Iowa he hit .342 with 10 homeruns and a .558 slugging percentage. To start the season he will play as the back up to Contreras and Rizzo. The at bats will not be plentiful but it should be enough to lose his rookie status. Expect him to be a role player for his career.

5. Isan Diaz 2B/SS (Brewers) - Isan has not been able to replicate his .360 average from his rookie league season in 2015. Last year he struggled with a .222 average. The power is there with double digit homeruns all three seasons. His defense is not stellar so he needs to hit to get in the lineup. The Brewers have been playing him at short, but his best position is second base. Last year he committed 21 errors at the two positions in just 102 games, 14 of them at second base. The Brewers have started him at AA to begin the 2018 season and his .198 average would be a further decline of his batting average. His prospect status is fading.

6. Jorge Lopez RHP (Brewers) - The Brewers appear to be moving Lopez to the bullpen. A 6.81 ERA at AAA Colorado Springs in 2016 dropped his prospect status. His fastball may be better suited for the bullpen, with his curveball a quality second pitch. The key is being able to find the plate. His move to the bullpen last year saw him lower his ERA. This year he has returned to AAA where he has picked up two saves. At 25 years of age the Brewers may put him on the roller coaster, calling him up from AAA when they need an arm for the bullpen.

7. Jose Deleon RHP (Rays) - Drafted by the Dodgers they traded him to the Rays for Logan Forsyth. The Rays were hoping to use him in their rotation last year but injuries limited him to eight minor league starts. His mid-90s fastball from previous years had trouble reaching 90 last year which made has change less effective. He also had some issues finding the plate. The Rays were hoping to get some starts from him in 2018 but Tommy John surgery will end his season. The Rays will have to hope that his fastball will return when he is healthy for the 2019 season.

8. Tomas Nido C (Mets) - Nido is an above average defensive player with a strong arm good enough to gun down 45 percent of those runners attempting to steal against him in AA last year. There is some power in his bat when he connects but there is still too much lack of barrel of bat on ball contact. Last year he hit just .232 at Binghamton. The Mets have had some injuries behind the plate, with Travis d’Arnaud out for the year, giving Nido an opportunity to show what he can do. Currently he is hitting only .182 but his ability to play defense will give him more opportunities.

9. Edwin Rios 1B/3B (Dodgers) - At 6′3″ and 220 pounds Edwin has big time power that is not seen often in Puerto Rico. Last year he hit 24 homeruns between AA and AAA but with Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner ahead of him at first and third his opportunity for playing time with the Dodgers may be limited. He is much better defensively at first base, with below average skills at third base. Left field is a possibility but his speed is limited there. An injury to Justin Turner this year seemed like an opportunity for Rios, but he has started the season dinged up and has yet to appear in a game. The injuries were said to be minor but he has yet to appear in a game this year.

10. Nelson Velasquez OF (Cubs) - Nelson was a fifth round pick in 2017 by the Cubs, but he was the first position player they drafted. He showed some plus power in the rookie leagues with eight homeruns with the speed to steal five bases. His poor routes may prevent a centerfield option but the arm is powerful enough to fit in right. He still is quite raw as a player but shows great potential. The 2018 season has been spent in extended spring where he may need to wait for the rookie leagues to begin play in July.

2017 top Puerto Rican Prospects

Predictions - NL Central

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

This is the strongest division in the NL. We’d like to select the Milwaukee Brewers to surprise but we just don’t like the pitching.

1, Chicago Cubs

Overall - Their farm system will no longer offer them any help. The position players are still young and able to contribute. It is the starting rotation that may see some cracks, with little depth behind four veteran starters.

Strengths - 1) Infield. They are solid all around, providing a combination of excellent defense and productive offense. Anthony Rizzo is the big bat with his 32 homeruns and 109 RBIs. At second base Javier Baez came into his own, slugging 23 homeruns. Addison Russell struggled last year with his offense hitting only.239 with 12 homeruns but his defense is solid. At third base is the slugging Kris Bryant with his 29 homeruns. They also have Ben Zobrist who can rotate around any of those positions.
2) Starting pitching. Signing Yu Darvish as a free agent gives them four solid starters. The Cubs have built this rotation through free agent signings and trades. Kyle Hendricks was acquired from the Rangers but was developed in the Cubs minor leagues. Jon Lester was acquired as a free agent back in 2014 and Jose Quintana was acquired via a trade from the White Sox last year. All four pitchers have the potential to win 15 games.
3) Catching. Many are calling Wilson Contreras the top catcher in the National League. His 13 errors need to be reduced but he should increase his 21 homeruns from last year.

Weaknesses - 1) Bullpen. Brandon Morrow is not a proven commodity in the closer role. In his injury marred early years as a starter many felt he would be better used as a closer. That time has arrived now that he is turning 34 years old.
2) Right field. Jason Heyward won a gold glove. His bat has been a big disappointment, especially for a corner outfielder. Last year he slugged .389.

Top Rookie - Victor Caratini will get most of the rookie playing time as the back up catcher to Contreras. He can also play first and third base in a pinch and Joe Maddon likes his flexibility. No other rookie should contribute.

Top Prospect - The farm system is a little barren. Adbert Alzolay is considered their top prospect. He had success at High A and AA but may fit best as a mid-rotation starter.

Expected Finish - First Place. They will again battle the Dodgers in the National League championship series.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Overall - The starting rotation will be young, but the arms are talented. If they can get Alex Reyes on track this rotation has the ability to be dominant.

Strengths - 1) Catcher. Yadier Molina may be aging but he is still the heart and soul of this team. His 82 RBIs led the team.
2) Left Field. The Cardinals traded for Marcell Ozuna to provide more production in the lineup. His 37 homeruns and 124 RBIs is the kind of production a championship lineup needs from their team.
3) Ace. Carlos Martinez has the potential to turn into one of the top five starters in the National League. His 217 strikeouts were only topped by three pitchers in the National League. Expect him to get better as he gains experience.

Weaknesses - 1) Bullpen. They have no established closer, 31 saves departing when Seung-Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal left the team. Alex Reyes may eventually win the job, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery and may not be able to pitch until mid-May. Luke Gregerson was signed as a free agent to fill that role but he will also start the season on the disabled list and accumulated one save last year.
2) Young Back End of Rotation. The Cardinals hope that rookie Jack Flaherty and second year starter Luke Weaver can anchor the back end of the rotation. Miles Mikolas has also come over from Japan to show that he has improved on his rookie season with the Rangers.

Top Rookie - Jack Flaherty will get the biggest and earliest test. He will slide in the fifth spot of the Cardinals rotation. Alex Reyes will eventually get a callup in May but will start his career in the bullpen to prevent his arm from throwing too many innings. Reyes has the potential to be the better starter in 2019.

Top Prospect - Alex Reyes. He has missed two years because of drug suspensions and injuries. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching last year.

Expected Finish - Second Place but enough to get one of the two wild card spots.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

Overall - They will have some bashers in the lineup but their pitching could also give up a lot of runs. A trade of some of their outfield depth for a starting pitcher would make this team better.

Strengths - 1) Outfield. They have more quality outfielders than positions for them. Christian Yelich will fit in left with a bat that can hit over .300 with 20 plus homeruns. He was acquired in a trade from the Marlins. Lorenzo Cain was signed as a free agent. He made the Royals offense roll and will now get that machine rolling for the Brewers. Domingo Santana had a breakout year last year with 30 homeruns. The Brewers tried to trade him to make room for Ryan Braun in the outfield. With no DH he may have to rotate between first base and the two corner outfield positions.
2) Third Base. The Red Sox needed a third baseman last year. Before the season started they traded Travis Shaw to the Brewers for Tyler Thornburg feeling that Shaw was not an answer to their third base quandary. All Shaw did was hit 31 homeruns and drive in 101 runs. That kind of production may have gotten the Red Sox to the World Series.

Weaknesses - 1) Starting Pitching. This is what separates the Brewers from the Cubs and Cardinals. Losing Jimmy Nelson hurt. Zach Davies did win 17 games last year but he only struck out 5.8 hitters per nine innings and the opposition hit him at a .275 clip. Chase Anderson also had a solid year but there is some question whether he can repeat. Rookie Brandon Woodruff will probably fill the fifth spot in the rotation.
2) Catcher. Steven Vogt struggles on defense and last year did not hit enough. Manny Pina is better suited for a back up role though he did well when thrust into a starting role. Replicating those numbers may be difficult.

Top Rookie - Brandon Woodruff will slot into the fifth spot in the rotation.

Top Prospect - Keston Hiura their first round 2017 pick has shown he can hit. It will not take him long before he is playing second base for the Brewers and challenging for batting titles.

Expected Finish - They will squeeze into the second wild card spot with their third place finish in the Central.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

Overall - The Pirates would like to have fans believe the team is not rebuilding but trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerritt Cole was the waving of the white flag.

Strength - 1) Closer. Felipe Rivero was a nice acquisition by the Pirates a couple years ago. He dominated left handed hitters who only hit .082 against him.

Weaknesses - 1) Shortstop. Jody Mercer has always been a pedestrian shortstop. He carries no quality offensive or defensive tools, though he hit a career high 14 homeruns last year.
2) Third Base. They will turn to rookie Colin Moran to fill this position. Last year it appeared he came into his own until a hit by pitch knocked him out after a seven game major league debut. David Freese will act as insurance in case Moran fails.
3) Starting Pitcher. They traded their ace Gerritt Cole. Jameson Taillon has the potential to be an ace but he was too hittable last year (.290 opposition average). The pitching staff is filled with pitchers whose ERA was north of 4.00 last year.

Top Rookie - Colin Moran appears to have a shot to start at third base. A starting pitcher like Nick Kingham or Mitch Keller could squeeze into this rotation.

Top Prospect - Mitch Keller is their top pitcher. Austin Meadows their top position player. Both will get opportunities to play for the Pirates this year.

Expected Finish - Far out of the playoff race where the motivation will be to trade more veterans and finally admit this is a rebuilding year.

5. Cincinnati Reds

Overall - The rebuild has gone slower than expected. It is a big surprise to see Joey Votto still on the roster.

Strengths - 1) First Base. Joey Votto may be the best hitter in baseball. Last year he was second in the MVP voting despite the Reds last place finish. Votto drove in 100 runs and walked 134 times.
2) Corner Outfield. Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler each hit 30 plus homeruns. The small park could have something to do with that but not many teams have that kind of power in their corners.
3) Second Base. Scooter Gennett hit four homeruns in one game and 27 for the year. His 97 RBIs was tops among second baseman in the National League.

Weaknesses - 1) Shortstop. Jose Peraza may be better suited for second base. His speed should produce more stolen bases and his OBA needs to get over .330 to make him effective.
2) Starting Pitching. Homer Bailey is the ace until he gets traded, but he has yet to pitch effectively since his return from injury. After Homer the pitching is young. Luis Castillo showed some success last year but the others are a work in progress. Last year no pitcher reached double digits in victories.
3) Centerfield. Other than speed and defense Billy Hamilton provides little production. His inability to get on base (.299 OBA) limits his speed opportunities.

Top Rookie - Tyler Mahle will be tried in the starting rotation. Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and Rookie Davis have all struggled. The new blood keeps on flowing but being rejected by the host.

Top Prospect - Nick Senzel. He could become a gold glove third baseman but the Reds may try him for some games at short. Not a lot of shortstops carry the thunder he has in his bat.

Expected Finish - Another last place finish.

Top Prospects from Mexico

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Victor Arano and Giovanny Gallegos are the two pitchers from the list last year that saw some brief major league time. Julio Urias and Daniel Castro made it from the 2016 list but a shoulder injury has sidelined Julio’s progress with the Dodgers and pedestrian talent has prevented Castro from continuing his major league stay. There was a repeat number one and five of the ten players on this list were repeats. Dropping off the list were Francisco Rios, Jose Cardona, Jose Luis Hernandez, Fernando Perez and Christian Villanueva. This is not a list filled with top prospects. Only Luis Urias has a significant shot at seeing full time major league time.

1. Luis Urias (Padres) 2B/SS - He started as a second baseman but the Padres have given him time at short. His future position may be second base but the arm is strong enough to play short and the range is there. It just would not be super elite for the position. The bat is the prize here, making contact and walking more than striking out, a trait not shared by many. He also peppers the gaps with line drives, with the capability of staying in the .300 neighborhood. There is very little power in his swing and not a lot of speed in his legs, but he would be a perfect two hole hitter. Luis could be ready to see major league time by mid-season, but the 2018 season will see him start in AAA. His career minor league average is .310.

2. Isaac Paredes (Tigers) SS/2B - Paredes was acquired from the Cubs in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade. The Cubs signed Paredes out of Mexico in 2015. Isaac is another contact hitter who may lack the speed and build to stay at short. He does have a little power in his bat so a move to second or third could provide a team with an offensive second baseman or a defensive third baseman with decent power. He struggled a little bit in Low A (.217) after being traded by the Cubs. Still a teenager the Tigers could keep him at Low A to get his feet wet or challenge him with a promotion to High A where he would be considered one of the younger players in the league.

3. Jose Albertos (Cubs) RHP - Pitchers from Mexico usually are not hard throwers. The Cubs spent $1.5 million on Albertos because he can zing his fastball across the plate in the high 90s but generally sits on the higher side of the low 90s to the mid-90s. Like most pitchers from Mexico, they learn the change and Jose has a good one, making the fastball appear to have that much more velocity. A third pitch needs to be perfected for him to slide into the rotation, otherwise he may be best suited for the bullpen. Last year he pitched in the rookie leagues and did well. His career opposition batting average since signing is .176 and he strikes out 10.5 hitters per nine innings. Next year will be his big test when he starts a full season league.

4. Andres Munoz (Padres) RHP - The first new player on this list. The Padres paid out a $700,000 bonus in 2015 to sign Munoz away from the Mexico City team. Since his signing his fastball has increased from the low 90s to sitting in the high 90s to hitting triple digits. All of his work has been out of the bullpen where he does not need to hold back. Finding the plate has been a struggle walking just over six hitters per nine innings. Also, he pitches out of the bullpen because he only has a fastball/slider combination. Those limitations will keep him in the bullpen as he rises through the ranks. Last year he got three appearances at Low A. That is where he should start the 2018 season. If the Padres want to see him develop more pitches and improve his control they could move him into a starter’s role, but myworld does not see that happening this year.

5. Victor Arano (Phillies) RHP - Victor is one of two pitchers from the list last year who saw major league time. After 2015 all of his time has been spent in the bullpen where he can unleash his fastball in the mid-90s. His slider may be his best pitch, the one he uses to retire hitters. While his numbers at AA Reading were not awe inspiring (4.19 ERA) the Phillies still promoted him to their major league club. He did well, limiting the opposition to a .158 average and striking out 11 hitters per nine innings. With a good spring his strong major league performance could give him a shot to start the season with the major league club, or ride that roller coaster, bouncing back and forth between AAA and the Phillies.

6. Tirso Orneles (Padres) OF - The Padres have always talked about expanding their roster to include more players from Mexico, attracting fans from Tijuana to attend their games. Tirso is a player they signed for $1.5 million from the Mexico City club. Urias and Munoz are two other players the Padres have signed out of Mexico City. At 6′4″ Tirso has the ability to generate power in his bat, banging three homeruns last year in the Arizona Rookie League as a 17 year old. His lack of speed will keep him in the corner but his arm is a fit for right. The 2018 season should see him with another season in the Rookie League unless the Padres really want to challenge him.

7. Hector Velasquez (Red Sox) RHP - The Red Sox signed Hector after the 2016 season from Campeche after he won pitcher of the year honors for the second time. Like many pitchers from Mexico, his fastball is not overpowering. He relies more on his command of pitches and his secondary stuff to retire hitters. At 28 years of age the Red Sox started him at AAA where he limited the opposition to a .213 average. This led to a promotion to the Red Sox where he held his own with three starts and five relief appearances (2.92 ERA). With a good spring he could fill the back end of the rotation, but more likely he will start the season in AAA and will be called upon when needed, adding depth to the rotation.

8. Javier Assad (Cubs) RHP - The Cubs do a good job of signing players out of Mexico. Assad was signed in 2015 for $150,000. Assad has a large frame (200 pounds) so he needs to watch his weight. Not an overpowering pitcher he relies more on command and an assortment of pitches to throw at hitters to keep them off balance. A .275 opposition average is evidence that hitters can make hard contact against him if his command is off. The 2018 season will be his first in a full season league. His best bet is to fit in the back of a rotation or fill the middle of a bullpen.

9. Victor Ruiz (Reds) C - Victor was a third baseman for the Tijuana team but the Reds signed him in 2016 and moved him to catcher. His arm is strong for the position but last year he struggled throwing runners out with a 19 percent success rate. While there is some pop in his bat he failed to hit a homerun in his 78 at bats in the rookie league. He also needs to improve his patience at the plate with a 1/22 walk to whiff ratio leading to a .250 OBA. At 18 years old entering the 2018 season he will be a major work in progress. Expect him to stay in the Rookie League to continue to improve on his catching craft.

10. Giovanny Gallegos RHP (Yankees) - The Yankees signed Giovanny in 2011, a year after signing Manny Banuelos. His stuff is not as good as Manny but his arm has survived to allow him to continue his major league pursuit, while Manny has transformed into a journeyman. A mid-90s fastball limited AAA hitters to a .180 average and 14.33 whiffs per nine innings. This got him a promotion to the Yankees where the hitters feasted on his lack of quality secondary pitches to hit him at a .263 pace. The 2018 season could see him rotate back and forth between the Yankees and AAA, but carrying only a fastball will leave him at the back end of the bullpen, unless he can perfect a second pitch to complement his fastball.

Top 10 Dominican Prospects - Nationals League

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

It is almost a completely new top ten with Reynaldo Lopez, Manuel Margot, Amed Rosario, Wilmer Difo, Jeimer Candelario and Raimel Tapia graduating to the major leagues. Eloy Jimenez transferred to the American League list and Francellis Montas dropped out. Only the top two prospects repeated the list, Alex Reyes and Victor Robles. Alex may not have repeated this list if Tommy John surgery had not ended his season last year. Below is the top ten Dominican prospects in the National League:

1. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) - Victor was number two last year and switched with Alex for the top spot this year. While the power has not shown yet 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 numbers.

2. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - 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.

3. Fernando Tatis Jr SS (Padres) - 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. Last year the Padres moved him from Low A to AA, skipping High A. The 2018 season should see him start in AA.

4. Sixto Sanchez RHP (Phillies) - The Dominican has a fastball that can hit triple digits, which creates comparisons to Pedro Martinez because of his small stature (6′0″). The Phillies signed him in 2015 for only $35,000. Despite the velocity on his fastball he does not miss a lot of bats (6.5 K’s per 9 innings in High A). This could be because his secondary pitches are a work in progress. His command is excellent as he has yet to hit double digits in walks at any level he has played and he has only given up two homeruns in his 175 innings of pitching. He had some rough five starts in High A so myworld expects that will be where he begins his 2018 season, getting a promotion mid-season if he has success there.

5. Juan Soto OF (Nationals) - Injuries limited the talented outfielder to just 32 games last year. After two seasons his career minor league average sits at an impressive .362 with an OPS of .953. This could be one of the reasons the Nationals were hesitant to trade Soto despite a number of requests about his availability. While his bat is pretty impressive his defense could limit him to left field because of a less than spectacular arm. He still has not grown into what should be impressive power. Despite the limited playing time because of injuries the Nationals should start him in High A to begin the 2018 season. He will still be a teenager when playing at that level.

6. Sandy Alcantara RHP (Marlins) - One of the players the Marlins were able to acquire for Marcell Ozuna. The Cardinals have a lot of success finding pitchers with triple digit heat. Sandy is one of those pitchers who sits in the high 90s but hits triple digits regularly, shades of Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez before him. He still has not developed any consistent secondary pitches, still trying to master a slider and curve. His command is not quite there as well. He did get 8 relief appearances with the Cardinals last year where he struck out 10 in eight innings, but he also walked six. If his command does not improve and his secondary pitches do not develop he could always be used out of the bullpen. The Marlins will keep him in the rotation in 2018 in AAA. His lack of secondary pitches and command resulted in the opposition hitting him at a .262 clip with his whiff rate sitting at a disappointing 7.6 per nine innings.

7. Adonis Medina RHP (Phillies) - Adonis does not throw as hard as Sixto but his fastball can hit the mid-90s. It sits in the low 90s. The Phillies signed Adonis the year before they signed Sixto, shelling out just $70,000 for the 17 year old, so for $100,000 they were able to acquire two of the top pitchers on this list. Adonis has a quality change that can make his fastball appear to arrive at the plate with greater velocity and a slider that can be a swing and miss pitch. In Low A Adonis struck out 10 hitters per nine innings and limited the opposition to a .227 average. In three minor league seasons his career ERA sits at an impressive 2.81. The Phillies seem to be promoting him one level at a time so expect him to pitch at High A for the 2018 season.

8. Jorge Guzman RHP (Marlins) - You would have thought the Marlins could have gotten more from the Yankees for Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees had more advanced Dominican throwers who hit the radar in triple digits. The Marlins chose the less developed Guzman, who has yet to advance past the rookie leagues since signing in 2014, but has shown some impressive heat. Guzman was ranked as one of the hardest throwing Yankee hurlers, averaging 99 miles per hour with his fastball. He could replace Reyes and Kopech as having one of the best fastballs in the minor leagues. He has not really had the need to work on his secondary pitches, but as he reaches the full season leagues those pitches will need to be developed. His command has been good in the lower levels. His first test of full season league will be in 2018 where he will either break out or fall into obscurity.

9. Adbert Alzolay RHP (Cubs) - The Cubs need pitching and Adbert built some additional velocity on his fastball to rise up the ranks. It sits at 93-95. The secondary pitches still needs some work as well as his ability to throw strikes. He has yet to strike out a hitter per inning but an improvement of his change and curve would change that. The opposition struggled to make quality contact, hitting him at a .220 clip. He did get seven starts in AA, which is where he would start the 2018 season. An appearance at the back end of the rotation by the end of the season could be possible.

10. Jhailyn Ortiz OF (Phillies) - The third Philly Dominican on this list, but the one who the Phillies paid a lot to sign. Jhailyn was able to squeeze out a $4.01 million bonus from the Phillies in 2015. At 6′3 he carries 250 pounds, which carries balls far over the fence. He has a strong arm to play right field but his legs lack speed and may result in an eventual move to first base. Last year in the rookie league he slugged eight homeruns with a .560 slugging average. Jhailyn should begin the 2018 season in Low A where his ability to hit for power will begin to get noticed.

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.

Cubbies Cupboard Getting Bare

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Now that the Cubs are winning they have lost an opportunity to select the best player in the draft. They have also felt the need to trade some of their top prospects for veterans to get them through the playoff race, losing players like Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres and Jeimer Candelario. Also, many of their superstars who they drafted early have graduated to the big leagues, most recently Ian Happ, Albert Almora and Wilson Contreras but Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber two now veterans who were once high first round picks. Now the minor leagues is filled with players who have lesser talents, but with time could become contributors to the Cubs major league roster, or be used as trade fodder. It needs to be restocked soon.

Surprisingly, it is the pitching in the minor leagues that is now the Cubs strength. Their top ten prospect list is littered with pitchers who the year before were listed in the middle of the pack. Duane Underwood was once one of their top pitchers but a poor year has dropped him back in the prospect list. He went 13-7, but poor command and a low strikeout rate led to a 4.43 ERA. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but his secondary pitches are a bit inconsistent. His best bet for the major leagues may be to work out of the bullpen next year.

A trio of foreign pitchers have percolated up the system. Adbert Alzolay is small at 6′0″ but can hit the mid-90s. He reached AA and limited the opposition to a .220 average. Oscar de la Cruz has a pitcher’s frame at 6′4″ who also hits the mid-90s with his fastball. He was signed by the Cubs in 2012 and at 22 years of age has finally reached High A. Jose Albertos is another smaller pitcher at 6′1″ who has a good change to complement his mid-90s fastball. The Cubs can hope one of these three makes an impact in the rotation in the still somewhat distant future.

Now that they are selecting lower in the draft they have been using their picks to focus on pitchers. Alex Lange and Brendon Little are two first round picks from the 2017 draft. Lange throws from the right side and Little the left. Both rely on curveballs to retire hitters with fastballs that sit in the low 90s but can reach mid-90s. At 6′3″ 190 Lange can add some more meat to his frame which could add a tick or two to his velocity. Both pitchers started in Low A but as college drafted pitchers could rise quickly. If the Cubs can get one of these two to have success in the rotation they have accomplished something in the draft.

Jen-Ho Tseng put himself back on the prospect map after falling off last year. The Taiwanese native had a 2.54 ERA combined between AA and AAA with 24 starts. There is not a lot of velocity in his fastball so command of his pitchers and keeping them low in the strike zone will allow him to retire hitters. He could get an opportunity to fit in the back end of the Cubs rotation next year.

Myworld is not enamored with their position prospects. Victor Caratini is a tweener prospect who does not have the defensive chops to usurp Wilson Contreras from the catcher position and lacks the power to play first base. Last year he had a career year in AAA, hitting .342. His best role could be as a DH or get traded to a team lacking a firstbaseman. He could also be used as a backup catcher.

Eddy Martinez is an outfielder signed out of Cuba. He has the arm for right field and the speed to be serviceable in center but his bat will limit him to be a fourth outfielder. At 22 he is still young. Last year he slugged 14 homeruns so the power could still emerge but at this point the Cubs have to wonder why they threw in that extra $500,000 to get to a $3 million bonus to outbid the Giants.

David Bote is a player to watch. At 24 his line drive bat could be ready to make an impact. He showed good power in the AFL, hitting four homeruns and hitting .333. If he can stay in the .300 neighborhood with moderate power he could become useful as a role player. Unfortunately his defensive tools limit him to second base and his legs do not have the speed to make him an impact player with the stolen base. He should start the season in AAA but don’t be surprised not to see him with the Cubs by mid-season.

Michael Cruz is being groomed as the possible catcher of the future after Contreras has filled his purpose. Cruz has some pop in the bat but still needs to work on his defense. Last year he committed 9 errors and five passed balls in just 27 games. Those numbers will have to improve if he wants to see the major leagues.

A final prospect to watch is Chad Hockin. His numbers were not overwhelming but he throws a mid-90s fastball and he is the grandson of Harmon Killebrew. Myworld would be a little higher on him if he was a hitter instead of a pitcher.

Nats Bats Explode Late in Win Over Cubs

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

Last year Joe Maddon got into the heads of Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. He walked Bryce six times in one game, a number intentionally to face Ryan Zimmerman, who failed to drive in the city of runners he left on base. Both would go on to have less than stellar years.

Yesterday both Harper and Zimmerman got a little revenge against Maddon. Harper launched a mammoth two run shot in the eighth that settled into the second deck over the Nationals bullpen that tied the game at 3-3. In the same inning Zimmerman lifted a fly ball into left field that just cleared the fence for a three run homer to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead.

The game started well for the Nationals when Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into the right field bullpen with two outs in the first inning for an early 1-0 lead. That was the only hit the Nationals could muster off Jon Lester through the first four innings. It was shades of the previous night when they could only collect two hits in nine innings.

The Cubs got back early in the game when Wilson Contreras powered a pitch down the left field line for a second inning leadoff homer to tie the game 1-1. Gio Gonzalez like Jon Lester would settle down after that blast and not allow a hit until the fourth.

In the fourth Kris Bryant lined a double over the head of Jayson Werth to lead off the inning. Anthony Rizzo hit a high fly ball into right that a Cubs fan caught just over the fence for a two run homer. The Nationals appealed that the Cubs fan reached over the fence to rob Bryce Harper of an opportunity to make the catch but the appeal was denied after looking at the replay. Gio worked five innings before Dusty Baker went to the bullpen.

In the bottom of the fifth Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a slow bouncer up the middle for their second hit of the game. After two fly outs Zimmerman baited Lester to throw to first, taking a lead that was almost one third of the way to second. Lester did not throw to first and Zimmerman stole second with a huge jump. A wild pitch advanced him to third with two outs. Michael Taylor worked a walk and Howie Kendrick pinch hit for Gio and also walked to load the bases. That brought up Trea Turner. Trea swung at and missed at what appeared to be a outside fastball for strike three to continue the frustration of Nationals fans watching the anemic bats flail.

The Nationals could not get another hit until the eighth. Lester worked six and Pedro Strop hit Wieters with two outs in the seventh but retired Taylor to leave the Nats struggling to find base runners. The bullpen of Matt Albers, Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson and Oliver Perez quieted the Cubs bats through eight, leaving the score at 3-1 entering the home half of the eighth.

Adam Lind pinch hit for Oliver Perez and does what he does best, singling into left field. A faster runner would have gotten to second, but for Nats fans it was a hit. Harper worked the count to 3-1 and then launched a pitch into the full moon, landing in the second deck high above the right field bullpen to tie the game 3-3. The crowd had something to cheer about. Myworld does not recall a “N-A-T-S Nats, Nats, Nats” cheer for the two runs but too many people were slapping high fives maybe they forgot or perhaps myworld did not notice.

A walk to Anthony Rendon ended the day for Carl Edwards Jr. Mike Montgomery came on and gave up an opposite field single to left to Daniel Murphy. Ryan Zimmerman then lifted a high fly into left field. The left fielder drifted back, appeared to have caught the ball, but once he could not produce the ball from his glove the crowd realized it had just cleared the fence into the first row. Zimmerman made the leap just before touching first and it was 6-3 Nats.

Sean Doolittle came on for the ninth. He provided a little bit of excitement by giving up a one out single to Addison Russell. Ben Zobrist grounded a 2-1 pitch to Rendon at third and he turned it into a game ending double play. The series goes back to Chicago even at 1-1.

Nats Notes: A sellout crowd of 43,860 attended the game. There were more Cubbies blue than the game on Friday night…Game three starters are scheduled to be Max Scherzer for the Nats and Jose Quintana for the Cubs…Dusty stayed loyal to Jayson Werth, starting him in left field. He was hitless for his second straight game, though he did draw a walk in the first game. Expect Howie to get a start if Jayson’s bat stays cold…The Nationals handed out red towels for the game Saturday night. There were not too many opportunities for fans to wave them until the eighth…For Adam Lind he had his first playoff at bat after 1,344 regular season games. He made the most of it by singling to left, beginning a five run rally that would send the Nationals to victory. Victor Robles pinch ran for him and scored after the Harper homer…The homerun for Rizzo was a franchise record 6 homeruns in the playoffs. He also has the record for most post season RBIs with 16.

Leather and Wood Fail the Nats in Playoff Loss to Cubs

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

The Nationals have appeared in three playoffs series. They have yet to win one. Something always fails them. The bats. The pen. The lack of starting pitching. Yesterday it was the leather after a key error by Anthony Rendon allowed two unearned runs to score in the sixth to ruin an excellent performance from Strasburg. The bats were also frigid, failing to make any solid contact off Kyle Hendricks in the 3-0 loss.

The Nationals were able to advance a runner to second in the first two innings, but failed to score. Little did they know it would be their best opportunity of the night. After the second inning no National touched second base. It was pure domination by Hendricks, whose fastball was one tick slower than the change thrown by Strasburg. Whenever he threw his change the Nats could only stir a breeze or watch it flutter in the strike zone.

Strasburg was just as dominant, but in a more swing and miss way. In the first five innings he had struck out five. In the sixth leadoff hitter Javier Baez hit a routine grounder to third. Anthony Rendon had it in his glove and then it was out of his glove. Hendricks bunted Baez to second.

After a fly out to center Strasburg got ahead of Kris Bryant 0-2. It appeared he would escape adversity, a trait he has not been known for in the past. He had yet to allow a hit, but Strasburg does not lead a charmed life when facing adversity. On an 0-2 pitch Bryant lined one into right center for the first hit of the game. The throw home from Harper was a little too high and missed the first cutoff man, but Strasburg, instead of backing up home caught the ball and fired to second, where Bryant was trying to advance on the high throw. Bryant slid under the tag and a review confirmed that. If the throw had been low enough for the first cutoff man Bryant may have been out. This proved critical when Anthony Rizzo lined a single to right field to score Bryant to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

This proved insurmountable to the Nationals impotent bats. The offense only hit five balls into the outfield, two for hits and three routine fly outs. The Cubs added one more insurance run in the eighth on a Jon Jay double that hit the left field line. A one out grounder to second advanced Jay to third. Anthony Rizzo lined a double into the left field corner to give the Cubs another run they would not need.

The Cubs bullpen of Carl Edwards Jr and Wade Davis retired the Nationals in order in the last two innings. It was almost a relief to see Hendricks gone to start the eighth, but the Nats bats could not hit anyone tonight.

Nats Notes: A nice gesture by the Nats to have Steve Scalise throw out the first pitch. He was the Congressman shot at the baseball practice held by the Republicans. His body guards were also present at the ceremony, one of the Secret Service members catching the first pitch…The Nats passed out red cardboard “K” signs. Strasburg put them to good use with his 10 whiffs in seven innings. The bullpen of Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler also struck out three, but it was all for naught by an offense that also struck out 9 times and could not get solid wood on the ball…Steven Strasburg started the game throwing all strikes and retiring the Cubs in order in the first inning. His changeup (91) was a tick faster than the Kyle Hendricks fastball (88-91. Both Strasburg and Hendricks got a lot of swings and misses with their changeups….Jayson Werth took three strikes in his first at bat. While he did walk once his bat was not impressive. Expect Howie Kendrick to play left field in the second game to generate more offense…Ryan Zimmerman struck out in the ninth and when he ran to first the throw from Wilson Contreras hit him in the shoulder. The umpire ruled him out because he was far inside the line interfering with the throw from Contreras. The crowd did not like the call but he was clearly inside the infield area of the base path.