Archive for the 'Pirates' Category

Turner Jolts Pirates to Complete the Sweep

Friday, May 4th, 2018

It was an old fashioned pitcher’s duel at Nats park between two unlikely sources, Trevor Williams for the Pirates and Jeremy Hellickson for the Nationals. Both fail to click 95 on the radar and are better suited in number five roles. With five innings gone Williams had allowed just one hit with no runner touching third. Hellickson had also allowed no runner to touch third, allowing just two hits.

Hellickson was not allowed to complete the sixth inning. A two out single by Adam Frazier had Dave Martinez take the ball away from Hellickson and give it to Sammy Solis to face the lefthand hitting Gregory Polanco. Jeremy did not have a full spring so facing the Pirates lineup for a third time was too big a risk for Martinez. Solis did his job getting Polanco to hit a high fly to right to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth a pesky Wilmer Difo lined a single into right field. Batting ninth Difo managed two walks and one hit for the day. Williams got Bryce Harper to fly to right. The fans were getting a bit edgy waiting for the Nats bats to erupt. Trea Turner was the key to that action lining a Williams pitch into the left field stands about three rows into the bleachers to give the Nationals a 2-0 lead. After being silent for five innings Nat fans relished in repeating twice the spelling of “N-A-T-S”. A batter later Ryan Zimmerman launched a pitch into the red Brewhouse seats in centerfield to up the lead to 3-0 and finish the day for Williams.

The Pirates were able to score a run off Ryan Madson in the eighth. Colin Moran was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Josh Bell pinch hit for the pitcher and lined a single to the opposite field in left. With one out Adam Frazier hit what looked to be an inning ending double play grounder to Howie Kendrick at second but the ball clanked off his glove to load the bases. Dave Martinez chose to go with Sean Doolittle to face the lefty hitting Gregory Polanco, the second time he chose to go to a lefty to retire Polanco. It would also require Doolittle to be extended to a five out save. Polanco hit a grounder to Kendrick, the Nationals tried to turn two but fell short, with a run scoring. Starling Marte flied out to right to end the inning.

Doolittle was able to retire the Pirates in order in the ninth to complete the five out save and give the Nationals a five game winning streak.

Game Notes: On the Nats scoreboard exit velocity was replaced by mound visits. Myworld enjoyed looking at exit velocity…The Nationals have also discontinued handing out the mini-programs. Don’t know if that was to save money or to save on trash. The mini-programs were nice to have to look at rosters, but they were left all over the stadium after the game…Williams could only reach 93 with his fastball but sat in the low 90s. Hellickson sits in the low 90s hitting 92. Both pitchers rely on location for success, with Williams walking the only hitter on the day…Ryan Zimmerman made a great play in the ninth inning, snagging a grounder between first and second and then tossing a perfect lead to Doolittle covering first. Not a lot of firstbaseman can cover the ground Zimmerman does…Wilmer Difo seems to enjoy hitting in the ninth spot. He was 1 for 1 with two walks on the day.

Top Prospects from South America

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

No major league graduates from the first top prospect list from South America last year. The top prospect Jorge Alfaro got more major league time and the 2018 season should see him as a regular major leaguer. The number two prospect Luz Gohara and the number five prospect Thyago Vieira, both flame throwers from Brazil made their major league debuts. Gohara got five starts for the Braves while Vieira made one relief appearance for the Mariners. After that the cupboard gets bare. Below are the top ten prospects in the minor leagues from South America for 2018.

1. Bo Bichette SS (Brazil/Blue Jays) - He played for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. His mother is Brazilian and his father is Dante Bichette, once a Blake Street bomber for the Rockies. His brother Dante Jr. played briefly for the Yankees. Myworld saw him hit three homeruns in an exhibition game and thought he would be a star, but one game does not make a major leaguer, especially in spring training. Now Bo is trying for major league status. Last year was a breakout season for him hitting .384 in Low A and getting promoted to High A and hitting .323. His career minor league average is .372 after getting drafted in the second round in 2016. He does not have the power of his dad, but the batting average will play. Currently, shortstop is his position but there are many who think he does not have the range to play there in the major leagues. The dilemma: his teammate Vladimir Guerrero plays third while another player with major league bloodlines Cavan Biggio plays second. This year Bo is hitting .299 in AA. With Troy Tulowitski seeing his last days as a shortstop the Blue Jays will give Bo every opportunity to succeed at short.

2. Jorge Alfaro C (Colombia/Phillies) - Injuries delayed his permanent arrival to the major leagues. He was signed by the Texas Rangers and included in the deal that got the Rangers Cole Hamel. There is big time power in his bat and his arm has the strength to zip the ball to second base. Those are his strengths. One concern with his bat is his poor walk to whiff ratios (16/113 last year) which could lead to struggles against savvy major league pitchers. Last year he hit .318 with five homeruns in just 29 games to earn the starting catchers job. He lacks speed on the bases and is prone to the passed ball (12 last year), so those are his defensive deficiencies. This year his .235 average with the Phillies is evidence his poor patience could impact his batting average rising to .250 consistently in the major leagues. If the power is there he should stick as the starter.

3. Luiz Gohara LHP (Brazil/Braves) - Despite his ability to throw in triple digits the Mariners traded him to the Braves for Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith. There was concern with his doughy physique keeping him from his major league aspirations. Last year he got five starts for the Braves and overpowered hitters with his high 90s fastball. A lack of a quality third pitch resulted in major leaguers hitting him at a .283 clip. An injury in spring training prevented him from competing for a starting role for the Braves in 2018. His first three starts in AAA have been a struggle to find the plate walking seven hitters in just 12 innings with the opposition assaulting him at a .347 pace. That kind of production will delay any major league appearance until he can start retiring minor league hitters.

4. Jesus Luzardo LHP (Peru/Athletics) - Luzardo was born in Peru but attended high school in Florida. His high school Parkland was involved in a mass shooting and he has done a lot to help the school heal. The Nationals were able to draft him in the third round in 2016 because Tommy John surgery had dropped his draft status. He was one of the players they traded to the Athletics for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Last year he only pitched 43 innings but his lefthanded arm was able to sling fastballs across the plate in the mid-90s, resulting in 48 whiffs. At 6′1″ he is not a tall pitcher but his secondary pitches should augment his fastball. The Athletics promoted him from Rookie ball to High A where he only started three games before they promoted him to AA. A 1.23 ERA and 25 whiffs in just 14.2 innings was a reason for that. If he continues at this rate he could see some major league time in September, though that would be optimistic for the 20 year old.

5. Eric Pardinho RHP (Brazil/Blue Jays) - As a 15 year old he was pitching for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. That motivated the Blue Jays to shell out $1.4 million to sign him in 2017. It’s possible Bo Bichette could have recommended him highly after playing behind him. At 5′9″ the righthander is very short. Despite the stature his fastball sits in the low 90s and can hit the mid-90s. He still needs to make improvements on his secondary pitches, though throwing strikes is not a problem. The 2018 season will be his first and it will start in the short season leagues.

6. Luis Escobar RHP (Colombia/Pirates) - Luis has climbed three spots from his ranking last year. The 2017 season was his first in full season ball where he went from 68 innings pitched to 132. A sizzling mid-90s fastball resulted in a lot of swings and misses (168 in 132 innings pitched) resulting in the South Atlantic League strikeout lead. His curveball has a nice break and his change is still in the development stage. Trying to find control of his pitches is his biggest downfall with 60 walks in 132 innings. This year he has started in the Florida State High A where his strikeout rate is not as prevalent (22 in 26 innings) but hitters still have trouble making hard contact (.213 average).

7. Meibrys Viloria C (Colombia/Royals) - Last year he was rated third based on his .376 batting average. The 2017 season saw him debut in Low A where he only hit .259. More strikeouts and less walks were the main culprit in the batting average drop. His power is more gap to gap but as he gets stronger he should reach double digits in homeruns. The arm is strong allowing him to gun down 40 percent of the runners who attempted to steal against him. The Royals have a number of catchers in the minor leagues rated ahead of him so his task will be to find that patience to replicate his 2016 season. After a slow start in High A he has gotten that average up to .250.

8. Oscar Mercado OF (Colombia/Cardinals) - Mercado was five years shy of being a teenager when he left Colombia for Florida. He was impressive enough at his high school the Cardinals drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft. While a shortstop in his early years he struggled to generate any kind of offense. A move to centerfield last year put the pressure off him and he slugged a career high 13 homeruns with a .287 average. The speed is there to steal 40 bases each season. The Cardinals outfield is crowded but a .319 average in AAA is enough to draw attention to himself. If he can play centerfield and hit for double digits in homeruns he will be more than a fourth outfielder.

9. Thyago Vieira RHP (Brazil/White Sox) - The Mariners signed Thyago two years before they signed Luiz. But like Luiz they were not impressed with his triple digit fastball and traded him to the White Sox for international slot money when they had hopes of signing Shohei Ohtani. Lack of quality secondary pitches have kept him in the bullpen. He also lacks the swing and miss one would expect for his triple digit fastball (7.4 whiffs per nine innings). If he can find a breaking pitch to throw for strikes he could become closer material. His 2018 season in AAA has come with more whiffs (20 in 11 innings) but more walks (9) and a higher opponent batting average (.295).

10. Ronaldo Hernandez C (Colombia/Rays) - The third catcher from Colombia on this list. Myworld smells a trend. Ronaldo played on the 18 and under Colombian team as a 15 year old in 2013. The Rays signed him the next year for $225,000. All he has done since his arrival is hit, with a .326 minor league career average in his first three years, all in Rookie short season ball. Each year his slugging average increased, climbing to .507 last year. A strong arm resulted in a 57 percent success rate against runners trying to steal against him. This year he has made his debut in full season ball and is hitting .302 with a 17 percent success rate in gunning down runners. It is still early so there is plenty of time to change those numbers.

2017 South American Prospects

Roark Uses Arm and Bat to Slay Pirates

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Tanner Roark pitched seven innings of two run ball and also delivered an RBI single in the fourth to give the Nationals a 3-2 win over the Pirates. Tanner gave up six hits and walked two, but managed to slither out of trouble after putting runners on base. Only in the fourth and sixth innings did Tanner retired the side in order.

The Nationals got on board first in the fourth. A one out single by Matt Adams started the rally. Michael Taylor grounded a ball to Colin Moran at third. Moran threw to second to get the force there but the pivot and the peg by Adam Frazier bounced in front of firstbaseman Josh Bell and skipped past him. Taylor advanced to second. With two outs Matt Wieters was walked to bring up Wilmer Difo. He came through with a two out single up the middle to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

The Nationals added to that lead in the fourth. Back to back one out singles by Matt Wieters and Wilmer Difo put runners on first and second with one out. Roark appeared to be sacrificing but missed a pitch that was low. It squirted between the catcher’s legs, far enough away for Wieters and Difo to advance. With the infield drawn in Roark lined a single up the middle to score one. A Trea Turner single drove in a third run to make it 3-0.

The Pirates crawled back. In the fifth a Francisco Cervelli single was wasted when Colin Moran grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Jody Mercer single. With Jameson Taillon up the outfield was shallow. Taillon got a pitcher where he could extend his arms and drove it to the warning track where it bounced untouched. Mercer was able to score on the play to give the Pirates their first run.

In the seventh Corey Dickerson launched a ball over the bullpen into the second deck for a lead off homer, cutting the lead to one. Tanner retired the next three batters to depart the game with the lead. Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth and Brandon Kintzler a perfect ninth to close out the game.

Game Notes: A sparse crowd for Monday night against a somewhat rebuilding Pirates. You would have thought the Nats would have created a giveaway to attract a larger crowd. With all the “tanking” teams attendance may drop and major league baseball may have to look at the tanking issue once it impacts revenues generated by clubs…Lots of construction happening around Nats stadium. There are nine large cranes within view around the stadium…Bryce Harper was walked intentionally twice to bring his season walk total to 38, easily the best in the league and rivaling the pace Barry Bonds put up when he walked close to 200 times…

Top Australian Prospects

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

It has become more difficult to find Aussie prospects in the minor leagues. The distance and the influx of a wave of Cubans makes the cost/benefit of scouting there and then signing players unattractive. Plus for the Aussie, to play baseball in the United States for minimal salary and the difficulty in achieving major league success is not a career enhancer. The only Aussie major leaguers are pitchers, Peter Moylan, Warwick Saupold and Liam Hendrick. Myworld identified Saupold as a prospect to watch before the Tigers signed him when we saw him pitch in Tawian for the Perth Heat team a number of years ago. He is one player who has graduated from the list last year. So below are the top ten Australian prospects in the minor leagues. From what we could find there are not much more than ten Aussie players in the minor leagues.

1. Aaron Whitefield OF (Twins) - He’s an athlete. Defensively he may already be ready for the major leagues. Like Saupold he is a late starter to baseball, having spent most of his youth playing softball. His hitting is a bit raw, but does show some power with 11 homeruns last year. Pitch recognition is an issue with 118 whiffs in 116 games. Even when he makes contact it isn’t barrel of the bat on ball contact. Improved recognition of pitches will result in increased production. The speed is there to play center but the arm is best suited for left. He will begin the 2018 season in High A.

2. Lewis Thorpe LHP (Twins) - Tommy John surgery forced him to miss two seasons (2015 and 2016) after signing in 2012. He made a nice comeback last year finishing with a 2.69 ERA in High A, striking out 84 in 77 innings and limiting the opposition to a .225 average. For an Aussie he throws a hard fastball that creaked into the high 90s prior to his surgery but now sits in the low 90s. If he can get that velocity back he has a greater shot of seeing the major leagues. His secondary pitches are average and should allow him to stay in the rotation. He will begin the 2018 season in AA. If his fastball returns to pre surgery velocity he could see some time with the Twins by mid-season, though the Twins will still be mindful of his pitch count.

3. Alex Wells LHP (Orioles) - Not many pitchers had a string of success like Wells. In July Wells went five starts covering 31 innings in which he did not allow a run. He finished the season with a 2.38 ERA with the opposition hitting just .222 off him. His stuff will not overwhelm you with a fastball that is lucky to break 90. Command of his pitches and throwing them to the corners of the plate is what retires hitters. Last year Alex only walked 10 hitters in 140 innings. Whether that success will continue as he rises through the minor leagues is open to question. The first test will be in High A where his first two starts his ERA sits at 1.74 and the opposition hit him at a .150 rate.

4. Lachlan Wells LHP (Twins) - The Twin brother of Alex. His stuff is just as underwhelming as Alex, but he did not have the same success. He walks a few more hitters and gives up a few more hits, but he also pitched one level higher than Alex at High A. Where Alex won 11 games Lachlan lost 10. His opposition batting average was .243. He began the season on the disabled list, but when he is healthy he could start the season in AA.

5. Robbie Perkins C (Rockies) - The bat is a little light with a .201 career minor league average and a .313 slugging. His arm is what keeps him percolating in the minor leagues. Last year he threw out 19 of the 36 baserunners who attempted to steal against him. Unless his bat improves his best hope for him is to make it as a back up. Last year he did hit .271 in a 22 game stretch in the California League.

6. Todd Van Steensel RHP (Twins) - At 27 years of age he has advanced beyond what is normally considered a prospect. This is his seventh year in the minor leagues. Except for the first two years, they have all been spent in the bullpen. Last year his 1.38 ERA in AA gave the Twins motivation to sign him. He has returned to AA this year and if he can replicate his 2017 season he could see a callup to the big leagues.

7. Jon Kennedy LHP (Braves) - Jon has got height (6′5″) with a lefthanded arm that can throw in the low 90s. Of his 62 appearances only one has appeared as a starter. It would be better if he could get lefthanded hitters out, but his opposition average against lefties (.263) was about the same as righties (.261). He also pitches in the Braves organization, which has a surplus of quality starting pitchers. Many of them will have to settle for bullpen duty if they don’t make the rotation, squeezing out less qualified bullpen pitchers like Kennedy. The 2018 season has seen Jon start it in High A where he has yet to give up a run in four appearances.

8. Daniel McGrath LHP (Red Sxo) - His fastball lacks velocity and he was tagged last year for a .295 opposition average. He also struggles to find the plate with 51 walks in just 85 innings. The Red Sox have moved him to the bullpen where the hope is that shorter spurts will lead to greater success.

9. Zac Shepherd 3B (Tigers) - Myworld was once high on his power. Lack of pitch recognition has resulted in lots of swings and misses (171 whiffs in 2017) and low batting averages. His power is also reduced (.318 slugging) because of lack of barrel on the ball contact. This is his fifth season in minor league baseball where his .219 average has not allowed him to surpass A ball.

10. Sam Street RHP (Pirates) - Lots of Sams in Australian baseball. While he was born in Australia, he went to college in the United States, resulting in the Pirates drafting him in the 16th round of the 2014 draft. Of his 111 appearances only one has been a start. His fastball lacks velocity but his career .233 opposition average shows he can still retire hitters. He starts the 2018 season in AA.

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.

Pirates Sign Bae for $1.2 million bonus

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

The Pittsburgh Pirates gave Korean shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae a $1.2 million bonus. Bae had originally signed with the Braves but major league baseball voided the deal because of contract irregularities.

Bae is a shortstop who represented Korea in the 18 and under World Cup. He would have been a first round pick in the 2017 KBO draft. Because he signed with a major league team the KBO suspended him for two years from signing with any KBO club. After the signing the Braves had compared him to a young Trea Turner.

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 - 30 - 21

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The prospect list continues.

30. Austin Hays OF (Orioles) 6.62 - For a third round pick in 2016 Austin shot up the minor league system quickly, beating all the first round picks to reach the majors. His 32 homeruns were tied for second in the minor leagues. He also hit for average crafting a .329 clip in two minor league seasons, never dropping below .324. For a power hitter he also makes good contact. While he played right field and is listed as having a strong arm myworld does not recall being impressed by any of his throws. The signing of Colby Rasmus could relegate him to AAA. Being the right handed bat in a platoon would not give him enough playing time to develop his game.

29. Luiz Gohara LHP (Braves) 6.74 - The Mariners gave up on the Brazilian because of his inability to get the ball over the plate and traded him to the Braves for Shae Simmons and Mallex Smith. That could be a trade they regret in a couple years. Luiz can hum a fastball in triple digits and sits in the high 90s. That is the gold standard for a lefthanded arm. He still has a little trouble getting the ball over the plate and his two pitch mix of slider/fastball may make him better suited as a closer. Luiz did get an opportunity to start five games with the Braves but command issues led to major league hitters whacking him at a .283 clip. A good spring could see him in the rotation but his best bet would be to start the season in AAA where he completed seven starts last year (3.31 ERA).

28. Luis Robert OF (White Sox) 6.78 - Touted as the next Cuban superstar, the White Sox were able to grab him for $26 million. Having fellow Cubans Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada may have sweetened the deal. His last year in the Nacional Series as a 19 year old he put up Triple Crown numbers (.401, 12, 40) in just half a season before defecting. He was also named to the All Tournament team in the 18 and under World Cup. The legs have the speed to play center and the arm has enough zip to play right. In rookie ball he showed a good stick hitting .301 with three homeruns and a .536 slugging average. The White Sox will give him an opportunity to play full season ball, probably beginning the season in Low A.

27. Austin Meadows OF (Pirates) 7 - Injuries have held Austin back. In the last two years he has been limited to less than 90 games. The trade of Andrew McCutchen could have been an opportunity for him to win a starting job, but he will have to have a monumental spring training to stick on the roster. While he has all the tools to play centerfield, they still fall short of Starling Marte. A less than sterling arm could see him as a left fielder. His bat carries some pop and he makes good contact, with a .292 minor league average. Expect the Pirates to stick him in AAA to begin the season, get some at bats and gain some confidence before they call him up for the big club.

26. A.J. Puk LHP (Athletics) 7.18 - A 6′7″ lefthander who can rain fastballs at the plate in the high 90s is a pitcher few want to face. The 2016 first round pick also has an above average slider, rated the best in the Athletics minor league system and a plus change, resulting in lots of swings and misses. In AA he averaged 12.1 whiffs per nine innings. Lefthanded hitters were also hopeless hitting against him, .196 at High A and .226 in AA. His slider also keeps the ball from leaving the park, allowing only three homeruns in 158 innings pitched. Don’t be surprised to see him pitching for the Athletics in the 2018 season, but to control his innings they will start him in AAA to keep his pitch counts down.

25. MacKenzie Gore LHP (Padres) 7.28 - The Padres 2017 first round pick has ace like stuff. He proved that in his minor league debut last year limiting hitters to a .184 average and striking out 14.3 hitters per nine innings. The high school pitcher should still build some velocity on his mid-90s fastball as his 6′3″ frame matures. What sets Gore apart from many high school pitchers is his repertoire of quality secondary pitches (slider, curve and change). His command is also spot on. The 2018 season should see him begin it in Low A. With his quality stuff the biggest temptation for the Padres will be rushing him to the major leagues.

24. Alex Verdugo OF (Dodgers) 7.32 - If not for the crowded Dodgers outfield Alex would be the next rookie of the year candidate. His speed is a little slow to play centerfield, which would be his best opportunity on this Dodger club, but a cannon for an arm has him fit better in right. The concern for Alex is his ability to hit for power. To date it has not shown with a career .438 slugging. Last year he did spray the outfield for a .314 average, but teams are looking for power in their corner outfielders. There is also some concern whether he brings his A game every day. Myworld suspects he will start the 2018 season in AAA and be the first outfielder called up if an injury should occur. If his power fails to show he could end up as a fourth outfielder.

23. Royce Lewis SS (Twins) 7.44 - Royce was the first player selected in the 2017 draft, even though many touted the skills of Hunter Greene as the top pick. The Twins hope his career does not follow the path of another shortstop Tim Beckham, who struggled to establish himself in the major leagues after being the first pick in the draft. The tools are there for him to play shortstop with a strong arm and good range. The bat has the potential to be potent if he can survive the climb up the minor leagues as a shortstop. His speed allowed him to steal 18 bases in 21 attempts. Last year he played 18 games at Low A, hitting .296. Expect him to start the 2018 season there, with a quick promotion to High A if he achieves early success at Low A.

22. Hunter Greene RHP (Reds) 7.48 - A potential two way player who was expected to be the first pick in the 2017 draft. The Reds with the second pick had to be happy he was still available when it was their turn to pick. He played seven games as a DH hitting .233. The Reds then moved him to the rotation where he got three ineffective starts (12.46). His big attraction as a two way player was his ability to play shortstop, but with all the throwing at the position and the additional throwing on the mound would make it too taxing on his arm. With an arm that can hit triple digits with his fastball the Reds will start him in the rotation. If he falters there they can always turn him into a shortstop. At 6′4″ his ability to stay at short would have been in doubt. The Reds may start him at extended spring and then promote him to Dayton once the weather warms up.

21. Tristan McKenzie RHP (Indians) 7.62 - Tristan may be one of myworld’s favorite pitchers. The last pitcher we witnessed that we were this high on as a 19 year old was a lefthander named Clayton Kershaw. Tristan has 6′5″ height and long wing spans that spells trouble for hitters. Last year there were lots of swings and misses (11.7 whiffs per nine) and little hard contact (.204 opposition average). He has a good curveball and the potential for a plus change. While his command is good he did give up 14 dingers last year. After dominating at High A the Indians will promote him to AA. With success there the Indians may have a need to promote him to the major leagues to get a spot in the playoffs.

Pirates Waving the White Flag for 2018 Season

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

With the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerritt Cole, the Pirates appear to have no plundering planned for the 2018 season. The prospect haul they got for the two stars was not impressive. With their recent playoff runs and their tendency to keep costs low their list of prospects is rather bland. No real superstars among this bunch, something franchises who want to make the playoffs need. It may be a long rebuilding period for the Pirates to get to the level of playoff contention they exercised a couple years ago, even though some of the prospects they acquired for McCutchen and Cole are major league ready.

The Pirates top prospect is outfielder Austin Meadows. If not for injuries he could be ready for the outfield after the trade of Andrew McCutchen. Unfortunately, he has missed significant time the last two years due to injury, failing to reach 100 games played in those two years. When he has played the power has been absent. He has average defensive tools across the board, which would allow him to play an ordinary centerfield, but he is a better fit in left. The 2013 first rounder needs to show the power that made him a high pick. His high school adversary from the state of Georgia Clint Frazier, who was also picked in the first round has seen some time in the major leagues with the Yankees. Expect Meadows to get his time in 2018 if he can avoid injury.

The recently acquired Brian Reynods does not have the same offensive tools as Meadows. Defensively his tools are average with the ability to play center but left field is his more likely position because of a below average arm. The 2016 second round pick does not have the power to be a good fit for left and is probably destined to be a fourth outfielder. There are lots of strikeouts in his swing and not a lot of stolen bases. The Pirates do not have a number of alternatives out there but Reynolds is too far down in the minor league system to get an opportunity this year. As a college level player when drafted he will rise quickly if he shows success.

Jordan Luplow is the most major league ready but his tools are limited. He is a firstbaseman playing left, lacking the speed to cover a lot of ground. What he does have is some power in his bat, slugging 23 minor league homeruns and adding three in the major leagues. In limited playing time he struggled with a .205 average with an OBA 30 points below .300. A good spring could see him win the left field job, but how long he stays will depend on his bat staying hot.

They also have a couple pedestrian shortstops in Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman, whose play will remind fans of Jody Mercer. They will not offer a lot of offensive numbers and their defense will be consistent without offering any gold gloves. Tucker offers the most intrigue with the potential for 30 stolen base speed. Playoff teams look for better tools in their shortstops, but the Pirates are happy with average.

Colin Moran was an Astro acquisition in the Gerritt Cole trade. He became a number one pick in 2013 after leading all college players in RBIs. His minor league career was rather ordinary until last year when he broke out for 18 homeruns and 63 RBIs in just 79 games. This led to a promotion to Houston where he only played a couple games before being injured. His defense at third is adequate but at 6′4″ he may be out growing the position. The Pirates could move Josh Bell to the outfield to give Colin Moran an opportunity to play first. If his bat replicates his 2017 numbers the Pirates will find room for him in the lineup.

On the pitching front Kyle Crick was another player acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade. The 2011 first round supplemental pick has lost a lot of luster since then, struggling to throw strikes with little velocity. The Giants moved him to the bullpen where he seemed to perform better. That will probably be his role in 2018.

A more heralded pitcher is Mitch Keller with his mid-90s fastball and top 100 rankings. The second round 2014 pick seemed to appear from nowhere after his fastball showed some juice in 2016 resulting in 131 whiffs in 124 innings at Low A. He continued that dominance last year at High A and AA, which should prepare him for a major league debut in 2018. An above average curveball and change give him the three pitches necessary for the rotation. Expect him to start the season in AA and with success in AAA a midseason promotion should be in his future.

Nick Kingham missed most of 2016 after Tommy John surgery. His 2017 season was rather limited with gaining arm strength a priority over results. If not for the injury he may have debuted in the major league rotation in 2016. His fastball reaches the plate in the mid-90s but at 6′6″ it seems to come at the hitter faster. Prior to the injury his career minor league opposition average was .238. Last year in AAA it stood at .271. He should be able to let loose a little this year now that he is a year away from surgery. If he can prove his arm is strong don’t be surprised to see him in the rotation by mid-season.

Shane Baz was the Pirates first pick in 2017. At 6′3″ he has a good pitcher’s frame with a fastball that can split the plate in the mid-90s. As he fills out his frame this velocity should increase. His strikeout pitch may be his cutter/slider. Last year he made his minor league debut in rookie ball, struggling to find the plate and getting attacked by lefthanders at a .344 clip. Welcome to the minor leagues Mr. Baz. Improving on his change should give him better success against lefthanders and how far he goes with it will indicate how long he stays in extended spring.