Archive for January, 2012

KBO Upset at Orioles

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The Korean Baseball Organization will file a complaint with the major league commissioner over the Orioles signing of Seong-Min Kim.  It is not just the Orioles and their “hegemonic rookie signing” but other teams who are taking more liberties of signing Korean players while they are still in high school.  Kim signed for $550,000, an amount he would not have made in the Korean draft.

If major league baseball does not take any action to stop major league teams from signing their players they will visit the Commisioner in person or team up with leagues in Japan and Taiwan to confront the major league teams about the signings.

Major league teams have always been careful about signing players eligible for the draft in Japan.  The Red Sox got in a lot of hot water for signing Junichi Tazawa out of high school.  The Red Sox were only able to sign him after Junichi did not declare himself to the NPB teams that he was available for the draft.  The Red Sox have not signed a Japanese player since, but that may be more a reflection of the lack of success they have had with their signings when compared to the resources spent.

Taiwan only has four teams and most youngsters do not like to play for the CPBL because of the gambling incidents.  The CPBL is making efforts to change their reputation and could become more attractive to Taiwan youngsters.  Their draft is limited to just a few rounds and there are a lot more players than teams that can accommodate them.  Many Taiwan youth would love to go to the United States, but most get on the money train for Japan.

It is interesting that the KBO is complaining about the United States robbing their country of their baseball youth, but they allow Dae-Ho Lee to be signed by a Japanese team.  Some would argue that the exception for Lee is that he had reached his free agent year and could sign for any professional team, while major league teams that sign Korean high school player are not giving the KBO any opportunity to sign them since they have to first graduate to be eligibile for the draft.  The Orioles signed Kim while he was still in high school.

You can read the article here: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/sports/2012/02/136_103863.html

This post was courtesy of Marriott hotel who comped me my internet time for being such a good customer.  The least I can do is give them some credit on this post.  Next time you are at the Newark International Airport, the Marriott is the place to stay.

Third Adventure - Dominican Republic

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Myworld is getting ready for our third road trip.  This time it is to the Dominican Republic for the Series del Caribe.  In October we were in Panama for two weeks for the baseball world cup and in November we hung out in Taiwan for a week for the Asia World Series.

The four teams that will be playing in the Series del Caribe are the Escogido Leones (Dominican Republic), Aragua Tigres (Venezuela), the defending Series del Caribe champs the Obregon Yaquis (Mexico) and the Mayaguez Indios from Puerto Rico.  We hope the weather cooperates.

The two things that worry myworld about the trip are the earthquakes and crime.  The Dominican Republic has had a couple mild tremors over the last couple weeks.  Some experts are saying that these tremors are just a prelude to a big earthquake that is inevitable.  The second issue is the crime that is taking place on those leaving the airport.  It appears criminals are following taxis as they leave the airport and then robbing the passengers.  It makes me wonder if the taxi drivers are getting a percentage from the robberies.  But such is life.  There are dangers everywhere you go.  It would be nice if the Dominican authorities make an attenpt to stop these robberies or their tourism will be impacted.

Myworld will probably be unavailable tomorrow as we take the amtrak up to Newark to take an early morning 7 AM Wednesday flight.  After experiencing delays everytime we land in Newark we refuse to fly their again.  The best flights to the Dominican Republic take off from Newark so we will pay a little extra to have Amtrak take me the day before.  That way we hope not to miss our flight or wait for six hours for our flight to arrive.

We will be meeting a friend for dinner in Newark and arriving at the airport hotel fairly late.  I’d be surprised if the hotel at the airport will provide free internet access.  So our next posting will probably be in Santo Domingo on Wednesday.  For some reason my house mates are quite thrilled that I am leaving again.  Hmmm.

Eye of the Tiger - Phillies

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The Phillies don’t have a lot of time to win another World Series with this current crop of players.  The roster is aging, which means more players have been susceptible to injuries.  They are also in the process of trying to restock the roster with younger players, allowing Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Roy Oswalt to leave via free agency.  They will be challenged by three of the teams in the National League East who are younger and hungrier to knock them from the top of the hill.

General Overview: It was a bad way to end the season.  Ryan Howard making the last out, unable to run to first because of a torn Achilles tendon, crumpling to the ground as the Cardinals win game five 1-0.  They supposedly had a pitching staff that couldn’t be beat and was built for the playoffs, with four pitchers who could be considered aces on other team’s staff.  Roy Halladay was outpitched by Chris Carpenter in the Division Finals 1-0.  After their World series championship in 2008, the team has lost a World Series to the Yankees in 2009, a conference championship to the Giants in 2010 and now a division series to the Cardinals last year.  The next step down is missing the playoffs altogether.  On the bright side their winning percnetage has increased each year since they won the championship in 2008.  They just haven’t been able to carry the winning into the playoffs.

Why They Will Win: The pitching staff may not be four deep as it was last year, but it is three deep with Roy Hallady, Cliff Lee and Cole HamelsVance Worley had a sweet year last year, but rookie pitchers have a tendency to struggle their sophmore year as hitters adjust.  They still have a pretty potent lineup with Hunter Pence in right, Chase Utley at second and Jimmie Rollins who they resigned for short.  They may try to platoon Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton at first base until Ryan Howard is ready to get back into the lineup in May.  Carlos Ruiz is about as steady of a catcher as there is.  He doesn’t produce a ton of offense but he handles the pitching staff well, which is all a team can ask.  Shane Victorino is still solid in center, but he can be expected to miss significant time in center.

Why They Won’t Win: Without Ryan Howard in their lineup the offense looks a bit weak.  It is unclear whether Jim Thome’s back issues will allow him to start many games at first base while Howard is out.  The alternative is Ty Wigginton and he is a much bigger come down at the position than Jim Thome.  Placido Polanco may lose playing time to Ty Wigginton after Howard gets back.  At 36 his days are numbered as the starting third baseman of the Phillies.  John Mayberry will be given an opportunity to start in left field after hitting 15 homeruns last year playing for injured Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard. Jonathan Papelbon will be an improvement over last year’s closers, but Papelbon has lost his elite status at that position. Last year Vance Worley filled the fifth spot in the rotation. This year he moves up to the fourth spot leaving Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick to fight for that fifth spot. Myworld is not enamored with their bullpen options to get them to Papelbon. They may regret losing both Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson, leaving only Antonio Bastardo to set up. Myworld would love to be the announcer when Antonio trots in from the bullpen to pitch.

Prospects to Make the Roster: The Phillies may see both Joe Savery and Justin DeFratus make the roster as bullpen options if they have good springs. Both were September callups and pitched well. Savery throws from the left side, which gives him an advantage. If one of those does not make the roster a bullpen spot could open up for Phillippe Aumont. Most of the other prospects are too low a level in the minor leagues to jump up three levels to make the major league roster.

Long Range Prospects - Freddy Galvis is bound to get time, either at second base if Utley is injured or shortstop if Rollins goes down for any significant time. Harold Garcia is another option at second. Trevor May is their top prospect and will probably start the season in AA. It won’t take a lot to promote him to the majors if an injury calls for it. Julio Rodriguez is a bit of a soft tosser, but if he replicates the 16-7 mark he had in AA he should at least get a September callup. Dominik Brown has too many at bats to be considered a prospect, but he will start the season in the minors and don’t be surprised if he is playing left field for the Phillies by July.

Significant Transactions: The Phillies didn’t show a whole lot of confidence in John Mayberry for their left field spot, signing Juan Pierre.  Juan is a good lefthanded bat with speed. They also made an astute signing with Joel Pinero, who could compete for a fifth spot in the rotation. He is only a couple years removed from a 15 win season with St. Louis. Jim Thome was an interesting signing, since most feel that his playing days as a position player are over.  Phillies management are talking about playing him at first a couple days a week while Howard is on the disabled list. Jonathan Papelbon will replace Ryan Madson as their closer. There is some dispute that they had originally agreed to a contract with Madson, then reneged on it once they learned Papelbon was available. They acquired Ty Wigginton from the Rockies to fill the corner infield positions to rest Placido Polanco and to occupy the first base spot while Howard is on the disabled list. They have made no major trades.

Expected Finish: They will just barely escape with the division title, their winning percentage falling for the first time since 2008. This year they will make the playoffs, only to lose to the Albert Pujols improved Angels.

Escogido Rallies for Dominican Championship

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Escogido (5-4) 6 Aguilas (4-5) 5

Aguilas almost rode the pitching of Raul Valdes to the championship, but he was removed after six innings of work with Aguilas up 4-1.  The bullpen failed to hold the lead.  Escogido rallied for three runs in the eighth to to take a 5-4 lead, the go ahead run scoring after a throwing error by shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.  Aguilas tied it in the top of the ninth on a 2-out Jessie Gutierrez homerun, but Andy Dirks delivered a clutch a 2-out base hit that wiggled its way to centerfield for the game winning run.  Miguel Batista took the loss and though his line shows he walked three batters, they were all intentional.

Hector Luna and Miguel Tejeda had hit back to back homeruns in the second inning to give Aguilas a 2-0 lead.  They scored single runs in the third and fourth to take a 4-0 lead and life looked rosy for the Cibaenas fans who had traveled from Santiago to Santo Domingo to see their team win.  They failed to score against Aneury Rodriguez, who pitched three plus innings of shutout ball to allow Escogido to get back in the game.  Fernando Rodney got credit for the win after he gave up the homerun in the top of the ninth to blow the save.

Top Australian Prospects

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The signing by the Tigers of Warwick Saupold gives myworld two prospects that we are a bit familiar with from Australia because we have either read a lot about them or seen them play.  There are also a few names here that myworld saw play at the World Cup in Panama.  It is difficult to judge a player by one game, so we have taken into account their ABL performance and/or the numbers they put up in the minor leagues.  You can read a lot on the Australian players at http://thebaseballdigest.wordpress.com/.  There may be some players that we missed.  Of the 44 or so Australian minor league players, we have identified 10 of them.  If they are 25 or older we left them off the list.

1. Liam Hendricks RHP (Twins) - He is the only Australian rated in the Baseball America Top 30 prospect book for each of the teams.  He is rated as the Twins seventh rated prospect.  That is good enough for myworld to give him the top rating here.  His numbers were good in AA (2.70) but he struggled in AAA (4.56).  This did not discourage the Twins from promoting him to their major league team where he was hit around at a .313 clip and a 6.17 ERA in four starts.  His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the high 80s to low 90s, but he relies heavily on its command to be effective.  Sometimes, when facing major league hitters it is not good to be too much around the plate.  He also mixes in a slider, sinker and curveball to give him four pitches to play with as a starter.  Expect him to fall at the back end of the rotation at best.

2. Warwick Saupold RHP (Tigers) - The Tigers had a bit of an edge here since there resident scout is also the coach of the Perth Heat.  Warwick broke the record for lowest ERA in the ABL with a 1.41.  That was quite a big improvement over his 5.52 the previous year.  His opposition average was also more than 100 points lower (.282 vs .173).  He will not be overpowering with a fastball in the low 90s.  What we saw of his breaking stuff was unimpressive, but he did give up 6 runs in just two innings of work against the Samsung Lions.  He doesn’t have the command of a Liam Hendriks but he has a little more velocity.  One thing that myworld noticed about him was his lower half, which appeared thick, translating into an innings eater similar to a Roger Clemens.  He almost signed a couple years ago, but the club team that had his playing rights, but they made some demands that scared the major league team off.  The batter that he most wants to face in the major leagues is Albert Pujols and now that Albert is an Angel Warwick may get that wish.

3. Ryan Searle RHP (Cubs) - He pitched well in the ABL, getting five starts with a 3.66 ERA.  He struck out 34 in 32 innings and showed improved command, walking only nine.  Last year he struggled a bit with his command, putting together a 57/93 walk to whiff ratio in 113 innings.  He did finish with a 3.30 ERA making 11 starts in the AA Southern League.  He pitched for the Australian national team in Panama, going 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA, pitching well against Nicaragua and shutting out the bronze medal Canadian team for seven innings.  His best pitch is his curveball, though he also throws a fastball and slider.  He is still working on the change.  Based on his ABL and World Cup performance the Cubs should try to work him in the rotation.

4. Mitch Denning OF (Red Sox) - Mitch had an off year with the Red Sox last year, hitting just .220 with a .655 OPS.  He doesn’t hit for enough power to really play a corner, but he has a very good arm.  His range may be a little short to play centerfield for a major league team.  So the best he can hope for is probably a spot on the major league roster as a fourth outfielder.  He has to be more than a gap hitter to be a corner outfielder.  Mitch has decent speed, but it doesn’t translate to stolen base success.  The highlight of his career is when he hit .321 in the New York Penn League in 2008, getting him named to the All Star team.  That year he also had a career best .471 slugging, otherwise it is more in the range of .360.

5. James Beresford 2B (Twins) - James Beresford played shortstop for the Australian national team in Panama.  His future could be more as a second baseman, or even as a utility player.  His arm is a little short to play short on a regular basis in the major leagues and he did make 16 errors in the 96 games he played there last year.  He signed with the Twins at age 16, but missed the 2006 season because of a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.  He didn’t make his minor league debut until 2007 when he was 18 years old.  He hit a nice .270 in the Florida State League, but has only hit one homerun in his minor league career.  He has a career .319 slugging percentage in the minor leagues, so you can’t expect any power from him.  He has good speed, but it doesn’t translate well to stolen bases.  He was 4 for 12 in stolen base success last year and previous years it has been a flip a coin success rate.

6. David Kandilas OF (Rockies) - He has spent three years in the rookie league in Casper increasing his average from .205 to .262 to .327.  Something tells me he is ready for a change.  To his dismay, he probably knows all the best restaurants in Casper, Wyoming.  Baseball is leaving Casper, so even if the Rockies want to give him a fourth year in rookie ball Casper will be out of the question for 2012.  The Rockies signed him in 2008 and he will be 22 years old in September 2012.  At his leadoff spot he was the entire offense for the Adelaide Bite during the playoffs, but only hit .250 for them during the regular season.  In his third year at Casper he improved his walk/whiff ratio, stolen bases and power, slugging .548 with 17 doubles, 10 triples and six homeruns.  If he makes it to the major leagues it will have to be as a centerfielder, which was his primary position last year.

7. Mitch Nilsson C (Indians) - If the name sounds familiar, he is the nephew of Dave Nilsson, who had a long major league career as a catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Mitch hopes to repeat that feat, but with the Cleveland Indians.  He is off to a good start, hitting .358 in the Arizona League.  He also shared catching duties with Ryan Battaglia with the Brisbane Bandits, hitting .200 with one homerun.  The Indians also signed Ryan Battaglia to a contract, but he saw limited playing time last year.  Mitch is a long way off from being a polished product so we base this mainly on his genes and his good start in the minor leagues, though with limited at bats.  What he does in his second season will determine whether he stays on this list.

8. Mathew Kennelly C (Braves) - He is the younger brother of Tim Kennelly, who is a better hitter than Matt at this stage in their careers.  Tim plays for the Philadelphia Phillies but at 25 next year he may be a little old to be considered a prospect.  At 23 next year Mathew reached the Braves AAA Gwinnett team.  Overall, between AA and AAA he hit ,262.  He had a little more than 20 percent success rate behind the plate in throwing out runners so he doesn’t look to be anything but a backup at this point.  In the ABL he splits catching duties for the Perth Heat with Allan de San Miguel, though Miguel gets most of the catching time, while Mathew plays DH.  He has a .297 average in the ABL with six homeruns.

9. Stefan Welch 1B (Pirates) - He had a good year down in St Lucie, hitting 16 homeruns with a .271 average.  That didn’t persuade the Mets to put him on the 40 man roster and he left as a minor league six year free agent, signing a minor league contract with the Pirates for the 2012 season.  He played first base for the Australian National team in the World Cup in Australia and at 23 he still has some time left to make his mark.  The 16 homeruns was twice as many as he has hit in any other year and it was done in the Florida State League, where the parks are spacious.  In the ABL he is hitting .279 with a .558 slugging percentage, so it appears the power is arriving.  At first base he has to hit for a few more homeruns if he wants to play in the major leagues.

10. Boss Moanaro 1B (Red Sox) - The Red Sox released his older brother Moko, but they have kept Boss.  Boss is one of the big bats in the Sydney Blue Sox lineup, hitting .273 with five homeruns and 22 RBIs.  The 22 RBIs were the second most on the Blue Sox club.  For the Red Sox minor league team he hit .241 with five homeruns and 31 RBIs.  His family roots go back to New Zealand, but Boss was born in Australia.  The sports he played while growing up were rugby and cricket, not baseball, so he has a lot of learning to do.  One of the things he likes to do is hit the baseball a long way.  He can do that in batting practice.  During the games it is a lot more difficult.

Some pretty good players who lack a major league affiliation include:

Elliott Biddle OF - He had one year as a pitcher in the Twins organization back in 2008.  He only appeared in three games.  Now he is carrying a big stick, hitting 12 homeruns, second in the ABL.  At one point he hit a homerun in six straight games.  The park in which Aces play is small, which may be why they had the top three homerun hitters in the ABL.  At 23 he would have to rise quickly to make a major league investment worthwhile.

Brad Harman 2B - He led the ABL in homeruns with 14 and is a teammate of Biddle, playing in the small park that also entertains livestock.  He was a top prospect for the Phillies a number of years ago, but eventually was released and has not resigned with another club.  He is still only 26, which is the age of Yoenis Cespedes.  Of course, after he was designated by the Phillies he was suspended for 14 months by Australia for failing to take a drug test, violating the “whereabouts rule”.  He has 11 major league at bats.

Todd Van Steensel RHP - He is only 21 years old and pitched 11 games in relief in the ABL.  He finished with an ERA of 3.32 but had an excellent 5/25 walk to whiff ratio in 22 innings.  He played for the Phillies in 2011 but had an ERA of 5.68.  He gave up 10 homeruns in just 57 innings of work.  In the ABL three left the park in 21 innings of work.

Warwick Saupold Signs with Tigers

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The best pitcher in the ABL, who was not affiliated with any major league team has now signed with the Detroit Tigers.  Warwick Saupold, who pitches for the Perth Heat, led all pitchers in ERA at 1.41, setting an ABL record for lowest ERA.  Myworld was impressed with his lower frame when he pitched for the Perth Heat in the Asian Series.  He only pitched in relief in the one game we saw him work and he didn’t pitch that well, giving up a grand slam homerun to Myung-Chul Shin in his third inning of work, but allowing six runs in the inning.  He was a bit high in the strike zone and got behind in the count in his disasterous 6-run eighth inning.  He throws in the low 90s and his breaking stuff did not seem to wow me, so that may need some work.

You can read the article here: http://web.theabl.com.au/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120125&content_id=26457340&vkey=news_l595&fext=.jsp&sid=l595  While the article indicates he has been the most consistent pitcher in the ABL he had a stretch, including the Asian series where he struggled with his control.  It was the December period where he gave up 13 of his 18 runs, but he finished strong.  At 22 years of age he is a bit old to be starting his professional career, but if major league teams can sign Cubans and Japanese professionals at 26 or 32 years of age they can sign an Australian at 22 years of age.

Next on the list of signings will hopefully be Elliott Biddle, who pitched in the minor leagues for one year a number of years ago.  He is a hitter now and his 13 homeruns were second in the ABL.  The one downside of his numbers is his 8/41 walk to whiff ratio in 42 games and his 23 years of age.  He did have a streak where he hit homeruns in six consecutive games.  If they can sign Dominicans who claim to be 16 but are actually 21, they can sign an Australian who is a true 23 years of age.

Aragua Advances to Series del Caribe

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Aragua (4-2) 3 La Guaira (2-4) 1

Yorman Bazardo and four bullpen pitchers limited the Tibornes bats to four hits in their 3-1 win.  The Tigers scored all their runs in the third inning on RBI singles from Hector Gimenez and Edgardo Alfonzo and a sacrifice fly from Wilson Ramos.

The Tiburones had a two out rally where they loaded the bases in the ninth inning on two singles and a walk.  A walk to Rafael Alvarez scored the first run for La Guaira, but then Victor Moreno replaced Jose Mijares and got Jose Martinez to ground out to third to end the game and make Aragua the third team to qualify for Series del Caribe.

Aguilas Takes It to Game Nine

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Aguilas (4-4) 9 Escogido (4-4) 2

Aguilas got homeruns from light hitting Carlos Gomez and hot hitting Brandon Moss to smoke Escogido 9-2 and take the series to a final ninth game.  Leadoff hitter Elian Herrera also scored four runs with three hits and a walk to ignite the offense.  Angel Castro picked up his fourth win without a loss pitching one plus inning of relief.  Both starters Lorenzo Barcello and Francisco Liriano struggled.  For Francisco it was his fourth loss against no wins for the Leones.  He could be one reason why they do not advace to the Series del Caribe with his 7.36 ERA.

Andy Dirks drove in both runs for the Leones with a single and triple and Julio Borbon contributed three hits, yielding centerfield to Jose Constanza.

Take On Me - Nationals

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Myworld is a little biased picking the Nationals to make the playoffs in 2012.  Since moving to Washinton D.C. they have yet to finish with a record over .500.  Davey Johnson thinks they are capable.  When you look at the potential of that pitching staff, this could be a dynamite rotation.

Overall Review: The Nationals picked a pretty good time to have the worst record in baseball for two straight years, acquiring Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  Last year, one of the best players in the draft fell to them in Anthony Rendon because of injury concerns.  They ended up having so much depth in their minor leagues that they traded four pretty good prospects for Gio Gonzalez, a veteran presence that will be needed for what appears to be a young rotation.  No team in this division, except perhaps the Marlins has improved the team as much as the Nationals.

Why They Will Win: The rotation looks quite strong.  While there are no aces, the young Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman are future aces in the making.  The opening day starter will probably be Gio Gonzalez and their ace of last year John Lannan may not be able to crack their rotation.  That is because Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler could claim the other rotation spots.  Ryan Zimmerman is one of the best third baseman in the game and has more walkoff homeruns than any current active player.  He was hurt to start the season and never appeared healthy as the season progressed, especially his throws to first.  If he can remain healthy to start the season Jayson Werth will have a better offensive year, though he is far from the value they are paying him.  Mike Morse proved that 2010 was not a fluke and after a slow start to the season became one of the top hitters in the National League.  He belongs more at first base than left field, but the Nationals have Adam LaRoche for first.  Danny Espinosa also had a rough second half of the season and is bound to improve.  Wilson Ramos got better as the season progressed and should only improve.  He took over the catching job from future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.  Myworld’s concern is that he had a poor winter campaign after being rescued from his kidnapping ordeal.  Drew Storen is one of the best closers in baseball and there is no better set up man than Tyler Clippard.  He gets more swings and misses than anyone with a fastball that registers in the low 90s.

Why They Won’t Win: They really have no one for centerfield.  They are talking about allowed Bryce Harper to win an outfield spot, which would mean a move of Werth or Harper to centerfield, making the outfield defense potentially one of the worst in the National League.  Ultimately, they will probably platoon Mike Cameron with Roger BernadinaAdam LaRoche has not shown he can hit in Washington.  Another slow start will force the Nationals to move Mike Morse to first.  Adam has traditionally been a slow starter.  Ian Desmond cut his errors down from 2010, but he has to reduce them further, or raise his offensive game.  He showed potential to be an offensive shortstop, but last year was a disappointment.  He covers a lot of ground at short, but he still makes too many errors.

Top Prospects to Make the Roster: The Nationals say they will give Bryce Harper an opportunity to make the roster out of spring training.  They do have an open outfield spot.  More realistically, expect a mid season promotion.  Steve Lombardozzi hit over .300 in the minor leagues last year, but struggled in his Nationals debut (.194).  He could make it as a utility infielder, though his best position is second base.  If he has a good spring the Nationals could try to make a centerfielder out of him.

Long Range Prospects: Tyler Moore has hit 31 homeruns two years in a row. If he replicates that in AAA and LaRoche continues to struggle Moore could provide himself an opportunity.  Anthony Rendon does not really have a position yet with Ryan Zimmerman established at third base, but his bat could allow him to rise quickly.  Eury Perez is probably the Nationals best centerfielder at this point, but his bat is not yet ready for the major leagues.  If he has some success at AA he could get a mid season callup.  Atahualpa Severino should see bullpen time.  He pitched well in his six appearances last year and provides bullpen depth.  Jhonatan Solano is their catcher depth.  If Jesus Flores gets traded before the season starts or an injury requires the need for another catcher Solano will be the backup.

Significant Transactions: The biggest transaction they made was acquiring Gio Gonzalez.  They gave up four pretty good prospects in the transaction, but they solidified their rotation.  They also acquired Ryan Perry to add depth for their bullpen for Collin Ballester.  Both pitchers have a wealth of potential but were disappointments.  Both teams are hoping that a change of scenery will turn their careers around.  They signed Mike Cameron and he appears to be at least the back up centerfield option, if not the platoon partner for Roger Bernadina.  Mark DeRosa is another free agent signing that will take over a corner infield and outfield spot.  He will also be the primary pinchhitter coming off the bench.  Finally, the Nationals signed free agent Brad Lidge.  It was always fun to look at the reaction of Phillies fans as Lidge came into the ballgame.  At least he won’t be the closer for the Nationals as he was for the Phillies.  Hopefully, myworld won’t have that same look of dread with each appearance, similar to what Nationals fans experienced with Joel Hanrahan in his brief time as the Nationals closer.

Myworld’s Top Bullpen Prospects

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

These are pitchers that will not be starters in the major leagues.  Usually, they lack a third pitch or durability concerns put them in the bullpen.  Most of the pitchers here have already been dedicated to the bullpen with their minor league work.  Our last two position pieces will be top lefthanded starters and top righthanded starters.

1. Addison Reed RHP (White Sox) United States - Some have already annoited him the closer for the White Sox in 2012.  He was the third round pick in 2010 but myworld would have drafted him higher based on what we saw of him at San Diego State.  He was the closer for Stephen Strasburg when he was a sophmore and saved 20 games with a 0.65 ERA.  The next year he replaced Strasburg as the number one starter for the Aztecs going 8-2, 2.50.  He has the nice fastball that hits the high 90s with a hard slider that gets lots of swings and misses.  The White Sox have moved him up the ladder quickly, giving him a September callup where he struck out 12 in seven innings.  What is cause for concern is the .313 opposition average.  That should be an anomaly since in his rise up the minor league ladder the opposition has never hit him at greater than a .200 clip.

2. Arodys Vizcaino RHP (Atlanta Braves) Dominican Republic - He has the stuff to be a starter with a mid-90s fastball, curveball and change.  The Braves seem to have a surplus of starting pitching so they have worked Vizcaino out of the bullpen when he was promoted to the major leagues.  He had some elbow issues in 2010 that limited his starts so the Braves could have concerns with his durability.  He struggled against major league hitters (4.67 ERA) because his command was not as sharp as when he pitched in the minor leagues.  He walked 9 hitters in 17 innings, a rate that is twice as high as what he did in the minors.  The Braves already have Craig Kimbrel as their closer so the best Vizcaino can hope for is a setup job.  Depending on how the starting pitching shakes out Vizcaino could find himself back in the starting rotation.

3.Eduardo Sanchez RHP (Cardinals) Venezuela - He gets bonus points for already having success in the major leagues (1.80).  It took the Cardinals until close to mid-season to find Eduardo as their closer, but they lost him just as quickly to shoulder problems that made him unavailable for the playoffs.  Jason Motte took over the closer role once Sanchez was unavaialbe and it will be hard to take the role back.  Eduardo throws in the mid 90s, hitting all corners of the plate.  It will be interesting what kind of impact the shoulder soreness has on the velocity and command of his fastball.  While his major league numbers are impressive, his minor league numbers are a little more pedestrian.  Hitters will make adjustments and it will be interesting to see how he responds to those adjustments.  He made three appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League, but had a little bit of rust, walking three hitters in three innings.

4. Rafael Dolis RHP (Cubs) Dominican Republic - Rafael has a fastball that hits three digits.  He also has a nice slider that drops to the plate traveling in the mid-80s.  What makes him a bit troubling on the mound is his lack of command.  He also has some pretty poor strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  You would not expect a pitcher with triple digits in the fastball to only strikeout seven hitters per nine innings pitched.  His low strikeouts to nine innings pitched average dropped even further when he was moved to the bullpen in 2011 to six whiffs per nine innings pitched.  The Cubs are in a rebuilding process so Rafael has an opportunity to win their closer job if he can improve his command.

5. Philippe Aumont RHP (Phillies) Canada - The Mariners drafted him in the first round of the 2007 draft.  After injuries to his arm drew concerns about his durability the Mariners moved him to the bullpen.  He was included in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners.  The Phillies moved him back to the rotation where his 7.43 ERA at Reading appeared indicative of the success he would have as a starter.  He was moved back to the bullpen for the 2011 season where he seemed to thrive.  His fastball travels in the high 90s and he mixes in a good curveball.  One of his biggest challenges to being a closer is his inability to throw the ball over the plate, whether in relief or in the starting rotation.  He has averaged more than a walk per two innings pitched.

6. Nick Hagadone LHP (Indians) United States - The Red Sox made Nick a number one supplemental pick in the 2007 draft.  After Tommy John surgery the Red Sox included him, Justin Masterson and Bryan Price in a trade for Victor Martinez.  Nick has worked himself slowly up the Indians ladder.  He was moved to the bullpen for the 2011 season.  For a lefthander his velocity is impressive in the high 90s, with a slider he can mix in that will get him a lot of swings and misses.  At 26 years of age he has nothing further to prove in the minor leagues.  He made his major league debut in the 2011 season, getting nine appearances for a 4.09 ERA.  Like most young pitchers that get promoted, he nibbled, walking six batters in his 11 innings of major league work.

7. Matt Bush RHP (Rays) United States - If that name sounds familiar Matt was a first round pick by the Padres as a shortstop in 2005.  There were some maturity issues and the Padres sold him to the Rays in 2009 after the Padres moved him to the mound and he missed all of 2008 because of Tommy John surgery.  One of his strengths as a shortstop was his strong arm.  He couldn’t hit a lick as a shortstop, so the Rays kept him in the bullpen and watched his fastball consistently hit the mid-90s.  He also has a nice curveball that when mixed with his fastball resulted in a 13.8 whiffs per nine innings.  He will probably start the season in AAA, but a good minor league season will see him promoted to the Rays in 2012.

8. Dan Klein RHP (Orioles) United States - Myworld thought the Orioles did a good job of getting Klein for a third round pick in 2010.  We liked him when we saw him pitch a few games for UCLA in the College World Series.  He doesn’t have the velocity in his fastball that the others on this list have, but he throws his changeup so well that the fastball looks like it has more velocity.  He would be higher on this list if he didn’t have shoulder surgery that ended his 2011 season early.  It was his second shoulder surgery in three years.  He will probably miss most of the 2012 season as well and at 24 next year he needs to rise quickly.  Prior to the surgery it appeared that he was doing that with his promotion to Bowie.  He has a career 0.93 ERA in the minor leagues before his surgery, with the opposition hitting him at only a .174 clip.  He also consistently struck out more than a batter per inning pitched with excellent command.

9. Cole Kimball RHP (Nationals) United States - The Nationals tried to sneak him through waivers due to a 40 man roster numbers game, but the Blue Jays snagged him.  The Blue Jays had to put him on waivers and the Nationals reclaimed him.  Cole throws a mid-90s fastball, mixing in a splitter and curve.  He made his major league debut in 2011 with a 1.93 ERA.  With those kind of numbers you have to wonder why the Nationals would even put him through waivers.  For one, he had to have roator cuff surgery, one of the most difficult surgeries to come back from.  A second reason is his lack of command and coming back from shoulder surgery will make improving that command even more difficult.  He walked as many hitters as he struck out with the Nationals (11) in 14 innings of work, but that wildness resulted in a .174 opposition average.  Hitters can’t get comfortable at the plate against him.

10. Brad Boxberger RHP (Padres) United States - His value increased substanially when he was traded to the Padres.  Relief pitchers seem to have tremendous success in San Diego, and why not, when they are pitching their games in the Grand Canyon of a ball park.  Like Dan Klein, Brad lacks the velocity of the other pitchers on this list, sitting more in the low 90s but occasionally hitting the mid-90s.  He also throws a slider.  With the Reds he always struck out more than 10 hitters per nine innings.  He had some early success in the Arizona Fall League, but the hitters appeared to adjust against him, or he just got tired, but his ERA rose quickly after his fast start.  He could find himself in the Padres closer role, but more than likely he will settle in a set-up role.

Sleeper Pick

Jhan Marinez RHP (White Sox) Dominican Republic - We thought the Marlins gave up two pretty good prospects for the rights to have Ozzie as their manager.  If they had waited long enough they probably could have had Ozzie for nothing after the White Sox fired him.  Jhan throws in the mid 90s with a real good swing and miss slider because it looks like his fastball.  He averaged 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in High A in 2010.  Last year his whiffs per nine innings pitched stood at 11.5 in AA.  The big issue with Jhan is his lack of command, 42 walks in just 58 innings, a number that has been consistent throughout his career.  At 6′1″ it is not like he has a lot of frame to complicate his delivery.