Archive for December, 2013

Venezuelan Winter League All Stars

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Below are myworld’s selections for the Venezuelan winter league all stars:

C - Hector Gimenez (Orientes) - He only hit .257 but his 15 homeruns and 51 RBIs were the most of any catcher.  His 15 homeruns were also fourth in the league and the 51 RBIs were only surpassed by two other players.

1B - Jesus Aguilar (Caracas) - The Indians top prospect made a mark with his .327, 18, 50 numbers.  He also finished with a 1.000 OPS, one of three players to finish with an OPS of 1.000 or greater.

2B - Jose Pirela (Zulia) - He also played some outfield, but the Yankee prospect topped the Venezuelan League in runs scored with 58.  He also hit .332 with 6 homeruns and 44 RBIs.

3B - Mario Lisson (Magalanes) - The slugger was second in RBIs with 53.  He also bashed 16 homeruns and hit .278.

SS - Freddy Galvis (Zulia) - He has to wait out Jimmy Rollins contract before he gets a shortstop opportunity with the Phillies, but he hit .306 with two homeruns and 23 RBIs in Venezuela.

OF - Cory Aldridge (Orientes) - He was the second player with an OPS at 1.129, the result of 16 homeruns and a .378 average.

OF - Adonis Garcia (Magallanes) - He also so a lot of time in the infield at second and third, possibly his future position with the Yankees.  He hit .325 with 8 homeruns and 39 RBIs.  Perhaps he and Pirela will switch positions.

OF - Gorkys Hernandez (Orientes) - He led the Venezuelan League in doubles with 16 and hit .285 with 48 runs scored.

DH - Alex Cabrera (La Guaira) - The 40 plus veteran won the Triple Crown, the first to do so in the Venezuelan League with a .391, 21, 59 numbers.  The 21 homeruns broke a Venezuelan record.

SP - Mitch Lively (Magallanes) - He won the ERA crown with a 1.70 in ten starts.  He also tied for first in wins with six.

SP - Roy Merritt (Zulia) - He was 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA, but he led all pitchers in strikeouts with 59.

SP - Alex Torres (Zulia) - He only got seven starts and did not get enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown, but he finished 3-1, 2.38, which would have gotten him in second place in ERA.

SP - Eric Berger (Margarita) - The team may have finished in the bottom of the standings but Berger gave them good outings with a 4-4, 3.04 putting him second in ERA.

RP - Hassan Pena (Zulia) - He led the league in saves with 12 and put together a 1-2, 2.45 ERA.

RP - Rafael Cova (La Guaira) - He tied for the top spot in holds with 9, which would make a good set up man, going 2-1, 3.29.  He struck out 32 in 27 innings.

RP - Jean Toledo (Oriente) - Put up a mixture of wins (5-1), saves (4) and holds (5) to mix with a 2.78 ERA.

RP - Jesus Martinez (Magallanes) - No pitcher threw in more games (36) and he picked up six holds with a 2.61 ERA.

Dominican Playoffs All Knotted Up

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Graham Godfrey limited the Gigantes to one hit in five innings and the Escogido Leones got the shutout victory 2-0 to even both teams records to 2-2.  The Leones bullpen also limited the Gigantes offense to just one hit in the final four innings, Jose Valdez pitching the last inning to pick up the save.  Jose Constanza collected three hits in the game, including an RBI double in the seventh inning to drive in the second run.  The first run scored after a throwing error by Hector GomezMarcell Ozuna picked up the only two hits for the Gigantes.

Aguilas stomped on Licey 14-3 in the night game.  Licey had taken a 3-0 lead but Aguilas scored in every inning after the fourth, including scoring seven in the eighth.  Jose Valverde gave up five of the seven runs in the eighth, retiring only two batters and giving up two run homeruns, the first to Alex Valdez and the second to Ricardo NanitaJuan Perez also had a 2-run homerun in the fifth for Aguilas to start their scoring.  Alex Valdez finished with four RBIs and Joey Terdoslavich finished with three hits to up his playoff average to .467.  The win by Aguilas evened those two teams records at 2-2 leaving all four teams at 2-2.

Venezuelan Playoff Teams Decided

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The five playoff teams have been decided in the Venezuelan Winter League.  Caribes won the division by five games.  The other four teams were Zulia, Caracas, Magallanes and La Guairá.  The three teams that did not make it are Aragua, Lara and Margarita.  Myworld will put together our All Star team tomorrow.

Because there are five teams one team will always get a day off in the round robin play.

Blue Jays - 2014

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Overall - The Blue Jays saw a window open to take the usually strong AL East.  They went out and added pay roll, acquiring veterans Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerle from the Marlins and R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets.  The cost was steep, with five of their top prospects leaving as well as Henderson Alvarez.  Unfortunately, they did not expect the combination of strong play from the Red Sox and the injuries and uninspired play from the same group that disappointed Marlins fans to disappoint Toronto fans.  Reyes injuries limited him to less than 400 at bats with 93 games in his continuing battle with injuries, stealing only 15 bases, Johnson had an ERA at 6.20 and Buerle provided them 200 vanilla innings as he always does, while Dickey got off to a horrendous start and did not recover until the Jays were almost out of it.  The team was second to the Orioles in allowing the most homeruns per innings pitched with their starters having the second highest ERA in the American League and their defensive zone ratings muddled in the bottom ten of the thirty major league teams, which doesn’t help the pitching staff.  Injuries forced them to use 13 different starters, a position they thought was a strength in 2013.  There is hope that their .284 batting average on balls in play, which was the fourth worst in the major leagues will improve in 2014, leading to better offensive performance.  They also still have a $100 million payroll which should be evidence that you have acquired some decent players.

Key Additions - They acquired most of their players last year.  Now their high salaried players give them less flexibility to bid for a pitcher like Masahiro Tanaka.  They did sign Dioner Navarro after giving up on J.P. Arencibia’s poor defense and low average.  Travis d’Arnaud, a player they gave up for R.A. Dickey would probably be a better option.  They also obtained Phillies back up catcher Eric Kratz in a trade.  They did sign a Cy Young award winner in Roy Halladay, but that unfortunately a one day retirement contract.

Key Subtractions - They lost both J.P. Arencibia and Josh Johnson to free agency.  Arencibia was a one trick pony, who could only provide power.  His batting average (.194) and defense were poor.  His 18/148 walk to whiff numbers remind you of Brandon Wood.  Josh Johnson just never had it.  He was a Cy Young contender in his early years, but he is still not healthy from his Tommy John surgery.  He gave up a homerun every five innings he pitched.  On the upside he struck out more than one batter per inning, but that is now a hope for the Padres.

Catching - This position is completely revamped as J.P. Arencibia leaves and one time top Yankee catching prospect Dioner Navarro and Eric Kratz arrive.  Last year the Jays had the fifth worst defense at this position, including the most passed balls (30) and tied for fourth worst for the most errors.  Navarro and Kratz hope to change that.  Both catchers are more comfortable in playing back up roles, though Navarro hit 13 homeruns for a .492 slugging percentage for the Cubs and Kratz hit nine homeruns with the Phillies.  If they can combine for 22 homeruns again that will be one more than Arencibia.  Josh Thole is a player the Jays got from the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade.  They needed somebody to catch his knuckleball.  He lacks power, is not particularly strong on defense but is a nice contact hitter.  He only hit .175 last year but his bat can do better.  The Jays best hope is for A.J. Jimenez to be ready.  Tommy John surgery in 2012 limited him to 27 games.  In 2013 he got to play 67 games.  He is a strong defensive player with the potential for a good bat, but in order to develop he needs to stay healthy.  With a good year he can be ready by mid-year.  Mike Nickeas is another back up catcher they picked up as insurance against a Navarro or Kratz injury.

First Base - The Jays have two first baseman/DH types in Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind.  Encarnacion will see the most time here.  His bat is now one of the best in the league with a 36 homerun effort after hitting 42 in 2012.  He also walked more (82) than he struck out (62).  Lind does not hit for as much power (23 homeruns) but is still a big time run producer.  They signed Dan Johnson to a minor league contract and he needs an injury to either Lind or Encarnacion to see any roster time.  L.B. Dantzler was drafted in round 14 last year but he hit .302 with nine homeruns in short season ball.  He is a player to watch.

Second Base -  Emilio Bonafacio and Maicer Izturis were supposed to battle for the second base job, but neither hit over .240.  Emilio was eventually traded to the Royals.  Ryan Goins came up at the end of the year and won the job but still hit only .252 with a 2/28 walk to whiff ratio, which doesn’t elicit promise.  If they get desperate to fill this position they can try returning Brett Lawrie to second and move Jose Bautista to third, but that makes for a horrendous defensive possibility.  Brent Morel was also signed to play third but he is a good field no hit type of player.  The popular Munenori Kawasaki is a nonroster nvitee and could make the team in a utility role.  The minor leagues offer no immediate help, though there are some talented shortstops who could switch to second base.

Third Base - Brett Lawrie has got to stay healthy for this team to have success.  At one time he was considered their franchise player.  He is still young (24) but he plays with wreckless abandon resulting in countless injuries.  They need a 500 at bat plus season from him in 2014.  He also hit only .254 with a .397 slugging percentage.  He is a much better hitter than that.  Maicer Izturis should see a lot of time here to rest Lawrie from his nagging injuries.  A long term injury would see Jose Bautista move from right field.  Andy LaRoche, the brother of Adam is a non-roster invitee who will provide insurance in the higher minor leagues.  The long term answer could be 2012 supplemental number one pick Mitch Nay.  Not every one is sold on his ability to play defense, but time will be the best answer.

Shortstop - Jose Reyes carries a black cloud of disappointing aspirations everywhere he goes.  The Mets, Marlins and Blue Jays all had playoff hopes dashed with Reyes at shortstop.  He has had one playoff season in his 11 years and that was seven years ago when he was 23 years old.  Kawasaki could see time here in a utility role, but if the Jays choose not to take his weak bat Izturis will get the call.  No immediate prospects are at the high minor league level, but at the lower levels Franklin Barreto and Dawel Lugo are players to watch.  Both may lack the range to stay at the position long term, but they have strong bats that could fill other positions.

Left Field - In 2012 Melky Cabrera may have won a batting title if not for his drug suspension.  Perhaps the drugs were the assist he needed to win the batting title.  He didn’t show the same bat in 2013, showing very little power for the corner position.  Another possibility to patrol left field is Anthony Gose, but he also lacks the power to play this position, with tools better suited to play center.  What he does offer is more speed and better defense than Cabrera and his slugging average was even better than Cabrera.  His Achilles heel is his lack of patience which gave him a 5/37 walk to whiff ratio and an OBA under .300.  Kevin Pillar is another interesting possibility.  He only hit .206, but in the minors  he has done nothing but hit with a career average of .331 entering the 2013 season.  Moises Sierra is a strong bat who has the arm to play right.  With Jose in right he could move to left if the trio mentioned above struggles.  Pillar is the only real immediate help in the minors.

Center Field - Colby Rasmus had his character issues with the Cardinals.  He seems to have left those behind with the Blue Jays.  Injury issues limited him to 118 games but he slugged 22 homeruns.  Anthony Gose is probably the better defensive player and this could be Rasmus last year as he is eligible for free agency next year.  Gose has to improve his patience.  With better contact he would be an ideal leadoff hitter.  If Rasmus departs for free agency after this year the Jays have no real alternatives to take over the position if Gose proves lacking.  D.J. Davis is a player in rookie ball who is the long term answer.

Right Field -Jose Bautista won a couple homerun titles but the last two years have been shortened with injuries.  He still slugs homeruns with 28 last year, but his seasons have ended early with injury.  If the Jays need to get the bat of Moises Sierra in the lineup Bautista has the flexibility to move to third base.  They lack options in the minors if they struggle through injuries again this year.  Pillar and Gose can also fill spots here.

Designated Hitter - Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind will rotate here.  Lind has had his struggles with left handed pitching so this may give Jose Bautista a break to bat here and have Moises Sierra play right.  Two of their AAA sluggers Mauro Gomez and Luis Jimenez signed with Asian teams and will not be available for depth in 2014.  Since they were not needed in 2013 that should not be a great loss.

Starting Pitching - This was supposed to be a strength in 2013.  Brandon Morrow is the key.  He only got ten starts last year and they were poor ones before his season ended early.  Injuries have hounded him from getting 30 starts.  R.A. Dickey should fill the ace hole.  He got whacked early in the season but eventually lowered his ERA to 4.21, not near his Cy Young numbers of 2.73.  Mark Buerle will provide innings from the back end of the rotation.  One thing you can count on from him is 30 starts, 200 plus innings and a 4 plus ERA.  After those three it gets dicey and spring training will sort it out.  The Jays would like to see J.A. Happ win the fourth spot.  Todd Redmond is a journeyman and Esmil Rogers is more effective in relief.  Aaron Sanchez is a promising prospect who amazed in the Arizona Fall League.  Expect to hear his name before the season ends.  The Jays still have some strong options in the minors that could be mid season callups.  Daniel Norris and Sean Nolin can offer left side options.  Nolin had one horrendous start with the Jays and Norris should start at High A but could move quickly.  Many think at 5′9″ Marcus Stroman is too small to be a starter and would be best used in relief.  He does have the multiple pitches required of a starter.

Relief Pitching - Myworld can’t get excited about this area but we have to admit, they get the job done.  Casey Janssen saved 34 games with a WHIP under 1 a testament to his effectiveness.  Casey has had three seasons in a row with more than 50 appearances with an ERA less than 3 with a total WHIP less than 1.  Brett Cecil has found the bullpen to his liking after getting toasted in the starting rotation.  He will be the setup man from the left side while Steve Delabar will handle duties from the right side.  Sergio Santos had a strong season and was acquired to be the closer until injuries sidelined his 2012 season and most of the 2013 season.  He had a .584 WHIP in his 29 appearances.  Kyle Drabek was once a big time prospect and is the son of Doug.  Injuries have prevented him from meeting his potential, but perhaps he can begin his career again in the bullpen.  Aaron Loup is another lefty option who gave them good outings last year.  Since the Blue Jay starters had the fewest innings worked among AL clubs last year it brought a lot of pressure on the bullpen.  Considering the number of innings they worked they did a credible job.

Potential Rookie Candidates - Aaron Sanchez has the potential to compete for rookie of the year if he has a good spring and makes the rotation.  Sean Nolin could get the first call.  He had a horrible outing in his major league debut, but that shouldn’t take away from a solid minor league season. He’ll probably start in AAA unless he has a lights out spring. If the catchers do not produce expect a mid season callup from A.J. Jimenez. Kevin Pillar is a long shot but needs to win an outfield job over a failing veteran. He needs to hit better than .206 to keep that job.

2008 Draft - Their first round pick David Cooper was a disappointment. He was limited to September callups. Their second round pick Kenneth Wilson was just placed on the 40-man roster.  Tyler Pastornicky was a fifth round pick and lost the Braves shortstop job to Andrelton Simmons. His best future role is as a utility player. Seventh round pick Eric Thames had a couple major league seasons but in 2014 he will be playing in Korea. Ninth round pick Antonio Jimenez is their best catching prospect. Injuries have delayed his fast rise to the major leagues. 16th round pick Michael Crousse is still progressing in the minor leagues.  If their number one pick had panned out and Jimenez becomes the catcher they think he will be this could have been a decent draft.

Expected Finish - The Division is still up for grabs. The Jays have holes at second base and behind the plate and the starting pitching must perform to expectations. That is a lot to ask. Expect them to move up a notch to fourth place but no higher.  They have done little to improve their team because of salary restrictions and are filling their weak areas that could hemorrhage with band aids.

Dominican Playoff Update

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Gigantes again got strong pitching, holding Licey scoreless for eight innings in their 4-2 win.  Juan Francisco hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to prevent the Gigantes from getting a second straight shutout.  The Gigantes trio of Jose de PaulaFabio Castro and Zack Segovia held the Licey lineup to no runs on one hit through the first eight innings.  Marcell Ozuna hit a 2-run homer in the seventh off losing starter Yunesky Maya to give Escogido a 3-0 lead.

In the second game on Saturday the Escogido bats came alive after being shut out on Friday with a 6-1 win over Aguilas.  Alfredo Marte ripped four of the 13 hits for the Leones.  Marte was the only player who crossed the plate twice.  The Leones used six different pitchers to limit the Aguilas bats to one run.  Carlos Martinez got the start for Aguilas and was cannon fodder, giving up five hits and five runs in just one plus inning.  Escogido scored all six of their runs in the first three innings.

On Sunday Licey turned the tables on Gigantes, sending them to their first loss with a 2-0 win.  Both runs were scored on Japan bound Anderson Hernandez two solo homeruns.  He had three hits in the game.  Esmil Rogers threw five plus innings of shutout ball to get the win.  Korean bound Jairo Asencio pitched the ninth inning and was credited with his second playoff save.

Aguilas got two runs driven in from leadoff hitter Rafael Ynoa, cleanup hitter Zoilo Almonte and Francisco Pena to beat Escogido 7-5.  Pena contributed three hits including two doubles.  Carlos Santana homered for Escogido and Alfredo Marte drove in three runs in a losing cause.  Rule V selection Marcus Mateo pitched the ninth to get credit for his first save in the playoff series.

Domnican Playoffs Begin

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

The round robin for the Dominican playoffs began with the fourth seeded Gigantes del Cibao upsetting the top seeded Escogido Leones 2-0 in their opening round matchups.  The Gigantes got give innings of three hit shutout ball from Claudio Vargas, then turned it over to their bullpen to complete the shutout.  Jeurys Familia pitched two innings, striking out the side in the eighth to bring his whiff total to four and Joel Peralta picked up the save with his ninth inning work.  Rafael Perez worked the sixth inning, giving up one hit but striking out the other three hitters he faced.  Francisco Peguero drove in the first run in the opening frame with a single after Leury Garcia singled and stole second.  Alexi Casilla added an insurance run in the seventh with an RBI infield single.

In the other game Licey beat their bitter rivals Aguilas 3-2.  They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, getting a 2-run double from Engel Beltre in the second inning and a sacrifice fly from Eric Aybar in the third.  Aguilas had the tying run on third when Alexis Gomez lined out to right field.  Joey Terdoslavich drove in both Aguilas runs with ground outs in the fourth and ninth innings.  Kelvin Villa pitched five plus innings of relief to keep Aguilas in the game after they fell behind 3-0 early.

You can follow the box scores for the games here:  http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?gid=2013_12_27_licwin_aguwin_1&t=g_box&sid=l131

A Couple Foreign Signings in Japan and Korea

Friday, December 27th, 2013

The Yomiuri Giants appear ready to sign Cuban defector Leslie Anderson once he passes a physical.  Myworld expected him to make more of an impact in the major leagues, but his defense in the outfield was not that strong and he did not hit for the power expected for a first baseman.  Leslie played all three years in the Rays minor league system and never got a major league  opportunity.  He hit .295 with a .441 slugging percentage in his three minor league seasons.

Chris Volstad, who has had major league opportunities and struggled with success had signed a minor league contract with the Angels.  They have released him so he could pursue his career in Korea with the Doosan Bears.  Volstad had a career 4.94 ERA but those numbers are helped by a 14 start rookie season when his ERA was 2.88.  He never came close to replicating those numbers.

Athletics - 2014

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Overall - When you think of the Athletics the first thing that comes to mind is Moneyball.  The Athletics try to do things differently because they don’t have the resources to compete with teams dollar wise.  They had been in a bit of a creative slump until 2012 when they surprised the baseball world by beating the Texas Rangers on the final day to take the AL West.  Last year they proved it was no fluke by winning their division by more than five games.  They still try to find players that take the walk, finishing third out of 30 teams in percentage of at bats that resulted in walks.  They don’t do it with one player though, using multiple players at the same position to try to create successful matchups.  All the need is a savvy manager like Bob Melvin to recognize those matchups.  They were fourth out of 30 teams in runs scored so that says something of the success of the matchups last year.

Key Additions - Some may question signing Scott Kazmir to a two year $22 million deal.  Early in his career he was a stud pitcher but arm issues sidelined him for a couple years.  The Cleveland Indians took a chance on him last year and he came through with 29 starts.  The Athletics hope he has two more years of providing them middle of the rotation starts.  They also acquired Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson for next to nothing.  He has had a couple years of 50 or more saves, but he also struggled a bit to nail down wins last year.  A couple more trades enhanced their bullpen, getting Josh Lindblom from the Rangers and Luke Gregerson from the Padres.  Drew Pomeranz was acquired from the Rockies but he may be first tried in the starting rotation and move to the bullpen if he doesn’t cut it as a starter.  The former top prospect is now on his third team after being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Indians in 2010.  He will find pitching in Oakland much more enjoyable than Colorado.  Fernando Abad was acquired from the Nationals and could act as a lefthanded specialist out of the pen.  The only problem last year is lefthanders (.306) hit him a lot better than righthanders (.247).  Nick Punto was signed as a free agent and will be competing for the second base job.

Key Subtractions - Their biggest loss was closer Grant Balfour, not the most auspicious name for a pitcher but he did give the Athletics 38 saves.  He will be replaced by Jim Johnson.  They also finally gave up on Brett Anderson having a healthy year in Oakland.  At one point a number of years ago he was supposed to be their ace.  Seth Smith was their left handed hitting DH that they traded to get Gregerson.  They also jettisoned their 2010 first round pick Michael Choice to the Rangers, preferring to go with the 2010 first round pick Pomeranz.  Making contact was always a challenge for Choice.  He did hit .302 last year but also struck out 115 times.  They gave up on Jemile Weeks to get Jim Johnson, a small loss.  The Weeks brothers have always been more about promise than production. though Rickie had a couple good years he can put on his resume.  Bullpen stalwart Jerry Blevins was traded to the Nationals for prospect Billy Burns.  Is Bean moving toward a speed environment in this power challenged era now that steroid use has been curtailed?  Kurt Suzuki also left for free agency, but they only had him for less than half the season after their starter John Jaso was out for concussion like symptoms.

Catcher - The Athletics may have to turn the catching duties over to Derek Norris.  John Jaso may see more time at DH after being bothered with concussion like symptoms that ended his season early last year.  Stephen Vogt would be the most logical backup.  Last year only two teams had fewer caught stealings than the Athletics and those two teams (Cardinals and Diamondbacks) did not have runners steal against them.  In the minors Norris would draw a lot of walks, an attribute the Athletics are attracted to, but his major league at bats have not shown that patience.  The good news is his average increased by 30 points to .246.  The Athletics prospects for immediate minor league help look slim, but 2012 second round pick Bruce Maxwell should start the season in AA.  If he progresses he could get a mid-season callup.  Chris Gimenez is a minor league journey man catcher who would probably be called up if an injury hits either Norris or Vogt.  He was picked up on waivers from the Rays.

1B - This is the Frankenstein monster, with a number of different players used to fill this position.  The big bat is Brandon Moss, who slugged 30 homeruns last year.  He also struck out 140 times and struggled against lefthanded pitching (.200 average/.388 slugging).  So they have rule V Nate Freiman to hit against those nasty lefthanders.  At 6′8″ he is an imposing hitter.  The Athletics also keep recycling Daric Barton.  Last year they finally got some production from him as he hit .269 with a .350 OBA.  He takes a walk and is the best defensive player of the three.  Miles Head had his challenges last year after having so much success in 2012.  Myworld will give him a mulligan.  He can also play third.  Matthew Olsen was their first round supplemental pick in 2012, hitting 23 homeruns last year but also batting .225 with 148 whiffs in only 134 games.  Look for him more as a mid season callup in 2015 than producing for the team next season.

Second Base - This is a position they thought they had answered with Jemile Weeks, but like Rickie when the Weeks brothers achieve some success they fail to sustain it.  Jed Lowrie was supposed to get a lot of time here last year but an injury to Japanese free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima put Lowrie at short.  Nakajima could be a player to see time at second.  He struggled in spring training at shortstop and a pulled hamstring sent him to the minors where he disappeared.  Eric Sogard (.266) and Alberto Callaspo (.258) saw most of the time here last year.  Sogard provides little for a team to get excited about and is probably best used in a utility role.  Callaspo at least shows some power.  Nick Punto was signed as a free agent to add another possibility for the position.  Spring training should weed out the winner.  If the Athletics feel super prospect Addison Russell is ready for shortstop they could move Jed Lowrie to second, but for the playoff hopeful Athletics that is putting a lot on a rookie shortstop.

Shortstop - Jed Lowrie did a decent job here last year.  Defensively, the Athletics were near the bottom in shortstop range ratings, but Lowrie hit .290 with 15 homeruns.  Sometimes the shortstop position is about more than range ratings.  Leadership is a tough attribute to quantify for stat heads.  Hiroyuki Nakajima was supposed to be the starter but an injury sent him to the minors where he never made a major league appearance.  He is not even on the 40 man roster anymore.  He could still compete with Eric Sogard for the middle infield utility role if he can’t win the second base job.  It is possible their top prospect Addison Russell could be called up by mid-year.  In high A he hit .273 with 17 homeruns.  He got a brief AAA callup and hit just .077 in 13 at bats, striking out 9 times.  He will start 2014 in AA.

Third Base - Josh Donaldson certainly had his break out year in 2013.  He started out as a catcher, moved to third base and had a decent 2012 season.  Last year he hit .301, led the team in RBIs with 93 and slugged 37 doubles with 23 homeruns.  That is the kind of production the Rangers get from Adrian Beltre.  If an injury should sideline Donaldson for an extended period, it would certainly have an impact on the offense.  Alberto Callaspo would slide in here but the production would fall off at two positions (third and second).  Miles Head is an option for the future, but Donaldson at 28 isn’t going anywhere until he prices himself out of the market.  Renato Nunez was signed out of Venezuela for $2.2 million in 2010.  He is still a long way off but slugged 19 homeruns in Low A.  A 28/136 walk to whiff ratio is not the blueprint for Athletics players, so he will have to work on making better contact.  Daniel Robertson was a first round pick in 2012 who played shortstop.  He has now moved to third base but is still a long way away from contributing to the major league team.

Left Field - Yoenis Cespedes had a down year last year.  He struggled with nagging injuries but still hit 26 homeruns.  His average dropped 50 points and his OBA fell below .300.  How much of that can be blamed on injury and how much can be blamed on his inability to adapt to pitchers attacking his perceived weak points.  The Athletics acquired Craig Gentry to be a fourth outfielder to backup at all the positions.  He doesn’t hit for a lot of power but brings a speed game and gets on base, an attribute the Athletics support.  He also is a solid defensive player.  With the departure of Michael Choice their minor league options are slim.  They still have Michael Taylor but at 28 he has reached journeyman status.  Corey Brown was acquired from the Nationals and his bat shows some pop from the left side, but he is also 28.

Centerfield - Coco Crisp is normally a speed guy.  Last year he hit a career high 22 homeruns.  Back in his younger days with Cleveland he had seasons of 15 and 16 homeruns.  His stolen base numbers have dropped the last three years going from 49 to 39 to 21.  He is also a player that in the past has been prone to injuries and at 34 he is at that age where nagging injuries plague players.  Craig Gentry will back him up in center.  Cespedes can also play here but he is better suited for a corner outfield position to keep him healthy.

Right field - Josh Reddick went from 32 homers and 80 plus RBIs in 2012 to 12 homeruns and only 50 plus RBIs last year.  They will need better production from him in 2014 if he wants to keep this position.  They do not have a lot of alternatives for this position if Reddick continues to struggle.  They can always sacrifice their defense and move Brandon Moss out here.  He played the position 23 times in 2012.  Michael Taylor and Corey Brown would be short term options but their bats tend to get exposed with extended playing time.  Billy McKinney was their 2013 first round pick and is a player to keep an eye on.  He hit over .300 in the short season leagues (.326) but is a long way off from contributing to the immediate outfield need.

Designated Hitter - John Jaso will catch less and DH more. When he doesn’t DH it could be a rotating spot to give some rest to a regular. Brandon Moss would be the most logical choice to get Daric Barton and his defense to play first base. Yoenis Cespedes is another player who may see a lot of time here to get Gentry, a better defensive player out in left field.

Starting Pitching - The Athletics have adopted the Rays strategy of filling their rotation with young pitchers and then trading them two years from free agency. They did sign free agent pitcher Scott Kazmir for a hefty $22 million and they hope he will provide some stability in the middle of the rotation. They lost their veteran presence Bartolo Colon so someone has to fill the role of the ace. Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.97) has the best stuff but A.J.Griffin (14-10, 3.83) had the better year last year. Spring training will identify who gets the opening day start. Dan Straily lacks impressive stuff but he seems to get the job done (10-8, 3.96). He was a 24th rounder who was cut from his high school baseball team so he is used to being an underdog. Sonny Gray was a late season callup but unlike Straily was a first round pick who has impressive stuff. He had 10 major league starts last year and his 2.67 ERA was the best among starters. It would probably be too much to ask him to be the ace. Tommy Milone looks to be the odd man out but he had 26 starts last year with a 4.14 ERA. He is the typical lefty who relies more on command with a fastball that never sees 90. Drew Pomeranz is a long shot for the rotation. They signed Michael Ynoa for over $4 million in 2008 and last year they finally saw him take the bump for 21 starts. He will probably repeat the California League after a 7.71 ERA in six starts.  Arnold Leon may be the closest prospect that can provide immediate help.  He is a Tommy John survivor with a 4.42 AAA ERA in 11 starts.  His stuff is more back end of the rotation.

Relief - It all starts with Jim Johnson, who will replace Grant Balfour as the closer.  He has had two seasons in a row with 50 or more saves but last year he had a streak where he struggled closing out games as his 3-8 record attests.  He gave up more hits to innings pitched but he also increased his strikeouts to innings pitched from 2012.  They acquired a lot of bull pen arms to provide a bridge to Johnson.  Ryan Cook was at one time their closer.  He will be asked to be the primary setup man.  Sean Doolittle is a returnee who can throw from the left side.  Luke Gregerson can spell both Cook in the setup role and Johnson as the closer if need be.  Dan Otero (1.38) had some good end of the season numbers, but he still gave up more hits than innings pitched.  He needs his command to be effective.  They have lots of long man options in Tom Milone and Drew Pomeranz if they do not win starting rotation jobs.

Potential Rookie Candidates - This looks to be a young team of players who have lost their rookie status but fill all the spots in the lineup and rotation.  Hiroyuki Nakajima could see some time in a utility role.  Japanese players will be afraid to go to Oakland after they sent Nakajima to minor league purgatory and failed to sign Hisashi Iwakuma to a contract after successfully posting for him a couple years ago.  The posting system was changed after it appeared the Athletics had no real incentive to sign him but posted for him to keep him away from the Rangers.  Arnold Leon could see some time in the starting rotation if enough injuries force the Athletics to call him up.  Pomeranz and Millone appear to be an option before Leon.  Addison Russell could be a mid-season callup that could create some excitement.  He appears to be more a 2015 possibility.

2008 draft - Jemile Weeks was their first round pick that year and he was used in a trade to acquire Jim Johnson.  That is the extent of their 2008 draft, though they did select Mickey Storey as the 31st pick and he has seen some major league bullpen time.  Storey is currently with the Blue Jays, but has bounced around waivers with a couple teams.

Expected Finish - They need to get 2012 years from Cespedes and Reddick.  It will be hard for Donaldson to repeat his 2013 numbers, but if he approaches them that will be good.  Losing a veteran pitcher like Bartolo Colon hurts.  The Athletics must now ask one of their young pitchers to take over the ace role, facing the Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez of the rotations.  The Rangers have not improved a lot but myworld thinks in 2014 they will overtake the Athletics for the top spot in the West.  The Athletics will finish second, just missing the playoffs.  This scenario fits the Athletics because they play better when they are considered the underdog.

Taiwan to Promote High School Tournament

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

The Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTPA), which is in charge of developing amateur baseball in Taiwan is trying to expand baseball to every high school in Taiwan.  They have organized what has been named the Black Leopard Banner, with 51 teams competing for the high school championship.  The finals will be played on January 12 after whittling down to a final 16 and taking a break until the new year.

They are trying to make this tournament as popular as the Koshien high school tournament in Japan.  From 1995 to 2003 they had the Golden Dragon Banner tournament.  Players who competed in that tournament were Wei-Yen Chen (Orioles), Chien-Ming Wang (Yankees), Hong-chih Kuo (Dodgers), Fu-Te Ni (Tigers) and others.

You can read the article here:  http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/sport/archives/2013/12/26/2003579819

Tanaka Becomes a Christmas Present

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

The Rakuten Eagles have done the paperwork to present a Christmas present to some major league team.  All it will cost them is $20 million, plus another $15 to $20 million per year for at least five years.  Tanaka is still deciding on an agent and the name Boras is among his choices (he chose Casey Close to be his agent - sorry Scott).

The Eagles will be asking for the minimum bid price of $20 million.  In the past the major league teams have low balled Japanese players on the overall contract because of the high posting price.  This posting price will be lower than what the Rangers had to bid for Darvish so expect his yearly salary to be greater than Darvish.  In the long term the dollars should be about equal to what the Rangers paid for Darvish if you combine the total posting fee plus the total salary structure of the contract.  It could even become higher if the number of teams who accept the $20 million bid drive the price up.

Myworld expects the Cubs, Angels and Yankees to be the big players.  It would be nice if the Mariners win the bid and Iwakuma and Tanaka are reunited as teammates.