Archive for February, 2014

Marlins - 2014

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Outlook - They have an owner in Jeffrey Loria who the fans dislike because of a perception of broken promises.  He reminds me a lot of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a smart man in his business field who thinks this intellect can transfer over to the baseball field.  Their 2013 record (62-100) was the second worst in franchise history as a result of forcing the President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest to trade all their veteran players.  With only a number of rookies and journeymen to support the team they fired Beinfest at the end of the 2013 season for poor performance.  The Marlins were last in hitting, last in runs scored by close to 100 runs, last in on base percentage and last in slugging.  What they do have is one of the best young pitchers in baseball in Jose Fernandez and one of the best young sluggers in the game in Giancarlo Stanton.  So they have something to build from.

Key Additions: They recently signed Carlos Marmol for their bullpen.  He was a highly touted Cubs prospect that was anticipated to take over their closer role but failed miserably.  The Marlins will hope a change in scenery will help him get his fastball over.  To further assist their bullpen they traded Logan Morrison for another young prospect who disappointed as a closer Carter Capps.  They also signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a free agent contract to compete with Rob Brantley for the catching job.  Jarrod had the better offensive year but his defense is a little soft.  Rafael Furcal was signed as a free agent to play second base.  He has been a shortstop all of his major league career and last year did not play because of injuries.  His career at 36 is on a downhill slope.  Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee are two players they signed for first base.  Garett can also play left field, hits for a little pop but is poor with the batting average.  McGehee played for the champion Rakuten Eagles last year.  He can also play third.  They traded for outfielder Brian Bogusevic an ex-pitcher who is now more a journeyman outfielder.

Key Subtractions - They traded outfielder Justin Ruggiano to acquire Brian Bogusevic and got rid of Logan Morrison in a trade.  Ryan Webb, who had 66 solid bullpen appearances left via free agency.  They also designated number one pick catcher Kyle Skipworth.  It is a young team so most of the players will not be eligible for spring training for the next couple years.

Catcher - Jarrod Saltalamacchia seems to have this job sewn up despite the potential promise of last year’s young starter Rob Brantley.  Jarrod is not as strong as Rob defensively but did slug 14 homeruns.  Brantley only hit .186 in AAA and carried that failure to the major leagues with a .211 average.  They designated their number one pick of 2008 Kyle Skipworth, who made his major league debut with three at bats last year but has a .215 minor league career batting average.  Their new catcher of the future is 2010 third round pick J.T. Realmuto.   He only hit .239 last year in AA and is still a work in progress defensively.  Brantley will probably be sent to AAA for more seasoning which will allow defensive specialist Jeff Mathis to take over the backup catching duties.  Jeff only hit .181 last year, never being noted for his bat.

First base - Last year they used eight different players at first.  This year they hope to hand the job over to Garrett Jones.  He is not going to wow you offensively or defensively, a little short on power for the position.  He did hit 27 homeruns in 2012 but he has never driven in more than 86 runs.  Greg Dobbs (.228) and Ed Lucas (.256) are both corner infielders who have no real power to wrestle the job away from Jones.  Lucas was the primary third baseman last year after the struggles of Placido Polanco.  They have more young outfielders than positions for them to play so expect one of the lesser defensive players like Marcell Ozuna or Giancarlo Stanton to move here.

Second Base - Rafael Furcal takes over for Donavan Solano.  Rafael was hurt all of 2013 but primarily played shortstop prior to his injury.  He no longer carries stolen base speed.  If Rafael can’t handle the position defensively they can go with last year’s secondbaseman Donavan Solano.  Donavan is one of those vanilla like players who doesn’t hit for a lot of power, steal a lot of bases or perform spectacular defense, but he gets the job done.  Ed Lucas could turn into a utility player as he also played 20 games at second.  Derek Dietrich alienated Marlin management so that may not bode well for his future.  He hit .271 with 11 homeruns in AA.

Third Base - Casey McGehee came over from Japan where he won a championship for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.  McGehee hit .292, 28, 93 in his only year in Japan after failing to win the first base job the previous year with the Brewers.  If McGehee struggles the Marlins can turn to last year’s third baseman Ed Lucas.  He failed to hit for power (.336 slugging) and produced just a .256 average but only .224 against righthanders.  Gregg Dobbs is another body they can put here but he is best used in small doses.  Once you give him extended playing time his average drops like a bungee cord.  Zack Cox was a first round pick of the Cardinals in 2010 and later traded to the Marlins.  His bat has not shown any pop in the minor leagues.  The big hope for the Marlins at this position is last year’s number one pick Colin Moran.  Moran hit four homeruns in 42 games but is expected to generate more power as he matures.

Shortstop - Myworld liked what we saw of Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop.  We think he will improve on his .227 average last year.  He has a solid glove but needs to improve his offense.  Ed Lucas saw a few games here as well.  This is an area weak in the minors with no viable candidate ready to take over in the upper echelons of the minor leagues.  Austin Nola was a 2012 fifth round pick who has a good glove but a questionable bat (.232).  He did draw 54 walks in his high A performance.  Danny Black was a 2010 14th round pick who showed promise with his .314 average in 2012 in the Florida State League.  Last year he struggled with a .200 average, slugging only .260 in AA.  Both show minimal power with little base stealing capability.

Left Field - Christian Yelich had a promising rookie season hitting .288 with a 10 for 10 stolen base performance.  He has the speed and range to play center but his arm is best for left field.  He will need to improve on his .396 slugging if he wants to make a permanent presence here.  He did slug .518 in AA.  The Marlins traded for Brian Bogusevic to act as a fourth outfielder.  He is a former pitcher turned outfielder who has now shown the tools to be a regular.  His range is not suited for center and he has not shown a power bat.  Kyle Jensen could be that power bat.  He is 6′3″ at 247 pounds slugging 28 homeruns between AA and AAA last year.  He still struggles to make contact striking out 144 times.  He will not be the defensive equal of Yelich but he could provide more offensive production.

Centerfield - If Jake Marisnick hits the position is his.  He has tremendous defensive potential but only hit .183 with the Marlins.  He probably needs a season in AAA after hitting .294 with a .502 slugging in AA.  That would leave the position to Marcell Ozuna who does not cover as much ground as Marisnick but he had a more successful bat in the majors (.265, 3, 32).  He should hit for more power in the major leagues and with a strong arm is probably better suited for right field.  If he struggles with his routes in center the Marlins could move Osuna to left and deal with the weak armed Yelich in center.  Bogusevic can also play here.  Brent Keys is a player to watch.  He put up some pretty impressive numbers in High A (.346) walking 46 times while striking out just 26 times.  He has the speed of a typical centerfielder but lacks the power for the corners.

Rightfield - Giancarlo Stanton has been plagued with minor injuries his last couple years that has limited his playing time.  He is a streaky hitter but last year without protection in the lineup his streaks went more to the swing and miss variety as he chased at bad pitches.  He has the potential for 40 homerun power if he can play a complete season and shows more patience.  He made his feelings known about the Marlins firesale and it is no secret he will become a free agent.  The Marlins may find a need to trade him before that happens or make him happy with a winning team.  Ozuna and Bogusevic can play here though the Marlins would be better off to see Giancarlo get his 150 plus starts here.

Starting Pitching - Jose Fernandez is one of the best pitchers in baseball at the ripe young age of 21.  Years ago the Marlins had a young pitching prospect who was considered the best in baseball.  His name was Dontrelle Willis.  The Marlins hope Fernandez takes a different path than Willis.  His innings should be increased next year and 200 strikeouts is a pretty sure bet after he struck out 187 last year in just 173 innings.  Nathan Eovaldi is one of the hardest throwers among starting pitchers.  His fastball is better than Fernandez, at least velocity wise.  Despite the heat on the fastball he only struck out 78 in 106 innings.  Nate finished the season 4-6, 3.39 in 18 starts.  The Marlins acquired Eovaldi from the Dodgers in the Hanley Ramirez trade.  Henderson Alvarez is another young pitching acquisition taken from the Blue Jays in their fire sale.  He threw a no hitter in his last start of the season and was 5-6, 3.59 ERA in 17 starts with only 57 whiffs in 103 innings.  Jacob Turner was acquired from the Tigers in the Anibel Sanchez trade.  He had problems with his command last year going 3-8, 3.74.  Those four should be a lock for the rotation.  It will be a battle for the fifth spot between Tom Koehler, who had 23 inconsistent starts last year (4.41 ERA) but is the veteran of this group, Brian Flynn, who pitched well in 23 AAA starts (2.80) but stumbled in four major league starts (8.50).  Brad Hand is another lefty like Flynn who got a couple major league starts (3.05) but still struggles with command.  Down on the farm Andrew Heaney, the Marlines first round pick in 2012 could see a mid-season callup.  He started the season in the Florida State League (0.88) and finished with six starts in AA (2.94).  He allowed the opposition to hit .242 in AA but only .193 in High A.  Justin Nicolino is another Blue Jay acquisition who could see some major league starts after following Heaney’s path (2.23 in High A, 4.96 in AA).  The Marlins system is loaded with young pitchers.

Bullpen Options - Steve Cishek piled up 34 saves last year.  He will be tasked with the closer job this year.  Mike Dunn (2.66) will again be asked to be the chief set up man.  He throws from the left side so A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps will be asked to get outs from the right side.  Capps has closer stuff but struggled with Seattle last year (5.49).  Carlos Marmol was recently signed.  At one time the Cubs made him their closer, but he failed at the job.  Arquimedes Caminaro throws hard and was effective in his brief major league appearances (2.77).  Dan Jennings had some moderate success last year (3.76).

Potential Rookie Candidates - With a good spring Andrew Heaney could make the rotation in the fifth spot.  He has much better stuff than those competing for the job but the Marlins may go slow with him to continue to limit his innings.  Justin Nicolino is another pitcher who could win the fifth rotation spot with a good spring.  Jake Marisnick just needs to hit to take over the centerfield job.  His defense is already major league ready.  Brian Flynn may not have the stuff of Heaney and Nicolino, but he could win the fifth starter job because of his experience last year in the majors.

2008 Draft - Number one pick Kyle Skipworth was recently designated, proving the theory drafting high school catchers is riddled with failure.  Brad Hand will compete for the fifth spot this season but he is only a short time answer.  Third round pick Edgar Olmos could crack the Marlins bullpen in 2014.  Ninth rounder Daniel Jennings saw some major league time in 2013 working out of the bullpen (3.76).  Thomas Koehler was an 18 round pick that started 23 games.  He will be competing for that fifth spot in 2013.  Elih Villanueva a 27th pick is progressing slowly.  He got to AAA finishing with a 3.50 ERA in 8 starts.

Expected Finish - They have a young, talented team for 2014, but that usually means struggles.  In the competitive NL East they will finish last in their division.

Puerto Rico Reaches Final

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Giancarlo Alvardo threw six innings of two hit ball and Puerto Rico eliminated Venezuela from the Series del Caribe with a 2-0 win.  Puerto Rico advances to play Mexico in the championship of the Series del Caribe, two countries whose leagues were considered secondary a couple years ago to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Daryl Thompson pitched well for Venezuela, allowing only one hit through five innings.  Puerto Rico finally scored the only two runs of the game in the eighth inning, the rally getting started with two walks and an error to load the bases.  Eddie Rosario lifted a popup that fell in front of leftfielder Ezequiel Carrera, driving in the only two runs.  Ramon Hernandez picked off Rosario at first to end the inning.

Tyler Herron pitched a perfect ninth inning to get the save, striking out two of the three hitters he faced.  The box score for the game can be found here:

Perth Wins Wild 14 Inning Opener

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Curious the number of Aussies who stayed to the end to watch Perth Heat beat the Canberra Cavalry 4-3 in 14 innings.  Joey Wong doubled to drive in Corey Adamson to score the game winning run.  Adamson had drawn a one out walk in the four hour game.

Jason Sloan rapped out four hits to drive in one run for the Cavalry.  Aaron Sloan drove in two runs without the benefit of a hit, a ground out scoring one and a sacrifice fly scoring the other.  That gave the Cavalry a quick 3-0 lead.

The Heat came battling back with two in the sixth, Joey Wong getting things started with a single.  Matt Kennelly drove in a run with a single and Sam Kennelly drove in another with a hit by pitch.  The Heat tied the score on a Allan de San Miguel single and boot by centerfielder Michael Crousse that allowed Brandon Tripp to score from first.

After that it was a five inning battle of the bullpen shutout.  Brendan Wise threw four shutout innings for the Heat and Clint Evert threw five plus innings, allowing only the unearned run in the eighth.  Joey Wong got the game winning hit when Sean Toller came out for his third inning of work.  Cameron Lamb, who worked one shutout inning for the Heat picked up the win.

You can see a box score for the game here:

Loek Van Mil Looking to Japan

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Myworld always had hopes the seven foot Loek Van Mil would get a September callup to break the record for tallest major leaguer.  That record is currently held by Jon Rauch at 6′11″.  It appears that Mil will be looking to Japan for a career, looking at the Japanese champion Rakuten Eagles for a tryout.  He will not replace Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation, but the Eagles will need pitching after the ace’s departure.

Loek Van Mil was the closer for the Netherlands team and started with the Minnesota Twins.  An arm injury put a twist to his career and he has bounced around the minor leagues since.  Playing in either Korea or Japan may make sense from a financial perspective if he can make the team.  Last year he had an ugly 0-10 record between AA/AAA but a decent 3.52 ERA.  The big issue with him is he does not throw hard and his 30/34 walk to whiff ratio doesn’t portend promising results.  His best years may have been 2011 and 2012, the only years when his strikeouts were twice that of his walks.

You can read about it here:

Mexico Advances to Championship

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Two players who had struggling years last year have led Mexico to a championship with a 3-2 win over the Dominican Republic.  Recently designated for assignment Sebastian Valle poked a seeing eye walk off single into centerfield in the bottom of the ninth to drive in Yunesky Sanchez from second with the winning run.  Valle had also scored the game tying run in the eighth inning with a leadoff walk, when the Dominican pitchers could not get the ball over the plate.  A hit by pitch and two more walks scored Valle.

Alfredo Aceves worked seven innings to give the Dominican Republic an opportunity to win.  The volcanic Aceves was released by the Red Sox last year after a number of strange personal events placed an issue on his character.  The fact Wikipedia lists Dennis Rodman as one of his favorite players and he wears number 91 to honor that fact could explain his quirkiness.  He signed a minor league contract with the Orioles for 2014.  He gave up just three hits and one run in his seven innings of work.

Yunesky Maya pitched well for the Dominican Republic.  He went five plus innings and only gave up three hits and one run.  The wildness of the bullpen let the game get away in the eighth inning with Victor Marte, Juan Cedeno and Guillermo Mota each issuing at least one walk to contribute to the demise.

Oliver Perez got the win for Mexico with his one inning of work.  You can see the box score for the game here:

When Cuba was dominate prior to 1960 they did not play with teams featuring all Cuban lineups.  Similar to the other four teams there was a mixture of ex-major league Americans or minor leaguers sprinkled in their lineups.  One of the last teams, Almendares had a slugging first baseman on their team named Chuck Connors.  Many young people will not remember him, but if you flick to the old television western “the rifleman” he was the sheriff in that show.  He had a big career as a movie actor.

Arrived in San Diego

Friday, February 7th, 2014

While most of those flying had their flights delayed or cancelled because of weather, myworld had a two day ride on Amtrak to get to San Diego from Chicago.  The train was good at plowing through the snow.  Temperatures were 5 degrees in Kansas but that didn’t slow the train down.  Arrived in San Diego only ten minutes late.

Myworld has read a lot about the baseball seasons in the 1920s when the furthest team west was in Saint Louis and the only method of transportation were the trains.  For the trips to Saint Louis players needed to bed in the sleeper cars.  You read stories of players who had to sit out a game because of a crick in their neck or a sore arm from sleeping on it.  I can imagine the beds were not as good back in those days as they are now.  Despite their improvements these sleeper cars are pretty cramped for their sleeping arrangement but my world slept well the two nights travel to San Diego.

Because Amtrak does not own the tracks it uses it has to yield to the freight, often times tugging along at 20 miles per hour to let a freight train pass.  Eliminate some of that eight hour layover and provide a track with faster speed limits for Amtrak gives you a viable alternative to the air.

The communal showers had a little more room than the individual showers you get in first class sleeper cabins.  Myworld still could not force myself to take a shower.

After arrival in Los Angeles the Amtrak train going to San Diego passes right by Anaheim stadium.  It also passes near Chinatown and Dodger stadium, though the walk to the stadium would be a couple miles.  You can view the jail where celebrity prisoners like O.J. Simpson, Robert Downey Jr and other celebrities are held.

Myworld stays one day in San Diego before departing for Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia.  Our access to the internet may be limited so expect some delays in posting.

Taiwan Finishes High School Tournament

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

To promote baseball in Taiwan the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) is trying to emulate Japan, holding the first ever high school tournament similar to Koshien.  Over 50 high school teams competed in the Black Leopard single elimination youth championship.  Ping Jen High School in Taoyuan County won the first tournament.

You can read more about it here:

Cuba Wins but Sacked From Final Four

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Cuba won their last game of the round robin play, beating Puerto Rico 2-1, but of the five teams that competed only one team gets eliminated.  That team was Cuba.  In the Series del Caribe they were the only team with a losing record and in their first three games were barely competitive.

The round robin ended with the host Venezuela (3-1) on top, scheduled to play the fourth seeded Puerto Rico (2-2).  Dominican Republic (2-2) and Mexico (2-2) will play the other match.

Myworld was on a train from Chicago to San Diego so did not have access to the internet.  To summarize the games we missed:

Cuba finally got a good pitching performance by one of their starters.  Vicyohandrys Odelin threw a complete game victory over Puerto Rico, allowing just two hits.  One of those hits was a Eddie Rosario solo shot in the first inning.  Joel Pineiro got the start for Puerto Rico and went six plus innings, allowing just two unearned runs.  The first run scored in the opening frame when leftfielder Daniel Ortiz dropped a fly ball to allow Yuniet Flores to score from third.  Two fielding errors in the seventh allowed Cuba to score their second run.  Otherwise their offense was not impressive, collecting only eight hits but just one for extra bases.

Venezuela beat the Dominican Republic by the same 2-1 score.  Both teams were restricted to four hits by a collection of pitchers.  Venezuela scored the first two runs, a Cory Aldridge single scoring the first run in the opening frame and a Eduardo Escobar sacrifice fly scoring the second run.  The Dom Rep rallied in the ninth, a Hector Gomez double driving in the first run.  Jean Machi was able to get Julio Lugo to hit a line drive up the middle that he caught and turned into a double play.

Cuba needed Puerto Rico to lose on the final day to have a shot at the playoffs.  The odds were in their favor since they were playing previously undefeated Venezuela.  Puerto Rico scored early, getting an Oswaldo Martinez homer in the fifth to take a 5-1 lead.  Alberto Callaspo slugged a 3-run homer in the seventh to pull Venezuela to within one but Saul Rivera and Tyler Herron shutdown the Venezuelan bats in the last two innings.

Earlier in the day the Dominican Republic had beaten Mexico 7-6.  The Dominican Republic jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, fueled by two homeruns from Eugenio Velez that drove in three runs.  Mexico rallied back for three runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to pull within one.  Sebastian Valle and Zelous Wheeler hitting homeruns in Mexico’s comeback.  The Dominican Republic called on Carlos Marmol to pitch the ninth to pick up the save.

Cuba now must go home to rethink where they are taking their baseball program.  It was an embarrassing effort on their part.  While they have lost a number of star players to the major leagues, this was still an All Star team they put together by their standards to compete against teams using ex-major leaguers, or minor league prospects.  They showed at least in this tournament they were not very competitive against this group.  The luster has worn off the Cuban mystique and their devoted followers may disappear with their once dominance.

Arrival in Chicago

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Myworld arrived in Chicago, passing the White Sox stadium.  We also stopped at cities in small town America the airlines ignore, such as Harper’s Ferry, Virginia where John Brown started the slave revolt prior to the Civil War.  Colonel Robert E. Lee ended the revolt and Brown was hanged.

There is also Elkhart, Indiana where the town claims the song “76 Trombones” was inspired.  If not for that they also have Miles Laboratories, the producer of Alka Seltzer.  South Bend, Indiana, is home to the fighting Irish.  We also stopped at Gary, Indiana with their steel factories shooting up clouds of smoke.  We have exported many of these factories to China, as well as their pollution.  The downside, some jobs were lost along the way.

Dinner on the train was nice.  They sit you in a dining lounge in the order you arrive so you will be sitting at a table with strangers.  Those sharing a table with me love the train.  They are tired of the stress flying by air creates with the airlines constant grab for money, charging extra for check in baggage, food, leg room and even to get an earlier boarding so you can store your carry ons.  You also don’t have to take off your shoes, belt, remove your lap top from your brief case, worry about the size of your toothpaste and as my dad refers to it, get “groped” by a TSA agent before boarding the plane.  Those are all pluses for the train.

The minuses.  I’m sitting in a lounge in Chicago with an eight hour layover.  Those type of layovers do not normally happen on domestic flights.  Also the sleeper car was anything but.  The train rocked back and forth making it difficult to sleep.  It felt like one of those tin cup rides at the carnival.  The veterans say this is an acquired taste.

When I first boarded the train the conductor informed me my sleeper room would not be available because of a flooding in the room.  That was bad news.  The good news is they bumped me up to a higher class room with my own toilet and shower.  The toilet and shower share facilities in a room no bigger than a den closet.  For the shower they recommend you sit down on the toilet when showering because of the rocking of the train.  When I sit down on the toilet my knees touch the door.  Myworld just couldn’t see taking a shower in those cramped facilities.  The other sleeper cars have shared shower facilities, though not at the same time.  Hopefully there is more room in them otherwise it will be three days without a shower.  There is a little creepiness about following a stranger in the shower, but it is no different than locker room showering.

Since I am in Chicago there is nothing like the battle between the Cubs with their owner John Ricketts and the apartment dwellers overlooking the ballpark.  The Cubs will get more money from advertising with the scoreboard than they get from the apartment dwellers who pay them a portion of the proceeds for tickets they sell for a view to the ballgame.  The scoreboard would block many of those views.  Ricketts has used the ace card of moving the Cubs out of Wrigley Field if the apartment dwellers continue to fight him about the scoreboard.  Despite the Ricketts family antics, it will take more than building a scoreboard to turn Cubs fans into White Sox fans.  Moving the team could turn many.

Venezuela Defeats Mexico in Series del Caribe

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Venezuela (2-0) remained the only undefeated team with their 6-3 win over the previously undefeated Mexico (2-1).  Venezuela rallied after two were out in the second with three singles, a pickoff throw error and a Ezequiel Carrera double to score three runs.  Carrera was responsible for the run in the first after leading off the game with a single and stealing two bases.  He scored on a double play ground out.

Adonis Garcia got things started in the breakout second with a single.  Jose Pirela followed with a single and an errant pickoff throw by pitcher Nathan Reed scored Garcia.  Eduardo Escobar drove in the second run with a single and Carrera’s double drove in the third run of the inning.

Mexico bounced back to score three runs to pull to within one but Ramon Hernandez mashed a 2-run homer in the eighth to put Venezuela on top 6-3.

Carlos Zambrano pitched five plus innings to get the win, giving up three runs.  Five different pitchers followed him.  Jean Machi gave up back to back two out singles to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth.  Adan Munoz stirred a breeze on three straight pitches to end the game.

Cuba (0-3) continued to flounder losing to the Dominican Republic 9-2.  Yasmany Hernandez was the latest Cuban pitcher to get mauled by the Caribbean bats.  Ismel Jimenez made his second appearance and continued to pitch batting practice.  Each pitcher gave up three runs in two innings or less of work to put Cuba behind early 6-0.

Jon Leicester shutout the supposedly potent Cuban bats for seven innings, giving up just three hits.  Cuba scored their two runs in the ninth inning after the Dominican Republic had built a 9-0 lead.  Ramon Lunar drove in both runs with a single.

Emilio Bonafacio improved his average to .800 with a 2 for 2 day with three walks.  Julio Lugo drove in three runs, two with a homerun in the eighth.