Archive for July, 2014

Cuban Players Not Yet a Panacea in Japan

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

When Cuba announced that their players would be available for professional summer leagues many of the Japanese professional teams jumped on the opportunity to enhance their roster with foreign players.  Many of those teams wanted pitching but the best talent available and the players Cuba was promoting were their professional hitters.

Four Cuban players have signed with the Japanese professional team.  Only one is performing decently and he has an injury that will keep him out of the lineup until mid-August.  Playing in a new culture is filled with unexpected challenges, especially when the language and food are filled with surprises.  Younger players are usually more open to experiencing new cultures, but for the most part the Japanese teams have gone with the more experienced Cuban players to fill their rosters.

Frederich Cepeda was the first player signed from Cuba by the Yomiuri Giants.  He was expected to play in left field and move another Cuban who fled his country for the major leagues, Leslie Anderson, to move to first base.  That would have put Jose Lopez on the bench.  Except Cepeda could not lift his average above .200 and was sent down to their minor leagues (ni-gun) to get his bat working.  Down in the minor leagues Cepeda has played in 11 games and shown very little power, hitting just .286 with three doubles.  He looks like a bust, but then his offensive output in Cuba was also on the down slide the last couple of years.

Yulieski Gourriel looked like a success for the Yokahama Bay Stars, despite their discovery Yulieski did not like flying.  This is not a bad thing in Japan where the rail system is excellent, except when you have to fly to Hokkaido to play the Nippon Ham Fighters.  Myworld has traveled to various stadiums on the train and you can get to each city by train within a day.  Myworld has never been to Hokkaido.

Yulieski started the season well hitting .340 with six homeruns and 23 RBIs.  Those would be numbers good enough to keep company with the league leaders.  The Bay Stars began to develop a culture of winning with the arrival of Gourriel and all was well.  Until a side injury sidelined Yulieski for at least a month.  At least the Bay Stars continue to win and they hope to have their Cuban star back to make a run for a playoff spot, a rare feat for this team.

Alfredo Despaigne was recently signed by the Chiba Lotte Marines.  It is still too early to measure his success since he has only played three games.  In the game yesterday he went 0 for 4 grounding into a double play and striking out three times.  He got a hit in his first game and has not seen another since, hitting .083.  He is probably pressing a little and should do fine once he gets his timing and a better understanding of how Japanese pitchers approach him.

The pitching tends to be better in Japan than in Cuba so expecting the inflated averages these Cuban players produced in their homeland is asking for too much.  They will struggle as they get acclimated but they should achieve some success.

Speaking of pitching, the Yomiuri Giants signed a 20 year old pitcher from Cuba named Hector Mendoza.  He has a nice fastball that sits in the mid-90s but lacks experience.  He pitched in the bullpen in Cuba for the equivalent of the Bay Stars in Cuba Isla de la Juventud, picking up 13 saves.  Not really too sure what the Giants have planned for him.  He has yet to appear in their ni-gun league (the minor leagues) or their major leagues.  Juventud had two other younter pitchers who pitched well, Jorge Despaigne (2-3, 4.54) and Joan Lopes (3-1, 3.12), but both have defected for the major leagues.

The signing opportunity for acquiring more Cuban players has passed.  What you have now is four Cubans playing in the NPB.  It will be interesting to watch how they impact the Japanese season.  Their success will dictate whether Japanese teams look to Cuba to find their foreign players or continue to mine the major leagues AAAA system for potential impact players.  It will also be interesting to see the Cuban players reaction as they mix with other players where they will learn what the other Cuban players are earning who defected and are now playing in Japan like Hector Luna and Leslie Anderson.  This may force the Cuban government to revise the amount of money they extract from their player’s salary as they act as buscones for the Cuban ball players.

Twins Find Some Hidden Heat

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

He worked for his dad’s excavation company in San Francisco.  He pitched for a college called San Francisco Academy of the Arts.  They have never been to the College World Series.  His high school team didn’t want him because he could not find the plate, but he could throw the football 70 yards.  There were no scouts with radar guns on him in his earlier performances that stamped him as having a major league arm.  He stood 6′7″ 230 pounds and ran the 60 in 6.6, a pretty good time for a body that was very cut.  His was an athletic body.  There had to be room for something for him to do in sports.  To continue his baseball career he went to try out for the Healdsburg Prune Packers, who play baseball in a collegiate baseball league.

That is when scouts became aware of Brandon Paulsen, when his fastball hit the catcher’s mitt at 99 miles per hour.  He also struck out 31 hitters in just 12 plus innings.  That is better than the 8.38 ERA and 24 walks in 19 innings he crafted for Academy of the Arts.  Scouts flocked to check him out, a rumor that had to be tracked to confirm the rumors were real.  It didn’t take too many throws to the plate before the scouts were in drool mode.  The bidding started at $50,000 but the Minnesota Twins won out at $250,000.

You can read the story here:  Caleb Balbuena of the Prune Packers worked on his delivery and helped him find his plate.  Added a couple miles an hour to his fastball.  Now he will begin his season at Elizabethton of the rookie league.  At 24 years old he will be very old for a league that has many players out of high school.  If he dominates them he should move quickly.

A Jason Woo discover, except he is not from China.  Hope his story has a happy ending.

Despaigne Makes Debut with Marines

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Alfredo Despaigne hit a triple in his first at bat leading off the second inning in the Nippon Ham Fighters 6-4 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines.  Despaigne also added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.  He finished the game 1 for 4, batting sixth in the lineup.  The Marines had a large walk up crowd who came to watch the debut of Despaigne.  Close to 24,000 attended the game.

Haruki Nishikawa hit a 2-run homerun in the 12th inning to give the Fighters the win.  The Marines Ayumu Ishikawa had a four hit shutout after seven innings, striking out ten.  The Fighters raked him for three doubles to score four runs in the eighth inning.  He was gone after giving up his third double.

Cuba Completes the Sweep

Monday, July 28th, 2014

The United States bats were again silent in Cuba as Yasiel Sierra shut them out for five plus innings, allowing only four hits in the 1-0 win.  Vladimir Gutierrez completed the shutout with three plus innings of work.

Kyle Funkhouser pitched well for the United States team, pitching five plus innings and allowing only two hits.  A Yadiel Hernandez RBI single was his only blemish in the sixth.

The United States college team finished their exhibition season 18-8, with an 0-5 trip to Cuba.  The box score for the game can be found here:

Cuba Sweeps United States in Doubleheader

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Cuba turns the tide on the United States, sweeping a doubleheader with 2-1 and 7-3 victories to win the first four games against the United States college team.  Only one more game is left to play today and the United States hopes to salvage that one to avoid the series sweep.  Last year the United States swept Cuba in their series in the Carolinas.

Yadier Hernandez drove in one run with a ground out RBI in the opening frame after Luis Yander got on base via a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a Jose Fernandez single.  In the fourth Guillermo Heredia tripled in the fourth inning and scored on an errant throw.

The United State had opportunities to score in the fourth and fifth, loading the bases in the fourth with one out but grounding into a double play and putting runners on first and second with no out in the fifth but failing to score.  They finally broke a 17 inning scoreless streak with a run in the eighth, but Cuba gift wrapped with a poor throw to first that allowed an unearned run to score from second.

The box score for the game can be found here:

Four different Cuban pitchers limited the United States bats to four hits.  Cuban starter Yusmel Velazquez did not last past the fourth, walking three and giving up one hit.  Yasiel Sierra retired the last five hitters, striking out three.

Cuba buried the United States early in the second game, taking a 6-0 lead after two innings.  Yadier Hernandez drove in three and Guillermo Aviles two to lead the Cuban offense.  The United States team committed four errors to allow three unearned runs to score.

Yoanni Yera pitched five shutout innings before allowing a run in the sixth on a Tate Matheny RBI single.  Nick Banks drove a ball over the fence in the seventh to give the United States their second run to make the score 7-2.  Tate Matheny would strike again in the eighth with an RBI single off of reliever Carlos Juan Viera.  That would be all the scoring.

The box score for this game can be found here:

Korean Foreign Players Ejected

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

When you are a foreign player you are expected to play above the local players.  That is why the team is paying you the big bucks.  If you can only play at an equal level to the Korean player they do not need you.  The Korean team will just sign a Korean player for less salary and look else where for that big foreign player.

The foreign players who were lacking in the Korean league and their replacements:

Doosan Bears - Chris Volstad and his ugly ERA will be replaced by Yunesky Maya and hopefully an improved ERA.  Maya was one of the top pitchers in Cuba, better than Aroldis Chapman as far as their depth chart for international competition, but he could never translate his stuff to retire major league hitters.  Maya hopes to have better success against the Korean hitters.

Hanwha Eagles - Caleb Clay was found lacking.  The Eagles now hope Ryan Tatusko is the answer.  A few years ago the Nationals traded Christian Guzman to the Diamondbacks for Tanner Roark and Tatusko.  Roark is having a breakout year with the Nationals.  Tatusko hopes the Korean opportunity will be a building block to his career.

Nexon Heroes - Brandon Knight wore out his welcome with the Heroes.  Previously he had pitched for the Samsung Lions.  That is five years pitching in Korea.  No more.  He has now been replaced by the fireballing Henry Sosa.

LG Twins - Josh Bell showed an early power surge.  A blackout after that the first month gave the Twins a reason to release him.  They will be asking Brad Snyder to replace him.  Brad has hit a lot of homeruns in the minors and the Mexican League, but the major leagues were another issue.  He hopes to treat Korean League pitchers like he does Mexican League pitchers.

SK Wyverns - The Wyverns have said good bye to Jo Jo Reyes and hello to Travis Banwart.  Myworld does not know enough about either player so we’ll leave it at that.

Czech Republic a Rising Power in European Baseball

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

The Czech Republic seems to be building a baseball empire in Europe to rival the powers in Italy, Netherlands and the recently rising Germany.  They defeated Austria 9-3 to win the 21 and under championship.  The three teams mentioned above did not participate in the youth tournament.

In the 15 and under championship the Netherlands was able to defeat the Czech Republic 11-10, rallying for three runs in the seventh inning to pull out the win.  In pool play the two teams had gone undefeated so the win crowns the Netherlands as the champion of the 15 and under.

The Czech Republic will be the European representative in the Little League World Series in August, beating the Netherlands and Spain for that honor.

Curve Crush Bay Sox

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Myworld was in Bowie to watch a slaughter, with the Altoona Curve routing the Bowie Bay Sox 11-0.  The Curve banged out 21 hits, Alen Hanson getting the show started with a leadoff double.  Two more doubles later and the score was 2-0.  Mike Yastrzemski made a diving catch at the warning track in centerfield to prevent a fourth double.  The runs would keep on rolling after the first inning, slowing down after the fourth when Altoona had built a 10-0 lead.

It was super hero night in Bowie, but all the superheros on the field belonged to the Curve.  Alen Hanson, Allie Stetson, Willy Garcia and Elias Diaz each had three hits in the game.  Zach Dodson, whose ERA was 5.72 entering the game threw seven innings of three hit shutout ball.  The Bay Sox players were hit by kryptonite, sagging listlessly throughout the evening.

Some comments on the prospects in the game:

Alen Hanson - He got all his hits swinging lefthanded.  His swing looked purer from the left side.  Looking at his numbers this year he is batting .292 hitting right handed and .280 lefthanded, so this was probably a one game observation.  He has committed 18 errors.  He might eventually have to move to second, though the Pirates are in need of an offensive shortstop.

Allie Stetson - He is a big dude with a long swing.  He may never hit for a high average so the question comes will his power justify the low batting average to stick him at first base.  Coming into this game he was only slugging .422, but that is weighted by his low .231 average.  He was never really challenged defensively.

Willy Garcia - He has a quick bat and shows some pop.  His 14/111 walk to k ratio is a big red flag.  And his defense is horrible, even for a left fielder.  He missed a ball but showed a strong arm by nailing a run trying to score.  The idea is not to get outs by missing flyballs and then throwing the runner out on the bases.  We saw him make some horrible outfield plays in Altoona.

Josh Bell - Good size.  He made two outs to the warning track, one in deep centerfield and the other to right.  He got a couple hits including a double, but did not do anything to make me label him a can’t miss.  He does look like a ball player and has an easy swing.

Elias Diaz - He impressed me the most.  A nice line drive swing he came into the game hitting .305.  He doesn’t appear to show a lot of power and his defense wasn’t tested in the 11-0 game.  The Bay Sox had very few runners on base.  The Pirates could be very happy with his offensive output at catcher.

Gift Ngoepe - He seems smaller than his listed 5′10″ height.  He only got one hit in the game, but his 8 homeruns shows he carries some pop.  He needs to improve on his .250 average and that comes with reducing his 101 strikeouts, which are second on the team.  He will have a tough time making second base for a major league team unless he cuts down on those whiffs and increases his average.  He provides little in stolen base speed.

Mychal Givens - He has a side arm delivery that hit 97 on the stadium gun.  Not sure how effective a breaking ball he can throw with that delivery or how effective it will be against lefthanded hitters.  He needs to gain better command of his pitches, walking 13 in less than 10 innings with Bowie.

Michael Ohlman - As a catcher he seemed to have trouble catching the heat thrown by Givens, stabbing at the ball instead of having it settle in his glove.  This could be more because of Givens inability to hit the mitt.  He is also not showing a lot with the bat, hitting .234 with a .322 slugging.  He needs to do better to be the Orioles catcher of the future.

Mike Yastrzemski - He patrols centerfield well.  Myworld has seen him cover a lot of ground, making a couple diving catches already.  He does not have a big build, so he doesn’t appear to have a lot of pop.  He has hit over .300 at his two previous levels and at Bowie he continues to hit .300.  His speed has not translated to a lot of stolen bases.

Arruebarrena First Homer Results in a Brawl

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Erisbel Arruebarrena hit his first homerun in a 16-7 route by the Albuquerque Isotopes over the Reno Aces.  Erisbel appeared to savor the moment by taking 32 seconds to jog around the bases.  The Aces took exception to the trot.

The next day a pitch to Arruebarrena in his first at bat was high and tight.  He later struck out in the at bat.  Erisbel took exception to the brushback pitch after the strikeout and pushed catcher Blake Lilli on his way to the dugout.  Perhaps Blake said something to Erisbel on his slow walk back to the dugout.  The result was this:

Albuquerque Isotopes shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Albuquerque Isotopes shortstop Walter Ibarra ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Yimi Garcia ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Carlos Frias ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Reno Aces Manager Phil Nevin ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Reno Aces catcher Blake Lalli ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Reno Aces pitcher Kameron Loe ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Reno Aces left fielder Aaron Cunningham ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Reno Aces first baseman Mike Jacobs ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd); Reno Aces pitcher Andrew Chafin ejected by HP umpire Brian Hertzog (2nd)

There was some wild swinging going on in the home plate area.  You can catch some of that here:

The home run trot can be seen here:

Ironic that fellow Cuban Alexander Guerrero made his AAA debut in that game.  There is no word whether he participated in the fight but at least he was not part of the ejections.

Perhaps Erisbel will learn he should run a little quicker around the bases after hitting a homerun.  They may not come often for him, but they are not to be savored.  People didn’t buy tickets to watch his homerun trot, though the resulting brawl the next day had to have been a treat.

Cuba Shuts Out United States Team

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Cuba went up 2-0 in their series with the United States, Julio Martinez shutting them out on two hits for seven innings in the 5-0 win.  Vladimir Gutierres tossed the last two innings for Cuba to complete the shutout.

Cuba doubled their fun with five doubles on the night, three of them driving in runs.  The first run was driven in after a double by Luis Yander Lo A in the third.  Guillermo Aviles drove in a run with a double in the fourth.  Yordan Manduyley doubled in the sixth to drive in the third run.

Frank Morejon put an exclamation point to the game with his bases loaded two run single to finish the scoring at 5-0.

James Kaprielian got the start for the United States giving up three runs in five plus innings.  You can view the boxscore for the game here: