Archive for August, 2014

Hardy Slam Knocks Out Twins

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

J.J. Hardy slugged a grand slam homer and Caleb Joseph dunked four singles into left field to lead the Orioles to a 12-8 win over the Twins. Ubaldo Jimenez came on to pitch the ninth inning and tried to hand the game to the Twins, walking three and giving up a double. Buck was forced to call on Zach Britton to get the last two outs and the save, getting Eduardo Nunez to ground into a double play.

Ricky Nolasco has not been very good this year and he replicated that awfulness in this game. He hit two batters in the first and loaded the bases but escaped by striking out J.J. Hardy. The Orioles collected two singles in the second but failed to score. In the third Nelson Cruz launched a missle into the left field bleachers to score the first run. Ryan Flaherty soon followed with a 3-run homerun onto the right field pavilion to up the ante to 4-0.

The Twins came back off Wei-Yen Chen in the fourth. Trevor Plouffe did the damage, lofting a towering fly ball that fell into the third row of the left field bleacher seats. David Lough made a valiant effort to catch the ball but fell short. Chen would not give up another run until the seventh inning after giving up back to back hits after retiring the first two hitters and being removed from the game. Danny Santana greeted Brad Brach crunching one into the right field bleachers to allow the two Chen runners to score.

Prior to that homerun the Orioles had built a comfortable 11-2 lead with a seven run sixth. J.J. Hardy highlighted the inning punishing a 2-0 pitch and driving it into the left field bleachers. The Twins had chosen to walk the .190 hitting Chris Davis to load the bases. Caleb Joseph began the chase of Nolasco with a single to start the inning. A walk and two hits later and Ricky was gone and the slaughter had begun.

Game Notes: J.J. Hardy had an opportunity to hit three grand slams in this game. In the first and seventh innings he struck out with the bases loaded. He was successful with the swat in the sixth…The Orioles banged out 18 hits with Caleb Joseph (4), Nick Markakis (3) and David Lough (3) accounting for 10 of them…With the bases loaded in the seventh Ryan Flaherty pulled a ball deep enough to be a grand slam, but it was just foul. He struck out on the next pitch…Wei-Yen Chen struck out the first two hitters with six pitches…Ubaldo Jimenez is in danger of not making the post season roster if he doesn’t start showing he can throw strikes and get hitters out. The three walks were on 3-2 counts…The Orioles go for the four game sweep on Monday…Rookies Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas combined for 79 hits in august, the most by rookie teammates in a month since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice combined for 77 in 1975.

Women’s Baseball World Cup Begins Tomorrow

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Japan is usually the favorite in this event. They have won the last three baseball World Cups. The first team they play is Australia. The United States opens against a tough Taiwan team, Canada does battle with Netherlands and Hong Kong will face off against Venezuela.

There are eight teams in the tournament with Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Venezuela making up one pool. The United States, Canada, Taiwan and the Netherlands makes up the other pool.

The 200 mile per hour fastball

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

It’s actually only 186 miles per hour. The Japanese do some fun things. They developed a pitching maching to throw a 186 mile per hour fastball and they brought in a professional player to hit against the machine. It is in Japanese, but I’m assuming the Japanese player was not told the speed of the pitch.

It is surprising they had this hitter swing at the pitch without a helmet on. First they had him swing at a few pedestrian pitches and he hit them pretty well. Then they told him they were going to give him a bit more of a challenge with more velocity to the pitch. To see his reaction when the ball whizzes past him is funny. He cocked his bat forward but the pitch had already hit the backstop before he could even think about moving his bat any further. He also put his bat out there to try to bunt the pitch but he couldn’t even accomplish that.

To see the video you can go here:

Bay Stars Hope to Ride Gourriel to Playoffs

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Yulieski Gourriel is back and the Bay Stars hope to ride his hot bat to the playoffs. He has seven hits in his last nine at bats to raise his average to .370. Yesterday he hit a homerun in the eighth, his eighth of the year to tie the game against the Yomiuri Giants and slashed a single to extend a rally in the ninth to fuel the Bay Stars 5-4 win. Masayuki Kuwahara eventually came through with the walkoff single.

The Giants Itaru Hasimoto had a rough time from the leadoff spot, striking out all five times he came to the plate. Gourriel’s counterpart for the Giants, Frederich Cepeda has been relegated to ni-gun duties because of his inability to hit Japanese pitching.

The Bay Stars are still nine games out of first place and need to gain seven games on the third place Hanshin Tigers to reach the playoffs. It is interesting to note the only team in the Central Division to score more runs than they have given up is the Hanshin Tigers. Even though the Yomiuri Giants are in first place with a 63-50-1 record, they have only scored 457 runs while giving up 462.

The two dominant teams reside in the Pacific League. The Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes are the top two teams battling for the top spot. The Hawks have a one and a half game lead over the Buffaloes. Both teams are 1-2 in pitching while the Hawks .286 average is tops in the league.

In the race for the batting championship in the Pacific League Yoshio Itoi of the Buffaloes is at the top spot with a .326 average. Five Hawk players are in the second through sixth spot with averages from .300 to .316. No other team in the Pacific League has a hitter with a .300 average who qualifies for the batting title.

Watching Cuban Baseball

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Myworld follows Cuban baseball through the box score and occassionally watch the stars as they play in the international tournaments. Last year we were a little disappointed in the amount of talented players who still play in Cuba in the Series Nacional league and found it difficult to report on the progress of the league. As more of the stars defect it is turning into a AA league with the stars leaving once they realize the money is in the States. In the Series del Caribe, which Cuba participated in last year and used to dominant in years past they were the only country not to qualify for the playoffs. They were also the only country to strictly use domestic players to stock their roster.

Ben Badler has an interesting article on what to look for if you happen to have the opportunity to go to Cuba to watch baseball there. You can catch the whole article here:

To summarize:

1) Cuba does not have a lot of pitchers who throw hard. Aroldis Chapman is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the pitchers throw in the low to mid 80s and use deception like different arm slots and a reliance on breaking pitches to retire hitters. You can see the evidence in that when you look at the walk to whiff ratio of many of the hitters. Most of the good hitters walk more than they strikeout. The two best Cuban pitchers today were developed in the United States, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Rodon.

2) To achieve a more competetive game the Cubans decided to have a second season selecting only the best eight teams to continue with their season. A draft is conducted to select the best from the worst teams to have a more quality driven second half of the season. What Badler did not discuss is that the Cubans also have a minor or developmental league where some of the younger players try to improve their skills. These bottom eight teams continue their season playing in this lower level league so they do not stop playing baseball.

3) Hitters tend to have longer swings because they do not have to fear facing 90 plus mile an hour fastballs. Sliders are particularly more difficult for Cuban hitters to adjust to as Carlos Rodon proved when he had them swinging and missing at many of his pitches.

4) Cubans must play in the province where they were born. There is no trading or free agency. So if a team has three or four players whose best tools are better fitted for third base and they have no player with shortstop tools, they move one of those players with third base skills to shortstop. In the majors a team would find another team with extra shortstops who may be looking for a third baseman and work out a trade to improve both teams. So just because a player is at shortstop, it does not mean he has the tools to play the position. Badler did not mention that much of the movement out of the province is normally done to enhance the Havana team (Industriales). The league used to have the Metropolitans and the best players from that team were usually moved to play for the Industriales. Once they were dropped from the league Industriales was improved by stealing the Gourriel brothers from Sancti Spiritus. The Roosters then went from playoff contender to bottom of the barrell while the Industriales returned to being a playoff caliber team.

5) Don’t know if I agree with his assessment pitchers get overused. If you listen to Jose Abreu he would argue players get overused in the major league. Cuba plays a 90 game season so pitchers and position players do not play the number of innings that major leaguers do. Jose Abreu has admitted his homerun numbers have decreased because he is being worn down by the long schedule in the major leagues.

6) It is not unusual for managers to go to the bullpen after a starter faces three hitters and can’t get any hitters out. Cuban managers have a quick hook, but I don’t know if they play the lefty/righty percentages as obsessively as the major league managers. If a pitcher can show he can get a hitter out he will face both lefties and righties until he proves he can’t get those hitters out.

7) Catchers have no arms because few Cuban ballplayers have not learned the art of stealing. If opponents do not steal you do not develop catchers with strong arms. Cuba has players with speed, but for some reason they never learn how to steal bases.

Sluggers on the Rise

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

The minor leagues has a history of 40 homerun hitters who never made an impact in the major leagues. Some of those names include Brandon Wood (43 - 2005), Dallas McPherson (40 - 2004) and Todd Greene (40 - 1995). Other players such as Ron Kittle (50 - 1982), Russell Branyan (40 - 1996) and Ryan Howard (46 - 2004) were expected to make more of a contribution once they reached the major leagues. For many of these players low walk rates and a high strikeout rates led to their failures as they faced more advanced pitching.

With the domination of pitchers in the major leagues myworld thought we’d take a look at some of the breakout sluggers in the minor leagues. It is probably the first year four or more players could break 40 plus homeruns.

Joey Gallo (3b) Rangers - He is probably the player that shows the most power. He wowed the fans who witnessed him hit upper deck shots during batting practice at the Twins major league park in the Future’s Game. Many would have liked to see him hit in the major league homerun derby. This year he has 41 homeruns combined through High A and AA. At High A he hit .323 with a 51/64 walk to whiff ratio. In AA he has shown a bit of a struggle with a .235 average and an alarming 31/109 walk to whiff ratio in just 64 games. Last year he hit 40 homeruns making him the only player on this list who has achieved back to back 40 homerun seasons.

Kris Bryant (3B) Cubs - Kris may not even get an opportunity to hit back to back 40 homerun seasons in the minor leagues. Last year was his first professional season when he hit 9 homeruns in 36 games, the second player chosen in the 2013 draft. This year his power has flashed 43 homeruns in a 134 game season split between AA and AAA. Kris has not shown too much downturn in his numbers from AA (.355, 22 and 1.160 OPS) and AAA (.300, 21 and 1.061 OPS). His walk to whiff ratio is almost equal, 43/77 in AA and 41/80 in AAA so you would expect the same when he reaches the major leagues. Most people expect him to be the Cubs starting third baseman in 2015.

Matt Olson (1B) Athletics - Matt was a first round 2012 compensation pick. Last year he hit 23 homeruns at low A with an unimpressive .235 average. He has raised the stakes this year with his 36 homeruns and a .257 average. One of his biggest improvements is a growing ability to be patient at the plate, his walk totals increasing from 72 to 111. We know how the Athletics love their players who take walks. His OPS is at .938 because of a low batting average. This year he has improved his ability to hit the ball in the air and the balls are flying over the fence.

Peter O’Brien (c/1B) Diamondbacks - He started his season with the Yankees, a second round 2012 pick. The Yankees love their catchers who can hit. Last year O’Brien slugged 22 homeruns but more than half his time was spent in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. The Yankees traded O’Brien to the Diamondbacks to acquire Martin Prado to play third base for them in a last opportunity pennant run for Derek Jeter. O’Brien slugged 33 homeruns for the Yankees two affiliates in High A and AA. He only played four games with the Diamondbacks before an injury sidelined him, threatening his ability to join the 40 homerun club before this season is over.

Steven Moya (OF) Tigers - He was born in Puerto Rico but was raised in the Dominican Republic. At 6′7″ his arms can carry the ball a long way when they get extended. Last year Moya could only smash 12 balls out of the Florida State League parks. The big criticism with him was his inability to make contact with the ball, with an atrocious 18/106 walk to whiff ratio in 93 games. Injuries have prevented him from ever playing over 100 games in a season since his signing in 2009. After a slow start this year when his average anchored below .200 Moya caught fire. He is now hitting .270 with 34 homeruns leading the AA Eastern League in homeruns and RBIs (102). His walk to whiff ratio (21/159) is still not impressive but if he continues to deliver with an .845 OPS the Tigers will not complain. The scary thing about his homerun numbers is this is being done with a poor ground ball to flyball rate. If he hits more flyballs his homerun rate could increase.

Renato Nunez (3B) Athletics) - He and teammate Olson are making for quite a corner infield barrage of balls leaving the park. Nunez was signed out of Venezuela in 2010. His homerun numbers were a little muted his first couple years. This year he has broken out with 29 homeruns and a .280 average. His flyball rate has increased dramatically this year and his walk to whiff ratio has improved from last year (28/136) to this year (34/108).

Miguel Sano (1B/3B/RF) Twins - Last year Miguel Sano was one of the big sluggers with 35 homeruns and a .280 batting average split between High A and AA. Like Gallo he struggled in AA (.236 average) but his walk to whiff ratio was not as discrepant. The Twins were hoping to repeat his AA season but a sore elbow in spring training resulted in Tommy John surgery, ending his 2014 season. The Twins will hope he recovers his power onslaught for the 2015 season. The one big question with Sano is his position as his 6′4″ height makes him too big to play third base. Many expect him to move to first base or the outfield. Miguel has already starred in a documentary with his inability to show proof of his age and the Pirates trying to sign him at below cost because of this issue. The Twins stepped in and signed him to a big contract, the second highest bonus for a Dominican in 2009 after Gary Sanchez.

Javier Baez (SS/2B) Cubs - Last year Javier had a breakout season with 37 homeruns. In his previous seasons he had never hit more than 16 homeruns. The Cubs were high on him, drafting him in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Puerto Rico. This year was a bit of a disappointment with a slow start in AAA. He recovered to salvage his season upping his average to .270 with 23 homeruns. This earned him a promotion to the major league team where his power still impressed (7 homeruns in 23 games) but his inability to make contact (43 whiffs in 99 at bats) has brought his average down to .189. His flyball rate has increased significantly since his promotion to the major leagues, but when 7 of your 18 hits leave the yard that is not a surprise.

Kyle Schwarber (LF) Cubs - Kyle was the fourth pick in the 2014 draft. He was selected after playing catcher in college but the Cubs are giving him a shot in left field. His lack of speed there could be a negative, but his ability to hit for power and drive in runs are a positive. In his first year in the minor leagues he has bashed 18 homeruns in 70 games. He abused pitchers in rookie ball (.600) and low A (.361) which led to quick promotions to High A (.311). In High A he has a nice 26/35 walk to whiff ratio which could make him one of those .300 plus 30 plus homerun hitters when he reaches the major leagues.

Dodgers Sign Italian Player

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

The Dodgers signed Italian Federico Giordani, a 16 year old outfielder who played for the Nettuno club. He will probably not play until 2015, joining Federico Cell.

Petit Retires 46 in a Row for Major League Record

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Myworld watched Yusmeiro Petit retire 13 batters in a row in what proved to be a Washington Nationals blow out. We didn’t think too much of the accomplishment until we read where his streak had gone beyond what would be a perfect game 27 batters in a row. Now his record streak has reached 46 consecutive hitters retired over eight appearances. That is just eight short of back to back perfect games.

Mark Buehrle held the previous record retiring 45 batters in a row. He did that over two outings. Petit has achieved his record appearing in eight games. The record finally ended when he gave up a hit to opposing pitcher Jordan Lyles.

Petit does not possess tools scouts would fight over with a fastball in the high 80s. At 29 years old he is putting up the numbers journeyman pitchers normally put up, except the 45 outs in a row has enhanced his major league status.

Blue Jays 2014 Domestic Draft Team

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Myworld is taking a look at all the major league teams to see what kind of 25-man roster they could field if they only relied on the players selected from the domestic draft and nothing else to stock their team. Only current major leaguers are considered for the 25 man roster. Realistically, some players would extend their career because without foreign players a job could still be available and others who never were called up could fill the empty positions. The Blue Jays have had some success drafting catchers, but they lack superstars at any of their positions. The one potential superstar they did draft but did not sign was Kris Bryant (2010 - 18th round) who went on to star for University of San Diego. Otherwise this a collection of role players with few all stars and even holes at some positions, which explains their drop from annual playoff contention.

Catchers - Yan Gomes (2009 - 10th round) may be from Brazil, but he went to school here and the Blue Jays drafted him but traded him to Cleveland before they recognized his talents. They also gave up on J.P. Arencibia (2007 - first round) who showed a lot of power but whose average resided below the Mendoza line (under .200). Erik Kratz (2002 - 29th round) or Drew Butera (2002 - 48th round) would be typical backups though Drew never signed with the team.

First Base - Adam Lind (2004 - third round) is the only true firstbaseman drafted by the Blue Jays. Travis Snider (2006 - first round) could be taught to play this position.

Second Base - Aaron Hill (2003 - first round) is a power hitting player for this position and one of two all stars. Tyler Pastornicky (2008 - 5th round) would be a utility player to bounce between short and second.

Shortstop - Except the Jays have not drafted a player who plays this position that has any major league creds to his resume who is still active.

Third Base - Another dark hole in the lineup, unless Ryan Roberts (2003 - 18th round) is playing somewhere.

Left Field - Erick Thames (2008 - 7th round) is hitting long balls in Korea and Reed Johnson (1999 - 17th round) is a fourth outfielder type who could rotate along all the outfield positions. Snider would also play here if not asked to play first base.

Centerfield - Jake Marisnick (2009 - third round) would provide excellent defense but his bat is not ready yet.

Right Field - Alex Rios (1999 - first round) would be the second position all star on this team.

Starting Pitcher - Ugh. A lot of starters turned relievers that may never have turned to the bullpen because of a lack of alternatives here. Ricky Romero (2005 - first round) is a starter in name only. Brett Cecil (2007 - first round) and Marc Rzepczynski (2007 - 5th round) are other names the Blue Jays could put here. Two youngsters Aaron Sanchez (2010 - second round) and Marcus Stroman (2012 - first round) would easily find room here by default as well as a young wave which would include Daniel Norris, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino who have yet to see the major leagues. Unfortunately for the Jays two of those three have been traded.

Relief Pitching - A number of ex-closers on this team, including Chad Qualls (1997 - 52nd round) who was never signed by the Blue Jays, Brando League (2001 - second round) and Casey Janssen (2004 - fourth round). Arm problems put Dustin McGowan (2000 - first round) in the bullpen. Danny Farquhar (2008 - 10th round) is the last bullpen arm.

Top Ten Prospects in AL West

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The AL West is working it’s way to being the best conference in baseball with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics duking it out for best record in baseball. The Seattle Mariners also may take the second wild card spot giving the Division three playoff teams. The Astros have collected a bevy of top prospects thanks to their poor record for the last three seasons but the 2014 draft was a disaster as they failed to sign their number one pick. Below is myworld’s assessment of the top ten prospects in the AL West.

1. Carlos Correa SS (Astros) - Myworld has watched a lot of Carlos and we like his potential. We were tempted to put Joey Gallo ahead of Correa but we have not seen him play and our only assessment of him is based on his numbers and what we have read about him. Correa should find himself among the elite hitting shortstops in the league. His power is developing and he has the tools to play short. The concern with Correa is his 6′4″ height to go with his 205 pound weight. If he bulks up and slows down he may no longer have the range to play the position. If he does not play short he will have the bat to fit at any position and be one of the top hitters at that position. His 2014 season ended early with a leg injury but after just 62 games in High A his OPS was .926.

2. Joey Gallo 3B (Rangers) - He plays the same position as Adrian Beltre so no matter how well he plays Gallo will not take the job away from Beltre in the near future. His glove is not as smooth as Beltre but his bat should connect for more power. This is his second season of 40 or more homeruns. He still strikes out as much as last year, but his walk rate has increased giving hope that he could still hit for a decent average with that power. In high A his walk to whiff ratio was 51/64 which resulted in a .323 average. A promotion to AA saw his walk to whiff ratio decline to 30/108 and his average plummet to .238. His only above average tools are his power and arm, so those need to work for him if he wants to have success in the major leagues.

3. Taijuan Walker RHP (Mariners) - The Mariners could have an excellent rotation once Walker is ready. It was expected he would be ready at the beginning of the 2014 season but arm soreness forced him to miss the start. That forced him to pitch in a couple rehab starts and a stint in AAA where early season struggles extended his stay in the minors. The Mariners playoff run also complicated his status. Playoff teams don’t like to break in prospects unless they are certain of their success. Walker has a good fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a slider could be a good outpitch. He has three solid major league starts with the only troubling development a high walk rate (13 in 15 innings pitched). He has a much better walk to innings pitched ratio in the minor leagues, so that could be a reflection of nibbling and giving major league hitters too much respect.

4. Jorge Alfaro C (Rangers) - The Rangers signed Alfaro out of Colombia for $1.3 million. Injuries have slowed his development, limiting him to less than 100 games in three of his four seasons. His 116 games played this year is already a career high. Jorge has a plus arm for a catcher and big time power. He still needs to learn the other subtleties of the position such as reducing passed balls and calling a game before he is considered major league ready. Poor strike zone judgment may result in a low average. Last year he hit .258 with a 28/111 walk to whiff ratio. This year he is .263 with a 27/114 walk to whiff ratio. He has excellent speed for a catcher, allowing him to steal 16 bases in 19 attempts last year.

5. D.J. Peterson 3b/1b (Mariners) - Many feel the number one 2013 pick will eventually have to move to first. His defense will not win any gold gloves at third base. His bat and his power will keep him in the lineup. Last year he blasted 13 homeruns in just 55 games. This year he has sent 28 out of the park in 116 games. He doesn’t have a poor walk to whiff ratio (44/107) which could show some promise for a high average. A lack of speed will prevent a move to the outfield. With Kyle Seager anchored at third for the Mariners even if his defense was better it would still result in a move across the diamond.

6. Renato Nunez 3B (Athletics) - The Athletics signed him for $2.2 million out of Venezuela in 2010. Scouts projected he would hit for power and last year he slugged 19 homeruns with a .423 slugging in Low A, a promising development. This year in High A ball his power has broke out with 29 homeruns in less at bats than last year. There is some concern that his strike zone discipline (33/104) could result in a lower average. Because his defense is not strong and his speed is nil Renato will have to hit to get in the lineup. Last year his 39 errors led all Midwest third baseman.

7. Mike Foltynewicz RHP (Astros) - Last year Mike hit the radar gun with three digit fastballs more than any other pitcher in the minor leagues. His big problem is getting those fastballs to cross the plate for strikes. Last year his walk to whiff ratio was 66/124 in 129 innings. His ratio has not improved this year (52/102 in 103 innings) but he still got a promotion to the Astros based on his ability to throw hard. If he does not harness that command he may be forced to move to the bullpen. If he improves his control he has the potential to be an ace in the rotation. The Astros promoted him mid-season to their major league club but he is only working out of the bullpen. Next year he could be a candidate for the starting rotation.

8. Daniel Robertson SS (Athletics) - The first round 2012 pick may have been the reason Oakland was willing to trade Addison Russell. A smooth fielding shortstop, his lack of speed may eventually force a move to second. He doesn’t have any outstanding tool, but he has above average skills in most areas. This year his power has broken out with 15 homeruns with a solid .312 average. Daniel is also showing superior patience at the plate with a 70/88 walk to whiff ratio.

9. Nick Williams OF (Rangers) - Nick was a second round pick of the Rangers in 2012. Last year he broke out for power with 17 homeruns and a .543 slugging percentage. Like many power hitters the cause for concern is his swing and miss tendencies and his low walk rates (15/110). His inability to play a stellar defense will also limit him to a left field position. So he needs his bat to contribute to a major league team. This year he has again shown power with his 13 homeruns and .491 slugging percentage in High A. His triple numbers have taken a dive and his 5/12 stolen base success rate seems to indicate a drop in speed. A recent promotion to AA will prepare him for the major league roster in 2015.

10. Rio Ruiz 3B (Astros) - The Astros were praised for their 2012 draft when they could sign Carlos Correa for below slot in order to offer Rio Ruiz an above average contract. That plan did not work so well in 2014. Prior to 2014 Rio had not lived up to his hype, hitting just .258 with only 13 homeruns in his two seasons. This year he has improved his walk to whiff ratio (77/84) resulting in a higher average (.297). His power numbers have also improved, Ruiz showing more doubles power this year. His defense will not win any gold gloves but it should play at third and his speed is poor, making a move to the outfield a non-starter.

The Angels have been sacrificing draft choices for free agents making their farm system a bit weak. They finally had a first round pick this year and Sean Newcomb would be considered their top prospect in the system. The lefthander has good size (6′5″) with an above average fastball for a lefthander, sitting in the low 90s but reaching the mid-90s.