Archive for December, 2014

Astros 2015

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

General - The good news is the Astros did not finish with the worst record in baseball for the first time in three years. The franchise also appears to be adding pieces to enhance a winning ball club, rather than rebuilding. It may still take a couple years for Houston fans to see a playoff team, but a winning season could occur this year. The bad news is the Astros attempt at building new pieces was put through a loop when they could not sign first pick Brady Aiken. That inability to sign Aiken at below slot costs prevented them from signing other picks as well. They should recover from those missteps with extra picks in the 2015 draft and a bucket full of cash to sign those prospects.

Key Additions - They made a trade with the Angels to acquire a back up catcher in Hank Conger, who is stated to be one of the top pitch framers in the game. This is a type of acquisition a baseball analytics group would make. They also signed free agent Jed Lowrie to improve themselves at shortstop after having a circus full of inadequate performers there last year. Additional free agent signings Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson will help the bullpen better than last year’s signing of injured Jesse Crain. Evan Gattis was acquired from the Braves for three prospects. He could play left field, first base or catcher. They traded away centerfielder Dexter Fowler to get Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. They also signed free agent Colby Rasmus to help their outfield situation.

Catcher - Jason Castro is currently the catcher but with Hank Conger on board Jason has been mentioned in trade talks. Jason is the much better hitter at this point but the Astros analytic group likes the defense Conger brings to the game. Carlos Corporan is a capable backup if Castro gets traded. Jason had a down offensive year last year hitting just .222 with only 14 homeruns after hitting .276 with 18 homeruns the previous year. Evan Gattis can play here but his defense is subpar.

First Base - The options they currently have are not noted for their defense or it appears their ability to hit for average. Chris Carter slugged 37 homeruns but brought with that 182 whiffs and a .227 average. They would like Jonathan Singleton to take over the position but he made 11 errors in just 91 games and hit just .168 with 13 homeruns. The Astros signed Singleton to a multi year contract so he will be given other opportunities. Both are probably best suited for the DH position. It is unclear what Evan Gattis can do at first base. Like Chris Carter he is a hit first offensive player which could lead the Astros to trade Carter.

Second Base - Jose Altuve is their franchise player. Last year the little giant hit .341 with 56 stolen bases. He hit .414 versus lefthanded pitching. With the acquisition of Lowrie it frees up Marwin Gonzalez to fill the utility role and he will play the handful of games Altuve does not.

Third Base - Matt Dominguez has always been noted for his defense. His offense is a little short and the Astros would like to see him improve on his .216 average of last year. He did bash 16 homeruns but slugged just .330. Luis Valbuena was acquired to compete with him for the position. He is not the defensive player that Matt is and also bashed 16 homeruns, but he hit for a higher average. Valbuena also played 12 games at second so he can move around. It will be surprising if they keep both because Marwin Gonzalez can also play here. Marwin hit .270 with a .400 slugging average, though the more he plays the more his offensive weaknesses get exposed.

Shortstop - Jed Lowrie will play here and try to stay healthy. Last year he was injured and had a down offensive year when compared to 2013. If he gets injured for an extended period of time Jonathan Villar may be called upon to be given a second chance to show he can play the position. Villar only hit .209 last year losing his job to Marwin Gonzalez towards the end of the season. Marwin could see a lot of time here in his utility player role. By mid-season Astro fans could see the callup of Carlos Correa, but that would eat into his service time and the Astros may wait until September to call him up.

Left Field - Evan Gattis is the best offensive player for this position but his defense is poor. His best place is probably DH but the Astros roster is filled with players at this position. Rob Grossman failed to heed the call last year hitting only .233. He brings only speed and defense to the game. L.J. Hoes is more a line drive hitting fourth outfielder. Last year he hit only .172 but he has the potential to hit for higher average. As a line drive hitter he lacks the ability to hit for power. Expect Jake Marisnick to take over the position if he shows any kind of offense during spring training. His defense is centerfield caliber but Colby Rasmus has that position, even though myworld thinks Marisnick is the better defensive player. If Jake can not make it as a starter he will play in AAA.

Center Field - The Astros would like to trade Dexter Fowler (they did) but he and their best prospect George Springer seem to get along so well. The signing of Colby Rasmus gives them a centerfielder who struggles against lefthanders (.195). Last year he struggled against everyone with a 29/124 walk to whiff ratio and a .287 OBA. Jake Marisnick is every bit as good defensively as Rasmus and will be given an opportunity to play here against lefthanders if Rasmus continues with his struggles. Rob Grossman is the typical fourth outfielder type whose defense allows him to play all three outfield positions if he does not win the left field job. George Springer has the ability to also play here.

Right Field - George Springer may have won the rookie of the year award if his season had not ended early. He hit 20 homeruns but only played in 78 games. The strikeouts come in bunches (114) resulting in a low batting average (.231). Marisnick, Hoes and Grossman can all play this position. Alex Presley is another player who could fill a fourth outfielder role.

Designated Hitter - Chris Carter will see the majority of time here. Evan Gattis is another option. They are both good hit poor glove type of players. With so much in common the Astros could trade one of them before the season starts.

Starting Pitchers - They lack an ace. Scott Feldman takes over that responsibility based on his years of experience, not because of his dominating stuff. Dallas Keuchel is a lefthanded version of Feldman. His numbers (12-9, 2.93) are a credit to his ability to locate his pitches. Collin McHugh seemed to come out of nowhere with his .208 opposition average and 157 whiffs in 155 innings looking to meet the definition of ace stuff, but his fastball sits in the low 90s and he relies on his curveball for strikeouts. It will be interesting if he can repeat that success in 2015 or become another Lucas Harrell who will be pitching in Korea in 2015 after coming out of nowhere to star in 2012 and then flop in 2013. Spring training will determine the fourth and fifth starters. The horses in the race are Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer, Mike Foltynewicz (included in the Gattis trade now a Brave), Jake Buchanan, Dan Strailey (acquired from the Cubs) and Sam Deduno. The losers of that two team race will slot in the bullpen. Straily had 27 solid starts for the Athletics in 2013, putting together an ERA of 3.96 but last year was a disaster.

Closer - When Jessie Crain failed to return to health last year the Astros turned to Chad Qualls as their closer. Based on his performance last year (19 saves) he will enter the 2015 season as the closer. Josh Fields and Luke Gregerson are other possibilities, though they will begin the season as setup pitchers.

Other Relievers - Most will come from those pitchers who do not make the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation and Neshek, Fields and Gregerson. Will Harris was picked up off waivers from the Diamondbacks and could fill a sixth/seventh inning role. Kevin Chapman and Tony Sipp fill the lefthanded reliever roles, though Sipp (.138) had the better opposition average than Chapman (.261) against lefthanders.

2015 Rookies - No more stockpiling the top prospects in the minor leagues. Domingo Santana had 17 major league at bats last year and struck out in 14 of them. He would be a nice power source in left field if he can improve his contact rate. Josh Hader shined in High A but could be in the rotation by mid season. Nolan Fontana knows how to draw base on balls and he could fill a utility role if Marwin Gonzalez gets injured for an extended period of time. Preston Tucker does not flatter scouts with tools but he did hit 24 homeruns between AA and AAA. Hitting is his forte. Leo Heras is a Mexican League stand out who shows plus plus speed. Watch for a mid-season callup from him. Finally, if Carlos Correa gets promoted it will probably not be until September.

2015 Finish - They still do not have the depth to compete for a playoff spot, though they keep adding pieces. The Astros show enough improvement that they could escape the basement if the Athletics continue to trade away their valuable pieces. Astro fans can feel a sense of accomplishment if the team finishes at .500 or better.

Perez Plays All Positions In Venezuelan Winter League Game

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

The Caribes, who have already clinched a spot for the round robin had some fun today in their 4-3 win over Magallanes. Tomas Perez played every position in the field.

He started the game at first base where he made two putouts and moved to catcher for the second inning. After getting two outs in the inning, one on a strikeout he moved to second base. In the third inning he played third base. Nothing was hit to him at second or third.

To start the fourth Perez moved to the outfield, stationing himself in left field. In the fifth he slid over to centerfield where he watched Jose Briceno hit a homerun over his head. The sixth inning found him sliding over to right field where he fielded a single. Other than the homerun and the single the Magallanes hitters ignored him in the outfield.

The seventh inning found him positioned at shortstop. He watched Briceno sail his second homerun of the game into left field but his only real action at the position was a successful steal by Nick Benedetto.

The challenge came in the eighth where he took the mound. He got Andres Blanco to fly out to left. After hitting Ronny Cedeno he was replaced on the mound where he headed back to the bench before he could do any more damage.

It was an interesting box score with players having to move to a number of different positions to accomodate the position switches by Perez. You can see the box score of the game below:

boxscore

Korean Foreign Player List

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Courtesy of MyKBO.net these are some of the foreign players so far who have signed with Korean teams. So far the Koreans are not taking advantage of signing any players directly from Cuba.

Samsung Lions

Alfred Figaro and Yamaico Navarro. They are allowed to sign one more pitcher

Nexen Heroes

Andy Van Hekken, Ryan Feierabend and Brad Snyder.

NC Dinos

Charlie Shirek, Eric Thames, Eric Hacker - don’t know if their expansion tag has been removed. As an expansion team they would be eligible to sign one more pitcher.

LG Twins

Lucas Harrell, Henry Sosa and Jack Hannahan

Lotte Giants

Jim Adduci, Brooks Raley and Josh Lindblom

Kia Tigers

Philip Humber, Bret Pill and Josh Stinson

Hanwha Eagles

Shane Youman, Mitch Talbot and Nyjer Morgan

KT Wizards

Phil Irwin, Andy Marte, Chris Oxspring and Andrew Sisco - extra player for being an expansion team

SK Wyverns

Merril Kelly and Travis Banwart - eligible to sign one more position player

Doosan Bears

Yunesky Maya and Dustin Nippert - eligible to sign one more position player.

Dustin Nippert appears to be the highest salaried foreign player with a salary of $1.5 million. Korea eliminated the salary cap for players but KBO teams are still hesitant to disclose full salary of foreign players. Perhaps it is the fear it will raise the price tag for their domestic players.

Bibens-Dirkx Shuts Down Gigantes

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Toros (1-3) 6 Gigantes (3-1) 0

Austin Bibens-Dirkx gave the Gigantes their first loss in round robin play, pitching five shutout innings to lead the Toros to their first win. Austin allowed five hits and walked two. Hector Gomez had a couple big hits to assure Austin the victory. He drove in the first run in the sixth with a sacrifice fly after a Lew Ford triple. With the score 1-0 he hit a 2-run homer in the sixth to give the Toros a 3-0 lead, again scoring Lew Ford who had reached on an error. An RBI double in the eighth gave him his fourth RBI of the game.

Estrellas (3-1) 4 Aguilas (1-3) 1

Estrellas took advantage of seven walks and used seven different pitchers to beat Aguilas and put themselves in a tie with the Gigantes for first. Jordy Lara hit a homerun for Aguilas to score their only run. Estrellas put up the picket fences in the fourth through seventh to take the win.

Rose Has Hope for Reinstatement with Tsao Signing by Dodgers

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Don’t know the message major league baseball is trying to communicate. Major league baseball has banned Pete Rose for gambling on baseball. The CPBL has banned Chin-Hsui Tsao because of his association with gamblers and willingness to influence games for payment. The Dodgers have signed Tsao to a minor league contract with the approval of major league baseball.

Pete Rose should now petition major league baseball. If they are going to allow a player banned by Taiwan for gambling on baseball to play in the major leagues, then why can’t Rose be reinstated. Or is only gambling on major league baseball the issue here. If you gamble on baseball in another country you are still allowed to play major league baseball.

There seems to be a double standard applied to Tsao and Pete Rose. It doesn’t pass the smell test, unless they plan on now reinstating Rose.

Diaz Keeps Gigantes Record UnBlemished

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Gigantes (3-0) 2 Toros (0-3) 1

Robinson Diaz drove in both runs to extend the Gigantes winning streak in the round robin playoff to three. He tripled in the second inning to drive in the first run. In the ninth a triple by Maikel Franco set up his walk off single. Rafael Perez threw five shutout innings in the start for Gigantes. Ramon Ramirez picked up the win by pitching a perfect ninth. Edwar Cabrera pitched five plus innings of excellent ball for Toros, allowing only an unearned run when a Esteban German error preceded the RBI triple by Diaz. It was only one of three hits given up by Cabrera. He struck out six.

Estrellas (2-1) 5 Aguilas (1-2) 1

Aguilas committed four errors, but the Estrellas pitching staff limited the Aguilas bats to one run. Ramon Ortiz got the start working five innings and allowing the only run. A series of five relief pitchers allowed only one hit and a walk through the final four innings. Luis Jimenez drove in two runs with his two hits to lead the offense.

2015 European Cup

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

It will be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Paris, France. The schedule is from June 1-7. The winner of each group will battle in August at a place to be determined to be crowned European Club Champion.

The participants for Amsterdam will be:

The hosts Curacao Neptunus Rotterdam (at one time known as DOOR), Heidenheim Heidekoepfe (Germany), KNTU Elizavetgrad (Ukraine), Temliers Senart (France), A.S.D. Rimini (Italy), and Draci Brno (Czech Republic)

The participants for France will be:

The hosts Paris UC, Pirates Amsterdam (Netherlands), T&A San Marino (San Marino), North Stars Moscow (Russia), Solingen Alligators (Germany) and Fortitudo Bologna (Italy).

Now is the time to take your spouse to the romantic city of Paris, France and take up a baseball game or two while you are there. Finding the fields could be a challenge.

Japanese to Coach Iranian National Team

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

There are only about 500 people in Iran who play baseball. For athletic endeavors the sport of choice is either wrestling or soccer. Tomo Irokawa has been asked to coach the Iranian National baseball team, to select the best from that 500 group, the first foreigner asked to take on this task. His experience has included time spent in the United States playing in the Independent Leagues (2010 Marysville Gold Sox of the Horizon Air Summer Series) and playing in various winter leagues in Puerto Rico and Mexico. In 2012 he played in the Kansai League in Japan. A you tube video states he has played for 18 different teams in five countries. He is only 24 years old so he does not have a long resume of baseball experience, but he did bring a Japanese Little League team over to Puerto Rico to play in the Latin American Baseball Classic.

His first big test will be in February 2015 when he takes his team to the West Asia Cup to face the favored 2013 champion Pakistan, as well as other more accomplished teams. You can read more about his experience here:

Japan coach in Iran

Yankees - 2015

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

General - The Yankees seem to be a team hesitant to throw big money at free agents this year. They spent a lot of money on free agents last year but they under performed and failed to get the Yankees into the playoffs. It has been awhile when the Yankees went two seasons in a row without making the playoffs. Fans used to measure success only after a World Series win. Those expectations have been lowered now. Just making the playoffs would give many fans joy. It has now been five years since they last won a World Series. The Giants have won three since that time. A signing of Max Scherzer would help, but if the arm of Masahiro Tanaka does not stay healthy and C.C. Sabathia does not rebound from his knee injury this is still a pretty moribund club. They will also be playing without their captain for the first time in twenty years. One thing they have going for them, the Dodgers surpassed them in pay roll so they are no longer the number one spending club. They will still have a salary upwards of $200 million and may surpass the Dodgers if they sign Scherzer. The luxury tax has still not avoided them, despite their attempts to lower salary.

Key additions - They acquired fire balling righthander Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman/left fielder Garrett Jones from the Marlins. For as hard as Eovaldi throws he got hit pretty good by the opposition (.282). Jones will provide the Yankees some left handed power. They also acquired Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks to replace their captain at shortstop. Didi has lost jobs on two teams because of his inability to hit. His fielding is not a question. The team did spend big money on relief pitcher Andrew Miller, who was one of the best setup men last year. He will perform that role for Betances this year. After this piece was written the Yankees traded Manny Banuelos to shore up their bullpen with Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter. They are also finalizing a deal with Stephen Drew, a player who can play second or short, but has not hit over .200 in the last couple years.

Catcher - The Yankees spent big money on Brian McCann last year and he struggled with a .232 average. He did hit 23 homeruns so he provides some left handed power to the position. His defense is not strong enough if he doesn’t bring a good bat to the position. Spring training will determine his backup but J.R. Murphy is probably the favorite over Austin Romine. Murphy has the better bat.

First Base - Mark Teixeira has not stayed healthy with his hand problem creeping up on him again. He needs to improve on his .216 average or the Yankees will have to go with Garrett Jones more in 2015. Even Alex Rodriguez will be looking for a position to play.

Second Base - Losing Robinson Cano to free agency put a big hole here that no player filled in 2014. They really have no one to fill it in 2015. Jose Pirela is a career minor leaguer who hit .305 last year in AAA. He may be a better alternative than Brendan Ryan, who has always struggled with the bat. They could still resign Stephen Drew but he hit worse than Ryan last year. Expect 2012 pick Robert Refsnyder to take over the position by mid-season. The Yankees were finalizing a deal with Stephen Drew. He would fill this hole unless he struggles to hit again. In the last two years he has failed to hit over .200.

Third Base - The Yankees resigned Chase Headley despite having Alex Rodriguez on the roster. He seemed to have resurrected his bat after leaving Petco Park. The power is still missing but his average improved. With him at third that leaves A-Rod without a position. He would be a nice backup, providing depth if Headley should struggle or get injured, but do the Yankees want to keep what many feel is a poisoned personality in their clubhouse?

Shortstop - Didi Gregorius will be given the first opportunity. The defense will be improved and Yankee fans will marvel at how smooth he plays the position. The big question mark is his bat, but Jeter did not wow anyone in his final year. Didi had a better slugging percentage (.363) than Jeter last year (.313). Brendan Ryan, with an equally poor bat will be the back up if Didi fails to produce. Ryan though has not produced offensively in years so you know what you have there. Drew is another option but Ryan has hit better than him the last couple years which is not a good testament to Drew finishing out the year in New York.

Left Field - Bret Gardner had a nice year but saw his average drop to .256 as the season faded. He did hit 17 homeruns, but his left handed bat in a short right field porch may have been the reason. Myworld believes he will have difficulty repeating the power numbers in 2015. Garrett Jones could see some time here when Gardner needs a rest. A right handed bat in Chris Young exists, but he is not starter material.

Center Field - Yankee fans were hoping for the offensive production Jacoby Ellsbury brought to the Red Sox last year. He fell a bit short. Brett Gardner can play here if Ellsbury needs a rest or is out for an extended period. This may be the Yankees strongest position.

Right field - Carlos Beltran is probably better suited for designated hitter. Injuries limited him to 109 games and may have been the reason for his paltry .233 average. Carlos will probably play DH when A-Rod sits the bench giving the right field job to Garrett Jones. If the Yankees want to get a right handed bat in their outfield they can turn to Chris Young.

Starting Pitcher - This rotation begs for the signing of Max Scherzer, but even if they pay the millions to sign him the team could still fall short of the playoffs. C.C Sabathia may still be considered the ace, but after losing a lot of pounds he had a poor season ended early by knee surgery. Perhaps he will re-bulk up for 2015. Masahiro Tanaka is probably the true ace, but a torn elbow that most undergo Tommy John surgery for ended his season after 20 starts. He has chosen the rehab route and it will be key for his elbow to hold up. Michael Pineda had a good come back year, putting together a 1.89 ERA in ten starts, but he experienced back and pine tar issues that ended his season early. Nathan Eovaldi should win the fourth spot but an ERA over 4.00 in a pitchers park is alarming. Chris Capuano was resigned and should occupy the fifth spot until Ivan Nova is ready to come back from his Tommy John surgery. Watch for Manny Banuelos by mid-season (since traded to the Braves).

Closer - Dellin Betances was almost unhittable in a setup role last year. Now he takes that job to the closer role with the departure of David Robertson. Andrew Miller was sought after by a number of teams as a closer so if Betances falters the roles could be reversed.

Other Relievers - Adam Warren did a nice job in the pen and should return to that role. With a short right field porch the Yankees will rely on Justin Wilson to get the lefties out. He pitched with the Pirates last year but had issues throwing strikes. Spring training should sort out the other hopefuls. The Yankees added some depth here acquiring David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve from the Braves for one time can’t miss prospect Manny Banuelos.

2015 Rookies - If not for Tommy John surgery Manny Banuelos could be in the Yankees starting rotation. He could be there by mid-season or fit in the bullpen. He still has trouble throwing strikes and now has been traded to the Braves. Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela will battle for the second base job. Pirela is the more experienced of the two but Refsnyder has greater upside. Jose Ramirez saw some time in the Yankee bullpen and he hopes for some extended time this year. His signature pitch is the changeup. Ramon Flores is having a torrid winter but the Yankees do not need another left handed bat in the outfield. He needs an injury to get an opportunity and his defense restricts him to left field. Gary Sanchez will get an opportunity if Brian McCann is out for an extended period of time. His star has dimmed but his bat is lethal for a catcher. Luis Severino made a fast rise last year with a potent fastball and could see some time by mid-season if the Yankee rotation is again devastated by injuries. Aaron Judge and Greg Bird performed well in the AFL but are probably still a year away. Both have potential to bring big time power to the Yankees.

2015 finish - They lost their captain to retirement and Hiroki Kuroda their only starter to start over 30 games has left for Japan. David Robertson is a big loss to their bullpen. There is still a question mark at second base. The starting rotation is filled with pitchers coming off health issues. That is too much to ask for them to get in the playoffs. Even if they open their checkbook for Orlando Cabrera and Max Scherzer it still may not be enough. They found out last year throwing money at players does not guarantee playoff appearances. It will be three years and counting after the 2015 season since the Yankees last made the playoffs but for 2016 season they hope improvement at the minor league level will provide them the depth they did not have in 2014.

Mexican League No Hitter

Monday, December 29th, 2014

The Culiacan Tomateros pitched a combined no hitter in their 4-0 win over the Mexicali Aguilas. Francisco Campos pitched the first five innings, hitting a batter and having another batter getting on base via an error. Campos struck out six. Salvador Valdez worked two plus innings, walking two batters. He was relieved by Oscar Villarreal in the eighth, who retired all four hitters he faced.

Cory Aldridge drove in two runs to lead the Tomateros offense. His sacrifice fly in the seventh and RBI single in the eighth drove in the last two runs.

The boxscore for the game can be found below:

boxscore