Archive for January, 2015

Japan Dream Team to Form for Premier 12

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Hiroki Kokubo, who put together the team of Japanese all stars that defeated the major league touring group (I would not identify them as All Stars) in a best of five series plans to put together a dream team for the Premier 12 tournament to be co-hosted by Taiwan and Japan in November this year. The semi-finals and finals, as well as the opening match are to be played in Japan.

The problem with a “Dream Team” is the amount of pressure put on the players to win. Puerto Rico put together a dream team for the 1995 Series del Caribe and won it all. The United States put together a couple basketball dream teams to compete in the Olympics and both teams won it all. Now Japan will do the same for the Premier 12.

It will be interesting to see how the United States responds. Will they send a bunch of AAA ballplayers or a college national team. It is clear Cuba will put together their best group of players together who they have some confidence won’t travel to Japan just to defect to the major leagues. The United States has always had a challenge of putting together a group of their best major leaguers that can win a championship.

What many fail to understand is the major leagues is not composed of just United States players, but a collection of foreign players coming to the United States for the big paycheck. Those foreign players comprise over 30 percent of the major league rosters and continues to increase. The United States has yet to prove that their players are the best in the world. The Dominicans accomplished that in the last WBC in 2013 and Japan has won the previous two events. The United States youth teams have had quite a bit of success in international tournaments, but when it comes to senior tournaments the United States has choked.

Venezuela has apparently tasked Carlos Guillen to put together their team for the Premier 12. It will be interesting to see what kind of cooperation he can get from major league teams to get the best Venezuelans to compete in the event. They could be a pretty formidable team with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Montero, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Alcides Escobar, Elvis Andrus, Wilson Ramos, Jose Altuve, Henderson Alvarez and Salvador Perez to just name a few. That is 13 players that could compete and beat many major league teams.

Next Korean Import

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

The next Korean name to remember is Byung-ho Park. He was a teammate of Jung-Ho Kang but shows less versatility, his bulky frame limiting him to DH or first base duties. He does have more power than Kang and the two of them were often referred to as the Ho-Ho club, similar to the M&M reference to Mantle and Maris.

Park hit 52 homeruns in 2014 to become the first player in 11 years to go past 50 and only the third KBO player to accomplish that feat. He finished second in the MVP voting for that year. He did when two straight MVP awards in 2012 and 2013, hitting 31 and 37 homeruns while driving in 105 and 117 runs. He is listed at 6′1 and 236 pounds.

Park has signed with Octagon, the same U.S. agency that negotiated his ex-teammate Kang’s United States contract. The Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox are two teams that have taken an interest in Park. The Heroes must agree to post him before he can become available to major league teams. If his teammate does well with the Pirates that can only drive up the posting price if he can have a fourth monster year.

Park is about ten months older than Kang. You can see his stats below:

Park

Santurce Advances to Series del Caribe

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Santurce 5 Mayaguez 3

There will be a home team in the Series del Caribe as the Crabbers will be playing in their home park after their victory over the Indios. They rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Rene Rivera smacked an RBI double to tie the game. Jorge Padilla roped a two run double to bring in the go ahead run and an insurance run. Reymond Fuentes was thrown out at home on the hit and was ejected from the game. Ricardo Gomez retired the side in order to pick up the victory. He came on with a runner on first and two out in the eighth and the runner was caught stealing so he got credit for the out without facing a batter in the inning. Joel Piniero probably had his worst outing for Santurce in the round robin, giving up three runs on eight hits in five plus innings of work. All three runs were coughed up in the third inning. For the Crabbers this is their first appearance in the Series del Caribe since 1999/2000 when they won it all. The last time Puerto Rico has won the Series del Caribe was in 2000. They are also tied with Aguilas for second most Series del Caribe wins with five, far behind Licey who has 10. Santurce hopes to put themselves alone in the second spot with their sixth win.

Caribes 8 Magallanes 4

Caribes scored early and often, pulling out to an 8-0 lead after four innings to pull one game away from advancing to the Series del Caribe. They are ahead in the series three games to one. Felix Perez drove in five runs, three of them in the third inning on a homerun. He finished the game with three hits. Niuman Romero and Alexi Amarista each crossed the plate two times. Cesar Valdez improved his round robin record to 4-0 working five innings and allowing only two runs. Magallanes has represented Venezuela in the last two Series del Caribes, but needs to win three straight to keep that streak going. Caribes represented Venezuela in 2011, the only time they have appeared in the event. They were an expansion franchise that began playing in 1991/92.

Culiacan Advances to Series del Caribe

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Culiacan 4 Jalisco 3

Culiacan got another homerun from Issmael Salas, his second in three days to advance to the Series del Caribe, beating Jalisco four games to one. Eric Farris drove in two runs in the third to provide the difference in the game. With a 4-0 lead the Tomateros withstood solo shots from Marquez Smith and C.J. Retherford to close the gap to within 4-3. Oscar Villarreal retired the last two hitters to pick up his fourth save. The last time Culiacan represented Mexico in the Series del Caribe was in 2003/2004. In 2001/02 the previous time they represented Mexico in the Series del Caribe they won.

Magallanes 10 Caribes 3

Magallanes got their first win in this seven game championship series. Josmel Pinto hit a three run homer in the first inning and Ronny Cedeno added a two run bomb in the sixth to clobber Caribes. Cedeno scored three times with his three hits. Caribes still leads the series two games to one.

Reds - 2015

Monday, January 26th, 2015

General - The Reds were expecting a lot from their top salaried players Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Philips and Jay Bruce. Votto only played in 62 games, the season ended early for Bailey after 23 unimpressive starts, Phillips played 121 games but only hit .266 with very little power (.372 slugging) and Jay Bruce was a mess hitting just .217 with 149 whiffs. After reaching the playoffs for two seasons in a row the Reds were absent from the race last year and have now traded two of their starting pitchers, Matt Latos and Alfredo Simon to make room for a youth brigade of pitching that the Reds hope solve their starting pitching problems for years to come. It may take a year of maturity before that comes to fruition.

Key Additions - They traded one of their young surplus pitching prospects Ben Lively to get the aged bat of Marlon Byrd from the Phillies. Byrd is two years shy of 40 but still hit 25 homeruns last year. The trades of Alfredo Simon and Matt Latos got them youth that will not help them for 2016. Anthony DeSciafani, acquired from the Marlins in the Latos trade could compete for a starting rotation spot. Eugenio Suarez, who saw some time with the Tigers last year could win a utility spot. Not a lot has been done to improve the 2014 club.

Catcher - Devin Mesoraco may have had the best offensive year for the Reds. He hit .273 with 25 homeruns and a .893 OPS. The Reds are hoping to sign him to an extension to keep him around longer. They have defensive specialist Tucker Barnhart to compete with Brayan Pena for the back up job. Pena may have the edge because of the better bat and the ability to play first base.

First Base - The Reds signed Joey Votto to a multi year contract and they are already seeing the ravages of that long term deal come apart. He only played 62 games last year, hitting with little power when he played (.409 slugging). Votto does get on base a lot (.390 OBA) with walks and plays a good defense. If Pena makes the team he will be the backup, but Todd Frazier increased his versatility by playing a lot of games here. They also have the German Don Lutz who has a lot of pop, but a .176 average shows he is far from ready.

Second Base - Brandon Phillips is another player they hope will bring them a better year. A .678 OPS is not what they expected from Brandon when they signed him to an extension. Kris Negron did a good job as a utility player and can play here. Skip Schumacher is a more natural second baseman but is a little short with the bat.

Third Base - Todd Frazier had a break out year with his .273 average and 29 homeruns. The ex-Little League hero also stole 20 bases with an OPS of .795. The Reds hope to see the same kind of production from him in 2015. Negron showed the pop to play this position when Frazier was moved to first after the Votto injury. His bat was very productive against lefthanded pitching (.318).

Shortstop - Zack Cozart had an uninspiring year, hitting just .221. His defense is not at that level where he can battle the Mendoza Line to be effective. The Reds acquired Eugenio Suarez from the Tigers in the Simon deal to give them an alternative if Cozart continues his struggles. Suarez played 85 games for the Tigers last year but his bat would not be much of an improvement (.242) though he may have a flashier glove. The Tigers will probably have Suarez start the season in AAA and allow Negron to fill the shortstop hole when Cozart is not available, but Suarez will see any extended time.

Left Field - Marlon Byrd and his 38 year old legs will fill this hole. The Reds hope he can continue to send balls flying over the fence, despite the reality that most players lose their power after they pass 35 years of age. Byrd seems to be bucking that trend. Skip Schumaker will be asked to fill the position to rest the Byrd legs, but he is not really a permanent position here. Don Lutz needs to show he can hit if he wants to be put out here. His defense is no better than Byrd. Jason Bourgeois is on the 40 man roster and is an ideal defensive replacement, but he has been no better than a fourth outfielder for other teams.

Center field - Billy Hamilton did not wow the league with his speed stealing only 56 bases, but caught 23 times. It is difficult to steal bases when you don’t get on base (.292 OBA). The Reds hope to see some improvement in his second year. Schumaker is the primary back up in centerfield with Bourgeois also available. If Hamilton should struggle again the Reds have Kyle Waldrop or Yorman Rodriguez available for mid-season callups in the minor leagues.

Right Field - Jay Bruce needs to improve on his .217 average and .373 slugging percentage. He only hit .161 against lefties. This may be where the Reds get the bat of Kris Negron in the lineup against lefthanders. Schumaker and Bourgeois continue to be the backup alternatives but offer no long term hope if Bruce continues to struggle with the bat.

Starting Pitching - Johnny Cueto is the fifth highest paid Red and he earned his paycheck. If not for Clayton Kershaw he would have won the Cy Young award in the National League with his 20-9, 2.25 ERA. He got 23 second place votes and six third place votes. The Reds hope to get a complete season from Homer Bailey. He has fallen short of his first round draft pick status but makes a solid number two starter. There is a big drop after that with Mike Leake following him. Last year lefthanders hit .290 against Leake. The Reds were a little disappointed in the performance of their rookie phenom from last year Tony Cingrani. They hope to get a better year from him in 2015. He will be competing with a bevy of minor league pitching prospects as well as Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg for the final two spots. Myworld would take Cingrani and the pitching prospects. ERAs tend to be a little higher with the Reds park playing more as a hitters haven.

Closer - Aroldis Chapman is the closer premier with his 17.67 whiffs per nine innings. He saved 36 games last year. The Reds signed Cuban Raisel Iglesias, who also throws hard and pitched in the bullpen for Cuba, but the hope is to work him as a starting pitcher. The Reds do not really have a viable alternative, but Jumbo Diaz and his 315 pound frame and 18 saves last year in AAA.

Other Relievers - They did not get a lot of success from their bullpen last year. They have Sam Lecure coming back and Manny Parra will attempt to do a better job of getting lefthanded hitters out. Both had poor opponent averages (.277 and .283). The big boy Jumbo Diaz had some success last year and may see a more prominent role in 2015 as a setup man. He gets his fastball into the three digit velocity but at 315 pounds may not be that flexible off the mound. Spring training should be a battle of the other not so attractive options.

2015 Rookies - Pitchers who have a chance to win a staring role begin with the high 90s fastball of Robert Stephenson, who is probably the top prospect in the Reds. Expect more of a mid season callup from him. Anthony DeSciafani saw some time with the Marlins last year and would be the favorite to win the fifth spot if he has a good spring. He had some success in AAA but struggled when called up to start five games. Michael Lorenzen was a first round 2013 pick but is moving up the ladder quickly. Daniel Corcino is another option. He may also see a role in the bullpen if he doesn’t start. Raisel Iglesias is the Cuban reliever whose arm needs to be stretched out in the minors as the Reds seek to make him a starter. If he has success he could be up by midseason. On the non-pitching side Yorman Rodriguez could see some time in the outfield, especially if Jay Bruce struggles. Back in 2008 the Reds signed him to what once was the highest bonus signing of any foreign player. Kyle Waldrop is another outfield bat that may make an impression. Tucker Barnhart plays exceptional defense, so he could see a role as a backup. His weak bat prevents him from being a viable starter.

2015 Finish - The Reds still have a lot of work to do to see the playoffs in 2015. Their pitching is still young and they need to see better years from their four highest paid players to compete with the Cardinals and Pirates. Even the Cubs are getting closer in talent level to them.

ABL Playoff Participants Decided

Monday, January 26th, 2015

The Sydney Blue Sox may have lost their last regular season game to the defending champion Calgary Cavalry to have identical won/loss records, but it didn’t really matter since they had beat them the previous day to clinch a playoff spot by winning any tie breaking scenarios. They will face two time champion the Perth Heat in a best two out of three matchup. The winner of this series will face league champion the Adelaide Bite.

The Bite and the Heat were the only two teams with winning records in the ABL this year. The last place Melbourne Aces will have to be content with the homerun exploits of Kellin Deglan, who broke the ABL record with 16 homeruns. The Bite have Aaron Miller, who finished second in the league in homeruns with 12.

The Bandits lost the last two games against the Perth Heat, the first of those losses also eliminating them from any playoff chances, even if they had won on the last day to create a three way tie.

Franco Leads Gigantes to First Dominican Championship

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Estrellas 2 Gigantes 1

Estrellas extended the Dominican championships for one more day with this win. Luis Jimenez hit a solo shot in the second and Evan MacLane pitched five shutout innings to get the win. Marcus Mateo came on in the ninth to close it out for his third save in the round robin.

Gigantes 12 Estrellas 5

Maikel Franco brought the Gigantes their first Dominican championship, hitting two homeruns and driving in seven to end the series after eight games, five to three. He hit a grand slam in the second inning to allow the Gigantes to pull out in front 6-0. He drove in the first run in the opening frame with a sacrifice fly. He added an RBI single in the sixth and a solo shot in the eighth to drive in seven of the 12 Gigantes runs. Gigantes had second place finishes in 2008/9 and 2009/10 but have never represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe. This will be their first opportunity. Estrellas last time representing the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe was in 1967/68, but Gigantes did not have a team then. The Gigantes did not begin playing as a franchise until 1996. They are located in San Pedro de Macoris, at one time famed for raising shortstops. That job now seems to have been taken over by Curacao.

Culiacan 4 Jalisco 2

Culiacan takes a three games to one lead with their victories on Saturday and Sunday (see below). Issmael Salas slugged a solos shot in the second inning and crossed the plate twice to lead the offense in the Saturday game. Arnold Leon shut down the Charros bats for eight innings on just four hits and two runs. Oscar Villarreal worked the ninth to earn his third save of the round robin. Rico Noel also scored twice hitting in the leadoff spot with his two doubles.

Culiacan 3 Jalisco 1

Eric Farris got game number four off to a rising start with a two run homer in the first inning. Salvador Valdez tamed the Charros bats, then turned it over to the bullpen, who used five different arms to close out the victory. Oscar Villarreal had trouble closing out the ninth, giving up a run on two walks, a hitbatsman and a hit. Jose Meraz came on to get the last out with the bases loaded to put the Tomateros up three games to one.

Santurce 6 Mayageuz 0

The Indios were limited to five hits by Jorge Martinez and four bullpen mates. The Crabbers banged out 14 hits, led by Ruben Sosa and Robert Andino, the top two hitters in the order who collected three hits each. Reymond Fuentes hit two triples to score twice and Anthony Garcia and Ruben Gotay each hit solo homeruns.

Santurce 9 Mayaguez 1

Santurce is now a game away from playing in the Series del Caribe in their home stadium with their thrashing of Mayaguez. Neftali Soto drove in three runs to lead the offense. Ivan Maldanado got the job done from the mound hurling five shutout innings. Mayaguez needs to win the next two to advance.

Caribes 6 Magallanes 0

Alexi Amarista always shows a little bit of pop in Venezuela, more so than he does in the major leagues. He slugged a two run homer and added a double to lead Caribes to the victory in the championship series opener. Ehire Adrianza also drove in two runs. Daryl Thompson got the win with seven plus innings of four hit shutout ball.

Caribes 8 Magallanes 5

Caribes took a two games to zero lead in the best of seven series. Balls were flying out of the park with Magallanes slugging three solo shots and Caribes two solo shots and two two run blasts. Three of the homeruns for Caribes were in the third inning when Gorkys Hernandez and Ehire Adrianza went deep with no one on base. Felix Perez added a two run blister in the inning after an Alexi Amarista double to put Caribes up 4-2. Balbino Fuenmayor put the game away with a two run blast in the eighth. The turning point in the game was not a homerun but an error that broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh. A two out throwing error by Yangervis Solarte allowed Jose Castillo to cross the plate and give Caribes a 6-5 lead.

Australia 18 and Under Qualifes for World Cup

Monday, January 26th, 2015

The Australia 18 and under team qualified for the World Cup that will be played in Japan in September of this year. They went undefeated through the championships, beating Guam in the final match 10-0. Four different pitchers limited the Guamanians to just to two hits in the six innings.

The game was scoreless after two innings, but the Aussies pulled away with crooked numbers in the next four innings. Australia finished the tournament undefeated, scoring in double figures in all six games they played except one, when they were limited to 8 in one of their wins over New Zealand.

There were only three teams in the tournament. New Zealand came in second at 3-3, losing all three of their games against Australia and Guam ended the tournament winless at 0-6. The most competitive game was the opener when New Zealand just nipped Guam 1-0. After that game the rest of the matches were decided by at least five runs or more.

You can review the results of the matches here:

results

Gigantes One Win Away from Advancing

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Gigantes1 Estrellas 0

Carlos Peguero drove in the only run with his solo shot in the sixth and Giovanni Soto threw five plus innings of three hit ball to put the Gigantes within a game of advancing to the Series del Caribe. The bullpen retired the last ten hitters for Estrellas, Ramon Ramirez pitching a perfect ninth to pick up his fifth save. Randy Boone gave up the solo shot to Peguero.

Jalisco 5 Culiacan 0

Juan Delgadillo quieted the Tomateros bats on five hits through six innings of work to even out the series at one game apiece. Marquez Smith closed out the scoring with a two run homer in the seventh. Leo Heras also drove in two runs for the Charros.

Mayaguez 2 Santurce 0

Pete Parise pitched another gem, tossing seven innings of four hit ball to give the Indios a two games to one edge in their seven game series. Fernando Cabrera pitched the ninth to pick up his fifth save. Martin Maldonado stroked two doubles to drive in one and score one while Luis Montanez drove in the other run.

Cuban Roster for Series del Caribe

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

After the disappointment of last year Cuba has loaded up their roster this year for the Series del Caribe that begins February 2. Last year’s champion Pinar del Rio will represent Cuba but they are also allowed to supplement their roster with other players. It is a strong resemblance to the Cuban national team. To be fair, many of the Caribbean teams are represented by talented players at the higher levels of the minor leagues. Cuba was just a little overmatched last year putting a team together to face the professional players. This year they hope to be a bit more competetive.

The below roster was provided by Baseball America:

Catcher - Yosvani Alarcon, Frank Morejon, Yosvany Peraza

First Base - Alexander Malleta, William Saavedra

Second Base - David Castillo, Luis Yander La O

Shortstop - Lourdes Gourriel, Dainier Moreira

Third Base - Donald Duarte, Yulieski Gourriel

Outfield - Alexei Bell, Frederich Cepeda, Alfredo Despaigne, Giorbis Duvergel, Yadiel Hernandez, Osniel Madera, Roel Santos

Pitchers - Freddy Alvarez, Eryls Casanova, Vladimir Gutierrez, Jonder Martinez, Hector Mendoza, Livan Moinelo, Norge Ruiz, Yosvani Torres, Yoanni Yera

Myworld will be in Puerto Rico to catch all the action.