Archive for February, 2015

South American Baseball Championships in Brazil

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

The IBAF reports that the South American Baseball championships will open today in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The five countries competing in this tournament are the host Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Surprising as it may seem, the team from Argentina has won the last three South American Baseball championships. Maybe that is because major league baseball steals the best players from Brazil and Colombia and leaves Argentina alone.

The winner will get to compete in the Pan Am championships in Toronto, Canada on July 11-19. The first day of action saw Brazil spank Peru 15-5 and Argentine rope Bolivia 21-0.

Pakistan Wins West Asia Baseball Cup

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Pakistan beat India 11-0 to win the West Asian Baseball cup played at the Pakistan Sports Board Complex in Islamabad. Iran downed Iraq 18-4 to take second place with a 2-1 record. India finished in third place at 1-2.

The Pakistan pitching staff did not allow a run in the three games they played. What was even more impressive was the compliment given by the Indian team on a very organized and secure tournament. They were even impressed by the hospitality shown them on the field. Perhaps the Pakistani government should contact those organizers to help them trudge through the chaos that exists in their own government.

Padres - 2015

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

General - The Padres usually do not make much of a splash in the hot stove league. Limited resources and a small market encourages low salary structure, restricting them from signing or acquiring high profile players. Not this year. A.J. Preller came on and swooped up three new outfielders in Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. The defense these outfielders provide will not help the Padres climb from their last place finish in fielding percentage last year, but they should make up for the runs they give up with their gloves with a bucket full of runs with their offensive output. Still on the Padres roster are outfielders Will Venable, Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin. That is six outfielders for three positions, though the talk is they may move Quentin to some first. They also revamped themselves up at catcher and signed an ace in James Shields. Those moves are certainly not what Padre fans are used to seeing. Last year the Padres finished last in hitting, runs scored and homeruns. The big stadium had a lot to do with the popgun offense. On the plus side the Padres were second in ERA and second in opposition average. Just as the stadium restricted the Padres offensive numbers, they also enhanced the team’s defensive numbers. With all that activity the Padre fans may feel anything less than a playoff appearance is not acceptable.

2015 Key Additions - Lots of them. They revamped their outfield with the acquisition of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. This outfield has the potential to hit 90-100 homeruns, depending on what the park will yield. The Padres helped their bullpen with the acquisition of Brandon Maurer, who is not to be confused with Brandon Morrow, trading one of their excess outfielders. Shawn Kelly was another player acquired to help their bullpen, acquired from the Yankees. Will Middlebrooks was acquired from the Red Sox to fill their third base slot. To add to their depth in the starting rotation the Padres signed the disappointing Brandon Morrow. Injuries have derailed his career to this point. They also signed James Shields to a big contract to give themselves an ace in the rotation. Catching was improved by acquiring Tim Federowicz in the Kemp deal with the Dodgers and on the same day the Padres acquired Derek Norris from the Athletics. With the departure of Evereth Cabrera the Padres signed Clint Barmes for shortstop depth, not putting all their faith behind Alexi Amarista. They changed players at virtually every position but first and second base.

Catchers - Gone are Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, who combined for 26 homeruns last year. The Padres will make due with Derek Norris, who struggles on defense, but draws walks with a .361 OBA. Norris also had 11 less passed balls than the duo of Rivera and Grandal in fifty plus less games, but lacks the arm to stop a running game. Tim Federowicz was acquired to be a backup to Norris. He is a solid defensive player, but last year provided little offense (.113) in 23 games. Wil Nieves was signed to a minor league contract to provides insurance if Federowicz struggles. Nieves is another defensive catcher who will not provide any kind of meat to the offense. His career has revolved around being a backup catcher.

First Base - Yonder Alonso needs to turn on the juice to hit more homeruns if he expects to stay at this position. Last year he slugged only .397 with seven homeruns, but he was restricted to just 84 games because of injuries. With a surplus of outfielders, and a plethora of injuries, the Padres may be inclined to move Carlos Quentin to first base. Last year he was restricted to 50 games, hitting only .177. He is a much better hitter than that. Alonso tends to struggle against lefthanders so this could end up being a platoon. A final player to compete for the position is Tommy Medica, who was able to carry the ball over the spacious park nine times. Tommy can also play left field, but the outfield is crowded as it is now. His biggest area to learn is patience, with a 14/75 walk to whiff ratio a bit on the high side.

Second Base - The Padres hope to get a better year from Jedd Gyorko. He is one of the few returning position players Padre fans will recognize on the roster. Last year was a year he wishes to forget, hitting only .210 with 10 homeruns. Those numbers fall far short of his 2013 figures when he hit .249 with 23 homeruns. If he continues to struggle the Padres may call on youngster Cory Spangenberg, who hit .290 in a sixty plus major league at bat. Cory lacks power but he was able to torch AA pitchers for a .331 average. Yangervis Solarte was a late season acquisition from the Yankees last year and played a few games at second base. His primary position is third base. After a hot start Solarte cooled off with the bat, hitting only .267 with the Padres. His tools are better utilized in a utility role, where he can even play shortstop for short spurts.

Third Base - Wil Middlebrooks was supposed to be the answer for the Red Sox at this position. It was one of the reasons they traded Kevin Youkillus to the Yankees. He hit only .191 last year, losing the third base spot to Xander Bogaerts after the Red Sox acquired Stephen Drew. Yangervis Solarte can retake the position if Middlebrooks continues his struggles. He lacks the power for the position, but plays a solid defense.

Shortstop - Alexi Amarista held his own at this position on defense after Evereth Cabrera experienced legal and drug problems. Alexi only hit .239 with a .286 OBA, but he provided a glue at shortstop, committing only 6 errors, half the amount contributed by Cabrera. Alexi battled against lefthanders so expect Clint Barmes to see time here versus the southpaws. Barmes is better noted for his glove and not his bat. With the Pirates he hit .245 with a .294 slugging average.

Left Field - It seems no matter where Justin Upton plays he is always considered a disappointment. That may never change until he leads a team to a World Series. Last year he hit .270 with 29 homeruns and 102 RBIs. Braves fans focused more on his 171 whiffs. At 27 years of age he is just hitting his prime so he should only get better. The spacious Petco Park may bring down his numbers, but he is still a force on offense. Carlos Quentin played left field last year for the Padres when he was healthy. The problem is he has rarely been healthy. He may see more time at first this year since Upton is capable of playing 150 plus games. Discount the .177 average Quentin hit for last year. He is a much better hitter than that. Returning players Will Venable and Cameron Maybin are also options to play here.

Centerfield - Their best defensive centerfielders are Cameron Maybin and Will Venable. The Padres did not trade for Wil Myers to sit him on the bench. He played some centerfield when he was in the minors with the Royals. He does not have the greatest range, but the Padres hope his bat makes up for his lack of defense. Last year he missed out on the second half of the season, but the first half did not have a lot to feel confident about. Myers only hit .222 with a .320 slugging. He will not be playing centerfield in 2015 putting up numbers like that. Cameron Maybin is another player who has had health issues the last couple years. He had superstar potential when drafted first by the Tigers a number of years ago, and was the principal player when the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers. Now he will be limited to defensive replacement, occasional starter. Last year he had a soft bat, hitting just .235 with a .621 OPS. Will Venable may get a lot of playing time because he is the only lefthanded bat in the outfield. He played a lot of centerfield last year after the Maybin injury, but failed to replicate what was thought to be a breakout year in 2013. At 33 years of age it is hard to see Venable having that breakout career. He is what he is, a fourth outfielder who fails to consistently use his five tools to be an impact player.

Right Field - Matt Kemp will see time in right field. Last year he finished the season on a hit streak to finish with impressive numbers (.287, 25, 89) with a .852 OPS. His bat carried the Dodgers into the playoffs. With the disclosure of arthritic hips the Padres may feel a need to rest him to keep him fresh. Will Venable might be the first player off the bench to spell him in right, but Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin are also options. The challenge for Bud Black is to get all six outfielders fresh for the season by giving them consistent at bats. Rymer Liriano may have to spend most of his time in AAA this year. He did not shine when called up (.220 average, .555 OPS) last year and the Padres would prefer he get at bats in AAA than ride the bench in the major leagues as a fourth outfielder.

Starting Pitcher - James “Big Game” Shields got the Royals to the playoffs during the regular season (14-8, 3.21) but struggled to win games once the playoffs began. The Padres signed him to be their ace to get them to the playoffs. Anything that happens after that is gravy. Andrew Cashner has the stuff to be an ace. He needs to stay healthy for a full year to live up to that moniker. Last year he only got 19 starts but a 2.55 ERA confirmed his potential for ace hype. He also only walked a little over two batters per nine innings. Ian Kennedy won 20 games with the Diamondbacks a few years ago. He’s fallen far short of that in the last four years, but he can eat up innings (201). He led the Padres in innings pitched and still struck out a hitter per inning. Tyson Ross fell four innings short of 200. He also struck out a batter per inning and limited the opposition to a .230 average. At 28 years old he is entering his better years. Orlando Despaigne pitched well enough to win the fifth spot (3.36 ERA). He is one of many Cuban defectors sprinkling the major league landscape. Not a lot of pitchers have the stuff of Brandon Morrow. The problem has been his ability to stay healthy. To keep his arm fresh he may be best used out of the bullpen. Robbie Erlin is a pitcher that gave the Padres 11 starts, but they were not effective starts (4.99 ERA). The opposition hit him at a .293 clip. Matt Wisler had a poor ERA in AAA last year (5.01 ERA) but those numbers will be better when pitching in the coastal plains of Petco Park rather than the high altitude of El Paso. Josh Johnson had Tommy John surgery and will not be available until mid-season. The Padres may have to make some critical choices if he is ready to be used in the rotation. He didn’t pitch last year but in 2013 with Toronto he was 2-8, 6.20 ERA).

Closer - The Padres traded their closer from last year Huston Street in the middle of the season. Joaquin Benoit took over the reigns and saved 11 games with a 1.49 ERA. He limited the opposition to a .151 average and struck out 10.6 hitters per nine innings. Benoit has been given closer roles in the past (Tigers) and failed to produce.

Other relievers - Kevin Quackenbush picked up six saves for the Padres AAA team last year. He also picked up six saves with the Padres last year and will be the alternate closer if Benoit should struggle. In a setup role he limited the opposition to a .212 average, striking out a batter per inning. Dale Thayer, Alex Torres and Nick Vincent all had 60 plus appearances last year. Alex throws from the left side but walks 5.5 batters per nine innings. He also has better success retiring righthanded bats (.209) than lefties (.256). Thayer and Vincent have better control, but Vincent has an issue retiring the lefthanded hitters (.274). Shawn Kelly was acquired from the Yankees to fill a bullpen spot. He struck out over 11 hitters per nine innings. Brandon Maurer was acquired from the Mariners to add depth to the Padre bullpen. Neither of these two traded pitchers had ERAs under 4. That gives seven pitchers in the pen, eight if you count Morrow if he fails to make the rotation. That does not leave a lot for others to find a role.

Top 2015 Rookies - If Austin Hedges finds a modicum of offense he could find himself leading this Padres staff from behind the plate. The premium defensive catcher in the minor leagues must still be able to hit to be a starter in the major leagues. There is a lot of depth in the Padres rotation but Matt Wisler is the most ready of any Padre minor league starting pitcher. Rymer Liriano could have competed for a starting job in 2015 if the Padres had not traded for three former All Stars. Last year he hit 14 homeruns in AA. The Padres will have him improve his craft in AAA this year with a mid-season call up still a possibility. Injuries have prevented Casey Kelly from solidifying a spot in the rotation. Last year he was limited to four minor league rehab starts. The Padres will give him a long rehab look in the minor leagues. Second base is an open spot Cory Spangenberg can win if Jedd Gyorko continues his struggles. Cory does not have the power of Jedd but his defense and bat can be more consistent.

2015 Finish - Normally when you have a large park you build a team with players who have speed and play good defense. They tend to be more contact oriented when at the plate. The Padres were last in the National League in defense last year and did not add any players to significantly improve that. Because we like what they did we will pick them for one of the two National League wild card spots. One thing they seem to have after the signing of James Shields is depth at pitching. Let’s hope the below par defense does not cancel that out.

18 and Under Teams and Dates

Friday, February 27th, 2015

The 18 and under tournament will be played on August 28 to September 6 in Koshien Stadium in Japan. The United States has won the last two 18 and under tournaments. Koshien has a tendency to sell out their 47,000 seat stadium for their two big high school tournaments in the spring and the fall. The kids competing in this tournament will meet that high school age, so good attendance would certainly lift the baseball trademark as an international sport.

Below are the teams competing in the tournament with their world ranking in parenthesis:

Japan (1), United States (2), Cuba (3), Taiwan (4), Canada (7), South Korea (8), Italy (11), Mexico (12), Australia (14), Brazil (15), Czech Republic (20), and South Africa (29)

The 2013 roster for Australia featured Lewis Thorpe, Zac Sheperd and Lachlan Madden, all players who could make myworld’s top ten Australian prospect list.

Canada had Gareth Morgan, Josh Naylor and Demi Orimoloye, all top draft choices in the major league draft.

Cuba had Vladimir Gutierrez and Yoan Moncada. Yoan just signed for the Red Sox for a record $33 million bonus. Vladimir recently defected after making the Cuban team for the Series del Caribe and will sign a rich contract once he is eligible.

Italy trotted out Marten Gasparini, now a top prospect with the Royals who signed a $1.3 million bonus, the richest contract for any European.

Japan had Yuki Matsui, who is now pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles

And the championship United States team had Brady Aiken, who was the first player selected in the draft last year, but did not sign, Jacob Nix, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Astros, but did not sign because they could not agree to a contract with Aiken and Luis Ortiz, a first round pick of the Rangers.

There may be more that myworld could have missed, but in essence watch the stars of the future play today at Koshien stadium in August/September.

Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 50 - 41

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Not one foreign player in this list of ten.

50. C.J. Edwards RHP (Cubs) 3.9 - The Rangers didn’t draft C.J until the 48th round of the 2011 draft. He was the result of good scouting by the Rangers, discovered playing in an adult baseball league with his father. The Rangers eventually included the long limbed prospect in a trade to the Cubs to acquire Matt Garza. Edwards has the ability to whip those long arms forward to hit the mid-90s with his fastball. His curveball is a plus pitch and his slider can be used. A change was being developed. In his first two years he did not allow the opposition to hit greater than .200 against him. He had some troubles finishing the 2014 season, being limited to just ten starts. C.J. was still just as hard to hit, limiting opponents to a .180 average and giving up his second homerun in his three year professional career. The Cubs do not have a lot of quality pitchers in their system so they will take care of Edwards in 2015, having him repeat AA to ensure he is healthy. If he has success in AA he could see some time with the Cubs before the year is out.

49.Josh Bell OF/1B (Pirates) 4.12 - Josh was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, but paid a $5 million bonus, more than their first round pick. He is a premium athlete with all the tools to be an impact player. Early in his career leg issues, including knee surgery slowed his ascent up the minor leagues. With three talented young outfielders already in place, the Pirates have moved him to first base. They see that as his best opportunity to make the major league club. His speed is still good enough to play the outfield. Last year he dominated the Florida State League hitting .335 with an .886 OPS. There was a little drop off when he was promoted to AA (.652), especially with the power numbers (.309) where only two of his 27 hits went for extra bases. Josh will repeat AA to show the lack of power numbers was a fluke. With Pedro Alvarez playing first base for the Pirates this year, the Pirates can be patient with his development.

48. Kevin Plawecki C/1B (Mets) 4.4 - Plawecki was a first round pick of the 2012 draft. With Travis d’Arnaud handling catching duties Plawecki may need to find another position to get his bat in the lineup. He is not a superior defensive player so he needs to show the bat to play another position. Kevin does not strike out much with a 67/77 walk to whiff ratio entering the 2014 season. Plawecki continued to mash at AA/AAA, hitting .326 at AA and .283 at AAA. He continued to make solid contact, but his power numbers could be short for first base. Perhaps with time his defensive game will improve to make him useful as a catcher, or he will sacrifice some contact to get some loft in his swing to hit some homeruns. He will repeat AAA though his bat appears ready for the major leagues. Finding a position for him will be the next step. Last year, Lucas Duda looked pretty good at first base.

47. Austin Hedges C (Padres) 4.5 - The second round 2011 pick is considered one of the best catchers in the minor leagues. His defense is major league ready. Give him the Plawecki bat and he would be an All Star Unfortunately, his bat is far behind his defensive game. In 2013 a .270 average at High A showed promise that his bat was coming around. Last year he trudged along with a .225 average in his second year at AA. In 20 games there in 2013 he hit .224. It was a soft average with a .321 slugging and .268 OBA. The Padres will have him repeat AA to see if he can generate some offense in his third season at that level. A major league opportunity awaits him, even as a back up if he continues to struggle on offense.

46. D.J. Peterson 3B/1B (Mariners) 4.62 - D.J. was the Mariners first round pick in 2013. His brother Dustin was drafted the same year out of high school by the Padres in the second round. Kyle Seager currently has a strong hold on third for the Mariners. There is also some question whether D.J.. has the range to play the position defensively. A move over to first was initiated last year, but he still saw most of his time at third base, where he booted 17 balls in 90 games. D.J. has the power to play first. Last year he slugged 31 homeruns between A and AA. He had an impressive .996 OPS in OPS in 65 games at High A and a .808 OPS in 58 games at AA. The Mariners could start him in AAA, but there is no reason to rush his service time. Eventually, they may need more of a power bat at first base where only Logan Morrison currently blocks his path.

45. Tyler Kolek RHP (Marlins) 4.8 - Kolek was the second pick of the 2014 draft, but the highest pick to sign a contract. At 6′5″ 260 pounds he was also one of the largest first round picks. History has shown that bulk in first round picks does not guarantee success. Tyler can also whip his fastball across home plate in triple digits. The minor leagues is filled with hard throwing high school pitchers who never develop the secondary pitches to get them to the next level. Tyler stitched together eight starts in rookie ball. He was not unhittable, with lefthanders torching him for a .314 average. He also showed a bit of trouble finding the plate, walking five hitters per nine innings. The Marlins will probably start him at a full season league next year, fitting him in Low A.

44. Austin Meadows OF (Pirates) 4.83 - The 2013 first round pick will always be compared to fellow Georgian first round pick Clint Frazier as they rise to the major leagues. He will also be linked with Mark Appel because the Pirates got the pick to draft him for their inability to sign Appel the previous year. He has decent speed to play centerfield, but his arm is a little short so a move to left field would be his next option. The limited 2013 debut season was a success with seven homeruns and a .316 average in 48 games. Hamstring injuries last year limited him to just 40 games last year. He continued to show a potent bat in Low A, hitting .322, but he only hit .190 against lefthanders. His power numbers were down (.486) but it would be hard to repeat his 2013 season. Expect a repeat of Low A with a quick promotion to High A if he has some quick success.

43. Nick Gordon SS (Twins) 4.92 - Nick was the fifth pick in the 2014 draft. He is the son of Tom “Flash” Gordon and the half brother of major leaguer Dee Gordon, who was also drafted as a shortstop but moved to second base. Nick does not have the stolen base speed of his half brother Dee, but he is the better defensive player. While he was drafted as a shortstop he was also a pitcher. There is no shortage of arm in his game. Gordon showed a lively bat in his debut in the rookie league, hitting .294 with a .338 average versus lefthanders. The Twins would like to see a little more patience in his approach (11/45 walk to whiff ratio in 57 games). There was some struggle at short as he booted eight balls in his 49 games but that should be lessoned with repetition at the position. Expect to see him start the 2015 season in the full season league.

42. Kohl Stewart RHP (Twins) 5.3 - Kohl was a 2013 first round pick who was also a pretty good quarterback in football. The Twins needed to shell out more than $4.4 million to sign him. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s but his strikeout pitch is the slider. In rookie league ball in 2013 the opposition could only touch him at a .169 clip. It was a little rougher in the full season leagues where in his 19 starts he was tagged for a .233 average, .266 against lefthanders. His strikeout numbers also were hurt, going from one per game to just 6.4 per nine innings. Kohl had enough success at Low A that he should see High A to begin his 2015 season.

41. Matthew Wisler RHP (Padres) 5.42 - The Padres have managed to hold onto their 2011 seventh round pick who has transformed himself into one of the better minor league pitchers. The Phillies may have wanted him included in the Padres attempt to acquire Cole Hamels. Wisler can rise to the mid-90s with his fastball, but he sits in the low 90s, relying on the sink of his fastball to get hitters to pound the ball into the ground. He also shows excellent command of his pitchers, walking just over two hitters per nine innings. Last year Wisler rose to AAA, going from a pitcher’s park in San Antonio (2.10) where he had success, to a hitter’s park in El Paso (5.01) where homeruns are as frequent as tamales in a hamburger. Wisler will probably repeat AAA, but a good spring could get him in the rotation. If starting at AAA he will be one of the first pitchers promoted to the rotation.

West Asian Results

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Pakistan appears to be dominating the West Asian baseball tournament. The winner qualifies for the Asian Series to compete against Japan, Taiwan and Korea. Every game has ended in a shutout. Pakistan has won both their games 20-0 against Iraq and 12-0 against Iran. Their next opponent is India, who has lost to Iran 15-0, but beaten Iraq 20-0.

Iraq is the only winless team. They hope to change that with a win over their next opponent Iran. If India can beat Pakistan and Iran defeats Iraq you could end up with a three way tie for first. Knowing the political issues between Pakistan and India, this would probably be an entertaining game to watch, but myworld expects a 20-0 Pakistan win.

You can follow the results below:

West Asia tournament results

International Bonus Pools for 2015-16

Friday, February 27th, 2015

These are the dollar amounts teams can pay bonuses for international players beginning July 2. Teams that go over this amount are subject to penalty and can be restricted to a maximum $300,000 bonus for any player over the next two years. While the Diamondbacks have the highest bonus pool, they have a $300,000 limit they can pay a player because they exceeded their bonus allotment based on the Yoan Lopez signing. So they can sign 18 players for $300,000 or trade some of their dollars to other teams (based on what the value of a first round, second round or third round pick would be). The Angels, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are all subject to the $300,000 limit, three of those teams being in the AL East.

The value of the international bonus salaries for each team are:

1. Diamondbacks - $5,393,900
2. Rockies - $4,966,300
3. Rangers - $4,586,600
4. Astros - $4,248,800
5. Twins - $3,948,500
6. Red Sox - $3,681,000
7. White Sox - $3,443,000
8. Cubs - $3.230,700
9. Phillies - 3,041,700
10. Reds - $2,873,000
11. Marlins - $2,779,300
12. Padres - $2,691,800
13. Rays - $2,609,200
14. Mets - $2,531,300
15. Braves - $2,458,400
16. Brewers - $2,389,300
17. Blue Jays - $2,324,100
18. Yankees - $2,262,800
19. Indians - $2,204,900
20. Mariners - $2,150,300
21. Giants - $2,139,900
22. Pirates - $2,111,900
23. Athletics - $2,093,100
24. Royals - $2,074,700
25. Tigers - $2,056,200
26. Cardinals - $2,038,200
27. Dodgers - $2,020,300
28. Orioles - $2,002,900
29. Nationals - $1,985,400
30. Angels - $1,968,600

The Dodgers were rumored to have offered Yoan Moncada more than the Red Sox bonus payment, but the condition was he had to wait until after July 2 to sign. Many teams have already established dollar commitments to 2015/16 international free agents and if they had signed Moncada to the bonus he was asking for prior to July 2 they would have had to renege on many of those bonus promises they had made to the 2015/16 international free agents. Expect the Dodgers to be a team that will go over their international bonus ceiling next year and major league baseball looking to add more teeth to the penalties to discourage teams from going over their international allotment. Teams seem to avoid the penalties established under the domestic draft.

Why the Diamondbacks were able to pay Yasmany Tomas a seven year contract with a minimal bonus while the Red Sox were forced to shatter the bonus payment record is because of the requirement major league baseball placed on the signing of players who are under 23 years of age. They can no longer be immediately placed on the 40 man roster, which prevents them from offering multi year contracts. So the Red Sox were forced to pay the high bonus, which they have three years to pay, plus a posting fee (penalty) of $33 million to sign Moncada.

These assessments of international penalties could be a reason for the absence of Japanese premier players being posted. The Japanese teams are unwilling to accept an artificially low posting payment (set at a maximum of $20 million) when they see major league teams are willing to pay $33 million in a penalty for a premium Cuban player. Restrictions and regulations can be a dangerous web we weave, establishing unexpected conditions, such as $30 million plus bonus payments.

Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 60 - 51

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Mother Nature has decided to place another layer of coconut frosting on the D.C. landscape. Myworld is getting a little tired of the coconut frosting and are counting down the days when we will be in Florida to enjoy the baseball and sunshine. Waiting for the snow to stop has given us the opportunity to put together prospects 60-51.

60. Michael Taylor OF (Nationals) 3.38 - Michael was a 2009 sixth round pick. With the shoulder injury to Jayson Werth he will get a lot of time to prove himself in spring training this year and could get an opportunity to begin the season in the major leagues, depending on the health of Werth and opportunities for playing time. As he has matured physically his power has increased, and while there are some that question his ability to hit for average he has the potential to be a five tool player. Last year he showed he could hit for average, hitting .313 with 22 homeruns and 34 stolen bases in AA. Except for the stolen base totals all those numbers were career highs. He got a September callup to the major leagues where he only hit .205, but .333 against lefthanders. He also hit his first of what the Nationals hope are many major league homeruns. Michael has the speed and the instincts to play a gold glove caliber centerfield, perhaps not as polished as Denard Span is yet, but it will get there. Expect him to settle in AAA after Werth returns from his shoulder rehab.

59. Kyle Zimmer RHP (Royals) 3.4 - Zimmer was a 2012 first round pick out of the University of San Francisco. Injuries have prevented Kyle from making a fast ascent to the major leagues. His fastball hits three digits, sitting in the low to mid-90s and he complements that with a good slider and curveball. His change still needs some development. Shoulder soreness limited him to 22 starts in 2013 but the Royals did not anticipate any lingering effects. Last year a variety of injuries limited him to five rehab starts limited to five innings in rookie ball. Minor shoulder surgery after the 2014 season ended will delay the start of his 2015 season. The Royals hope the shoulder issues are past him so he can have success in AA where he finished his 2013 season. This would make a 2015 September callup a possibility. If nothing else, it could make him available for the rotation in 2016.

58. Kyle Freeland LHP (Rockies) 3.52 - Kyle was the Rockies first round pick in the 2014 draft. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but his big pitch is the slider. As a college drafted pitcher he is expected to move up the system quickly. Last year Freeland dominated both rookie level and Low A ball, finishing with a 1.56 ERA at rookie ball and a 0.83 ERA at Low A, both in five starts. He does have more success against lefthanded batters, limiting them to a .059 average at Low A. He also has shown excellent command, walking less than 1.5 batters per nine innings, while whiffing close to eight per nine. The Rockies will probably start him at High A with a promotion to AA if he sees success. The Rockies have no reason to promote him this early to the major leagues and speed up his service time if they are not contending, so expect a 2016 debut to the major leagues.

57. Albert Almora OF (Cubs) 3.52 - Albert was a 2012 first round pick by the Cubs. While he signed for $3.9 million, his Cuban heritage must have him smiling at some of the contracts the players leaving Cuba are getting from major league teams. If his parents had waited a little longer leaving Cuba he might have won a better lottery ticket. Almora is expected to be the Cubs centerfielder of the future once Dexter Fowler has slowed down. He lacks the speed of Fowler, but he has excellent instincts to cover the position. His Spanish speaking ability was a big help for Jorge Soler to get acclimated to the United States. Almora had a good year in High A (.283) but struggled when promoted to AA (.234). The Cubs would like to see him draw more walks to get his OBA above the .350 range. The AA experience last year was his first hiccup where he saw failure for the first time. The Cubs will have him repeat AA and with success he could be making his major league debut in September.

56. Aaron Blair RHP (Diamondbacks) 3.53 - Blair was a first round supplemental pick by the Diamondbacks out of the 2013 draft. At 6′5″ with a fastball that hits the mid-90s he should be an innings eater in a rotation. His change is a plus pitch already, with a breaking pitch (both slider and curve) still being developed. As the highest drafted player ever out of Marshall he is expected to rise quickly through the ranks. After starting the season in Low A he quickly was promoted to High A. At both levels his ERA was over 4 and while he struck out a batter per inning there was still a lot of barrel of bat on ball. When promoted to AA his pitches must have clicked with his ERA at 1.95 in eight starts and his opposition average down to .185. He also continued to strike out a hitter per inning. The Diamondbacks would like to see him continue his AA magic, perhaps having him repeat at AA to avoid the high altitudes of AAA. With success he should see a spot in the major league rotation by mid-season.

55. Brandon Nimmo OF (Mets) 3.6 - Nimmo has the distinction of being the first player drafted in the first round out of Wyoming when the Mets drafted him in 2011. It stays a little too cold in the Cowboy state up through May, so high schools in Wyoming don’t even bother to put together baseball teams. Nimmo has the range to play center field but not the blazing speed to cover a lot of ground or steal bases. His bat has also been short of power, which could restrict him if he has to move to a corner. Some say that the power will come as he matures. Last year Nimmo hit .322 at High A with a 50/51 walk to whiff ratio, giving him an impressive .448 OBA. Only a quarter of his hits went for extra bases. When promoted to AA close to 40 percent of his hits went for extra bases, including six homeruns, more than he hit in High A with fewer at bats. The down side is his average dropped to .238 and his walk to whiff ratio suffered (36/54). Another year in AA won’t hurt. It would be surprising for the Mets to promote him to the major leagues this year to begin his service time clock early, so expect a 2016 major league debut.

54. Lucas Sims RHP (Braves) 3.62 - The Braves have been trading a number of veteran players and getting back young pitchers in the deal. Lucas was drafted in the first round by the Braves in 2012 in their own back yard of Snellville, Georgia. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s and he complements that with a good curve and change. The Braves let him see all his time in High A where he got 28 starts and ate up 157 innings. His success did not justify a promotion with an ERA of 4.19 and a walk to whiff ratio that was under 2. Lucas was not a big mystery to the bats at High A despite his premium stuff, but a slow start inflated those numbers. He came on at the end of the season which justifies the Braves promoting him to AA to start the 2015 season. The Braves can only hope he starts the 2015 season as he ended the 2014 season which could lead to a September callup.

53. Jose Pereza SS/2B (Braves) 3.62 - Jose was signed out of Venezuela in 2010 for $350,000. He has the tools to play shortstop, with the arm the biggest question mark, but with Andrelton Simmons covering the position the Braves have been getting him playing time at second base. Jose does not have any power but he is one of the fastest players on the team, slashing singles to all fields. Some of those singles are stretched into doubles. Last year in High A he hit .342, but .435 against lefthanders, stealing 35 bases. Promoted to AA the hits just kept on coming with a .335 average but .349 against righthanders. He added 25 more stolen bases to his total to give him 60 for the year. The Braves traded Tommy LaStella, their starting second baseman last season and there is not a major impediment for him to take over the role by mid-season in 2015. Alberto Callapso and Phil Gosselin will keep the position warm for him until he is ready to take over.

52. Stephen Piscotty OF (Cardinals) 3.83 - Piscotty was a first round supplemental pick of the 2012 draft. At 6′3″ you would expect him to hit for power. In 2013 he hit 15 homeruns, but last year in AAA those numbers dropped to 9. He lacks the speed to play centerfield so as a corner outfielder the Cardinals hope the power will come. Piscotty has hit for average every place he has played (.288 at Memphis) and shows the patience to take walks (.355). The Cardinals have a loaded outfield so he will continue to play in AAA to begin the season, but don’t be surprised by his major league debut in 2015. He is good at making contact with the ball so perhaps he will sacrifice some of that contact with a harder swing to generate more power.

51. Dalton Pompey OF (Blue Jays) 3.87 - Pompey has a reservation for centerfield for the Blue Jays in April. He hopes a poor spring will not cancel that reservation, or at least postpone it until mid-season. Pompey was a 16th round pick in 2010 out of Canada. Sometimes those Canadians don’t develop as quickly because of the artic air and the hockey skates. Dalton saw three seasons in rookie ball and two in Low A before he broke out this year. He has the five tools you want in a centerfielder, though until this year his batting average tool could be questioned. He started the season in High A (.319), got a promotion to AA (.295), got a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito in AAA (.358) before getting a promotion to the major leagues (.231). All this success has given the Blue Jays the confidence he can be the Blue Jays starting centerfielder in 2015. He makes contact, has shown the patience to take walks, all he has to prove is he can do that in the major leagues.

Mariners - 2015

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

General - The Mariners were once one of the worst hitting teams in baseball. They had King Felix on the mound, but no bats to score him runs. The park generally prevents the Mariners from scoring runs but they moved the fences in to generate more offense. It has not met with a lot of success. After signing Robinson Cano away from the Yankees in the free agent market it was thought this would improve their offense. The Mariners scored ten more runs than the 2013 team and finished only ahead of the Astros in batting average. So now they have signed Nelson Cruz, who was the only player last year to hit 40 or more homeruns to add a few more runs to the offense. On the bright side the pitching staff had the top ERA in baseball and overall they scored 80 more runs than the opposition. They fell just a game short of appearing in the playoff race. It is hoped the acquisition of Nelson Cruz will be enough to make up for that one game. The Mariners are the only team in the American league lacking a pennant.

Key 2015 Additions - The big acquisition was Nelson Cruz to put in the DH spot. The Mariners did not get any production from that spot last year. They also added another bat for the outfield in Seth Smith trading one of their bullpen pitchers to the Padres. To make up for the loss of Brandon Maurer they traded oft injured Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays for J.A. Happ. Time will tell if the pitcher/outfield swaps will improve the club. While the club is set at second base the Mariners signed Rickie Weeks as a free agent. Rickie seems more inclined to play a position other than second base in 2015. The Mariners are expected to use his right handed bat in the outfield.

Catcher - Mike Zunino hit for power last year with 22 homeruns but the Mariners would like to see an improvement in his .199 average and his .254 OBA. Part of the struggle can be linked to his 17/158 walk to whiff ratio. It is hoped one more year of experience will help improve his plate discipline. They have kind of given up on Jesus Montero making it as the catcher. Jesus Sucre is the player who got the second most starts at the position last year. His offense was almost non-existent, with a .213 average and OBA and a .246 slugging. In 61 at bats Sucre did not take one walk. John Baker is a non-roster invitee that has experience behind the plate. He played for the Cubs last year but only hit .192, the second straight year he has failed to hit over .200.

First Base - Justin Smoak is gone and the Mariners are hoping for more offensive output from Logan Morrison. Logan does not hit for as much power as Justin, but he will hit for a higher average and a better OBA. Last year Logan hit .262, far surpassing Smoak in offensive production. Jesus Montero could make the team as his back up against tough lefthanders. He wants to prove that he is no flop, slimming down this year in an attempt to improve on his .235 average last year in limited at bats. In AAA he did have an OPS of .839. This could also be a position the right handed bat of Rickie Weeks plays. Last year the Brewers thought of making Rickie a first baseman, but he insisted on staying at second base and lost a lot of playing time. Rickie is not smooth on defense, but he has a potent bat, slugging .452 last year.

Second Base - Last year Robinson Cano played 157 games here. That does not leave a lot of room for Rickie Weeks. Cano should improve on his .314 batting average with Nelson Cruz batting behind him. His power will never match what he produced in the hitter’s park of Yankee stadium. If Cano should be injured Weeks will still have competition for the second base job. Willie Bloomquist has been mister utility for a number of years now. Last year he hit .278 but missed much of last year because of injury. Willie lacks any kind of power, but his glove fits anywhere on the field.

Third Base - The Mariners hope for a better offensive year from Kyle Seager. He hit 25 homeruns last year to help him become their leading run producer with 96 RBIs. If he can improve on his .268 batting average that could lead to better production. Last year he struggled against lefthanders (.242). With Cano and Cruz in the lineup, adding the potent bat of Seager will make for a big three in the offense. Bloomquist will be the main replacement at this position, but the Mariners may also see how Weeks can respond with the glove here.

Shortstop - This will be a spring training battle between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. Taylor was bumped by Cano from the second base position. When Miller struggled with the bat (.221) and committed 18 errors the Mariners moved Taylor to short. Taylor did not hit for the power of Miller, but carried the better average (.287) and the more consistent glove, but in much fewer games. Willie Bloomquist will be the backup allowing the Mariners to option the loser of this battle to the minors (if they have options) to get more at bats.

Left Field - Neither Seth Smith or Dustin Ackley have a right field arm. Dustin tends to have a very weak arm so he will settle in left field. The Mariners have not got the production they expected from the second player selected in the 2009 draft after Bryce Harper. Last year Ackley only hit .245 with a .291 OBA. Those numbers took a downturn against lefthanders. This is where you may see a lot of Rickie Weeks, especially against the lefthanders. If Ackley continues to struggle with the bat and Weeks shows he can play the position and shows some offense with the bat, Ackley could see less playing time. When the Mariners want to give Nelson Cruz some time away from the DH spot this will be the position he roams. He is not a bad outfielder.

Center Field - The Tigers were frustrated with the propensity for Austin Jackson to strike out and traded him mid-season, even though they did not have a great alternative to back him up. Jackson would be an ideal leadoff hitter if he did not strike out so much. Last year he had a 47/144 walk to whiff ratio and a .308 OBA, not what you are looking for in a leadoff hitter. The Brewers thought of converting Weeks to a centerfielder. The Mariners may try him here. They also have James Jones, who played the position last year until Jackson came along. Jones has a lot of speed (27 for 28 in stolen bases) but an impotent bat (.278 OBA and .311 slugging). Willie Bloomquist is probably getting a little old to play here. Justin Ruggiano is on the roster. He played last year with the Cubs hitting .281. He is best utilized as a fourth outfielder, defensive replacement.

Right Field - Seth Smith is the man here against right handed pitchers. Last year he hit .266 with 12 homeruns. He has always been a platoon player, but if Rickie Weeks plays left field against lefthanded pitchers for Ackley, the Mariners will need someone to platoon here. This may be where Nelson Cruz comes in handy, fitting in the right field spot against lefthanders and allowing the DH spot to be used to rest players or get the bat of Jesus Montero in the lineup.

Designated Hitter - Nelson Cruz will bring his 40 homeruns and 108 RBIs here. He will give Cano great protection in the lineup. He also is not a bad outfielder, so against left handed pitching you can move him to the outfield and let Jesus Montero get some bats in this spot. Willie Bloomquist could roam around the infield to give Cano, Seager and Morrison a rest from their positions. Cruz will not be set in stone at this position, but he will get the majority of at bats.

Starting Rotation - Led by King Felix, this has the potential to be one of the best rotations in the American League. Felix Hernandez was second in the Cy Young voting last year with his 15 wins, 2.14 ERA and 248 whiffs. The opposition hit only .200 off him. If their is a definition of an ace it is King Felix. Hisashi Iwakuma almost won a Cy Young in 2013. He saw some regression last year, especially towards the end of the season when he seemed much more hittable. He also won 15 games but his ERA went from below 3.00 to 3.52. Lefthanders seemed to have an easier time hitting him (.273), 60 points above their 2013 average. Their could be a battle for the last four spots in the rotation. Roenis Elias had the third spot last year, but like Iwakuma he staggered in his last few starts, finishing with a 3.85 ERA. J.A. Happ was acquired from the Blue Jays to start. His numbers (11-11, 4.52) may be the worst of the four. Two youngsters will battle for the final two spots. James Paxton had a 3.04 ERA with a .223 opposition average that only a bad spring will keep him off this rotation. Taijuan Walker (2.61 ERA) may have the best stuff of the group but nagging injuries delayed his start to the 2014 season.

Closer - The Mariners hope Fernando Rodney displays his bow and arrow pose another 48 times. He will be 38 entering the 2015 season but he can still get hitters out (2.85 ERA and a .244 opposition average). Lefthanded bats found his stuff a bit inviting with a .289 average.

Other Relievers - The bullpen has some young arms and they were one of the best in the league last year. Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina and Rodney each had more than 60 appearances with ERAs less than 3. Medina sometimes shows a little problem with command, walking 4.5 hitters per nine innings. Tom Wilhelmsen limited the opposition to a .171 average and was just three appearances short of making it four relievers with over 60 appearances and ERAs less than 3. They lack a proven lefthanded relief option. Charlie Furbush throws from the left side, but he didn’t have any greater success at getting lefties out than Medina, Farquhar and Wilhelmsen. There probably is no room in the starting rotation for Erasmo Ramirez, sending his 5.26 ERA to the bullpen to fill the long man role. Dominic Leone is another returning bullpen piece that was dominant against righthanders (.166) bit was too much barrel of the bat against lefties (.295).

Top 2015 Rookies - Carson Smith was dominant for 9 relief appearances last year (0.77 opposition average). With a good spring he could work himself into a bullpen role. Ji-Man Choi was signed out of Korea and moved from his catching position to first base. He has a power bat that could see some time at first base or DH if the Mariners are looking for offense. This will be a veteran team without a lot of room for rookies.

2015 Finish - The Mariners pitching is too strong and with the addition of Nelson Cruz they should score enough runs to win ball games in the AL West.

Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 70 - 61

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

70. Mike Foltynewicz RHP (Braves) 2.77 - Mike was a first round draft pick of the Astros in 2010. They traded him to the Braves after the 2014 season, one of the prospects sacrificed to acquire Evan Gattis. Mike is one of the hardest throwers in the game, often hitting three digits on his fastball. A lack of quality secondary pitches and command issues (4.5 walks per nine) have many think his best role will be in relief. Last year, after an inconsistent run in the starting rotation (5.08 ERA and .260 opposition average) the Astros promoted him to the majors where he pitched in relief. His numbers did not improve much (5.30 ERA and .299 opposition average). For someone who throws as hard as Mike his whiffs per nine innings pitched falls below one per inning. The Braves will return him to the starting rotation where he will compete for the fifth spot. He could make it in the bullpen if he does not win the fifth spot.

69. Rusney Castillo OF (Red Sox) 2.83 - Rusney comes out of Cuba, inked to a signing bonus of $5.2 million and a seven year contract at $72.5 million. He signed too late last year to shake of the rust in the minor leagues and in a September call up to the Red Sox the 27 year old was still able to hit .333 in 36 at bats with two homeruns. He will be competing with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley for the centerfield job this year, the favored candidate to win the position. He relies more on his speed than his power to separate himself from the rest. Rusney is a five tool player who should make an impact in the rookie of the year voting this year, though most of the tools fall just above average and just miss getting tagged as elite.

68. Steven Matz LHP (Mets) 2.87 - The 2009 second round pick of the Mets seems to have come out of nowhere to make this list. Tommy John surgery prevented him from playing in 2010 and 2011. The Mets have shown patience with him, giving him six starts in 2012 (1.55 ERA) and getting him over 100 innings in 2013 (2.62 ERA). While he can hum his fastball in the mid-90s, impressive for a lefthander, his secondary pitches, especially the change are quality pitches as well. Last year the Mets saw his innings count hit 140 at High A and AA with ERAs less than 3. He is expected to see the Mets rotation sometime before the 2015 season is done, but he will begin the season in AAA to control his innings count. They will try to get him up to 180 innings this year so he can join Harvey as a solid member of the rotation starting in 2016.

67. A.J. Cole RHP (Nationals) 3.03 - He was considered a tough sign, a first rounder that went in the fourth to the Nationals in 2010 as a draft eligible sophomore. The Nationals traded him to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez, then got him back in the Michael Morse trade. At 6′4″ he has nice long arms for a pitcher and whips the ball across home in the mid-90s, sometimes hitting 97. His slider and change have also developed into above average pitches. Cole enhanced his command this year and found himself at AAA where he went 7-0, 3.43 in 11 starts. The opposition raked him at a .283 clip and he whiffed just seven hitters per nine innings, but he threw strikes. The Nationals rotation is loaded this year so he will start the season in AAA. With both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister eligible to depart after the 2015 season the Nationals have targeted a 2016 job for him in the rotation. Expect him to make his debut with a September call up.

66. Jake Thompson RHP (Rangers) 3.07 - Jake was a second round pick of the Tigers in the 2012 draft. The Rangers traded Joaquin Soria at the end of last season to acquire Thompson. Soria did not do much for the Tigers, providing them with only one save. The Rangers hope Thompson can eventually fill the starting rotation for the Rangers. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can reach mid-90s and he complements it with a slider/change combination. He got two starts for the Tigers AA team before getting traded to the Rangers and continued to shine for the Rangers in his final six AA starts. In 2015 he should start the season in AAA with the possibility of getting a callup should the Rangers have a need.

65. Sean Manaea LHP (Royals) 3.12 - Though he was a supplemental first round pick drafted after first round pick Hunter Dozier, he got a higher bonus payment than Hunter. Sean was considered a top five pick until an injury dropped his stock and prevented him from pitching in 2013. He throws a mid-90s fastball with a slider/change combination. Last year was his professional debut and being a college level pitcher the Royals pushed him to High A. He started 25 games, struck out more than a batter per inning and limited the opposition to a .228 average in the 122 innings worked. Next year he will see AA with the major leagues more probable in 2016 than this year. If the Royals are in a playoff run and they believe Manaea can help them now that could hasten his major league service time clock.

64. Hunter Renfroe OF (Padres) 3.15 - The Padres have not yet traded all their top prospects. Renfroe was a 2013 first round pick by the Padres. He was rumored as being one of the players offered for Cole Hamels, but the Phillies did not think what was offered was enough. He has the potential to be a big time power threat with an arm strong enough for right field. His big issue is a propensity to swing and miss with 134 whiffs in 120 plus games. He slugged .565 at hitter friendly Lake Elsinore, but could only manage .353 at pitcher friendly San Antonio. If the Padres do not trade him, they will probably start him at AA. With a outfield crowded with veterans and Rymer Liriano ahead of Hunter on the depth chart, it may not be until 2016 when he gets a glimpse of the major leagues.

63. Kyle Crick RHP (Giants) 3.25 - The Giants never seem to have trouble developing pitchers to slip into their rotation. Kyle was a first round supplemental pick in 2011 by the Giants and has worked his way up the minor league level one affiliation at a time. His fastball hits the mid-90s and touches 98 with a curveball and change. An oblique injury limited him to 14 starts and 60 plus innings in 2013, but that did not deter the Giants from starting him at AA. He was again limited to less than 100 innings last year, but command was a big issueas he walked just over six hitters per nine innings. When he starts a game with his 11 whiffs per nine innings, there is not a lot of contact in the game. The Giants may repeat his time in AA so he can work on finding his command. If he continues to struggle with strikes his best option could be to move to the bullpen, though the Giants feel he has potential ace like stuff.

62. Clint Frazier OF (Indians) 3.25 - The Georgia red head was drafted in the first round out of high school last year by the Indians. Once he polishes off the rough edges the Indians hope he can become a power hitting center fielder. He has all the five tools you look for in a player. Hamstring issues slowed him down last year, though he was still able to hit .266 with 13 homeruns and a .760 OPS. He needs to cut down on his 161 strikeouts to enhance his hitting tool. In 2015 he should start at High A and with some success in making contact could move up to AA. He will always be linked with another Georgia first round pick Austin Meadows.

61. Maikel Franco 3B (Phillies) 3.37 - Myworld does not see Cody Asche blocking his path at third base, though the concern is his fielding at the position is less than adequate. The Phillies were able to sign the Dominican for only $100,000 in 2010. He made that seem like a bargain with his 31 homeruns in 2013. A slow start hampered him last year, but he was still able to hit 16 homeruns in AAA and raise his average up to .257 after struggling around the Mendoza line for the early part of the year. He struggled with his major league debut, hitting only .179 with two doubles. Last year he only made 10 errors in 107 games at third base at AAA and one in his 12 games in the major leagues. With his power he could bring back memories of Michael Schmidt at third base. Cody Asche will bring back no such memories.