Archive for February, 2015

Phillies - 2015

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

General - When Pat Gillick was general manager of the Orioles he tried to warn Peter Angelos the Orioles were getting older and he should consider rebuilding. Angelos fired Gillick, got one more playoff run before stumbling into a 14 year losing streak. Myworld has to wonder if Gillick gave that same warning to Ruben Amaro before he left the Phillies. After their last playoff appearance in 2011 they have felt they could make another playoff appearance with the same core of aging players that won their division for five years in a row from 2007 to 2011. They have not finished above .500 since their last playoff appearance in 2011. Entering the 2015 season the Phillies have finally recognized their playoff veterans just don’t have it anymore. Jimmy Rollins was traded to the Dodgers and Cole Hamels was dangled but Amaro found no enticing offers. They would love for a team to take Ryan Howard off their hands but he may be an albatross they are forced to keep until his contract expires. With the losing becoming endemic their consecutive game sellout streak has ended, good news for those who wanted to get tickets but were unable to because the games were always a sellout. Phillie fans can only hope it won’t take 14 years as it did with the Orioles to rebuild a winner.

2015 Key Additions - This is a rebuilding team trading aging players for prospects. One prospect, Ben Lively, obtained in the trade for Marlon Byrd, could see some time in the rotation by mid-season. The Phillies also signed two free agent pitchers, Chad Billingsley for the bullpen and Aaron Harang for either the bull pen or the starting rotation. For the most part they will throw out the same veteran starters with a few prospects sprinkled in.

Catcher - It is amazing this team is looking for a catcher for the 2015 season. Carlos Ruiz and his age has prevented him from playing 130 plus games behind the plate. His offensive game has dropped and he has fallen into the also rans that hit 36 year old catchers. One of the strengths the Phillies thought they had was catching depth. Sebastian Valle has been released and is now playing for the Pirates. Tommy Joseph has been struggling with concussion issues which is jeopardizing his career. He was the main character acquired in the Hunter Pence trade to the Giants. That leaves Cameron Rupp to fill the back up role for the Phils. Eventually, it may be Joseph and Rupp sharing the position as starters.

First Base - It isn’t fun being Ryan Howard. He gets a lot of abuse from Philly fans for making over $20 million and slugging just .380. He did lead the team in RBIs (95) and was second in homeruns (23) but his .223 batting average and 190 whiffs were despised. They thought they would give the position to Darin Ruf but his .235 batting average was too Howard like. By mid-season, this position may be turned over to Maikel Franco, who raked in the winter leagues. Franco did not match his 2013 season of 31 homeruns but after a slow start he hit 16 in AAA.

Second Base - The Phillies have held on to Chase Utley and he has been able to stay healthy for two years in a row, playing in 155 games last year. His OPS is down to .746 and he is not the feared threat he once was in the playoff years when his OPS was approaching .900. Utley could be traded before the season is over and the only viable alternative is Cesar Hernandez. His OPS did not even eclipse .500 last year. They also have Rule V pick Odubel Herrera, who had a good winter, but spent most of that playing the outfield.

Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins was traded and the Phillies are prepared to give the position to Freddy Galvis and his .176 average. He had such a good spring last year that he appeared to win the job away from Rollins. When he got hurt and returned after a month into the season he forgot how to hit, his average plummeting into the .050 range. Cesar Hernandez is another option for short, as well as a number of non-roster invitees such as Chase d’Arnaud and Andres Blanco. The big hope for the Phillies is J.P. Crawford, but they will probably have to wait until 2016 for him.

Third Base - Cody Asche has been the player here Phillie fans have found it hard to get excited about. He lacks power for the position, hitting only 10 homeruns last year and doesn’t really excel at defense to make up for his offensive deficiencies. Ideally, they would like to move Maikel Franco here, but as long as Asche has a pulse he will get the starting nod. Cesar Hernandez will get back up time, but Franco would be move here if the Phillies need someone for an extended period of time.

Left Field - Myworld watched a spring training game when a ball hit off the glove of Darin Ruf and carried over the fence. His outfield play is poor, which is why the Phillies would prefer to move him to first base. He does have a power bat but it was impotent for most of last year. Grady Sizemore is a better defensive option but his bat is not the force it once was. Odubel Herrera had a good winter playing outfield, but the Phillies view him more as a reserve player. Not a lot to work with here.

Center Field - Ben Revere was fifth in the league in hitting with a .306 average. He also proved to be a catalyst from the leadoff spot with 49 stolen bases. The only downside is Revere has the arm of a leftfielder playing center. Herrera and Sizemore can back him up, but Sizemore is not the defensive player he once was. The Phillies also claimed Jordan Danks on waivers and he can play here as well in a back up capacity. No one here to make Phillie fans forget Shane Victorino or Aaron Rowand.

Right Field - Dominic Brown had a break out year in 2013, making the All Star team. All that has been forgotten after a .235 season in 2014 with only 10 homeruns. Dominic was going to be a building block for future playoff seasons, but his offensive output has been a disappointment. Sizemore and Danks will act as backups. Jeff Francouer was an interesting signing. He played right field in his peak years, but the Phillies will try him on the mound. As long as they have him, perhaps they will convince him to play some right field.

Starting Pitching - This used to be an invincible lot. With Roy Halladay retired and Cliff Lee injured for only 13 starts the position self destructed. Cole Hamels is now their ace, but he wants to be traded to a playoff contender. He is easily the ace of their staff, pitching over 200 innings with a 2.46 ERA but only a 9-9 record to show for it. Cliff Lee hopes to be healthy for 2015 and will follow Hamels. After those two the rotation really gets ugly with Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, David Buchanan and Miguel Gonzalez all vying for the last three spots. Spring training should sort the rotation out. Williams last year could not even make the Astros starting rotation out of spring training.

Closer - Jonathan Papelbon with his 39 saves is the closer. He signed a lengthy contract about the time the Phillies transformed themselves into a below .500 franchise. Like Hamel, he would prefer to be traded to a contender. Ken Giles has the three digit velocity on his fastball and can replace him in the closer role if Papelbon sees better opportunities on the horizon.

Other Relievers - It was one of the worst bullpens in the league last year. Jake Diekman struck out over 10 hitters per nine innings. Mario Holland struggled from the left side (4.40 ERA), walking about four hitters per nine innings. Justin DeFratus was their most consistent pitcher (2.39 ERA), but last place teams do not get many save opportunities. Chad Billingsly and Aaron Harnag will make the pen if they fail to make the starting rotation. The rest will be decided by who has the most success in spring training.

2015 Rookies - The Phillies have not had good drafts, selecting players like Kyle Drabek, Joe Savery, Anthony Hewitt, Kelly Dugan, Michael Constanzo, Greg Golson, all first round picks who have gone nowhere. Maikel Franco is the big power bat who should make the most impact. His best position is third, but if the Phillies decide to keep Cody Asche there he may move to first. Jesse Biddle and Ben Lively are pitchers Phillie fans hope to see in the starting rotation. Jesse has had big issues with command, forcing him to take a leave of absence last year to clear his head. Severino Gonzalez has the small frame that may be more suitable for the bullpen. There is not a lot of depth in the outfield so expect Aaron Altherr and Cameron Perkins to both get an opportunity by mid season. Altherr played for Germany in the World Baseball Classic and both stand 6′5″, a trait the Phillies seem to be enamored with in their right fielders. Tommy Joesph can still recover from his concussion issues and find himself catching for the major league team.

2015 Finish - They still have a number of players from their 2008 World Series team, but they have lost the skills that got them there seven years ago. Another last place finish is in store for Phillie fans in 2015. That will be three consecutive losing seasons and counting.

Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 80 - 71

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

The Red Sox and Rangers dominate this list with five of the ten players.

80. Garrin Cecchini 3B (Red Sox) 2.13 - Garin was drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. His brother Gavin was a first rounder for the Mets in 2012. The Red Sox have to hope for a Wade Boggs clone. He gets on base with a career OBA of .417 entering the 2014 season. Last year in AAA that dropped to a .341, but his batting average was only .263, down from his .312 average entering 2014. One tool he lacks is power. He has yet to see double digits in his homerun production, hitting only seven in 2014. What he did do was hit doubles, over 30 his last two years. Last year he only hit 21. The Red Sox have a number of players who can generate greater offensive numbers who they can slide to third because of a glut of middle infielders. This could leave Garrin as the odd man out and trade bait for another team.

79. Marco Gonzalez LHP (Cardinals) 2.15 - Marco was a 2013 first round pick of the Cardinals coming out of Gonzaga. As a college pitcher the Cardinals have moved him up quickly, promoting him to High A in 2013 and giving him a taste of the major leagues last year. He had some command issues with the Cardinals walking a little over 5 batters per nine innings. That rate was at about 2 in the minor leagues. Unlike many Cardinal pitchers he will not blow you away with mid-90s heat, so he needs to command his pitches to be effective. If Carlos Martinez makes the starting rotation Marco would be the sixth starter, so he may start the season in the bullpen. There he will have to show he can throw strikes so if a need arises Marco can slide into the starting rotation. Lefties hit him at a .143 clip in the major leagues.

78. Manuel Margot OF (Red Sox) 2.25 - Manuel signed for $800,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He is the typical five tool player who got an opportunity to play for the first time in a full season league last year. After hitting .286 for Low A Greenville with 39 stolen bases he tore it up in a 50 at bat debut at High A hitting .340. The Red Sox will probably start him there to begin the 2015 season. The Red Sox are over stocked with talented centerfielders in Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts. Margot is another to add to the list with the potential to steal 30 plus bases and hit between 10 to 20 homeruns. His contact rate was much improved over his first two years and he could soon enter the fray for center field time with the Red Sox in 2016.

77. Aaron Judge OF (Yankees) 2.38 - Aaron was a 2013 first round pick. Standing at 6′7″ he carries a large strike zone, but if he gets his arms extended and makes contact with the ball it will go a long way. A leg injury prevented him from showcasing his stuff in 2013 but last year the Yankees started him at Low A. A 958 OPS in 250 at bats got him promoted to High A where he continued to rake for an .853 OPS. His strike out rate increased at the higher level and his average dropped but he still could have earned the right to begin 2015 in AA. His speed will limit him to a corner. How high he hits for average will depend on how well he can extend his arms to get the barrel of the ball contact his height requires. His batting practice displays often do not translate into games where the pitches are not quite as grooved and juicy.

76. Max Fried LHP (Braves) 2.58 - Max Fried was a first round pick of the Padres in 2012. He was discovered when scouts came out to watch teammate Lucas Giolito pitch and noted Max was a pretty good pitcher as well. Lucas draft stock was harmed by an arm injury resulting in Tommy John and a commitment to Stanford. Max was ultimately selected higher in the draft. Now Lucas is healthy and it is Max trying to recover from a forearm injury that limited him to five starts and just 10 innings, eventually resulting in Tommy John surgery that will force him to miss the 2015 season. When healthy he has a fastball that can hit mid-90s and a sharp break to his curve. The Braves best hope for Max is some rehab starts late in 2015 and to make up those innings in the Arizona Fall League. He was acquired from the Padres in the Justin Upton trade.

75. Eduardo Rodriguez LHP (Red Sox) 2.68 - Rodriguez signed a 2010 contract with the Orioles out of Venezuela for $175,000. The Orioles gave him up to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller. Eduardo seemed to turn it on when he arrived in the Red Sox organization. With the Orioles AA team at Bowie Rodriguez was struggling with a 3-7 record and a 4.79 ERA. Despite his wicked stuff righthanders were able to hit him at a .310 clip. Once the Red Sox got ahold of him his ERA in six starts was 0.96 and righthanders struggled for a .194 average. He also struck out more than one batter per inning. Eduardo throws hard, hitting the mid-90s and he has a slider as his breaking pitch. An improved change could be the reason for his increased effectiveness against right handed hitters. He should start the season in AAA with a possible promotion by mid-season.

74. Tim Anderson SS (White Sox) 2.62 - Anderson was the White Sox first round pick in 2013 out of high school. He had a good year in High A to get himself a promotion to AA where he hit .364 in 44 at bats. He has the tools for shortstop, with an average arm his only question mark. His bat does not translate into enough power for a move to a corner so second base is another option if his arm proves too soft for shortstop. He does have speed but he lacks stolen base quickness. Tim will start the 2014 season in AA. The issues he needs to work on is reducing his 34 errors at short from last year and increasing the 9 walks he accumulated in over 300 at bats.

73. Nomar Mazara OF (Rangers) 2.68 - The Rangers signed Mazara out of the Dominican Republic for a mystifying $4.95 million in 2011. Most other scouts did not have him rated that high to pay him that kind of bonus. The 6′4″ Mazara made his full season debut in 2013 and struggled, hitting .236 with minimal power. There were a lot of questions about his ability to meet the $4.95 million expectations. The 19 year old exploded in 2014, moving all the way up to AA with his 22 homeruns. He also showed the patience to walk 66 times, slugging .518 in AA despite skipping High A. His below average speed will limit him to a corner outfield. At low A he was credited with a team high 12 assists. With the success he had in AA it is expected he will start his season there in 2015 with a move to AAA before the season ends. How quickly the Rangers want to put him on the 40 man roster will dictate whether he gets promoted there in 2015.

72. Nick Kingham RHP (Pirates) 2.7 - Kingham was a fourth round pick of the Pirates in 2010, playing in Las Vegas with a catcher now outfielder named Bryce Harper. At 6′5″ he has a good frame for a pitcher. His velocity sits in the low 90s and he shows good command with his pitches to earn his spot in the Top 100. He doesn’t come with the overpowering stuff of some Pirate pitchers such as Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow but he had enough success to reach AAA last year. His strikeout numbers will not impress bit he throws a good curveball and change giving him three above average pitches to show hitters. He will start the 2015 season in AAA but may be the first pitcher called up if the Pirates need help in the rotation.

71. Alex Gonzalez RHP (Rangers) 2.77 - The player they call “Chi Chi” was a 2013 first round pick. The Rangers have moved him quickly, giving him 14 starts in AA. His fastball is not overpowering, relying more on a slider to get hitters out. Alex will not get a lot of whiffs, but he throws strikes and has the ability to miss the barrel of the bat with his pitches. With has AA success (2.70 ERA) the Rangers could start him at AAA with a promotion to the majors once the Rangers need help in the rotation. He will be no better than a mid-rotation starter, lacking the stuff to be an ace but someone has to get the mid-rotation starts.

Yoon Turns Down Orioles Minor League Spring Invite

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Suk-Min Yoon was having some rough years with the Kia Tigers. He was no longer one of the top pitchers in the KBO. That did not prevent the Orioles from signing the now 28 year old pitcher once he became a free agent. For Yoon his ERA had climbed his last three years in the KBO, going from 2.45 (when he finished 17-5), to 3.12 to 4.00. His strikeout per nine innings had also dropped from 9.3 to 8.1 to 7.8. Not the type of trends you want to see from a pitcher.

Yoon did not make the Orioles major league roster after spring training. It was hoped he would not be long in the minor leagues after a few outings to get used to major/minor league hitters. That did not happen. He struggled to get minor league hitters out, finishing with a 5.74 ERA and allowing 125 hits in just 95 innings. Those are not the numbers to earn a promotion to the major leagues. He did not even get a September call up, was removed from the 40 man roster and returned to Korea.

The Orioles still have him signed to a contract this year and invited him to the minor league spring training site. Yoon refused. He is now working out in the Boras camp in hopes for a major league spring training invite or he will return to Korea to finish his career in the KBO. The Orioles would probably have to release him. The Kia Tigers will probably be the team to benefit from his return, if they still want to sign him.

So while everyone waits for the results of Jung-ho Park with the Pirates, the arrival of Suk-Min Yoon looks to be a bust for the Orioles.

West Asia Baseball Cup

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Jinnah stadium in Islamabad, Pakistan is hosting the West Asia Baseball Cup. In addition to Pakistan, the teams competing in the event are Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and India. In a political environment, getting countries like this together would be difficult. The games begin today.

The schedule for the games can be found below:

West Asia Baseball Cup

Moncada to Sign with Red Sox

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Yoan Moncada was considered one of the top prospects out of Cuba. The Red Sox seemed to think so, breaking out their wallets to pay him a record breaking $31 million plus bonus. This is one reason why major league teams have to protect themselves against themselves. The actual cost of the signing to the Red Sox could be $63 million, because in addition to the bonus the Red Sox will also have to pay a 100 percent penalty cost on the amount of salary they go over their international salary cap. Since they were already over their international salary cap they now have to pay tit for tat one dollar for each dollar they spend on Moncada. The Red Sox will also be restricted to a maximum payment of $300,000 for the next couple years for any future international prospects, putting a damper on signing any future international stars.

The previous high bonus had been $8 million paid by the Diamondbacks for another Cuban, pitcher Yoan Lopez. Let this year be the year of the Yoan. It was also suspected Moncada would hit the $100 million salary structure, but perhaps a large chunk of that bonus is part of the salary. It was not stated what his yearly salary would be but the Red Sox have up to three years to pay out his bonus. They have only until July to pay major league baseball the $31 million penalty they owe them. This will make the commissioner’s office quite wealthy.

Moncada is expected to start his season in High A, playing second or third base. He should rise quickly provided his offense is as projected. Baseball America has reported they would put him at number 10 in their current top 100 prospect list. He has not played in a competitive environment in a year so it may take some time before he gets his swing back. This type of salary will have big time repercussions in Cuba, providing incentives for many players to want to come to the United States. It is like winning the lottery.

The best thing Cuba can hope for to keep their players in Cuba is normalized relations with the United States so they can establish a system with major league baseball similar to what exists in Japan, Korea and Mexico. Then the Cuban teams can share in some of that money major league baseball has to shell out to attract the talented players. Right now Cuba is renting out their players to Japanese teams, and any other leagues that are interested in renting out their players, but that money is the equivalent of a pauper’s fee when compared to what major league teams are willing to shell out for talented players.

Lourdes Gourriel, the riches await you if you go north.

Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 90 - 81

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

It looks like someone sprayed coconut frosting on the ground outside. It reminds me of the days when my mom would bake a cake and give me the bowl to lick. Except this frosting is a bit too cold and does not have a pleasant taste to it. To avoid shoveling this coconut frosting myworld will delay that task and put together the next 10 players in our top 100 list.

90. Sean Newcomb LHP (Angels) 1.62 - The Angels are collecting a number of highly thought of pitching prospects through trades. Sean is one they drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft. Like most modern day pitchers he throws hard, hitting 97 with his fastball, but throwing those fastballs from the left side is something special. He also has a slider and needs to develop his change. He struggled a bit in the short season leagues, his starts being limited to one to three innings. Righthanders hit him at a .297 clip last year at low A and that is probably where he will start his 2015 season. With success he should rise quickly. He does get a lot of swings and misses (11.57 whiffs per nine innings).

89. Michael Conforto OF (Mets) 1.68 - A first round pick for the Mets in the 2014 draft, he was touted as being one of the most accomplished bats in the draft last year. Coming out of Oregon State he should rise quickly. A lack of blazing speed will limit him to one of the corner outfields. Last year he proved those hitting rumors true in the New York Penn League with a .331 average. The lefthanded bat did not seem to have any issues hitting lefthanded pitching (.324) but the Mets would like to see a bit more power if he is to occupy a corner outfield spot (.448 slugging). He will start next season in a full season league, starting at Low A and rising as fast as his bat will allow him. The Mets do not have a lot of polished outfielders to block his path to the major leagues.

88. Touki Toussaint RHP (Diamondbacks) 1.72 - Another 2014 first round pick. What is unique about Touki, besides his name is he is a native of Haiti. There are not a lot of ballplayers that come out of Haiti, but he learned his craft in the United States. He throws a mid-90s fastball, has a hard break to his curveball and his change is already an accomplished pitch. What he needs to learn is how to better mix his pitches and locate them over the plate. Last year he struggled in rookie ball, walking more than five batters per nine innings. In the Pioneer League he allowed the opposition to hit him at a .381 clip, but in the Arizona League it was a more acceptable .237. Lefthanders for whatever reason have more trouble hitting him, probably because of his change up, with a batting average more than 200 points less than righthanders. He could start the season in a full season league but that would be dependent on how successful he is at keeping the barrel of the bat off the ball during spring training.

87. Gary Sanchez C (Yankees) 1.75 - Back in 2009 Sanchez was considered the top international prospect in baseball. The Yankees signed the Dominican for $3 million. Miguel Sano was considered the second best international prospect, but age questions hampered his signing. Now Sano has surpassed Sanchez on the prospect ladder. Sanchez is a more accomplished receiver than Jesus Montero but that still does not make him a quality receiver. He still has work to do limiting his passed balls (10) and errors (17). His bat has regressed to slugging averages barely over .400 when the Yankees were expecting .500 slugging percentages. The rigors of catching could explain the slide. He has Brian McCann blocking him behind the plate in the major leagues so look for a start in AAA. If all goes well he should be making his major league debut in 2015, but a move to first base is a possibility if that enhances his bat.

86. Raimel Tapia OF (Rockies) 1.77 - Tapia was signed for $170,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, a bargain for a hitting machine that hit .357 in 2013 at rookie ball and carried that to full season last year hitting .326 in Low A. He has the borderline speed to play centerfield, but with a good arm he may be a better fit in right field. Last year was the first year where his stolen base success rate was far above 50 percent, stealing 33 out of 49. The lefthanded hitter rakes against both sides, so that won’t be an issue. He will start the season in High A and with success could be promoted to AA. His power is limited to the gaps (32 doubles) but as he matures more of those balls could rise over the fence, giving him double digit homerun power.

85. Jeff Hoffman RHP (Blue Jays) 1.83 - Elbow problems may have prevented him from being the first overall pick in the draft. Instead he dropped to the Blue Jays as the ninth pick in the 2014 draft. The Orioles were trying to snag him as compensation for the Blue Jays acquiring Dan Duquette as their chief executive, but the Blue Jays were not buying that sauce. He throws in the mid-90s and has a good curveball, but because of the elbow surgery did not pitch in 2014. He will probably start the 2015 season in rookie ball, beginning at mid-season with his innings limited to ease his transition to the major leagues. As a college pitcher (East Carolina) he could rise quickly once it is determined his arm is healthy.

84. Christian Bethancourt C (Braves) 1.87 - The Braves signed Bethancourt out of Panama in 2008 for $600,000. He starred for Panama in the 2004 Little League World Series. No one questions his defensive ability. There are concerns about his willingness to hustle (could be a cultural bias since Latins play the game at a different pace) and his ability to hit. He made his major league debut in 2013 with one at bat and saw more extensive time in 2014 hitting .248. Most of that high average was attributed to his .409 average versus left handed pitching. In AAA his average was .283 hitting both sides of the pitching equally. With Evan Gattis traded the Braves will give him the opportunity to win the starting job in 2015. He has enough power to hit 10-15 homeruns and should hit around .250. That could rise depending on how motivated he is to become a student of the game.

83. Steven Souza OF (Rays) 1.88 - The Nationals traded him to the Rays because they lack a spot for him in the outfield. At 26 years old he needs no more seasoning in the minors after hitting .350 in AAA. He is probably more noted for his diving catch in left field to save the no hitter by Jordan Zimmermann on the last day of the season than anything he has ever done with his bat. His arm is good enough for right field. Despite his diving catch his defense is adequate. The Rays have to hope he can hit major league pitching since they traded disappointing but promising Wil Myers to acquire him. Last year Souza hit only .130 in a 23 at bat performance in the major leagues. Most of those at bats were in pinch hitting roles, a tough task for a rookie. At 6′4″ he has the build to hit 20 plus homeruns but his major league batting average will settle around .270. He does a good job of making contact despite his large strike zone (6′4″).

82. Brandon Finnegan LHP (Royals) 2.03 - Brandon was another first round 2014 pick that got an opportunity to pitch in relief last year for the Royals. He became the first player in history to pitch in both the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year. At 5′11″ he is not a big guy, but that does not prevent him from heaving his fastball in the mid-90s. Most baseball people prefer their starters to have a larger frame. While Brandon pitched in relief for the Royals last year he showed some success in High A as a starter, putting together a 0.60 ERA in five starts with the opposition hitting him at a .106 clip. The Royals used him in relief when he was promoted to AA because that is how they intended to use him in the majors last year. This year the Royals hope he takes to starting in the major leagues, dominating like he did in High A.

81. Reynaldo Lopez RHP (Nationals) 2.08 - Last year Lopez did not appear on any prospect lists. A high 90s fastball, good command, knee buckling curveball and the domination of minor league hitters will get you noticed pretty quickly. Now he has settled into a top 100 list. Time will tell whether this rise will continue. In 16 minor league starts, rising to Hagerstown Lopez did not have an ERA higher than 1.33. He limited the opposition to averages less than .150 and walked about three hitters per nine innings. For the amount of heat on his fastball his strikeout rate was in the high seven batters per nine innings. You would expect to see more. The Nationals will probably start him in High A and if he continues to dominate he could see AA before the end of the season.

Indians - 2015

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

General - The Indians had some good years between 1995 and 2001 when they won the AL Central six of the seven years. Every game was a sellout and there were two World Series appearances. They have not won a World Series since 1948. Not as long a drought as the Cubs but still a pretty long time. They are trying to bring back the sellout crowds to the stadium, revamping a park that was once considered one of the best in the major leagues. Built in 1994 it no longer has youth on its side. They have the Cy Young award winner in Corey Kluber and not even Clayton Kershaw pitched better than Carlos Carrasco in August and September. Danny Salazar was a phenom in 2013 and needs to find that mojo. On the offensive side Michael Brantley was third in the MVP voting. They have the pieces. They just have to avoid the slow start digging them a hole too big to climb out of to reach the playoffs for a second straight season.

2015 Key Transactions - It’s been a quiet year transaction wise for the Indians. No new additions to attract the fans to the season ticket window. Gavin Floyd was signed as a free agent to compete in the starting rotation. They acquired Brandon Moss to add some power into the lineup, but hip problems may slow him down at the start of the season. He can play either first base, DH or a corner outfield. Those are the only two pieces added to a roster that finished at 81-81 last season. They have to hope that some of the players from last year step it up to replicate their playoff appearance of 2013.

Catcher - Carlos Santana will no longer have to strap on the catcher’s gear. Yan Gomes has provided a solid bat and good glove to give the Indians an All Star at the position. He hit .278 with 21 homeruns becoming one of the top offensive catchers in the American League. He needs to reduce his errors (14), leading the American League in that category last year at catcher. Roberto Perez is a nice defensive catcher who lacks the offensive fire power of Gomez. Carlos Santana could still be called into duty if injury knocks out one of their catchers for a significant time.

First Base - Carlos Santana has too big a bat not to be in the lineup. Most of his games could be at DH but the Indians have a number of players they can rotate there. Carlos slugged 27 homeruns but only hit .231, getting off to a very slow start. His 113 walks were the most in the major leagues. Nick Swisher played the second most games here after Santana, but his defense suffered. His poor offensive numbers (.208) also did not justify putting him at the DH slot. The Indians need a bounce back year from him if they want to make the playoffs in 2015. Brandon Moss is another player who can play this position though most of his time could be manning an outfield slot. Hip problems could put him at the DH spot to start the season. For Oakland last year he slugged 25 homeruns but carried just a .234 batting average. Jesus Aguilar is a young player who the Indians have to eventually make room for. He has a power bat, though his .121 average in a brief callup last year did not instill confidence in Terry Francona he can hit.

Second Base - Jason Kipnis is another player who needs to pick it up. He stole 22 bases in 25 attempts but a .240 average and .310 OBA did not get him on base a lot. His .208 average against lefties could result in a platoon situation. Mike Aviles is a veteran utility player who can play second base against tough lefties. His .273 OBA needs to rise. By mid-season Jose Ramirez could be shifted to second if Francisco Lindor gets called up to play short. A lot of this will be dependent on how well both Kipnis and Lindor are hitting. Zach Walters has a big power bat, hitting 7 homeruns in 30 games, a 30 plus homerun pace. He struggles to make contact, resulting in a .170 average, .136 against right handers.

Shortstop - Jose Ramirez earned the job last year with his .262 average and solid defense after the Indians traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals. He does not have the bat to hit for a lot of power. Mike Aviles is a utility player who at 34 can still play a solid short in spurts. He lacks the range to play this position over an extended period. The shortstop of the future, which could be by mid-season is Francisco Lindor who shows enough bat in the minor leagues to make an offensive impact. Lindor stole 28 bases last year but was only 3 for 10 in AAA.

Third Base - Carlos Santana played this position early in the year to get his bat in the lineup away from the catcher position. An injury gave Lonnie Chisenhall an opportunity to prove himself again and he hit .280 with 13 homeruns. Last year Santana made 6 errors in 26 games, so if they need to give Chisenhall a rest Mike Aviles will play here instead of the defensive challenged Santana. Watch out for youngster Giovanny Urshella, who could make an impact if Chisenhall shows last year was just a fluke.

Left Field - Michael Brantley finished third in the American League MVP voting. He was third in the league in hitting at .327 and only Jose Altuve collected more base hits. He is a center fielder playing gold glove caliber defense in left field. Ryan Raburn has seemed to alternate between bad, good and bad years. If every other year is a good year Indian fans should be happy in 2015. If his bat shows up he could see a lot of time at DH. He is the only right handed bat for the outfield.

Center Field - Michael Bourn no longer steals bases like he used to. Last year he stole 10 bases in 16 attempts. His .314 OBA is not what managers like to see at the leadoff spot. Michael still covers a lot of ground in center, but could use a platoon partner to bat against tough lefties. Brantley is also a lefthanded bat, but last year he hit lefties at a .307 clip. Raburn could be the player ultimately platooning with Bourn, with Raburn playing left and Brantley covering his ground in center. Tyler Naquin is a name to watch around mid-season.

Right Field - The Indians are looking for 30 homeruns power from Brandon Moss at this position. His defense is a little spotty in right field so he needs to put up offensive numbers to be used there. Hip surgery may delay his outfield appearance. With Moss also hitting lefthanded Raburn could have more platoon opportunities against lefties. If Raburn continues his hitting struggles David Murphy is a fifth lefthanded bat in the outfield. The only other right handed bat on the 40 man roster is Tyler Holt, who worked his way up to AAA last year hitting .308. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power and is misplaced as a corner outfielder.

Designated Hitter - The declining glove of Nick Swisher makes the DH spot hit ideal for him in the majority of games. The Indians do not lack for candidates at this position, with Carlos Santana, Ryan Raburn and Brandon Moss all seeing opportunities here. Youngster Jesus Aguilar needs a spot in the lineup if he gets called up. His defense at first is not good.

Starting Pitching - Lots of promise for this pitching staff. They led the American League in strikeouts (1,450), beginning with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who struck out 269 hitters. Corey was two wins short of 20. Gavin Floyd was signed as a free agent to give the Indians depth in the rotation. His 2.65 ERA is good but his .266 opposition average shows he is hittable. The best pitcher the last two months of the season last year was Carlos Carrasco. Kluber and him would make a nice 1-2 if Carrasco can continue his success. One pitcher who could not build up on his 2013 success was Danny Salazar. He did not make the team out of spring training and had a vanilla type season (4.12 ERA) in the majors. Trevor Bauer was a first round pick of the Diamondbacks and is smart enough to piece together a drone. The fifth starter spot should be his. T.J. House, Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin all had starts for the Indians last year and will try to show Indians brass that they should get starts in 2015 or at least stick in the bullpen.

Closer - Cody Allen saved 24 games after taking over the closing job from John Axford. Cody is stingy in hits (.194 opposition average).

Other Relievers - Kyle Crockett was the first 2014 draft pick to see the major leagues. He is a pitcher to get lefthanded hitters out (.203). The 80 appearances for Bryan Shaw were tops in the American League, stifling right handed hitters to an opposition average of .168. Scott Atchinson (2.75) and Marc Rzepczynski (2.74) are two other pitchers who appeared in more than 70 games with ERAs less than 3.00. Marc is strictly a lefthanded specialist, allowing righties to rake him at a .338 clip. Spring training will find the other two bullpen arms.

2015 Rookies - If Francisco Lindor gets called up early enough he is a rookie of the year candidate. The longer the Indians delay his promotion the longer they can have him on their team in terms of service time. With all the lefthanded bats already in the lineup it may be tough for Tyler Naquin to find a role. The 2012 first round pick could take over in center field for Michael Bourn. At 25 years of age 2012 number one pick of the Cardinals James Ramsey is also ready to fill the major league outfield. Jesus Aguilar is a slugging first baseman who can provide power in the lineup. The Indians would have to see failure from Swisher and Raburn to give Aguilar an opportunity. Giovanny Urshela brings a good glove at third that also has some spark in his bat. Tony Wolters should make his catching debut in September if not earlier. He began his career as a shortstop but he has made great strides behind the plate, transforming into one of the better defensive catchers in the minor leagues.

2015 Finish - A wild card playoff is in the cards if Carrasco, Salazar and Bauer live up to potential. Another battle to stay above .500 if they falter. There are not enough quality arms the Indians can promote to the major leagues at the higher levels.

Top 100 Prospects 2015 - 100 - 91

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Who can be an expert on all the minor league prospects that play the game? Myworld knows our limitations. So we have taken the top 100 prospect list of Baseball America, MLB, Baseball Haven, Fangraphs, Prospectus and the Scouting Notebook and come up with our own rankings. The highest rated prospects not rated in the Top 100 by these six are:

Prospectus - Austin Meadows
Baseball America - Kohl Stewart
Fangraphs - Austin Hedges
Scouting - Aaron Blair (there list is fluid and changes each week)
MLB and Baseball Haven - Jake Thompson

The later the top 100 lists come out the more variant the rankings from the earlier 100 prospect lists, meaning the names can be very fluid as their status rises and falls within the organization. So with major leaguers reporting for spring training my world starts off with prospects 100-91

100. Nick Williams OF (Rangers) 1.23 - Drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2012 draft, Williams is expected to provide some power to the future of the Rangers offense. Lacking a strong arm and minus blazing speed he will probably be slotted in left field. He got a few games in at AA, hit 13 homeruns all in A ball and will probably start the season in AA. Making contact has been his biggest challenge with a 21/138 walk to whiff ratio. Those kind of variables can result in failure as the player tries to compete against more astute pitchers at the higher levels.

99. Trea Turner SS (Padres/Nationals) 1.3 - Unless he has a career shattering injury during the 2015 season he will be the player to be named later that allowed the Padres to acquire Wil Myers. He is just one of a list of players the Nationals can choose from when July rolls around, which happens to be the time Turner celebrates his obligatory year with the Padres. His arm may force a move to second, but the Nationals will use him at short. Trea was the Padres first round pick in 2014. What separates him from most players is his speed. Last year he stole 23 bases in 27 attempts in half a season. He also shined after a promotion to Low A where he hit .369 for the Fort Wayne Tincaps in 46 games. This should allow him to start the season in full season low A ball. He is not expected to hit for a lot of power, but should be a leadoff hitter that has success setting the table for the power hitters.

98. Hunter Dozier 3B (Royals) 1.33 - The Royals 2013 first round pick. He was moved from shortstop to third base where a strong arm should be enough for the position. If his 6′4″ frame becomes too big for the position he could always move to a corner outfield. He would have the arm to play right field. His bat is projected to hit for power and last year was his first season in a full season league. He started out at Low A then moved to AA. His power has yet to show with only eight homeruns between the two levels and slugging averages of less than .500. Struggles in AA last year (.209 average) will probably mean a repeat at that level to start the season. He has the patience to take a lot of walks, but he also has a tendency to strike out about once each game. Perhaps a more aggressive approach at the plate will increase his power numbers.

97. Raisel Iglesias RHP (Reds) 1.37 - He was a closer in Cuba but the Reds think he has enough pitches to make the starting rotation. The Reds already have a Cuban closer in Aroldis Chapman. Raisel does not throw as hard as Aroldis. Myworld saw him hit the mid-90s in North Carolina, but he tends to sit in the low 90s. In Cuba he did show command problems, walking nearly five hitters per nine innings for Isla de las Juventud. In the Arizona Fall League he appeared in seven games, all in relief, did not give up a run in seven innings while walking three and allowing just one hit. It was an impressive debut, but the command issues still showed. Iglesias may start the season in the minors to acclimate his arm for the starting rotation. If his command does not improve he could still work out of the bullpen.

96. Dilson Herrera 2B (Mets) 1.4 - Originally signed by the Pirates out of Colombia he was traded to the Mets last year to help out with their playoff race. He was the player to be named later after the Marlon Byrd trade. The Pirates used him as a second baseman, but the Mets used him at shortstop for eight games after they acquired him. Last year was a nice break out season for him where he hit .323 with 13 homeruns and stole 23 bases in 30 attempts at both A and AA. He could make an impact with the Mets by mid-season in 2015 if he continues to hit at the same pace he did last year. The Mets have more of a need at short than second.

95. Daniel Robertson SS (Rays) 1.53 - Daniel Robertson was a first round pick of the Athletics in 2012, the 34th player selected in the draft. The Athletics included him in the trade to acquire Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. Last year Robertson had career highs in batting average (.310), homeruns (15) and walks (72). Some question whether his lack of range will allow him to stay at short, but last year he showed a power bat that makes a move to third a possibility. The Rays do have better defensive options at short with Hak-Ju Lee, but his bat pales in comparison to Robertson. After his success at High A Robertson should start the season this year at AA.

94. Domingo Santana OF (Astros) 1.58 - Santana was the player to be named later from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade. His physical appearance is like many rightfielders nowadays, at 6′5″, which creates a big strike zone. That posed some problems for Santana when he had a brief 17 at bat promotion to the major leagues and struck out in 14 of them. He did hit .269 with 16 homeruns and weaved together a 64/149 walk to whiff ratio in 120 AAA games. There is promise. But there will also be a lot of swings and misses. He will probably have to repeat in AAA. Unless the Astros move George Springer to center field Santana may be more trade bait than future Astros right fielder.

93. Alexander Reyes RHP (Cardinals) 1.6 - The Cardinals signed Reyes for $950,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, though he grew up in New Jersey. His fastball can cross the plate in the high 90s but tends to sit in the low to mid 90s. At 6′3″ he also has good height for a pitcher. Last year was his first full season in a full season league where he got 21 starts to eat up 109 innings. He had some command issues with 5 walks per nine innings, but he also struck out just over 11 per nine. There were not a lot of hitters making contact when he was on the mound. The opposition batting average against him was .207.

92. Reese McGuire C (Pirates) 1.6 - The Pirates first round pick in 2013. There have been a lot of failures with high school catchers drafted in the first round. At the 14th pick he was the highest drafted high school catcher in five years. He excels on defense, working well with pitchers and calling a game. The bat is what will get him to the major leagues. In his first crack at the full season league his power was lacking (.334) and he struggled against lefthanders (.225) at Low A. The Pirates will allow him to develop slowly, giving him a full year in High A in 2015. They hope some power develops. He has good speed for a catcher stealing seven bases in nine attempts.

91.Alen Hansen SS/2B (Pirates) 1.6 - He was a bargain price signing for $90,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. He has a volatile personality, feuding with two managers already in his minor league career. His arm is also suspected of being a bit short to stick at shortstop. Alen had a breakout year with Gregory Polanco a couple years ago, but a crowded middle infield and errors have prevented him from being promoted as quickly. He made 29 errors last year at short, adding another four at second base in 17 games. His bat is as volatile as his personality with a .768 OPS that included 21 doubles, 12 triples and 11 homeruns. He needs to do a better job stealing bases with 25 steals in 36 attempts. He also needs to do a better job making peace with his managers.

Cepeda Reports to Yomiuri Giants

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Frederich Cepeda has reported to the Yomiuri Giants of the NPB for spring training. While other Cuban players contracted out to Japanese clubs such as Yulieski Gourriel and Alfredo Despaigne continue to battle it out in the round robin final eight Cepeda can play a full season for the Giants. His team, the Sancti Spiritus Roosters failed to make the playoffs. If another team picked him up for the final eight round robin matches, they apparently have allowed him to go to Japan. The other players may not be able to report until mid-April and may need some ni-gun playing time to acclimate themselves to the Japanese pitching.

Last year Cepeda had a poor year in the NPB, being relegated to pinch hitting duties as the season wore on. His batting average stayed anchored below .200 (.194) but he did show some power with six homeruns. He hopes to improve on that performance in 2015 but he will be 35 years old, an age when most players offensive prowess goes down.

He did hit well upon his return to Cuba, but made only 13 starts, hitting .325 with two homeruns. His team finished one off from making the final eight. These eight teams are allowed to draft five players from clubs that did not make the playoffs, but myworld can not see where Cepeda got selected.

His bat did come alive in the Series del Caribe played in February, especially the game against Venezuela where he was a homerun short of the cycle. His offensive outburst won him the MVP of the Series del Caribe. The Yomiuri Giants hope he makes a bigger impact for them in 2015 than in 2014. They have two other foreign offensive players on the roster in Jose Lopez and Leslie Anderson. They also have Scott Mathieson for their bullpen. That is the maximum number of foreign players on their roster. If they wanted to sign another foreign pitcher they would probably choose to release one of their foreign bats since Japan allows only four foreign players on a roster.

Fighters Name Otani Opening Day Starter

Friday, February 20th, 2015

The Nippon Ham Fighters have named 20 year old Shohei Otani their opening day starter. The most revered opening day starter for the Fighters was Yu Darvish, who started five opening day games, winning just one, with one tie and three losses. The only impediment for Otani to reach five opening day starts is injury, or an early posting to the major leagues.

Japan is always big on symbolism. The Fighter manager Hideki Kuriyama waited until 11:11 to announce the news. Why did he wait until 11:11? Because that is the uniform number worn by Otani. He also gave Otani a three page letter on his expectations for him for the 2015 season. You won’t see any major league manager do that for a franchise player.

To see the interview with Otani on his reaction to the announcement you can view the link below:

Otani