Archive for March, 2015

Braves Out Slug Astros

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The first two times the Braves played the Astros at Osceola Stadium they played to a 2-2 tie. The Braves left nothing in question when they scored 12 runs in three innings to pummel the Astros 14-10. The Astros made the game close by scoring the last six runs, including four in the last inning, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play to end the game.

Scott Feldman got the start for the Astros and threw batting practice. The Braves collected four hits and a walk in the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead. The bats continued to rake in the third inning, Andrelton Simmons blasting a double over the head of Rob Grossman to drive in two runs and giving the Braves a 5-0 lead. Simmons finished the day with four RBIs.

Mike Foltynewicz was supposed to get the start for the Braves, but with the rain he was scratched. Michael Kohn replaced him on the mound but only pitched one innng, getting out of trouble by coaxing Evan Gattis to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. James Russell worked four innings, but allowed the Astros to score their first two runs in the third on a Evan Gattis two run homerun into left field. A Robbie Grossman single in the fourth drove in another run and a throw by Eury Perez skipped past Chris Johnson allowing a second run to score in the inning. Russell settled down after that to shut down the Astros for the next two innings.

The Braves knocked out Feldman with five runs in three innings. Jake Buchanon was not any better in the fourth. Five of the first six hitters raked him for singles, including the third hit of the game by Zoilo Almonte. The Braves tagged on four runs in the inning. It got worse in the fifth when the Braves scored five runs off Darin Downs, with doubles from Eric Young Jr. and Eury Perez and a triple by Pedro Ciriaco.

Down 14-2, the same score the Astros beat Pittsburgh by the previous day, the Astros rallied for two runs in the seventh and four in the ninth to make the game close. Double plays hit by Max Stassi and Carlos Correa ended both innings. Ryan Kelly could not get anyone out in the ninth inning, allowing four hits and a walk. Aaron Kurcz came on in the ninth to get the last three outs to preserve the victory for the Braves.

Game Notes: It was a wet and drizzling start to the game, but after the first inning the drizzle stopped…Jason Castro wipes out the chalk lines to the left and right of him behind home plate before the start of the game, nullifying all the chalk work done by the grounds crew…Eric Young Jr. continues to impress with three hits from the leadoff spot…Josh Fields was taken out of the game after facing only his second batter of the inning…Nick Markakis made his debut and lined a double into the right centerfield gap in his second at bat…The Braves scored 14 runs and collected 18 hits in the first five innings. The last four innings the Astro bullpen gave up no runs on one hit…Jesus Flores played the whole game for the Braves behind the plate and went 0 for 5…Todd Coffey came on to pitch the seventh inning and gave up two runs on three hits.

Dodgers Sign Cuban for $8 Million

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

The Dodgers paid $8 million for a Cuban not named Hector Olivera or Yadier Alvares. Per Baseball America the ex-Holquin Dogs pitcher Pablo Millan Fernandez was signed by the Dodgers for a $8 million bonus. Because he is 25 years old he doesn’t count against the penalty for international bonuses. The trainers changed his multiple arm slots to just one arm slot, increasing his fastball from the high 80s to the low 90s. He also throws a slider, curve and change.

Pablo was only a reliever for the Holquin Dogs in the Cuban League. He is a player myworld was vaguely familiar with but will not make a big impact in the major leagues. Since major league teams have three years to pay bonus payments, the Dodgers have signed Fernandez to a contract between $2 and $3 million per year. At 25 years old he will begin the season probably in AA.

Nationals - 2015

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

General - This is the last of our analysis of the 30 major league teams. The Nationals are the team favored by Las Vegas to win the World Series. This comes about after the signing of Max Scherzer. The last thing the Nationals needed was another starting pitcher to add to Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark. Tanner will move to the bullpen. The bullpen is expected to be the weakest point on the Nationals team after the departures of Rafael Soriano and the trades of Tyler Clippard and Ross Detwiler. Youth will be expected to do more. Depth in the bench could also be a problem, with a lack of lefthanded bats to protect a predominantly right handed lineup. The Nationals have also been hit early by injuries, with Denard Span and Jayson Werth expected to miss some time early in the season. It is always easier to play as the underdog. The Yankees learned that it is tough when fans expect nothing short of a World Series victory for the end of the season result. With the Nationals starting pitching fans expect nothing less than a World Series victory.

2015 Additions - The big signing was Max Scherzer. It’s not like the Nationals really needed help with their starting pitching but it has made them the favorite to win the World Series. They have also addressed some of their free agent losses by signing Casey Janssen to address their bullpen needs and trading with the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, further depleting their pen in the acquisition, but adding a body for second base. Tony Gwynn Jr. was signed as a free agent to address their injuries in the outfield at the beginning of the season. A number of extra players were also traded to replenish their minor league system, but one of those players Stephen Souza could have filled the role expected from Tony Gwynn Jr.

Catcher - Wilson Ramos has not been able to complete a season the last couple years without missing significant time because of injuries. He would be considered one of the better catchers in the league if he could find more at bats to pad his numbers. He is also one of the slowest runners in the game because of constant hamstring injuries. Jose Lobaton was acquired last year from the Rays to be a backup who could also start for short spells. He doesn’t have the bat of Ramos, but plays solid defense. Another catcher is needed to be a backup to the backup once Ramos goes down and that job will be held by Sandy Leon. He is also known as a defensive catcher with little offensive upside.

First Base - Adam LaRoche was allowed to leave as a free agent to give the job to Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman could no longer make the throw to first base and missed significant time because of shoulder injuries. First base should allow him to stay healthy and hit 30 plus homers. Ryan is one of the clutch hitters for the Nationals. With the shortage of outfielders Tyler Moore should make the team as a backup outfielder/firstbaseman. Last year he struggled with his offensive game. Kevin Fransden will be the backup here if Tyler Moore again struggles in his offensive game. Look for Matt Skoles to be given an opportunity if Tyler struggles again with his bat.

Second Base - Another position they needed to fill after the departure of Asdrubel Cabrera. It cost the Nationals Tyler Clippard to fill the second base job. Yunel Escobar is primarily a shortstop, but so was Cabrera. Escobar should provide the same type of production as Escobar. The Nationals were not confident about giving the job to Danny Espinosa. He is best used in a utility role. When he plays too much the holes in his swing are exposed. Kevin Fransden can also play here, but he does not have the defensive game of Escobar or Espinosa.

Shortstop - Ian Desmond will be a free agent after this year. His power numbers are impressive for a shortstop, but his strikeout numbers keep rising the more years he plays. Last year he stole as many bases as he hit homeruns (24). With a good year he has the potential to put together a 30/30 season, especially if he can reduce his strikeouts. Free agency could be his motivation. Danny Espinosa will be the backup instead of Escobar. Espinosa is smooth defensively but struggles with the bat. If Desmond is out for an extended period Espinosa would be the replacement at short to allow Escobar to get used to second base.

Third Base - Anthony Rendon is better off at third base, where his defense is much better. He has the potential to have the most potent bat on the team and his defense reminds fans of Ryan Zimmerman in his prime. The Nationals hope he plays 150 plus games. Kevin Fransden will be the primary back up here. If he is injured for an extended period Ryan Zimmerman could always move back to third to allow Moore or Skoles to play first. Third base depth is a problem.

Left Field - Jayson Werth will move from right field to left field because his shoulder injuries give him less of an arm than Harper. Jayson continues to show a potent bat (.292), especially against lefthanders (.331) but at 36 years old he is expected to miss more time because of injuries. Tyler Moore can play left field and he will be the option against lefthanders. His defense is suspect so he needs to hit to get playing time. Nate Mclouth will see time against righthanders. Nate is a solid defensive alternative. He may also miss the start of the season so lefthanded bats Mike Carp or Tony Gwynn Jr. are vying for this spot.

Centerfield - Denard Span is the Nationals leadoff hitter and one of the better defensive players in centerfield. His OBA of .355 will be missed the first month of the season. The Nationals hope Michael Taylor can fill the job for the first month. If he falls short the choices are slim. Nate McLouth has played centerfield, but he may also miss the start of the season. His bat against lefthanded pitching is suspect. The Nationals could always move Bryce Harper to centerfield but his defense is suspect there. That would also put a suspect defensive player in right. If Michael Taylor does well once Denard Span returns Michael could get at bats rotating around the outfield to rest the legs of Jayson Werth, hit against tough lefthanders for Bryce Harper and Denard Span.

Right Field - Bryce Harper has the stronger arm and will move to right field. He may be the only lefthanded bat in the lineup, which should give him an opportunity to face a number of righthanders. Expect a big year of 30 plus homers if he can stay healthy. When he needs a rest Tyler Moore could play here against tough lefthanders, or Michael Taylor once Denard Span returns.

Starting Pitching - The Nationals starting rotation looks like an All Star team. It would be difficult to find just one ace. If the offense is there and the bullpen protects leads all five of these pitchers could approach 20 wins. Jordan Zimmermann has to be considered the ace after the year he had last year (14-5, 2.66). He walked 1.31 hitters per nine innings. Max Scherzer replaced Justin Verlander as the ace of the Tigers staff but he could also find himself an ace for the Nationals (18-5, 3.15). He struck out 252 hitters. Stephen Strasburg would be the ace on many teams, but with the Nationals he is a number three starter. His numbers are almost the same as Scherzer with a 14-11, 3.14 ERA and 242 whiffs. Doug Fister matched Zimmermann with his control (1.32 walks per nine innings) and led the Nationals pitchers in wins (16-6) and ERA (2.41). The fifth starter Gio Gonzalez was their ace a couple years ago. His Achilles heel is command, but his .230 opponent average is better than any of the other four starting pitchers. Gio is also the only lefthander in the rotation. If an injury happens to any of their starters the Nationals still have Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.85) who was one of their best starters last season, ready to perform. In the minor leagues Taylor Hill, Taylor Jordan and Lucas Giolito are ready for mid-season promotions. With Fister and Zimmermann eligible for free agency after this season their best bet may be for 2016.

Closer - Drew Storen had a good year (1.12 ERA) taking over the closing role from Rafael Soriano towards the end of the season. The issue for him is an inability to close out playoff games. He gave up the tying run in the ninth inning of a game the Giants eventually won in 18 innings 2-1. Two years ago he melted in a closing role against the Cardinals. The Nationals signed Casey Janssen as insurance. Casey saved 25 games last year for the Blue Jays, but like Soriano he was ineffective towards the end of the season. Blake Treinen could be a long shot with his 97-98 mile per hour fastball.

Other Relievers - The Nationals hope Casey Janssen replaces Tyler Clippard in the setup role. They also hope to see more contribution from Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett from the right side and Matt Thornton from the left side. Craig Stammen is a veteran who can pitch multiple innings. Jerry Blevins had some rough appearances. Righthanders hit .298 off him while lefties hit .160. He may have to turn into a lefthanded specialist. Jordan and Hill may see some time in the bullpen before they get the opportunity to start in 2016.

2015 Rookies - Michael Taylor has an opportunity to show he belongs in the major leagues after an injury to Denard Span will force him to miss April. The Nationals will need to ensure he can get enough at bats as a fourth outfielder to stick. A.J. Cole is still quite a bit down in the depth chart for an opportunity to start a game, but he could work out of the bullpen. With his stuff he needs to miss more bats. Taylor Hill may not have the stuff of Cole but he is higher up in the depth chart for an opportunity in the starting rotation based on last year’s AAA performance (11-7, 2.81). Matt Skole is a power bat who hit 14 homeruns in AA. He can play both first and third, though his defense last year at third was pretty horrible.

2015 Finish - There are no teams in the NL East that can challenge the Nationals for the NL East now that the Braves are in a rebuilding mode. How far the team advances in the playoffs will be dependent on how good their situational hitting is. Last year the starters shut down the Giants bats, but the Nationals bats were more inept.

Carter, Astros Spank Fumbling Pirates

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Chris Carter was a triple short of hitting for the cycle in his three at bats and the Pirates threw two balls away in an eight run fifth inning in the Astros 14-2 win. Colby Rasmus also went deep and Roberto Hernandez and Dan Straily each went four innings giving up one run each.

Charlie Morton got off to a good start, retiring the Astros in order in the first inning. In the second inning Chris Carter got the inning started with a single. Jedd Lowrie followed with a single. With runners on first and third and one out Jonathan Villar laced a line drive into right centerfield to drive in two runs, stopping at third with a triple. Hank Conger hit a line drive to shallow left field, caught by Steve Lombardozzi, who did not bother to attempt a throw home on a Villar tag up.

Carter homered in the fourth and Colby Rasmus hit a solo shot in the fifth off Charlie Morton. The Pirates scored their first run in the fifth on a lead off single by Gregory Polanco that glanced off the glove of a diving Chris Carter. A wild pitch moved him to second, a flyball advanced him to third and he scored on a ground ball to first.

The Astros destroyed the Pirates in the fifth. Morton was finally removed after giving up a double to Carter that barely eluded the glove of shortstop Jody Mercer and found itself rolling to the wall. Charlie Leesman replaced Morton and could not get the first four hitters out. The Pirates were also terrible with their throws from the outfield. Hank Conger blasted a double into the left centerfield gap and when the throw home got past the catcher no one was backing up the throw, allowing Conger to trot home with a Little League homerun. Before the inning ended seven different players had gotten hits and the score was 13-1. A Gregory Polanco throw home went ten feet to the third base side of home.

The solo homerun by Jody Mercer in the sixth meant little. The Astros scored their last run in the seventh on back to back two out doubles from Max Stassi and Gregorio Petit off John Holdzkom.

James Hoyt finished the game for the Astros striking out the last four hitters he faced. He could have cemented a roster spot with this outing.

Game Notes: Jonathan Villar played third base in this game as he continued to increase his flexibility. He turned two in the first inning and contributed two hits…The dizzy bat race created some excitement when the contestant ran into the first base coach watching near the dugout. The Astros used to race the tricycles past home plate until one of the riders ran into the coaches sitting on the seats just outside the first base dugout. Now the bicycle race is held out by the left field warning track. It will be interesting to see if they move the dizzy bat race out into left field…John Holdzcom is a big dude. He also threw strikes. His size alone can intimidate hitters…Jaff Decker, not noted for his defense was out in centerfield for the Pirates. The Pirates also stick Willy Garcia, another player with defensive problems out in centerfield.

CPBL Opens Season to Record Crowds

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

The China Professional Baseball League opened its season to the largest crowd in its history. There were 18,413 on hand to see the defending champion LaMigo Monkeys get beaten by the Chinatrust Brother Elephants 7-3 in Taoyuan International Stadium. The stadium is the home park for the Monkeys and can hold 20,000, so it was just short of a sell out.

In the CPBL four teams play two 60 game halves. The winner of each half plays a seven game series for the championship. If the same team wins both halves then you have a wild card series between the teams with the second and third best overall records compete in a best of five series. The winner then plays the team who won both halves, beginning the series down one game to zero.

The four teams in the CPBL are the defending champion LaMiga Monkeys, the Chinatrust Brother Elephants, the Uni-President Seven Eleven Lions and the EDA Rhinos.

The best years for the CPBL were between 1993-1995 when total end of season attendance went over 1.5 million. In 2013 CPBL attendance fell just short of 1.5 million, fueled by the arrival of Manny Ramirez. Attendance dropped last year to 1.2 million. The 2013 season saw the second largest average daily attendance of 6,079, eclipsed only by the average daily attendance in 1992 (6,878).

Braves Minor Leaaguers Beat the Nationals Minor Leaguers

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Normally when two teams have split squad games the home team leaves some of their better players to play in front of their fans. Not this match. One kid looking at the lineup whined “I don’t know any of these players. I want to go home.” The father, who had paid $40 each for these tickets tried to convince his son that these were still major leaguers. “They suck,” he continued to whine. Champion Park became a minor league park with major league prices for this game.

That is how it has been in Florida. Ticket prices seem higher, crowds appear to be smaller and the recognizable names in the lineup seem to be less. All of this is anecdotal evidence, but the whining has been more prevalent where the lineups are shown. “Whatever happened to the four starter rule,” more than one fan has been heard to say as they try to figure out who the four starters are for the game today.

With a split squad it is more difficult to find four starters for each game. For the Nationals, who have two/thirds of their outfield injured and their third baseman out with a sore knee, they have few starters healthy.

The Nationals did jump to 2-0 lead in the game, pitcher Taylor Jordan getting things started with a single off Eric Stults to begin the third. Michael Taylor stroked his second hit of the day into left field, with each runner advancing a base on a wild pitch. A ground out to short by Kevin Fransden scored the first run and a Mike Carp single that ate up shortstop Pedro Ciriaco drove in the second run.

The Braves took the lead off an ineffective Evan Meek. Alberto Callaspo started the fourth inning off with a single and Kelly Johnson doubled off the left centerfield wall. Callaspo was held at third, a little out of breath. Johnny Gomes drove in both with a broken bat bloop single over the head of the shortstop. A walk to A.J. Pierzynski and a single by Todd Cunningham drove in the third run to break a 2-2 tie. Meek was finally able to retire the last three hitters of the inning to limit the damage.

The Braves mauled the Nationals for two more runs off Bruce Billings in the seventh. Three straight singles by Jose Constanza, Cedric Hunter and Pedro Ciriaco scored two runs. Constanza stole second after his single and scored on a Cedric Hunter pinch hit single. Hunter advanced to second on the throw and scored on Ciriaco’s single.

Game Notes: Tyler Moore struck out twice with a runner on third and less than two out…Pedro Ciriaco had a rough day at shortstop. Though he was not charged with any errors, he bounced a couple balls to first and had one eat him up for an RBI single. The Braves are using him at shortstop to see if he can fulfill the utility role…Blake Treinen needed only five pitches to retire the side in order in the fifth. None of the Brave hitters hit the ball out of the infield and his velocity was reading 97-98 on the radar…Juan Jaime was another pitcher hitting 98 on the radar. Jaime tends to have command issues, but he retired the Nationals in order on six pitches…Michael Kohn put a runner on third with one out, but struck out both Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson to prevent the Nationals from scoring…Eric Stults pitched the first five innings to get the win.

Final Four Teams in Cuba

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

After the round robin it is now down to four teams competing for the 54th Nacional Series championship. Matanzas will play Isla de la Juventud and Granma will play Ciego de Avila. Below are the players to watch in the final four. Only one of the four teams playing in the final four has won a Cuban championship.

Matanzas

They have yet to win a championship. Last year they were the best team in Cuba but lost in the playoffs. They hope to change that this year.

Hitters

Yadiel Hernandez is second in the league in hitting (.368) and has 77 walks. He hits for enough power to put together a .535 slugging average.

Yasiel Santoya is another big bat (.335) with a few more RBIs (58) than Hernandez, putting him second in the league if you exclude players from Granma.

Luis Yander La O moved to shortstop after the departure of Dainer Moreira. His .326 average gets him on base but his 11 to 23 success rate in stolen bases gets him off the bases too.

Alexei Bell provides the power for the team with eight homeruns and a .520 slugging.

Ariel Sanchez is the fifth player on the team to bat over .300 (.301), six if you count the departed Dainer.

Yurisbel Gracial led the league in stolen bases with 24.

Pitchers

Cionel Perez led all pitchers in ERA (2.06) in 17 starts finishing with a 7-2 record.

Jonder Martinez would be considered the ace with a 12-4 record and a 2.78 ERA. He is usually an automatic selection for the National team.

Yoanni Yera is another top hurler (12-6, 3.44). He was second in the league in whiffs (101).

Felix Fuentes (3-2, 3.13, 5 saves), Adrian Rajiv (7-2, 2.77, 5 saves) and Yohan Hernandez (2-2, 4.89, 5 saves) have been used in a closer role. Adrian tops the league in appearances with 41.

Isla de la Juventud

Isla de la Juventud is another team who has not won a championship. They have normally been basement dwellers until the mid 1990s when they start competing for playoff contention, but never taking a championship.

Hitting

Michel Enriquez is third in the league in hitting (.367). A tough player to strikeout with a 32/9 walk to whiff ratio in over to 250 at bats.

Yusniel Ibanez put together nine triples and hit .334. His 9 triples were tops in the league.

Rigoberto Gomez was a perfect 10 for 10 in steal chances and hit .325. His power was absent.

Luis Felipe Rivera hit .314.

Jorge Luis Barcelan is tied for third in the league in doubles (20), hit nine homeruns and batted .307.

Pitching

Ulfrido Garcia got into double digits in wins (10-9) with a 3.82 ERA.

Darien Nunez (7-9, 4.19), Yoalkis Cruz (7-7, 4.71) and Luis Manuel Suarez (4-7, 4.84) are the other nondescript starters.

Danni Aguilera doesn’t lose (9-0) and picks up saves (11) in his closer role (1.49 ERA)

Granma

Another team who has not won a championship. Granma has the top four players in RBIs, but their stadium is a real hitter’s park. Yoenis Cespedes upped his homerun total playing in Granma.

Hitters

Alfredo Despaigne would be the easy triple crown winner if he had not gotten such a late start to the season (.405, 17,70). Jose Abreu is the last player who can make a Triple Crown claim. His .762 slugging average is light years ahead of the other players in the league.

Urmani Guerra (.315, 21, 76) leads the league in homeruns and RBIs, but has many more games played than Alfredo. Yordanis Samon (.336, 4, 71) is second in the league in RBIs and Guillermo Aviles (.300, 12, 69) is fourth in the league in RBIs.

Yordanis Alarcon is another slugger on the team with a good average (.331, 10, 53).

Lazaro Alfredo Cedeno (.306, 15, 53) is third on the team in homeruns.

Roel Santos (.355) and Adrian Moreno (.322) are one/two in the league in runs scored at 85/73. Adrian led the league in doubles with 25.

Pitchers

Lazaro Blanco led the league in wins with a 14-5 record, though his 3.45 ERA was negatively impacted by the short park.

Alain Tamayo (6-8, 3.71) is the other top pitcher in the rotation.

Ciro Silvino (4-1, 3.79) is the closer with 9 saves

Ciego de Avila

Ciego is the only team in the final four with a championship. Their championship was in 2012.

Hitting

Jose Garcia (.321, 12, 53) is their top hitter. Osvaldo Vazquez (.312), Raul Gonzalez (.293) and Yoelvis Fiss (.291) are three other hitters to watch.

Humberto Morales (.298, 11) and Yeniet Perez (.267, 10) also provide some power in the lineup in addition to Fiss (11 homeruns) and Garcia.

Pitching

Ismel Jimenez is considered one of the top pitchers in the league (11-4). His 2.30 ERA was third in the league.

Yander Guevara (10-5, 3.52) is another top starter in the rotation.

Yadir Rabi (4-2, 2.56, 7 saves) shares the closer role with Yunier Cano (10-5, 3.01, 6 saves)

Harper Goes Deep in Nationals Win

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Bryce Harper went deep in the Nationals 7-5 win over the Astros. Max Scherzer also made his second start at Osceola Stadium, going five innings and allowing just one run. In nine innings in his two starts at Osceola he has allowed just one run. Jason Castro took Scherzer deep in the fourth inning.

The Nationals took advantage of the wildness of Samuel Deduno in the first inning. Tony Gwynn Jr. started the inning with a walk and Danny Espinosa drove Deduno deep to right center, hitting the top of the wall to score Gwynn. Two singles and two walks later the Nationals had a 4-0 lead. Deduno was still not sharp in the second inning walking one and giving up a double, but preventing a run from scoring. He may have lost an opportunity to win the fifth spot with this start.

Bryce Harper and Jason Castro exchanged homeruns in the fourth. Xavier Cedeno replaced Scherzer in the sixth and Luis Valbuena greeted Cedeno with a two run homerun to pull the Astros within two, 5-3.

Kila Ka’ailue took Asher Wojciechowski deep in the seventh to extend their lead to 6-3, a line drive that carried ten feet inside the right field foul pole. Despite the homerun, Asher pitched effectively, going three innings in relief and allowing only two hits, both in the seventh inning. He did give up six fly ball outs, something that may hurt him pitching in Houston.

Two errors by the Nationals allowed the Astros to score two more runs in the eighth. Heath Bell came in to start the game and did not retire a batter, though he was the victim of two National errors. Clint Robinson had a ball bounce of his leg on a grounder to first and Derrick Robinson ran back for a ball hit to deep center and had it clank off his glove. A sacrifice fly by Max Stassi scored a second run, but Carlos Correa ended the inning by grounding into a double play.

Kila drove in his second run of the game by ripping a double down the right field line in the ninth to make the score 7-5.

Game Notes: The Nationals had two runners thrown out on the bases by ten feet or more. In the third inning Dan Uggla tried to tag up on a shallow fly ball to right field but George Springer threw him out at third by about 20 feet. In the ninth inning Kila Ka’ailue tried to score from second on a line drive single to left field by Sandy Leon and was thrown out at home by Alex Presley by at least 10 feet. There is risk and there is stupidity…With a 3-2 count on Harper in the second inning the Astros put all four infielders on the right side. Deduno threw a pitch outside, but Harper took it for ball four…The Astros walked six batters in the first three innings. They walked just two in the last six innings…Colby Rasmus failed to make contact in his one plate appearance against a lefthander (Jeremy Blevins).

2015 Top Ten Australian Prospects

Friday, March 20th, 2015

This is always the most challenging top ten list for myworld to put together. Only two players are really prospects. There are some veterans who are borderline journeymen players and there are some real young players who have played at too low a level to show case their tools. Myworld might be better off throwing darts at names on a dart board to make up the list.

One of the players who made the list last year, Pita Rona was released by the Orioles. Another player on the list from last year Corey Adamson retired to play Australian League football. A third player, Rory Rhodes the Twins released. At 6′10″ Rhodes would have been one of the tallest position players in the major leagues if he could have advanced.

1. Lewis Thorpe LHP (Twins) - He repeats the list as the number one Australian prospect. The Twins paid $500,000 to get him to play in the Minnesota farm system. His fastball has decent velocity for a lefthander, hitting 91-92, with a change, curve and slider three other pitches in his repertoire. Last year was his first season in a full season league and he held up well. The Twins limited the number of pitches Lewis threw in a game and his lack of command prevented him from going past the fifth inning in many of his starts. Lewis did strike out 10 hitters per nine innings and limited the opposition to a .232 average. On the down side he walked 4.5 hitters per nine innings. He should begin the 2015 season in High A Florida State League, which is a pitcher’s league.

2. Zach Shepherd 3B (Tigers) - Zach moved up from the sixth spot last year. He also moved positions, switching from shortstop to third base. The Tigers signed him for $325,000 in 2012. At third base he will have to show a little more power. He has the ability to play a solid defense there, but his power is currently lacking. This may come as he gets stronger. Last year he hit .301 with a slugging average of .497. The rookie Gulf Coast League was his professional debut. He won’t turn 20 until September so he could see another repeat at a more advanced rookie league, or with a good spring he could find himself in a full season league. He only hit .227 for the 21 and under Australian team, committing five errors in seven games. In the ABL he played shortstop hitting .227 with 6 homeruns.

3. Daniel McGrath LHP (Red Sox) - Daniel signed in 2012 for $400,000. He doesn’t have much of a fastball so he needs to rely on location to be effective. Last year he walked close to 5 hitters per nine innings, which led to a disappointing season where his ERA rose to 4.07. Hitters still had a rough time making contact with an opposition average of .223. He should see a bump in the High A Carolina League in 2015.

4. Warwick Saupold RHP (Tigers) - Warwick got a late start to his professional career, signing a couple years ago as a 23 year old. Last year he repeated AA and performed worse than he did the previous year. His ERA was close to two runs higher (5.01) and he continued to struggle with his control (4.18 walks per nine innings). Warwick did a better job of achieving a 2 to 1 walk to whiff ratio (65/125). The Tigers may use him out of the bullpen if he shows some success in the minor leagues. Right handers only hit him at a .247 clip.

5. Sam Gibbons RHP (Twins) - This is where we start throwing the darts on the board. Sam was one of the top pitchers on the Team Australia under 21 team starting two games. He did not give up an earned run in those two starts, but the opposition did hit .323 against him. The eventual champion Taiwan team hit him pretty good for nine hits in his four innings of work. For the Twins he pitched in rookie ball and handled himself well, walking less than three hitters per nine innings and striking out close to nine. The opposition only hit .259 against him and he was 4-5, 3.88. In the ABL he had four solid starts (1.69 ERA) for the Melbourne Aces. The 6′4″ righthander has a fastball that can reach the mid-90s, which is good velocity for a pitcher from Australia.

6. Sam Street RHP (Pirates) - Sam Street was a 16th round pick of the Pirates in the 2014 draft. He closed for the Pirates rookie league team in Jamestown, picking up five saves and weaving together a 0.98 ERA. His walk to whiff ratio was an impressive 1.3/6.8 with an equally impressive .135 opposition average in 16 games. He also closed for the Australia 21 and under team, appearing in two games and allowing just one unearned run. The opposition also found him just as difficult to hit with a .111 average, a double in 9 at bats. His velocity is lacking (mid 80s) but it should pick up as he matures. Sam relies more on command and a slider change mix to get hitters out. This may not work as he rises to the higher levels.

7. Robbie Perkins C (Rockies) - He was the top hitter on the 21 and under Australia team, hitting .346 with four walks in seven games. He also committed four errors. Robbie did not show the same success in the rookie league last year hitting only .202 with 42 whiffs in 38 games. His stolen base success rate improved from last season by 16 percentage points to 35 per cent. He was signed in 2012 out of the Australian baseball academy. Next year Robbie hopes to begin the season in a full season league.

8. Sam Kennelly 2B/SS (Pirates) - Most of the Kennelly brothers (Tim, Matt and Josh) have been signed by major league teams to become catchers. They have climbed through the major league ranks but appear to fall just short of seeing a major league career, though Josh at 20 years old has yet to begin his trek. Sam is the youngest of the foursome who made his debut last year in the rookie league as an infielder, hitting .284. The Pirates rotated him between second and short last year. He did record an impressive 16/17 walk to whiff ratio with a .388 OBA. He signed with the Pirates in 2012 for $225,000.

9. Lachlan Wells LHP (Twins) - The Twins only recently (2014) signed Lachlan to a minor league contract. The 17 year old can already hit 92 miles per hour from his left arm. He has yet to pitch in the minor leagues, but saw four starts in the ABL, going 0-1, 6.75 ERA. A bit young for the league as a 17 year old, his 11/12 walk to whiff ratio will improve with more experience. The wildness continued to show itself in his two starts with the 21 and under National team with a 7/10 walk to whiff ratio, but he still limited the opposition to three runs in 9 innings. Expect him to start his professional career in a short season league some time in July.

10. Sam Holland RHP (Padres) - Holland is another member of the 21 and under Australian World Cup team. In three appearances he did not allow any runs and limited the opposition to a .105 average. He has been used strictly in relief in the ABL and for the Padres. The 21 year old held his own in the ABL (3.24 ERA) in his rookie season and has put together two solid short season campaigns (2.35 ERA in 54 appearances). His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the high 80’s but at 6′4″ his plane still gets him close to 11 whiffs per nine innings. The 2015 season should be his first in a full season league.

To view the list from last year go to the link below:

2014 top Ten Prospects from australia

Final Four for Cuban League Finalized

Friday, March 20th, 2015

The round robin phase of the Nacional Series in Cuba has been completed and the winner is the Matanzas Crocodiles. They will do battle against the fourth place team the Isla de la Juventud Pirates.

The second and third place teams are the Granma Stallions versus the Ciego de Avila Tigers. Granma has Alfredo Despaigne on the team so this will delay his arrival to the Japanese professional league, the NPB. The capital team the Industrailes Leones did not make the final four so Yuliesky Gourriel and his younger brother Lourdes Gourriel can prepare to fly to Japan to play for the Yokahama DeNA Bay Stars. Frederich Cepeda is already in Japan working out with the Yomiuri Giants.

The first game will begin March 24. Myworld will provide a summary of the results. We will also provide a quick rundown of the players to watch in the two series for the four teams.