Archive for December, 2015

Calendar of Events for 2016

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

To begin the new year myworld thought we would put together a calendar of events the international baseball fan would find of interest. What better way to see the world than to attend a baseball tournament. There would be an opportunity to visit eight different countries in this calendar. Myworld is always open to increase our calendar.

February 1-7 - Series del Caribe in La Romana, Dominican Republic

February/11-14 - WBC qualifying event Sydney, Australia (Australia, New Zealand, Philippines ad South Africa)

March 17-20 - WBC qualifying event Mexicali, Mexico (Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Nicaragua)

March 17-20 - WBC qualifying event in Panama City, Panama (Colombia, France, Panama, Spain)

March - Florida for Spring Training, Kissimee, Florida

April 7 - Washington D.C. opening day for game versus the NL East Miami Marlins

June 17-29 - NCAA College World Series, Omaha, Nebraska

June 17-26 - World Cup Under 21 Tournament, Sinaloa, Mexico

July 12 - Major league All Star Game in San Diego, California

July 15 - 24 - Haarlem Baseball week, Haarlem, Netherlands

July 29- August 17 - World Cup Under 15 Tournament, Fukushima, Japan

August 18-28 - Little League World Series, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

September 3- 11 - Women’s World Cup Baseball, Gijang City, South Korea

September 9-18 - European Championships, Hofddorp, Netherlands

September 22-25 - WBC Qualifying Event, Brooklyn, New York (Brazil, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan)

Maeda to Sign with Dodgers

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

The Dodgers may have lost out on the Zack Greinke signing, but they have collected a couple other pitchers to make up for the loss. The Dodgers thought they had signed ex-Rakuten Eagle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, but they reneged on that contract after reviewing medical reports. Iwakuma signed instead with Seattle and the Dodgers used the money they did not spend on Iwakuma to sign Scott Kazmir.

Now it appears the Dodgers depth in the starting rotation has increased with the signing of Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda. The terms of the contract have yet to be made public but it is rumored to be an eight year contract with an opt out after five years. That seems to be a lot of years for a pitcher many fear may have durability issues going from six days of rest in the NPB to four days of rest in the major leagues. Some have expressed concern his pitches may not be as effective with his small hands trying to grip the larger major league baseballs. These could be the same “experts” who felt Jose Abreu would have trouble making barrel of ball contact on major league fastballs or predicted Jung-Ho Kang would struggle against major league pitching.

The Dodgers rotation now appears to be seven deep with Clayton Kershaw heading a mostly lefty heavy rotation. Since recently signed Scott Kazmir is a lefthander it could be one of their other lefthanders who will be moved to the bullpen to accommodate Maeda. Hyun-Jin Ryu is another lefthander, but he will be trying to come back from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss all of 2015 so he may not be available to begin 2016. Brett Anderson and Alex Wood are two other lefthanders who contributed to the rotation last year. If Ryu is ready to start the season it is probably one of those two who will move to the bullpen to accommodate Maeda. That would make Maeda the only righthander, unless Mike Bolsinger wins a job in spring, beating out both Anderson and Wood. It could also be an opportunity for the Dodgers to trade one of their extra lefthanders.

There are reports Maeda had a better change last year and this could be critical to his success in the major leagues. With excellent command and a pedestrian fastball that usually sits in the low 90s he will need the change and curve with their location to retire major league hitters. The track record for pitchers who have had long term success in Japan to continue to have that success in the major leagues is good so expect him to give the Dodgers a solid number three man in the rotation.

The Dodgers will pay $20 million to the Hiroshima Carp of the NPB for the rights to Kenta Maeda.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Rangers

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

The Rangers looked like the team to beat in 2013 after winning two Division titles and a wild card the last three years. The roster still looked playoff caliber but they collapsed that year and their fortune was still poor in 2014. Not a lot was expected of them last year, especially after they lost their ace Yu Darvish. The Astros were certainly a surprise team when they rose from the depths of the bottom of the AL West but the Rangers proved to be the best team from Texas winning the AL West and leaving the Astros with the wild card.

Strengths - The return of Yu Darvish and the late season acquisition of Cole Hamels gives the Rangers something they have normally fallen short in - pitching. It is unclear whether Darvish can round himself into shape early in the 2016 season, but most pitchers are not severely impacted after returning from the surgery. Hamels was considered the ace of the Phillies staff, finished what he would admit was a disappointing season, with his ERA up by more than a run from the previous year. He needs to pitch like an ace for the Rangers to capitalize on the acquisition. Reputation alone will not bring Darvish and Hamels victories. Adrian Beltre is a solid contributor, though his age is starting to catch up with him. This is the second year in a row he has hit less than 20 homeruns and his OPS was down more than 100 points from last year. Joey Gallo is staring at him from the rear view mirror, the Rangers anxious to get his 40 homerun bat in the lineup. Prince Fielder admitted that Mitch Moreland was a better fielding first baseman, so he accepted his role as a DH, becoming one of the more productive DHs in the major leagues. It is a position better suited for a man of his girth. The neck injury that ended his season early last year did not seem to bother him this year as he hit .305 with 23 homeruns and 98 RBIs. Those numbers still fall a bit short of what he produced with the Tigers. The up the middle defense is improved with the expected return of superstar prospect Jurickson Profar, who has missed the last two years with injuries. Roughned Odor seems stabilized at second so the man with the most worry is Elvis Andrus, who the Rangers for some reason signed to a multi year contract despite having Profar in the minors. Having Andrus and Odor established in the lineup will allow the Rangers to take their time in acclimating Profar to the major league game. Expect his star to shine once he is ready.

Weakness - There is not a lot behind the plate with traditional backups Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez their options. They also traded their catcher of the future in Jorge Alfaro in the Cole Hamels acquisition. The two will not provide much fireworks to the offense but if they call a good game and control the running game the Rangers will be happy. The outfield is a bit unsettled with the brittle Josh Hamilton being counted on to fill the left field role. At this point in his career he may be best suited for the DH role to keep his body healthy, but they have Prince for that. Joey Gallo could see a lot of time here, spelling Hamilton from his aches and pains. Since they both hit lefthanded they are not a platoon option. Hamilton has not slugged better than .750 in the last three years, vanilla numbers for a corner outfielder, not what you would expect from a $20 million a year player. Delino Deshields had a solid year last year but myworld wonders if he will remain as a starter. His only real tool is speed, which allowed him to steal 25 bases last year. Before the year is out the Rangers may regret allowing Leonys Martin to go. If Delino falters there is not a lot of depth behind him. Hamilton no longer has the legs to cover centerfield. The bullpen is suspect with no established closer. Shawn Tolleson did it last year and had success with 35 saves. His resume prior to that was one year as a set-up guy. The team has some options with arms like Keone Kela and Sam Dyson available. A pitcher not available is Neftali Feliz, who the Rangers released after his struggles last year. The Rangers hope youth will overcome experience in piecing together a useable pen.

Prospects - Not the full plate that myworld has seen in the past. Trades have decimated the talent pool. Joey Gallo was not supposed to be on this list this year after back to back 40 homerun seasons, but he struggled in his major league opportunity and that continued when he was sent back to the minors. Expect to see him start the season in the minors to achieve success before being given another opportunity in the majors. No one in the minor leagues can impress with the bat as far as hitting balls for distance as Joey Gallo. This also results in many swings and misses. Nomar Mazara is another corner outfield candidate who lacks the thunder Gallo possesses in the bat but is more consistent with his hit tool. Last year he raked AAA at a .358 clip in a 20 game debut. Lewis Brinson is a possibility to take over for centerfield should Deshields struggle. He has a nice mixture of power and speed that allows him to cover a lot of ground in center field, with an arm that will not be shy in right. Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz are two talented arms that shined in their participation with USA teams. Tate was a first round pick in 2015 who sizzles his fastball to home plate in the mid-90s. Ortiz was a 2014 first round pick and was selected the MVP in the 18 and under World Cup in 2013. He does not throw quite as hard as Tate but has an impressive fastball/slider combination. Both pitchers are still a couple years away from making the major league rotation, though their ascent could be faster if moved to the pen. The Rangers spent some big bucks on Ronald Guzman and Jairo Beras but they have stagnated in the minors. Guzman was signed for $3.45 million but his speed has relegated him to first base. He may not carry enough power to fit the position. Beras signed for $4.5 million, was suspended for a year for presenting a birth certificate stating he was a year older so he could sign a more lucrative contract before bonus ceilings were put into effect. There is a lot of swing and miss to his swing and little patience to take walks, which could result in low averages if he doesn’t learn to take the curveball in the dirt. The Rangers will be patient with both since they spend a lot of money on them, but at this point Beras has the most tools while Guzman appears headed for the career minor leaguer path.


30 Teams in 30 Days - Pirates

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

This is taking a little longer than 30 days. The Pirates took 20 years to finish over .500. Time is all relative. Now the Pirates have made the playoffs the last two years as a wild card. At some point they would like to get to the playoffs as the Division winner. That may be difficult with the Reds and Cubs in their division. It may also be difficult for the Pirates to sustain a talented club on a limited budget. At some point the stars get too expensive and they need to be traded for prospects. They need to win a World Series before the prospect filter begins drying up similar to the Tampa Bay Rays. It becomes harder to select toolsy players when you no longer have one of the first five picks in the draft.

Strengths - You have to like the outfield, though Gregory Polanco has had a couple poor years. Andrew McCutchen is the Mike Trout of the National League, though not nearly as talented but always finishing in the top five of the MVP voting. His fifth place ranking last year was his lowest in the last four years, winning the MVP award in 2013. This will be the last year McCutcheon will be playing this game as a player under 30 years old. Next year he hits the playoffs and he will just turn 30. Time is running out to give McCutcheon a World Series win. Starling Marte is a center fielder on this team playing left. He also has the speed and power not quite at the level of McCutcheon but close. Polanco had another off year last year hitting only 9 homeruns with a .701 OPS. The Pirates have a number of talented outfielders rising up their system so if he can’t find the talent he showed in the minors a couple years ago he will just fade into the next Jose Tabata. The Pirates also have an ace in Gerrit Cole. The Bruin first round draft pick looked up at only two starting pitchers who threw an average fastball with a higher velocity reading than him, Yordano Ventura and Matt Harvey. Mark Melancon has been a pretty good closer for the Pirates. His 51 saves led all the major leagues. That will result in a big payout during arbitration, a salary the Pirates will have difficulty affording. While he is a strength now, myworld would not be surprised if he is traded before the start of the season. It seems to be fashionable to trade closers this year.

Weaknesses - First base was not good last year with Pedro Alvarez so they released him. The nice thing about Pedro is he hit a lot of homeruns. The Pirates have two past their primes and one unproven who they hope will come close to his offensive numbers, but play a better defense. Mike Morse has always had trouble staying healthy resulting in more time on the disabled list than on the field. John Jaso has also had difficulty staying healthy the last three years. He is also not noted for having a power bat. Both players are in their past their prime territory. Jason Rogers also lacks a power punch but he is still considered a prospect, though a borderline one at that. The Brewers jettisoned him off their roster for a bargain price. The rest of the infield is pretty average with the health of Jung-Ho Kang’s knee determining his position. He played a lot of short last year, but may have to stick to third this year. His range was a little short when he had a good knee. Jody Mercer, who will have to play short is not an offensive player. With the trade of Neil Walker they have allowed room for Josh Harrison. Last year his bat lost its spunk. He needs to find it if they want to equal the production of Walker at second base. Starting pitching after Cole will be suspect. They will rely on Jon Niese for their fourth spot in the rotation. He was shut out of the talented Mets rotation. Francisco Liriano equaled his ERA from last year (3.38) but his other numbers fell a little bit. Jeff Locke will try to replace a retired A.J. Burnett but needs to lower his ERA by a run and a half.

Prospects - The Pirates still have a sizeable crew of prospects to trot out there to fill positions. Pitching is especially rich with two of their top prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon major league ready. Tyler is impossible to hit with his 6′8″ frame slinging high 90s darts. He is a Randy Johnson clone. Jameson was the second pick after Bryce Harper but injuries have slowed his progress. Tommy John surgery and then a hernia prevented him from pitching last year. Expect him to be in the minors for at least half a season as he works himself back into shape. Nick Kingham is another talented pitcher who expects to come back from Tommy John surgery by mid-season in 2016. The Pirates were grooming him for their rotation last year. Luis Heredia was once considered one of the top pitchers signed out of Mexico a number of years ago but his stock has dropped some as his fastball velocity has slowed. He could still find himself at the back end of the rotation. John Holdzkom was signed out of Independent ball, throws in the triple digits, but needs to improve his control to find the major leagues. The Pirates also have a couple talented catchers ready to contribute. Elias Diaz is one of the better defensive catchers in the minors and could serve backup duty this year to Francisco Cervelli. His bat may be a little short to make him starter material, but that is what they said about Yadier Molina. Reese McGuire may not be as strong defensively, but has more sting in his bat. The 2013 first round pick is still a couple years away. Austin Meadows is a 2013 first round pick who has yet to tap into his power. It would be better if he could make it as a centerfielder where his bat would be considered elite for the position. Harold Ramirez is an outfielder from Colombia who battled weight problems last year and was held back in extended spring to get into shape. He lacks the range of Meadows, has a weak arm and may be better suited for left. Willy Garcia is a talented outfielder who had a poor year last year. Myworld has not been too impressed with his defense but he has some power in his bat and a strong arm that fits for right field if Polanco continues to struggle. Alen Hanson is a volatile personality who has stayed too long in the minors. The trade of Neil Walker may have opened a position for him. He has the speed to steal bases and pop to hit in the double digits in homeruns. He also has the temper to battle with managers. Josh Bell was an outfielder who transferred to first base to give his bat a spot in the lineup. His speed is a bit slow to cover a lot of ground in the outfield but his strong arm seems wasted at first base. If Polanco continues to struggle the Pirates may want to move him back to right field.

Chapman Becomes Yankee Headache

Monday, December 28th, 2015

Myworld did not think Aroldis Chapman would make it in the major leagues when he first departed Cuba because of his volatile personality and his limited repertoire. Reports were out there stating he was not very coachable with a limited attention span. Yunesky Maya also left Cuba about the same time and we thought he was the better pitcher. It appears we were wrong about who would become the better pitcher in the major leagues.

The Reds traded Chapman to the Yankees. The players they got for him were not impressive from a prospect measuring perspective. They must expect a severe penalty for the weak haul they got for him. When the headlines first announced the trade myworld expect Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Jorge Mateo or Gary Sanchez would be included in the trade. The Yankees got away with a steal, which will allow them to deal Andrew Miller. It would be difficult to please both Miller and Chapman splitting up save responsibilities. It would be like telling Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines to share the Miss Universe crown.

The biggest prospect of the group is Rookie Davis, who was not even considered a prospect last year. A breakout season from him this year put him in prospect status. He reached AA last year but opponents hit him at a .292 clip there. His fastball sits in the low 90s but his other pitches are average. The Reds may get some relief use from him but don’t expect any Aroldis Chapman numbers.

Eric Jagielo was a first round pick of the Yankees in 2013. Injuries have prevented him from getting out on the field resulting in a drop in his prospect status. Normally you would expect a first round pick to be rising up the prospect ladder but Jagielo has been falling. The injuries have limited his mobility and there is a question of the position he will play. Last year he was only healthy for 58 games and he has yet to play 100 games since being drafted. Currently a third baseman he could move to first.

Tony Renda is a scrappy player who the Yankees picked up from the Nationals for a player they were in the process of releasing. Pete Orr was also a scrappy player. Tony is headed for a career like Pete Orr. Don’t know how he will get playing time with the recently acquired Jose Pereza (rumored to be part of the original Chapman trade with the Dodgers) playing second and Eugenio Suarez needing a position to play after the return of Zack Cosart. Chapman is an expensive player to trade to fill your AAA roster at second base.

Caleb Cotham pitched 12 games in the Yankee bullpen last year. His ERA was 6.12. He is one of those pitchers who throws the ball over the plate with pedestrian stuff. Myworld saw a lot of Yankee games in spring training and were impressed by a lot of their prospects, but Caleb was not one of them. We really don’t know much about him since he was never on our radar. Sometimes that is not a bad thing. Joba Chamberlain was never on our radar and he became a Yankee sensation. For a short time.

Of course, there could be a reason he traded so cheaply this year. Volatile personalities tend to have a short shelf life. Aroldis has extended his far longer than myworld ever anticipated.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Phillies

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

The Phillies learned the hard way that forever is no guarantee and hoping so will bring about failure. After taking the Phillies to multiple playoff appearances the team signed their core of Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and others to multi year extensions, despite the fact they were reaching their non-peak years. The stumbling began in 2012 and they have fallen since, now trading all their pieces from those championship runs except for Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard, whose age and salary make them very unattractive to other teams. They now have to hope their fans can wait the two or three years the rebuilding process will take, if they are successful in acquiring the kind of players that will return them to their glory years of 2007 to 2011 when they won five consecutive Eastern Division Titles.

Strengths - In a rebuilding year there really are none. Maikel Franco had a solid rookie year, slugging 14 homeruns with an OPS of .840. There were some concerns that his poor defense would force a move to first, but the Phillies have been happy with his ability to play third they have moved Cody Asche to the outfield. Another rookie and Rule V pick Odubel Herrera gave the Phillies an excellent lead off hitter with a .297 average and a .344 OBA and excellent centerfielder. They would like to see a little improvement on his 28/129 walk to whiff ratio. A little more contact could result in more times on base. With those two the Phillies hope to build a lineup around them, hopefully no later than the 2017 season. On the pitching front another rookie Aaron Nola showed some promise in his 13 starts. He probably lacks the stuff to be an ace but he is a building block the team can start building pieces around. Jerad Eickoff was also successful in his limited starts but he may be better suited in the back end of the rotation.

Weaknesses - A lot of them. After the trade of Ken Giles the bullpen will be a mess. They have no one on the roster who can really act as a closer. David Hernandez once had the potential when in the minors but that was years ago. Spring training will untie a very weak and frazzled knot. The starting rotation could be young with recently acquired veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton heading the rotation. Then it will be bring on the kids with Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickoff, Vince Velasquez and Bret Oberholtzer fighting for the final three spots. Reiner Roibal is a Cuban to watch. He has been out of circulation for a couple years pitching in Independent Leagues but recently threw five innings of perfect ball in winter league action. The corner outfields are a mystery. Cody Asche could fill left field but he has failed to hit. They could hope for more rule V success with Tyler Goeddel but until he can generate more power his tools are better utilized in center, where Odubel Herrera controls that real estate. Aaron Altherr is expected to fill one of the corner spots after a bit of success in a late season callup, but he is unproven. Peter Bourjos was acquired from the Cardinals but he is another centerfielder with dazzling defense carrying a ping pong bat.

Prospects - Their best prospect is J.P. Crawford, who is expected to take over short in 2017. At that point the Phillies will either decide to keep Cesar Hernandez at second and make a utility player out of Freddy Galvis or move Galvis to second and make a utility player out of Hernandez. The trade of Hamels got them slugging outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro. Williams carries thunder in his bat but his defense could restrict him to left field. Expect a callup by mid-season if he has success in the minors. Alfaro has been a catching prospect forever, but he should be ready if Cameron Rupp struggles as the starter over Carlos Ruiz. He missed more than half the season last year because of an ankle injury and has only seen three games in a Phillies minor league uniform. Jake Thompson could see some time in the starting rotation by mid season. He has a good fastball/slider combination that put together a 1.70 ERA in seven AA starts for the Phillies. He just needs to improve on his change to be ready for the major league rotation. Myworld was not impressed with the prospects the Phillies got for Ken Giles. Mark Appell, the first pick in the 2013 draft may have been the top prospect, but he has not lived up to that number one hype. His stuff can be good in many games, but it can stink in others leading to too many poor outings. He may end up being a back end of the rotation starter if he doesn’t figure it out. Jessie Biddle is another pitcher who needs to figure it out. The local boy has shown little success after being their first round pick in 2010. He’ll miss the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Andrew Knapp will be another catcher competing for the starting job but his bat falls short of Alfaro and his arm is not as strong. Carlos Tocci and Roman Quinn are toolsy outfielders that can provide speed. Quinn started as a second baseman but moved to center because the Phillies thought Chase Utley would occupy that position forever. Quinn has burner speed that can cover a lot of ground in center. Tocci does not have the blazer speed of Quinn but his other tools may be slightly better.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Padres

Friday, December 25th, 2015

When A.J. Preller took over the Padres general manager position last year he played the game by a different book. Instead of continuing the rebuilding mantra the Padres always preach in an attempt to hold down costs he traded almost all the prospects in their system for expensive veterans who other teams were happy to get rid of for their own rebuilding efforts. After the trades the Padres were favored by some to win their division. The year ended in failure and for the fourth year in a row they bounced below the .500 mark. Now Preller is trading many of the veterans he acquired last year for prospects. While making these trades he refuses to use the word rebuilding. It will be interesting to see where this new plan takes them.

Strengths - There are a number of players on this team who at one time may have been called strengths when they were younger. Matt Kemp is not a full season player or a quality defensive player anymore. Melvin Upton (alias B.J.) needed to change his name to hide the stats he put up in Atlanta. James Shields is just making a lot of money putting up numbers a three hole starter could produce. The only real strength myworld sees with this team is behind the plate, but even that has a lot of strengths and weaknesses. If you could combine all these players tools you could have a superstar catcher, but you can’t. Derek Norris is a solid bat but his defense is weak. In the minor leagues he used to be a walk machine but last year his walk to whiff ratio was 35/131. Austin Hedges is considered the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues and major league pitchers loved throwing to him. Unfortunately in 137 at bats he could only put up a .168 average and a .463 OPS. That kind of offense will not generate a lot of wins for the pitchers. Christian Bethancourt was recently acquired from the Braves, a favorite trading partner of Preller, but he has already failed twice with the Braves when given the opportunity to win the starting job. Motivation is said to be his biggest fault. Speculation is out there the Padres will trade Norris and have Hedges and Bethancourt battle it out and then the strength will turn into a weakness.

Weakness - For one they do not have an established closer after trading Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Soria. Marcos Mateo was closing in Mexico but he recently chose to sign a contract in Japan. So there is not a lot to work with in the bullpen. Spring training will determine who among Brandon Maurer, Nick Vincent or Kevin Quackenbush to give the ball to in the ninth inning. The best option could be Brandon Morrow, who has closing experience, but has not been able to remain healthy, especially when asked to start. The starting rotation has a lot of options, but many of those options lack experience. James Shields should be the ace but Tyson Ross pitched better than him last year, despite leading the National League in walks. After those two you have a bevy of pitchers with ERAs over 4.00, including Brandon Morrow who had a 2.73 ERA in five starts before breaking down. Left field is a black hole with the departure of Justin Upton to free agency. Jabari Blash is one of four Rule V picks the Padres will look at to make the roster. Blash bashed a lot of homeruns in the minor leagues last year, is not young for a prospect (26) and has a lot of swing and miss in his swing. Will Myers could be a good option here, but after trading Yonder Alonso the Padres hope to use Myers at first. Myers has had trouble staying healthy, putting a back seat to his super star hype and perhaps putting him at first base could reduce those injuries. Melvin Upton will be asked to handle center. He forgot how to hit after he left Tampa Bay and signing a big contract. John Jay was recently acquired from the Cardinals but his offense is also soft and his range for center is a little short for his weak bat. Left field could be an option but there is no pop in Jay’s bat to fit there. They are also a little short at short, in height and in production with Alexi Amarista. Alexi is better used as a utility player since he can play anywhere. As an everyday shortstop his OPS was .544 last year. In a lineup of Hedges, Amarista and the pitcher that is three players with an OPS of less than .600. Last year no bat on this current team lit up the .800 OPS figure to make up for the weak production.

Prospects - They got their best prospects trading Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox. Manuel Margot will be the lead off hitter and centerfielder, but that will have to wait until 2017. By then Preller may trade him. Power is expected to come to his bat as he matures but his defense is quality. They also acquired the shortstop they need in Javier Guerra, but his arrival time is also expected to be delayed until 2017. Guerra could be a power hitting shortstop the Red Sox will regret trading, but they have Xander Bogaerts there for years to come. The Padres have two other shortstops that are still far away in Ruddy Giron and Jose Rondon. Both are strong defensive players but lack the power and tools of Guerra. Expect at least one or both to move to second. Neither has the power to fit at third base. The outfield is pretty well stacked with Travis Jankowski and Michael Gettys in center, Jabari Blash in left and Rymer Liriano and Hunter Renfroe for right. Jankowski is ready to take over center now with blazing speed but a short arm and pop gun bat. Gettys is further away, has pretty good pop in his bat, an arm for right but the speed and instincts to cover center. He was a second round pick of the Padres in 2014 but needs to learn to make better contact after 162 whiffs in just 122 games last year, which will keep his average below .250. Rymer Liriano has had injuries and the acquisition of veterans stunt his growth. He has all the tools to be a quality right fielder but at 24 time is running out for him. He is also facing some competition for the right field job from Hunter Renfroe, one of the few Padres prospects Preller could not trade last year. Renfroe does not have the speed of Liriano, but has much more power to light up the scoreboard. It will be interesting to see how the 2014 number one pick Jacob Nix progresses with the Padres. The Padres grabbed him in the third round last year, a fall created by the Tommy John surgery Nix had to undergo after he did not sign with the Astros. Last year he pitched 20 innings but it was all rehab so results are not important.

New Cuban Superstar on Horizon

Friday, December 25th, 2015

There is a saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For major league scouts, the next Cuban defector is the next major league superstar. That may be more propping by the agents trying to get some interest in their client but there appears to be some drool from the major league scouts washing up on the Dominican shore.

The next big superstar is 16 year old Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armentaros. He has speed, a rocket for an arm and launches balls over the fence, if you believe the reports. How they know this is a mystery since he has not played in an international tournament since 2014 so not a lot of people have seen him. He will be holding a tryout in the Dominican Republic on January 8, It is expected to attract over 200 scouts.

Even at 16 Armentaros has made a number of attempts to leave the country. He attempted to fly to Ecuador only to be returned. He hoped a flight to Russia would get him on a flight to Haiti but that was rejected while he was in Russia. One has to wonder whose funds were being used in all these flights. While returning to Cuba and waiting in Germany for his flight he bought a ticket (would be curious the credit card used) to Haiti and was successful in escaping the clutches of the Cuban first order. Myworld is sure he got some assistance from someone in his attempts at departure or perhaps I’m underestimating the disposal spending money of 16 year old Cuban youth.

He is now staying at a nice beach resort in the Dominican Republic. His agent is pretty confident he can sign this player for a lot of coin. Major league baseball has not declared him a free agent yet. In all his attempts to escape Cuba Armentaros could not register his intent for the international draft by the deadline. Major league baseball has made some exceptions to this rule. A number of high spending teams including the Dodgers and Red Sox will not be able to sign this player if he is not eligible to sign until after July 2, 2016 when the new batch of international players are eligible to sign.

He does go by the name of Lazarito, intending to use only his first name. There is Ronaldo. There is Ichiro. And now there will be Lazirito. It does have a nice little ring to it, but he must prove something first. There is a report a Japanese team has already made a $15 million offer to sign him, but that could be news fed by the agent who wants to ratchet up the bonus money.

Lazarito is ready for the major league lottery money to start rolling in.

Japhet Amador to be an Eagle

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

A couple years ago the Houston Astros enticed Japhet Amador to forgo his Mexican League tour to play for them. Amador is about 6′5″ and over 300 pounds. He doesn’t move fast and his best position is probably designated hitter but he hits the ball a long way. Amador did not last long with the Astros, struggling to make contact with major league pitching, especially when jammed inside. When a big man struggles to get the barrel of the bat on the ball power is negated.

The Rakuten Eagles will see how Amador acclimates to Sendai. They have signed him to a one year contract worth about 30 million yen. That is the equivalent of about $250,000. The parks are smaller in Japan so he could muscle some balls out.

The Softbank Hawks have convinced slugging third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda to stay in Japan. Matsuda had come to the United States looking at a major league contract, even visiting with the San Diego Padres, who indicated they never made a formal offer. Matsuda has decided to stay in Japan with his old team. They are paying him 1.6 billion yen for four years, which is about 3.3 million per year. It is doubtful the Padres would have gone that high. The Pirates paid Korean Jung-Ho Kang $2.75 million for four years and Matsuda is an equivalent player.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Orioles

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Entering the 2015 season the Orioles lost to free agency Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. They were able to make up for that loss in offense with resurgent years from Chris Davis and Manny Machado. This year they appear to be losing Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen to free agency. There is only so much offense you can lose before a team begins to feel it and Chen was the only consistent starter in a disappointing Oriole rotation. It appears the 2016 season will be a long season for Oriole fans if replacements are not found.

Strengths - They have a couple All Stars still filling three positions. Manny Machado may be the best third baseman in the American League. Last year he hit 35 homeruns and stayed healthy to play all 162 games. He also won a gold glove on defense. Adam Jones has won gold gloves on defense but also is one of the better offensive centerfielders in the American League. You can always expect 20 plus homeruns from him with 80 plus RBIs. Second base is strong with Jonathan Schoop. Injuries limited him to just 86 games but he was still able to hit 15 homeruns. Given a full season expect some big numbers from Schoop. A big season from him may make up for the loss of Chris Davis. They resigned one of the best setup pitchers in the game in Darren O”day. His sidearm delivery is death on right handed hitters. He is a nice bridge to their closer Zach Britton who picked up 36 saves. The real challenge for the Orioles in 2016 will be giving these two pitchers the lead going into the seventh inning. The starting pitching and relief leading up to the eighth inning is suspect. Mychal Givens is another side armer to watch, with a fastball that hits the mid-90s so you could see back to back side armers in the seventh and eighth, which could lesson their effectiveness as more teams see this look.

Weaknesses - Mark Trumbo can hit for power but his defense at first and his power numbers fall short of Chris Davis. The team would be better putting Trumbo at DH and having Davis at first. If Trumbo plays first there is no traditional player to hit at the DH position, something Buck Showalter prefers. Jimmie Paredes played a lot at this position early last year, but then began hitting like Ryan Flaherty as the season progressed. That is not the kind of bat you want to see at the DH position. The signing of Hyun Soo Kim fills the black hole that was left field last year. It still leaves a black hole in right field. At some point the Orioles need to find out if Cuban Dariel Alvarez can play the position. At 26 he is getting a bit long in tooth to be considered a prospect. Currently they have no one filling the position. The starting pitching was poor last year. Wei-Yin Chen was the only pitcher to have an ERA under 4.00 last year and he is leaving as a free agent. That leaves the inconsistent Chris Tillman as the ace whose ERA climbed almost two runs from the previous year. Kevin Gausman has ace like stuff but suffers from command issues from game to game. He is at that point where he needs to develop consistency. Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher that gives managers gray hairs. He actually improved on his 2014 season reducing his walks per game by almost two from the previous season. Miguel Gonzalez needs to find outs in his repertoire. His ERA also jumped by almost two runs from the previous year. The Orioles need to sign a free agent to fill the last spot in the rotation or hand it to an unproven rookie. Dylan Bundy hardly pitched last year but he must be kept on the roster in 2016 or be placed on waivers. It would be better if he started the season in the bullpen rather than vault him into the rotation with very little innings on his resume.

Prospects - Their top prospects are pitchers who threw little to no innings last year because of injuries. Hunter Harvey and Dylan Bundy, who were anticipated to be aces when they were made first round picks now can’t even find the mound. This has a huge impact in their development. Because Dylan Bundy signed a major league contract after he was drafted he must remain on the Orioles major league roster in 2016 after pitching just 24 innings in 2015. Mike Wright needs to find command before he is given another opportunity in the rotation. He has good height at 6′6″ with a mid-90s fastball, but his best role may be in the bullpen. Mychal Givens was a shortstop when he was drafted but now is a hard throwing side arm reliever. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he put up Craig Kimbrel like numbers (11.4 K’s per 9 innings) in his brief major league callup. If the O’s prefer to put Trumbo at DH they have two choices at first. Christian Walker is the most developed, having played in AAA and seeing September time in the majors, but he may not have the bat to fit the position. Trey Mancini hit .341 at A and AA last year, blasting 21 homeruns and appears ready for a mid-season callup if Walker falls short with the bat. Neither carries enough speed to fit well in an outfield role. Chance Sisco is a good hitting catcher who still needs some defensive work. He will fall short of what the Orioles are used to seeing from Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph on defense but his bat is productive. The Orioles drafted D.J. Stewart in the first round in 2015. He seems a bit chunky with a weak arm and slow foot speed that will limit him to left field. He is supposed to carry a productive bat so Oriole fans have to hope his .218 average in half a season is not indicative of what he can do.