Archive for March, 2016

Cuban Playoff Update

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Pinar evened their series against Matanzas with a wild pitch scoring the go ahead run to give Pinar a 7-6 win. William Saavedra drove in the first three runs for Pinar with an RBI single in the first and a two run homer in the third. Matanzas took a 4-3 lead with Yordan Manduley driving in the go ahead run with a double in the top of the seventh. Donal Duarte hit a two run homer in the bottom frame to give Pinar the 5-4 lead and Saavedra hit a solo shot to extend the lead to 6-4. Danger Guerrero tied the game with a two run homer in the eighth. A two out wild pitch with Reidel Alvarez on third scored the go ahead run. Yosvani Torres retired the last four Pinar hitters to seal the win. Livan Moinelo was not effective for Pinar giving up five runs in just two plus innings of relief.

Ciego de Avila is a win away from a sweep of Industriales, Raul Gonzalez roping a two run single in the fifth to drive in all the runs Ciego needed to pull out a 2-1 win. Lazaro Blanco worked six plus innings and allowed only one runner to cross the plate to get the win. Yunier Cano retired the last seven hitters to close out the victory and pick up his 13th save. Norberto Gonzalez pitched the first four plus innings for Industriales before yielding to Miguel Lahera after giving up the two runs. Ciego is up 3-0 in the series.

Top 100 Prospects - 30-21

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

30. Raul A Mondesi SS (Royals) - Raul will always be known as the first prospect to make his major league debut in the post season before he even played a major league regular season game. He is the son of Raul Mondesi, the power hitting outfielder for the Dodgers. His son’s game is not geared toward the power game of his father but is more inclined to incorporate speed and finesse. He is a smooth fielding shortstop who has the speed to steal 20 plus bases but lacks the power to hit double digit homeruns. That power may improve as he matures and learns to pull pitches. The tools are there to stay at shortstop but the Royals already have a player at the position similar to Mondesi in Alcides Escobar. As many people do when looking at prospects compared to your current major league player, the grass is always greener down on the farm. For the Royals he would certainly fall into the less expensive category once Escobar becomes a free agent or is one year away from free agency. Expect the Royals to give him one more year in the minors at AAA where he needs to improve on his patience and draw a few more walks in order to hit higher up in the batting order. By mid-season Escobar may be an attractive trade package a year and a half from free agency, but if the Royals are in the playoff race it will be tough to rely on a rookie shortstop to lead them to the World Series.

29. Jon Gray RHP (Rockies) - Gray was a first round draft pick of the Rockies in 2013. Three digit fastballs do not slow down in the high Rocky Mountain atmosphere but they may get hit farther. With the heavier professional work load his fastball has dropped from the high 90s to sit more consistently in the mid-90 range with a hard breaking slider which may not break as violently in Colorado. In his three year minor league career he has not put up eye popping numbers for a pitcher with power stuff. He sits at a tick below one strikeout per nine innings with an ERA at 3.82. Last year he made his major league debut and got hit hard with the opposition hitting him at a .319 clip leading to a ERA of 5.53. In order to be a more effective pitcher he will need to improve his command, cutting down on his walk rate of just over three per game. The 2016 season should see him start in AAA with a promotion to Colorado just a phone call away if his numbers prove deserving.

28. Manuel Margot OF (Padres) - Last year the Padres traded all their prospects for proven veterans. That failed in providing them with more victories. This year they traded these veterans for prospects. Margot was one of the prospects the Padres got from the Red Sox for Craig Kimbrel. The Dominican is a high contact hitter that doesn’t walk a lot because he is always putting the bat on the ball. The Royals showed there is upside to players who make contact. Margot also has the speed to cover a lot of ground in center. The power is limited to the gaps but his speed could give him extra bases on singles and doubles. As he becomes more familiar with pitch sequences and how pitchers are trying to work him he could find his average to consistently hover around the .300 level. Last year he combined to steal 39 bases in 46 attempts while slugging at a .420 clip. AA is likely to be his next destination for 2016 but with a good spring the Padres could up his progress to AAA. Travis Jankowski is the only player standing in his way for the centerfield job.

27. Clint Frazier OF (Indians) - The 2013 first round pick of the Indians in 2013 could be a smooth fielding centerfielder in the major leagues. He lacks the gazelle like speed managers and scouts look for in a middle outfielder so his arm will make him useful in right. The Indians also have a couple prospects in Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin who could also play center. The power in his bat will make right field a good fit. Last year he slugged 16 homeruns and produced a .465 slugging average. There are a lot of strikeouts to his game (125) but he improved in that area when compared to last year. On the upside he is also patient enough to take walks (.377 OBA). Currently his power is restricted to the gaps with 36 doubles but as he matures some of those gappers will travel over the fence. Expect him to start the 2016 season in AA.

26. A.J. Reed 1b (Astros) - The Astros sent Jonathan Singleton down but decided to keep Tyler White instead of Reed as their first baseman. That should only be a temporary set back. Myworld saw A.J. arguing with his manager that he wanted to stay in the game to hit rather than be pinch hit for by Singleton. The manager just patted A.J. on the back and said your day will come. The number two pick by the Astros in the 2014 draft slugged 34 homeruns at two levels last year. Noted to have a pudgy frame myworld did not see a lot of that pudge when we watched him this spring. The power is there for him to hit 30 homers with 30 doubles and his two year minor league career average is .324. If the Astros need to generate some offense Reed is the man. His defense at first base is not Gold Glove material but he won’t do anything to hurt you and he appears to be a better defensive option than Singleton. Reed will spend his 2016 season smashing at AAA, sharing the position with Singleton with a callup just an injury away.

25. Robert Stephenson RHP (Reds) - The 2011 first round pick is just a stone’s throw away from the major league rotation. All he needs is a little more command from his high 90s fastball. His curve and change are above average pitches giving him a healthy repertoire to retire major league hitters. That will come after he finds the plate more, eliminating his walk rate of over four hitters per nine innings. Last year he showed some success at AA limiting hitters to a .197 average. When promoted to AAA he found the plate more but hitters made better contact upping their average to .245. The Reds are rebuilding and are looking for some of their younger pitchers to be more consistent in retiring hitters. Stephenson isn’t quite ready yet but he will start the season in AAA and be up with the Reds by mid-season.

24. Bradley Zimmer OF (Indians) - Bradley may have the edge over Frazier for the center field job. The 2014 first round pick may have been drafted a year later than Frazier, but he was drafted after three years at the University of San Francisco. The two played in the same outfield at the start of the 2015 season before Zimmer was promoted to AA. Zimmer does not have the power of Frazier but his bat will carry enough balls over the walls to reach the double digit homerun category. He also has enough speed to steal 20 plus bases. There has been some criticism over his routes in center field, but that will improve with more experience. After hitting .310 in High A with a .495 slugging average he struggled when promoted to AA, hitting just .210 with a .374 slugging. The Indians may start him in AA to begin the 2016 season where he will share the centerfield job with Frazier and then promote him to AAA or the major leagues if he shows some success there.

23. Alex Bregman SS (Astros) - The 2015 first round pick has a daunting task ahead of him, with Carlos Correa appearing to cement the shortstop position for the next twenty years. Bregman might not carry the power of Correa but the bat is quick, he makes contact and he should consistently hit around .300. If he had the range of a Francisco Lindor or Andrelton Simmons there may be some thought to move Correa to third, but his range will not justify that happening. The Astros will continue to use him at short, but may move him around to third or second to find a spot for him. As he matures his homerun numbers could hit double digits so a fit at third is a possibility, but expect an ultimate move to second, when Jose Altuve becomes too expensive for the Astros to keep. There is no rush to make a decision on the major league future of Bregman. His numbers at AA to begin the 2016 season will define where he may play for the Astros in 2017 or later.

22. Franklin Barreto SS (Athletics) - The Athletics seem to be rather fond of drafting shortstops and then trading them away for pitching or help at other positions. The Venezuelan isn’t the type of hitter that the Athletics would have coveted in the past. His walk to whiff ratio is poor (15/67) but his power bat for the position is intriguing. The Blue Jays shelled out $1.45 million to sign him and the Athletics traded away Josh Donaldson to get Barreto, so they may decide to keep him. At this stage his game comes with a lot of errors (34) with an arm that may be just a little short for the position. If he has to move from short the power should be there for him to stick at third. At 5′9″ he is not a big guy so expecting him to hit 20 plus homeruns consistently could be a stretch. Last year he hit over .300 for the second straight season. The AA level will be where he proves he belongs in the middle of the infield.

21. Sean Newcomb LHP (Braves) - Myworld was not impressed with the one outing in spring that we saw of the lefthander. The Braves acquired the Angels 2014 first round pick in the Andrelton Simmons trade. Standing 6′5″ with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and hits 99 are traits in a pitcher you do not want to have first impressions influence your decisions. His curveball and changeup both are above average and he gets a lot of swings and misses with his pitches, averaging about 11 whiffs per nine innings. Last year he achieved success at three different levels, finishing at AA with a 2.75 ERA and a .176 opposition average. He needs to improve on his command, finding the plate more to lesson his more than four walks per game average. The Braves are in a rebuilding mode and will try a lot of pitchers in their rotation. Not all of them will succeed. Newcomb will start the 2016 season in AA with a callup a possibility if he dominates at that level.

Matanzas Fights Back in Cuban Playoffs

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

After losing the opener to Pinar del Rio 12-2 Matanzas has fought back to win the next two. Their bats came alive in the second game with a 10-4 win, Yordan Manduley driving in three runs with two hits. Jonder Martinez got the start and held Pinar scoreless until the seventh inning to get the win.

In the second game Matanzas erupted for six runs in the first inning to win the third game 7-5. Yasiel Santoya slapped a three run double and Ariel Martinez slugged a three run homer to lead the offense in the opening frame. Pinar battled back with a three run homer from Michael Gonzalez in the second inning and a two run shot from him in the fourth but it fell short. Gonzalez finished the game 3 for 3 with five RBIs and a walk. Yordan Mandulay drove in the final run with an RBI double in the ninth inning to give Matanzas an insurance run. Matanzas used seven different pitchers to harness the victory, with opening day starter Freddy Alvarez retiring the last four outs to get credit for the victory.

Matanzas is now up in the series two games to one.

Ciego de Avila won their second game in a row against Industriales, Dachel Duquesne shutting out the Leones on two hits for seven innings in their 8-0 win. Yeniet Perez drove in three runs to lead the Tigers offense. They now lead the series two games to zero.

NPB Update

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Some bullet points on the NPB after the fourth day of the season.

For the first time in NPB history the teams in the Pacific League have gone without a homerun. Counter to that for the first time ever for a foreign player in his first season in the NPB Dayan Viciedo hit a homerun in each of his first three games. After four games Viciedo is hitting .563, leading the Central League.

Shohei Otani made his hitting debut at the DH spot in the fourth game of the season after losing on the mound on opening day. He went 2 for 3 with a homerun and five RBIs, ending the Pacific League homerless drought. Included in that line was a sacrifice fly. His homerun was a three run blast and he contributed an RBI single in the five run sixth as Nippon Ham Fighters ripped the Orix Buffaloes 13-3.

Tsuyoshi Wada made his return to the NPB and lost in his opener to the Seibu Lions 6-2. The Lion bats seemed to find his pitches quite inviting slapping Wada around for 10 hits and four runs in just six innings. Takeya Nakamura and Hideto Asamura each got two hits against him while both players finished the day with four hits in five at bats.

The Yomiuri Giants have started out the season 4-0, sweeping the defending Central League champion Yakult Swallows in three games. Yakult has stumbled to 0-4 to start the season.

Six Divisions in Six Days - NL West

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Picking the Giants to win the NL West because it is an even numbered year is like picking a horse to win a race because you like its name. The Giants have won World Series in the last three even numbered years. For the 2016 season myworld will go where the money is - the $300 million payroll of the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite the funkiness of the roster.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers - Dodger fans are upset because they let Zack Greinke go. When you have money you should be able to sign anyone. The Dodgers will no longer have the Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke duo to dominate series. After Kershaw the Dodger rotation will be rather ordinary, waiting for the return to health of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brett Anderson to spunk it up just a bit. They did sign Kenta Maeda from Japan to a contract. He fits better at the back end of the rotation. So does Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood and whomever wins the fifth spot in the rotation. At least the Dodgers will have Kenly jenson to begin the year as the closer. He missed the beginning of the season last year. The outfield lost some of its depth with the injury to Andre Ethier. That will give Carl Crawford an opportunity to show he still has the skills to be a useful every day player. He has been an asterisk ever since he left the Rays. The Dodgers will need the first half production of Joc Pederson and the 2014 production from Yasiel Puig or look for other outfielders. That is three big question marks. Another question mark is the health of Jacob Turner at third base. He has transformed himself into a top offensive third baseman but balky knees have hindered him, putting him on the disabled lists for long stretches. Corey Seager is a fifth question mark because they are putting an awful lot on a rookie based on his September plus performance. Don’t expect him to hit .340 or provide stellar defense at short. There will be short spurts of struggle. Second base seems to have a glut with Howie Kendrick getting the starting nod and Chase Utley hanging around as a utility player. The better utility option is Enrique Hernandez who can play the middle of the infield and centerfield. The one constant on the team is Adrian Gonzalez but at 33 he is moving towards the down side of his career. In 2016 he should still provide 30 plus homeruns and if the team gets men on base 100 plus RBIs.

2. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card) - The Giants always seem to have pitching and it starts with Madison Bumgarner. Over the years his arm has been eating up an awful lot of innings. Myworld is not impressed with the signings of Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija to back him up. Cueto may be more effective now that he is back in the National League and Samardzija has never had sustained success. A career 4.09 ERA may be helped by pitching in a pitchers park. Matt Cain has had trouble staying healthy and Jacob Peavy is in the down side of his pitching cycle. So despite the hit the Dodgers took with the loss of Greinke the Giants have a number of question marks with their rotation. Hunter Strickland may eventually take over the closers role, but the Giants like the Santiago Casilla/Sergio Romo combination. Hunter Pence needs to get healthy or the Giants outfield will lack any kind of power. When Buster Posey moves to first Brandon Belt could play left field giving the outfield a little more juice. Belt, Posey and third baseman Matt Duffy provide the thunder in the bats. Brandon Crawford brought some thunder last year from short and he also played Gold Glove caliber defense. The Giants just fall short in overtaking the Dodgers but are still good enough to make the wild card.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks - The signing of Zack Greinke gives the Diamondbacks an ace, but that just makes them equal to the Dodgers and Giants. While Shelby Miller is a decent pitcher what follows him is filled with uncertainty. Even Shelby had trouble winning games last year despite an excellent ERA. Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray are two young unproven pitchers who appear to have won jobs in the rotation. Ray started off strong last year but then struggled as the season came to a close. Ruby de la Rosa has to show improvements on the numbers he put up in 32 starts last year. Tyler Clippard is a steady setup man who was signed late because teams are concerned with the number of innings his arm has thrown. He could take over the closer role if Brad Ziegler struggles. The outfield is young and talented with Yasmany Thomas in left, A.J. Pollock in center and David Peralta in right. A mixture of solid defense and good power is scattered within that group. They soon will have to make room for Socrates Brito. Paul Goldschmidt is their team MVP. He has also been in the top five of the league MVP the last couple years. Jean Segura appears to have won the shortstop job, which will move either Chris Owings or Nick Ahmed to second. The loser of that job will be thrust into a utility role. Expect Brandon Drury to be lurking over the position after a torrid spring. He could also be moved into a corner outfield spot. Jake Lamb keeps Drury out of a job and has the potential to hit for twenty plus homeruns.

4. San Diego Padres - This team is in a quasi rebuilding mode after going for it last year with veterans and failing. Petco is a big park and the Padres lack the boppers to knock any balls out. Matt Kemp is the one power source and after that you have gap splitters. Alexei Ramirez should provide improvement at short where last year Alexi Amarista got most of the time. Amarista will now play a utility role. The other two outfield spots after Kemp are occupied by fourth outfielders disguised as starters. Melvin Upton Jr has still not been able to justify his large contract with a good season and John Jay was a fourth outfielder with the Cardinals last year. Will Myers will hope that the move from the outfield to first will cut down on his injuries, but he may not have the power to play the position. The starting rotation lacks an ace. At one time James Shields was an ace, but he has taken a couple steps backwards and the Padres would prefer to trade him. Joe Ross has taken over his ace role but he is also better suited for a two spot. Andrew Cashner throws hard but has never fulfilled his promise. Colin Rea will make the rotation as a rookie. The Padres traded Craig Kimbrel and signed Fernando Rodney to close games. The last couple years have been a struggle for Rodney. If he fails there is not an experienced hurler in the pen who has closer experience.

5. Colorado Rockies - There are not a lot of teams who have two players who hit 40 plus homeruns last year. The Rockies have left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and third baseman Nolan Arenado to achieve that feat last year. Expect Cargo to be traded before the trade deadline. This could open up an outfield spot to youngsters David Dahl or Raimel Tapia. Charlie Blackmon and Gerrado Parra are the other outfielders. Parra may be best used as a fourth outfielder and Blackmon used to be a fourth outfielder but now he has gone rogue. With Jose Reyes in court the Rockies will rely on Trevor Story to fill the shortstop role. This could provide some adventures on defense and some extended slumps on offense. Not much to brag about at first base (Ben Paulson), catcher (Nick Hundley) and second base (D.J. Lemahieu). These players would be backups on playoff contenders. Starting pitching may be ugly with a reliance on young pitchers. Jorge de la Rosa has had success at the Rockies park which will give him the ace tag. After that it will be a bunch of youngsters. The bullpen will be composed of three ex-closers. Jason Motte, Chad Qualls and Jake McGee have all closed but eventually failed and moved on to other teams. Miguel Castro lost out on the closing job to Roberto osuna with the Blue Jays last year.

Cuban Playoff Preview

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

The opening games of the final four in the Cuban playoffs were routs. In the first game the fourth place Pinar del Rio slaughtered first place Matanzas 12-2, scoring eight runs in the third inning to come away with the victory. Matanzas ace Freddy Alvarez got the beat down giving up seven runs in two innings, failing to retire the six hitters he faced in the third. Yosvni Torres pitched seven innings to get the win for Pinar. William Saavedra went deep for Pinar with a solo shot in the second to tie the game at 1-1 after Yunior Paumier had given Matanzas a brief 1-0 lead with a solo shot in the bottom of the first.

Yosvani Alarcon drove in three runs in the game, two of them with a single in the third as Pinar assaulted Alvarez for five singles. Alarcon tripled in the seventh inning to drive in his third run.

The second place Ciego de Avila romped over the Industriales 14-4 in a game where even if they had both Yulieski and Lourdes Industriales would not have scored enough runs to win. Yorbis Borroto drove in four runs with a two run single in the second and a two run homer in the eighth. The game ended in the eighth after Yeniet Perez drove in his second run with a fly ball to put into effect the slaughter rule. Jose Garcia, the brother of Adonis, rapped out four of the 21 hits for Ciego de Avila. The top three hitters in the lineup (Luis Robert, Borroto and Garcia) combined to go 10 for 17 with six runs driven in and eight runs scored.

Vladamir Garcia got the win, working two outs into the sixth inning. The loss went to Frank Monthiet, who could only last one out into the second inning. Ciego scored in six of their eight at bats, loading the bases in the third without scoring.

Six Divisions in Six Days - AL East

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

This used to be the best division in baseball. It has taken a bit of a slide and now may be the worst division in the American League. There appear to be three teams capable of battling out for the division crown, but the AL East will be shut out of any wild card consideration for the second straight season.

1. New York Yankees - The Yankees fate could be decided by the three wise men that hold key lineup positions. Carlos Beltran in right field, Mark Teixeira at first base and Alex Rodriguez at the DH spot are all over 35 and need to stay healthy and productive for the Yankees to win this division. Beltran and Teixeira have had trouble staying healthy. With Beltran the Yankees have Aaron Hicks who could take over in right field, but Greg Bird is out for the season so an injury at first base will give the Yankees a choice between Dustin Ackley or Alex Rodriguez. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have also not escaped the injury bug. They are solid bats from the left side who will be spelled frequently by the right handed bat of Aaron Hicks to keep them fresh. Starlin Castro is a welcome addition of young legs. He will team with shortstop Didi Gregorious to give the Yankees solid defense up the middle. What will separate the Yankees from the other teams in the division is the bullpen trifecta of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, three pitchers all with closer stuff. Miller throws from the left side. The Yankees will have to only go to the sixth inning with their starters, which is a good thing for their ace Masahiro Tananka, who has pitched with a sore elbow. Before the season ends he could be replaced as ace of the staff by Luis Severino, who is young with a mid-90s fastball. Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda are two young pitchers who the Yankees acquired via trade who can hit the high 90s with their fastball. This could be a breakout year for one or both of them. The fifth spot will given to C.C. Sabathia to start the season but at some point during the season will be replaced by Ivan Nova. Sabathia is just a shell of his former self and in a pennant race you can’t keep on throwing out pitchers who give up at least 5 runs per game.

2. Toronto Blue Jays - This team may have the best four hitters in the middle of the lineup in Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitski. Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion have all hit 40 or more homers in a season. Tulowitski may not generate the offense he did in the thin Colorado air, but he should still crank 20 plus homeruns. The key for the Jays will be whether they can find a player to hit at the top of the order. By default that may be given to centerfielder Kevin Pillar. Chris Colabello keeps on proving himself by hitting over .300. He may share the first base position with Encarnacion and Justin Smoak, limiting his at bats. Michael Saunders missed most of last season because of injury but he could find himself at the top of the order. His OBA tends to be better than Pillar. Russell Martin is still one of the best catchers at running a pitching staff and providing a bat that can drive in runs. Where the Jays will make an impact is with their rotation. They are riding on the arm of Marcus Stroman, who only started four games last year because of injury. He has had his struggles this spring. Marcus Estrada came out of nowhere to be the ace of the staff last year. It will be critical that he repeat his performance this year. R.A. Dickey has won a Cy Young, but his stuff is not the same. He fits well in the middle of the rotation. J.A. Happ will fill the fourth spot. The Jays have toyed with making Aaron Sanchez a starter, but he has always looked better in the bullpen. Spring will decide his role. The Jays traded for Drew Storen to be their closer. Roberto Osuna, the closer last year could take over if Storen struggles. Osuna would like to be in the starting rotation if he can’t be the closer and the Jays are looking at that possibility.

3. Boston Red Sox - The Red Sox have a habit of failings with their free agent signings. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez both signed big contracts and both bombed, ruining the Red Sox of a chance to go from last to first. Travis Shaw is outperforming both in the spring so it will be interesting if the Sox sit their large contracts on the bench. The outfield should be one of the best defensive outfields with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo, with three centerfielders roaming the greens. Castillo and Bradley have been inconsistent with the bat so expect a lot of appearances from super utility man Brock Holt. Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia make for a solid up the middle defense. Xander has a career on the upside while Pedroia has seen his best seasons. Dustin can still produce in smaller doses during the season. Blake Swihart is one of the better younger catchers in the game, but if he struggles the Red Sox can turn to Ryan Hannigan or another youngster Christian Vazquez. David Ortiz still lingers on as one of the best DH’s in baseball. This will be his farewell season so he would like to have it end on a high note. The Red Sox got one ace in their rotation with the free agent signing of David Price. After his spot is done the questions linger. Clay Buchholtz, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly should fit at the back end of a rotation, but the Red Sox will have to force them to the top. The Red Sox paid a couple good prospects to the Padres to bring over Craig Kimbrel as their closer. The oft injured closer from last year Koji Uehara will act in a setup capacity. Junichi Tazawa is another Japanese import that will pitch in a setup capacity.

4. Tampa Bay Rays - The offense is always bleak as the Rays continue to focus on their pitching. For the Rays to be competitive in this division they need a bounce back year from Matt Moore. He is capable of winning an ERA title. He will not be pressured about being the ace with hard throwing Chris Archer at the top of the rotation. The Rays are also relying on a bounce back year from Drew Smyly and continued excellence from Jake Odorizzi. Brad Boxberger replaces Fernando Rodney as the Rays closer. He is not as flamboyant as Rodney, picking up 41 saves but also 10 losses from last year. Not a lot of proven pitchers in the pen who can step in as closer if Boxberger gets injured. The offense is a bit anemic with Evan Longoria their big time hitter. The outfield has the defensive excellence of Kevin Kiermaier in centerfield with offensive potential in Stephen Souza and Corey Dickerson at the corners. Corey hit over .300 in Colorado but Tampa is a different environment. Desmond Jennings has gone from super prospect to fourth outfielder. James Loney may be one of the weakest bats in the Conference but his defense is good and their is no true DH in the lineup. The middle infield position is still unsettled with Brad Miller and Logan Forsythe, whose best roles may be as utility players, not starters. Curt Casilla can provide some pop behind the plate, but like many players in this lineup, his average will slip below .250 before the season ends.

5. Baltimore Orioles - Fans have a lot of confidence Buck Showalter will get the most out of a poor team. They have some All Stars in Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Davis, but the rest of their lineup is less than desired. Korean Hyun-Soo Kim has struggled this spring and has been outplayed by Rule V pick Joey Rickard. The signing of Pedro Alvarez for the designated hitter position will force the Orioles to put the defensively challenged Mark Trumbo out in left field. Chris Davis signed a big contract and needs to hit 40 plus homeruns to justify the Orioles expense in him. Jonathan Schoop is ready for a breakout season but his double play partner J.J. Hardy is going in the opposite direction. Matt Wieters settled for a qualifying offer but he continues to be bothered by arm problems. Caleb Joseph, at one time a career minor leaguer, will again see a lot of playing time behind the plate. The starting rotation will give up a lot of runs with five back end of the rotation pitchers vying for the top spot. Yovani Gallardo may win the top spot by default. The Orioles ate a draft selection to sign him. Ubaldo Jimenez has been a big disappointment, his troubles exacerbated by his inability to get the ball over the plate. Kevin Gausman has the stuff to be an ace with a fastball in the high 90s, but he has been too hittable in his starts. Chris Tillman can be good but last year he was bad. Miguel Gonzalez will be lucky to survive April in the rotation. The Orioles have to keep Dylan Bundy on the roster so he will begin it in the bullpen and could move to the rotation by mid-season. Zach Britton will close for a solid pen composed of two underneath throwers in Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens.

NPB Plays Openers

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

The Japanese baseball league NPB played their openers yesterday. Next week myworld will identify the top ten Japanese players under 25 to watch during the season.

Lotte 3 Nippon Ham 2

The Fighters gave the opening start to Shohei Otani and he struggled early, giving up three runs in the opening frame in the 3-2 loss. Alfredo Despaigne slapped him for an RBI single and Selya Inoue drove in two with a double. Otani pitched six shutout innings striking out the side in the seventh and allowing just two hits the rest of the way, but the Fighters offense could not overcome the 3-0 deficit. Hideaki Wakui mesmerized the Fighter bats with seven innings of four hit shutout ball to get the win. The Fighters were able to break through in the eighth with two unearned runs, but Yuji Nishino retired the side in order in the ninth to secure the victory.

Seibu Lions 5 Orix Buffaloes 4

In the bottom of the ninth Takumi Kuriyama tripled in the game tying run and Ernesto Mejia provided the walkoff hit to give the Lions an opening day win. For Mejia it was his second straight RBI single. Erik Cordier was called on to close the game in the ninth for the Buffaloes but could only retire one batter. Brent Morel had three hits for the Buffaloes, including an RBI single in the top of the ninth to give them a temporary 4-3 lead.

Rakuten Golden Eagles 7 Softbank Hawks 3

Leadoff hitter Takero Okajima sprayed four singles, driving in three runs to give the Eagles a 7-3 win over the defending champion Hawks. The Eagles ran away from the game in the second when they used four walks and an error to score five runs. Kazuya Fujita and Okajima each had two run singles in the inning, the two combining for a 6 for 6 day with two sacrifice hits and a hit by pitch. Strikeout machine Takahiro Norimoto got the season off to a good start with 11 whiffs in his seven innings of work. He struggled early, coughing up all three runs in the first two innings, but restricted the Hawks to just one hit in the next five.

Yokahama Bay Stars 2 Hiroshima Carp 1

Shoichi Ino tossed seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits to give the Bay Stars their opening day victory. They got all the runs they needed in the second on a two run single from Tatsuhiro Shibata. Yasuaki Yamasaki pitched the ninth inning to close out the victory. Kris Johnson took the loss for the Carp despite pitching eight tough innings.

Chunichi Dragons 5 Hanshin Tigers 2

Dayan Viciedo made an impact for the Dragons with an RBI single and a solo homerun.

Yomiuri Giants 3 Yakult Swallows 1

In a battle between two Tokyo teams it was the Giants who reigned supreme. Tomoyuki Sugano tamed the Swallow bats with seven innings of five hit shutout ball. Hisayoshi Chono broke the 0-0 deadlock with a solo homerun in the fourth and Seiji Kobayashi extended the lead in the seventh bashing a two run double.

Six Division Predictions in Six Days - AL Central

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

This is a division that will be very competitive. Many of the baseball statistical services are not giving the Kansas City Royals a lot of respect despite making the playoffs the last two years. Some are predicting them to be below .500. Perhaps that is a testament about putting too much of your eggs in statistical numbers and not recognizing the many non statistical categories that make up a team and its players. The Cleveland Indians may have the best pitching staff in the American league but the only team in this conference lacking an offense. The Detroit Tigers will beat teams into submission with their offense. The Chicago White Sox offensive game should be much improved with the addition of Todd Frazier. They may be the team with the best blend of pitching and hitting. The Minnesota Twins have some young bashers but their pitching is suspect. Myworld always goes with the pitching when we are looking at close races.

1. Cleveland Indians - The Indians already have an ace in Cory Kluber. They have two ace in waitings in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Trevor Bauer may never reach his potential as an ace but he is pretty good in the back end of a rotation. Cody Anderson will eventually take that number five spot. The starting rotation will save the bullpen some innings making them more effective. The bullpen is not top of the line but highlights Cody Allen as the closer. The outfield is stacked with backups thrust into starting jobs until Mickey Brantley returns in May and Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer are ready to take over two of the positions. This is not anticipated to happen until 2017. Tyler Naquin appears to have an outfield job sewn up. The one bright spot for the offense is they will have Francisco Lindor for the full year. His defense is equivalent to Andrelton Simmons though his offensive numbers he put up last year are bound to slip. Jason Kipnis had a breakout year last year but it will be asking a lot to repeat those numbers. Older players with sliding offensive skills will play the corners. Carlos Santana drew a number of walks last year but he needs to start hitting for a higher average when he was catching regularly. Yan Gomes should have a better year if he can stay free from injuries.

2. Kansas City Royals - Resigning Alex Gordon was a critical move. He could be the heart and soul of the team. Lorenzo Cain does not put up eye popping offensive numbers but his ability to play defense while putting up solid numbers makes him a winner. The Royals will have to find a way to fill that hole in right field and waiting for the injured Jarrod Dyson is not the solution. The infield lacks big time power guys at the corners but they still have an offensive game. It is up the middle where they will not generate a lot of runs. At least Alcides Escobar will give you defense. Omar Infante may cede his starting spot to Christoper Colon by May. The starting staff lacks an ace and has some question marks at the back end of the rotation. For the Indians Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy would fit in the back end of their rotation. For the Royals they are at the front end. The bullpen is losing some of their heat. Wade Davis is still lights out as their closer but Kelvin Herrera has lost his fear factor and the Royals have lost their edge. Getting the ball to Davis will be the responsibility of Joaquin Soria, who returns to the Royals as their setup man. He began his career as the Royals closer.

3. Chicago White Sox - Myworld likes their balance. The top three in the rotation, Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana can match the top three of the Indians. The one concern is they all throw lefthanded, which gives righthanders a better look against them. The White Sox won’t complain if they continue to retire all hitters. The corners are occupied by two 30 plus homerun hitters in Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, something neither the Indians or Royals can brag about. Adam Eaton is a solid leadoff hitter who patrols a lot of real estate in centerfield. After those positions/players it gets a bit dicey. Behind the plate, at shortstop and in right field they have major holes. Alexie Ramirez left for free agency and the White Sox are hoping Jimmy Rollins can handle the position for half a year until Tim Anderson is ready. There is hope that Avisail Garcia will reach his potential playing right field. He had a difficult sophomore season after shining in his rookie year. And Alex Avila was released by his father and the White Sox hope he can handle their pitching staff recognizing his bat could slug along near .200 or below. David Robertson did not have a good year in the bullpen last year. The Yankees had hopes he would replace Mariano Rivera, but now they have three guys in their pen who would be better at closing than Robertson.

4. Detroit Tigers - The only offense more potent than the Tigers will be the Blue Jays. They need Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to stay healthy, a difficult task considering their age. Both have the potential to win batting titles and drive in 100 runs. The corner outfield is filled with the power bats of J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton. Both players are capable of 30 plus homeruns. This leaves no room for slugger Steven Moya, who appears ready for a major league opportunity but has no position to play. The Tigers keep waiting for Nick Castellanos to find his game. His defense at the hot corner is a little shaky so if he wants to keep his position he has to show some bat. Ian Kinsler is a veteran presence at second base good for 20 plus homeruns. Myworld keeps on waiting for Jose Iglesias not too hit, but the good field no hit shortstop has shown he has a pretty good stick. He is also a gold glove candidate if not for Andrelton Simmons or Francisco Lindor. Even James McCann has a little juice in his stick and is a solid presence behind the plate. What will hurt the Tigers is their lack of pitching. Justin Verlander has to resurrect his ace like status for the Tigers to have a chance. Jordan Zimmerman can replace him as an ace, but his 2015 season with the Nationals found him more hittable than 2014. The Tigers hope the down years by both Verlander and Zimmerman are anomalies. Anibal Sanchez has been struggling this spring and Daniel Norris has been saddled with a bad back and will miss much of April. There is not a lot of effective depth to replace the injured. The Tigers have worked hard to address their bullpen needs, signing the veteran Francisco Rodriguez and acquiring Justin Wilson from the Yankees. Bruce Rondon could be the key. If he can stay on the field to throw his three digit darts that could deepen the bullpen depth and give the Tigers a young closer in waiting.

5. Minnesota Twins - They have some interesting power capabilities, but they all play the same position. Byung-Ho Park hit 50 plus homeruns in two seasons in Korea. Many translate that to a 30 plus season in the major leagues but he is a big guy making the Twins hope for more. That moves Miguel Sano to right field where the defense could suffer. The up side is the bat could bring the Twins 30 plus homeruns with a possibility of 40. Joe Mauer is still being payed well, but playing first base lessons his value. It also keeps another power bat in Kennys Vargas out of the lineup. Miguel Sano might be better defensively at third, but the Twins have Trevor Plouffe to play there and he is a proven 20 plus power hitter with solid defensive skills. Brian Dozier at second base is the straw that stirs the drink. He blasts homeruns which would make him ideal for the middle of the order, but he gets on base and steals bases which has found him at the top of the order. Bryan Buxton could decide where Dozier hits in the lineup. If the mega prospect Buxton can hit he could find himself in the leadoff spot. To date he has struggled with the bat. A decent offensive game will be sabotaged by a lack of pitching. Ervin Santana will get the nod for opening day. He is more a number 2 starter than an ace. Last year he missed 80 games because of suspension. After him the rotation turns pedestrian with a number of soft tossers trying to complete the rotation. The bullpen will suffer from the lack of innings by the starters and prove to be an inefficient bunch.

Six Division Predictions in Six Days - AL West

Friday, March 25th, 2016

My 90 year old father is suffering from memory loss, can’t remember his grand daughters or current girlfiend’s name or how his wife passed away, but knows the three alpha code for every stock that sweeps across the bottom of the television screen on the financial markets. Myworld wonders how much longer he will make money with his investments and at what point do we cut his profits before his fading memory turns them to losses.

If myworld can make predictions as accurate as my father’s investments despite his fading memory we will be quite happy with the results. After all, we do have some of his genes. This will be the first of six division predictions. We can’t really promise they will be done in six days, but before the official start of the season.

1. Texas Rangers - They should have Yu Darvish back on the mound for the stretch run giving them perhaps the best one/two punch in the starting rotation of this division with Cole Hamels being the second ace. They need to find pitchers to cover spots three to five. They have depth at a number of places. Joey Gallo was sent down to the minors in hopes that he will find his power back early in the minor league season. The signing of Ian Desmond for left field made him dispensable when roster decisions were ironed out. Where Josh Hamilton plays when he returns from his knee injury is a mystery. Designated hitter would be the logical answer but Prince Fielder fits like a non-glove there. Adrian Beltre is getting up there in experience so Joey could find himself a roster spot later in the season to rotate between DH, third base, first base and the corner outfields. Catcher has no big names so expect the Rangers to pursue one in the stretch run and Mitch Moreland is not an elite offensive player for first base so Prince can put on his iron glove and hope his offense overcomes his ruthless defense. The bullpen is composed of a number of no name arms. Shawn Tolleson will start the season as the closer, but Tony Barnett is an option after leading the NPB last year in saves. Elvis Andrus has a big contract but with his glove and bat at short he fits below more than 15 teams with his production.

2. Houston Astros (Wild Card) - Carlos Correa was raking during spring, with consistent bat on ball contact. Don’t be surprised if he wins MVP this year. The Astros get all 5 feet and six inches from Jose Altuve at second base. He could be the best leadoff hitter in the National League. With a regular position Marwin Gonzalez could hit 20 plus homeruns. He may be one of the best utility players in the National League. If Colby Rasmus can reach his potential with the bat the Astro outfield will be formidable with Carlos Gomez and George Springer giving them three players who can play both offense and defense. Jonathan Singleton is losing the job at first base to A.J. Reed and may be a better fit in the DH spot. That could be an opening until Evan Gattis comes back from his hernia surgery. Catching is a bit of a hole if the bat of Jason Castro continues to lag. The weak starting staff lacks a comfortable ace as everyone waits for Dallas Keuchel to falter and Colin McHugh struggle to retire hitters consistently. Lance McCullers has ace like stuff but his second spring in the rotation was marred by a sore arm and he could start the season on the DL. If Doug Fister has a bounce back year they can take a little back sliding from Keuchel and McHugh. The Astos paid a lot for Ken Giles to close but early in the spring he had trouble putting up zeros on the score board. He should be fine once the season starts. Luke Gregerson is a better fit as a setup guy.

3. Seattle Mariners - The rotation headed by Felix Hernandez should be strong. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are two young pitchers with lots of upside. Hisashi Iwakuma keeps dropping in velocity and at one point will have trouble retiring hitters. The offense will have trouble providing them with runs. Nelson Cruz bat may be slower as the years progress but he will still bomb a lot of balls over the fence from the DH spot. Robinson Cano has yet to complete a full season with solid numbers. He is the one veteran player they have up the middle with Leonys Martin, Ketel Marte and Chris Iannetta failures with other teams or unproven youngsters. The outfield lacks juice and first base is uninspiring. The bullpen went from best to worst from 2014 to 2015 and looks to be more like the latter in 2016, relying on Steve Cishek, who failed as a closer with the Marlins. Kyle Seager may end up their one consistent bat in the lineup not prone to slumps as he handles third base.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Still prefer the name Anaheim Angels. Like the Devil Rays they could turn the franchise around with a name change back to the original name. They have one super star in the lineup in Mike Trout, an aging super star with a slowing bat in Albert Pujols and a coming of age star in Kole Calhoun out in right field. Not too sure what other positions are going to generate offense and Pujols will be restricted to the DH spot to prevent injury. Andrelton Simmons will provide magic with the glove at short but the Angels have too many holes in the offense to tolerate his weak bat. Yunel Escobar is a nice bat when playing middle infield but at third his lack of power is a weakness. Garrett Richards has the potential to be an ace with his mid-90s fastball but it falls like a steep cliff after his spot in the rotation. The bullpen will have to eat a lot of innings when the starters fail to complete six. They lack the talent to survive big time exposure.

5. Oakland Athletics - Myworld is not too sure what Billy Bean was doing in putting together this team. They have one of the best pitchers in Sonny Gray who can win games with just a modicum of offense. The other representatives in the rotation are unproven and will probably be unable to win games with a stagnant offense. They are hoping for a successful return of Sean Doolittle as the closer or they will be looking at a bullpen by committee approach. It will be interesting to see if Khris Davis shows the power in the larger confines of the park in Oakland. His defense will not support a lack of pop in his bat. He could move to the DH spot if Billy Butler continues to provide minimal offense, paving the way for increased playing time for super utility player Chris Coghlan to get a lot of time in left field. Marcus Semien has to cut down on his thirty plus errors at short. His bat does not support a porous glove at a critical defensive position. Billy Burns could be a breakout player and be a building block for the centerfield and leadoff spot for the future. Josh Reddick fades from right field, looking for a extension in his contract when his offense has been all but invisible the last two years.