Archive for January, 2017

30 Teams in 30 Days - Houston Astros

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

General Overview - They made a splash in 2015 to make the playoffs after finishing at the bottom of the West for a number of years. They stumbled a bit last year, missing out on the playoffs, even though they only had two less losses. This will be the year they will regain their footing and win the division. They have the most solid lineup in this division. The only thing that will keep them from winning is the consistency of their pitching staff. They need to have rebound years from Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers and a healthy season from Lance McCullers to accomplish a division championship. Carlos Correa also needs to step it up on offense proving he is one of the better players in this division not named Michael Trout.

Weakness - The offense has plenty of depth all around. The big test is whether George Springer will be able to handle centerfield defensively, otherwise they will have to go with the less offensive Jake Marisnick, leaving Norichika Aoki without a job. The starting pitching has Dallas Keuchel but not a lot of success behind him. Collin McHugh was batting practice for most of last season. Scouts say no pitcher has a better spin on his curveball. If the opposition hits him at a .282 average like they did in 2016 he will not spend a lot of time in the rotation. Lance McCullers was limited to 14 starts last season because of injury. They need him for a full season. After that spring training will sort out who fills the remaining two spots between veterans Charlie Morton and Mike Fiers and younger options Brad Peacock or Joe Musgrove. Chris Devenski will be waiting in the bullpen for one of those options to fail or they could call up the high heat of Francis Martes by mid season. The bullpen lacks an established closer. Ken Giles used to handle that role for the Phillies but he has struggled. Luke Gregerson also has handled this role. Both finished with 15 saves last season. Will Harris can also handle the role but he is best suited for setup. This could be a strength if all parties live up to past potential.

Strengths - This is a strong lineup with too many players available for positions on the field. Josh Reddick and Norichika Aoki are new additions to the outfield. Reddick will provide the power while Aoki will get on base. First base may be the weakest position with Cuban Yulieski Gurriel getting the first opportunity. Marwin Gonzalez can go back to his all important utility role. Evan Gattis is a big bat without a position and unless he just can’t play first base he could also get some work here in spring. Gattis is behind Carlos Beltran at the DH position and if the Astros want to put Beltran in the outfield that would weaken the defense to get his bat in the lineup. The Astros have the veteran Brian McCann behind the plate. Gattis could get some at bats there but his defense is less than flattering back there. Carlos Correa at shortstop could be one of the better players in this division and Jose Altuve at second is an MVP candidate. They are solid here. The young Alex Bregman will get the first opportunity at third base but Gurriel starred here when he played with Cuba.

Non Roster Invitees - The only player who could possibly make this team is Reid Brignac as a utility player but Marwin Gonzalez already has this role. Frances Martes will be given some more opportunity to grow in the minors so unless he dominates in the spring he makes more sense as a mid-season callup.

Breakout Prospects - Frances Martes and David Paulino are two potential dominating pitchers. Martes may make it by mid-season as a starter. Because of his fragility and low innings count Paulino may fit better in the bullpen. Both pitchers live in the high 90s and can hit triple digits with their fastball. James Hoyt has always looked impressive when we’ve watched him in the spring. He should make the bullpen when camp breaks in April. A.J. Reed got a few too many at bats to be considered a prospect but a good start to the season will give the Astros some difficult choices of who to put at first base. Reed has 30 homerun potential. Gurriel does not.

Prospects to Watch - Kyle Tucker has some impressive tools. He was the first round pick in 2015. At some point he will cross paths with his brother as he rises up the minor league ladder. Kyle has potential five tool ability but his brother Preston is more of a fourth outfielder type. Forest Whitley is a tall 6′7″ first round pick in 2016 with a mid-90s fastball. He still has a long way to go as he develops in the minor leagues. Daz Cameron is the son of Mike. Like his dad his fielding is better than his bat at this point but he has the potential to develop some power. Myworld has always liked the power bat of J.D. Davis but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts. His defense is a little shaky at third and the Astros have a lot of options at first. Cionel Perez is one of many Cuban players who have yet to show their skills at the major or minor league level. Perez is a lefthanded pitcher with a smaller frame (5′11″) who has decent low 90s velocity to his fastball. He needs to work on his secondary pitches and his command before he reaches the Astros, but at 20 years of age he has got the time. Freudys Nova was one of the reasons the Astros went over their international salary cap last year. He was originally signed by the Marlins for $2.5 million but after failing a drug test the Astros were able to sign the shortstop for $1.2 million.

2017 Finish - It will be a battle between the Mariners and the Rangers but it will be the Astros and their offense that will win this division.

Melbourne Aces Win the Australian Baseball League Regular Season

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

The Melbourne Aces have won the Australian Baseball League regular season. They will tangle with the winner of the best of three playoff series between the second place Adelaide Bite and third place Brisbane Bandits. Last year these two teams fought it out in the championship final with Brisbane winning.

The last time Melbourne won a championship was back in the old Calvary Cup days in 1997/1998 when they were called the Melbourne Reds. They did come up short to the Perth Heat in the 2011/2012 championship.

On the offensive side Melbourne is led by the bat of Roman Collins, who is third in the league in hitting with a .336 average. The veteran catcher Allan de San Miguel is second in the league in RBIs with 26, four ahead of Collins. Mike Walker also has 26 RBIs and is tied for the league lead in homeruns with 7, one ahead of Miguel. Ronald Acuna only played 20 games but he made an impact with his .375 average and 13 stolen bases.

The pitching staff was led by Mark Hamburger. He led the league in ERA (1.90), strikeouts (86) and wins (5), the Triple Crown of pitching. They got some brief help from Japan with Keisuke Honda providing five dominant starts (4-0, 1.21). Both pitchers threw two complete games and had one shutout, but Honda accomplished his numbers with five less starts.

The Adelaide Bite were led by local legend Mitch Dening, who led the league in hitting with a .340 average. He was close to winning the Triple Crown of hitting, leading the league in RBIs with 27 but falling one short of tying for the homerun lead, finishing the year with 6. Marcus Greene Jr. was a productive bat with six homeruns, 26 RBIs and a .303 average. LeDarious Clark was second in the league in stolen bases with 17 and he also was a productive run producer, driving in 22 runs.

Loek Van Mil led the Bite pitching staff as the closer, saving eight games with a 0.40 ERA.

The defending champion Brisbane Bandits are led on offense by local boy Aaron Whitfield, whose .338 average was second in the ABL. He led the league in stolen bases with 20 and topped the circuit in runs scored with 34. He began his career as a softball player but the Twins liked his talent and convinced him to try his hand at baseball. So far things have worked out well for Whitfield. Mitch Nilsson provided the pop with his seven homeruns tying two other players for the league lead. He also drove in 24 runs. Catcher David Rodriguez hit one less homerun (6) but drove in one more run (25) to also lead the Bandits offense.

Ryan Searle was the Bandits closer, leading all pitchers in saves with 9. His 33 whiffs almost put him in the top ten despite only pitching 24 innings.

Series del Caribe Roster for Venezuela

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Venezuela has Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis to plug up the middle. He is the only player on the Venezuelan roster from a 40 man major league roster. Below are the players for Venezuela as provided by mlb.com.

Pitchers

Edgar Alfonzo, Yorman Bazardo, Omar Bencomo, Wilfredo Boscan, Francisco Butto, Leonel Campos, Tiago Da Silva, Carlos Hernandez, Wil Ledezma, Mitch Lively, Hassan Pena, Luis Ramirez, Raul Rivero, Pedro Rodriguez, Romulo Sanchez

Catchers

Francisco Arcia, Jesus Flores

Infielders

Ali Castillo, Jose Castillo, Ronny Cedeno, Jose Flores, Freddy Galvis, Jonathan Herrera

Outfielders

Denis Phipps, Jose Pirela, Rene Reyes, Herlis Rodriguez, Alex Romero

Series del Caribe Roster for Puerto Rico

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Yadiel Rivera (Brewers), Jesmuel Valentin (Phillies) and Eddie Rosario (Twins) are three players on the 40 man major league roster. Rosario was up and down with the Twins the last two years. This should make Puerto Rico the favorite to win this year if they can get any pitching. Below is the roster for Mexico at the Series del Caribe as provided for by mlb.com.

Pitchers

John Brownell, Hiram Burgos, Fernando Cabrera, Jose de la Torre, Frank Del Valle, Adalberto Flores, Ricardo Gomez, Jarret Leverett, Miguel Mejia, William Oliver, Joel Piniero, Dereck Rodriguez, Orlando Roman, J.C. Romero, Andres Santiago

Catchers

Rene Garcia, Jonathan Morales

Infielders

Ivan de Jesus Jr, Ruben Gotay, Rey Navarro, Yadiel Rivera, Randy Ruiz, Jesmuel Valentin

Outfielders

Rusney Castillo, Jorge Padilla, Henry Ramos, Eddie Rosario

Series Del Caribe Roster for Mexico

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Oliver Perez is the lone major leaguer and the only player on the Mexican roster currently on a major league 40 man roster (Nationals). Below is the roster for Mexico. The team is represented by the Mexicali Aguilas

Pitchers

Tyler Alexander, Manny Barreda, Fautino de los Santos, Barry Enright, Edgar Gomez, Derrick Loop, Jose Manuel Lopez, Jose Meraz, Miguel Pena, Oliver Perez, Jose Manuel Rodriguez, Sergio Romo, Jake Sanchez, Javier Solano, Hector Velazquez

Catchers

Xorge Carillo, Luis Juarez, Sebastian Valle

Infielders

Yuniesky Betancourt, Jesus Castillo, Agustin Murillo, C.J. Retherford, Ramon Rios, Isaac Rodriguez Salazar

Outfielders

Jason Bourgeois, Yordanys Linares, Ronnier Mustelier, Chris Roberson

Series Del Caribe Dominican Roster

Monday, January 30th, 2017

The Dominican Republic roster is lacking any current major leaguers, but the team has some past major leaguers. Leury Garcia is the only player who is currently on a major league teams 40 man roster (White Sox). The Dominican Republic is represented by the Licey Tigres. Below is the roster for the Dominican Republic as provided by mlb.com.

Pitchers

Cesar Valdez, Leyson Septimo, Ramon E. Ramirez, Ivan Pineyro, Warner Madrigal, Ulises Joaquin, Juan Grullon, Edgar Garcia, Yohan Flande, Bryan Evans, Michael Dimock, Jairo Asencio, Gabriel Arias

Catchers

Michael de la Cruz, Yermin Mercedes, Webster Rivas

Infielders

Sergio Alcantara, Anderson Hernandez, Diory Hernandez, Ronny Rodriguez, Garabez Rosa, Donovan Solano

Outfielders

Zolio Almonte, Engel Beltre, Leury Garcia, Alfredo Marte, Mel Rojas Jr

Mexicali Wins the Mexican Championship

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Mexicali left no doubt about their championship game, slamming Los Mochis to the mat 13-1 to win their series four games to two. This is the first time Mexicali will be representing Mexico in the Series del Caribe this century. The last time they appeared was in 1999.

Yunesky Betancourt smoked a grand slam in the seventh inning to drive in six of the 13 Aguilas runs. By the time he hit the grand slam the game was already out of reach. Yordanys Linares hit a solo shot and drove in three runs. Chris Roberson and Linares each contributed three hits in the 16 hit attack.

Hector Velasquez worked six innings, leaving the game with a comfortable 8-1 lead. The winter sensation Manny Barreda got the start for Los Mochis but it was not his day. He gave up six runs in just 4.2 innings, walking four hitters.

Licey Upsets Aguilas to Win Dominican Championship

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Licey finished a game ahead of Aguilas during the regular season. Aguilas got hot too early dominating the round robin playoff. They did win the last two games of the best of nine series with Licey to tie it up, but in the ninth game Licey won 6-2 to take the Dominican championship. Sergio Alcantara banged out four hits in the game, including an RBI single in the second to score the Tigers first run and an RBI triple in a back breaking five run sixth to put Licey up 6-0. Emilio Bonafacio had the big hit in the sixth, a three run double to drive in the first three runs of the inning.

Cesar Valdez won his fourth game of the playoffs with his five innings of shutout two hit ball. Jairo Asencio pitched the ninth inning to close out the game. Last year Licey lost the championship game. They last represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe in 2014. Aguilas has been absent from the Series since 2008. This was the third time they have finished as the runner up since 2008.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Mariners

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

Overview - It has been 15 years since the Mariners last made the playoffs. 2001 was the year they tied the record for most wins in a season with 116. It was also the debut of Ichiro Suzuki. They lost in the playoffs that year to the Yankees so they never made it to the World Series, just one of two teams never to appear in a World Series. The Washington Nationals are the other team. Myworld predicts they will make it to the playoffs as one of the two wild card teams. Whether they appear in the World Series is another story. Last year they almost made it into the playoffs, contending until the last week of the season. Better years from Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma would help them in their quest.

Weaknesses - Their outfield has got to be one of the weakest in baseball. Jarrod Dyson will try to show he is not a fourth outfielder type as he bats in the leadoff position. He has speed and a top rate glove but his bat can be called into question, especially for its lace of pop. Mitch Haniger had a nice AAA season for the Diamondbacks. Myworld will be surprised if he can replicate those numbers against major league pitching. Leonys Martin is a decent centerfielder with some pop and good speed. Expect Tyler O’Niel to be called up by mid-season. Nelson Cruz should see most of his time at designated hitter. He has hit 40 plus homeruns for three seasons in a row now, but his outfield defense is dicey. First base will be a platoon between well travelled Danny Valencia, who spent the bulk of his early career as a backup and Dan Vogelbach, a Prince Fielder type who spent most of his 2016 season in the minors. Defense is not either one of these players strengths. D.J. Peterson is on call in the minors should one of these players struggle. The Mariners have also waited a long time for Mike Zunino to reach his number one potential. He may be what he has shown the last couple years, a low .200 hitting catcher who plays decent defense behind the plate. The veteran Carlos Ruiz will act as his backup, but he doesn’t have much left in the tank.

Strengths - Kyle Seager is a solid player who hit 30 homeruns last year with a .858 OPS. He struggled a bit against lefthanders but the Mariners have few options behind him. Robinson Cano will be 34 next year but he was one shy of joining Nelson Cruz in the 40 homerun club. It was his best season since signing his big contract with the Mariners. Jean Segura had a career year with the Diamondbacks last season hitting .319 with 20 homeruns and 33 stolen bases. That was while playing as a second baseman. He will be playing shortstop for the Mariners, a position he played for the Brewers a couple years ago. Nelson Cruz is a big bat at the DH spot. It will be hard for him to make it four in a row as far as 40 homerun seasons since he will be hitting 37 in 2017. The Mariners need a better year from King Felix Hernandez, who had a couple awful outings which hiked his season ending ERA to 3.82. If this is the start of a slide the playoff picture could get cloudy. Hisashi Iwakuma no longer has the velocity to overpower hitters but the Mariners do not have a lot behind him. The duo of Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishek should make the Mariner bullpen formidable after the eighth inning.

Impact Prospects - There is not a lot in the outfield to prevent Tyler O’Neil from getting a callup by mid season if he can repeat his 2016 numbers. Tyler has a nice power bat the Mariners could use in the outfield. Dan Vogelbach was acquired from the Cubs to take over at first base. He has the physique of Prince Fielder but despite his size is agile at first base. He can hit for average and power but his speed will clog up the bases. D.J. Peterson is another option here should Vogelbach struggle. Peterson is not as consistent a hitter but he equals in power. Dillon Overton was acquired from the Athletics recently and could fill a lefthanded role in the bullpen, though he was a starter in the minors. Mitch Haniger will be given the right field job based on his minor league numbers last year. If Tony Zych is healthy his high 90s heat should contribute in the bullpen. He missed a lot of time last year because of shoulder issues. James Pazos is another lefty for the bullpen. The Mariners acquired him from the Yankees.

Prospects to Watch - Their best prospect is probably outfielder Kyle Lewis. His season was cut short by injury last year after he showed off impressive five tool potential. Another outfielder with five tool potential is Brayan Hernandez who the Mariners signed for a $1.85 million bonus in 2014. He will turn 20 this year and may see his first season in a full season league. Thyago Vieira is a Brazilian who throws triple digit heat. A lack of secondary pitches and poor control will keep him in the bullpen, but an explosive fastball could make him a closer.

Expected Finish - It will be a battle to the end but if their starting pitching holds out the Mariners should finish in second and make it as one of the two wild card teams. Jerry Dipoto keeps filling the roster with role type players that can offer at least one top rated skill that will contribute to victories.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Texas Rangers

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

General Overview - The Rangers won this division last year with 95 wins. The loss of Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland could be too much to overcome if their replacements don’t replicate their production. Myworld expects a couple wins to separate the Astros, Mariners and Rangers. The Rangers have the top two starters of these three teams in Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, but their lineup will fall short to support the back end of the rotation.

Strength - Roughned Odor had a breakout year at second base. It will be hard to replicate the 33 homeruns but the Rangers need someone to replace the offense of Moreland and Desmond. A 19/135 walk to whiff rate and .296 OBA are cause for concern but Odor is still one of the best second basemen in the game. The nice season for Odor leaves future superstar Jurickson Profar without a position to play hanging on a utility role to get his at bats. Jonathan Lucroy was a nice acquisition to solidify the catching weakness from last year. At 31 years of age he may approaching the down side of his career, but he still has a season or two of solid play behind him before he reaches that level. If their health stands up Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels are two aces not matched by many. They will keep the losing streaks to a minimum. Yu Darvish has had injury issues and the rotation is too thin if either pitcher goes down for significant time. Myworld likes the stuff of Andrew Cashner, but he has always fallen short of his purported talent level.

Weakness - Shin-Soo Choo has missed a lot of games the last two seasons because of injury issues. Even when healthy his production has been below average. Not too sure what the Rangers will get from Carlos Gomez. They certainly want to get more than last year’s production, though the power numbers were decent. There is no set starter at first base. Joey Gallo could take the position but he has had some horrid major league struggles. Very few players can match his power but last year he hit .045 with 19 whiffs 30 at bats. They could go with the defense of James Loney or move Josh Hamilton there if Josh can stay healthy. Those questions also haunt them at the DH position, though this seems to be an ideal spot to keep Josh Hamilton healthy. The bullpen does not really have an established closer. Sam Dyson did a good job for them last year with 38 saves. If he fails to repeat his success Jeremy Jeffress or Matt Bush could take over. Tony Barnette closed for a number of seasons in Japan and had a successful season in the pen in his return to the major leagues. They have no established closer but they do have options if Dyson should stumble.

Nonroster Invitee - Watch for Cesar Puello possibly making it as a fourth outfielder for the Rangers. He was once a highly touted prospect for the Mets, got caught up in a drug suspension and has not been able to shake his struggles. James Loney is the best defensive option for first base if Joey Gallo should collapse in the spring. That is risking a lot with his unproductive offense. Josh Hamilton should make the roster if he can show he can stay healthy.

Breakout Prospects - Joey Gallo has had too many at bats over the last couple years to be considered a prospect. The Rangers have been waiting a long time for him to reach his potential. First base is an open spot for him. If all the contestants fail to produce at first base the Rangers could call on Ronald Guzman during mid-season just as they called on Mazara last year. Guzman does not have the power of Gallo but he is next in line. Connor Sadzeck hit the high 90s with his fastball pitching in AA but he still needs work on his secondary pitches and his command. If those improve he could be a mid-season callup, depending on need.

Prospects to Watch - Yeyson Yrizarri is still a few years away from playing shortstop for the Rangers, but they signed him to a $1.35 million bonus back in 2013. He is finally starting to put it together but a 9/91 walk to whiff will have to improve as he rises past A ball. Jairo Beras is one of these 6″6″ right fielders who bash 20 plus homeruns. Next year he will be playing in AA. Yohander Mendez was signed the same year as Guzman. The Venezuelan lefthander has a nice 6′5″ frame and a fastball in the low 90s. He had some success in AAA but needs to improve his command. The Cuban defector Andy Ibanez plays the same position as Odor. He lacks the power of Odor but makes better contact. He could play third base but lacks the power for that position, a position also occupied by Adrian Beltre.

Expected Finish - Myworld predicts five games will separate the Astros, Mariners and Rangers from first to third. The Rangers will draw the short stick and finish in third, just missing the wild card.