Archive for February, 2017

30 Teams in 30 Days - New York Yankees

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Overview - The Yankees are in rebuilding mode. If they could find takers for Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley they would go with an even more youthful team. The talent is there to make a difference. Last year they didn’t do a lot well, finishing near the bottom in most of the offensive, fielding and pitching categories. They also have to hope the arm of Masahiro Tanaka stays together. Starting pitching is where their depth gets dicey. The Yankees also had Gary Sanchez hit 20 homeruns in 52 games and hope he does not become another Shane Spencer. They also had Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge become the first rookies to hit back to back homeruns in their first at bats.

Strengths - The Yankees traded Brain McCann to the Braves after Gary Sanchez hit 20 homeruns in 52 games. His homerun production will probably not be as great next year but he has the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns. He also has a strong arm for controlling a running game. Didi Gregorius is making Yankees fans forget Derek Jeter. The shortstop is not noted for his power but last year hit 20 homeruns and slugged .447. Didi is also a good defensive shortstop, committing just 15 errors and showing Yankee fans what a rangy shortstop looks like. The bullpen will be strong with Dellin Betances setting up Aroldis Chapman. Dellin was not comfortable in the closers role last year for the Yankees but he is now in his more comfortable set up role. Tyler Clippard will take over the seventh inning role. The Yankees need their bullpen to give them about three innings each game to make up for a young pitching staff.

Weakness - They are relying on talented rookies to fill two positions. Aaron Judge could hit 30 plus homeruns but he also could strikeout 170 times and bat .210. The Yankees have Aaron Hicks they can use to protect Judge if he struggles. Greg Bird was supposed to take over the first base position last year but missed the whole season because of injury. He is healthy now and will take over first base. The Yankees signed Chris Carter as a backup should Bird falter. Despite their stellar bullpen last year their pitching was 15th in ERA. That is the fault of the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka is the ace but he has been troubled by a balky elbow that could need surgery. C.C. Sabathia had a decent season last year but he will be 37 years old and his stuff is not as good as it once was. Michael Pineda continues to tease, but the repertoire is there for him to become a top of the rotation pitcher. After those three it will be a battle between rookie and second year pitchers. Chase Headley will put up no more than vanilla offensive numbers at third base. Last year he slugged 14 homeruns and drove in 51.

Impact Prospects - Aaron Judge is expected to be the starting rightfielder. At 25 he does not have much to prove in the minor leagues. His power can be 30 plus but he needs to improve on his ability to make contact. Clint Frazier is another outfielder who could see time in centerfield if Jacoby Ellsbury misses significant time due to injury. Ideally the Yankees would like to see him play most of his season in AAA. He has the potential to be a 20/20 player. Chance Adams and Jordan Montgomery have a chance to see some time in the rotation. Adams limited the opposition to a .145 average in 12 starts at AA. Montgomery finished with an ERA of 0.97 in six AAA starts. Chad Green dominated in AAA last year but when called up to the Yankees coughed up 12 homeruns in just 46 innings.

Prospects to Watch - Gleyber Torres is the Yankees top prospect. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop the Yankees can be patient with him. The shortstop with all five tools should start the season in AA. Blake Rutherford was the Yankees first round pick in 2016. He hit .389 in a short 89 at bat trial in the rookie league. The Yankees could start the outfielder in Low A this year where a below average arm could relegate him to left field. Jorge Mateo may have to move to second with the arrival of Torres. The main asset for Mateo is his speed though his stolen base numbers dropped from 82 to 36 last year. Jorge showed some deceptive power, but also some character flaws, suspended for objecting to no promotion to AA after the All star break. Dustin Fowler is an 18th round pick that broke out last year. He shows speed for centerfield and enough power to hit 12 homeruns. His speed gives him excellent range in centerfield. The Yankees are waiting for Miguel Andujar to show he is ready for third base. The power is there but the defense is still in question. The Yankees would prefer not to move him to first since they have Greg Bird as a fixture there. From the pitching stand point James Kaprielian is a 2015 first round pick out of UCLA who could be moved up quickly. Injuries last year limited him to three starts. Justus Sheffield is a high profile left hander who throws in the mid-90s who was acquired from the Indians in the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Expected Finish - Myworld anticipates the starting pitching will hold up and Aaron Judge and Greg Bird will hit for power. This will get them a finish of third place in their division, missing any playoff opportunity.

Japan 2017 WBC Review

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Overview - Japan is a two time champion of the World Baseball Classic. They are also the number one rated baseball power in the world based on their showing in international events. This makes them the team to beat in the WBC.

They have not always been a strong international baseball power. The Baseball World Cups did not have them finishing in the medal rounds until 1976 when they won a bronze medal, though like the United States they are handicapped by having a professional league running at the same time the World Cup events were being held. The teams were mostly composed of players from their college teams or from their industrial leagues. After that first medal Japan won three more bronze medals in 1980, 2003 and 2007 with their best finish a silver medal in the 1982 World Cup.

The same handicap plagues Japan that hinders the United States when the Olympics are played. Japan runs its professional leagues during the summers when the Olympics begin so their teams are composed mainly of players from college or their industrial leagues. They have won bronze medals in 1992 and 2004, with a silver medal in 1996. In the last Olympics in 2008 they did have a roster of professional players and finished in the top four to make it to the medal rounds but lost to the eventual gold medalist South Korea 6-2. The United States beat them in the bronze medal game 8-4 with a roster composed mainly of minor league ball players. The finish was a big disappointment to the Japanese, who were hoping for a gold medal in what was defined as the last Olympics in baseball.

Japan is the strongest of the three Asian powers with Korea second and Taiwan third. Japan had won five straight Asian baseball championships before Korea broke their streak in 2015. Japan finished third that year falling behind Taiwan.

Doing well in the 2017 WBC will atone for their disappointing finish in the Premier 12 where they finished undefeated in pool play but again lost to the eventual champion South Korean team in the semifinals 4-3. They did win the bronze medal by bashing Mexico 11-1, but like they are a thorn to the side of Cuba, South Korea is a thorn in the Japanese side.

In the WBC they won the opener downing Cuba in the finals. They again had some troubles overcoming South Korea, losing to them in the opening pool and the second pool. In the semi-final medal round it was Koji Uehara who pitched seven innings of shutout ball to give Japan a 6-0 win and a trip to the gold medal game against the Cubans. Daisuke Matsuzake got the start in the Cuban game Japan won 10-6.

Showing that it was no fluke Japan again won the gold in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. They still had trouble beating South Korea, losing to them in the finals of pool one. After going 1-2 against South Korea in the tournament, they played them in the finals and beat them 6-2. In the game prior to that they had eliminated the United States by spanking them 9-4.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic was a disappointment because they could not make it three in a row. They did not even get a chance to play South Korea in this event, because they were eliminated in the first round. In the semi-finals of the medal round Puerto Rico beat them 3-1 throwing a pitcher by the name of Mario Santiago.

Current International Ranking - Japan is the number one ranked team in baseball. The highest ranked team in their pool is Cuba at number 5. Japan has always been a thorn in Cuba’s attempt to advance in the WBC. Australia is number ten and China is number 18. This may be the weakest pool of the four.

Roster

Pitchers - Ryo Akiyoshi, Shintaro Fujinami, Yoshihisa Hirano (DPP), Ayumu Ishikawa, Kazuhisa Makita, Hirotoshi Masui, Yuki Matsui, Naoki Miyanishi, Takahiro Norimoto, Toshiya Okada, Kodai Senga, Tomoyuki Sugano, Shota Takeda

Designated Pitchers Pool - Kenta Ishida, Yuta Iwasada, Tatsushi Masuda, Masahiko Morifuku, Yusuke Nomura, Daichi Ohsera, Hirokazu Sawamura, Yasuaki Yamasaki

Catchers - Seiji Kobayashi, Shota Ohno, Motohiro Shima

Infielders - Ryosuke Kikuchi, Nobuhiro Matsuda, Hayato Sakamoto, Kosuke Tanaka, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Tetsuto Yamada

Outfielders - Shogo Akiyama, Norichika Aoki, Ryosuke Hirata, Sho Nakata, Seiya Suzuki, Seiichi Uchikawa

Strengths - They may not have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Shohei Otani on this roster, out due to an ankle injury and the only major leaguer on the roster is Norichika Aoki, but do not underestimate this talent. The starting pitching is still deep with Takahiro Norimoto and Tomoyuki Sugano as solid one two aces in any rotation. One of their top young starters Shintaro Fujinami will be relegated to the bullpen. On the infield they have a power hitting shortstop in Hayato Sakamoto and a 24 year old second baseman that any major league team would love to have on their roster in Tetsuto Yamada. He can steal 30 bases and hit 30 homeruns. They list Yoshitomo Tsutsugo as an infielder but he is really part of a talented outfield and may be relegated to a DH role. The 25 year old is another player who can hit 30 homeruns and steal 30 bases. In the outfield in his place could be Norichika Aoki, Seiya Suzuki and the veterans Sho Nakata or Seiichi Uchikawa. This team has more All Stars than positions for these players to play.

Weakness - Catching lacks a superstar but this team does not really have a glaring weakness. It will be interesting to see how their power plays out against major league pitchers. This is not the Japanese team of punch and judy hitters that slash the ball to the opposite field that United States audiences are used to watching. There are some sluggers on this team, and those sluggers can steal bases.

Prospects to Watch - Shintaro Fujinami was a more heralded pitcher than Otani when they were both coming up through high school. He was selected number one in the draft by more Japanese teams than Otani. Takahiro Norimoto is a strikeout machine and is always on top of the league in that category. Yuki Matsui stands only 5′8″ but he gets hitters out. He had a rough year last year as the Rakuten Golden Eagles closer. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Tetsuto Yamada hit for both power and steal bases. They could probably start for most teams in the major leagues, Tsutsugo as an outfielder and Yamada as a second baseman, though Yamada is not considered a defensive standout at his position. Seiya Suzuki is another talented outfielder scouts will be watching for major league potential.

Expected Finish - They should advance to the final four and will be myworld’s favorite to win their third WBC championship.

Italy 2017 WBC Review

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Overview - Italy and Netherlands are always battling it out for supremacy in European baseball. Netherlands has lately gotten the better of Italy when it comes to international events. Italy can still battle the Netherlands when it comes to the European events.

The biggest event in European baseball is the European Cup. It usually is played every two years. Since 1969 either Netherlands or Italy has won the European Cup. Netherlands has won it 15 times, including the last two championships and six of the last eight championships. Italy has won the event nine times. Since the start of this event in 1954 only Spain (1955) and Belgium (1967) have knocked Italy or Netherlands off the first place perch.

In 2016 Spain finished in second place, knocking the Italians to the bronze medal finish. In 2007 Great Britain and Spain prevented Italy from even seeing a medal. The Netherlands has finished in first or second place since 1969.

Italy has competed in a few World Cups but have yet to finish with a medal. Their overall record in these events is 55-108. Italy has competed in all the Olympics since 1992, failing to qualify in the most recent one in 2008. Their best finish was in 1996 when they claimed sixth place.

Italy participated in the first World Baseball Classic in 2006 but did not pass the first round. They did beat Australia but Venezuela and the Dominican Republic got the best of them. The 2009 WBC saw the same disappointment of being eliminated from the first round, losing to Venezuela twice. They did pull off the upset of the tournament by beating Canada, giving Italy one win and giving them the luxury of not having to qualify for the 2013 WBC.

In 2013 they finally passed the first round, again defeating Canada and slipping past Mexico. They scored two runs in the top of the ninth to defeat Mexico 6-5 after a two run double from Anthony Rizzo. The only loss for them was to the United States. In the double elimination second round Italy took two one run losses to the eventual finalists Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico broke out for three runs in the eighth to win their game 4-3, Rizzo driving in all three runs for Italy. Italy scored all their runs in the first inning in the 5-4 loss to the Dominican Republic, Chris Colabello hitting a three run homerun in the first to get things started. The Dominicans battled back with three runs in the seventh to close out the scoring.

Because Italy was ranked as one of the top 12 teams in international baseball they were eligible to compete in the Premier 12. They lost all five games they played.

It will be interesting to see what team shows up for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the 2013 version of the WBC who almost qualified for the final four, but they had Anthony Rizzio or the 2015 version of the Premier 12 who were missing players from the major league 40 man roster. At least the 2017 version has Chris Colabello returning.

International Ranking - Italy ranks 11th. Two of the three teams playing in their pool rank ahead of them with Mexico 6th and Venezuela 7th. Puerto Rico is ranked 12th but they went to the finals with the Dominican Republic in the 2013 WBC. All three of those rosters are stocked with major league roster players. Italy has some major and minor leaguers but they are fringe players.

Roster

Pitchers - Tiaga de Silva, Mike DeMark, Nick Fanti, Frailyn Florian, Sam Gaviglio, Tommy Layne, Luis Lugo, Alex Maestri, A.J. Morris, Trey Nielsen, Orlando Oberto (DPP), Jordan Romano, Carlos Teran (DPP), Pat Venditte

Designated Pitchers Pool - Filippo Crepaldi, Frank DeJulio, Jose Escalona, Luca Panerati

Catchers - Drew Butera, Francisco Cervelli, Marco Sabbatini

Infielders - Gavin Cecchini, Chris Colabello, Daniel Descalso, Alex Liddi, Drew Maggi, Rob Segedin, Alessandro Vaglio

Outfielders - John Andreoli, Mario Chiarini, Brandon Nimmo, Sebastian Poma

Strengths - While they have no major league stars they do have some major league pieces. Catching is their strong suit with Francisco Cervelli a solid backstop and Drew Butera a good number two. The infield should be strong. Chris Colabello returns to the 2017 team where he provided some heroics in 2013. Daniel Descalso will be a good defensive option at second base while Cecchini could be the starting shortstop. Alex Liddi was the first born Italian player to play his baseball in Italy. He will share third base with Rob Segedin, who impressed many with his numerous homerun clouts in spring training last season. It will not be a star studded infield but it will be filled with major or minor league players.

Weakness - Myworld does not see a starting pitcher in this group. They will rely on local talent to get them through the first innings and hopefully hand the ball off to Tommy Layne, Pat Venditte, Alex Maestri or Tiago Da Silva. The outfield lacks major league talent, except Brandon Nimmo, who will fill centerfield. Nimmo and Colabello are not noted for their major league pop but they will probably hit 3-4 in this lineup.

Prospects to Watch - Nick Fanti is a young pitcher in the Phillies organization drafted in the 21st round. He did strike out 11 batters per nine innings and allowed just one homerun in 69 innings. Myworld does not know much about him, other than he is young. Gavin Cecchini was a first round pick of the Mets in 2012. He does not have the defensive chops to play short in the major leagues and may lack the power to play a corner position. The last two years he has hit .317 and .325 so the bat is there for a utility role. Brando Nimmo is the outfield version of Cecchini. He was a first round pick in 2011 out of Wyoming and lacks the defensive skills to play centerfield, but lacks the power to play a corner.

Expected Finish - This is a pretty evenly bracketed pool. Venezuela is the cream of the class with the other teams duking it out for second place. Italy lacks the starting pitching to get out of the first round.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Toronto Blue Jays

Monday, February 20th, 2017

When we did the Rays we forgot to give our assessment of how we did last year with our AL East predictions. They were not as good as our AL West and Central. We had picked the Yankees to win what we thought was a weak division. We also missed on the Orioles, picking them for the bottom of the Division. Myworld will no longer under estimate the Orioles. The Blue Jays were the only prediction we got right for this division. The Red Sox were picked for third. The last place Rays we picked for fourth. Despite what I thought was a weak division both wild card teams were from this division.

Overview - The Blue Jays will find it hard to replace a 40 homerun bat in the lineup. Kendry Morales was a good signing but he is no Edwin Encarnacion, to borrow on a familiar quote. The Blue Jays also need to have a resurgence in the bat of Jose Bautista, but to borrow another cliché, Father Time remains undefeated. It is possible that at 36 years of age Jose may have to deal with regular injuries. Myworld also does not see the pitching staff repeating their excellence in 2017, though we do like Aaron Sanchez. It will be hard to replace the innings of R.A. Dickey.

Strengths - You have to like the left side of their infield with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitski. Josh has the potential to hit 40 plus homeruns and Troy can hit 30 plus. The trouble with Troy is he is injury prone and he will be 32 entering this season. If he goes down the Blue Jays do not have a lot of quality depth behind him. The catching should be solid with Russell Martin behind the plate. He had a down year average wise (.231) but he did slug 20 homeruns and the veteran catcher knows how to run a pitching staff. Speaking of pitching, the Blue Jays led the AL in ERA led by Aaron Sanchez, who is starting to come into his own with a 15-2, 3.00 ERA. The Blue Jays have put in the trash can any more thoughts of using him in relief. J.A. Happ also had a Cy Young type season (20-4, 3.18), finishing sixth in the voting. While we are confident Sanchez can repeat his numbers we are not so confident with Happ. Any downfall from Happ should be made up with a better season from Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37), who struggled a bit last year. Marco Estrada gives them four good starters, a luxury most good teams do not have.

Weakness - Melvin (ex-B.J.) Upton had a nice season last year, but most of that was with the Padres. He hit only .196 when he was with Toronto. The .196 numbers were more indicative of his bat the last couple years. If he doesn’t hit the Blue Jays can always call on Dalton Pompey and hope the youngster can put it together. Kevin Pillar is a stellar defensive centerfielder, but his bat is very light. If Jose Bautista does not find production this outfield could be very light. First base will be a battle between Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak. Pearce could be the missing outfield piece in left field against lefthanders if Upton does not pan out. Both players are usually better pieces used off the bench than as starters. The Blue Jays overall age also worries me, with most of their starting lineup hitting the 32-33 age range, which could result in significant disabled list visits.

Non-Roster Invitees to Make Roster - Jarod Saltalamacchia has a good chance to make it as the backup to Russell Martin. The Blue Jays only have two catchers on their 40 man roster and Jarod is probably a better choice than Juan Graterol. Gavin Floyd, Matt Latos and Brett Oberholtzer are good options in the starting rotation if injuries should occur to their regular starters during spring training.

Impact Prospects - Dalton Pompey may no longer be considered a prospect anymore but he is the best minor leaguer who has a chance to make a big impact on the major league roster in 2017. A couple years ago he was supposed to take over their starting center field job. It will be interesting to see if Lourdes Gurriel is ready for the big leagues. He is the younger brother of Yulieski and has numerous offensive tools. His glove is a question mark, but myworld feels his best fit may be in the outfield. In Cuba he made too many errors as an infielder. Rowdy Tellez hit for power last year (23 homeruns) in AA. The Blue Jays don’t really have anyone at first base to prevent him from being called up if he has another monstrous year. Reese McGuire could be a mid-season callup if injuries were to happen to Russell Martin. He was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2013 but has never reached his first round billing potential.

Prospects to Watch - The Blue Jays have a number of young players to keep an eye on. The most well known name is Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who does not have the arm of his father nor the swing at everything mentality, but he has an impact bat. He is also an infielder (third base). Richard Urena played 30 games in AA. He is the shortstop of the future for the Blue Jays. He has the defensive tools to play the position. Anthony Alford is a tooled up outfielder who spent much of his youth playing football. Now that he is focusing on baseball the Blue Jays hope to be rewarded with a power hitting outfielder. On the pitching front Sean Reid Foley is the top prospect. He does not have an overpowering fastball but he does miss bats with 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings in the Florida State League. Conner Greene is a starter who may be the most ready to make the major league roster but a 4.19 ERA and only a 33/48 walk to whiff ratio tells myworld he needs another year in the minors. Jon Harris is their 2015 number one pick who did not put up overwhelming numbers in High A.

Expected Finish - We feel a little uncomfortable picking the Blue Jays for fourth in this division behind the Yankees. The offense will lose much of its potency while the pitching staff labors to keep runs to a minimum. That is not a recipe for success.

Israel 2017 WBC Review

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

Overview - Israel does not have much of an international history in baseball. They did try to run a professional league with United States financial backing but that fell through. Major league baseball still favors them and selected them for a qualifier in 2012. They won their first two games, including defeating the eventual winner Spain but they lost to Spain in the finals 9-7.

Back to the drawing board and this time Israel went undefeated, beating Great Britain twice and Brazil to qualify for the WBC. This will be their first significant international baseball event.

The rules for the WBC allows you to play for a country if you can obtain a passport from that country. That usually means you were born there or had a mother or father who was born in that country. For Israel you can obtain a passport if you are Jewish. It is an easier standard to meet allowing Israel to stock their roster with Jewish major leaguers.

Current International Ranking - Israel is currently ranked 41st in the international rankings, the lowest of any team who qualified for this event. They will be playing South Korea (3), Taiwan (4) and the Netherlands (9). That will be some tough company to beat.

Roster

Pitchers - Dylan Axelrod, Corey Baker, Jeremy Bleich, Craig Breslow, Danny Burawa, Gabe Cramer, Tyler Herron, Jake Kalish, Alex Katz, Dean Kremer, Shlomo Lipitz, Jason Marquis, Troy Neiman, R.C. Orlan, Joey Wagman (DPP), Josh Zeid

Designated Pitchers Pool - Richard Bleier, Scott Feldman, Jake Fishman, Brad Goldberg, Kenny Koplove, Jared Lakind, Ryan Sherriff, Zack Thornton

Catchers - Ryan Lavarnway, Nick Rickles

Infield - Scott Burcham, Ike Davis, Cody Decker, Nate Freiman, Ty Kelly, Tyler Krieger

Outfield - Zach Borenstein, Sam Fuld, Blake Gailen, Mike Meyers

Strengths - They have a veteran in Jason Marquis who can shut down a team for one game. Some bullpen pieces in Josh Zeid, Craig Breslow and Danny Burawa who can hold teams down in the later innings. It will be interesting to see what Ike Davis has left. He could be another Chris Colabello who led Italy in the last WBC. Nate Freiman is another power bat but too much swing and miss put a dead end to his major league career.

Weakness - Not enough fire power for this division. Overall their pitching and hitting will be weak. They have a number of journeyman minor leaguers such as Zach Borenstein and Sam Fuld trying to lead this offense.

Prospect to Watch - Tyler Krieger was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He had labrum surgery so missed the 2015 season but hit .299 at two levels in the minors (Low A/High A). His one big attribute is his speed.

Expected Finish - If they win a game and do not have to qualify for the 2021 WBC that would be an accomplishment. They will not advance past the first round.

Top Dominican Prospects - NL

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Not a lot changed with the top Dominican prospects from the National League. No player graduated to the major leagues. Myworld could have cut and pasted from the 2016 list and added it to the 2017 list. Below are the top Dominican prospects with a few new additions.

1. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - Last year his season was delayed by a drug suspension. This year his season will not get started because of Tommy John surgery. Throwing three digit fastballs can put a lot of stress on that elbow. In his 14 starts last year he put up the worst numbers of his career with a 4.96 ERA and a .252 opposition average. Perhaps his elbow was bothering him then. It will be interesting to see if he can recover all the velocity on his fastball when he returns but it will be at least until mid 2018 before Cardinal fans will see that. Since he has not pitched over 111 innings in his minor league career his pitch counts will be strictly monitored upon his return.

2. Amed Rosario SS (Mets) - Met fans will know how Yankee fans felt when they compared the defensive range of Derek Jeter in his final year at shortstop to that of Didi Gregorius. Amed has gold glove tools for a defensive player at the position far greater than what Asdrubal Cabrera or Wilmer Flores will ever show. He can also hit for average with a .341 average in a 200 at bat trial in AA. The power is short but the speed and the patience to take walks is there for him to be an effective lead off hitter. Expect him to start the season in AAA and when the contract of Cabrera expires after 2017 he will be the Mets shortstop.

3. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) - Robles has yet to show the power but it should come as he matures. He won’t be a slugger but he has the other four tools to create havoc on the opposition. His arm is plus for right field, his speed could play in center and his bat should consistently sit in the .300 neighborhood. Once the power comes Robles has the opportunity to be a 20/20 player on a good year. The Nationals expect Robles to take the place of Harper after Bryce leaves for free agency.

4. Eloy Jimenez OF (Cubs) - Eloy is another one of those 6′4″ giants who can extend his arms and hit the ball a long way. Eloy lacks the speed or the arm to play anything but left field, so that will limit him. Last year in his first year of full season ball he hit .329 with 14 homeruns, putting together a .901 OPS. The Cubs can show a lot of patience with Eloy. Expect him to spend a full season in High A. He will probably not see the Cubs outfield until 2018.

5. Manuel Margot OF (Padres) - The Padres acquired Margot in the Craig Kimbrel trade. His tools and upside are much greater than current centerfielder Travis Jankowski. Last year he had a 10 game September debut and held his own with a .243 average. The power has yet to come but Manuel easily has the other four tools, good speed, ability to hit for average, ability to cover ground in centerfield and the arm to fit in right field should that be a need. Until his power develops he will start his career as a leadoff hitter, but he could move into the number three spot in a couple years.

6. Raimel Tapia OF (Rockies) - Raimel has hit .300 every place he has played. His one failure was his major league debut this year when he only hit .263. His arm fits well in right and he has the speed to play center but the Rockies do not use him there. He may fit the Ichiro role by becoming a .300 hitting right fielder who does not hit for a lot of power. The Rockies outfield situation is a bit crowded so until they get rid of an outfielder Tapia is destined for AAA where he can improve on his .317 minor league career average. The one skill he needs to improve on is his ability to successfully steal bases. His success percentage is very poor.

7. Jeimer Candelario 3B/1B (Cubs) - The nice thing about the Cubs is they like moving players around to different positions. For Jeimer that is a good thing since he plays the same position as Kris Bryant. Jeimer does not have the speed to play the outfield so he will be limited to the corner infield positions. His power has also not shown yet to profile well at the corner infield, though he did slug .542 with 9 homeruns in a 260 at bat debut in AAA. Once he learns to turn on pitches the power will come. His batting average will always be around .300.

8. Aristides Aquino OF (Reds) - Another 6′4 outfielder but Aristides has the arm to play right field. He has already shown his power bat with 23 homeruns in the Florida State League. His lack of burner speed profiles him best as a right fielder, with a plus arm. One thing Aristides can improve on is his walk to whiff ratio (34/104). That could restrict his average to the .250s once he faces major league pitching. Expect him to play a full season in AA in 2017.

9. Dinelson Lamet RHP (Padres) - There is a lot of swing and miss in his pitches, with 11 whiffs per nine innings in AA. Myworld likes his 6′4 inch height and his mid-90s fastball. His slider is plus but he just started throwing his change up last year. If that pitch does not become at least average he could move to the bullpen. Last year Dinelson moved from High A to AAA. In 2017 he could make his major league debut.

10. Juan Soto OF (Nationals) - Rafael Bautista just missed making this list. That gives the Nationals three good outfielders in a couple years. Soto may have the most power among this trio but his speed plays below the other two. His arm is good enough for right field but it falls short of Robles so he may be destined for left field if all three patrol the Nationals outfield in a few years. The 2017 season will be his first in a full season league so it will be interesting to see what numbers he puts up. Last year he hit .368 at the two rookie level leagues in 190 at bats. If he can continue that the Nationals will move him up quickly.

Domincan Republic Prospects NL 2016

Domincan Republic 2017 WBC Review

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Overview - The Dominican Republic are the defending champions. That is all you need to say. They overcame a stunning upset by the Netherlands in 2013 eliminating them from second round competition to win it the next time, dethroning two time defending champion Japan and beating the Netherlands in a semi-final game to get there. It was the perfect finish to the 2013 WBC. The ideal scenario would have them defeat Japan in the finals but the Japanese were upset by Puerto Rico in the semifinals.

The WBC is their bread and butter when it comes to their international play. That is when the major leaguers participate. In the amateur international competition they are not so great, which is a reason for their low overall international ranking. In World Cup competition you have to go back almost 50 years the last time they won a medal. Their best finish was in 1948 when they won a gold. They won silver medals in 1942, 1950 and 1952 and took bronze in 1943 and 1969. When major league teams started stealing their ballplayers the Dominican Republic did not have the organizational capability of putting winning teams together absent their major league talent.

In the Pan Am games the Dominican Republic took the gold 1n 1955 and snatched the silver in 1979 but they have not medaled since then. They are even losing their dominance in the Series del Caribe as more major leaguers choose not to play in the event. This year they were the first team eliminated from the playoff round. They have not won the event since 2012. With the win by Puerto Rico only Venezuela has a longer run of not winning a Series del Caribe championship.

In youth tournaments, the building block for creating players the Dominican Republic is usual absent from the tournament or absent from the medal rounds. Most of their youth 16 and under are hanging out at the major league training facilities that dot the Dominican landscape hoping for an opportunity to show someone they have major league skills. They have no interest in competing in international tournaments.

Because the Dominican Republic does not do so well in international tournaments their international ranking is low. To qualify for the Premier 12 tournament a country has to be ranked in the top 12 of countries for baseball. The Dominican Republic falls one short of that at 13th. It is rumored that if the WBC does not achieve revenue for the 2017 event that major league baseball will turn the Premier 12 into the top international baseball event. The problem with that is at the last Premier 12 in 2015 major league baseball did not allow any player on the 40 man major league roster to participate in the event. As the event was held in November and some teams added players to their 40 man roster while the championship game was being played the United States had to remove players from their roster who were added to 40 man rosters with no replacements available.

The only time the Dominican Republic qualified for the Olympics was in 1992. They finished pool play 2-6, defeating Italy and Spain but failing to advance to the medal round. In three consecutive games against Japan, Taiwan and the United States they lost by the combined scores of 38-0, with the games not going the full nine innings because of the slaughter rule.

As stated, the event the Dominican Republic shines in is the WBC, when major league roster players show their patriotic pride and participate in the event. In the first WBC in 2006 they were able to advance to the medal rounds but were upset by Cuba in the semi-finals. History tells us it is the Cubans who brought baseball to the Dominican Republic so losing to them hurt.

In the 2009 WBC in a double elimination format they lost the opening game to a surprising team from the Netherlands that had a kid named Kenley Jansen as their catcher (now the closer for the Dodgers). They were able to bounce back against an outmanned Panama team to get a rematch against Netherlands with the winner advancing to the second round. The feared offensive sluggers David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Bautista, Miguel Tejeda, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz did not score their first run against the Netherlands pitching staff until the 11th inning. Unfortunately they gave up two runs in the bottom frame to be eliminated in the first round.

It was a lesson learned for the 2013 WBC. They rolled through the first round finishing undefeated. In the opening round double elimination second round game they escaped a scare by Italy, winning 5-4 after giving up four runs in the first. They defeated the United States in the second game and Puerto Rico in the final to continue undefeated. In the medal rounds they achieved some measure of revenge by defeating the Netherlands to face a surprising Puerto Rican team they had shutout in the second round. In the gold medal game, they again shutout Puerto Rico to win the championship, with Fernando Rodney shooting his arrow into the sky in celebration.

Don’t know what will happen with the Dominican Republic if the WBC decides not to continue their event.

Current World Ranking - Because of their poor showings in most international events not named the World Baseball Classic the Dominican Republic is ranked 13th among all countries playing baseball. Two teams in their pool the United States (2) and Canada (5) are ranked ahead of them while Colombia is ranked at 19th.

Roster

Pitching - Dellin Betances, Santiago Casilla, Alex Colome, Johnny Cueto, Samuel Deduno (DPP), Jumbo Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Martinez, Hector Neris, Wily Peralta (DPP0, Hansel Robles, Fernando Rodney, Enny Romero, Edinson Volquez

Designated Pitcher Pool - Fernando Abad, Bartolo Colon, Edgar Garcia, Ivan Nova, Alex Reyes (Tommy John surgery), Bryan Rodriguez, Luis Severino, Cesar Valdez

Catcher - Wellington Castillo, Alberto Rosario

Infielders - Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Carlos Santana, Jonathan Villar

Outfielders - Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Mel Rojas Jr.

Strengths - Many of these players participated in the first WBC in 2006. One big absence from this roster is David Ortiz. The lineup is solid especially when you have to choose between Manny Machado or Adrian Beltre for third base. Jose Reyes is at shortstop so if the manager wants to get both bats in the lineup without using up his DH slot Manny can move to shortstop. Carlos Santana and Hanley Ramirez provide power options at first and Robinson Cano is at second. Jonathan Villar can play second or short. This is probably the strongest unit in the WBC, the Dominican Republic infield. The outfield is not too shabby either if Jose Bautista can return to his glory days. That would give them two corners with 40 plus pop with Nelson Cruz playing the other corner. Starling Marte will handle center. The bullpen looks deep with Dellin Betances and Fernando Rodney taking care of the later innings. Alex Colome and Jeurys Familia are not too shabby either. It is a luxury of riches to have four closers in the pen.

Weakness - The catching is not All Star caliber. A lot of teams would like to have a catcher with the skills of Wellington Castillo, but when compared to his teammates he falls far short of being an All Star. Mel Rojas Jr. appears to be a bit out of place on this roster. You think they could have found a bigger name to take that spot as the backup to Marte. He plays a good defensive outfield but his bat is weak. Starting pitching appears a little short, especially with the injury to Alex Reyes. He was not going to be available until the second round anyway. Their first round starters will be Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez and Edinson Volquez. That is still better than the options they had in 2013 when they had to go with Samuel Deduno in a second round game against the United States. In the second round they have the option of going with the veteran in Bartolo Colon or a couple of unproven youngsters in Luis Severino or Ivan Nova.

Prospects to Watch - This is a veteran team so there are not a lot of prospects here. Mel Rojas Jr. and Hansel Robles would be fringe prospects.

Expected Finish - If this team was put together on a major league team it would be favored to make the playoffs and win most of the divisions. There is no reason for them not to repeat as WBC champs, though the previous champs Japan and the always disappointing United States have rosters to match.

Cuba - 2017 WBC Review

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Overview - For a number of years Cuba dominated the international baseball circuit. From 1976 to 2005 they won 12 of the 13 baseball world cups. The only reason they did not win in 1982 was because they did not participate. They also dominated the Pan Am games winning 10 straight tournaments from 1971 to 2007. Their dominance stopped after that, when more countries stocked their team with more talented players.

The last three World Cups were won by the United States (2007, 2009), Netherlands (2011) and then the replacement for the World Cup the Premier 12 was won by South Korea. Cuba finished second in the three latest World Cups they did not win and in the Premier 12 they advanced past the first round but lost their first game of a single elimination round to eventual champion South Korea.

When the World Baseball Classic was first put together in 2006 everyone was curious how the Cubans would compete in a tournament filled with major leaguers. Many felt they would finally be put in their place when facing major league players some argued were far more talented than whatever this tiny island nation can provide.

Cuba was put in a division with Puerto Rico, Netherlands and Panama and did quite well, finishing second in their pool, good enough to advance to the second round. The only team they lost to was Puerto Rico, who crushed them 12-2. The second round they were in a more competitive pool with Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. They defeated Venezuela, which was considered a surprise, lost to Dominican Republic and then needing a win over Puerto Rico to advance to the medal rounds they got their revenge with a 4-3 win. The United States was eliminated from the second round after an embarrassing loss to a winless team from Mexico.

Cuba advanced to the final four and the United States didn’t. There were videos showing Cubans celebrating the accomplishments of their baseball heroes. The celebrations became even greater when Cuba upset the Dominican Republic 3-1 to enter the gold medal game with Japan. Japan has been a thorn in the Cubans side in these WBCs and that thorn began in 2006 with a 10-6 win. Cubans were happy to finish in second place in a tournament many did not think they would survive past the second round.

Take a look at the Cuban roster and you will find the seeds of defection were planted after that torunament. There was Yunesky Maya, Leslie Anderson, Yuliesky Gurriel and Alexei Ramirez on that roster who eventually defected. Only Ramirez departed from this team prior to the 2009 WBC but the trickle would become an avalanche after the the next WBC games in 2009 and 2013.

In 2009 Cuba did not fare so well in the WBC. They rolled through the first round in a double elimination format, beating teams from South Africa, Australia and Mexico. In the second round in a double elimination format they were shutout by their nemesis Japan, and then after beating Mexico they were eliminated after a second shutout by Japan. That eliminated Cuba from appearing in the final four.

After that tournament is when the departures began. Aroldis Chapman, Yunesky Maya, Yuliesky Gurriel, Hector Olivera, Leslie Anderson, Yoenis Cespedes and Leonys Martin are now major leaguers, though Gurriel and Olivera left after the 2013 WBC.

The 2013 WBC the Cubans went undefeated in the first round beating Japan, China and Brazil. The game against Japan was not that critical since both teams were guaranteed of advancing despite the result. In a second round match up double elimination Japan knocked Cuba to the losers bracket with a 16-4 thrashing. Still stinging from that loss the Netherlands upset Cuba 7-6, scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Kalian Sams to win the game, eliminating Cuba from advancing to the final four for the second season in a row.

Gone from that team after signing major league contracts are Odrisamer Despaigne, Raciel Iglesias, Jose Abreu, Erisbel Arruebarruena, Jose Fernandez, Yuliesky Gurriel, Andy Ibanez, Alexei Bell, Guillermo Heredia and Yasmany Tomas.

The Cubans would like to show these defections are having a minimal impact on the qualify of baseball in Cuba. The team is young. They are talented. The fans are confident they will do well in the 2017 WBC.

Current Baseball Ranking - Cuba was number one for the beginning of these baseball rankings, but they have now dropped to five based on their performances in previous WBC events. They are still quite competitive in the international youth tournaments. They are in the same bracket as the number one team Japan, the number ten team Australia and number 18 China.

Roster

Pitchers - Freddy Alvarez (DPP), Vladimir Banos, Lazaro Blanco, Noelvis Entenza, Jose Angel Garcia, Vladimir Garcia, Miguel Lahera, Leandro Martinez (DPP), Raidel Martinez, Livan Moinelo, Alain Sanchez, Yosvani Torres, Yoanni Yera,

Designated Pitchers Pool - Erlis Casanova, Yoalkis Cruz, Dachel Duquesne, Leomil Gonzalez, Yasmany Hernandez, Jonder Martinez, Frank Medina, Jose Rodriguez

Catchers - Yosvani Alarcon, Frank Morejon, Osvaldo Vazquez

Infielders - Guillermo Aviles, Alexander Ayala, Carlos Benitez, Jeferson Delgado, Alfredo Despaigne, Yurisbel Gracial, Yordan Manduley, William Saavedra

Outfielders - Frederich Cepeda, Yoelkys Cespedes, Victor Mesa, Roel Santos

Strengths - They do have some veteran starting pitchers in Freddy Alvarez and Vladimir Banos that will probably start the first two games. Yoanni Yera is a good third starter who will give any teams fits. They also like to use the diminutive Livan Moinello in a set up role. He throws a lot of innings in middle relief. The closer is Miguel Lahera. Though he is listed as an infielder Alfredo Despaigne is their big slugger and usually plays the outfield. There are not a lot of players who have the power of Despaigne. The outfield is talented and fast with Yoelkis Cespedes, the younger brother of Yoenis, Victor Mesa and Roel Santos patrolling the green leaving Despaigne to get most of his playing time in the DH spot.

Weakness - Don’t know how much Frederich Cepeda has left. There is also not a lot of room for him in the lineup. The pitching after the starters and Moinelo and Lahera could be a little dicey. The catching is focused more on their defense than their offense and the infield has been decimated by defections of talented players. The hitters have also had trouble making contact against pitchers who can throw the slider since that pitch is not in the repertoire of most pitchers in Cuba.

Prospects to Watch - Victor Mesa will show he can cover a lot of ground in centerfield. He also can be a terror on the bases, though Cuba does not traditionally believe in stealing a lot of bases. He does not have a lot of power but he gets on base. Despite his small stature Moinelo is a lefty that gets hitters out. He doesn’t throw hard but he has a wide array of pitches with good command of those pitches. Yera and Alvarez are two pitchers who are relatively young at 28 but would fit right now in a major league rotation. Guillermo Aviles stock is down now that he has been moved from the outfield to play first base. Myworld does not think he has the power to fit the position. Roel Santos is another small in stature player that can impact the game with his speed.

Predicted Finish - They should finish in second place in this pool to advance to the second round. Their biggest obstacle will be Australia. Fans will not be pleased with any finish other than first.

30 Teams 30 Days - Tampa Bay Rays

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Overview - When Tampa Bay put the “Devil” out of their name they made the playoffs. They have not had a winning record the last three years so maybe they should look at tweaking their name a second time. Their 68-94 record puts them back at where they were when they were an expansion club, with the opportunity to draft a pretty good player in 2017 with a top five pick. They had a losing record for every month of the season except October, which has only two games on its schedule. Pitching was no longer a strength with an ERA buried in the middle of the pack. Hitting continued to be a sore spot with a batting average last in the league. They did hit for some power but that did not prevent them from having the second worst run production in the league.

Strengths - The franchise player is Evan Longoria. He is their mister consistency with a career high 36 homeruns last year while playing in all but two games for the fourth year in a row. He was two RBIs shy of 100. Finding a place for Brad Miller is critical. He moved from shortstop to first base, but the Rays have Logan Morrison to play first. Both bat lefthanded so a platoon does not make sense. They need to find a place for those 30 homeruns in the lineup. Brad could play second base or move to DH. Catching could be a strength if Wilson Ramos comes back healthy in June. Last year he was one of the best catchers in the game, but he has always been injury prone. If he is not healthy this position becomes a weakness. One of the best defensive centerfielders in the game is Kevin Kiermaier but he was limited to just 105 games last year. His bat is also a bit soft. The Rays have to hope for a turn around from Chris Archer. If he can pitch as he did in the second half of the season the rotation should be solid with Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell leading the trifecta. Two other pitchers have to be located during spring with Jose Deleon getting a pretty good look if Alex Cobb can not come back from his injury.

Weakness - Myworld can’t really see Matt Duffy play short. If he is better than Brad Miller that makes a big statement. The Rays may be better when Willy Adames is ready by mid-season. They could also go back to Brad Miller as their shortstop. The Rays signed Colby Rasmus to give their outfield another swing and miss candidate. Stephen Souza occupies right field and his 159 whiffs did not come with the expected power (17 homeruns). On the other corner Rasmus whiffed 121 times in 107 games with a .207 average. The Rays need to see a higher batting average and more pop from the two corner outfielders if they hope to finish over .500. Logan Morrison has a bat that is too quiet for first base. He was limited to 15 homeruns last year though he only played in 107 games. Nick Franklin is better suited as a utility player which could open second base to Brad Miller. They traded away Logan Forsythe and his 20 homeruns for a future pitching prospect in Jose Deleon.

Non-Roster Invitees - Dayron Varona and Rickie Weeks are two interesting candidates to fill the Rays outfield. Varona hit 14 homeruns in AAA last year and Weeks was on the Diamondbacks roster all season as a fourth outfiielder pinch hitter. He could end up filling that role for the Rays.

Breakout Prospects - Willy Adames could fill the shortstop job by mid-season, unless the Rays choose to save his service time. He has the potential to be a power hitting shortstop with plus defensive tools. Jose Deleon was recently acquired from the Dodgers and could fill the back end of the rotation by mid-season. If Alex Cobb is not healthy he could open the season in the rotation. Last year he got battered in four starts for the Dodgers. AAA will be the best spot for him to begin his career. Brent Honeywell could be the 2016 version of Blake Snell. Except for the shutout streak their minor league seasons mirrored each other. Honeywell has a nice screwball, which is a pitch not thrown by many. Casey Gillaspie hits for power but does not match the glove of Logan Morrison. He could also fill the DH role if the Rays feel they need to add more punch to their offense.

Prospects to Watch - Lucius Fox was one of the players acquired for Matt Moore. He plays a fluid defense at short but the bat still needs to develop. The Giants paid a $6 million bonus for the native from the Bahamas. He could move Willy Adames to third. Adrian Rondon is another high salaried bonus baby who the Rays paid close to $3 million to sign him. He has been a bit of a disappointment offensively but his defense at short has been solid. Nick Ciuffo was a first round pick in 2013 but has been a big disappointment from an offensive stand point. The lack of high first round draft picks has disappeared from the Rays repertoire in past seasons because of winning records. The 2017 season should see a return to a high number one pick. The Rays hope this lasts only one season.

Expected Finish - Like last year they will finish at the bottom, far from the next to last place team. Another 90 loss season is in the forecast unless their pitching shows major improvement.

New Baseball Stat - BPO

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

The baseball geeks are always coming up with a new baseball stat to define who is the best in baseball. The newest stat is the BPO or Bases Per Out. After all, the game is about running around the bases. The more bases you run the better your chance of reaching home.

The statistics used to calculate BPO are the count of the bases a batter reaches through hits, i.e a double is two, walks, stolen bases and being hit by pitch. Add the bases he gains for his team by advancing other runners with sacrifice bunts and flies. What is missing in this calculation is the number of bases a hitter advances runners that is an out that is not considered a sacrifice.

You also count the outs he makes, including double plays, sacrifices and times caught stealing. Now you might say that sacrifices are included in the above, but with runners on first and second a sacrifice could get you two bases while the bunt will only give you one out.

You the divide the first number of the bases you advance by the second number of outs you make and get a result.

If you use this number to identify the top pitcher in the American League that would be Corey Kluber with a 77.0 BPO. In the National League it would be Kyle Hendricks at 77.3. The top hitter in the American League would be Mike Trout (1.181 BPO) while in the National League it would be Joey Votto (1.088). The retired David Ortiz had the second best BPO rating in the American League (1.068).

To show how accurate this statistic is in predicting the wins and losses of a team consider that the top criteria for predicting wins and losses is if one team scores more runs than the other. That is usually a 100 percent indicator of a win. The second most accurate indicator of a win at 81.8 percent is the winning team will accumulates the most bases than the losing team. No other statistic achieved over a 77 percent accuracy rate.

So for you stat geeks another acronym for you to digest and argue over.