Archive for February, 2017

Colombia 2017 WBC Review

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Overview - Baseball is a curiosity sport in Colombia but it is picking up steam in popularity. Not everyone is enamored with soccer so the niche sports can prosper. In Colombia baseball is the niche sport for those kids who are outclassed by the soccer super stars. If you are not good with your feet perhaps you are better with your hands.

Colombia got in the WBC by winning a qualifier over teams from France, Panama and Spain. Panama was the favorite but a homerun from Dilson Herrera in the eighth inning gave Colombia the 2-1 win in the finals. It was the second time Colombia had defeated Panama in the tournament so they have earned their right to play. Unfortunately, they will be placed in one of the toughest pools with the United States, the defending champion Dominican Republic and Canada.

While many think baseball is in its infancy in Colombia they do have a record of winning medals in the baseball World Cups. The last medal they won was in 1974, though they have won gold medals in 1947 and 1965. Silver medals were earned in 1945 and 1971 while another bronze was taken in 1948. In both years they won the gold medal the games were hosted by Colombia in Cartagena. Interestingly, those are the only two world cups they have ever hosted for baseball. So there is some winning history for baseball in Colombia, who had an overall record of 91-84 in World Cup competetion.

This will be their first time playing in a WBC. They have competed in two qualifiers, not advancing in the first but advancing to the big show in the second.

Current World Ranking - Colombia falls out of the top 12 listed as the 19th ranked country for baseball. The United States is number two and Canada sits at number eight. The Dominican Republic may be ranked 13th but they are the defending champions. They do not fare as well in international tournaments without their major leaguers so their ranking for the WBC is probably lower than it should be.

Roster

Pitchers - Horacio Acosta (DPP), Nabil Crismatt, William Cuevas, Dayan Diaz, Ernesto Frieri, Tayron Guerrero, Sugar Ray Marimon, Guillermo Moscoso, Gregg Nappo (DPP), Javier Ortiz, Yohan Pino, Jose Quintana, Julio Tehran, Karl Triana

Designated Pitchers Pool - Kendy Batista, Randy Consuegra, Luis Escobar, Erling Moreno, Reiver SanMartin, Angel Vilchez, Ezequiel Zabaleta

Catchers - Jorge Alfaro, Jhonatan Solano, Meibrys Viloria

Infielders - Dilson Herrera, Mauricio Ramos, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Adrian Sanchez, Donovan Solano, Giovanny Urshela

Outfielders - Efrain Contreras, Tito Polo, Jesus Valdez

Strengths - While they are the underdogs Colombia should not be overmatched, not when you have two aces like Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran in your rotation. The challenge will be finding the third starter to finish out the pool. Tayron Guerrero throws in the mid 90s but Ernest Frieri and Sugar Ray Morimon have more experience. They also have some strength behind the plate. If you want tools you’ll go with Jorge Alfaro and if you want experience call on Jhonaton Solano. Meibrys Viloria is one of the hottest prospects in the low minors hitting over .340. The middle infield should be solid with Dilson Herrera and Donavan Solano taking up those spots. Herrera got the game winning homerun to put Colombia into the WBC and Solano is a utility infielder good enough to make the major leagues. Giovanny Urshela is a good defensive option at third but he was demoted by the Indians a couple years ago because of a lack of offensive production.

Weakness - The starters will not go nine so that is where a solid bullpen comes into play. Colombia is weak there. If Guerrero does not start he may be asked to be their closer. They also do not have a lot of depth and zero major league experience in their outfield. While they have some talented players, many of them are only highly touted prospects in the minor leagues. The only major leaguers on this roster Quintana, Tehran, the Solanos and Frieri with Herrera also seeing some time are not enough to compete in this pool. They are playing in a pool with three teams whose rosters are filled with major leaguers. For Colombia you can only say their roster is dotted with major leaguers.

Prospects to Watch - They have a ton of them. The most talented pitcher is probably Tayron Guerrero. He can throw the ball hard but lacks command. Two catchers are future potential stars in the major leagues. Jorge Alfaro is a top prospect who will make his name known in 2017 with his power bat and solid defense behind the plate. Meibrys Viloria is a prospect on the rise who will probably not see a lot of playing time in these games. Dilson Herrera should compete for playing time at second base for the Reds now that they have traded Brandon Phillips. Tito Polo is a fringe outfield prospect while Giovanny Urshela made the Indians roster as a third baseman but was demoted because of his lack of offense.

Expected Finish - With Quintana and Teheran they could surprise with one win and Canada is a team they can beat. They may choose to start their two aces against the United States and Dominican Republic, which will leave a lesser starter to do battle against Canada. Myworld does not see them advancing past the first round.

Taiwan 2017 WBC Review

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Overview - Taiwan has a professional league (China Professional Baseball League) but that league is not assisting Taiwan in the formation of the World Baseball Classic tournament roster. That team is put together by the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTPA). Lots of drama goes on between these two. The CPBL left it up to the four teams in the CPBL whether they would allow their players to participate. Only one team, the Lamiga Monkees did not allow their players to participate.

The Taiwan professional league is considered the third rated professional league in Asia behind Japan and Korea. One has to wonder where all those talented Little League stars played once they grew to adults. Despite all those Little League World Series victories their best finish in the International Baseball World Cups was in 1984 when they won the silver medal, finishing second to the power house Cuban team. They won bronze medals in 1986, 1988 and 2001 and finished with a respectable 93-77 record.

In 1992 when baseball was introduced into the Olympics Taiwan won the silver medal, again finishing behind the gold medal Cuban team. They lost to the United States team in pool play 10-9 but finished in the top four to qualify for the medal round, upsetting the Japanese team 5-2 to go to the gold medal game. The United States team played Cuba in the other semi-final match and lost 6-1. Japan would trounce the United States 8-3 to win the bronze while Cuba pounded Taiwan 11-1. They were embarrassed in the last Olympics in 2008 losing to China 8-7. That loss virtually knocked them out of being in the final four and competing for a medal. After the initial medal in the first Olympics Taiwan has not won a medal since.

In the Asian Baseball championships Taiwan has surprised in the last three events by taking the silver. The last time they won the gold in this event was back in 2001. They are usually considered the third team behind Japan and Korea.

In the three World Baseball Classics they have yet to medal. In 2006 they failed to advance past the first round, with South Korea and Japan the two teams advancing ahead of them. The only team they were able to conquer was China. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic they lost both their games in the double elimination tournament, including a losers bracket game to China that closely followed a loss in the 1988 Olympics. Many of the players on the two rosters were later implicated in a gambling scandal in the CPBL with some of the players indicted. They were forced to qualify for the 2013 WBC, did so and advanced past the first round for the first time when a three way tie between Taiwan, Netherlands and Korea eliminated Korea from advancing. Taiwan lost both their games in a double elimination second round, the first to Japan and the second to Cuba.

In the WBSC 2015 Premier 12, which is composed of the top 12 countries in baseball, but usually lacks major leaguers, Taiwan just missed advancing to the second round. They finished tied with Puerto Rico for fourth place and Puerto Rico advanced as a result of their win over Taiwan in pool play.

Current World Ranking - Taiwan is currently ranked fourth in the world in baseball, much of that fueled by their performance in international youth tournaments. Of the other teams in their pool Korea is ranked third, the Netherlands is ninth and Israel is ranked 41st. The 41st ranking by Israel does not reflect that the WBC will have a number of major league baseball players of Jewish descent on their roster, so this will be a very competitive pool.

Roster

Pitchers - Hung-Wen Chen, Kuan-Ju Chen, Yun-Wen Chen (DPP), Shao-Ching Chiang, Sheng-Hsiung Huang, Chun-Lin Kuo, Che-Hsuan Lin, Chen-Hua Lin, Kuo Hua Lo (DPP), Fu-Te Ni, Wei-Lun Pan, Chia-Hao Sung, Ming-Chin Tsai, Ching-Ming Wang

Catchers - Ta-Hung Cheng, Kun-Sheng Lin

Infielders - Chia-Hao Chang, Yung-Chi Chen, Chi-Hung Hsu, Chin-Lung Hu, Chih-Hsiang Lin, Chih-Sheng Lin, Yi-Chuan Lin, Sheng-Wei Wang

Outfielders - Cheng-Wei Chang, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Kuo-Hui Kao, Guo-Long Luo

More Designated Pitchers Pool - Ping-Hsueh Chen, Hung-Cheng Lai, Yen-Cheng Lu, Cheng-Hao Wang, Chien-Ming Wang, Wei-Chung Wang, Chun-Chieh Wu, Chien-Fu Yang

Strength - They have a lot of pitchers in the designated pitchers pool but it is unclear what that quality is. Fu-Te Ni once played for the Detroit Tigers in the major leagues and he will probably be their ace. Another ex-major leaguer is the ex-Yankee star Chien-Ming Wang but he appears to be listed among those pitchers available if Taiwan advances past the first round. Three minor league pitchers on the staff are the Indians Ping-Hsueh Chen and Shao-Ching Chiang and the Brewers Wei-Chung Wang. Chen and Wang are in the designated pitchers pool available for the second round. Of the pitchers on the roster the best appear to be the other Ching-Ming Wang (3.49 ERA) in the CPBL and Chia Hao Sung from the Japanese NPB Rakuten Eagles (2.44 ERA).

The big power bats will belong to outfielder Kuo-Hui Kao who hit 34 homeruns in the CPBL and drove in 104 runs and infielders Chih-Shing Lin (.337, 34, 107) and Chih-Hsien Chiang (.402, 30, 104). The CPBL appears to be an offensive league with a lot of high ERAs and explosive batting averages. Teams in the CPBL are allowed to fill their rosters with three foreign players and those are usually pitchers, watering down the local pitching talent for the CPBL to back end rotation starters or long relief pitchers.

Weakness - The CPBL tends to be a league measured at between High A and AA. Many ex-major leaguers who can’t play in Japan drop down to Korea. If they fail in Korea their next step is Taiwan. Only time will tell how these players from the CPBL, mixed with Taiwanese players from the Japanese and United States major and minor leagues fare against the best in the world. Pitching will probably be their down fall and an inability to hit the major league slider.

Prospects to Watch - Wei-Chung Wang may be the best prospect, but he isn’t really a prospect anymore since he spent one whole season as a Rule V pick with the Brewers. Shao-Ching Chiang got 27 starts in Low A as a 23 year old but with uninspiring numbers.

Expected Finish - The Korean team has been hit by a number of injuries so it is possible for Taiwan to advance. Myworld believes they will fall short in a very competitive pool.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Cleveland Indians

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Overview - Myworld has been predicting an Indians division win for the last couple years and it finally came true last year. Their starting pitching is the class of the division if not the American League. Despite injuries that happened to key players the Indians were able to keep afloat in the division. This year they could walk away from the division if the Tigers and Royals do not do well and decide to rebuild like the two other teams in their division. At some point you have to wonder when the fans will come out again to support the team. They used to be a guaranteed sell out now the stadium is half full for a World Series team.

Strengths - Francisco Lindor won the gold glove last year as the best fielding shortstop in the American League. He also showed that his offensive improvement in the major leagues last year was not a fluke, hitting .301 with 15 homeruns. The Indians will have this position covered for a while. Edwin Encarnacion was a nice free agent signing to fill the DH spot. His one consistency over the last four years is that he hits 40 plus homeruns per year. The park in Cleveland is not as conducive to the long ball as the Blue Jays park, but Edwin will get his share of homeruns. Where did Jose Ramirez come from? He doesn’t have the power you would like to see from your third baseman, but he is a solid defensive player who hit .312 with 46 doubles. The big unknown is whether he can replicate those numbers. Carlos Santana doesn’t hit for average anymore but he is good for 30 plus homeruns and 100 plus walks. The starting pitching has a solid four in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. Kluber has already won a Cy Young. Carrasco could be next. The oldest of this group is Kluber at 31. Andrew Miller adds some depth to their bullpen and gives them an alternate closer. Cody Allen saved 32 games for them last year. The bullpen is good enough to hold leads for three innings.

Weakness - The outfield depends a lot on the health of Mickey Brantley. He almost won the MVP a couple years ago but injuries allowed him to only play 11 games in 2016. If he is not healthy the Indians may have to fill the slot with young players or rookies. The replacement for Brantley is Brandon Guyer and perhaps a left handed bat. Tyler Naquin does not cover a lot of range in center field but his average is .296 with 14 homeruns. Lonnie Chisenhall is their right fielder. He failed to hit double digits in homeruns and struggled against left handed pitching. If Brantley is healthy Guyer could swing over to right field to be his platoon partner. Yan Gomes was injured much of the year, but even when he was healthy he hit just .167. That is a far cry from what he could do when he took over the position a couple years ago. They have a good young player in catcher Francisco Mejia but he will not be ready until 2018. The Indians need a bounce back from this position in 2017.

Non-Roster Invitees - Chris Colabello could fit at first base or in the outfield. He was a late bloomer who has not been the same since his drug suspension. Richie Shaffer has bounced around the waiver wire but seems to have settled in Cleveland. If he can make better contact he has the potential for 30 plus homeruns. Austin Jackson can steal a base and play centerfield. He should make the team if he has anything left in the tank.

Impact Prospects - Bradley Zimmer is ready to break into the outfield in 2017. The 2014 first rounder has the potential for 20 plus homeruns. Myworld thinks he is better suited for a corner outfield spot, but some think he can handle centerfield. The player myworld likes for center is Greg Allen. He has only played 37 games in AA so some more seasoning is needed. A mid-season call up is a possibility. Greg lacks the power of Bradley but is the superior defensive player with the potential to steal 40 plus bases per year. Francisco Mejia had a 50 game hitting streak last year. The Indians almost traded him mid season in their playoff run to improve their major league catching position. If Gomes struggles again Mejia could be asked to take over behind the plate. Erik Gonzalez could fit in a utility role. Richie Shaffer has the potential to offer a power bat in a corner infield or outfield position if he can make better contact. The Indians are pretty set in the rotation but if injuries make their appearance Ryan Merritt is a lefty arm who can fit in a rotation. Rob Kaminsky, a 2013 first round pick of the Cardinals is another lefthanded arm who may be best suited for the bullpen. Last year he started 25 games in the minors.

Prospects to Watch - One of the best prospects we saw play was the long limbed Triston McKenzie. He is a 2015 supplemental first round pick who stands 6′5″ with mid-90s heat. Brady Aiken was the first pick in the 2014 draft by the Astros but he did not sign because of injury concerns and lowered bonus money. He had Tommy John surgery shortly afterward and struggled in his first year back after the surgery. He could move quickly if he achieves some success early. Bobby Bradley is a slugging first baseman with 30 plus homerun power. He will have to wait until Carlos Santana relinquishes the position. Adam Plutko had some success with UCLA, leading them to a College World Series. His stuff is not overpowering but he can get hitters out.

Expected Finish - They will run away with this division.

China 2017 WBC Review

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Overview: Not much is known about the ballplayers that litter the China roster. They have not participated in many international events since baseball under Chairman Mao was prohibited. They used to have a professional league but that has fallen out of popularity. Major league baseball has a big interest in seeing that baseball succeeds in China because there is a huge economic benefit from it.

China has participated in the Asian Series baseball tournament but has never finished better than the bronze medal. They always fall behind the three power houses of baseball in Asia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. When the World Cup was in their final stages they would participate in the event but they never finished with a medal, their overall record 6-19.

They have been able to surprise Taiwan in the Beijing Olympics and in the 2009 WBC but those victories were tainted by gambling concerns. A number of players on that Taiwan roster were implicated or convicted of throwing matches in the CPBL.

In the WBC China has never advanced past the first round. They have not had to qualify for future WBC events based on the fact they have always managed to pull out a victory in the last two events. In 2013 they beat Brazil. In 2009 they upset Taiwan in a losers bracket game, forcing Taiwan to have to qualify for the 2013 event. In 2006 they did not win a game but there was no qualifying round for the 2009 games.

Current World Ranking - China is currently ranked 18th in the international baseball rankings, which puts them too low to qualify for the Premier 12, which is composed of the top 12 ranked countries in baseball. They are in a tough pool with Japan, the top ranked team in baseball, Cuba, who used to be number one, but after a number of defections from players to the major leagues dropped to five and Australia at ten.

Roster

Pitchers - Bruce Chen, Kun Chen, Andrew Chin, Quan Gan, Haicheng Gong, Kwon Ju, Xin Li, Yu Liu, Chao Lu, Yusong Lu, Xia Luo, Jiping Qi, Menghao Wang, Chaoqun Zheng

Catchers - Ning Li, Weiqiang Meng, Wei Wang

Infielders - Ray Chang, Yanpeng Chen, Fujia Chu, Xiaolei Du, Zeyuan Li, Joey Wong, Gui Yuan Xu

Outfielders - Zhenhong Lu, Chuang Na, Shunyi Yang, Yanyong Yang

Strengths - Myworld would not call these strengths but they will make China competitive. Bruce Chen used to be a nice middle or back end of the rotation starter in the major leagues. He was actually born in Panama but his parents are Chinese. He gives them a nice ace who could shut an offense down. Wei Wang is a solid catcher who was touted as the first major league signing. He did not make it to the major leagues and at 38 his time has passed. But he can provide his veteran knowledge to the young pitching staff. In the Beijing Olympics he was the catcher that was bowled over by a United States player that caused bad blood between the two teams. Joey Wong is a minor leaguer who has reached AAA after eight seasons in the minor leagues. He could play a role in the middle infield position. Wong will team with Ray Chang another minor leaguer who played shortstop for China in the Beijing Olympics. That will probably be the position he plays in this WBC. Neither player has a lot of pop to make a difference in the offense, but their defense up the middle should be solid.

Weakness - There are not a lot of young prospects on this team scouts can look for as possible major league fodder. The experience should help them in games, but it won’t be the same as the experience received by the major league players.

Prospects to Watch - None that myworld is aware of. The youngest player is Gui Yuan Xu who is 21. There are a number of players who lack birth dates on the WBC roster site.

Expected Finish - It will be an accomplishment if they can win a game to again not have to qualify. This will be a tough division to do that in. The prediction - 0-3.

Bandits Repeat as ABL Champions

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Kramer Chaplin allowed only one hit, a solo homerun to Cody Jones in the fourth inning, to lead the Brisbane Bandits to a two game sweep and ABL championship with their 3-1 win over the Melbourne Aces. Chaplin worked seven innings and would have had a perfect game no hitter if not for the homerun. Ryan Searle pitched the last two innings to close out the victory for the Bandits.

The offensive hero was Thomas Milone, who scored in the second inning on a Wade Dutton single to give the Bandits an early 1-0 lead. After the Aces tied it up, in the sixth a Milone single moved Kevin Padlo to third where he scored on a passed ball. An Aaron Whitfield ground out scored Milone from third to give the Bandits a 3-1 lead.

Top Prospects from the Dominican Republic - AL

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Myworld will start rolling out our top ten prospects from each country or region depending on how many prospects I can find for that region or country. We will start with the country that has the top prospects in baseball, the Dominican Republic. This top ten will be the Dominican players who are playing in the American League.

The number one prospects from last year Raul Mondesi, number 3 Nomar Mazara and number 5 Gary Sanchez have all graduated to the major leagues. Reynaldo Lopez and Francellis Montas made the top ten of the National League last year but were traded to the American League and have found themselves in the top ten. Below is the top ten:

1. Willy Adames SS (Rays) - The Tigers traded him to the Rays back in 2014 in the David Price trade. It appears Willy is finally ready to contribute to the Rays by mid-season in 2017. He has the defensive tools to play shortstop, a strong arm, decent range but good hands to make the routine plays. His bat should play as his walk numbers have increased each year with 74 in AA. His power is also starting to develop with 11 homeruns and a .430 slugging average. That is better than the numbers he put up last year but comparable to his 2014 season in rookie ball. The Rays have no one blocking him at short in the major leagues but Lucius Fox is lurking below him in the minors. Fox may be a bit more rangy but does not have the offensive potential of Adames. Expect Adames to be called up mid-2017 unless the Rays have issues with service time and want to keep him in AAA.

2. Francis Martes RHP (Astros) - Houston will be in a playoff race and their pitching is a little short. Frances has a live mid-90s fastball that has reached three digits lurking in the minor leagues. His curveball is also pretty impressive. Solidly built at 6′1″, 232 pounds there are no concerns about his small stature. He has the future potential to be an ace but with a good spring could start the season in the back end of the rotation. Last year he started 22 games in AA striking out a little more than one batter per inning. It might be best for his development if he started the season in AAA to build some confidence. The Astros will be in a pennant race so they will want to take their five best starters out of spring training to Houston with them.

3. Rafael Devers 3B (Red Sox) - Rafael is listed as a third baseman but his ultimate position could be first base. His bat will be more useful if he can stick at third. As he has risen up the minor league ladder he has always been one of the younger players in the league. Last year he played at High A as a 19 year old and showed he could handle the bat with a .778 OPS. As he gets older he should mature physically and his 10-12 homerun pop could transform to 20 plus. There is enough patience at the plate that a batting title could be in his future. The Red Sox can continue to be patient with him if Pablo Sandoval shows he can play third for a couple years. Rafael is ticketed for AA next year and it is hard to see him with the Red Sox until 2018. A September callup is a possibility if the Red Sox need some reinforcements for their playoff run.

4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr 3B (Blue Jays) - He does not have the arm of his father and his bad ball swinging is much tamer. This Guerrero seems more willing to take a walk with a 33/35 walk to whiff ratio. Unlike his dad the Blue Jays are trying him at third base. It is still too early to determine whether he can handle the position. He has a thick build that could expand in a couple years making a move to the outfield or first base a possibility. His bat is solid, showing good power with very little swing and miss in his at bats. Last year Vladimir played in the rookie league so he is a long way to go before he makes the Blue Jays roster.

5. Francisco Mejia C (Indians) - The Indians almost traded him to the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy but Lucroy nixed the deal. He was in the midst of a 50 game hitting streak when the Indians were in the process of trading him and had been promoted from Low A to High A. When the season ended he batted 342, 99 points higher than his 2015 average. It will be interesting if he can replicate those numbers in 2017. He has a strong arm but still needs to work on the finer points of catching. Last year his power was to the gaps with 29 doubles and 11 homeruns for a .514 slugging average. He will start the 2017 season in AA and if his numbers are equal to last year expect the Indians to promote him if he can handle the defensive side of the game.

6. Jorge Mateo SS/2B (Yankees) - It was a down year for the talented Mateo. First he was suspended because he felt he should be promoted to AA even though his numbers said otherwise. Then the Yankees acquired Gleyber Torres moving him to second base. The big part of Mateo’s game is his speed to create havoc on the basepaths. Last year he only stole 36 bases when compared to his 82 in 2015 so he needs to improve on that part of his game. He also seemed to sacrifice average to show off his power, hitting eight homeruns but only hitting .254. His strikeout numbers increased slightly while his walk numbers decreased. He is going to need to show more patience at the plate to get on base to take advantage of his speed. Last year Mateo showed a little inconsistency at short with 17 errors in 62 games. His arm and range does not match Torres so if anyone will move from shortstop it will be Mateo. With his speed a move to centerfield is also a possibility.

7. Reynaldo Lopez RHP (White Sox) - Reynaldo was one of three pitchers acquired from the Nationals for Adam Eaton. Lucas Giolito was another pitcher that was part of that trade. While Lucas is reported to have better stuff than Reynaldo, it was Reynaldo who was able to get major league hitters out more consistently. Reynaldo only stands 6′0″ but he can still get the fastball to the plate in the mid to high 90s. He does have three solid pitches (curve and change) to make it in the starting rotation. What he needs to improve on in the major leagues is his command. While it was solid in the minor leagues he did walk 4.5 batters in the major leagues and the lack of location saw the opposition hit him at a .272 clip. If he gets the ball over the plate his stuff is too good to allow that kind of average. The White Sox are rebuilding so a good spring could see him head north in the their rotation.

8. Francellis Montas RHP (Athletics) - Myworld will always confuse the Astros Martes with the Athletics Montas. Now that they are both in the same division they may have an opportunity to pitch against each other. Montas has bounced around from the Red Sox, to the White Sox, to the Dodgers and now the Athletics. At 6′2″ and 255 pounds he is a big boy who needs to watch his conditioning. The bulk allows him to hit triple digits with his fastball. Injuries limited him to just 16 innings last year (ribs). His other pitches are a slider and change, the latter needing to improve if he hopes to make it as a starter. If the change does not progress his fastball has enough velocity he could succeed as a closer. His lack of innings last year will ensure the Athletics be patient with him this year, starting him in AA or AAA depending on his spring.

9. David Paulino RHP (Astros) - Myworld likes his 6′7″ inch height with a fastball that can hit the high 90s. What myworld does not like is the fragility of his arm. His innings have been limited because of Tommy John surgery in 2014 and other arm injuries that have followed, all the setbacks limiting his innings to less than 100. The pitches are there for him to make it as a starter (curve, slider and change) but if his arm can not take the toll of high innings counts he could be used out of the bullpen. Last year he made his major league debut with one start and two relief appearances. He will probably begin the year in AAA with a major league callup depending on his success there.

10. Miguel Andujar 3B (Yankees) - The Yankees expect him to develop some power. His defense is solid with most of his 22 errors the result of poor throws. Last year he reduced his strikeout numbers while increasing his walks. If he can show 20 plus homerun power he makes consistent enough contact to hit .280 or better. Last year he drove in 83 runs and consistent 100 RBI production is possible. The Yankees currently do not have anyone blocking him at third base, though they are a team to sign free agents. Miguel should start next year in AA and with a good year a major league callup is a possibility.

Dominican Republic prospects 2016

Canada 2017 WBC Preview

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Overview - Canada has never advanced past the first round in the WBC. Their best opportunity was the first WBC in 2006 when they finished in a three way tie for second at 2-1 but were eliminated in a tie breaker formulae with the United States and Mexico advancing. In 2009 they hosted a WBC event in Toronto and in a double elimination format lost to the United States and were upset by Italy. In 2013 the tournament went back to a pool format and Canada finished 1-2, again being upset by Italy and losing to the United States. The only team they beat was Mexico. For 2017 Canada just wants to advance past the first round.

The year 2011 was perhaps the best international year performance wise for Canada in baseball. They finished third in the World Cub ahead of the United States. In 2009 they also finished third but they finished behind the United States and Cuba. The two third place finishes were the only time Canada has ever medaled in World Cup history. A couple weeks later they also went out and won the Pan Am games finishing ahead of the United States and Cuba. Canada was also the winner of the Pan Am games in 2015.

Canada looked poised to do well in the Premier 12 in 2015, which is the current iteration of the World Cup, finishing pool play undefeated at 5-0. Their hopes of a medal finish were dashed by Mexico, who beat them in the first game of a double elimination tournament to get to the medal round. Mexico later lost to the United States and then lost to Japan in the bronze medal game.

For 2017 Canada will not have to deal with their two nemesis Italy and Mexico. They will have to deal with the United States and the defending WBC champion Dominican Republic to make it to the second round. Colombia is the third team in their pool.

Current World Ranking - Canada is currently ranked 8th in the international baseball rankings. Only the United States at number two is ahead of them. The Dominican Republic is ranked 13th but they do not normally do well in international tournaments because they lack major league quality when those tournaments are played. For the WBC they are the defending champions and they will be bringing their best. Colombia is becoming a bit of a baseball hot bed and are ranked 19th. They were the upset winner in a qualifying game to make their first appearance in a WBC tournament.

Roster

Pitchers - Andrew Albers, John Axford, Kevin Chapman, Shane Dawson, Ryan Dempster, Eric Gagne, Jim Henderson, Chris Leroux, Adam Loewen, Scott Mathieson, Dustin Molleken, Nick Pivetta, Scott Richmond, Rowen Wick

Catchers - Kellin Deglan, George Kottaras

Infielders - Freddie Freeman, Jonathan Malo, Justin Morneau, Josh Naylor, Pete Orr, Daniel Pinero, Jamie Romak, Eric Wood

Outfielders - Michael Crousse, Tyler O’Neil, Dalton Pompey, Rene Tosoni

Strengths - They do not have Joey Votto but he won’t be really missed. They will have a collection of Freddie Freeman, Justin Morneau and Josh Naylor who can rotate around the first base and DH spot. Naylor as the youngster of the group may not see a lot of time but he has some impressive pop. The bullpen could be interesting, especially who they use as their closer. Scott Mathieson has had success in Japan but mainly as a set up guy. Eric Gagne was once a closer but he has been out of action for a couple years, getting most of his pitching opportunities as the coach of the French national team. Jim Henderson and John Axford have had opportunities as closers in the major leagues but with little success. Overall, this could be a good group of relievers to rely on to close out the latter innings.

Weaknesses - Myworld does not see a pitcher on the roster who I would call an ace. Not a lot of major league success here, which is important in this pool with a roster of major league All Star bats on at least two rosters. Nick Pivetta is a promising prospect in the minor leagues, but that won’t cut it here. Canada was hoping for approval for Russell Martin to play the catching position, but since he is not listed on the roster that did not happen. They will go with Kellin Deglan, whose claim to fame is the homerun record in the Australian Baseball League and George Kottaras who is mainly a backup. Other than first base the infield is weak all around with no established major league veterans. Pete Orr could fit at second base but he has been absent from the major leagues for a couple years now. The outfield is young and has some promise. Tyler O’Neil could win the starting outfield spot for the Seattle Mariners by mid-season and Dalton Pompey hopes for another opportunity from the Blue Jays to get a starting outfield role. They both should win two of the outfield spots for Canada. Michael Crousse was once a top prospect and did play for the 2011 World Cup team that won the bronze medal, but his days of playing in the major leagues has passed.

Prospects to Watch - The two best prospects are probably Josh Naylor, who may have more power than any minor league hitter except Joey Gallo. There will not be a lot of playing time for him since he has Freeman and Morneau ahead of him. Tyler O’Neil will get a starting outfield nod. He lacks the power of Naylor but has a better hitting tool and is smoother on defense. Nick Pivetta is the top pitching prospect on this team but he does not have overpowering stuff. He is better suited to the back end of the rotation.

Expected Finish - It will be a tough pool to advance out of with the defending champions of the WBC and the number two ranked team in the world in the pool. Canada will again fail to advance, finishing third.

Bandits Blast Aces in ABL Championship Opener

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The Melbourne Aces ran away with the regular season title to become the number one seed. In a best two out of three championship series the Brisbane Bandits got the upper hand with a 6-2 win in the opening game. The Australian veteran Trent Oeltjen got things started off on the right foot for Brisbane with a two run homer in the opening frame. The youngster David Rodriguez followed his lead with a solo shot in the third inning. Logan Wade and Kevin Padlo put the game away with back to back solo shots in the eighth inning.

Justin Erasmus struggled for the Bandits, only lasting through one out through the third inning. He gave up six hits on two runs. This forced Brisbane to use five different relievers to finish out the game. Ryan Searle pitched the last two innings with four strikeouts to close out the game. If not for the homerun ball Mark Hamburger may have had a good outing. He lasted eight innings and struck out 10, but four of the ten hits he gave up left the park.

A number of players who will be playing for Australia in the WBC are on the roster of these two teams. Ryan Rowland Smith pitched to one batter and Ryan Searle closed out the game with two shutout innings for Brisbane. Dushan Ruzic pitched the final inning for Melbourne. Oeltjen hit the homerun for the Bandits to get the scoring started and Aaron Whitfield batted in the leadoff spot. Mitch Nilsson batted in the DH spot for Brisbane. James Beresford, Brad Harman and Allan de San Miguel were in the Melbourne lineups.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Tigers

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Overview - The team wants to get leaner and younger. They have been trying to trade some of their large contracts but are not finding any interest. Last year the Tigers finished eight games back of the Indians and just missed making it as a wild card team. They are a year older now and have not done much to improve their team. The younger players will benefit from that year but the Tigers roster is dotted with too many 33 plus players. The sustained health of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and one more year of continued excellence from Justin Verlander is needed for this team to compete with the Indians. They have subtracted Cameron Maybin from the roster and have yet to fill that hole in centerfield.

Strengths - Even at 40 years of age Miguel Cabrera will continue to hit. At 34 he hit .316 with 38 homeruns. The bat remains productive but the glove is beginning to slide. Victor Martinez mainly slots in the DH position but he is the primary back up for Cabrera at first base. His glove is worse but he can still swing the bat at 38 years of age. The corner outfielders in Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez have the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns. Upton remains a mystery, always producing less than expected, but 31 homeruns is not something to sneeze at. J.D. Martinez was injured for a good part of the year so having him healthy for the whole season is a plus. Myworld is not enamored with his defense but we’ve read some reports stating he is a good defensive outfielder. That is not what we have seen. Ian Kinsler is another player getting long in the tooth, but at 34 he was able to slug 28 homeruns. The Tigers have no speed in their lineup so they rely on Ian to get on base from his leadoff spot. The rotation has an opportunity to be good but it must rely on the continued excellence from Justin Verlander. no sophomore slump from Michael Fulmer and a return to excellence by Jordan Zimmerman. The last two spots will be determined in spring training.

Weakness - Their defense is not going to be very good. Centerfield is probably their biggest hole. They recently acquired Mike Mahtook who can handle the position defensively. He has yet to prove his worth with the bat. If he doesn’t hit the Tigers may have to go with Tyler Collins or JaCoby Jones. Neither is noted for their blazing speed to cover ground in centerfield and they both lack proven bats. The bullpen has always been a problem. Last year Francisco Rodriguez fixed the hole with his 44 saves. He doesn’t have much of a fastball anymore and we’d be surprised if he can replicate those results. If he falters the Tigers could turn to hard throwing youngsters Bruce Rondon, who achieved some success in limited opportunities, or rookie Joe Jimenez who combined for 28 saves at three levels of the minor leagues. More than likely they will turn to a more experienced arm in Justin Wilson. There is no proven closer behind Rodriguez should he struggle.

Impact Prospects - Joe Jimenez will probably begin the season in AAA but expect him to be called up early to reinforce the bullpen. He struck out more than 12 hitters per nine innings and limited the opposition to an average of less than .200 at three different levels of the minor leagues. Dixon Machado has been hanging around for a long time. His bat is suspect but his glove is smooth. The Tigers could give him an opportunity as a utility player this year. The outfield is crowded with corner outfielders and some of the best offensive players in the minor league system are corner outfielders. Steven Moya had a .790 OPS in a brief major league trial but he is poor defensively and has trouble making contact. Mike Gerber has the better glove but lacks the power you would like to see in a corner outfielder. He also lacks the rangeto cover the ground needed from a centerfielder. Christin Stewart is probably still a year away but he hit 30 homeruns last year. Like Moya his defense is suspect with an arm that will limit him to left field. He does draw a lot of walks. Jacoby Jones is one of the centerfield candidates, but he can also play third base. His defensive tools for center are probably lacking and he failed to hit last year but he could find a role.

Prospects to Watch - Matt Manning was their first round 2016 pick. He has a good mid-90s fastball and 6′6″ height that could make him an ace in a couple years. Beau Burrows was their first round pick in 2015. He is not as tall as Manning and his fastball is a tick less in velocity but his secondary pitches are a little more developed. He should start the season in High A and could be ready in 2018. Myworld is fascinated how a catcher at 6′6″ will handle his position. Grayson Grenier has shown a decent bat but his defense at this time is a work in progress. He could start the season in AAA and if injuries ravage the Tigers catching staff he could be called up for the 2017 season. Myworld is not too impressed with the quality of the Tigers minor league system.

Expected Finish - The Tigers will again finish in second and miss the wild card festivities. They will win less games than the year before and could have a fire sale at the trade deadline if they fall too far back from playoff consideration. Myworld feels they will be in that purgatory of too close to sell but too far to have any reasonable chance of contention.

Australia WBC Review

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Overview - In World Cups that were dominated by Cuba because most baseball countries used amateur players to participate in these events Australia played a little below the .500 level. They did not have any top three finishes. They did pull off a bit of an upset in the 2004 Olympics when they finished in second place to Cuba. That was the year the United States did not qualify after their upset loss to Mexico in a qualifying tournament. Australia upset Japan in a semifinal game 1-0 with Chris Oxspring outdueling Daisuke Matsuzaka. It was the second time Australia had beaten Japan after winning a pool game 9-4. Australia was the only team Japan lost to in those Olympics. Cuba defeated Australia in the gold medal game 6-2, their second loss to Cuba in the 2004 Olympics. Trent Oeltjen, Ryan Rowaland Smith and Chris Oxspring are three teammates from the 2004 silver medal team and will be hoping to spin that same magic for this team. Mitch Nilsson is the nephew of David Nilsson, a major leaguer who was the heart and soul of that 2004 Olympic team. Jon Deeble is the manager for the 2017 WBC team and also managed the 2004 Olympic team. Graeme Lloyd the bullpen coach was a pitcher for the 2004 Olympic team.

Australia did not qualify for the 2015 Premier 12 because they were not rated as one of the top 12 baseball teams in the world when the rankings came out. Some say the Premier 12 may eventually replace the World Baseball Classic as the top baseball event. If the Premier 12 was played in 2017 Australia would qualify.

This is the third appearance for Australia in the World Baseball Classic. They are 1-8 in their three appearances, failing to advance past the first round in all three events. For the 2017 WBC they had to qualify for the first time after finishing 0-3 in 2013. They played in Australia and defeated teams from New Zealand, South Africa and the Philippines to qualify for the 2017 WBC.

Current World Ranking - 10. Japan (1) and Cuba (5) who are in their first round pool are ranked higher than them. China (18) is the one team ranked lower than them.

Roster:

Pitchers

Tm Atherton, Tom Bailey(DPP), Travis Blackley, Justin Erasmus (DPP), Josh Guyer (DPP), Liam Hendriks, Samuel Holland (DPP), Jon Kennedy, Steve Kent, Daniel McGrath(DPP), Peter Moylan, Chris Oxspring (DPP), Ryan Rowland Smith, Dushan Ruzic, Warwick Saupold(DPP), Ryan Searle, Sam Street (DPP), Josh Tols, Todd Van Steensel, Alex Wells, Lachlan Wells(DPP), Matthew Williams

DPP is Designated Pitchers Pool

Catcher

Allan de San Miguel, Robbie Perkins, Mitchel Nilsson

Infielders

James Beresford, Brad Harman, Luke Hughes, Logan Wade, Mike Walker, Stefan Welch

Outfielders

Michell Denning, David Kandilas, Timothy Kennelly, Trent Oeltjen, Aaron Whitefield

Strengths - They have some solid young arms who could create some issues for the free swinging Cubans. Travis Blackley is a veteran pitcher with major league experience. Liam Hendriks is a major league arm who will give Australia two good starters in the rotation. Warwick Saupold got some major league time last year and will be the closer out of the bullpen. They could go with the veteran starter Ryan Rowland Smith as their third starter or fling a young arm and hope for the best. There are some ex-major leaguers who will provide leadership such as pitchers Peter Moylan, Smith and Blackley and position players Brad Harman, Luke Hughes and Trent Oeltjen.

Weakness - The ex major leaguers are not really active except in the Australian Baseball League and some international events. They should be at least baseball ready with the ABL recently finishing the season. A lot of young players but they are competing against All Stars from Japan. The one saving grace is Cuba does not appear as strong as in years past. Scoring runs will be a challenge with no real power source to trigger the offense.

Prospects to Watch - Aaron Whitfield was a softball player who is showing he can play baseball. He is one of the top prospects for the Twins. Even with veteran outfielders on the team he should be in the starting lineup. Even at 20 years old he was one of the best players in the ABL, a league composed of some veteran ex-major leaguers from Australia as well as rising single A prospects from the United States. Lachlan Wells and Alex Wells are twins. Lachlan signed first with the Twins when he was 16. Alex signed as an 18 year old with the Orioles. Both throw lefthanded and will not wow you with velocity, relying on location of pitches to achieve soft contact.

Expected Finish - Cuba will still have a veteran pitching staff but it is not out of the realm of possibility for Australia to advance to the second round for the first time in WBC history. The important thing for them is to win at least one game so they do not have to go through a qualifying round if there is a 2021 WBC. They will do that but finish third in this round and fail to qualify for a second round.