Archive for December, 2017

Heat Melts the Calgary 32-10

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Yes. This was a baseball game. In Australia. The Perth Heat took advantage of 13 Canberra Calvary walks and 6 errors to break the Australian record for runs scored with 32. The old record had been held by the Adelaide Bite when they scored 23 back in 2014 when most in the United States were celebrating Halloween. Scary thought. Because Perth was the home team they scored the 32 runs in just eight innings.

The Cavalry actually outhomered the Heat four dingers to two. But the Cavalry were down 17-0 after two innings. Jonathan Mottay, who pitched for France in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier made a forgetful debut in the Australian League coughing up 11 runs in one inning. He faced five batters in the 11 run second inning but could not get anyone out. Every pitcher who appeared for the Cavalry walked at least one hitter, though Michael Click did not allow a run in his one inning of work and Kyle Perkins came in from right field and retired two hitters without allowing a run. He was the second position player to pitch, with David Kandilas starting the inning and retiring only one hitter in the eighth while giving up four runs.

The Perth Heat had every player in the starting lineup score at least two runs, drive in a run and contribute at least one hit. Ulrich Bojarski, who contributed the least number of hits with one was tied with Garrett Whitley for scoring the most runs with five. He walked four times. Jesse Williams, who batted last in the order led the team in RBIs with six while Jake Fraley was second on the team with five. Jake drove in three runs in the sixth inning with one of the two Heat homeruns.

Perth finds themselves in second place in the Australian League. They play next weekend against the last place Adelaide Bite, inching up on the first place Brisbane Bandits who are half a game ahead of them. Perth has a league leading batting average of .302 with their 193 runs 37 more than their closest pursuer the Bandits. Surprisingly, Calgary is second in ERA at 5.32 behind the Brisbane Bandits who lead in ERA at 3.78. It appears the Australian League is using the spiced up major league ball.

The D-Backs Prospect Oasis

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

At least they hope not. They have traded some pretty good prospects over the last two years. Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Touki Toussaint are three of the bigger names traded to the Braves. Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Bauer are two other names who were traded before they could get any production from them. The Diamondbacks hope the current group pans out better than what most experts predict. If not they will be forced to acquire expensive veterans to keep their playoff hopes alive or go into rebuilding mode.

Myworld is not too enamored with their prospect list. Last year they were rated last in myworld’s prospect list. The previous year they were up at number 23. In 2015 they were at the bottom of the top ten. Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley are two players from that list who made contributions to the 2017 major league team. Aaron Blair and Touki Toussaint are two of the players traded to the Braves. Dansby Swanson was the first player drafted in 2015 and traded to the Braves before he could be considered a D-back prospect. Now that they have hit rock bottom the only direction they can go is up.

Jon Duplantier and Anthony Banda give the pitching staff some hope. Jon throws from the right side with his mid-90s fastball producing a 1.39 ERA. The last minor league pitcher with a lower ERA was a now Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander. Jon limited the opposition to a .192 average. The third round 2016 pick should rise quickly in 2018 checking in at AA. If he repeats his 2017 performance it will not take the Diamondbacks long to promote him to the big club.

Anthony Banda throws from the left side. He spent most of his season at AAA getting a major league promotion toward the end of the year. His fastball has decent velocity but it is his curveball that is his put away pitch. His pitches seemed hittable in AAA (.266) and the majors (.256). There is talk of trading Zack Greinke and this open a spot in the rotation for Banda. He did have good success retiring lefthanded hitters in the major leagues (,158) but the sample size was small.

Taylor Clarke is a pitcher high on many prospect lists but not on myworld’s radar. He has a good frame (6′4) decent velocity on his fastball and three pitches to fit in the rotation. The third round 2015 pick pitched well at AA (2.91) but was susceptible to the gopher ball in Reno, driving up his ERA (4.81). Expect him to start the season in AAA.

Pavin Smith was their top pick in 2017. He is a lefthanded bat who the Diamondbacks hope carries some power, though in over 200 rookie league at bats not one ball carried over the fence. For the Virginia Cavaliers, a tough park to go deep in, he hit 13 homeruns. The D-backs believe the power is there. Currently his bat is more contact oriented, drawing more walks than whiffs (27/24) and in college more homeruns than whiffs. Getting more loft in his swing could increase his strikeout total but put more balls into the seats. For the 2018 season he should begin the season in full season ball with spring training deciding the level. As a college drafted player he should rise quickly if he succeeds in the offensive game.

Socrates Brito had his opportunity to stick in the Diamondbacks lineup the last couple years, but injuries have set him back. Injuries prevented him from appearing on the major league roster this year. At 25 years of age time is running out. The speed is there for centerfield and the arm is strong enough for right. The bat is short in the power category so his best fit is up the middle. A major league spot is his with a good spring, but it could be as a fourth outfielder.

Another player whose prospect status is running near empty is Christian Walker. At 26 the only reason he gets a mention is he hit 34 homeruns last year, two in the major leagues. His best position is first base but that is occupied by All Star Paul Goldschmidt. Left field is an option but his slow foot speed makes him a defensive liability there. His best bet would be to hit a lot of homeruns in AAA to allow the Diamondbacks to trade him to the American League where he can be used as a DH.

Marcus Wilson carries good defensive tools for the outfield. His bat is not considered to be impactful enough, though last year he hit a career high .295 with a .383 OBA. His speed should produce more stolen bases if he continues to get on base. The 2018 season should see him start in High A where he will try to duplicate his 2017 season. This could determine his major league fate.

Myworld likes the name of Daulton Varsho. His dad Gary played for the Phillies and named him after their catcher Darren Daulton. Daulton has gravitated toward the catcher’s position with tools similar to Darren. There is power in his bat and speed in his legs, unusual for a catcher. The supplemental first round pick in 2017 may lack the arm for a permanent position behind the plate. If his power bat continues to develop a move to left field could be in his future.

Ildemaro Vargas was signed out of the Independent League. At 26 his shelf life is short but in 2016 he hit .354 in AAA. He followed that up last year with a .315 average and a major league debut (.308). His power is limited to the gaps. His best position is second base but his role may ultimately be as a utility player who also fills time in the outfield. Expect him to get more major league at bats in 2018, making the trip to Arizona in April with a good spring.

Cubbies Cupboard Getting Bare

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Now that the Cubs are winning they have lost an opportunity to select the best player in the draft. They have also felt the need to trade some of their top prospects for veterans to get them through the playoff race, losing players like Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres and Jeimer Candelario. Also, many of their superstars who they drafted early have graduated to the big leagues, most recently Ian Happ, Albert Almora and Wilson Contreras but Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber two now veterans who were once high first round picks. Now the minor leagues is filled with players who have lesser talents, but with time could become contributors to the Cubs major league roster, or be used as trade fodder. It needs to be restocked soon.

Surprisingly, it is the pitching in the minor leagues that is now the Cubs strength. Their top ten prospect list is littered with pitchers who the year before were listed in the middle of the pack. Duane Underwood was once one of their top pitchers but a poor year has dropped him back in the prospect list. He went 13-7, but poor command and a low strikeout rate led to a 4.43 ERA. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but his secondary pitches are a bit inconsistent. His best bet for the major leagues may be to work out of the bullpen next year.

A trio of foreign pitchers have percolated up the system. Adbert Alzolay is small at 6′0″ but can hit the mid-90s. He reached AA and limited the opposition to a .220 average. Oscar de la Cruz has a pitcher’s frame at 6′4″ who also hits the mid-90s with his fastball. He was signed by the Cubs in 2012 and at 22 years of age has finally reached High A. Jose Albertos is another smaller pitcher at 6′1″ who has a good change to complement his mid-90s fastball. The Cubs can hope one of these three makes an impact in the rotation in the still somewhat distant future.

Now that they are selecting lower in the draft they have been using their picks to focus on pitchers. Alex Lange and Brendon Little are two first round picks from the 2017 draft. Lange throws from the right side and Little the left. Both rely on curveballs to retire hitters with fastballs that sit in the low 90s but can reach mid-90s. At 6′3″ 190 Lange can add some more meat to his frame which could add a tick or two to his velocity. Both pitchers started in Low A but as college drafted pitchers could rise quickly. If the Cubs can get one of these two to have success in the rotation they have accomplished something in the draft.

Jen-Ho Tseng put himself back on the prospect map after falling off last year. The Taiwanese native had a 2.54 ERA combined between AA and AAA with 24 starts. There is not a lot of velocity in his fastball so command of his pitchers and keeping them low in the strike zone will allow him to retire hitters. He could get an opportunity to fit in the back end of the Cubs rotation next year.

Myworld is not enamored with their position prospects. Victor Caratini is a tweener prospect who does not have the defensive chops to usurp Wilson Contreras from the catcher position and lacks the power to play first base. Last year he had a career year in AAA, hitting .342. His best role could be as a DH or get traded to a team lacking a firstbaseman. He could also be used as a backup catcher.

Eddy Martinez is an outfielder signed out of Cuba. He has the arm for right field and the speed to be serviceable in center but his bat will limit him to be a fourth outfielder. At 22 he is still young. Last year he slugged 14 homeruns so the power could still emerge but at this point the Cubs have to wonder why they threw in that extra $500,000 to get to a $3 million bonus to outbid the Giants.

David Bote is a player to watch. At 24 his line drive bat could be ready to make an impact. He showed good power in the AFL, hitting four homeruns and hitting .333. If he can stay in the .300 neighborhood with moderate power he could become useful as a role player. Unfortunately his defensive tools limit him to second base and his legs do not have the speed to make him an impact player with the stolen base. He should start the season in AAA but don’t be surprised not to see him with the Cubs by mid-season.

Michael Cruz is being groomed as the possible catcher of the future after Contreras has filled his purpose. Cruz has some pop in the bat but still needs to work on his defense. Last year he committed 9 errors and five passed balls in just 27 games. Those numbers will have to improve if he wants to see the major leagues.

A final prospect to watch is Chad Hockin. His numbers were not overwhelming but he throws a mid-90s fastball and he is the grandson of Harmon Killebrew. Myworld would be a little higher on him if he was a hitter instead of a pitcher.

Cardinals Quietly Churn Out Prospects

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

The Cardinals do not seem to promote their prospects as other teams do. It seems pitchers with 100 mile per hour fastballs are always trickling out of their system who no one has heard of until they step foot on the pitcher’s mound. They recently acquired Marcell Ozuna for one of those pitchers, Sandy Alcantara. With the acquisition Alcantara moved to the top of the Marlins prospect list. The Cardinals also have a number of outfielders, but they always seem to under perform. Quantity does not always guarantee quality.

One of those pitchers who the Cardinals have been waiting on for the last couple years that hits triple digits with the radar is Alex Reyes. Two years ago he missed significant time because of a drug failure. Last year he missed the season because of Tommy John surgery. Alex has been sitting atop the Cardinals prospect list for the last four years. The Cardinals hope the 2018 season is when he arrives. Don’t expect him to start the season with the club. He will need at least a half a season in the minor leagues strengthening his arm and enhancing his command. One of his weak points prior to the surgery was his lack of command. It will also be interesting to see the impact the surgery has on his velocity and the break in his curveball.

Another pitcher ready to break into the rotation in 2018 is Jack Flaherty. At 6′4″ he has the potential to be an innings eater. The 2014 first round pick did well in the minor leagues (14-4, 2.18) but struggled when promoted to the Cardinals (0-2, 6.33). He got too tentative facing major league hitters, walking almost one batter per two innings pitched. He has moved slowly through the Cardinals system but a good spring could see him slide into the back end of the Cardinals rotation to begin the season. His best bet would be to get a month of seasoning.

Dakota Hudson is another pitcher knocking on the door. The 2016 first round pick reached AAA last year after taming AA hitters. While his fastball hits the mid-90s on the radar his strikeouts to innings pitched is very weak (77 K’s in 114 innings). At 6′5″ he has the height to intimidate hitters so the lack of strikeouts is a concern. Myworld would prefer to see a little more swing and miss from his pitches before we jump on the Dakota train.

Junior Fernandez is one of those underrated pitchers the Cardinals develop who show up spitting triple digit heat when they appear on the scene. Like Dakota, that triple digit heat does not produce a lot of swings and misses (58 K’s in 90 innings). A lack of command and still below average secondary pitches make his fastball more hittable. Harnessing a second and third pitch will force hitters not to sit on his fastball.

The outfield situation is not as crowded with the trades of Magneuris Sierra and Stephen Piscotty. The two best outfielders left in the minors are Tyler O’Neil and Harrison Bader. Tyler will hit for pop, blasting 31 homeruns last year. His lack of speed will prevent him from playing center and his struggles to make contact could keep his average below .250. He had 151 K’s in 130 games at AAA, starting his season in Seattle and later being acquired by the Cardinals. The Cardinals outfield is a little crowded, but none of the participants come to spring training with his power.

Harrison Bader is your typical Cardinal outfielder. The 2015 third round pick is just barely above average in speed, arm and power. That would make him borderline as a centerfielder and/or corner outfielder. Last year he hit 20 homeruns which put his OPS at an .816. He played all season at the AAA level and at 23 he is knocking at the door of a very crowded room. The tools are there to be at least a fourth outfielder.

Other players who could weigh in on the outfield scene are Cubans Randy Arozarena and Jonathan Machado and former number one pick Nick Plummer. Arozarena has shown some power in the winter league and last year hit 11 homeruns. He has the speed to play center and sit at the top of the order, but needs to show better patience at the plate. Machado has the same tools but very little power. At 5′9″ he must thrive playing the small man’s game, stealing bases and bunting for base hits. For a first round pick Plummer has been a bust. The tools are there to be an above average player but a .198 average and lots of swings and misses will stunt the hype. He needs to hit because a below average arm restricts him to left field if he fails to capture center.

The best infielder of the group is 2016 first round pick Delvin Perez. He would have been higher than the 23rd player taken in the draft, but a positive drug test dropped his standing. Coming from Puerto Rico many compared him to Carlos Correa. He does not have the Correa power but he runs better than Carlos. His first full season in the minors was a struggle with a .203 average. If his bat can produce he has the tools to be a very good defensive shortstop.

His competition at short could come from Edmundo Sosa. The Panamanian has very good defensive tools but a questionable bat. He may be better suited to make a team as a utility player. Max Schrock has one of those line drive bats that will always be around the .300 neighborhood. He won’t hit for a lot of power or steal a lot of bases and his arm restricts him to second base, but he hits hard line drives. He has bounced from the Nationals to the Athletics and now to the Cardinals. Somebody always wants him.

Carson Kelly is ready to take over from Yadier Molina behind the plate. Defensively he may be the best catcher in the minor leagues. His arm is strong and he calls a good game. The concern is whether he will show enough bat to not be a detriment to the lineup. Last year he hit just .174 in a 69 at bat major league performance. Yadier is not ready to throw in the towel yet so expect Carson to mentor under him for at least one year.

A player to watch is 6′6″ righthander Johan Oviedo. The Cardinals spent $1.9 million to sign him and expect him to follow in the footsteps of Alex Reyes, Carlos Martinez and Sandy Alcantara as hard throwing righthanders. His fastball hits the mid-90s but it has room for growth as he matures. Command and secondary pitches are his biggest obstacles to this point.

Second Dominican Winter League Update

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

The Caribbean World Series should be interesting. Puerto Rico has not started their winter league yet, struggling to get power back to the island. They hope to start in January on a shortened schedule. Venezuela needed an influx of cash from the government to get their winter league started. Chaos prevails over there and players are staying away because of perceived dangers. Cuba has lost the best of their league to the United States and is a mixture of veterans and youth. Only the Dominican Republic and Mexico remain stead fast in the normalcy of the league. Below is an update of the Dominican Winter League. It has been more than a month since our last real update.

The 50 game regular season is complete and an 18 game playoff will begin today, with four teams battling to play for the final two spots, and a best of nine championship series.

Gigantes del Cibao (29-21)

They are one of the four playoff teams. They always seem to finish atop the regular season play and then falter in the round robin. The fairly new team has represented the Dominican Republic once in the Series del Caribe, back in 2015, a series won by Cuba. It will be interesting to see who they will have for the round robin.

Eloy Jimenez was their top hitter. He played for them early, hit .368 with 4 homeruns and 21 RBIs in 19 games and then departed November 15. Despite the paucity of games he is still second on the team in RBIs and tied for first in homeruns. The veteran Moises Sierra has been their most consistent bat with a .353 average and 22 RBIs. Jose Siri arrived after the departure of Jimenez and produced (.321, 2, 13) sharing the outfield with Sierra. His 11 stolen bases were second on the team to Abiatal Avelino (.309, 22 runs scored) who stole 19 bases. Disappointments were Rafael Bautista (.174), Richard Urena (.190), Miguel Andujar (.185) and Sam Travis (.156), proving this league can be a challenge to youngsters.

Patrick Johnson (0-1, 3.59) ate up innings in the rotation, getting 10 starts and leading the team in innings pitched (42.2). It did not account for any wins, but he only reached the fifth inning in three of his 10 starts. Carlos Frias (3-0, 0.66) was the big winner on the team and he got all his 19 appearances in relief. Ramon Ramirez (2-1, 3.04, 17 saves) was the closer. Joely Rodriguez (1-1, 0.82), recently signed by the Orioles struggled with command but was effective in relief, limiting lefties to a .100 average.

Aguilas Cibaenas (27-23)

Another playoff qualifier, they have not represented the Dominican in the Series del Caribe since 2007. They have finished in second place three times since then, including last year.

Pitching has been their strength with Brewers prospect Jorge Lopez (3-2, 2.49), Cuban Yunesky Maya (2-2, 3.88) and Francisley Bueno (2-5, 3.06) accounting for most of their starts. Another Cuban Roenis Elias (1-1, 3.09) arrived later in the year and gave them four starts. Myworld would be surprised if Lopez returns to the rotation because of the 68.2 innings he has already eaten. The Brewers will need to save some of those for the minor league regular season. Josh Judy (4-1, 1.37, 8 saves) was their closer but Aguilas did not need to go to him often. Abel de los Santos (2-2, 3.72) got in some work to prepare him for the regular season, finishing second on the team in appearances.

Johan Camargo (.324, 2, 12) and Wilmer Difo (.317,2,10) got some late work in playing up the middle. Edwin Espinal (.287, 2, 25) led the team in RBIs while Zolio Almonte (.258, 5, 20) was the big homerun bat. Juan Perez (.257, 3, 23) led the team in stolen bases (7) and runs scored (28). Jung Ho Kang (.143, 1, 10) was released after 10 games. Aguilas was gunning for a playoff spot and did not have the patience for his bat to come around.

Leones del Escogido (27-23)

Escogido is the third team to make the round robin. They last represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe in 2015. They are also the last team to win the Series del Caribe for the Dominican Republic (2012). Escogido is one of two teams who will be playing in Santo Domingo.

Padre prospect Franhcy Cordero (.323, 5, 25) carried the big bat for the Leones. He played all 50 games, leading the team in runs scored (30) triples (5) doubles (7), homeruns and RBIs. If not for Starling Marte (.277,3, 13) he would have led the team in stolen bases. Starling was a perfect 9 for 9 while Franchy was 6 for 9. Ronny Paulino (.336, 2, 25) also had 25 RBIs in fewer games played (28). The power bat of Aristedes Aquino (.214, 0, 5) was absent with a .238 slugging. Vladimir Guerrero Jr (.211, 0, 6) also had no impact with a .278 slugging and six errors in 26 games.

Kelvin Marte (1-1, 4.05) was the work horse, leading the team with 11 starts. Mike Mayers (2-1, 2.63) got a rare complete game victory and led the team in whiffs (37) with his seven starts. The opposition hit him at a .168 clip. Relievers Henry Martinez (4-2, 4.24) and Juan Sandoval (4-1, 3.98) led the team in wins. Rob Scahill and Paul Voelker each contributed six saves. Casey Kelly, one of the last two way players continues his struggles (0-2, 7.16) and may never make an impact in the major leagues. He did only walk one hitter in his 16 innings of work.

Tigres del Licey (25-25)

Licey was the last team to qualify. They are the second team located in Santo Domingo. They represented the Dominican Republic last season in the Series del Caribe and were a big disappointment, not even qualifying for the final four.

Yamaico Navarro (.322, 3, 32) is the top RBI man in the league and leads the team in runs scored (29). The Cuban has played in 49 of the 50 games. Emilio Bonafacio (.284, 0, 8) and Julio Borbon (.333, 3, 21) get the offense started at the top of the order. Emilio still shows his speed leading the team in stolen bases with 12. Emilio is joined by his younger brother Jorge (.266, 2, 16). Rymer Liriano (.194) did not help himself.

Onelki Garcia (3-2, 3.23) earned a spot for a Japanese team, the Chunichi Dragons. His 37 whiffs led the team. Jair Jurrgens (3-4, 3.60) was the work horse, leading the team in innings (50) with 11 starts to the 10 for Onelki. Jairo Asencio led the team in saves with 14, giving up just one unearned run in 19 innings of work. Tyler Kinley (2-1, 0.48) had some dominating 14 relief appearances, striking out 31 hitters in 18.2 innings. He also struggled finding the strike zone walking 11. The Marlins reliever could earn a spot in the bullpen if he limits the opposition to a .085 average in spring training. Last year in High A and AA he struck out 72 hitters in 53 innings.

Estellas Orientales (23-27)

They will sit out the round robin. The last time they represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe was in 1968. Their fans have to wait one more year.

They had Gabriel Guerrero (.287, 4, 26) the nephew of Vladimir. He led the team in homeruns and RBIs. Socrates Brito (.301, 3, 12) was his outfield mate. He hopes to fit in the Diamondbacks outfield after injuries have set him back. He played in 42 of the 50 games. His 23 runs scored led the team. Fernando Tatis Jr (.246, 1, 3) was respectable with the bat but committed 7 errors in 17 games at short. Raimel Tapia (.184) and Mike Ford (.158) were big disappointments with the bat.

They may have had the best starting pitcher in the league in Evan MacLane (3-2, 1.72). He gave up a lot of hits (53 in 47 innings) and struck out only 18 but kept the other team from scoring. Radhames Liz (2-0, 0.50) was dominant in his seven starts, convincing the Brewers to sign the 34 year old to a minor league contract. He had success in Japan pitching out of the bullpen, which could be his role with the Brewers. Jose Valverde (0-2, 5.63) could not find anyone to sign him to a contract.

Toros del Este (19-31)

Not a good season for Toros. At least they were in the Series del Caribe in 2011. Manuel Margot (.467) made a nice impression in his 7 games. Jeimer Candelario (.289, 1, 8) warmed up his bat for his first full season Detroit Tiger appearance. Jorge Mateo (.217, 3, 8) did not make much of an impression except for his 10 for 10 success rate in stolen bases. Further disappointments were Steven Moya (.203), Teoscar Hernandez (.195), Magneuris Sierra (.179) and Roman Quinn (.125).

Raul Valdes (1-7, 2.74) pitched well but got little support, giving up 10 unearned runs. He led the league with two complete games. Elih Villaanueva (3-2,2.54) fared a little better in the won/loss record with his 10 starts. After these two pitchers there is not much to brag about.

Myworld’s Top Ten Lefthanded Prospects

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

The story on lefthanders is they do not throw as hard as righthanders, but their ball moves much better. Don’t know if there has been a study to explain why that happens. Righthanders are generally better to have on your staff because hitters who bat from the same side as the pitcher tend to struggle more and there are more righthanded hitters in baseball. Baseball has all sorts of givens that are based on anecdotal evidence such as short righthanders are not as effective as short lefthanders and right handed power hitting firstbaseman are usually ignored in favor of firstbaseman who can hit lefthanded based on the prevalence of right handed pitching. Personally, myworld will take pitchers who can get hitters out or hitters who can hit regardless of their physical characteristics. So here are my top ten lefthanded pitchers to watch and others to keep an eye on.

1. A.J. Puk (Athletics) - You have to like a pitcher who stands 6′7″, consistently hits the high 90s with his fastball and throws lefthanded. If he doesn’t find a spot in the rotation he could be a knock out closer. He does have a pretty good slider and if his changeup gets better he will have the pitches to settle at the top of a rotation. Tall pitchers tend to have problems finding the strike zone and that is true with A.J. He got as far as AA last year. Hitters at the A level struggled against him(.196) but the AA found his pitches more hittable (.256). The 2016 first round pick should see the Athletics rotation by mid season if he shows success at AA.

2. MacKenzie Gore (Padres) - The third player selected in the 2017 draft dominated at the rookie level in his professional debut, limiting the opposition to a .184 average, a 1.27 ERA and 14 whiffs per nine innings pitched. The Padres were conservative with him allowing him to pitch three innings per start. With those limitations he could rear back on his fastball, hitting the mid-90s. He has a deep selection of quality secondary pitches that will be effective as an ace in the rotation. Next year he will start the season in Low A and at the most optimistic won’t be ready for the Padres until 2020, building up innings and arm strength in the minor leagues. As his innings extend maintaining the fastball velocity and getting hitters out the second and third time he faces them in the order will be tested.

3. Justus Sheffield (Yankees) - At 5′11″ if he threw from the right side he would be bullpen fodder. The Yankees first pick in 2014 throws lefthanded and despite his small stature has good velocity and movement on his fastball. He did not get a lot of swings and misses with his repertoire in AA (7.9 per nine innings) but lefthanders only hit him at .217. His challenge is to retire righthanded hitters more consistently (.276). The Yankees will be in the thick of a playoff race next year and it is tough for rookies in New York to have success in that type of environment. Expect the Yankees to be patient with him. If he can improve his pitches against righthanders he could see some time in the rotation next year, otherwise it could be bullpen opportunities against lefthanders when the Yankees need arms.

4. Yohander Mendez (Rangers) - He stands tall (6′5″) but his fastball stands out more for its sink than velocity. His best pitch is also the change which makes the fastball appear to have greater velocity. He was able to retire both lefties and righties equally (.228 average) in AA which gave the Rangers confidence to promote him to the show. Giving up the long ball could be his Achilles heel, allowing 23 in AA and 3 in his 12 innings with the Rangers. With the Rangers all his appearances were in relief. The Rangers signed a number of fringe starting pitchers as free agents so Mendez will spend the first part of the season in AAA. His success and the back end of the rotations failures will determine his future.

5. Seth Romero (Nationals) - The Nationals have had success with players who have fallen in the draft because of injury. Romero did not have an injury that resulted in his drop, but he was kicked off his college baseball team because of character flaws. Most teams will tolerate a few character flaws for a lefty who touches mid-90s with his fastball. He got a lot of swings and misses with his pitches (14 K’s per nine innings) but had trouble retiring lefthanded hitters (.364). He should start the season in Low A and with success should rise quickly as a pitcher drafted out of college.

6. Jay Groome (Red Sox) - The Red Sox 2016 first round pick stands 6′6″ and looks like a giant on the mound. The curveball is said to be his best pitch but his fastball can hit the mid-90s. At 220 pounds he could fill out some more adding some velocity. He got battered and bruised a bit in Low A, but his command was poor (5 walks per nine innings) resulting in 6 taters in just 44 innings. That gave him an ugly 6.70 ERA. The good news is lefthanded hitters struggled (.184) but not righthanders (.287). He also got a lot of swings and misses (11.77 K’s per nine innings). It would not hurt for him to repeat Low A to find some success before being promoted to High A.

7. Stephen Gonsalves (Twins) - Even though he stands 6′5″ he is one of the softer tossers on this list. His fastball only crosses the plate in the low 90s but he complements it with an excellent change. At AA hitters could only muster a .207 average against him. A promotion to AA saw more barrel on the ball contact (.293) but he did continue to get swings and misses with his pitches, averaging a strikeout per inning. Expect to see him start the year in AAA and find himself promoted to the Twins once he has achieved some success. If the Twins need a lefty in the bullpen that could be his short term role, but long term he will fit in the middle of the rotation.

8. Adrian Morejon (Padres) - Adrian is one of the many investments the Padres have delved in from Cuba. He was the MVP of the 15 and under World Cup and left Cuba shortly after that. At 18 he has already pitched at High A. He is not overpowering with his fastball, sitting in the Low 90s, but he has command of all his pitches and his short stature (6′0) forced him to know how to pitch. The velocity could increase as he gets stronger but currently his pitches are hittable (.265 opposition average). He was the ace of the Cuban youth teams he played for but myworld feels he might fit more in the middle of a rotation. If his fastball shows better velocity he could creep higher. As he rises up each level he needs to show he can miss bats or consistently get poor contact on the balls that are hit.

9. Kolby Allard (Braves) - The Braves are loaded with lefthanded pitching but Kolby may be the best of the group. The Braves 2015 first round pick was bothered by back problems soon after being drafted but last year seemed to show he has recovered from that. His fastball sits in the low 90s but a good curve ball and change give him three quality pitches he can show hitters. Gohara and Fried made their major league debuts last year while Allard toiled in AA all season, so they may be ahead of him in the depth chart. Kolby’s success at AA last year (3.18 ERA) will put him in the pecking order to make the Braves rotation this year. He is not the kind of pitcher who will miss a lot of bats, but he should eat up innings and limit run production, fitting in the middle of the rotation.

10. Tanner Scott (Orioles) - The sixth round 2014 pick throws heat, consistently hitting 100 plus with his fastball. The Orioles limited him to three innings per start, which restricted hitters from seeing him a second time, but a .188 opposition average against him shows the lack of success they had the first time they faced him in the order. His lack of command and secondary pitches may relegate him to the bullpen, but he could be one of those pitchers who develops that second and third pitch in the minors and turns into a monster. Tanner will start next season in AAA. If all he can throw is a fastball hitters will communicate to him how badly he needs other pitches.

Others to Watch

Anthony Banda (Diamondbacks) - A good fastball/curveball combination. Improved command could see better results. Started four games in the majors last year and with a good spring and a trade of Greinke he could find himself in the rotation next year.

Luiz Gohara (Braves) - Luiz was acquired from the Mariners for two minor leaguers. Last year the Brazilian made his major league debut featuring a fastball that hits triple digits. Lack of command and weight issues could give Luiz problems in the future. He also needs to develop a third pitch (change) or be relegated to the bullpen where pitchers with his velocity and lack of command thrive.

Max Fried (Braves) - Lucas Giolito was the star of his high school team but Max got drafted higher after arm issues dropped Lucas in the draft. Tommy John surgery also felled Fried but last year he bounced back after a slow start, making his major league debut. Throwing strikes is a challenge and a start in AAA could be good for him. He did dominate in the Arizona Fall League which was indicative how he turned his season around last year after a horrendous start.

Alex Wells (Orioles) - His twin brother Lachlan pitches for the Twins. The Australian is not blessed with impressive stuff but he was able to get hitters out in Low A. His fastball travels in the high 80s/low 90s with no high quality secondary pitches, retiring hitters mainly on location. Next year he will settle in High A. The higher up the minor league ladder he climbs the greater the test of how his pedestrian pitches survive against better hitters.

D.L. Hall (Orioles) - The Orioles 2017 first round pick has a good fastball but struggled throwing strikes in his 10 inning professional debut. The Orioles have had issues developing pitchers drafted in the first round, often seeing them become more effective after they have left the organization (Jake Arrieta).

Cionel Perez (Astros) - The Cuban is slight of frame (5′11″) but still juices the fastball into the Low 90s. The Astros spent $2 million plus another $2 million penalty to sign him. Hitters found him not to be a mystery hitting him at a .266 clip. He’ll start the season in AA but myworld anticipates Perez in the Astros bullpen by mid-season.

Jesus Luzardo (Athletics) - The Athletics acquired Jesus from the Nationals in the Ryan Madsen/Ryan Doolittle trade. At 6′1″ he doesn’t stand as tall as Puk but his fastball has been clocked in triple digits, sitting in the mid-90s. He had Tommy John surgery in high school so there are concerns about the number of bullets he still has left in his arm. He won’t be ready for the Athletics until 2019, building up his innings in the minor leagues.

Brendan McKay (Rays) - Myworld likes him better as a firstbaseman but the fourth pick in the 2017 draft has a pretty good curve and hits the low 90s with his fastball. If he focuses on pitching the improvements could be exponential.

Ryan Yarbrough (Rays) - Myworld thinks Ryan is a bit underrated. Last year he drifted through AAA like knife through mayonnaise. He gets swings and misses from his low 90s fastball and his 6′5″ height gives him an imposing presence. Don’t be surprised to see him at the back end of the rotation for the Rays next year, especially after the Rays trade one or two of their veteran pitchers. Myworld liked what we saw of him last year.

Brewers Looking for Right Mix

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

The Milwaukee Brewers have been trading veterans for prospects hoping to find the right mix to get them another run at the playoffs. Their park favors hitters but pitching is what takes teams far into the playoffs. The Brewers are not ignoring the bats as they look for the arms. Currently the bats are their strength.

The two best bats patrol the outfield. Lewis Brinson could have some of the best tools in baseball. The bat hits for power and the legs run for speed. There are not a lot of players who can match him for both. Lewis will be that centerfielder who hits for power in the mold of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Last year he struggled a bit in his major league debut for the Brewers, hitting .108 with 17 whiffs in 47 at bats. The Brewers will give him another opportunity and with a good spring the centerfield job is his in 2018. Time will tell if he can meet the hype.

Corey Ray is a little further away from his major league debut. The 2016 first round pick has a nice tool set hitting from the left side. It just falls a little short of Lewis. Defensively Corey has centerfield tools with an arm more suited for left field if Brinson takes center. Strikeouts are his big albatross with 156 in 112 games, resulting in a poor .238 average. More barrel of bat on ball contact can open up his game in the power category. He should start the season in AA and needs to put up good numbers to find himself wearing a Brewers uniform.

Triston Lutz is a third outfielder who was a supplemental first round pick in 2017. He also has some impressive tools with an arm that fits well in right. His speed is not as great as Ray or Brinson but he runs well. Last year the bat packed some power with 9 homeruns and a .559 slugging percentage in rookie ball. He also showed a good eye at the plate with a .398 OBA. Expect him to open the 2018 season in Low A.

A fourth outfielder who has the best arm in the group is Brett Phillips. He was a sixth round pick of the Astros in 2012 and acquired in the Carlos Gomez trade. His bat is not as polished as the other three outfielders, strikeouts being a problem (129 in 104 games). He did show the power to bury 19 homeruns and hit .305 and then added four additional homeruns in his major league debut. The Brewers have been trying to trade Ryan Braun but he may cede the right field position to Phillips in 2018.

The top pitcher is Luis Ortiz, who was acquired from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy deal. Luis starred for the United States under 18 national team, leading them to a gold medal. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with a good slider to offset the hard stuff. The 6′3″ righthander needs to watch his weight. For a pitcher with his stuff his strikeout rate was poor (79 in 94 innings) but he did limit the opposition to a .227 average pitching the complete year in AA. A 4.01 ERA is evidence he may not be ready for the major leagues to begin the season but a good start to his minor league season will see him in the rotation by mid-season.

After that the pitching gets a little dicey. Freddy Peralta put up some good numbers in High A and AA (2.63 ERA), striking out 169 hitters in 120 innings. He stands only 5′11 and his power falls just a bit short of mid-90s. The opposition hit only .178 against him. If he does not succeed as a starter at the major league level he could always work out of the bullpen.

Kodi Medeiros is a lefthanded pitcher who was drafted in the first round by the Brewers in 2014. His control has challenged him to retire hitters. Last year was perhaps his best year with a 4.98 ERA and a .241 opposition average. He gets swings and misses with good velocity on his fastball, not a tool to ignore in a lefthanded pitcher.

Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are lower drafted pitchers who have done well. Woodruff was drafted in the 11th round in 2014 and made his major league debut last year. The numbers were not good in either the minors (4.31 ERA) or the majors (4.81). He should win a spot at the end of the rotation and at 6′4, 215 eat up some innings. Burnes was a fourth round pick in 2016 who put up good numbers (1.67 ERA), rising up to AA while limiting the opposition to a .200 average. If he can replicate those numbers in 2018 he should see some time in the Brewers rotation by the end of the year.

Most teams do not build playoff contenders with second baseman. The Brewers have a couple of good bats that play the position. Keston Hiura spent most of his season batting in the DH spot in college because of a bad elbow. His bat is potent (.371 average) enough to win batting titles. Keston was a first round pick of the Brewers in 2017. Left field could also be a landing spot for Hiura but a lot will depend on the health of his elbow. Isan Diaz has already won a batting title in the minor leagues (.360 in 2015) while playing for the Diamondbacks. Last year he struggled hitting .222 in High A. His only real tool is his bat so he needs to hit to see the major leagues.

Mauricio Dubon is a smooth fielding shortstop acquired from the Red Sox in the Travis Shaw trade. His bat is short on power but he has the speed to steal bases (38)and hit around .270. Those numbers should be good enough while he hits in the nine spot. Lucas Erceg is a good athlete with power who can play shortstop but is better suited for third. His speed falls a bit short, limiting his range at the outfield and middle infield position, but his arm is strong enough for right if third base should be filled.

Jacob Nottingham is the best bet to fit behind the plate for the Brewers in 2018. He’s travelled around a bit, from Houston to Oakland to the Brewers in the Khris Davis trade. Nottingham carries good power in his bat but still needs to elevate his defensive game. The arm is not weak but it won’t stop a running game.

Finally, myworld loves the tools of Nigerian born but Canadian bred Demi Orimoloye. Like Brinson, not a lot of players are blessed with his combination of power and speed. The Achilles heel is his inability to make contact. Last year the outfielder struck out 139 times in 125 games, limiting his average to .214. It will be a slow process as Demi advances one level at a time, with 2018 seeing his debut at High A. The Brewers hope at one of his stops the light bulb will turn on.

Braves Rebuild From Tainted Rebuild

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

The Braves are on another rebuilding effort after the first one crashed to failure after it was discovered the Braves were circumventing the international bonus cap. They were forced to forfeit 11 players, including Kevin Maitan, most of whom have now signed with other clubs. They also tried to pull similar shenanigans in the domestic draft and as a result have lost a couple future draft picks. The Braves faced a couple suspensions from their administrative staff and now look to rebuild from the rebuild. It may take a little bit longer for them to be competitive. They stocked up on pitching by trading a number of their veteran players, stockpiling a pot pourri of number one picks, but they have fallen short on position players. Below are some of the prospects myworld likes.

It all starts with Ronald Acuna, who is probably the best prospect in baseball. The Venezuelan has five impressive tools that will make him an annual All Star. Many compare him to Andrew Jones at the same age. The Braves traded Matt Kemp to open a position for him on the major league club, though they still may want to acquire some outfield depth just in case Andrew pulls a Jurickson Profar on the Braves. After hitting 21 homeruns with a .325 average at three different levels he deserved a September promotion. The Braves held back to save their 40 man roster spots for other players. With a good spring Acuna could go north with the Braves in April. If not April, at least by the mid-season.

Another talented outfielder is Cristian Pache. He may not hit as well as Acuna, but his defense is gold glove caliber. He has the arm for rightfield but there is very little power in his bat to fit a corner outfield slot. He finished the season in Low A with a .281 average with 32 stolen bases but 0 homeruns and a .343 slugging average. The Braves may be more inclined to trade him to another team in need of a centerfielder to stock up at other positions.

The Mariners moved Alex Jackson from catcher to outfielder. The number 1 2014 pick struggled with the bat and the Mariners traded Jackson to the Braves for a couple pitchers. The Braves returned him to catcher and last year his bat came alive, hitting .267 with 19 homeruns. He still has a tendency to strike out too much and his defense behind the plate needs some polish. He will start the 2018 season in AA.

Pitching is the Braves strength. They have a number of number one picks in their system, many of them acquired via trade. Mike Soroka could be one of their best even though he does not throw hard. The 2015 first round pick from Canada hits the low 90s with his fastball put keeps hitters off balance with his location and quality secondary pitches (curveball and change). In AA he limited the opposition to a .233 average and even without overpowering stuff struck out 125 batters in 153.2 innings. The 6′4 righthander should find himself in the back end of the Braves rotation in 2018.

Myworld likes the long, wiry Touki Touissant who has a mid-90s fastball but has trouble finding the strike zone. Last year he walked 42 hitters in 105 innings, but high pitch counts resulted in short outings. He also is limited to two effective pitches, with his change still lacking consistency. Touki had greater success at AA (3.18 ERA) than at High A (5.04 ERA) so expect him to start the season there. He is still a couple years away from the major leagues, closer if his control improves and he finds consistency with the change.

The Braves drafted righthanded pitchers in the first round of the last two drafts. Ian Anderson was a first round pick in 2016, the third player selected in the draft. He tamed hitters with a fastball that could hit 95 but sat in the low 90s, complemented by a good curve. Good curveballs can get a number of swings and misses at the lower levels. Kyle Wright was their 2017 first round pick and the fifth player taken in the draft. The Vanderbilt pitcher advanced to the Florida State League in his minor league debut with a low 90s fastball and quality secondary pitches. Expect him to move quickly if he achieves success at the higher levels.

The Braves have more lefthanders than they know what to do with. Kolby Allard was limited last year with back issues. The 2015 first round pick came back strong in AA with a 3.18 ERA in 27 starts. His pitches appeared to be too easy to hit, with a .258 opposition average and a less than sterling 128 whiffs in 150 innings. He will also by vying for the fifth spot in the Braves rotation.

Max Fried showed success in a late callup last year and in the Arizona Fall League. He was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Padres and traded to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss some time. Last year was his first real season beyond rehab, hitting the mid-90s with his fastball. He got off to a slow start, recovered and got some spot starts with the Braves. The Braves will want to monitor his innings which could keep him down in AAA or they could again use him in a spot starter role.

Luz Gohara could be the hardest thrower in the Braves system. He was originally signed by the Mariners from Brazil and traded to the Braves for a couple minor leaguers. His fastball hits triple digits, sits easily in the mid-90s but is very difficult to throw across the plate. His weight could also be a concern. Last year Luz got five starts with the Braves. He pitched a few more innings than Fried, is not a Tommy John issue and could start the season as the number five in the Braves rotation.

Ricardo Sanchez was a flash signing by the Angels but was a disappointment and traded to the Braves. He has not really lit it up with the Braves. At 20 years of age he has time to mature.

The two top infielders both play the same corner position. Austin Riley raked in the Arizona Fall League, showing off the power in his bat that will make him an effective middle of the order hitter. He has a strong arm for third but lacks the speed to move to the outfield. Travis Demeritte was acquired from the Rangers. Last year was a struggle for him with just a .231 average accompanied by 15 homeruns, short of the 28 taters he hit in 2016. He needs to cut down on his swings and misses to up the average and return to his 2016 homerun production. Travis may be the better defensive option at third, moving there from short, but he could also fit at second base. That may be tough with Ozzie Albies appearing to be an anchor at that position.

The system has depth in the rotation but lacks power arms. It also lacks position players, losing a large crop of international signees. Not a lot of veterans left for them to trade. Freddie Freeman may be more willing to leave the time now that the rebuilding clock has been pushed back a couple years.

Nicaragua Downs Panama to Win Central American Championship

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Elmer Reyes slugged a two run homer and Wilton Lopez quieted the Panamanian bats to give Nicaragua a 3-1 win in the Central American championships. The games were played at the newly built Dennis Martinez stadium.

El Salvador and Guatemala shared the bronze medal since rain prevented the bronze medal game from being played. Honduras finished fifth and Costa Rica was sixth.

The win by Nicaragua earns them a trip to Barranquilla, Colombia where they will play in the Central American and Caribbean championships in 2018. Teams competing in that event are Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico and the host Colombians.

Hyun Soo Kim Returns to Korea

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Sometimes you have to take one step back before you take two steps forward. It appears the wave of Korean players coming to the United States to play major league baseball is crashing back into the ocean as many players return to Korea. Hyun Soo Kim is the third Korean player to return. He signed with the LG Twins, who were willing to pay him $10.6 million for four years. Kim would have had to settle for a minor league contact if he had stayed in the United States.

Former KBO MVP Byung-Ho Park returned to the Nexxen Heroes, signing for $1.38 million after he could not find a major league stadium last year. He spent all of last season in the minor leagues struggling to make contact, after being sent their midway through the 2016 season. He still had two years left on his major league contract with the Twins but sacrificed that for the opportunity to return to Korea.

Jae-Gyun Hwang got a cup of coffee with the San Francisco Giants last year, struggled and then was returned to the minor leagues where he spent most of his time. After the season he was released by the Giants, allowing him to return to Korea where he signed a four year contract for $8.8 million with the KT Wiz.

It is still unclear what will happen to Jung-Ho Kang, who has been unable to get a work visa to return to the United States to play baseball after his third drunk driving conviction. Kang was the first of this wave, achieving some success with the Pirates his first two seasons. He recently went to the Dominican Republic to play baseball after being inactive for all of 2017, struggled and was released. The Pirates seem to accept the fact that he will not be returning to the United States and are setting up their roster for another year without him. Kang may want to negotiate out of the contract, since he is not being paid while suspended and see if he can sign with another KBO club. The KBO clubs may be reluctant to sign him after his drunk driving convictions and his absence from baseball.

No new Koreans were signed as free agents or posted by their Korean clubs. The biggest impact from the KBO are ex-major leaguers who return from Korea to play major league baseball, like the Brewers Eric Thames.