Archive for December, 2017

NPB East Wins Taiwan Winterball League

Monday, December 18th, 2017

The NPB East Japanese prospect team defeated their Korean KBO counterparts 4-1 in the Taiwan winter league championship game. The KBO team battled the host Taiwan team in the semifinals. The KBO team beat the CPBL 6-2 to advance to the championship game. The NPB East team upset the Division winner Japan Amateur Baseball Association (JABA) 2-0 to advance to the championship game. JABA went on to beat the CPBL team 4-3 to capture third place.

The final standings to determine seeding:

JABA (11-4-2), CPBL (11-5-1), KBO (8-7-2), NPB East (8-9), NPB West (8-9-1), WBSC Team (4-11-2)

Chirping on the Blue Jays Prospects

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

The Blue Jays list of Top 100 prospects they have traded in their playoff runs of the last couple years are not very memorable. Names like Travis d’Arnaud, Jacob Marisnick, Daniel Norris and Anthony Gose have yet to meet their lofty prospect projections. The prospects they have kept, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Roberto Osuna have made greater contributions.

The Blue Jays are trying to restock their once empty farm system after a number of unsuccessful seasons of attempting to make the playoffs. The word rebuild has been heard uttered behind their office walls. There is a new group of young players that are now chirping to get out of their nests to make a contribution of their own for their major league clubs. Whether they will stay or be traded for veteran players only time will tell.

The top two players from that list are sons of ex-major league stars. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may not have the arm or the power of his dad, but he has more patience at the plate which could produce better hitting tools. At 18 years of age he has already played in the Florida State League, showing that with maturation he could develop decent power. Last year he hit 13 homeruns between the two A levels and showed the patience at the plate to draw 76 walks, something his father would take three years to achieve. Vlad Jr. also appears to prefer the infield where his defense is good enough to play third. There is some concern he may have to move to first or the outfield if his body gets too bulky for third.

Another player with major league genes is Bo Bichette. His older brother Dante plays in the Yankees minor league system but his dad Dante swatted 40 plus homers for the Yankees. Bo may not have the power to reach 40 plus homerun range but he carries the hitting tools to battle for batting titles and reach 30 plus homeruns. His mother is from Brazil, which allowed him to play for Brazil during the World Baseball Classic qualifier. While Bo is currently at short there is concern he does not carry enough range to stay at the position and an eventual move to third or second is in his future.

The best athlete on the team is Anthony Alford. He was a third round pick in 2012 only because his primary sport was football. The Jays signed him for $750,000 and allowed him to play both. Now that his football career is over he can concentrate on baseball. Injuries have stalled his career. His major league debut lasted only four games before being derailed by injury. Anthony carries good power with the speed to play center field. Next year should be a big year for him with a possibility to make the major league roster with a good start in AAA.

Sean Reid Foley may be their best pitcher, though based on his results of last season one would have to question that. He struggled early in the season but seemed to bounce back as the season progressed, lowering his ERA to 5.09. A lack of command and too many hard barrel on ball contacts led to a .278 opposition average and 22 homeruns in 132.2 innings. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s with above average breaking pitches (curve and slider) to complement the pitch.

T.J. Zeuch, their first round pick in 2016 is another pitcher who struggled. At 6′7″ he can be an intimidating presence for hitters with his fastball coming in at hitters in the mid-90s. Nate Pearson, their first round pick in 2017 achieved dominant success in his 9 starts, limiting the opposition to a .106 average in 9 starts with an ERA of 0.90. Drafted out of junior college with a 6′6″ frame that can zing in fastballs just above the mid-90s should give him a fast ascent up the minor league ladder. Connor Greene is a pitcher with electric stuff but poor results. He had an 83/92 walk to whiff ratio bringing his ERA up to 5.29. He throws a hard fastball but needs to find the plate more.

Two catching prospects to watch are Max Pentecost and Danny Jansen. Max has had a couple shoulder surgeries which has limited his reps behind the plate and softened his throws to second base. He does have a good stick, but it may not carry enough power to move to first base if his defensive game behind the plate proves deficient. Danny has a good stick, spraying Florida State League hitters for a .369 average. Injuries have also plagued Danny, limiting his reps behind the plate and stunting his defensive development. If both players prove deficient behind the plate the Jays can always turn to Hagen Danner, their second round 2017 pick who has a plus arm, strong defensive tools, and most of all stayed healthy the whole year. He hit only .160 in rookie ball and may not have the bat of the other two.

Rowdy Tellez is a big firstbaseman who had a bad year. He went from hitting .297 with 23 homeruns in AA in 2016 to .222 with six homeruns in AAA. The Blue Jays will give him another shot at first base, but his defense is not good enough if the bat is silent.

Richard Urena found himself starting at short in September after the Troy Tulowitski injury. He could find more of that opportunity next year. The defensive tools are there for him to play the position but the bat is very vanilla, with little power and no speed to contribute stolen bases. Logan Warmouth, another first round pick in 2017, is another option for short. His arm is not as strong as Urena and he doesn’t possess a lot of range at the position. Last year his bat hit .302 at the rookie level, with power to the gaps.

Lourdes Gurriel, the brother of Yuli Gurriel has a good bat that should produce some power. The Blue Jays still need to find him a position. His consistency in the infield is not there so the best place for him to play is in the outfield. The bat should be good enough for the Blue Jays to get him in the lineup.

MyWorld’s Top Ten Centerfielders

Friday, December 15th, 2017

These are the athletes of the outfield. The shortstops of the grassy plains, the heroes to the kids who watch their long strides as they race to a ball miles away from them. To make the grade here players need to be fast with good instincts to get good jumps. They need to be moving as soon as the ball is hit. Because of their athletic ability many of the better centerfielders are some of your best hitters, but they don’t have to be. A manager will sacrifice some offense if a player can save a lot of runs with his glove. Below are myworld’s Top Ten centerfielders.

1. Ronald Acuna (Braves) - He is probably considered the best prospect in baseball for 2018. Many compare him to Andrew Jones. The Venezuelan has all five tools in abundance, with power being the least developed, a pretty nice bargain for the $100,000 bonus the Braves paid to acquire him. As he matures the power will get better while the speed may decrease. Last year he slugged 21 homers with 44 stolen bases, becoming one of the rare 20/20 players. At three different levels he hit .325. The one area of his game the Braves would like to see him improve is in his ability to make contact. He struck out 144 times in 139 games last year, an area major league pitchers may be able to exploit to drive down his average. The Braves will probably start him off in AAA in 2018 with a quick promotion to the big leagues if his bat produces. With a good spring he could find himself as the Braves starting centerfielder.

2. Victor Robles (Nationals) - Most fans are talking about Robles taking over for Bryce Harper after he leaves for free agency. They say it with a casualness that no production will be lost with Robles fitting into the outfield. He carries five very strong tools with power being the least developed. Like Acuna that power will come as he matures. The Nationals were so impressed with his development that they put him on their playoff roster. Last year he was more of a gap hitter with 37 doubles and 10 homeruns to construct an impressive .493 slugging percentage. His 27 stolen bases are not a true reflection of his speed but more about him hitting in the middle of the order and not being asked to steal bases. The Nationals outfield is currently crowded so it would not make sense to use him as a fourth outfielder. He will be the first player called up if an injury should force a starter to have an extended absence.

3. Luis Robert (White Sox) - As a 19 year old Luis was in the process of winning the Triple Crown in the Cuban League with a .401 average, 12 homeruns and 40 RBIs. Myworld put him as one of the top young Cuban players to watch, but at the halfway point of the season he defected for the United States. He played mostly the corners for Cuba but he carries the speed to play center, with the arm to fit in right. The power should deliver 30 plus homeruns with an average close to .300. Last year he played in the Dominican Summer League, slugging .536. Myworld would not be surprised to see him start the 2018 season at Low A.

4. Anthony Alford (Blue Jays) - The third round 2012 pick may be one of the more athletic players on this list. His primary sport was football with his first three years in the minor leagues going back and forth between baseball and college football. The 2016 season was his first year focusing on baseball. Injuries have held him back limiting him to 92 games that year and last year he played in just 81 games. The Jays were impressed enough with him to give him a major league callup but an injury ended that debut after just four games. Another five tool player could find himself in the leadoff or three spot, depending on the Blue Jays needs. A good spring could see him on the major league roster, but myworld expects him to start the season in AAA.

5. Leody Taveras (Rangers) - Leody carries a little more power than his cousin Willie Taveras, but his legs carry less speed. The Rangers were impressed enough with the Dominican that they signed him for $2.1 million. At 19 years of age the power is just beginning to show with 8 homeruns at the low A level. Last year he struggled a bit when compared to his 2016 season, his average dropping from .325 to .249. A fifth player with all five tools, Leady should find himself in High A to begin the 2018 season.

6. Jo Adell (Angels) - It may be a bit premature to place the Angels 2017 first round pick so high but his .325 average and .908 OPS were hard to ignore. He runs with the wind, can mash the ball a long way and as a pitcher could throw a fastball in the high 90s. The tools are there to be an impact player. A 14/49 walk to whiff ratio in 49 games is evidence that he needs to improve his patience at the plate. Jahmai Jones may beat him to centerfield in the major leagues but Jo may have the better tools to field the position. Expect him to start the season at Low A in 2018 with a quick promotion dependent upon his performance.

7. Jeren Kendell (Dodgers) - Just a shade up north is the Dodgers first round pick in 2017. He may be one of the faster players among this top ten list. As a college drafted player he should move up quickly through the farm system. In his debut he hit .455 in five games in short season but when promoted to Low A struggled for a .221 average. The swing and miss appears to be his greatest flaw, with 45 whiffs in 40 games. If not tamed that may result in lower averages once he reaches the major leagues. Jeren could repeat Low A with a quick promotion to High A with early success.

8. Estevan Florial (Yankees) - The Haitian born outfielder had a breakout year last year vaulting him into top ten recognition. Last year he hit double digits in homeruns (13) with a .298 average and 23 stolen bases while he covered a lot of ground in centerfield. His bat and legs give him the potential to be at minimum a 20/20 player. To accomplish that he needs to cut down on his whiffs paring down the 148 in 110 games. Next year will be a key to determine if he can replicate his 2017 numbers. A good spring will see him start the season in the Florida State League.

9. Lewis Brinson (Brewers) - The Brewers acquired the 2012 first round pick of the Rangers after trading away Jonathan Lucroy. Shoulder injuries last year limited him to just 78 games but a .331 average and a .928 OPS led to his major league debut. In the majors he flopped, hitting just .108 but with two of his five hits carrying over the fence. While he has the speed to steal bases he has yet to steal over 20 bases in any of his seasons. Because of his major league struggles last season he will probably start the 2018 season in AAA with the Brewers waiting for his bat to get hot before giving him his major league promotion.

10. Lazaro Armenteros (Athletics) - Lazarito came from Cuba with a lot of hype. The tools are there for him to be an impact major leaguer. Some question whether his character will allow his tools to stand out. In his stateside debut he hit .288 with an .850 OPS and 10 stolen bases in 47 games. He has the potential to be a 20/20 player in the major leagues. Like most players his age getting their first exposure to minor league baseball, he needs to cut down on his swings and misses (48 K’s in 41 games). The 2018 season should see him begin the year in Low A with the possibility to perform at High A.

Others to Note

Cristian Pache (Braves) - It will be tough to knock Acuna from his centerfield destination. Pache has more speed than Acuna but his bat carries much less power. Last year he was homerless but he did steal 32 bases.

Taylor Trammell (Reds) - Another two way player who could have played football in college. Taylor has excellent speed and the bat for power. He draws enough walks to hit in the leadoff position but as he matures he may fit better in the number 3 hole.

Jose Siri (Reds) - The Dominican had a break out year with the power, hitting 24 homeruns while stealing 46 bases. He showed flashes of this brilliance in 2016 when he hit 10 homeruns. There is still a little bit too much swing and miss in his swing, but if he can tame that he will be a hitter to reckon with in a couple years.

Greg Allen (Indians) - A little Aztec bias. He runs well to stick in center, but he lacks power. Last year he made his major league debut hitting .229.

Daz Cameron (Tigers) - The son of Mike was able to blast 14 homeruns last year, even though he does not carry the power category. He should follow in his dad’s shoes with gold glove caliber defense.

Jahmai Jones (Angels) - The Angels second round pick in 2012 has average offensive tools but above average when it comes to speed. He covers a lot of ground in centerfield and should hit for double digits in the power category.

Desmond Lindsay (Mets) - His tools have yet to match his performance. Health has kept him off the diamond, but last year he played a career high 65 games.

Dustin Fowler (Athletics) - Last year he had a breakout season with 13 homeruns in 70 AAA games resulting in a major league promotion. In his first major league game, before he could get an at bat he injured a knee sliding into a fence. This didn’t stop the Athletics from trading for him in the Sonny Gray trade. A mixture of speed and power makes him dangerous.

Roman Quinn (Phillies) - Perhaps the fastest player on this list. Injuries have prevented the 2011 second round pick from starting his major league career. An elbow injury limited him to 45 games last year. Not much power in his bat and taking more walks would help him as a leadoff hitter.

Franchy Cordero (Padres) - Franchy had a remarkable breakout season last year with 18 triples, 17 homeruns and a .328 batting average. This led to a promotion to the Padres where he hit .228 and struck out 44 times in his 98 at bats. A 23/118 walk to whiff ratio shows a lack of patience at the plate.

Michael Gettys (Padres) - His defensive tools are gold glove caliber. The big concern is the bat. There is some gap power when he makes contact, but making contact has been a challenge with 191 whiffs in just 116 games in High A.

Heliot Ramos (Giants) - The 2017 first round pick from Puerto Rico has a good combination of power and speed. Strikeouts were a problem for him in the rookie league (48 in 35 games). The 2017 season should see him start in Low A full season where his performance will be tested.

Magneuris Sierra (Marlins) - The Cardinals just included the Dominican in a trade to the Marlins for Marcell Ozuna. He is the typical centerfielder who covers a lot of ground, but has very little power in his bat. His success rate in stealing bases is not great resulting in a drop in total attempts last year.

Jesus Sanchez (Rays) - The lefthanded bat from the Dominican signed for $400,000 in 2015. Last year he made his first start in the full season league, showing power (15 homeruns), the ability to hit for average (.305) and the ability to cover a lot of ground on defense. His speed is plus but not enough to steal bases.

Athletic Supporters Thinning with Lack of Stadium ane Playoff Appearances

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

The supporters they need are more of the human variety. The Oakland Athletics are long past money ball when they were able to look at niches and exploit weaknesses that major league clubs with more revenue were ignoring. In this age of analytics many teams are finding it benefits them to pour resources into hiring people to analyze the numbers generated from baseball to get the most bang for the buck when negotiating salary or finding a prospect that won’t flop. This leaves the Oakland Athletics lost in the woods wondering where else they can go to take advantage of their minimal resources.

What they have been focusing on is developing pitching. They remember the days when young pitching brought them playoff appearances with Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson from 2000 - 2004, winning them three Western Division titles. They tried to follow that with Sonny Gray and a number of other young pitchers who struggled to stay healthy but got them three more playoff appearances between 2012-2014. Now their hope rests with Sean Manaea and what is sprouting in the farm system.

The best of that crop is 2016 first round pick A.J. Puk. The lefthander has a wicked fastball that crosses the plate in the mid-90s and a nasty slider that hits the low 90s. He dominated in the California League with a .196 opposition average and 98 whiffs in just 61 innings. Things were not so easy in AA. They hit him at a .256 clip but he was still able to get his swings and misses with 86 whiffs in 64 innings. His biggest struggles are commanding his pitches and throwing strikes, a difficult task for a pitcher standing 6′7″. The Athletics are moving him aggressively so don’t be surprised to see a September callup next year or if injuries become an issue getting an earlier opportunity.

Gator teammate Logan Shore does not throw as hard and issues pitches from the right side. He does know how to win games, going 12-1 in college and considered the Friday night pitcher for the Gators, over the more talented Puk. His fastball glides to the plate in the low 90s. California League hitters found the pitch very palatable hitting him at a .276 clip. The second round 2016 pick does initiate a lot of ground balls which results in double plays, limiting the damage baserunners can cause for him. This means his results will be better with a talented up the middle defense. Command of his pitches and a plus change will put him in the rotation as a back of the rotation pitcher, perhaps not a big three.

The Athletics hope to get something from James Kaprielian, a number one pick of the Yankees in 2015 who the Athletics acquired in the Sonny Gray trade. Kaprielian did not pitch last year because of Tommy John surgery. Prior to the surgery Kaprielian had a fastball that hit in the mid-90s with good secondary offerings. He should be healthy for the 2018 season, perhaps rehabbing in extending spring training to get his arm healthy.

Another back end of the rotation pitcher is Cuban Norge Ruiz. He is another pitcher with a limited fastball that elicits a lot of ground balls. He made his professional debut last year and found the going rough, with California League hitters tagging him at a .326 clip. He does have an assortment of pitches that if mixed well could be of some use, but he needs command to be effective. A bullpen role could be his best hope.

Jesus Luzardo is a promising pitcher the Athletics acquired from the Nationals in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade. He has a wicked fastball/changeup combination that can get a lot of swings and misses (48 whiffs in 43 innings). Grant Holmes was a Dodger first round pick in 2014 who seemed to fizzle. The Athletics hope to get some contributions from him. His fastball has good velocity but spotty control has resulted in too many meaty pitches.

On the hitters side a couple Yankee acquisitions stand out. Dexter Fowler should cover centerfield for the Athletics in 2018. He was injured in his first major league appearance with the Yankees while sliding into a wall and injuring his knee. The Athletics traded for him anyway because of his speed and ability to cover the outfield. He also showed enough pop to hit 13 homeruns.

Jorge Mateo was the other player acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade. He moved back to shortstop but there is also some talk his speed may be better utilized in centerfield. Last year he stole 52 bases. He also hit 12 long balls, the power part of his game breaking out. To stay at short he needs to show more consistency in his fielding. A move to second base could also be in his future.

The two best position prospects may be middle infielder Franklin Barreto and Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros. Franklin should be the Athletics starting second baseman next year, though his primary position has been shortstop. Marcus Semien seems to have that major league position wrapped up, so to get his bat in the lineup the Athletics will move Barreto to second base. His power is more towards the gaps though he did show enough lift to hit 17 homeruns last year, two in the major leagues. Like Mateo, his fielding at shortstop lacks consistency. A 27/141 walk to whiff ratio in 111 games is cause for concern and could be an explanation for his major league struggles (.197).

Cuban Lazaro Armenteros has all the tools needed to be an impact player. Speed is his best attribute. The 18 year old got to see time in rookie ball where he hit .277, showing a propensity to strike out (57 whiffs in 47 games). There was game like power in his bat with a .474 slugging percentage and four homeruns. Next year he should see some time in full season ball where more exposure could result in greater recognition.

Two line drive hitters acquired from the Nationals could see some role with the Athletics in 2018. Sheldon Neuse lit it up in the Arizona Fall League. He was a player included in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade. Power for third base may be a question mark, though he did club 16 homeruns last year in A ball. The Athletics are a little crowded at the corner positions and defense is not a strength for Sheldon.

Max Schrock has a lefthanded line drive bat that has the potential to hit .300. His tools are not eyeopening and his weak arm will limit him to second base, making utility work questionable. He hit .321 at AA making consistent, solid contact. Power is not something you will see from his bat.

Two other players myworld likes are Renato Nunez, a corner infielder with power and outfielder Ramon Laureano, who covers enough ground to play centerfield. Nunez slugged 32 homeruns last year in AAA, but with a crowded corner infield he may be trade bait. He does strike out a lot (141 whiffs in 126 games), which puts a strain on his batting average (.246). Ramon was a 16th round pick of the Astros in 2014 who lacks tools but not the work ethic. Speed will get him double digits in stolen bases and relentlessness will see him hit double digits in homeruns and deliver runs with hustle.

Perhaps that will be the niche the Athletics will be looking for, finding players who want to play.

Astros Prospects Still Flying High

Monday, December 11th, 2017

The Houston Astros followed the Chicago Cubs blueprint in building for their World Series win in 2017. They traded veterans, acquired prospects and lost a bunch of games. Those losses gave them high picks in the draft and they acquired a number of other top prospects with those picks. They probably would have traded Jose Altuve if another team had expressed an interest in him, but he was a bit on the short side and still not an All Star. Once the George Springers and Carlos Correa’s developed into major leaguers the Astros reversed themselves and began trading some of their surplus prospects to take them into the playoffs. The organization is still stacked with prospects waiting for their turn to show the Astros what they can do.

Pitching is their strength, though they could trade a couple of those prospects to grab a more reliable veteran. Forest Whitley at 6′7 may be the best of the pitching prospects with his mid to high 90s fastball. He was the Astros first round pick in 2016, the 17th pick in the draft, climbing from Low A to AA where he combined to strikeout 143 batters in just 92 innings. Last year he only threw 91 innings so the Astros will gobble up innings in the minor leagues before they expose him to the toil of the major leagues. Expect him to see a role towards the end of the 2018 season.

David Paulino, another 6′7″ tower had settled into the rotation last year until a drug failure forced him to end the season early. With his character tainted it will be interesting what role he plays next year. His fastball also hits the mid to high 90s but he has had trouble staying healthy. That health and the drug suspension have limited him to a high of 85 innings in 2016 since signing in 2010. Last year he survived 43 innings before being suspended. Expect him to start the season in AAA to limit his innings and get his mojo back.

The hardest thrower may be Jandel Gustave, who regularly hits triple digits with his fastball. He blew out his elbow in April and missed all of 2017. With his lack of command and secondary pitches his best use is in the bullpen, but with his Aroldis Chapman type heat he could be their closer of the future. He will need to spend some time in the minors to regain arm strength after the surgery.

Other pitchers on the cusp are the 2017 first round pick J.B. Bukauskas, who stands only 6′0″ but still throws in the mid-90s. A college drafted pitcher with good secondary offerings he should rise quickly after beginning his career in short season. Expect a quick rise to AA in 2018. Cionel Perez is a lefthander signed out of Cuba. He does not throw hard but has a mixture of pitches to keep hitters off balance. Elian Rodriguez is another Cuban signing who throws hard but lacks command. A 30/19 walk to whiff ratio in 25 innings tells the tale on him, though the Astros shelled out $1.9 million to sign him.

On the position side Kyle Tucker is their top prospect. He is the younger brother of Preston Tucker who played briefly for the Astros. While Kyle has the potential to be an All Star Preston is more a fourth outfielder utility type. Preston has the speed to play center but the arm to fit in right. The power bat was explosive enough to slug 25 homeruns last year.

Colin Moran led the NCAA in RBIs, which led to him being drafted by the Marlins in the first round in 2013. His bat fell silent with the Marlins and they accepted their losses trading him to the Astros for Jarred Cosart. Last year Moran had a break out season with 18 homeruns in 79 games. This led to a promotion to Houston where after three games he fouled a pitch off his face and missed the rest of the season. Whether he can replicate his production last year is open to question, but Alex Bregman seems to have this position sewn up to begin the 2018 season.

Yordan Alvarez was one of many Cubans signed by the Dodgers. They traded him to the Astros for Josh Fields. Yordan has a left handed bat with the potential for power at 6′5″ and 230 pounds. His defensive tools for the outfield need work but at 20 years old the Astros can show some patience with him.

J.D. Davis is another third baseman who projects for power. Last year he hit 30 homeruns, with four of those swatted in the major leagues. His defense is not as strong as Bregman or Moran so he may have to wait his turn or move to first base to get his opportunity. His legs do not carry a lot of speed to fit in the outfield.

A.J. Reed has seen too much time in the major leagues to be considered a prospect. There is no room for him on the major league roster with a crowded first base situation. A.J. Reed carries more power than Yuli Gurriel but lacks the consistent bat. His time will eventually come and with injury he will fit in the DH slot.

Myworld’s Top Rightfielders

Monday, December 11th, 2017

These are players with a strong arm who can hit for pop. We have excluded any player with a strong arm that also has speed to play center. Or at least we tried. We never thought Michael Conforto would get so much centerfield time with the Mets.

1. Eloy Jimenez (White Sox) - Easily the best of the group here. Average speed prevents him from being a five tool player and having the ability to play centerfield. He has a strong arm and the plus pop that should hit for 30 plus homeruns in the major leagues. The Cubs signed him out of the Dominican Republic for $2.8 million in 2013 but then traded him to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade. Last year he slugged 19 homeruns playing in three different cities, hit .312 and slugged .568. A promotion to AA did not seem to phase him where he hit .353 with three homeruns and a .559 slugging percentage. The White Sox have Avisail Garcia for right field, but he is not a big impediment for a Jimenez promotion. Expect Eloy to be playing with the White Sox by mid-season 2018.

2. Kyle Tucker (Astros) - Kyle has been playing a lot of centerfield since being drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. He is more talented than his brother Preston who had a brief cameo with the Astros a couple years ago. Expect Kyle to make a longer stay. While his speed and instincts make centerfield a possibility, the speed is not of the burner variety and at 6′4″ he may lose a step as he bulks up. His bat does carry power as evidenced by his 25 homeruns split between High A and AA. He did steal 21 bases last year but expect those numbers to drop. The Astros outfield is still a bit crowded, though playing centerfield could be his first opportunity to make it with the Astros. Expect him to start the season in AA with a major league promotion in September, unless his numbers are so staggering the Astros need him to compete for the playoffs.

3. Kyle Lewis (Mariners) - A significant knee injury and surgery ended the 2017 season early for Kyle. How will it impact the speed of the 2016 first round pick is not known. His games in the Arizona Fall League were cut short when he appeared to experience some uneasiness in the knee. The arm is certainly strong enough to play right field if his legs are slower. The juice in his bat can carry the ball over the fence to all fields. Last year he hit 7 homeruns in 49 games, slugging .412 at two levels. The Mariners could start the season rehabbing him at Low A or having him play in extended spring training. Once his knee appears ready he could return to High A with the possibility to be promoted to AA. Don’t expect him in the major leagues before 2019.

4. Brett Phillips (Brewers) - The sixth round 2012 pick has one of the strongest arms in baseball. He also has the speed to cover ground in center. The Brewers have Lewis Brinson, a player with better defensive skills slotted for center. Brett doesn’t carry the power ideal for right so that could put him in a fourth outfielder category. Last year his power was good for 23 homeruns, including 4 in 37 games for the Brewers. There does seem to be too much swing and miss in his bats with 153 whiffs in 142 games. Brett had 34 of those whiffs in 87 at bats at the major league level. The 2018 season should see Brett start the season in AAA but a good spring could motivate the Brewers to take him to Milwaukee with them.

5. Dylan Cozens (Phillies) - The second round 2012 pick packs more power than Rhys Hoskins, though when he hit his 40 plus homeruns in AA a couple years ago it was played at the hitter friendly Reading park. The big challenge for Dylan is making contact, with 194 whiffs in 135 games last year. That resulted in a disappointing .210 average, which prevented him from joining Hoskins in the major leagues last year. Myworld expects some improvement next year as he repeats AAA and gets used to the better pitching at that level. His arm is not a cannon but it is good enough to throw runners out from right field. His average speed could actually force him to move to left. The Phillies are rebuilding so a good spring could create opportunities for him.

6. Aristides Aquino (Reds) - The Reds signed him back in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic. He didn’t get his first opportunity to play full season ball until 2015. Since that time he has been moving up a level each year. Next year should be AAA. There is power in his bat, though that power disappeared in major stretches in 2017. In 2016 he hit 23 homeruns with a .519 slugging. Last year he dropped to 17 homeruns with a .397 slugging percentage. He struggled to make contact last year with 145 whiffs in 131 games, resulting in his average dropping 60 points to .216 last year. Those struggles could see him repeat AA.

7. Harrison Bader (Cardinals) - The Cardinals outfield is crowded. The third round pick in the 2015 draft seems to have the best combination of power, arm and speed of those outfielders to slot in right field. Last year he slugged 23 homeruns, three of them at the major league level. His tool box is enough to give him the classification of a five tool player who exhibits attributes that are average or just above in all five tools. The one attribute he could improve on is patience. If he can narrow the 34/118 walk to whiff ratio that could put his average possibilities nearer the .300 mark. A good spring training could give him a shot at one of the outfield spots, but he has a lot of veterans ahead of him to surpass.

8. Alex Verdugo (Dodgers) - Alex was a second round pick of the Dodgers in 2014. He has a rocket for an arm, ideal for a rightfielder. His best attribute is his ability to make contact with a 52/50 walk to whiff ratio last year. The concern is his inability to show his over the fence power. His line drive stroke is good for gap hits, but adding some loft into his swing could turn some of those gappers into homers. That switch could impact his ability to make contact. His speed is not quick enough to cover the ground he needs for centerfield. Last year he saw some major league September action, hitting .174 in 23 at bats. Yasiel Puig currently has right field occupied so if Verdugo is to play next year he could have to fit in centerfield where the Dodgers lack a consistent bat.

9. Socrates Brito (Diamondbacks) - Socrates has had his opportunities but injuries have held him back. Injuries limited him to 78 games last year and no major league appearance. Socrates has the speed to play center and the arm to fit in right. The bat has not shown a lot of power so his best bet could be if he could win the centerfield job. His most likely role could be as a utility fourth outfielder. Last year in the 78 games he played his OPS was .785 with a .449 slugging average and a .291 batting average. At 25 years old, if he is going to make an impact in the outfield his time would be in 2018.

10. Austin Hays (Orioles) - The third round 2016 pick seemed to come out of nowhere to hit 33 homeruns last year. One of those homeruns came in his major league debut where he hit .217 in a September callup. The Orioles outfield situation is not crowded. Mark Trumbo plays right field but he should spend most of his time at DH next year. What myworld has seen of Hayes is a decent arm that can play in right field, not like the rockets of Verdugo or Phillips. While he showed power last year, whether he can maintain that against major league pitching is open to question. In the minor leagues he has shown the ability to hit in the .300 neighborhood. Time will tell whether the power and batting tools the Atlantic Coast Conference star has shown is a mirage or part of his daily repertoire. The right field job is there for the taking if he has a good spring training.

Others to Note

Khalil Lee (Royals) - The third round 2016 pick has a better arm for throwing out runners than the speed in his legs for catching fly balls. This does not mean he does not have the speed for centerfield, just that his overall tools may be better suited for right. Last year he slugged 17 homeruns in Low A, evidence of his power. He also struck out 171 times in 121 games, indicative of his capability to swing and miss at a lot of pitches.

Seuly Matias (Royals) - The 19 year old Dominican has perhaps the best arm on the Royals. His average speed and power in his bat makes right field the best fit.

Brandon Marsh (Angels) - At 6′4″ with a cannon for an arm makes right field the best fit for Brandon. His legs also are quick enough to cover ground in center. Can’t imagine him usurping Mike Trout from his position so we will fit the second round 2016 pick for right.

Tristan Lutz (Brewers) - The 2017 supplemental first round pick has the arm for right and the bat for the position. He also has decent speed to play center. The Brewers do have a crowded deck of outfielders. The Brewers can start Tristan at Low A and show patience with him as he develops his skills for the major leagues.

Austin Beck (Athletics) - Beck was a first round pick of the Atletics in 2017. He had a prevalence to swing and miss in his professional debut with 51 strikeouts in 41 games, limiting his average to .211. His arm was one of the best in the draft last year.

Angels in the Outfield

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

The Los Angeles Angels have used a couple unique administrative procedures to stock up their farm system. One involved violations by the Braves with the international bonus cap that resulted in the Braves forfeiting the rights to 12 players. The Angels signed two of them, Kevin Maitan ($2.2 million) and Livan Soto ($850,000). The other involved the posting of a talented Japanese player, Shohei Otani, who is still in his prime.

The Angels won the Shohei Otani sweepstakes. Shohei could be one of the best outfield prospects in baseball with the chance to make the Angels outfield next year. He has big time power with the potential to drive fastballs over 400 feet. The problem is as a starting pitcher he also has the ability to throw fastballs at greater than 100 miles per hour. If you tracked the velocity of his fastballs over the course of the Japanese season and compared them to major league starting pitchers he would be the hardest throwing starting pitcher in major league baseball. Take that Noah Syndegaard. That major league quality fastball gives him one of the strongest arms in baseball for a right fielder.

The quandary? Where do you play Otani. While splitting time between playing outfield, at DH and pitching Otani has been prone to injury. Last year his starting pitching was limited because of an ankle injury that resulted from running the bases. He had surgery on the ankle over the off season and it should be healed by spring training, though it may limit him. He has also missed a few starts in previous years because of injuries that were the result of his two way play.

The Nippon Ham Fighters limited him to DH to avoid those injuries. They would not play him the day before he pitched or the day after he pitched. When he did pitch they would put him in the lineup and he would hit cleanup. With his signing Otani would be considered the top prospect in baseball, though that is a bit tainted because of his professional play in Japan and his age (24 in July 2018). While he is listed at 6′3″ some have said he may be closer to 6′5″.

Otani is not the only outfield prospects the Angels have. They used their draft picks the last two years on two talented outfielders. The most talented is Jo Adell, who was their first round pick in 2017. He has the speed to play centerfield and the arm to play right. There is some pop in his bat and combined with his speed he combined for 24 extra base hits last season, eight of them triples out of 66 hits in his first half season of baseball. He also pitched in high school and was clocked with a mid-90s fastball, but the Angels are using him strictly as an outfielder. His one big issue is his propensity to swing and miss with 49 whiffs in 49 games.

Another high draft pick is Jahmai Jones, who was drafted by the Angles in the second round in 2015. His dad played professional football and his siblings were talented football players as well. Jones is extremely athletic with the speed and the instincts to cover centerfield. He has the arm to play right, but it is weak when compared to Otani and Adell. He had the pop to hit 14 homeruns last year and slugged .447 between Low and High A. Jones has the ability to make better contact than Adell but with less power potential.

Another second round pick, this one in 2016 is Brandon Marsh. At 6′4″ he has the typical look of a right fielder. His arm is strong and he has the ability to pop the ball if he can get his arms extended. A stress fracture in his back forced him to miss all of 2016 and get a late start to his 2017 season where in 39 games at the short season league he hit .350 with a .944 OPS. Next year will be key for him where he will start the season in Low A playing a full season.

The Braves loss was the Angels gain when they signed two of their players after they were declared free agents. Kevin Maitan may be the best signing. When the Braves signed him for $4.25 million last year he was immediately considered one of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Some of that prospect luster has worn off and many think he will have to move from shortstop to third base. He also struggled a bit with the bat, hitting just .241 with 49 whiffs in 42 games. The power also did not register in games with a miniscule .340 slugging average. What one has to remember is Maitan is only 17 years old and last year was his first exposure to minor league baseball as a 16 year old. Most kids in the United States would still be hitting high school pitching.

The Angels also signed Livan Soto, who may have better defensive tools than Maitan for playing shortstop. Soto is not as strong as Maitan and may not carry as big a bat. Most projections for him are to fill in as a utility player at the major league level. Last year Soto hit .225 with a .254 slugging percentage, but again he was a 16 year old playing for the first time in the minor leagues. His biggest need is to build some strength on his 6′0″ 160 pound frame.

A couple other prospects to watch are two players drafted as catchers in the first round who may have to move from that position. Taylor Ward was the Angels first round pick in 2015. He was drafted for his bat but that has not developed as hoped. Last year he .258 with a .390 slugging. His arm is strong enough to settle at catcher but his other attributes need to get better. At one point there was thought he could move to first if catching did not work out, but his bat has not shown the power to be a fit at that position. They have left him at catcher and there are hopes his other defensive tools for the position improve.

Matt Thais was a first round pick of the Angels in 2016. He was immediately moved from catcher to first base, where his power is greater than Taylor Ward. While he only slugged .395 the Angels believe the power is there. Unfortunately, Thais has the speed of a catcher so if first base does not work a move to the outfield would make him a defensive liability.

Other than Otani, where the Angels could use some improvement in the minor leagues is with their pitching. They have spent most of their high draft picks the last couple years on bats. The arms are what need to be developed next. Griffin Canning was a second round pick in 2017 but he has not played yet. They have no real power pitchers that consistently throw in the mid-90s. They’ll need to find a couple of those if they want to contend. Otani is a good first step in that process.

Nicaragua to Host U-23 WBSC Championship; Panama Under 15

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Nicaragua will host the Under 23 WBSC championship in 2018, playing the games at the newly constructed 15,000 seat Dennis Martinez stadium at a date yet to be determined. Despite all the points awarded for this event the No 2 United States and No 5 Cuba will not be playing in the tournament. The United States did not play in the qualifying round, while Cuba did not qualify. Below are the teams who have qualified for the games:

Africa (1) - to be determined
Americas (4) - No. 9 Venezuela, No. 6 Mexico, No. 11 Puerto Rico, No. 16 Dominican Republic
Asia (3) - No1. Japan, No.4 Taiwan and No. 3 South Korea
Europe (2) - No. 8 Netherlands, No. 14 Czech Republic
Oceania (1) - to be determined
Wildcard (1) - No 13 Nicaragua

The Under 15 Hosts will be Panama. The teams competing in that tournament are:

Africa (1) - to be determined
Americas (5) - No. 2 United States, No. 16 Dominican Republic, No. 5 Cuba, No. 15 Panama, No. 18 Brazil
Asia (2) - No. 1 Japan and No. 4 Taiwan
Europe (2) - No. 20 Germany and No. 8 Netherlands
Oceania (1) - to be determined

Winter League Pitchers Making Waves

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Most of the top prospects do not usually pitch in the winter leagues because of the number of innings pitching coaches want to save for their arms. The top prospects may have a couple starts, but that is only for those pitchers who were injured for most of the major league season and the need to get some work. The winter league is filled with pitchers who had opportunities but failed and now are trying to attract any team from the NPB, KBO, CPBL or the major leagues. Below are the pitchers who are doing well, but keep in mind the hitters they are facing are mostly at the AA level.

Radhames Liz (Estrellas) - Liz did not have success in the major leagues, but he pitched well in the bullpen in the NPB. His fastball used to reach the mid-90s but tended to be too straight. He will be 34 entering the 2018 season and myworld does not know what he has left in his 95 mile per hour fastball. He started the Dominican season pitching over 30 innings of ball without allowing an earned run. In his last outing he finally gave up two earned runs to raise his ERA to 0.50 after seven starts. The opposition is hitting him at a .153 pace and he has a 8/31 walk to whiff ratio in 35.2 innings.

Yunesky Maya (Aguilas) - Perhaps he is more comfortable pitching in an environment where they have a Latin culture. He struggled in his starts in the major leagues and the KBO, though he did pitch a no hitter in the KBO. In 8 starts in the Dominican Winter League he is 2-1, 1.72, with the opposition hitting just .214 off him. Not overpowering and at 6′0″ he needs his command to have success against professional hitters. A 7/28 walk to whiff ratio in 36.2 innings is evidence to some command, but not a lot of swings and misses with his pitches.

Jorge Lopez (Aguilas) - The second pitcher on this impressive Aguilas staff and the one best identified as a prospect. At 25 years of age next season he has a good opportunity to fit into the Brewers starting rotation with a good spring. In the minors last year he only pitched 103 innings bouncing between starting and the bullpen. With Aguilas he has started 10 games with a 2.29 ERA and a .221 opposition average. A two start stretch where he gave up 8 runs in 10 innings put a bad spin to his ERA. A 12/40 walk to whiff ratio in 55 innings.

Roenis Elias (Aguilas) - The second Cuban and the third Aguilas pitcher on this list, Roenis is still gunning for a starting spot in the Red Sox rotation. He has had some success in the majors but last year was a struggle (6.96 ERA) pitching at four different minor league levels. Rib and lat injuries limited his innings last year. The Cuban has made three starts in the Dominican League with a 1.89 ERA. He has limited the opposition to a .191 average, but his command has been a bit off with a 7/19 walk to whiff ratio in 19 innings.

Mitch Lively (Mazatlán) - Mitch has pitched in the Mexican summer league the last couple years. In his last appearance he pitched a nine hit complete game shutout, allowing just one hit. That hit was given up in the first inning and he retired the last 22 hitters he faced. His last two outings Mitch has given up just four hits in 17 innings without allowing a run. He has pitched six or more innings in his last six starts, stringing together a 7-1 record with a 2.45 ERA in nine starts. There was one horrific start where he gave up 8 runs in just under five innings to taint his ERA. The opposition is hitting .217 against him and he has a 8/42 walk to whiff ration in 52 innings.

Anthony Vasquez (Culiacan) - Last year he pitched for the Tigers AA and AAA teams. At 32 years of age he has yet to pitch in the major leagues. In eight starts in the Mexican Winter League he is 5-1 with a 2.00 ERA. The opposition is ripping him at a .276 clip with a 11/46 walk to whiff ratio in 54 innings. Even in the minor leagues hitters had an easy time barreling his pitches for hits.

Guillermo Moscoso (Aragua) - The last time Guillermo pitched in the major leagues was in 2013. Last year he came out of a four year retirement to pitch in the Mexican summer league. He has added the Venezuelan winter league to his schedule and his innings have been dominant. In nine starts he has a 1.81 ERA, though the .243 opposition average is evidence that his pitches are not overpowering. He has yet to give up more than two runs in his 9 starts covering 49.2 innings.

Reinier Roibal (Zulia) - The third Cuban on this list two years ago pitched for the Phillies AA and AAA team. At 29 years of age he could still have some life in his arm. In nine starts Roibal has a 2.59 ERA with a .250 opposition average and a 10/40 walk to whiff ratio in 40.2 innings. Righthanders are hitting just .192 against him but lefthanders are stinging him at a .351 clip.

Venezuela Winter League All Star Game Won by Occidente

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

A couple two run homeruns powered the West over the East in the Venezuela All Star game. Jairo Perez slugged a two run homerun in the second inning to give the West an early 2-1 lead. Luis Villegas extended that lead to 4-1 with a two run homer in the seventh.

Freddy Garcia got the start and the win for the West working just the first inning. The East took an early 1-0 lead in the first, fueled by an RBI double from Jose Castillo. Ariel Hechavarria accounted for the only other run for the East with a solo shot in the eighth.

Ronald Belisario picked up the save with his inning of work in the ninth.