Archive for December, 2018

Whatever Happened to….

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Melissa Mayeux? Back in 2015 she was a French baseball player that was signed to the international major league baseball prospect list. That meant any major league team could sign her to develop her baseball skills. They didn’t. Three years have passed. Now she is a 20 year old playing softball for the Miami Dade College team. She still plays shortstop.

Evidently she can hit the ball. Last year she batted .375 with 8 homeruns, including three homeruns in one game during her freshman season. She is now in her sophomore season. She still has the dream of possibly playing major league baseball. If the major leagues do not want her she could return to France and play in the French league. Or she could continue making her mark playing softball in international competitions for France.

The Miami Dade baseball team chose not to pick her up. Their loss.

Marlins Looking to Hook up Some Big Fish

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

The Marlines have not had good farm systems since myworld began rating them in 2009. They had two years when they were rated in the top ten, 2009 and 2013. Those two years they had players like Cameron Maybin, Mike “Soon to be Known as Giancarlo’ Stanton, Logan Morrison, Matt Dominguez (2009), Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick. Last year the Marlins traded Stanton and Yelich to upgrade their farm system. Cameron Maybin was also one of the players they traded Miguel Cabrera to acquire. Entering the 2018 season the team had five players rated at the lower levels of the Top 100 prospect rankings. Brian Anderson, Jorge Guzman, Isan Diaz, Sandy Alcantara and Monte Harrison all appeared in various top ten rankings.

The Marlins hope the jewel of their farm system is named Victor Victor Mesa. They outbid the Orioles to sign him and his brother Victor Mesa Jr. The older Victor has already had success in the Cuban professional leagues as a teenager. If he achieves anything near what his father achieved when he played for the Cuban National teams the Marlins will be happy with that production. The weakest tool in his arsenal may be his power. At 5′9″ he is not an imposing hitter but Jose Altuve (5′6″) and Jose Ramirez (5′9″) have overcome their height deprivation to develop into pretty good power hitters. The speed is there to steal bases and cover centerfield and the arm has the fire power to play right. His bat should keep his average around .300. Many who have seen him play put him in the Victor Robles category, but Victor is 6′0″.

His brother, Victor Mesa Jr. lacks the quality tools of Victor Victor and does not come with the Series Nacional reputation. He did play on the Cuban 18 and under National team and the Marlins shelled out $1 million to sign him. At 17 years of age he has some time to develop at the lower levels.

Before the signing of Victor Victor Mesa, Monte Harrison may have been the Marlins top prospect. The Brewers second round pick in 2014 was part of the Christian Yelich haul. The tools are there for him to out produce Yelich if he achieves his billing. The power/speed combination is there for him to fit at the top or middle of the order and his arm could easily have him fit in right. The one concern with him is his struggles to make contact. Last year he struck out 215 times, which depresses his average (.240) and his ability to hit for power (19 homeruns).

Connor Scott is a solid lefthanded power bat that was selected with the Marlins first pick in the 2018 draft. The ability for a speed/power combo is there but right now only the speed is present. Connor has the ability to cover a lot of ground in center and be a pest on the bases. In close to 200 at bats last year he only hit one homerun, but at 6′4″ many expect the power to develop once he adds more loft to his swing and learns to pull the juicy pitches.

Myworld also likes the potential of Tristan Pompey, the younger brother of Dalton. The speed tools are not as great as his brother which may limit him to a corner outfield position. That means his bat will have to appear for him to fit in a corner. A below average arm could restrict him to left field. Last year he hit .299 at three levels with an impressive 32/47 walk to whiff ratio.

The shine has dimmed for once highly touted Venezuelan Brayan Hernandez who the Mariners signed for $1.85 million. The Mariners traded him to the Marlins as part of a package for David Phelps. The arm and legs are strong for him to be a quality defensive player in center or right. The big area of concern is whether his bat will hit enough for him to become more than a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement. Coming into the 2018 season his minor league career average was .260. He lowered that with a .215 average last year and still has not seen more than five at bats outside the Rookie Leagues.

The Marlins have accumulated some hard throwers among their young pitchers. Jorge Guzman may be the hardest thrower, taking over the mantle of most impressive velocity on his fastball from Michael Kopech. The Marlins acquired Guzman from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton trade. There is still a long path he needs to travel before he sets foot on a major league mound. His control of the strike zone needs to improve (64 walks in 96 innings) and he needs to develop an off speed pitch as a third offering. Otherwise he could end up being used in the bullpen, but with consistent triple digits with his fastball it would be in a closer role.

Sandy Alcantara may not throw as hard as Guzman but he has three pitches (fastball, slider and change) that have the potential to be quality pitches. His fastball rides the radar in the high 90s and his low 90s changeup contains more velocity than many pitchers fastballs. His command of the plate is still a bit sketchy with 23 walks in 34 innings in his major league debut. Alcantara was acquired from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna trade.

There have been a couple Edward Cabreras that have tried with little success of becoming major league pitchers. Edward is one more. The Dominican was actually signed by the Marlins for $100,000 in 2015. His fastball has hit triple digits but tends to sit in the mid-90s with a quality slider. Like Guzman he has to enhance his third pitch, a change to prevent having a career in the bullpen. Despite his heat opponents hit him at a .270 clip last year, down from his previous years when they hit him at a .280 plus clip.

Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers are two lefthanders who were drafted in the first round, Garrett in 2016 and Rogers in 2017. Garrett did not pitch last year because of Tommy John surgery and Rogers did not pitch in 2017 because of a tired arm. Trevor did start 17 games last year with little success (5.82 ERA and .295 opposition average). Garrett was known for his breaking pitch and low 90s fastball with decent command while Rogers fastball crosses the plate in the mid-90s but needs to improve his secondary pitches. The 2019 season will be critical to both.

We loved Ryan Yarbrough when we saw him pitch in Durham a couple years ago. He did not throw hard but he was always around the plate, fooling hitters with his quality change. Jordan Yamamoto reminds me of Yarborough and we can’t explain “y”. Yamamoto does not throw hard but retires hitters with his curveball. What separates the two is Yarbrough throws lefthanded and stands at 6′5″. Yamamoto throws righthanded and only stands 6′0″. He did finish the 2018 season with a 1.88 ERA with a opposition average of .177. Will he go 16-6 in his major league debut? Probably not, but time will tell.

Isan Diaz was another player acquired in the Christian Yelich deal. He hit .360 in his first minor league season but has not come close to that production since. As the years have marched forward he appears more like a .250 hitter with the ability to hit for 20 plus homeruns. There is a lot of swing and miss in his game. Second base has been his primary position in the minor leagues so it is unclear if he could hack it as a utility player. His lack of range would prevent him from playing short long term.

Two players with good pedigrees but lesser tools are Jose Devers and Joe Dunand. Jose is the younger brother of Rafael. The glove is superior to Rafael allowing him to play short but the power is lacking. He was included in the Stanton trade. Last year he went without a homerun in over 350 at bats but hit .272 with a .330 slugging percentage. Joe is the nephew of Alex Rodriguez but myworld would bet my mortgage that his numbers will fall far short. Dunand was a second round pick of the Marlins in 2017. He may not have the range to stick at shortstop but his bat could be too soft to be a good fit at third. A utility role could be in his future.

Orioles Start from Scratch

Friday, December 28th, 2018

The Orioles had a nice run in the AL east in the even numbered years from 2012 to 2016, winning the AL East once and capturing two wild card appearances. Most experts did not expect an Oriole playoff run in those years but they surprised using defense and power bats to make the playoffs. For the 2018 season the Orioles expected to make the playoffs. They finished with a franchise record number of losses instead.

Their farm systems have not been bad over the years, appearing in the top ten from 2008 to 2010 and also in 2014. Some of the players that graduated to the major leagues were Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta and from 2014 Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gaussman, Eduardo Rodriguez and Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado made his Top100 appearance in 2011. Last year the Top 100 prospects from the Orioles were Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco and Austin Hays. They later traded for the Dodgers Yusniel Diaz and the Brewers Luis Ortiz.

The outfield appears to be the Orioles strength. It starts with the Cuban Yusniel Diaz, who was one of the players the Orioles acquired for Manny Machado. The Dodgers signed him for $15.5 million in their multiple attempts to sign Cuban prospects for bucket loads of cash to build their farm system. Diaz struggled at Bowie and did not look like the super star that hit .314 at Tulsa. He seemed disinterested in playing out the season, or perhaps that is his style of play. It would be nice if someone could light a fire under him to get him motivated. He has the arm for right field and rumor has it that he has the bat, but myworld did not see much of it in 2019 at Bowie.

Austin Hays was one of the surprise prospects from 2017 who took a stumble last year. The third round 2016 pick slugged 33 homeruns in 2017 and was expected to win the right field job in 2018. A poor spring and injuries limited him to 75 games last year. He seemed to recover his batting stroke toward the end of the season last year and with an outfield absent of talent could make the Orioles roster in 2019. While he can play center he is built more for right, lacking the real burner speed to cover a lot of ground.

D.J. Stewart was a first round pick in 2015. Myworld thought he was a bust but he did get a major league promotion last year. His defense and arm limit him to left field but he has not shown the power or the consistent stroke to justify his poor glove. Last year he hit only .235 with 12 homeruns, slugging only .387. The Orioles must see something in him that escapes my eyes.

Ryan McKenna did an Austin Hays impression last year, coming out of nowhere as a 2015 fourth round pick to hit .377 with a .556 slugging in High A. Next year should prove whether that was a mirage. When promoted to Bowie the bat seemed light as he hit just .239 with a .338 slugging. He showed solid defense in center getting great jumps on balls, but like Hays and Diaz he lacks burner speed. It would be better if he could hit .377 to justify having him play center rather than .250 with just slightly above average centerfield capabilities.

Don’t know where Ryan Mountcastle will play on defense. Last year he played third but his lob throws to first will not hack it in the major leagues. His best position may be DH but a move to first, second or left field are in his future. Fortunately for Ryan he has the bat to stay in a lineup with a potential for 20 plus homeruns a year and hitting in the neighborhood of .300 or plus.

The Orioles have always had trouble keeping pitchers healthy to meet their full potential. Their first round pick in 2013 Hunter Harvey is exhibit A. The son of Bryan has had trouble staying healthy, plagued by arm problems that have limited him to just less than 20 innings from 2015 to 2017. Myworld witnessed his last start of his 2019 season where he got lit up for nine runs in just two innings. At least in 2018 he pitched 32 innings. Hunter still has the stuff with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s with a plus curveball. Whether he can avoid arm injuries is the million dollar question.

D.L. Hall and Grayson Rodriguez are the Orioles next shiny ornaments and the hope is to keep them healthy. Hall was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft. The lefthander has a nice fastball that touches the mid-90s. Last year he finished with a 2.10 ERA in 20 starts with an opponent average of just .203. That is a big improvement over his 2017 struggles (6.97 ERA). Finding the strike zone will improve his numbers. Rodriguez is a big, burly righthander at 6′5″ with the potential to fill the top of a rotation. His fastball hits consistently in the low to mid-90s and his slider produces a lot of ground balls. In eight starts he finished with a 1.40 ERA, preventing any hitter from carrying a ball over the fence.

Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate were trade acquisitions that were both first round picks by the Rangers. Tate was the fourth pick in 2015 and acquired from the Yankees for Zach Britton. The Yankees had acquired him from the Rangers for Carlos Beltran. Tate has fallen short of expectations for a fourth pick in the draft. Injuries have shortened a number of his seasons but he still has a hard fastball that hits the mid-90s with a plus slider and good command to fit in a rotation. He just needs to stay healthy for a full season. His seven starts at Bowie were disappointing with a 5.75 ERA and a .302 opposition average.

Ortiz was the star of the United States 18 and under team five years ago. The Orioles snagged him from the Brewers in the Jonathan Schoop trade. Conditioning has been his biggest challenge. His fastball is hard, hitting the mid-90s with a solid slider. He will not fill the box scores with strikeouts, giving up hard contact a little too often. Because he pitched at AAA last year he could fit in the Orioles rotation in 2019. Last year he made his major league debut and it was not pretty with a 15.43 ERA and a .500 opposition average in 2.1 innings.

Myworld likes Keegan Akin. The lefthander seemed to consistently hit 95 with his fastball and threw quality outings in most of his 25 starts. There was a lot of soft contact when he pitched (.225 opposition average) and a fair share of swings and misses. He will be a solid middle of the rotation starter.

The Australian Alex Wells was a big surprise. His brother pitches for the Twins. Alex does not have overpowering stuff but as a lefthander he commands his pitches well. He started out the season strong but faltered towards the end of the season, finishing with a 3.47 ERA and a .270 opposition average. His best bet is to be a situational lefty or pitch at the back end of a rotation.

Dean Kremer was another acquisition from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade. Myworld didn’t expect a lot from him being a 14th round pick in 2016, but he shined at Bowie, flashing above the mid-90s to produce a 2.58 ERA and .228 opposition average in eight starts. By mid 2019 he should be in the Orioles starting rotation.

With the worst record in baseball the Orioles used the first pick of the 2015 Rule V draft to select Richie Martin. The reports are that his glove work is not as stellar as it was when he was drafted in the first round by the Athletics in 2015, but at that time he failed to hit. Last year he found his bat hitting .300 with 25 stolen bases. Myworld expects him to compete for the starting shortstop job for the Orioles in 2019.

Myworld is not as high on shortstop Adam Hall, a second round pick in 2017. He did hit .293 last year at Aberdeen but there are questions about his bat. His speed allowed him to steal 22 bases but at best he is a number nine hitter who does not provide the spectacular defense to justify leaving his bat in the lineup. Perhaps with time that will change.

Prospect Lead Red Sox to World Series Title

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Between 2015 to 2017 myworld had the Red Sox minor league system in the top ten of the major leagues. They traded some of those players to acquire Chris Sale (Yoan Moncada) and other prospects for Craig Kimbrel (Manuel Margot). Both those players were critical to the Red Sox winning the World Series last year. They also kept a couple (Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers) that offered significant contributions. With graduation and trades the farm system is not as stacked. They still had two players appear on Top 100 prospect lists last year but the talent drops quite a bit after them. Don’t be shocked if the Red Sox are absent any players in the Top 100 in 2019.

Michael Chavis and Jay Groome are their two players who appeared on Top 100 lists last year. Michael should provide some pop in the infield. He plays the same position as Devers so one of them will have to move. Both of them are not stellar defensive players or run fast enough to play the outfield. An 80 game drug suspension took away the first part of the season for Michael. When he returned he looked solid at the plate, but was limited to just 200 at bats. Michael hopes for a better start to the 2019 season, one that will vault him to the major league lineup.

Jay Groome missed all of the 2018 season because of Tommy John surgery. The 6′6″ lefthander who the Red Sox took in the first round in 2016 was supposed to be pitching in High A ball last year with the possibility of being promoted to AA. That would have put him a year or two from the major league club. That time table his been turned upside down. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and he had good snap to his curveball. With his 6′6″ inch frame the one thing he needed to work on was his command and that would come with repetition he missed to make sure all those moving limbs rotate with consistency. Groome should be ready by mid-season to pitch in the Rookie Leagues for some rehab and start again in Low A.

Tristan Casas was the first round pick in 2018 but he plays the same positions as Devers and Chavis. He also lacks the speed to move to the outfield. Casas played for Team USA that took the gold medal. He shows excellent power, but was unable to show that last year after hurting his thumb limiting him to just five at bats. His arm is strong but at 6′4″ his movements around third are a bit stiff.

Bobby Dalbec at least played a full season slugging 32 homeruns and driving in 109 runs. Unfortunately his best positions are third base and first base. For 2019 they can keep Chavis in AAA and have Dalbec play AA but in 2020 something has to give. The swing and miss is no stranger to Dalbec, who whiffed 176 times in just 129 games last year. The Red Sox will take that if his OPS remains above .900 as it did last year.

In the bullpen the Sox have Darwinzon Hernandez. The Venezuelan signed for a bargain basement price of $7,500 in 2013. The lefty has a fastball that flashes across the plate in the high 90s. He has the requisite three pitches to survive in the rotation, but his command is poor so the best use of his heat with the departures of the Special K’s Kelly and Kimbrel may be in the pen. Last year he threw 5 games in relief in AA after starting 23 games in High A. In 107 innings he allowed just one ball to carry over the fence.

Tanner Houck was a first round pick of the Red Sox in 2017. His fastball can jump up to the high 90s but he had trouble throwing strikes, walking 60 in 119 innings. Myworld looks for pitchers who at least have two whiffs for every walk and Tanner fell short of that. He had a rather pedestrian 4.24 ERA in High A with the opposition hitting him at a .245 clip. Drafted out of Missouri the Red Sox were hoping he would move quickly, but that may not be the case.

Two other starting pitchers who could crack the rotation are Bryan Mata and Mike Shawaryn. The Venezuelan Mata sits in the low 90s and can reach the mid-90s but he has trouble finding the plate. His 58/61 walk to whiff ratio in High A is concerning but the opposition only hit him at a .229 clip. Like Hernandez he could be another pitcher moved to the bullpen. Shawaryn is a Maryland pitcher who lacks overpowering stuff. His slider is his best pitch. He could be ready for the back end of the rotation in 2019 since he started six games at AAA last year.

Josh Ockimey could be ready to play first base for the Red Sox next year. Last year he slugged 20 homeruns, five of them in AAA. His glove makes his best position DH and his speed is border line base clogger. A power bat with lots of whiffs is what you will get from him.

C.J. Chatham had a solid season with the bat last year, hitting .314 at two A levels. Injuries in 2017 prevented the Red Sox from seeing a lot of him. At 6′4″ you would think he could hit for more power but his balls have a tendency to land into the gaps and not over the fences. Despite his height the tools are there to play shortstop.

Antonio Flores ($1.4 million) and Danny Diaz ($1.6 million) are two high priced bonus signings from 2017 out of Venezuela. Flores plays shortstop and had a standout season last year, hitting .340 mainly playing in the Dominican Summer League. Injuries limited him to just 4 at bats when he was promoted to the States. His power is light now but it could develop and the tools are there to play shortstop. Diaz plays infield corner with some big time pop in his bat. That is not a rare trait in the Red Sox farm system at third base. His arm is strong and the quickness is there to play third but nothing makes him stand out from the other corners ahead of him..

Japanese Set Pitch Limits on High Schoolers

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

The Nigata Prefectoral High School Baseball Federation will institute the first pitch limits in Japanese High School Baseball. A pitcher may not start another inning if he has thrown more that 100 pitches. It is still unclear whether he can pitch the next day but it is a start. Gone will be the tournaments in which a pitcher throws 881 pitches in six games, such as Kosei Yoshida did last year. Depending on the rule he may now be limited to 600 pitches unless they also have provisions that require a couple days rest between outings.

Tomohiro Anraku threw 232 pitches in a 13 inning game at Koshien back in 2013. He three 772 pitches in five games over a nine day period before tiring in the final and losing 17-1. Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 767 pitches in six games. He at least had a successful career before his elbow exploded. Anraku had a 98 mile per hour fastball as a 16 year old in high school. He now pitches for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, but in four years in the NPB he has not pitched more than 84 innings or appeared in more than 15 games, with shoulder injuries limiting his effectiveness.

Of course, major league baseball has established pitch counts, but that has not prevented pitchers from elbow and shoulder issues. Time will tell if this move by Japan becomes effective. One thing it will do is force high school managers to find more pitchers to diversify their rotation, which in the long run could benefit Japan, giving them more pitchers.

Mariners Set Sail for New Voyage

Monday, December 24th, 2018

The Seattle Mariners are one of seven franchises never to win a World Series. To break it down even further, they have yet to appear in a World Series, even though they are tied with the Chicago Cubs for teams with the most wins in a season at 116. The Mariners accomplished that feat in 2001 but lost to the New York Yankees in the playoffs.

Last year the Mariners had one player appear in top 100 lists, Kyle Lewis, a tooled up player who seriously damaged his knee and may have eliminated one excellent tool from his arsenal. Back in 2012 and 2013 myworld ranked their farm system first and second in baseball. Those were the years they had James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin. They also had Jesus Montero and Danny Hultzen. Now they are embarking on a voyage to capture new prospects, tanking the 2019 season to rebuild the franchise and return to the 2012 and 2013 time periods.

The recent acquisition of Jarred Kelenic from the Mets strengthens their outfield prospects. Jarred was a first round pick in 2018. He has the speed to play a quality centerfield, create havoc on the bases with some power to hit in the middle of the order. In his first minor league season he slugged .468, hitting as many triples (6) as he hit homeruns. The one down side to his game is his challenge to make contact.

Kyle Lewis was their top prospect after the Mariners selected him in the first round in the 2016 draft. A gruesome knee injury has cut into his playing time and development and may have taken a step from his speed. He has the arm to shift to right and still be an above average corner outfielder. There is power in his bat, but it was silenced in 2018 as he slugged just .405. His .244 batting average was the lowest of his three year career. Rust may have been a factor for his struggles so the 2019 season will be key, where he will start the season in AA, just a step from reaching the majors.

Julio Rodriguez was signed for $1.75 million and played well in the Dominican Summer League as a 17 year old, hitting .315 with a .525 slugging. He should make his stateside debut next year after seeing time in extended spring training. The reports are that he has power but his lack of speed will limit him to the corners.

Justus Sheffield was acquired from the Yankees in the James Paxton deal. The lefthander could win a spot in the starting rotation, though with the Mariners rebuilding they may not want to slow his service time by waiting until mid-season to call him up. Justus has a good fastball slider combination, with the radar readings sitting in the mid-90s, excellent for a lefthander. Last year he got some relief opportunities with the Yankees but did not fare well. In the minors he struck out more than a hitter an inning and limited the opposition to a .195 average.

Justin Dunn was another arm acquisition from the New York area, included with Kellinic for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Dunn was a first round pick of the Mets in 2016. His fastball slider combination elicit a lot of swings and misses but a .253 opposition average indicates there is some hard contact. Inconsistency with his command gets him behind in the count too often, making him more hittable. Finding a pitch to retire lefthanded hitters is a need as well.

Logan Gilbert was their 2018 first round pick. He did not pitch last year but shined when on the mound for Stetson, striking out more than a hitter an inning. At 6′6 inches with the ability to hit the mid-90s Gilbert can be an imposing force. A quality change makes his fastball even more devastating.

Evan White was the Mariners first round pick in 2017. His power for the position may be short but he carries an excellent glove. He also has the speed to play a corner outfield, but they would lose his quality glove at first base. Last year he slugged .458 in the California League, fueled by 27 doubles, 7 triples and 11 round trippers. If he can learn to pull the ball his power may develop, making him a better fit at first base..

Joe Rizzo was drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft. He was supposed to be the best high school hitter in the draft with excellent power. That power has yet to appear. His defense is weak at the corner, the speed is not there to play the outfield and his 5′9″ height would make him a small target for first base. Last year he only slugged .321 in the California League, not what major league teams want to see in their corner infielders or outfielders. The 2019 season could be his last opportunity to prove himself.

Two long shots on the prospect map are Ricardo Sanchez and Jake Fraley. Ricardo was a highly touted prospect with the Angels, traded to the Braves and then released by the Braves. The stuff is still there with a fastball that touches 95 but the ability to find the plate can be a bit of a challenge. Fraley was a second round draft pick in 2016 who carried rather ordinary tools. He was one of the top players in the Australian League (.361, 13 Hrs and 39 stolen bases with a 1.130 OPS) in 2017 then dominated last year in High A hitting .347. Speed and solid defense will get him to the majors, though he showed surprising power in the Australian baseball league with 13 homeruns. He makes solid contact and could work nicely as a fourth outfielder.

Diamondbacks Patch up Farm System

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

The Diamondbacks are hoping to patch up their farm system, ideally keeping some of their best prospects instead of trading them to the Braves for salary dumps (Touki Toussaint/Bronson Arroyo) or pitchers who failed to meet expectations (Dansby Swanson/Shelby Miller). The Diamondbacks also lost Ender Inciarte in the Miller deal. Both prospects they traded were number one picks who have turned the Braves franchise around. The players they received provided little contribution to the Diamondbacks playoff hopes. The only two players to make top 100 prospect lists last year for the Diamondbacks were Pavin Smith and Jon Duplantier. The Diamondbacks failed to sign their first round pick for 2018 shortstop Matt McLain who chose to be a UCLA Bruin instead.

Pavin Smith was a first round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2017. The concern is that he may not hit for a lot of power to fit at the first base slot. For the University of Virginia he hit for a high average, making good contact. The hope for the Diamondbacks is that he competes for batting titles with a modicum of power and a plus glove. The Diamondbacks opened up the position for him by trading Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals. Last year with High A he hit .255 with 11 homeruns, producing a slugging percentage of just .392. That is not what teams look for in a first baseman. Unfortunately, he lacks the speed to play the outfield.

Jon Duplantier made Top 100 lists based on his 2017 season when his 1.39 ERA was the best in the minors since Justin Verlander. His 2018 season did not go as well as injuries limited him to 16 starts. Duplantier struggled with injuries when he pitched for Rice before being drafted in the third round in 2016 by the Diamondbacks. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the upper tier of the low 90s but he complements the pitch well with two solid breaking pitches and a plus change. His pitches are also good at finding the strike zone.

Behind the plate the Diamondbacks will be happy if Daulton Varsho turns into a Darren Daulton. Varsho is the son of Gary, who played for the Phillies and named his son after Daulton. It was only natural that he found himself behind the plate. Like Darren, Varsho hits with power. Last year he slugged 11 homeruns with a .451 slugging percentage. His arm is a bit suspect and he still needs a lot of work understanding the intricacies of catching but the good news is he has the speed where left field is a possibility if catching does not work out.

San Francisco went out and spent $6 million to sign Lucius Fox and then traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays with a concern that his bat may never develop. The Diamondbacks went to the Bahamas to find his half brother Jazz Chisholm and only spent $200,000 on him. He may turn out to be a better hitter. Jazz showed some good power last year with 25 homeruns at the two A levels. He also has the tools to fit at shortstop, though they are short of putting him in the category of an elite defender. Chisholm should see some time in AA in 2019 with the possibility of getting a September callup, though that would speed up his service time.

The Diamondbacks found another prospect in Virginia, drafting Jake McCarthy with the 39th pick in 2018. That was their highest draft choice after not signing Matt McLain. Last year Jake peppered the gaps in Rookie ball hitting 17 doubles in just 55 games to up his slugging percentage to .442. He has the speed to patrol center and because of a perceived lack of power in his bat that will be the position he will have to master if he does not want to mold into a fourth outfielder type.

Marcus Wilson is a tooled up outfielder whose biggest flaw is an inability to make contact with the ball. Last year in the California League he struck out 141 times in 111 games, the worst of his minor league career. The increased swing and misses lowered his average (.235) and put a dent on his ability to hit for power (.369 slugging). The tools are there for him to play centerfield with his speed giving him the ability to be a 20/20 player in the major leagues. In order to accomplish that he needs to make better contact.

The Diamondbacks found outfielder Kristian Osprey in the Bahamas and paid him $2.5 million to wear a Diamondbacks uniform. If he learns the strike zone Kristian has the potential for big time power, which would fit his ultimate position, which could be left field. The speed is there to play center, but the arm is not strong. Last year as a 17 year old, when most teenagers are in high school ball Kristian was playing Rookie ball and hitting .279 with 7 homeruns. At 6′3″ he could be an impact player.

Injuries limited the 2017 season for Domingo Leyba to 23 games and delayed his 2018 season. Domingo is a good contact hitter who should be able to spray the ball for a high average. Last year he hit only .269. The tools are there to play shortstop and his ultimate position may be as a utility player. The power is not there for him to play third base on a regular basis. If Domingo has a good year in 2019 the Diamondbacks could call him up for a utility role.

Yoan Lopez is one of the Diamondbacks Cuban splurges in which they paid him a $8.25 million bonus. The Diamondbacks have not had a lot of success signing Cuban players and the hope is that Lopez will be the exception. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and reaches the high 90s but he lacks the secondary pitches and the command to fit in the starting rotation. The Diamondbacks moved him to the bullpen in 2017 where they hope he can develop into a setup reliever or closer. Last year he made his major league debut with 10 appearances.

Andy Yerzy was a second round pick in 2016. If he can iron out his defensive game his bat will bring some offense behind the plate. The arm is strong enough to throw out baserunners but the other tools need to be enhanced. The bat is there if he needs to move to first base.

Ryosuke Kikuchi Puts Hat in the Post Me Ring

Friday, December 21st, 2018

The Hiroshima Carp’s Ryosuke Kikuchi signed a contract for the 2019 season. According to sources identified in YakyuDB he indicated a wish to be posted for the major leagues before he earns his international free agent option. Next year he will earn his domestic free agency and if he stays healthy he will earn his international free agency after the 2021 season. He will turn 29 before the start of the 2019 season.

Last year Kikuchi had his worst season since his rookie year, hitting only .233 with a .301 OBA. His OPS was only .656. He has made the All Star team five times, but that is mainly for his defensive play. He has had two seasons in which he has hit over .300 (2014 and 2016). Myworld does not see him attracting much interest unless he improves his numbers.

Giants Struggle to Start Small

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

The Giants have struggled finding elite prospects to stock their minor leagues. The last three years they have been 27th on the top prospect list out of 30 teams. Four years ago they were 28th. The last time they were in the top ten was in 2009 and 2010 when they had Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey matriculating in their minor leagues. You have to go back to 2014 to find a prospect rated in the top ten. That was Gary Brown and he was on the down side of what turned out to be a short career.

The Giants hope the drafting of Joey Bart in the first round will be the start of a resurgence in the minor leagues similar to what Buster Posey was in 2009. Buster is not ready to give up the catching position just yet but Bart should be a fast riser, drafted out of Georgia Tech. He has a bat that can hit for power and average and an arm that can control the running game. In a couple years he will move Buster to first base.

Heliot Ramos, the Puerto Rican outfielder the Giants drafted in the first round in 2017 is the Giants hope to end their drought of ordinary outfielders. Last year he struggled to make contact dropping his average more than 100 points to .246 after his rookie league debut in 2017. The speed exists to play center with the power to fit in a corner. Heliot was one of two players to make a Top 100 list last year.

The other Giant to make a Top 100 list was Chris Shaw, a man without a position. Brandon Belt occupies his best position and Buster Posey will take over first base once Joey Bart is ready to catch. That means Shaw and his lack of speed will have to roam left field. Last year he hit 24 homeruns but struck out 144 times in 101 games in AAA. That production would be sufficient to cover for his lack of defense in left field, not the .185 average and 23 whiffs in 54 at bats he brought in a brief appearances with the Giants.

Melvin Adon has a blazing fastball but no control of it. He hits triple digits with the pitch but needs to work on his secondary pitches to get hitters out. Despite the heat hitters ripped him at a .287 average and his whiff to innings pitched was below one. Next year he should start the season in AA with a possibility of pitching in the bullpen if he can show some control.

Ray Black is a clone of Adon with a fastball that explodes toward the plate at three digits, hitting 104 miles per hour. Like Adon, he has no concept of where he is throwing it and lacks a quality secondary pitch. He got some major league opportunity last year after blowing away minor league hitters (.153 opposition average and 66 whiffs in 34.2 innings) but he was prone to the long ball (4 dingers in 23 innings) elevating his ERA to 6.17.

They signed Lucius Fox out of the Bahamas for $6 million then traded him to the Rays for Matt Moore. They went back to the well again and signed another shortstop from the international market, this time the Dominican Republic’s Marco Luciano, only shelling out $2.6 million to sign him. After signing Fox they recognized that he may not hit enough to make a major league impact. They hope the same does not come true for Luciano. He was considered the best hitting prospect of the 2018 international free agent class but has yet to make his minor league debut.

After that it gets tough. The Giant farm system is lacking in impact players, as it has the last eight or nine years. There were not enough players even to establish a top ten list.

Cuba and Major Leagues Agree on Free Agency

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Major League baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) have come to an agreement to allow Cuban players to play in the major leagues. Under this agreement the FCB will “release” all players under contract who are 25 years of age or older and have six or more years in the FCB to give them an opportunity to negotiate with a major league club. While not required to do so the FCB can also release players less than 25 years of age.

Once a player is released they are allowed to negotiate a contract with a major league club. If a major league team signs a Cuban player a release fee (15 to 20 percent of the negotiated contract), a formulae negotiated with the NPB, KBO and CPBL (though I don’t think the CPBL agreement has been formally agreed upon). The player will be allowed to play baseball in the United States under the standard work visa.

A player who is not part of the FCB will be allowed to sign with a major league club under the same rules that apply to all international free agents. FCB amateurs not playing in the Nacional Series are part of this agreement and must be released by the FCB to be eligible to negotiate with a major league club.

What is significant about this agreement is a player who is released by the FCB and is signed by a major league team can play in the Nacional Series or in an offseason tournament (such as the Olympics or World Cups) if they get approval from their major league club. Myworld would assume that any currently signed players would fall under this agreement, but that is unclear. This would certainly return Cuba to the ranks of the elite in baseball.

The contract with the FCB will expire on October 31, 2021. Any disputes between the FCB and major league baseball will be resolved in arbitration before the International Chamber of Commerce.