Archive for December, 2018

Premier 12 Set for 2019

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

The top 12 teams from the Premier 12 will compete in November 2019 for two spots in the 2020 Olympics. The 12 teams will be broken out into groups of four similar to the World Baseball Classic. These games will be held November 2-8 in Mexico, Taiwan and Korea. Two teams from each of these these groups of four will advance to the finals in Tokyo. They will play the games November 11-16 in the Tokyo Dome and Chiba Marine Stadium in pool play. On November 17 the finals will be held with the top two teams playing against each other and the third and fourth place teams competing for the bronze. This could be rather anticlimactic since the top two teams have already qualified for the Olympics and third place only gets you a bronze medal. But athletes play for pride.

The 12 teams that are eligible to compete are (in order of ranking):

1) Japan, 2) United States, 3) Korea, 4) Taiwan, 5) Cuba, 6) Mexico, 7) Australia, 8) Netherlands, 9) Venezuela, 10) Canada, 11) Puerto Rico, 12) Dominican Republic

Just missing from qualifying for the event are Panama, Colombia and Nicaragua, which finished 13-15 in the rankings.

Korea is the defending champions of the only Premier 12 to be played to date. The United States finished second and Japan third. The November time frame has been established to allow the countries to bring their top players to compete in this event. The professional leagues from Japan, United States, Taiwan and Korea will be over. Cuba will postpone their Nacional Series schedule as they do for the World Baseball Classic. It will be the best baseball has to offer outside of the World Baseball Classic.

Cubbies Hoping for Growth

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

During the days when the Cubs were losing it created an opportunity for high draft choices, providing them with a roster of quality players with top of the chart tools. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber were a couple first round draft picks they were able to snag because of poor team play through the season. Now that they are winning finding quality players through lower draft picks has proven more difficult. They have also found a need to trade some of their prospects to acquire veteran players to help them through a playoff run.

Last year only one player appeared in Top 100 lists, Adbert Alzolay, a right handed pitcher with average tools. From 2013 to 2017 the Cubs averaged 6-10 players per year appear on top 100 prospect lists. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Wilson Contreras, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards and Ian Happ have contributed to their major league club. Jorge Soler, Arodys Vizcaino, Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario have been traded for playoff pieces. Matt Szcur, Brett Jackson, Pierce Johnson, Mike Olt, Arismendy Alcantara, Dan Vogelbach, Eddy Julio Martinez and Billy McKinney have kind of fizzled. The world is still waiting on Dylan Cease, Duane Underwood and Trevor Clifton.

Because the Cubs had good success drafting hitters, pitching had been a weak point throughout the system. In a still light farm system that may be there strength now, though there is no flame thrower to wow you with his stuff. Duane Underwood Jr and his mid-90s fastball is still around after being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft. His secondary pitchers have improved and his command has gotten better, though it can be inconsistent. Expect him to make a contribution to the rotation in 2019.

He is joined in the rotation by Adbert Alzolay, their top prospect last year who stumbled into his 2018 season. An injury shut him down early after only eight starts. A 4.76 ERA and .281 opponent average are cause for concern. Righthanders who stand only 6′0″, despite having mid-90s heat are always suspect with their durability. If he has a future it appears to be at a back end of the rotation or as a mid reliever.

Alex Lange was a first round pick in 2017 out of LSU. He is not overpowering, relying on has secondary pitches and command to retire hitters. In 23 starts he limited the opposition to a .234 average with a 3.74 ERA. He appears to be another righthanded starter destined for the back end of a rotation. There are also issues with his back which forced him to take below slot money after he was drafted.

Brendon Little was another first round pick in 2017 but he has not had a lot of success (5.15 ERA last year). Command appears to be his biggest challenge with a fastball in the low to mid 90s. There are a number of other pitchers working their way up through the Cubs system, none who appear to have top starter stuff, but many who could find themselves in the back end of the rotation.

Until the domestic violence allegations against Addison Russell it appeared the Cubs would not need a shortstop for awhile. Now that is an area of concern. They did draft Nico Hoerner in the first round of the 2018 draft, making him possibly the top prospect in their vanilla farm system. The tools are there for him to play shortstop, but they are not eye opening tools. His bat is geared for the gaps, but could develop some power. In his minor league debut he slugged two homeruns in 49 at bats, hit .327 and slugged .571. Drafted out of college he should rise quickly.

Aramis Ademan is another shortstop possibility but he struggled last year. The Cubs challenged the teenager to a promotion to High A, where he was one of the youngest players in the league. A .563 OPS and .209 batting average is a tale of his troubles. Like Hoerner, his defensive tools are adequate to play shortstop, but he will be far short of being the top of his class. Expect him to repeat at High A with Hoerner surpassing him on the depth chart..

The Cubs thought they were set at catcher too with Wilson Contreras but then he forgot to hit in the second half of the season there is cause for concern. Miguel Amaya is a promising catcher out of Panama that is still a couple years away from contributing. He has some pop in his bat but his defensive tools are not overwhelming. His OPS was .752 last year. He should be a decent catcher who with a good season will make an All Star team, but his career numbers will be average.

Myworld could not find an outfielder we could get excited about. This is a farm system that really lacks a top 100 prospect again. A lot of players with decent to average tools, but it appears to lack superstars. They may have to start losing again if they want to get prospects with the skill sets of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber. For whatever reason their international players are not possessed with tools like Eloy Jimenez. No wonder the other major league teams are reluctant to trade with the Cubs with their current prospect class.

Mets Metamorhphasis Staggered

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

One year you think the Mets are rebuilding. Then they get a new General Manager and they trade prospects for veterans. It was a farm system pretty bare before they traded Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, two first round picks of the Mets. Last year the only Met to make a Top 100 prospect list was Andres Gimenez and he has been subject of trade talk for the acquisition of J.T. Realmuto.

Gimenez is probably their top prospect this year. With Ahmed Rosario at shortstop Gimenez may have to move to second. He has all the tools except power with the speed, arm and glove to stay at shortstop. The Venezuelan sprays his hits through the gaps and uses his speed and instincts to take the extra base.

One strength of the Mets is shortstop. If they should trade Gimenez they have a gold glove fielding shortstop in Luis Guillorme but his bat is questionable. Last year he made his major league debut and hit .209. In the minors he has a career average of .287 but just a .701 OPS. He is more suited for a utility role. Ronny Mauricio may have the bat but his range to play the position is a bit sketchy. He signed in 2017 for $2.1 million and has yet to escape rookie ball, so he is still a few years away. He needs to develop the power to play third base. If the power is absent then a move to second is a possibility.

Another intriguing candidate is Curacao native, but Netherlands born Shervyen Newton. Like Mauricio he did not escape rookie ball last year after signing in 2015 for $50,000. At 6′4″ and only 19 he may eventually outgrow the position. He is not afraid to take a walk putting together a .408 OBA but he also swings and misses a lot with 84 whiffs in just 56 games. Power should come as he matures.

The jewel of the farm system may now be first baseman Peter Alonso who can hit the ball a long way. His defense is poor and his speed is nonexistent so if the balls do not carry over the fence his worth is little. Last year Alonso hit 36 homeruns. He is ready to debut with the Mets this year.

Mark Vientos was once considered a shortstop but his range is not adequate there. He has moved to third where the Mets hope his power develops. Currently he is more a gap hitter whose power should materialize as he matures. At 19 Mark spent all his time in rookie ball last year hitting .287 with 11 homeruns for a .489 slugging average.

The outfield is a little short on prospects. A lot was thought of Desmond Lindsay at one time but his shine has softened. He has the speed to play centerfield but last year in the Florida State League he struggled with a .218 average and a .320 slugging, his season ended early with an arm injury. Staying free from injuries have been a challenge for Desmond preventing him from getting a full season of development after he was a second round pick in 2015.

Pitching is a bit suspect after their fantastic four of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob de Grom and Steven Matz appeared to be anchors in the rotation for many years to come. Harvey has departed and Syndergaard and Matz have had trouble staying healthy. Like the Royals the Mets are counting on two first round picks to fill their rotation. David Peterson (2017) and Anthony Kay (2016) are both lefthanders who rely more on command than power to get hitters out. Peterson is 6′6″ with excellent control, relying on a low 90s fastball, slider and change combination. Kay also has a low 90s fastball but needs to find a breaking pitch if he hopes to stay in the rotation. Last year the opposition hit him at a .270 clip in A ball.

When it looked like the Mets were rebuilding last year they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies for Franklyn Kilome. Franklyn has a fastball that hits the high 90s and at 6′6″ can be intimidating on the mound. He struggles with his command and lacks an offspeed pitch, which could result in a future in the bullpen if he can not improve on those traits.

Simeon Woods-Richardson was the Mets second round pick in 2018. Currently his fastball sits in the low 90s but at 18 the Mets feel confident that it will hit the mid-90s as he matures. He still needs to work on his secondary pitches. Last year he started four games in rookie ball and struck out more than one batter per inning, limiting the opposition to a .224 average, a nice start to his professional season.

With the Mets new GM now on the road to trading prospects for veterans in a belief that the Mets can contend in 2019 don’t expect this farm system to improve. They do have some promising prospects at the lower levels of the minors that could make an impact as they percolate through the system. By mid-season the Mets will know whether they are contenders or pretenders and the staggering may continue.

Royals Rebuilding

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

We’ll start our review of team prospects with a look at the team rated as having the worst farm system last year, the Kansas City Royals. They did not have any players rated in the top 100 by most of the prospect experts. Their short run to the playoffs required them to trade prospects for veterans to stay in the playoff race. A limited budget prevented them from signing a number of their free agents, losing Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer. Now it is back to the rebuilding stage.

It all starts with their four 2018 number one picks, all of them pitchers. The big cookie among the four is the Gator ace Brady Singer. He was voted College Player of the Year by Baseball America. His fastball is not overpowering for an ace but it comes with command, movement and two quality secondary pitches. He has yet to pitch in the minor leagues but as a college level pitcher expect him to start at full season ball.

The Royals also drafted Singer’s Gator rotation mate in Jackson Kowar with the 33rd pick. Both pitchers stand 6′5″ but Kowar may throw a little more heat. He also has two quality secondary pitches but is not as consistent with his stuff as Singer. Kowar has gotten a head start over Singer, getting 9 starts in Low A with a 3.42 ERA. Kowar does not seem to dominate with the K’s.

The Royals also used number one picks in the 2018 draft on Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic, both lefthanders. Lynch stands 6′6″ with a mid 90s fastball. Bubic is 6′3″ but throws less heat than Lynch, his fastball sitting in the low 90s. His bread and butter pitch is a change that makes his fastball look flashier. Lynch throws both a slider and curve and may want to abandon the lesser pitch as his career develops.

That is a good four to begin your rotation, all college level pitchers who should rise quickly. Closing out the games for those four will be the Royals 2014 second round pick Josh Staumont . He began his career as a starter but a lack of control and a quality third pitch moved him to the bullpen. His fastball hits three digits, striking out 12.2 hitters per nine innings. Expect him to begin his closer role in 2019.

On the offensive front Khalil Lee may has the most upside, the closest the Royals have to a five tool player. His power disappeared a little bit last year but he should give the Royals a good stick in centerfield. At one of the corners will be a lessor defensive player in Seuly Matias who showed his power last year with 31 homeruns. His arm is a rocket, which will make him a good fit in right field, but his bat still has too much swing and miss to it.

The Royals will hope for some offense from their 2017 number one pick Nick Pratto. Some question his ability to hit for power, but he slugged 14 homeruns last year. Nick is a good defender at first base but teams like to see power from this position. His limited speed makes a move to the outfield risky. Last year he struck out 150 times, which is a cause for concern, especially if there is no power when he makes contact.

On the defensive side you have catcher MJ Melendez . His plus arm threw out 42 percent of those runners who tried to steal against him. He still needs to learn some of the nuances of catching, but that will come with time. The bat comes with some pop but the inability to make contact could result in low averages.

Nicky Lopez has the tools of a utility player. He sprays the gaps, but lacks the power to carry balls over the fence. His range is not great for short so if he hopes to start it will probably be at second.

The Royals still have some work to do to add depth to their farm system. They will not be shutout in Top 100 prospects for 2019, with at least one of their pitchers squeezing in at mid level, but it is still not a strong system.

Top Prospects Playing in the Dominican

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Below are the top prospects playing in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican parks tend to favor the pitchers so batting averages and slugging all tend to be low.

Estrellas Orientales (25-20)

Fernando Tatis Jr (SS) - He is hitting .265 with three homeruns and seven runs scored but he has scored 13 runs sitting at the top of the lineup. Fernando has also stolen seven bases in nine attempts. The concern is the .265 average is inflated by his .545 average against lefthanded pitching. Estrellas usually does not appear at the top of the standings but with the strong play of Tatis they are in first place. Expect Tatis to see the Padres lineup sometime in 2019.

Francisco Mejia (C) - Struggling a bit with a .232 average. He has only walked one time in 56 at bats for a .237 OBA. The bat is not producing a lot of power with only one extra base hit of his 13 hits for a slugging average of .250. Don’t be surprised if the Padres make him part of a trade deal for a veteran pitcher. The shine is coming off for this prospect the more he is exposed.

Domingo Leyba (SS/2B) - He missed the first part of the year because of injuries. Trying to recover some at bats he is hitting .215. Another player showing some lack of patience with just one walk in 68 at bats dragging down his OBA to .239. His best bet for next year is the Diamondbacks using him as a utility player. Expect him to try to find his bat in AAA next year. If he hits a callup can be expected.

Nestor Cortes (LHP) - The Yankees 24 year old Cuban lefthander is opening some eyes with his eight starts in the Dominican (2-0, 1.71). He has limited the opposition to a .177 average and struck out more than a hitter per inning. Not considered a top prospect, he could see some time in the Yankees bullpen next year after he starts the season in AAA. Lefties are only hitting him at a .063 pace.

Escogido Leones (25-20)

Diogenes Almengo RHP - Not really a high prospect, but the Orioles righthander is doing well in the bullpen (3-1, 2.28). Not a lot of swing and miss with his pitches and very hittable (.270 opposition average). He pitched in the bullpen last year for the Orioles and has been a slow riser up the minor league ladder. After four seasons in the Dominican Summer League and the short season leagues he finally got a taste of the full season leagues last year at 23 years of age. That is not young for a Dominican prospect.

Licey Tigres (24-21)

Dawel Lugo (3B) - He has a chance to make the Tigers rebuilding roster next year as a utility player but with a .234 average and 0 walks in 47 at bats for a .234 OBA he is not making progress in that area. His last game was November 21.

Albert Abreu (RHP) - The hard throwing Yankees righthander has had six strong starts with the Tigres (0-2, 1.35). Not a lot of whiffs but the opposition is only hitting him at a .186 clip. He should start the season in AA. His 11 walks in 20 innings is a cause for concern since command at times has been an issue for him.

Genesis Cabrera (LHP) - Genesis has an opportunity to see the Cardinals bullpen with a good spring training. He is warming up for that with a good winter (1.35 ERA). The opposition is hitting him at only a .163 clip with lefties 0 for 14 against him. He has a 2/20 walk to whiff ratio in 13 innings.

Toros del Este (21-24)

Sean Murphy (C) - He is scuffling with the bat (.185). While he has hit two homeruns his slugging average is only .272. Noted more for his defense than his bat he should start next year in AAA with a promotion possible if his bat shows some sparks. Only hitting .122 against right handed pitching.

Jorge Mateo (2B/SS/CF) - When he was a top prospect he was noted for his speed and his ability to steal bases. That has been absent the last couple years with just 25 stolen bases last year compared to 52 the year before. In the Dominican he is just 2 for 4. Jorge is showing a good penchant for getting on base with 10 walks and a .308 OBA, which is good when you consider he is only hitting .167. He does have sneaky power, but that power has been absent in the Dominican (.204 slugging).

Aguilas Cibaenas (20-25)

Victor Robles (OF) - Trying to set himself up for a starting nod with the Nationals in 2019. His numbers are a little vanilla (.265,1,6) with minimal power (.316 slugging). At the start of the 2018 season he was considered a better prospect than Juan Soto. His bat does not appear to have the same thunder as Soto but he is a much superior defensive player. He is hitting .306 against right handed pitching. If Bryce is not signed Victor should be the Nationals starting centerfielder next year.

Leody Taveras (OF) - Another outfielder whose glove outmatches his bat. The Rangers prospect is only hitting .229 with a .286 slugging average. In order for his gold glove to play in the majors his bat will have to progress more.

Andy Ibanez (2B/3B) - The Cuban prospect is getting beyond that prospect age at 25 years of age. For Aguilas he is hitting just .164 with a .224 slugging. The power needs to get better if he is going to play a corner.

Cibao Gigantes (20-25)

Eloy Jimenez (OF) - A Juan Soto waiting to happen with the White Sox for the 2019 season. The iron glove wicked bat outfielder is hitting .448 in the Dominican with two homeruns and nine RBIs in just 8 games. His OPS is an impressive 1.259. Myworld expects him to be the White Sox starting right fielder next year, after he spends what applicable time he has to in the minor leagues to meet his service time requirements.

Jose Siri (OF) - The Reds prospect has been displaying all his tools with three homeruns and 13 stolen bases. He is also hitting a decent .271 with a .424 slugging average. The swing and miss is a big concern for Jose with 35 whiffs in 34 games. The Reds will give him one more year in the minors but expect a September callup.

Seuly Matias (OF) - The slugging Royals outfield prospect has not really found any power in his bat. After hitting 31 homeruns last year in Low A he went homerless in 41 Dominican at bats, hitting just .220 with a slugging average of .244. His last game was November 27. Next year he should see most of his time in High A.

Rogelio Armenteros (RHP) - The Astros Cuban signing was dominant in his five starts in the Dominican (2-0, 1.17). He limited the opposition to a .154 average and did not allow more than a run in his five starts. The 24 year old is ready for the major leagues after starting 21 games last year in AAA. Expect him to start in the bullpen with injury issues giving him an opportunity to start a few games.

Taiwan Slugger Signs with Nippon Ham

Friday, December 7th, 2018

The Taiwan slugger Wang Po-Jung signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters for three years and $4 million. There are also additional incentives to the contract that have not been disclosed. He becomes the first player from the CPBL to sign via the posting system. Though major league teams could have participated in the posting process they did not because of no formalized process in place with Taiwan for the acquisition of players. No information has been provided on the posting fee paid to the La Miga Monkeys, though it has been projected to be near $1 million.

The NPB has a limit of four foreign players on their major league roster, with no more than three of them being a pitcher or position player. Wang will count on that four player limit, meaning the Fighters think enough of him to use up a roster spot for his services over major league players.

Wang hit .414 and .407 in his first two full seasons in the CPBL, slugging 29 and 31 homeruns. His third season last year could be considered a disappointment as he hit only .351 with 17 homeruns. His slugging percentage dropped more than 100 points. He won the CPBL rookie of the year in 2016 and was voted MVP in 2016 and 2017. During his rookie year of 2016 he became the first CPBL player to record 200 hits during a season.

A sellout for Yankees/Red Sox in London

Friday, December 7th, 2018

For those of you thinking of buying tickets for the Yankees/Red Sox in London - forget it. The game is a sellout. As would be expected for all Yankee/Red Sox games the June 29/30 game in London was a sellout. Ticket prices ranged from as high as 385 pound ($491) to 30 pound ($38). The game is being played at the Olympic Stadium in London. While the stadium can seat 80,000, for baseball the stadium was reconfigured to hold 55,000.

The collective bargaining agreement allows an extra $60,000 to each player who participate in the trip. Now that is a big per diem. Major league baseball will also play games in London in 2020.

Iwakuma Signs with Giants

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

Not the San Francisco Giants. The Yomiuri Giants. Hisashi lwakuma is returning to Japan after two injury filled years in the major leagues where he was limited to six starts in 2017 and no starts in 2018. Iwakuma had undergone shoulder surgery in 2017.

Like they did for Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners had offered Iwakuma a coaching role but he still had an itch to pitch. Iwakuma had a successful major league career going 63-39 with a 3.42 ERA. In 2013 he made the All Star team and finished third in Cy Young voting his second season in the major leagues. He had one no hitter, against the Baltimore Orioles in 2015.

In Japan Iwakuma has played for the Osaka Buffaloes and the Rakuten Golden Eagles. He won the Sawamura award with the Golden Eagles in 2008, when he also led the Pacific League in ERA. Iwakuma also played for three NPB All Star teams in 2003, 2004 and 2008. Iwakuma was posted in 2010, failed to come to an agreement with the Oakland Athletics and signed as a free agent with the Mariners in 2011.

In Japan Iwakuma also had issues with his shoulder and also had surgery on his right elbow in 2007. In 2008 he would go 21-4 to win the Sawamura award. Before leaving for the major leagues his Japanese record was 107-69 with a 3.25 ERA.

Diamondbacks Take Risk with Kelly

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Merrill Kelly has not played any major league baseball. Yet the Arizona Diamondbacks signed the righthander to a two year S5.5 million contract. There are also two club options that would extend the contract to $9.5 million or a $500,000 buyout if they do not want to exercise those options.

The Diamondbacks are hoping the three years Kelly pitched in the KBO transfers well to the major leagues. Miles Mikolas had success with the Cardinals last year after pitching in Japan. The Brewers got some contributions from Eric Thames after he destroyed KBO pitching for a couple years. The Diamondbacks are hoping for some success from Kelly, who last pitched outside of Korea in the minor leagues for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kelly pitched for the SK Wywerns the last three years. In three seasons he started 90 games and finished with a 3.80 ERA. When you consider what a hitters league the KBO is those are pretty good numbers. This past season the Wyverns won the KBO championship with Kelly going 16-7 with a 3.60 ERA. He had his best season that year, striking out 189 hitters in 190 innings, though he has given up more than a hit per inning pitched in all three years.

His stuff is not overpowering, but he could have some success at the back end of the rotation. The Diamondbacks are a little short in the rotation after losing Patrick Corbin to free agency, Taijuan Walker to Tommy John and Shelby Miller to ineffectiveness. They are also trying to trade the contract of Zack Greinke. If Kelly can provide them 30 average starts he has done his job.

Top 14 Countries for Women’s Baseball

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

There are not as many countries that participant in woman’s baseball. Japan is the most dominant, currently carrying a 30 game world cup winning streak. Canada, the number two rated team came the closest to beating Japan in the World Cup, losing 2-1 in a Super Round game. Taiwan jumped three spots after finishing second in last year’s World Cup. Most of the top United States players are encouraged to play softball because of a lack of baseball programs for women. They dropped a notch after failing to medal the last two years. Below are the top 14 countries for woman’s baseball:

1. Japan - 2000 points
2. Canada - 1300
3. Taiwan - 1297
4. United States - 1094
5. Venezuela - 989
6. Australia - 904
7. Cuba - 537
8. Korea - 500
9. Dominican Republic - 433
10. Hong Kong - 363
11. Netherlands - 311
12. Puerto Rico - 267
13. India - 104
14. Pakistan - 67