Archive for January, 2019

Five Teams Confirmed for the World Port Tournament

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

The Honkball and World Port tournament play every other year. The Honkball is in Haarlem while the World Port tournament is played in Rotterdam. Taiwan will be returning to defend their championship against the local team Netherlands and Curacao. Japan will also be participating as well as a United States group.

Cuba is not playing for the first time since 1993. Their absence is because they are unable to send a strong team to compete in the tournament. That is a sad sign of the decline of Cuban baseball.

The dates for the tournament are July 12 to 21.

Series Del Caribe to Move to Panama

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

This year the Series del Caribe was supposed to be played in Barquiesimeto, Venezuela, the home of the Lara Cardenales. Because of the violence occurring there a number of teams were not willing to travel there and major league baseball warned minor leaguers to stay away. Mexico had bailed Venezuela out last year when political violence prevented that country from being the host but they were hesitant to do it again. So now it appears the games will be played in Panama at the Rod Carew stadium.

For Panama it allows one of their teams to participate in the Series del Caribe for the first time since the games reformed. Panama will be represented by Toros de Hererra. Other teams who have qualified are Las Tunas (Cuba), Estrellas Orientales (Dominican Republic), Cangrejeros de Santurce (Puerto Rico), Cardenales de Lara (Venezuela) and the winner of the series between the Charros de Jalisco or Yaquis de Ciudad Obregon.

The tournament will start Feb 4-10. Panama’s gain is Lara’s loss. It is the second straight year the tournament has had to leave Barquiesimeto because of the political violence there.

Nationals Taking Step Back in NL East

Monday, January 28th, 2019

While the Nationals continue to trade their prospects for veterans in an unsuccessful bid to advance in the playoffs the Phillies and Braves kept their young players and leap frogged over the Nationals last year. Now the Nationals have to prove the 2018 non-playoff season was not a fluke. The consistently underperforming club has only appeared in the top ten prospect lists in 2010 when they had Stephen Strasburg, Derek Norris and Chris Marrero listed. Only Strasburg has contributed to their playoff failures. Last year Victor Robles, Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom and Erick Fedde appeared on top 100 lists. Juan Soto became a breakout star, finishing second to Ronald Acuna in the 2018 Rookie of the Year race.

The Nationals still have some hope to sign Bryce Harper. If that does not come to pass they still have Victor Robles waiting in the wings. He won’t be the same hitter as Juan Soto, but he will provide far better centerfield defense than Harper. His routes to the ball need improving but his speed can make up for his mistakes. The bat should also develop enough power to turn him into a 20/20 player in homeruns and stolen bases. Last year he slugged .525 in limited major league at bats (59) which was much greater than his .370 minor league slugging production. An injured elbow limited him to 52 minor league games. If not for the injury it would have been Robles who would have been called up instead of Soto.

Carter Kieboom may be the next best prospect for the Nationals. His father played ball in the Netherlands, giving Carter enough genes to convince the Nationals to make him their first pick in 2016. He will not be able to wrestle the shortstop position away from Trea Turner so a move to second appears to be in his future. His bat will make him an offensive power with 20 plus homeruns per year. The defense will not be outstanding but he will not hurt you with the glove. Expect him to wear a Nationals uniform sometime in 2019.

That leaves Luis Garcia as a man without a position. Fortunately for the Nationals he is still a couple years from competing for a spot in the major leagues. Last year he played A ball where he combined to hit .298. The tools are there for him to stay at short with decent range and a strong arm, but playing in a super utility role in the near future is a possibility. His father played for the Tigers but Luis hopes for a more extended stay in the major leagues. His bat makes good contact but his extra bases will be more prone to hit the gaps than sail over the fences. There is enough speed in his legs for a possible move to centerfield but that is not a thought this early in his career.

On the pitching front Mason Denaburg was the Nationals first round pick in 2018. He pitched for the gold medal winning 18 and under team, which had ten players drafted in the first round. The Nationals decided to hold him out for the 2018 season. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with a promising curve and change to allow him to fit in the rotation. At 6′4″ he has a solid pitcher’s frame. His 2019 season may start in extended spring training until the rookie leagues open up.

Not much positive can be said for the Nationals 2017 first round pick Seth Romero. The talent is there but the character is not. He was suspended by his college and eventually dropped from the team for rules violations. The Nationals hoped he would mature but they also had to suspend him because of rules violations. Now an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery will leave him disabled for the 2019 season. A lefthander who can tick his fastball in the mid to high 90s is a valuable commodity so the Nationals will hope his year off will lead to another year of maturity.

In a Tanner for Tanner trade the Nationals sent Tanner Rourke to the Reds for Tanner Rainey. Rainey can hit triple digits with his fastball but has no clue where the plate is. In 44 minor league appearances hitters batted just .148 against him. In 8 major league appearances they tagged him at a .406 clip where he walked 12 hitters in just seven innings. If he can harness his control he will pitch in the Nationals bullpen in 2019, but that is asking for a lot.

Austin Voth has a chance to slip into the Nationals rotation in 2019. The stuff is not overwhelming with his fastball sitting in the low 90s. He relies on his change to make the fastball appear to have more zip. At best he could fill in as a temporary number five starter, but whether he can stay in that spot for an extended period is in doubt.

Will Crowe advanced to AA last year but struggled (0-5, 6.15). His fastball has decent velocity, hitting the mid-90s with above average breaking pitches and an effective change. He did have Tommy John surgery when pitching for South Carolina so that remains a concern. He will repeat AA and hope those numbers match what he put up in A ball (11-0, 2.69).

Australia Wins Oceania Under 18

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Australia qualified for the Under 18 World Cup in Korea this year with a 5-0 win over American Samoa. The game was called after four innings because of rain, which would disappoint many Samoan fans. American Samoa had pulled an upset over Australia earlier in pool play winning 4-3.

Australia was declared the champion based on their 16-0 win over Samoa in the playoffs. American Samoa then defeated third place Guam 15-6 to earn another shot at Australia. Mother Nature did not allow that game to be completed.

New Zealand finished fourth and Palau fifth in the tournament.

Indians Continue to Focus on Titles

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

The Indians farm system has been just strong enough to churn out decent enough prospects that they can trade them for veterans. They were ranked by myworld at number 15 last year, right in the middle of the pack and in years past usually sit around the lower part of the top ten. The highest ranked prospects they have had are Trevor Bauer (2013) who was acquired from the Diamondbacks and appeared at number five and Francisco Lindor (2015) who appeared at number six. Both prospects have made impacts on their major league roster. Last year the only two players who appeared in Top 100 lists were Tristan McKenzie and Francisco Mejia, but both appeared high enough to elevate the Indians status in the prospect rankings. Francisco Mejia was traded mid-year to the Padres.

Myworld saw Tristan McKenzie pitch in the NY Penn League a couple years ago and were quickly mesmerized. We liked the length in his arms making it hard for hitters to pick up on the ball. His skinny frame seemed to indicate that an increase in velocity on his low 90s fastball would increase once he fills out. The fastball still sits in the low-90s but his curveball gets lots of swings and misses and his change is an effective pitch. A 6′5″ frame that is not troubled with poor command makes him a future ace in the waiting. Last year he had success in AA (2.68 ERA and .191 opposition average) so the major leagues is not far away.

Another tall drink of water at 6′6″ 2018 first round pick Ethan Hawkins. A shoulder injury impacted his draft status dropping him all the way to the last pick of the 2018 draft. The faulty shoulder limited him to three innings on two starts last year. His fastball blazes across the plate in the high 90s but his secondary pitches need some improvement before he can be considered as an ace pitcher. The 2019 season will be critical to see if he can keep his health. He pitched for the gold medal winning 18 and under USA baseball team in 2018, one of ten players on that team selected in the first round.

The big thing Sam Hentges has going for him is a fastball he can hit in the mid-90s. Another large framed pitcher (6′6″) drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 draft he lacks a consistent secondary offering and struggles with control. Last year he had moderate success in High A as a starter but opposing hitters tagged him at a .260 clip. The Indians will give him another year in the rotation in an attempt to master his command.

The Venezuelan Luis Oviedo owns the best fastball of all the Indians prospects. It sits in the mid-90s and can tick higher. A good changeup makes the fastball look even more imposing. Establishing a breaking pitch will cement his spot in the rotation. He limited the opposition to a .190 average last year. Next year he should begin the season in Low A.

Chih-Wei Hu has bounced around since signing with the Twins out of Taiwan in 2012. He made his major league debut with the Rays in 2017 and got another five relief appearances with the Indians last year. He is not overpowering and at 6′0″ there could be durability concerns as a starter, but his pitch mix is varied. The change and his low 89s fastball location are his two best pitches but he also carries two breaking pitches and a palmball. Major league hitters only hit him at a .149 clip in his 13 major league innings. The Indians will probably use him out of the bullpen to begin the 2019 season and fit him in the rotation when a need exists.

Noah Naylor was the Indians first round pick in 2018. He is the brother of Josh, but his ability to catch and his better physique may ultimately make him a better prospect. He still needs a lot of improvement on his defense behind the plate, but his arm is solid. His bat should show enough power to hit 20 plus homeruns and he showed some good plate discipline with 21 walks in 33 games for a .381 OBA. If catching does not happen the bat is strong enough for him to see time at first base.

It appeared Bobby Bradley continued to improve his ability to make contact, striking out just 105 times in 97 games. It did not seem to help in his batting average (.214) but he did improve to .254 when promoted to AAA. Power will be his game. He has hit 20 plus homeruns since being drafted in the third round in 2014. DH appears to be his best position and his speed limits him to one base at a time, unless he bombs a pitch over the wall. If the power does not show in abundant quantities the major leagues will not happen.

Nolan Jones still has some developing to do. The 2016 second round pick has an excellent glove for third base. An ability to take a walk put his OBA for the 2018 season at .405. That will allow him to hit for a decent average (.283) with decent power that should improve as he matures. Last year Nolan slugged 19 homeruns. If for some reason he can not play third the legs carry enough speed for him to be able to play outfield.

The Indians signed Yu-Cheng Chang out of Taiwan in 2013. In 2017 he slugged 24 homeruns to open eyes as a possible slugging shortstop. That power unfortunately came with a lower average (.220). Last year the power was more muted with 13 homeruns but the batting average increased to .256. He may not have the range to stay at short, but if he moves to third he will need to show the power to fit the position. Next year he should make his major league debut if the Indians feel he is ready.

Tyler Freeman may not have the range to stick at short and lacks the power to play third. The supplemental second round pick in 2017 did hit .352 in rookie ball with 29 doubles to show he can spray the gaps. If that offense continues a move to second could be a possibility. Expect his role to be more of a utility player.

The one weakness the Indians have had is developing outfielders. They traded with the Nationals to acquire Daniel Johnson. Daniel was kind of the third wheel behind Juan Soto and Victor Robles. The tools are there for him to hit for power and average. With the Nationals his bat was second to Soto and his speed was second to Robles. With the Indians he has the ability to be one of their top outfielders. His defensive tools make him a better fit for right field.

The Indians paid George Valera $1.3 million in 2017. He lived in New York but moved to the Dominican at 13 years of age. A broken hamate bone limited his season to six games. The bat has the ability to mix power with contact so he should be a solid offensive player, making a move to right field a good fit.

Will Benson was the Indians 2016 first round pick. His arm is a rifle making him a perfect fit for right field but his legs carry some speed to make centerfield another option. Last year he hit 22 homeruns while showing good patience at the plate with 82 walks. What he needs to improve on is his ability to make contact with 152 whiffs in just 123 games. That struggle to make contact drove his average down to .180. In his three years in the minor leagues he has yet to hit over .238.

Professional Baseball Hires First Female General Manager

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

The Kiwoom (ex-Nexon) Heroes hired the first female general manager for professional baseball. She is Im Eun-Ju and she is not a stranger to being a first. She was also the first South Korean woman to become a FIFA referee. Her title is also that of team president. Myworld knows that no female has ever become general manager in the major leagues. We are pretty certain that Japan and Taiwan have not ever placed a female as general manager in their professional leagues, so we will call her a first.

While she will oversee baseball operations, Park Joon-Sang, a male, will oversee marketing and business operations. He will also carry the title of President. The Kiwoom Heroes have overtaken the franchise previously operated by the Nexen Heroes, who had financial and legal difficulties and decided to abandon their KBO team.

Im is an athlete having also played soccer for the women’s national soccer team. Her qualifications for the general manager position were learned after her playing days were over when she took over the administration of the men’s soccer program. She was the CEO and GM for two different soccer clubs from 2013 to 2018. She has very little baseball experience so there may be a bit of a learning curve as she goes about her duties.

Kudos to the KBO and the Kiwoom Heroes for their forward thinking.

CPBL Considers Expansion

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 reports on the possible expansion of one baseball team to the CPBL and the delay in the participation of another. It was reported by CPBLstats that the Ting-Hsin International Group will revive the Wei-Chuan Dragons, one of the more popular teams in the CPBL until they dropped out of the league in December 1999, one month after winning the Taiwan Series.

Before playing in the CPBL the team would have to pay a $19 million fee and play in the minor leagues for two years. While they play in the minor leagues they would accumulate players by participating in the CPBL draft beginning with the July 2019 draft. They would possibly host their games in the Taipei Dome in Kaohsiung City.

One team that has delayed their participation in the CPBL is a team from Australia. They were supposed to join the CPBL playing in the minor leagues for two years beginning in 2019. They have asked for a postponement to their participation in the league until 2019 or 2020. Taiwan also plans to add a Taiwanese team to the Australian Baseball League in 2019.

Australia’s delay in creating a team for the CPBL may be the large expense for forming a team. It may also be a reluctance of some teams in the CPBL from accepting a team from Australia. Australia is looking to seek clearer guidance on the path for the team to eventually join the CPBL. Communications from the two sides will continue to determine feasibility. It would seem to make sense if they agree to the return of the Wei Chuan Dragons as a fifth team in the CPBL they would need to find a sixth team to balance out the schedule.

Las Tunas Wins First Cuban Championships

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

When myworld first discovered Cuban baseball, Las Tunas was one of the teams you could count on to finish at the bottom of the standings. With defections and many of the top players bolting for the United States the landscape has changed for Cuban baseball. For the most part teams in the Nacional Series are composed of players who grow up in their barrio, except for the Capital which can sometimes acquire top players from other barrios. With the Cuban season now composed of two parts to a season players are drafted from teams outside their barrio from the teams who failed to advance in the second half. It has played havoc for websites attempting to keep statistics for players.

The Lumberjacks finally won their first championship after downing the Orangeman of Villa Clara in five games. Jorge Johnson was the big bat for Las Tunas. In the final game, an 8-4 win Johnson went 3 for 5 with a homerun and four RBIs. Alexander Ayala also contributed with a 4 for 4 day with a homerun and two RBIs. Yadian Martinez went 5.2 innings of shutout relief to allow the Lumberjacks to come back from a 4-2 deficit after four innings, picking up his second victory in two days.

In the opening game of the championship series Jorge Johnson went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Daniel Castro and Jorge Aloma each went deep and drove in four runs. The first bullpen victory was recorded by Yudier Rodriguez, who worked 2.2 innings while allowing just one hit.

The Johnson bat remained hot in game two with a 2 for 5 day, his first homerun of the series and three RBIs. Jorge Aloma kept pace with a 3 for 3 performance and two runs scored.

The Lumberjacks came up short in game three 9-4. Villa Clara exploded for six runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. The Johnson bat became boring with a 1 for 4 performance. Jorge Aloma went hitless in three at bats. William Saavedra was the big bat for Villa Clara with one homerun and three RBIs and two runs scored.

Las Tunas came back in game four with a 7-5 win despite the quiet bats from Johnson. Jorge Aloma did contribute two hits but Yasiel Santoya drove in three runs to prove the difference in the game. Yadian Martinez got the win out of the bullpen despite giving up two runs, surviving three innings which was enough to get the win.

The Johnson bat returned in the final game to finish the five game series with 10 RBIs. The down side of the series is the celebration was held at the Villa Clara park. Myworld is confident Las Tunas residents will give them their celebration when they return home.

Brisbane Blasts Nine Homeruns in ABL Action

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

It is a little difficult to follow the ABL since the website is unable to show standings or stats but an ABL record was set when the Brisbane Bandits blasted nine homeruns in their 21-5 victory over the Korean expansion team Geelong-Korea yesterday. Riley Unroe, T.J. Bennett, Andrew Campbell, Donald Lutz, Wynton Bernard, David Sutherland, Wade Dutton and Daniel de La Calle all went deep. Calle went deep twice, including hitting a grand slam meaning Logan Wade was the only player in the starting lineup who failed to hit a homerun.

On the Geelong side, Byeong-Geun Kim served up four homeruns in less than four innings of work. Jae-Gon Lee coughed up five blasts in a little over four innings of work. Lee was left in long enough to give up 15 runs during that time to raise his ERA to 13.98. On the bright side Hwi Kwon threw one inning of perfect relief in the ninth to lower his ERA to 10.58.

Korea to Call Games Because of Fine Dust

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

The KBO will now call games not just because of rain but because of pollution. The calculation gets very complex, way beyond myworld’s level of understanding but if “the level of particles 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter (PM-10) is expected to exceed 300 micrograms per cubic meter (㎍/㎥) for more than two hours. For ultra fine dust, or particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, (PM-2.5), the warning is put in place when the level is expected to remain over 150㎍/㎥ for longer than two hours”. Myworld will leave it to the experts to make that call.

The call to cancel the game will be made one hour before the first pitch. It is not clear what happens if the dust particles reach that level while the game is in play. Fine dust issues caused the cancellation of three games that were supposed to be played on April 6, 2018.