Archive for January, 2019

Eye-Bee-Gar Pirates Pillaging for Playoffs

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

From 2012 to 2017 the Pirates appeared in the Top Ten for the quality of their prospects. This may have helped them in their playoff appearances from 2013 to 2015. Unfortunately, the trades of Andrew McCutcheon and Gerritt Cole lacked prospects with the name value to see them appear in the top ten in 2018 and probably 2019. The players who made an impact for the Pirates from 2012 to 2017 were Gerritt Cole, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Austin Meadows, Starling Marte, Josh Bell, and Tyler Glasnow. Prospects they are still waiting on are Mitch Keller, Kevin Newman and Nick Kingham. Prospects who failed to live up to their Top 100 hype were Alen Hanson, Luis Heredia and Reese McGwire, though there is still some time for prospects to pass or fail. The Pirates who made top 100 lists in 2018 include Jordan Luplow, Colin Moran, Austin Meadows and Mitch Keller. Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow have been traded so their Pirate contribution will consist of those players the Pirates obtained in the trades.

The Pirate prospect who could make the most impact is Oneil Cruz. He could also turn into a big bust. At 6′6″ it is hard to believe the Pirates still plan to keep him at shortstop. As he matures and the body gains weight his range could be limited and myworld can’t imagine how he gets his rear end near the ground at that height to field ground balls. A move to right field or first base is probably in his future. The bat carries light tower power that kind of remind me of the shots I witnessed from Giancarlo Stanton (then called Mike) when he was still a prospect. The large frame gives the pitcher an extended strike zone, but Oneil did a good job of making contact last year. Next year should see him get a taste of AA with a major league arrival sometime in 2020.

A player ready for his major league debut in 2019 is 2014 second round pick Mitch Keller. Like aged wine the Pirates have been letting him breath in the minor leagues. Last year he had success at AA (2.72 ERA) but struggled at AAA (4.82 ERA). This gives the Pirates an excuse to leave him in the minors to begin 2019 regardless of how well he pitches in spring training to get one more year of service time from him. His fastball reaches the high 90s but sits in the mid-90s with quality secondary pitches and excellent command to reach ace potential. In AAA he struggled a bit with his command resulting in hitter’s raking him at a .280 clip. Expect Mitch to be with the Pirates by mid-season next year.

Nick Burdi was a Rule V pick that had trouble staying healthy last year. He will have to spend the first 90 days on the major league roster in order for the Pirates to keep him. Before his Tommy John surgery in 2017 his fastball sat in the high 90s and often reached triple digits. Because of his lack of command and a third pitch his minor league career has been spent in the bullpen where the Pirates hope to develop him as a closer. If he can gain better command of his fastball/slider combination he can be an impact in the pen.

That is it for the pitchers. The middle infield will see a battle for shortstop. They may not have knock me out tools, but they should do no worse than Jody Mercer. Kevin Squared, which is Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer should battle for the shortstop job next year. The loser of that battle will probably play in a utility role or move to second base. Kevin Newman may have the better defensive tools, especially with the arm. He also had a little more major league success when both were called up last year(.209 vs .135). Both will hit for a decent average but will not generate a lot of power. Kramer did surprise with 15 homeruns and a .492 slugging in AAA last year but if either get in double figures in homeruns in the major leagues the Pirates should be grateful.

Cole Tucker is another possibility for the shortstop position. What separates him from the Kevin Squares is the speed to steal 30 plus bases a year. This speed also gives him the ability to cover more ground at shortstop. Like the Kevins his bat is a little vanilla, lacking power to make an offensive impact. Tucker will probably spend the entire year in AAA waiting for one of the Kevins to fail.

Ke’Bryan Hayes was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2015. He is the son of Charlie, who spent 14 years in the major leagues. Early in his career it did not look like Hayes would have the defensive chops to stay at third. Now his glove is considered a plus. What he needs is to develop some power to fit at the corner infield position. Last year his power was restricted to the gaps with 31 doubles but only seven homeruns for a .444 slugging percentage. That is borderline offense for a corner infielder. The good news is the seven homeruns was just one short of the eight he hit in his three previous seasons. After hitting .293 in AA he will begin the 2019 season in AAA. There are no sure fire starters at the major league position so a good spring and a good start in AAA could see him with the Pirates by mid-season.

Another shortstop to watch is Ji-Hwan Bae, whose $300,000 signing by the Braves was voided because of their violation of international cap rules. The Pirates swooped in and shelled out $1.2 million to sign him, using some of the international bonus money the Giants gave them in the McCutcheon trade. Like many of the middle infielders coming out of Asia Bae has good speed and smooth actions at short. The big question is whether he will show enough bat to see the major leagues. Last year he hit .271 with a .349 slugging percentage in the Rookie League. Depending on how his spring goes he could see a full season league to begin the 2019 season.

In the outfield the Pirates hope USA star Travis Swaggerty shows some swag. He was the Pirates first round pick in 2018 after impressing for Team USA. His defense is centerfield quality with the power to hit 20 plus homeruns. The speed is also there to steal 20 plus bases. The five tools are all there but they are not at the elite level. There was a little struggle making contact in his minor league debut, but the bat showed some pop with five homeruns in 52 games. He struggled a bit when promoted to full season (.129) but that could have been fatigue setting in after a long college season.

The Pirates are hoping to get something from Bryan Reynolds (Andrew McCutcheon trade) and Jason Martin (Gerritt Cole), both with tools that remind myworld of fourth outfielders. They lack burner speed to play center, the arms are better suited for left and the power does not fit a corner outfield slot. The Pirates hope to get some production from them to justify the trades or see Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove and Kyle Crick do better than average for the Pirates in 2019.

Rockies Seeking Path to Playoffs

Monday, January 14th, 2019

The Rockies appeared in the top ten for prospects as measured by myworld from 2015 to 2017. In 2016 they were the top team for prospects. As these players graduated to the major leagues their ranking in the top ten disappeared last year. Now they are ready for the playoff chase. John Gray, David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Kyle Freeland, Raimel Tapia and German Marquez all have made contributions to the Rockies roster in the last couple years. Brendan Rodgers and Riley Pint are poised to make contributions in 2019. Eddie Butler and Forrest Wall have been traded for playoff pieces. Rodgers, McMahon and Pint were the only prospects named in Top 100 prospect lists last year. The cupboard is not bare.

Brendan Rodgers is prepared to make an impact in the major leagues in 2019. The 2015 first round pick may have to find a position not occupied by Trevor Story or Nolan Arenado, which may mean a move to second base. The Rockies chose to say bye to D.J. LeMahieu which may open a spot for Rodgers. The bat is capable of hitting for a high average as well as socking 20 plus homeruns a year. The glove has the ability to play solid defense. A .232 average in a short stint in AAA may be evidence that a month of seasoning is needed before he is called up. Ironic that this would give the Rockies an extra year of control with that month of seasoning. Ryan McMahon will be given the first opportunity to win the second base job.

Another middle infielder to watch out for is Garrett Hampson, a third round pick in 2016. He lacks the gold card tools of Rodgers but his bat makes good contact, allowing him to hit .314 in AAA. The power is not there for him to carry balls over the fence, but with his speed and contact ability he could be an excellent two slot hitter. Last year he stole 36 bases with a .396 OBA while also making his major league debut, hitting .275. The glove is smooth, which could allow him to play second or fill in as a utility player.

Ryan Vilade is another possibility for the middle infield position, though he still has some time to percolate through the system. The 2017 second round pick has good pop for a middle infielder but lacks quickness to cover ground defensively. His best position may be third base or a move to the outfield where a strong arm would fit in right field.

Colton Welker is the expected replacement for Nolan Arenado at third base. The 2016 fourth round pick has hit over .300 at every level he has played, breaking out enough power to hit 13 homeruns last year. Currently his power is gap oriented but as he fills out the homeruns should increase. Colton has the glove and arm to play third. Next year he should see some time at AA with his major league debut coming sometime in 2020.

The Rockies have two players who will vie for first base. Tyler Nevin has the pedigree. The son of Phil and a supplemental first rounder in 2015 saw most of his time at third base. His best position may be at first base where he has shown the ability to be a solid defensive player. Injuries have limited him to less than 100 games his previous years. The 2018 season saw him hit 100 games giving him an opportunity to display his power with 13 homeruns and a .328 average. Next year he should see AA. If he can stay healthy he could see the Rockies sometime next year.

Grant Lavigne is another supplemental first round pick, drafted in 2018. At 6′4″ with very little speed and a weak arm his only viable position appears to be first base. Defensively he has the glove to play there. What separates Grant from other power hitters is his excellent plate discipline with a 45/40 walk to whiff ratio. This allowed him to slay rookie level pitchers last year for a .350 average. Despite his lack of speed he also showed the baserunning instincts to steal 12 bases. The 2019 season will be a test to show that he can deliver in a full season league.

The Rockies appear to be set in the outfield with David Dahl and Raimel Tapia. They have no sure fire prospects down at the lower levels. The catching situation seems a little bare if Tom Murphy does not pan out. That leaves us with the pitchers.

Riley Pint has the triple digit fastball to become an ace. The 2016 first round pick was limited to four starts last year because of injuries. A lack of command has also plagued his effectiveness. Entering into the 2018 season he had a 82/115 walk to whiff ratio. Last year it was 11/8. The secondary pitches are there for him to be a starter but getting them to cross the plate to get ahead in the count has been a challenge. A healthy year is needed from him next year.

Peter Lambert does not throw as hard but he can hit the mid-90s with his fastball. The 2015 second round pick can also find the plate. He survives on his command and changeup to retire hitters, limiting AA hitters to a .236 average and a 2.23 ERA. A promotion to AAA saw hitters exploit him for a .320 average. He struggled with the higher altitude and will need one more year of seasoning there before earning a promotion to the Rockie Mountain High.

Ryan Rolison was the Rockies first round pick in 2018. He dominated at the Rookie level with an excellent curveball, restricting hitters to a .149 average. Time will tell whether that bender will continue to dominate at the higher levels. His fastball sits in the low 90s so the heat is there for him to succeed somewhere in the middle of the rotation.

Jesus Tinoco throws the ball hard. He was one of the players Colorado got for Troy Tulowitski. If he could improve his changeup it would make his fastball better. Last year he started 26 games at AA but finished with a 4.79 ERA. Without an improvement in command or the change his best role may be in the bullpen.

Twins Time is the Present

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

The Twins last won the AL Central in 2010. They went on a rebuilding path when the major leagues expanded the wild cards to two teams, building a farm system that was rated number one by myworld in 2015 and was in third in 2013 and 2014. That appeared to pay off when they made the playoffs in 2017 as one of the two wild cards. Last year they took a step backward when injuries and poor years from their top rookies from 2017 imploded their hopes for back to back playoff appearances.

From the 2013 to 2015 prospects like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, Aaron Hicks (traded to the Yankees in 2015 for John Ryan Murphy) and Kyle Gibson contributed to their wild card run. They are still awaiting contributions from Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon while players like Alex Meyer and Oswaldo Arcia failed to live up to expectations. Last year Brent Rooker, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon and Royce Lewis appeared on Top 100 prospect lists.

The Twins have a luxury of talent up the middle starting with their top prospect and the number one pick in the 2017 draft Royce Lewis. At this point his bat is far superior to his glove, with the ability to hit for average and a modicum of power. With his sprinter’s speed he could easily achieve 20/20 (homeruns/stolen bases) when he reaches the major leagues. Last year he hit .292 with 14 homeruns and 28 stolen bases at the two A levels. The defensive tools are there to play shortstop, though they will not be of the elite quality because of a throwing arm that may be a little short and inconsistent. Next year he should see some time in AA, which could mean a September callup.

Nick Gordon is the half brother of Dee Gordon and the son of Tom Gordon. Like his brother Dee, Nick started his minor league career as a shortstop but he has been used more at second base now in deference to the rise of Royce Lewis. The 2014 first round pick does not have the speed of his brother Dee but he could have a better bat. Last year he hit .333 at AA in 42 games but struggled when promoted to AAA (.212). His slugging percentage also dropped from .525 to .283. His ultimate role could end up as a super utility player moving around from second, short and the outfield. His lack of speed limits his range which makes playing regularly at shortstop a liability.

The player with the best defensive tools at short may be Wander Javier. A torn labrum required surgery and prevented him from playing in 2018. In 2017 he did hit .299, showing the power to spray the gaps. The concern with Javier is the ability to stay healthy. In 2016 he was limited to nine games because of hamstring issues. The more you see of a player the more his flaws stand out. The 2019 season should see Javier make his full season debut and give a better impression of where his tools best fit.

Another Dominican signed a year after Javier is Yunior Severino. The Twins doled out $2.5 million to sign him after the Braves were forced to release him for rules violations. That was $600,000 more than the Braves paid for him initially in 2016. Severino looks to have a plus bat that can hit for power. Last year in rookie ball he hit 8 homeruns and slugged .424. His lack of speed will limit his range at short and make second base a more viable alternative for him. He should open next season in full season ball.

Staying in the infield we may see Brent Rooker at first base. The 2017 first round supplemental pick was used in left field but lacks the arm and the speed to be a viable option out there. There is a lot of power in his bat as evidenced by his 22 taters last year, but also a lot of swing and miss with 150 whiffs in 130 games. The other concern for Rooker is his righthanded bat. Teams have a reluctance to promote righthanders to the first base position. After slugging .566 in 2017 and dropping to .465 last year, Rooker will have to return to those 2017 levels to force the Twins not to care which side of the plate he bats from.

In the outfield one of their best prospects is Alex Kirilloff, the Twins first round pick in 2016. Though he does not seem to get too much credit for his arm, myworld thought he had the best throwing arm among the prospects we saw at the prospects game, even after coming back from Tommy John surgery. The power makes him a good fit for right field and after hitting .348 at the two A levels batting titles could be within his sights. Alex will start the 2019 season in AA with a full promotion to the majors expected for 2020. If he continues to hit over .330 with 20 plus homeruns his promotion could be sooner.

Trevor Larnach was the Twins first round pick in 2018. His lack of speed and an underwhelming arm may make left field his best spot. That means he will have to hit to justify using him in a power spot. The power is there. Last year he slugged .500 with five homeruns while hitting .303 at two lower minor league levels. Since he was drafted out of Oregon State the Twins will hope his bat develops quickly and he will be ready for them by mid season 2020.

Akil Baddoo is a possibility for centerfield. The speed is there for him to cover the acreage, but the arm is better suited for left field. His bat may not carry enough juice for him to land in an outfield corner, though his speed turns singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Last year he hit 11 triples and his 11 homeruns put him in the triple double category, getting double figures in both doubles, triples and homeruns.

The Twins hope to get some contributions from their pitchers. They have always had a tendency to draft control pitchers rather than pitchers who throw heat. Stephen Gonsalves fits that mold of the lefty who does not throw hard but retires hitters with command and a baffling change. Gonsalves dominated in the minor leagues (2.76 ERA and .184 opposition average) but struggled in his major league debut (6.57 ERA and .283 opposition average). He fought with his control (22/16 walk to whiff ratio in 24.2 innings) though that appeared to be a problem in his 100 innings in AAA (55/95 walk to whiff). The Twins will probably send him down to AAA to work on rediscovering that strike zone.

Brusdar Graterol is not the typical Twins pitcher. The Venezuelan can hit triple digits with his fastball. The secondary pitches need some improvement but he did show the ability to find the plate. Last year he struck out more than a hitter per inning and kept the ball in the park, forcing hitters to pound the ball into the ground. If his secondary pitches improve and he continues to hit three digits consistently with his fastball he could easily fit at the top of the rotation. At 6′1″ that may be a lot to ask but the bullpen as a closer is another option.

Lewis Thorpe is a lefty from Australia who has an atypical low 90s fastball that can reach higher. Most lefthanders from Australia struggle to see 90. He missed two seasons (2015 and 2016) because of Tommy John surgery and returned in 2017 to show why he was coveted by the Twins out of Australia with a splendid 2.69 ERA in 15 starts. He doubled down on that with 25 starts in AA and AAA last year with a 3.54 ERA. He can get swings and misses (157 K’s in 129 innings) but if his command is off he can be hit (.250 opposition average). He can also be prone to the flyball which could result in a number of homeruns. Next year he should make his major league debut.

Tyler Jay, a first round pick in 2015 and Kohl Stewart, a first round pick in 2013 have about seen their shelf life expire. Tyler Jay had trouble staying healthy and will move to a bullpen role. In shorter spurts his fastball can reach the mid-90s and there is always room for a lefthander in the bullpen. Kohl still throws hard but his challenge is finding the strike zone. Getting behind in the count forces him to throw it to the middle of the plate where he gets hit hard (.301 opposition average). Last year he made his major league debut and pitched well. The bullpen may also be his best spot.

Lastly, myworld does not know much about Ryan Jeffers, the Twins second round pick in 2018. He did hit .344 at two minor league stops in his first taste of professional ball. His defensive tools at this point are not his strength but it is reported he has the arm to stay behind the plate. Footwork, calling and framing pitches are still tools he needs to work on.

Las Tunas and Villa Clara into the Finals

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

The series only went five games for both Las Tunas and Villa Clara to advance to the Cuban finals. Both teams lost the fourth game after winning the first three but Las Tunas won the fifth game on the road while Villa Clara got to celebrate at home.

Las Tunas defeated Ciego de Avila 4-3 scoring early on a three run homerun by Yosvani Alarcon. Ciego battled back to score two in the second and one in the third, Yorbis Borrotto driving in two. Yoanni Yera for Las Tunas and Lazaro Blanco for Ciego shut down the bats for the next three innings. Las Tunas was able to score their final run in the seventh, getting a gift from right fielder Oscar Colas, who held on to the ball too long and then fired past the catcher to allow the go ahead run to score. Yoalkis Cruz retired Ciego in order in the ninth to clinch the win.

Jorge Johnson and Jorge Aloma each contributed three hits for Las Tunas.

The game was not so tight in Villa Clara with the Orangeman battering Sancti Spiritus 12-2 to win their semifinals. The game ended after seven innings because of the slaughter rule. Stayler Hernandez, Yurien Vizcaino and William Saavedra each contributed three RBIs in the slaughter. The Orangeman picked apart Sancti Spiritus with 13 singles and a double in the seven innings and also drew 8 walks. Freddy Alvarez went the full seven innings to pick up the victory.

Las Tunas will now play Villa Clara in the finals. Villa Clara last won a championship in 2013. Las Tunas has yet to win a Cuban championship. Granma had won it the last two years and prior to that Ciego de Avila had won back to back. Sancti Spiritus had last won in 1979, but they were eliminated by Villa Clara. With the many defections it is a changing landscape in Cuban baseball. If the new agreement between major league baseball and Cuba is allowed to go into effect it will be interesting to see how that will impact the Cuban landscape. Granma had not won a championship until they went back to back. Now could it be Las Tunas with an opportunity to win their first championship.

Rangers Mired in Mediocrity

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

At one point the Rangers farm system was the envy of the major leagues. They seemed to be flowing with soon to be superstar prospects, mostly from the international arena. That did not help them win a World Series. They still remain one of seven teams that have yet to win one of these coveted events. Those soon to be superstars did not pan out. Myworld had the Rangers farm system rated number two for prospects in 2009/2010 and 2012 and consistently in the top ten from 2009 up until 2017 when they vanished from the top ten rankings. The cracks began showing after 2012. Jurickson Profar at one point was the number one prospect in baseball, but the Rangers traded him this year after getting journeyman production from him. Other names like Neftali Felix, Martin Perez, Justin Smoak, Tanner Scheppers, Derek Holland, Michael Main, Elvis Andrus, Taylor Teagarden, Yu Darvish, Michael Olt and Leonys Martin for the most part never reached their expectation. Elvis Andrus and Yu Darvish became star performers but Darvish was a Japanese star and never developed by the Rangers system. Justin Smoak broke out after he was traded.

The Rangers are now in the middle of the pack as far as prospects in their farm system. Willie Calhoun and Leodys Taveras are the only two players who made the top 100 prospect lists last year. Willie Calhoun has a top tier offensive game but has no position he can play well defensively. His best use may be as a DH. Willie Calhoun no longer qualifies as a prospect this year but seemed to regress last year with his power numbers.

Some question whether Leodys Taveras will hit. No one questions his potential gold glove defense in center. There is potential for a bat, and one that hits for power but that has yet to materialize. Last year he hit .246 with a .332 slugging percentage in High A. He will be turning 21 in September so no one can argue that he is one of the youngest players in the league, though if he gets promoted to AA he will still be young for that classification. Those high on him say he will be a 20/20 player. If he can play gold glove defense and up his average into the .270s he can still contribute.

The Rangers collected a lot of international money in an attempt to persuade Shoei Ohtani to sign. When he preferred the Angels offer the Rangers used that money to sign Cuban defector Julio Pablo Martinez, shelling out $2.8 million for his signature. Like many Cuban prospects, the tools are a bit glorified. As a teenager he had decent numbers playing in the Cuban professional leagues. In close to 300 games he hit near .300 with a .823 OPS. He was listed as an outfielder on the Cuban Premier 12 roster along with Lourdes Guriell and Alfredo Despaigne. The speed is there to play centerfield but the arm is suited more for left. If he wants to play in left his power numbers will have to increase. The Rangers hope he rises fast through their ranks after playing in Rookie ball last year.

Hans Crouse has some pretty impressive velocity. It climbs to the upper 90s and sits in the mid-90s. He has an excellent slider to complement the heat. The Rangers 2017 second round pick will have to improve his changeup if he wants to remain in a starting role. Last year he made his debut in a full season league and handled himself well (2.70 ERA) but hitters tagged him for a .273 average.

Cole Winn was the Rangers first round pick in 2018. He did not pitch last year so the only thing known about him is his results against high school level players. There is a mid-90s fastball as well as a full repertoire of pitches that include a curve, slider and change. The 2019 season will dictate how impressive those pitches really are.

Bubba Thompson was a first round pick in 2017. His best tool is his speed that allows him to steal bases (32) and cover lots of acreage in centerfield. Like Taveras, the potential is there for a power bat but the strikeouts have been a problem. There is lots of athleticism to display as evidence by being named All State quarterback in high school in Alabama and history has told us that players from Mobile can hit (Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Billy Williams to name three).

Anderson Tejeda had a breakout year slugging 19 homeruns. The Dominican still struggles with making contact (142 K’s in 121 games) and may lack the range to stay at shortstop. He could end up a utility player or an offensive minded second baseman. The Rangers signed him for the bargain basement price of $100,000 in 2014 and he now appears ready to break out. He should start next season in AA.

The candle is dimming for Yohander Mendez. The lefthander is not overpowering, relying more on a changeup to retire hitters. When that pitch is not on the Venezuelan is very easy to hit. Last year in AAA he was 0-7 with a 5.25 ERA. This was supposed to be his year when he made his mark in the Rangers rotation. Last year he gave up 26 homeruns, proving prone to the fly ball, not a game winner in the hitter friendly environment of Rangers park.

That is all we really have on Rangers prospects. The others stand out like white noise in an office environment. They may be pitching in the minor leagues, but they have yet to make their presence known to myworld as a prospect yet.

New Philippine Baseball League to Debut

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Time has flown. When myworld first started this blog there was a Philippine baseball league. They folded about seven years ago. A new Philippine Baseball League (PBL) began play on January 5 at Rizai Memorial Baseball Stadium.

The seven teams will be 1) Adamson Soaring Falcons, 2) La Salle Green Batters, 3) Ateneo Blue Eagles 4) UST Golden Sox 5) NU Bulldogs 6) UP Fighting Maroons 7) and a team of national team players who are not committed to the six teams in the league.

The league will only play for one month so if you want to catch a baseball game in the Philippines you better book your flights now. Games will probably be played only on the weekends, but they will be triple headers.

Tigers to Tank 2019 Season to Rebuild

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

The Tigers have never been noted for their elite farm system. Since 2009 myworld has never rated them in the top ten. To their credit they have put their focus on making the playoffs, trading prospects like John Smoltz to get Doyle Alexander or Cameron Maybin to get Miguel Cabrera. They have also sacrificed number one picks in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to sign free agents Jose Valverde, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder. Perhaps 2019 will be the year they appear in the top ten farm systems in baseball. Last year they had five players who made a Top 100 list, Beau Burrows, Christin Stewart, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning and Franklin Perez. 2019 saw them number 20, but of course there is more pride in winning a pennant race than a prospect race.

As noted by the number of pitchers rated in the Top 100, pitching is the biggest strength in the Tigers system, galvanized by a number of first round picks over the last couple years. Casey Mize was their top pick of the 2018 draft, the first player selected in the draft. The Auburn pitcher has three quality pitches, the best of which is a splitter that if it does not get swings and misses forces hitters to pound the ball on the ground. His fastball delivers mid-90s velocity and he has a quality slider. At 6′3″ and 220 he has the perfect pitcher’s build to eat up innings as an ace. Last year he made four starts at High A and was very hittable (.295 opposition average) despite his quality stuff.

Alex Faedo was their 2017 first round pick, but the 18th selection in the draft. Alex is another college drafted pitcher (Florida) who should rise quickly. At 6′5″ his mid-90s fastball comes down at the hitter with good sink. A plus slider and decent change are also in his repertoire. He does seem to give up a lot of fly balls, which led to 15 homeruns in 60 innings at Erie in his first year of professional pitching. In the more pitcher friendly Florida State League those fly balls resulted in only three homeruns in 60 innings. Those homeruns impacted his ERA (3.10 to 4.95).

Matt Manning was the 2016 first round pick coming out of high school. At 6′6″ he is another tower that bores a mid-90s fastball with excellent plane. His strikeout numbers were pretty impressive over three different levels (154 in 117 innings). Unlike Mize and Faedo, Manning relies on a curveball and change combination to complement his fastball. His father Rich played in the NBA and his brother plays basketball for Air Force, but Matt chose baseball as his profession and many hitters are ruing that choice.

Beau Burrows is the last of the fearsome foursome, drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft out of high school. His fastball also clocks in the mid-90s, but his secondary offerings (slider, curveball and change) are not quite as impressive. Last year the opposition hit him at a .251 clip and like Faedo he is prone to the fly ball. He started 26 games at Erie last year and may be the most ready to pitch in the major leagues by mid-season, if he can keep the ball in the park.

The best of the bunch may be Franklin Perez, who was acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander trade. Injuries last year limited him to just seven starts, three of those of the rehab variety. In his four starts in High A he had trouble finding the plate (8 walks in 11 innings) resulting in a .341 opposition average and a 7.94 ERA. He may have the best fastball in this group dialing just above the mid-90s with quality secondary pitches (slider, curve and change). The Tigers are hoping for a healthy season where he will likely pitch again in High A.

Kyle Funkhouser is not a guy with great stuff, drafted in the fourth round in 2016 but he can eat up some innings for you at the back end of a rotation. His fastball can reach the mid-90s but his secondary stuff is average. Early in his career he had issues with his command but he has improved in that area, though he will still have relapses where he struggles to find the plate. Last year he got two starts in AAA. With a good start to the 2019 season he could see himself in the Tigers rotation by mid-season.

Logan Shore is a pitcher similar to Funkhouser, not quality stuff but a good fit in the back end of the rotation. He was a second round pick of the Athletics in 2016 and was considered the ace of the Gators rotation that also included first round pick A.J. Puk. Shore was acquired in the Mike Fiers trade. The change is his best pitch with a fastball that sits in the low 90s. Last year in AA Midland he struggled to get hitters out (.306 opposition average) struggling to miss bats. The Tigers will probably have him start at Erie in 2019.

The Tigers are probably lacking in position prospects, but they have some good bloodlines. Daz Cameron could be their centerfielder my mid-2019. He is the son of Mike and like his father he can play a pretty good centerfield. Daz is another prospect acquired in the Verlander deal with the Astros. His hitting tools are not exceptional but if he can play centerfield he could be a productive bat near the end of the order.

Parker Meadows was a second round pick in 2018. He is the brother of Austin who was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2013. His tools are not as extensive as his older brother, but they could develop. There is some power in his bat and speed in his legs to cover centerfield.

Kody Clemons is the son of Roger. For Kody it will be his bat and not his arm that will separate himself from other major leaguers. While he plays second base his bat will keep him in the lineup. A lack of speed and an empty arm could prevent him from moving to the outfield or playing third base.

Christin Stewart was the Tigers first round pick in 2015. The Tigers have waited a long time for his development. The bat will hit for power but the glove is best suited to stay on the bench while he fills the DH spot. Like J.D. Martinez he could be put in left field and play a decent defense. With Miguel Cabrera geared for more DH time in 2019 to see him stay healthy Stewart may have to see more time in the outfield than should be necessary. Stewart does show good plate discipline taking his fair share of walks.

The Tigers acquired Isaac Paredes from the Cubs. While he hit .321 at AA Erie his tools don’t scream out at you. He makes good contact with the ball, drives it to the gaps and will provide you with decent defense up the middle. His best utilization may be as a utility player but the Tigers may be forced to make him their starting shortstop by 2020.

Jake Rogers may be one of the better defensive catchers in the minor leagues. His arm will stop a running game and he has all the tools to be a top defender behind the plate. The big question with Jake is whether his bat will carry enough production to fit as a starter behind the plate. Last year at AA he hit just .219. There is enough pop in his bat that he could hit 20 plus homeruns if he can win a starting spot behind the plate.

Dawel Lugo is another middle infielder whose tools would make him best used as a utility player. The arm is strong enough to play short but the range is lacking to play there on a regular basis. Second base would be his best starting option. The bat is best for the gaps. Last year he made his major league debut, hitting .213 in 27 games.

Brewers Hope to Churn up New Brew of Prospects

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

The Brewers have historically failed at developing a good farm system. Since myworld has been rating farm systems beginning in 2008 the Brewers have been in the top ten just once, that was in 2017. From 2011 to 2015 they appeared in the bottom five four of the five years. They traded many of the top prospects from that 2017 list (Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Isan Diaz) and one player graduated to the Brewers major league roster (Josh Hader), but they made the playoffs. That is all that counts. Last year the Brewers had six players rated in Top 100 lists (Brett Phillips, Luis Ortiz, Corey Ray, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Keston Hiura). Qualifying for the playoffs make it that much more difficult to draft elite players since you are picking later in the draft. Being a small market team, the Brewers have to compete taking advantage of younger, cheaper players.

The current farm system is short on pitchers but has a few scattered position players ready to make a contribution. The best of the group is Keston Hiura, the number one pick of the Brewers in 2017. His bat has batting titles written all over it. Elbow issues prevented him from showing off any defensive tools until mid-season of 2018. It does appear he will able to handle second base. While his hit tool is exceptional his other tools are average or just above average. If his arm gets better left field could be another possibility.

Brice Turang was the Brewers first round pick last year. As one of the top players on the 18 and under gold medal winning team the Brewers have got to be happy Brice dropped to him with the 21st pick. The tools are there to play short and he showed excellent patience at the plate in his first year with a 31/34 walk to whiff ratio. The only perceived weakness to his game at the present moment is his lack of power. Last year he slugged .352 with one homerun in over 150 at bats.

The Brewers still have hope that Lucas Erceg pans out. He shows a lot of power but that power rarely appears in a game. The Brewers were hoping for 20 dingers a year once he takes over third but he has yet to hit more than 15 in the minor leagues. He also struggles to make hard contact, his batting average dropping each of the last three years. With a full year at AA last year and Travis Shaw showing he can play second 2019 could be the year Lucas makes his major league debut.

The Brewers traded a 40 homerun bat in Kris Davis to acquire Jacob Nottingham from the Athletics. A couple injuries limited his minor league time to 50 games but he did make his major league debut. At 6′3″ he has power in his bat, but that height can make it awkward for him to maneuver behind the plate. He has enough skills to be the Brewers starting catcher in a couple years.

Mauricio Dubon got off to a fast start in AAA (.343 average with .922 OPS) but a torn ACL limited him to just a little over 100 at bats. Some question his ability with the bat, especially his lack of power so the 2019 season will be crucial to show that his fast start to the 2018 season was not a fluke. Dubon is a smooth fielding shortstop who could fill a utility role if he fails to make it as a shortstop.

The farm lacks a first base prospect but they are loaded in the outfield. Corey Ray was supposed to be a superstar after being drafted in the first round in 2016. A poor 2017 knocked the shine out of his status but he came back in 2018 with 27 homeruns. A propensity to strikeout (176 times last year) could keep his average low (.239). He has the speed to steal bases (39) and patrol centerfield and the arm to shift to right if that should prove necessary. The 2019 season should be his major league debut but better contact will improve his chances.

Joe Gray was a second round pick in 2018 who carries a lot of tools. His arm shoots rockets from right field and his bat can carry the ball a long way. The big concern with Gray is making consistent contact. Last year he had a 18/25 walk to whiff ratio in 24 games, showing good patience at the plate, but a .182 average was disappointing. The Brewers still have time to develop him.

Triston Lutz was a 2017 first round supplemental pick. Power will get him to the Brewers. A strong right arm will make right field a perfect fit. His struggles making contact will drop his average down to the .250 range. Last year he struck out 139 times in 119 games dropping his average to .245.

On the pitching front the pickings are a bit slim. Corbin Burnes has a shot to make the starting rotation next year. He barely qualifies as a prospect after pitching 30 games in relief for the Brewers last year. A good fastball/slider combination kept hitters off balance when called up to the major leagues with the opposition hitting him at a .199 clip. When he was starting in the minor leagues he was hit at a .275 clip. He also has a curveball and change so there are the quantity of pitches necessary to start, but his fastball and slider are so good that the bullpen could be his best role when limited to his best two offerings.

That is the extent of the pitchers that myworld can get excited about. Zack Brown put up some good numbers (9-1, 2.44 ERA) but we don’t know that much about him. A 6′1″ righthander that was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 out of college deserves a pause for caution. If he replicates those numbers in 2019 then we’ll get excited.

Winter League Updates

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

The Winter Leagues from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico have finished their first round of playoffs. Below are the teams that have advanced to the second round.

Dominican Republic

The four teams advancing are Estrellas Orintales (29-21), Leones del Escogido (27-23), Tigres del Licey (27-23) and Toros del Este (25-25). These teams will play each other in pool play and the top two teams will play a best of seven to determine the Series del Caribe participant. At least that is how it worked last year. The two teams eliminated were the Aguilas Cibaenas (22-28) and the Gigantes del Cibao (20-30).

Mexico

The teams played two halves. They collected points based on their finish in the two halves. The Culiacan Tomateros won the first half and the Hermosillo Naranjeros won the second half. Based on the accumulated points from the two halves six teams will advance and pair off to play each other in a best of seven series. The three winners will advance and the top team from the three losers will also advance. The matchups are:

Los Mochis Caneros (28-30) vs Hermosillo Naranjeros (33-25)
Mazatlan Venados (27-31) vs Obregon Yaquis (30-26)
Jalisco Charros (28-29) vs Culiacan Tomateros (33-25)

Puerto Rico

Three teams advanced from Puerto Rico. They are the Indios de Mayaguez (21-14), Gigantes de Carolina (17-18) and Cangrejeros de Santurce (17-19). These three will play in a pool like round robin. The one team eliminated is Criollos de Caguas (16-20).

Venezuela

Six of the eight teams advanced to the second round of the playoffs where two teams will pair off in a best of seven. Those teams are Navegantes del Magallanes (36-27), Cardenales del Lara (35-28), Leones del Caracas (34-29), Tigres de Aragua (33-30), Bravos de Margarita (32-31), Caribes de AnzoƔtegui (31-32). The best of seven matchups pair:

Aragua vs Caracas
Margarita vs Lara
Caribes vs Magallanas

Cuba

Cuba has already whittled down to the last six teams. Four of those teams will advance. The six teams and their current records are Lenadores de Las Tunas (34-26), Gallos de Sancti Spiritus (32-28), Tigres de Ciego de Avila (31-29), Azucareros de Villa Clara (31-29), Leones de Industriales (30-30) and Cachorros de Holquin (22-38).

Kikuchi Rings in New Year with Mariner Signing

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Interesting choice to sign with a club on a rebuilding path. Even though Yusei Kikuchi had stated he was open to negotiating with all 30 major league clubs another Japanese player signed with a west coast club. This puts a ceiling on their economic viability, discouraging east coast teams from bidding on players they probably have no shot of signing. When your market size is six instead of 30 your offers are limited. The next Japanese free agent who states he will consider all 30 major league clubs will not get as many offers from some of the east coast teams, knowing they will not be strongly considered.

Reports are that it was a four year contract, with the last year a player option. That player option can be replaced by another four year deal. The 30 day window was expiring on January 2. The Mariners will pay the Seibu Lions a percentage of his contract, which may end up being a two part payment if his option is exercised after the third year. Dollar terms of the contract have not yet been announced.

By mid-year the Mariners rotation could be Marco Gonzalez, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, with whoever survives the Felix Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc and Mike Leake early year shelling.