Archive for February, 2019

Dodgers Continue to Build Through Prospects

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

The Dodgers have won the National League West the last six years. They must be doing something right, though they have not won a World Series since 1988. In 2016 myworld rated them as having the second best prospect class with Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Jose Deleon and Grant Holmes. The last two years myworld has put them in the ninth spot. Last year the Dodgers who made Top 100 lists included Walker Bueler, Alex Verdugo, Yadier Alvarez, Keibert Ruiz, Yusniel Diaz, Jeren Kendall, Mitchel White, Starling Heredia and Edwin Rios. That is almost a starting lineup with a couple starting pitchers.

Myworld would probably rate Keibert Ruiz as their top prospect this year. Catchers who can provide some offense are not easy to find. He can also hit from both sides of the plate. His defense is solid, his arm is strong and the intangibles appear to be there. A 26 percent success rate on the caught stealing front is evidence of an average arm. His bat has the potential to hit for double digits in homeruns while hitting for a relatively high average. He will not be an automatic out as it appears most catchers are nowadays. Last year he played in AA so expect a full year in AAA with a possible September callup.

Gavin Lux would rate next on the list, and this is a bit of a surprise. The 2016 first round pick appeared to be somewhat of a bust after hitting just .244 in 2017 with issues throwing the ball accurately. His errors at shortstop were still pretty prevalent last year, but with Corey Seager planted at short the best position for Gavin may be second. His bat showed a little more life last year with a .324 average and 15 homeruns between High A and AA. Another full season in AA and he could be ready for the Dodgers by 2020.

Jeter Downs could be a steal from the Reds. Named after Derek Jeter, the Dodgers acquired him by saying goodbye to Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in a trade with the Reds. Jeter still has some progressing to go, but plays the same position as Gavin, so where he fits is a question mark. He did hit for marginal power (13 homeruns and .402 slugging) in Low A and showed good speed with 37 stolen bases. His range and arm probably fit best at second base, but if his bat plays he could cut it in a super utility role.

Edwin Rios strikes out too much and is pretty stiff to stay at third base. First base may even be a challenge. His speed is non-existent so playing the outfield is not in the cards. What Edwin has is the ability to hit the ball hard when his bat makes contact. A 23/110 walk to whiff ratio is a red flag but he did hit .304 in AAA. The best thing the Dodgers could do for him is to trade him to an American League club where he could play DH.

Will Smith is another possible catcher for the Dodgers. He was also a first round pick in the 2016 draft. His bat may not be as consistent as Ruiz, but the pop is there, enough so that the Dodgers used him for 43 games at third base. There was a bit of a struggle in AA where he finished with 9 errors and an .880 fielding percentage. The bat is powerful enough to slug 20 homeruns between AA and AAA. The tools are there for him to catch, with an above average arm and soft hands. A .138 average at AAA means he has more seasoning to do at that level before he suits up in a Dodgers uniform.

In the outfield myworld is not as high on Alex Verdugo as many are. We think he will end up being a fourth outfielder. His bat does not seem to hit for the big time power that teams look for in their corner outfielders. Last year he did hit .329 in AAA but against major league pitchers it dropped to .260. The one big criticism with him is his lack of fire to want to be the best. He seems content on being average.

An outfielder who has power is D.J. Peters. His big issue may be an inability to make contact. Last year he struck out 192 times in 132 games. He did slug 29 homeruns, good for a .473 slugging average. At 6′6″ there is that Aaron Judge comparison, but his defense is not as strong. The arm exists to play right field. If Verdugo does not pan out Peters is ready for 2019. Don’t expect an average over .250 but 40 homerun seasons could be possible. He will see most of next year in AAA and the question is whether Steven Moya or Aaron Judge are the best comparisons.

Jeren Kendall is the antithesis of Peters. The 2017 first round pick is packed full of speed, but is not a punch and judy hitter. He had enough pop to blast double digit homerun totals. The speed will allow him to fit in centerfield and steal 40 plus bases. Like Peters he has trouble making contact with 158 whiffs in 114 games resulting in a disappointing .215 average. Despite the low average the Dodgers will probably promote him to AA.

Starling Heredia is a potential power/speed package that was signed for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. After hitting over .400 at two different rookie levels in 2017 in 110 at bats, Starling could not find himself over .200 in 203 at bats at Low A last year. The 2019 season will be a pivotal year for Starling.

The Dodgers always seem to develop ace pitchers. Last year it was Walker Buehler. This year look for Dustin May and his mid-90s fastball. At 6′6″ he has good height, which is usually a problem for finding the plate. Dustin has no problem throwing strikes. He needs to develop a little more consistency with his curve, cutter and change, but the requisite pitches are there for him to fit in the rotation. Another half season in AA could make him ready for the Dodgers rotation in 2019 if he achieves success in AA/AAA.

Mitchel White was a second round pick in the 2016 draft who also has good height (6′4″) and a good mid-90s fastball. His best pitch may be his slider. A lack of command made him a bit hittable in AA with hitters tagging him for a .273 average. He has had Tommy John surgery right before competing for college and a myriad of injuries have limited him to less than 100 innings, except for last year when he logged in 105.

Dennis Santana is a converted shortstop and a bargain signing ($170,000) out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. As a shortstop he had a good arm, but after he showed his bat was lacking after his first year the Dodgers converted him to the mound. His fastball can rise north of the mid-90s but his poor secondary stuff could make him fit best in the bullpen. Last year hitters struggled making contact off him, hitting him at a .183 clip. He did get one poor appearance (12.27 ERA) in the major leagues but he hopes for more in 2019. Expect the Dodgers to find some room for him in the bullpen by mid-season next year.

Yadier Alvarez is a Cuban who the Dodgers spent $16 million to sign. They have not had much success with their Cuban mega signings. Yadier has a lot of flash with his fastball reaching triple digits. His biggest problem is finding the plate with 43 walks in 48 innings last year in AA. He has a good slider, which when combined with his fastball could make him a good closer. The lack of a third pitch will make it difficult for him to make it as a starter unless he can find the plate more. The Dodgers will probably put him in the bullpen in AA for 2019.

Top Dominican Prospects National League

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

The National League list is pretty similar to the list from last year. Only Juan Soto graduated to the major leagues. The last three players from the top ten dropped out, though Jorge Guzman was close. Adbert Alzolay was limited by arm injuries and Jhailyn Ortiz struggled to make contact. That left room for four new additions.

1. Fernando Tatis SS (Padres) - He replaced Victor Robles, who appeared atop this list last year. Tatis showed the tools he could play shortstop defensively with a strong arm and good range. He needs to show a little more consistency with his fielding, committing 12 errors in 83 games at shortstop. His bat should be productive, with the power to hit 20 plus homeruns. While he hit .288 in AA he needs to make better contact (109 whiffs in 88 games) if he hopes to hit for average in the major leagues. A broken left thumb in late July ended his season early, limiting him to 88 games. Expect him to make his major league debut by mid-season next year. He should make a bigger impact in the major leagues than his father, Fernando Sr.

2. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) - If not for an elbow injury early in the season he may not have been on this list. When the Nationals were short of outfielders he was on the disabled list. Juan Soto was called up and Robles lost out on an opportunity. Victor got a major league opportunity later in the year and acquitted himself well, hitting .288 with three homeruns for a .525 slugging average. The five tool player has not shown the power yet in the minor leagues but it should arrive making him a 30/30 player. His routes in center need work but his speed makes up for mistakes. His arm is also super sonic. Expect him to be the Nationals centerfielder breaking camp.

3. Sixto Sanchez RHP (Marlins) - The Phillies traded Sixto to acquire J.T. Realmuto. Jorge Guzman can still hit triple digits more consistently than Sixto, but Sixto has a lot more command of where his fastball is crossing the plate. Myworld would expect more K’s with his velocity, striking out just 45 in 46.2 innings. A little more improvement with his secondary pitches (curve and change) would make him an ace in the rotation. The one area of concern is his small 6′0″ stature, but he has a strong build. Elbow issues limited him to just 8 starts last year. The Marlins will probable have him start in High A to test his arm health and promote him to AA by mid-season where he will join Guzman to make for an electrifying rotation.

4. Francisco Mejia C (Padres) - Last year Mejia was on the American League list. Few catchers have a stronger arm. His other defensive tools have been holding him back. Balls have a tendency to visit the back stop when Mejia is behind the plate. Last year the Indians put him in the outfield where his lack of speed makes him a defensive liability. Because his bat is so potent, with the ability to hit for average and power, the Padres may not have the patience to wait for Mejia to develop his defensive tools behind the plate. Last year they used him extensively behind the plate, but they have one of the better defensive catchers, Austin Hedges starting for the major league club.

5. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - His time will come. His major league debut was supposed to have occurred three years ago. Suspensions and injuries have prevented him from seeing significant major league time. With his lack of innings the Cardinals may use him out of the bullpen this year to prevent his arm from eating up too many innings. He did have a fastball that sat in the upper 90s. Whether that can continue over sustained time after Tommy John surgery is open to question. He does have three pitches to be an effective starter, but command of those pitches has always been a challenge. Expect him to be used by the Cardinals out of the bullpen to start the season. By the end of the season if the Cardinals need a starter they may ease him in.

6. Adonis Medina RHP (Phillies) - The Phillies would have preferred to make Medina the pitcher sent to the Marlins in the Realmuto trade. Medina does not throw as hard as Sixto Sanchez, but he can get it up to the mid-90s, sitting comfortably at the higher ends of the low 90s. His command is better than Sanchez, with a slider/change combination to complement his fastball. A .245 opposition average was a little more than what the Phillies would have liked for a pitcher with his explosive stuff. He will start next year in AA and could get a glimpse of the major leagues before the season ends.

7. Christian Pache OF (Braves) - Christian is a potential gold glove centerfielder. Currently Ender Inciarte blocks his major league path but a couple years of minor league seasoning will prepare him best. His speed allows him to cover a lot of ground in centerfield, but it is absent for stealing bases (7). There is some raw power in his bat, but that has yet to really show itself in games. Last year he slugged 8 homeruns in the Florida State League for a .431 slugging percentage. Taking a few more walks would enhance his offensive game, making him a top of the lineup hitter.

8. Luis Garcia SS/2B (Nationals) - Trea Turner blocks his path at shortstop. The tools are there for him to play the position with a strong arm and good range. Last year he reached High A so the Nationals have some time before deciding his position. A contact hitter whose power currently is limited to the gaps. As he matures more power could come. He seemed to handle High A pretty well last year in a 49 game performance so the Nationals could bump him to AA where he would be one of the youngest players.

9. Sandy Alcantara RHP (Marlins) - Sandy has a wicked fastball that can hit the mid-90s. He made his Marlins major league debut with six effective starts, limiting the major leaguers to a .214 average. The Marlins acquired him from the Cardinals for Marcell Ozuna. The secondary pitches are there to make him a starter. The command of those pitches still need work. That may explain his low strikeout to innings pitch ratio (96 whiffs in 127 innings). With the Marlins he walked 23 hitters in just 34 innings. A good spring could have him make the Marlins starting rotation out of spring training.

10. O’Neil Cruz SS/OF (Pirates) - At 6′6″ he could become the tallest shortstop in the major leagues. Many feel that because of that height he could move to the outfield or first base. The bat will play anywhere. That height packages big time power, with the potential for over 30 plus homeruns per year once he fills out. If shortstop does not work out he carries an arm suitable for right field. Last year he played 103 games at Low A. Expect him to start the season at High A

Astros Have too Much Fuel to Tank

Friday, February 15th, 2019

The Astros brought tanking into vogue, building a roster set to lose 100 games per season to achieve a high draft pick the next season. That strategy could become a problem for baseball as now half the teams in the major leagues would prefer to tank rather than play to mediocrity. Cities left with teams tanking will see a decline in attendance and at some point major league baseball will have to establish a policy to discourage tanking. But the Astros would not be the team they are now without tanking.

The highest prospect rating the Astros got was in 2014 when they finished second to the Cubs, who also defined tanking. The players who appeared on the Top 100 that year were Carlos Correa, George Springer, Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, Mike Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers and Delino Deshields. Last year they were rated tenth. The following players from last year who appeared in the Top 100 rankings are Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitely, Yordan Alvarez and J.B. Bukauskas.

The biggest star prospect this year is Kyle Tucker, who is appearing on a number of lists as a Top five prospect. His brother Preston Tucker played for the Astros. The two are built very differently. Preston is shorter with Popeye forearms. Kyle is taller and leaner and carries all the tools needed to be a star. Preston has the tools to be a journeyman or fourth outfielder in the major leagues. Kyle has the power to hit 30 plus homeruns per year (24 last year) with the speed to steal 20 plus bases and play centerfield. With a strong arm right field will be his ultimate position as his speed is just marginal to be a standout centerfielder. The 2015 first round pick struggled with his opportunity in the major leagues last year (.141 batting average) but the Astros have an opening in the outfield that he could win with a good spring. The tools are there for him to be another impact player for the Astros in 2019.

The Astros acquired Yordan Alvarez from the Dodgers for Josh Fields during their tanking period. While he plays left field his best use may be as a firstbaseman or designated hitter. His speed and arm are not great for outfield play. What the Cuban has that all teams look for is a potent bat that will make an offensive difference in a lineup. The bat can hit for big time power (.615 slugging in AA) and average (.325). At 6′5″ he has that typical build teams look for in a corner outfielder but without the defensive skills. A promotion to AAA brought a little struggle (.259 average and .452 slugging) so expect him to see significant time in AAA before finding the Astros roster.

Myles Straw could be that diamond in the rough that was drafted late (12th round 2015) but could bring huge rewards. His greatest tool is his speed which allows him to play a gold glove centerfield. What he lacks is power and the ability to punish the ball. Teams can play him shallow. Last year just 24 of his 150 hits went for extra bases resulting in a slugging average of .353, .317 in AAA. What he does have is speed, which led to 70 stolen bases and the ability to get on base (.291 average and .381 OBA). Those results gave him a cup of coffee in the major leagues last year. Myles would like to increase that major league time next year.

The Astros are not so strong in the infield. They have 2018 number one pick Seth Beer to play first base. Designated hitter is his best position, though the Astros could use him at first base. His lack of speed and weak arm leave no other position alternatives. Drafted out of college, if his bat works he should rise quickly. Last year he reached High A hitting .304 with a .496 slugging average through three levels.

With Carlos Correa at shortstop the best Freudis Nova can hope for is a spot as a utility player. Fortunately for the Astros he is only 19 and they can be very patient with him. He has all the tools to stick at short with a good arm and range but may have to move to second or third if Correa is still with the Astros when Nova has shown he has the bat to play in the major leagues. Last year in rookie ball he hit .308 with a .466 slugging average. Plate discipline could be an issue with his 6/21 walk to whiff ratio.

On the pitching front Forrest Whitely is listed in the top ten on most prospect ranking sheets. At 6′7″ with mid-90s heat and a hard breaking curve he can be an intimidating force on the mound. Last year he was issued a 50 game suspension for violating major league baseball’s drug policy so that hindered his development and limited him to just eight starts. The 2016 first round pick was dominant in those starts with a .160 opposition average. Too many walks hurt him (11 in 26 innings) leaving him with a rather lofty 3.76 ERA. If he can stay drug free he should see the Astros rotation sometime next year.

Cionel Perez is the typical Cuban lefty who throws an arsenal of pitches from multiple arm angles. His fastball also carries some pop, sitting in the low 90s but occasionally hitting the mid-90s. The Astros used him for 8 games in relief last year and that will be his ultimate role when he reaches the major leagues. He could be an emergency starter if the need exists, but retiring lefthanded hitters will be his ultimate role.

Corbin Martin has gotten some publicity for his fastball hitting triple digits. He might be most noted for being the second round pick the Astros received from the Cardinals for hacking their system. The curveball, slider and change are there for him to be a starter, including a fastball that clicks the radar guns consistently in the mid-90s. He also shows excellent command of his pitches. Last year he pitched in AA (2.97 ERA). Expect him to start the 2019 season in AAA and stay there until needed for the rotation.

Josh James has good size (6′3″) to fit in the rotation. A 34th pick in the 2014 draft, signed for $15,000,he could be the biggest bargain in the Astros farm system. He did not really distinguish himself until last season when he produced a 3.23 ERA and limited the opposition to a .191 batting average, striking out 171 hitters in just 114 innings. This got him a promotion to the major leagues where his success continued. His fastball hitting the mid-90s was his biggest pitch. There are still command issues so if he struggles next year the bullpen is always an option.

J.B. Bakauskas was the Astros first round pick in 2017. His small stature (6′0″) leave many thinking the pen is his best option. A mid-90s fastball and solid slider see the possibility of a starting pitcher. Last year he pitched at five different levels finishing with a 2.14 ERA and .199 opposition average. He struck out 71 hitters in 59 innings. He was limited to just 14 starts because of a back injury delaying his season by three months. Next year he should have an opportunity to pitch a full season to address any durability concerns. Reaching AAA should be his goal.

Premier 12 Group Locations Established

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

The locations for the Group play for Premier 12 have been established. The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super Round in Tokyo.

Group A (Guadalajara, Mexico at the Charros de Jalisco stadium)

Mexico, United States, Netherlands and Dominican Republic

Group B (Taichung, Taiwan at the Taichung Intercontinental Stadium)

Taiwan, Japan, Venezuela and Puerto Rico

Group C (Seoul Korea at the Gocheok Skydome)

Korea, Cuba, Australia and Canada

The tournament will be held from November 2-17.

Myworld Series del Caribe Team

Monday, February 11th, 2019

It is tough to come up with an All Star team of Series del Caribe players when you did not actually watch them play. Most of this assessment will be based on stats and what the player accomplished in the box score. Below are the players that made myworld’s All Star Series del Caribe Team.

Catcher - Wilken Castillo (Dominican Republic) .571 average, 4 RBIs and a 1.557 OPS

First Base - Victor Mendoza (Mexico) .375 average, .563 slugging, 5 RBIs with one homerun and a .938 OPS

Second Base - Elmer Reyes (Panama) .368 average, .632 slugging, 1.000 OPS, 5 RBIs with one homerun

Shortstop - Javy Guerra (Panama) .389 average, .722 slugging, 3 doubles and one homerun, 3 RBIs and 1.111 OPS

Third Base - David Vidal (Puerto Rico) .385 average, .529 OBA, .991 OPS

Utility - Allen Cordoba (Panama) .389 average and .450 OBA

Outfield - Alfredo Despaigne (Cuba) - .350 average, 5 RBIs
Outfield - Jilton Calderon (Panama) - .273 average, .455 slugging
Outfield - Yuniesky Larduet (Cuba) - .273 average, 4 runs scored

Starting Pitcher - Harold Arauz (Panama) 1-0, 0.90 ERA, 10 innings pitched

Starting Pitcher - Lazaro Blanco (Cuba) 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 innings pitched

Starting Pitcher - Nestor Cortes (Dominican Republic), 1-0, 1.80 ERA 5 innings pitched, one hit allowed

Starting Pitcher - Nestor Molina (Venezuela) 1-0, 0,00 5 innings pitched

Starting Pitcher - Luis Mateo (Panama) 0-0, 0.00, 7 innings pitched

Relief - Manny Corpas (Panama) 0-0, 2.25, 4 saves

Relief - Jumbo Diaz (Dominican Republic) 1-0, 0.00, 2 saves

Relief - Raidel Martinez (Cuba) 0-0, 0.00, 2 saves

Relief - Sergio Romo (Mexico) 1-0, 0.00

Panama Wins the Series del Caribe

Monday, February 11th, 2019

Panama has not won the Series del Caribe since 1950, but that is not their fault. When the Series del Caribe was first formed in 1949 they were one of the original teams who participated in the event. That ended in 1960 after Fidel Castro over ran Cuba and for ten years there was no Series del Caribe. It restarted in 1970 but Panama was not included in that new group. It was felt they were not talented enough.

The talent level for the Series del Caribe has dwindled down to the AA level at best. In years past you would have Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays play in the event. It was always to earn a few extra bucks. Now the ballplayers make too much in the major leagues to take a risk of injury, jeopardizing million dollar contracts. The talent in Panama has caught up to the Series del Caribe, or more accurately the Series del Caribe talent level has dropped down to the level in Panama.

Panama was only allowed to play because the original host Venezuela continues to struggle with upheavals and it was felt to hold the tournament there was not safe. It was the second year in a row the tournament was to be held in Venezuela and the second year it had to be moved because of violence. Last year Mexico agreed to host it at the last minute. They did want to bail out the Series del Caribe again. So it was either Panama or cancel the series. And to make it attractive to Panama they agreed to let the champions of the Panama League participate in the series.

Panama qualified for the championship by winning their pool. Cuba, despite their lack of offense won the tie breaker in their pool to face Panama in the championship. Cuba was only recently allowed to return to the Series del Caribe, but that was when they could produce name players that could attract a fan base. Most of those name players are in the major leagues now and the Cuban team is just a shell of its former self.

That shell failed to generate any offense again as Panama won the championship game 3-1. Harold Arauz silenced the Cuban bats for one run in five innings. Panama’s staunch bullpen then went to work to shut out the Cuban bats for the final four innings, Manny Corpas pitching the final inning for his fourth save of the tournament.

Panama got all the runs they needed in the first inning on a Allan Cordoba and Elmer Reyes RBI singles to take a 2-0 lead. Cuba showed a little life in the fifth on a Alfredo Despaigne double and a Carlos Benitez single to cut the lead to 2-1. An Elmer Reyes throwing error put runners on second and third with two outs but Daniel Castro popped out to first to end the threat. Cuba got only two hits after that, one of them a bunt single.

Panama scored another run in the seventh on a Rodrigo Vigil RBI single. With a runner on second and two out in the ninth Alfredo Despaigne came up to represent the tying run. He flied out to center to end the game.

Myworld will put together our all Caribe team later tonight.

Cuba to Play Panama in Series del Caribe Finals

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Cuba won when they had to beating Venezuela 3-0 on the last day to send their bracket into a three way tie with all three teams tied at 2-2. Run differential allowed Cuba to advance. Lazaro Blanco, who won the opener for Cuba pitched brilliantly again with five shutout innings to shut down the Venezuelan offense. Four different relievers shut out the Venezuelans the rest of the way with Raidel Martinez pitching the ninth to pick up the save.

Alfredo Despaigne was again the big bat for Cuba, sometimes the only bat. His RBI single in the bottom of the third drove in the first run for Cuba. A bases loaded walk to Carlos Benitez scored Despaigne for the second run of the inning. It was the last of three consecutive walks by Venezuelan pitchers. Cuba added another run in the sixth on a throwing error by the catcher after Yuniesky Larduet stole third. Larduet had scored the first run in the third inning after leading off with a single.

Cuba advancing was a surprise the way their listless offense could not get anything going but Panama advancing to the finals was the real shocker. The Puerto Ricans, the two time champions ironically were the only team eliminated from advancing to the finals on the last day and they appeared to play like it.

They collected just five hits as Oriel Caicedo limited them to just three in his 5.1 innings of work. Manny Corpas pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his third save. The only run scored in the fourth inning on a throwing error by Alexis Pantoja trying to turn a double play.

Rey Fuentes came to play getting three of the five Puerto Rican hits. Adelberto Flores pitched 6.1 solid innings but gave up the one unearned run.

So Cuba and Panama advance to the finals.

Dominicans Stay Alive

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

The Dominicans stayed alive by sending the Panamanians to their first defeat 5-3. Wilkin Castillo had the big bat for the Dominicans with two doubles. His first drove in the Dominicans first run in the fourth. His second double in the sixth drove in three runs to give the Dominicans a 4-2 lead. He finished the day with three hits, upping his Series del Caribe average to .571.

Elmer Reyes hit a solo homer for Panama in the fourth. He also drove in a run with a ground out in the first inning. The two RBIs gave Panama a quick 2-0 lead. Allen Cordoba had three hits for Panama and drove in the third run in the eighth.

Jumbo Diaz pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his second save of the tournament. The 300 pounder has been responsible for each of the three Dominican wins with two saves and one victory. There is a reason for him to be called Jumbo. His fastball also comes in at the high 90s, or used to. Myworld has not seen him pitch in some time.

Mexico kept their hopes alive with a 9-4 drubbing of Venezuela. Victor Mendoza crammed in four hits and drove in four runs. He hit a big three run homer in the sixth to turn a 5-4 lead into a rout. Rafael Martin got the win with 2.1 innings of shutout relief, giving up just one hit and striking out three.

Two big games being played today to close out the pool play. If Venezuela can beat Cuba they clinch their pool. If not Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela will be all tied at 2-2 and it will go to a tie breaker. Panama needs to beat the winless Puerto Rican team to tie the Dominicans. A loss will send them to second. Is this enough to motivate the Puerto Ricans to play? At least Cuba still has a horse in this race. Run differential will be the tie breaking formulae in both pools.

Cardinals Looking for Playoffs in 2019

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

The acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt is proof of that. In the 21st century the Cardinals have had only one losing season, but it has been four years since they last made the playoffs. If they are in the hunt for 2019 expect them to trade prospects for veteran players that will get them to the playoffs. They fell just outside the top ten last year so they have some prospects to trade. In 2013 they were top of the class with Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Kolton Wong, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha. Last year their top ten included Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Tyler O’Neil and Harrison Bader. Carson was traded to acquire Goldschmidt while O’Neil and Bader combined for 21 homeruns in the outfield and Flaherty picked up eight wins.

The player they keep waiting for is Alex Reyes. He was supposed to be in the Cardinals rotation three years ago, a year or two before Carlos Martinez. Injuries and drug suspensions have only given fans a glimpse of his prowess. The durability issues will probably restrict Alex to a bullpen role in 2019. Whether they consider expanding him to the starting rotation is probably far into the future and will depend on how his arm holds up. He can hit triple digits with his fastball and it comes with greater velocity in shorter spurts. He does have a quality curveball and change, giving him three pitches to start, but his command is still inconsistent and the long term health of the arm is still in question. Expect him to start the season in the minors and if his health holds up he should be in the Cardinals bullpen by mid-season.

Dakota Hudson saw some time in the Cardinals pen last year. He started 19 games in AAA. He will start the 2019 season in the pen and be insurance in case an injury happens to a starting pitcher. Hudson does not have overpowering stuff but has two quality breaking pitches to complement his heat. Last year he had a 18/19 walk to whiff ratio in 27 innings. That needs to improve if he wants continued success in the major leagues. His breaking stuff does induce ground balls so double plays get him out of tough spots.

Genesis Cabrera had an eye opening winter season. The lefty could provide an alternative approach to recently signed free agent Andrew Miller out of the bullpen. Last year he started 25 games with lefthanded hitters barely above the Mendoza line hitting against him. The Cardinals may promote him to AAA to start or they could insert him into the major league bullpen with a good spring. His fastball can reach the mid-90s and he locates his pitches well. Expect him to start the season in AAA in 2019 but he could be promoted quickly if the Cardinals have another need for a lefthanded arm in the bullpen.

The Cardinals always find a player who comes from nowhere to throw triple digits. Jordan Hicks came up last year. The 2019 version could be Junior Fernandez. His control is poor and his secondary pitches are not challenging, but he does throw heat. The strikeouts are not as prevalent as one would expect from one who throws so hard but he is only 21 years of age. The improvement of a second pitch or the development of another pitch could make him a break out star.

Daniel Poncedeleon gives one thoughts of the Fountain of Youth. The fact he made his major league debut last year after being beaned in the head in 2017 and having brain surgery is a miracle in itself. His stuff is more as a back end of the rotation starter. The fastball hits the mid-90s but the secondary pitches are very average. Last year he got four starts and seven relief appearances, finishing with a 2.73 ERA. In AAA the opposition hit him at a .197 clip and major leaguers also struggled batting .205. He will probably start the season in AAA but a good spring could force the issue.

On the position front third base looks solid. Nolan Gorman was their first round pick in 2018. He showed some pretty impressive power with 17 homeruns in just .237 at bats. There was a bit of a struggle after he was promoted from rookie league ball to Low A with his batting average dropping from .350 to .202. Defensively he was solid at third base. If he can stick there he could be an impact player at the position.

Elehuris Montero may not have the raw power of Gorman but his bat does carry some juice. Last year he slugged .504 with 16 homeruns sharing his time at Low and High A. At 6′3″ he may outgrow third base and his speed does not make the outfield a viable alternative. His bat will play at first but one of his best attributes is a strong arm, which would be wasted at that position. Next year he could start his season in the Florida State league with a quick promotion to AA if he continues to hit.

Delvin Perez was supposed to be the next Carlos Correa coming out of Puerto Rico. The Cardinals used a first round pick for him in 2016. His draft attractiveness dropped after he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. His bat has been a big disappointment as well. In his third season he hit his first homerun but he finished with a slugging average of just .272. The defensive tools are there for him to stick at shortstop but he won’t get there if he doesn’t get the batting average farther north of the Mendoza line.

Max Schrock has bounced around with three teams. Originally drafted by the Nationals he has been traded to the Athletics and to the Cardinals. The bat sprays line drives to the gap but his lack of power and below average speed leaves him a bit one dimensional. He needs to hit .324 like he did in 2017 and not .249 as he did last year. The bat makes solid contact.

The Cardinals continue to be loaded in the outfield. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for Cuban prospect Randy Arozarena. Last year his Cuban compatriot Ramon Laureano was a low level prospect for the Athletics before making a splash with them by mid-season. Randy hopes to plagiarize that story line. The bat may be a little short on power to profile well in a corner spot, but the speed exists for him to defend centerfield well. He will need injuries to decimate the Cardinal outfield to get a chance next year, but if he opens AAA hitting .396 as he did last year in AA the Cardinals will make room for his bat.

Jonatan Machado is another Cuban toiling at the lower levels of the minor leagues. His power and arm will not impress major league scouts but his speed carries a wow factor. He needs to gain strength to be able to find the gaps. Last year 16 of his 75 hits went for extra bases for a slugging average of just .291. His smallish 5′9″ frame is not a good predictor of future power to come.

Jose Adolis Garcia is a third Cuban outfielder to watch in the Cardinals system. He is the younger brother of Adonis Garcia but stands a few inches taller than him. He won the MVP in the Cuban professional league and departed for the major leagues after that. Last year he made his major league debut, hitting just .118 in 17 at bats after hitting .256 with 22 homeruns in AAA. His arm is above average making him an ideal rightfielder, something the Cardinals have in a surplus.

Andrew Knizner was a reason for the Cardinals to trade Carson Kelly. Knizner will not match the defensive tools of Kelly but at least his bat is expected to provide production. Last year he hit .313. The power was absent and at 24 years of age you have to wonder if it can develop. Defensively his arm is accurate and can stymie a running game. Andrew is a battler behind the plate.

Foreign Players in Taiwan

Friday, February 8th, 2019

The teams in Taiwan have signed their quota of three foreign players. Each team uses a 26 man roster with only two of the three foreign players allowed to play on the field at the same time. Normally, Taiwan teams load their foreign quota with pitchers but this year a position player has been signed. It does not make a lot of sense to sign two position players for one team since one of them would be required to sit when a foreign player is used as a starting pitcher. Below are the foreign players playing in Taiwan:

LaMigo Monkeys

Michael Nix
Zeke Spruill
Radhames Liz - pitched in the NBP and KBO but yet to appear in major leagues. His 95 mile per hour heat could have got him an opportunity with the Orioles but he went to Japan to play.

Uni-Lions

Josh Roenicke - Another Oriole connection. The son of Gary Roenicke.
Ryan Verdugo
Austin Bibens-Dirkx - Most foreign players who come to Taiwan have played either in the minor leagues or Independent ball. It is rare for a player to come to Taiwan a year after pitching in the major leagues (6.20 ERA and .308 opposition average).

Fubon Guardians

Mike Loree
Bryan Woodall
Henry Sosa

China Trust Brothers

Nick Additon
Mitch Lively
Eric Wood - The lone position player

A lot of the players are in their second or multiple years in Taiwan. CBLstats.com provides some good information on the Taiwan league.