Archive for February, 2019

Blue Jays Loaded with Prospects

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Last year myworld rated the Blue Jays as the eighth best farm system. Based on what I see it could be higher this year. We will give our 2019 rankings after the Top 100 is finished. You have to go back to 2011 to find a higher prospect class, but those players never reached their potential. The Blue Jays hope the 2019 class perform better than Kyle Drabek, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencebia, Travis d”Arnaud and Deck McGuire. Last year the players who made top 100 lists were Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Anthony Alford, Danny Jansen and Nat Pearson. A lot of good blood lines in the Blue Jays system.

It all starts with the infield. Vladimir Guerrero Jr is probably the top prospect in baseball. He is the son of Vladimir Sr. A different player, he plays third base and will not garner the reputation as a bad ball hitter. He makes solid contact with a 37/38 walk to whiff ratio in 95 games and actually is content to take walks. A knee injury in June put him out of commission for a couple months. There appears to be quite a bit of power in his bat with 20 homeruns and a .636 slugging percentage. The big issue to watch is his conditioning. If he gets too big and immobile he may have to move to first, which would take away his value. His bat will play anywhere. He should start the season with the Blue Jays in 2019 but service time will prevent his callup until May.

Bo Bichette is the son of Dante. He may not have the skills to play a gold glove shortstop, but the talent in the infield will not allow him to play anywhere else. The Blue Jays love his bat. There is a possibility he could move to third if the Jays have to move Guerrero to first. Currently the power is restricted to the gaps, with 43 doubles last year. Eventually he could be a 20 plus homerun shortstop, a valuable commodity for any team. After his AA performance last year he will start the season in AAA. The Jays need a shortstop so expect him to be called up quickly if they are still searching. Lourdes Gurriel is not the answer.

Another son of a major leaguer Cavan Biggio had a break out season. He has come a long way since we first watched him in a high school All Star game in Durham. Last year he had a break out season with 26 homeruns. That put him on the prospect map. Second base is his primary position, but if the infield gets too crowded he could move to the outfield. His ability to get on base (100 walks) will make him a valuable commodity at the top of the order. Because his defense at second is not great a move to the outfield would not be a great loss.

Kevin Smith may be the best defensive shortstop. The 2017 fourth round pick out of Maryland has good hands, solid range and an average arm with a quick release to stay at shortstop. Like Cavan his bat really broke out last year with 25 homeruns and a .302 average at the two A levels. He showed off a little bit of that power his first year when he hit eight homeruns for a .466 slugging average. He could start next year in AA. If he continues to hit for power a move to left field or a super utility role could be in his future.

The Jays continued their middle infield glut drafting Jordan Groshans in the first round last year. At 6′3″ his best position may be third base, but the Jays drafted him as a shortstop. His bat showed some power at the rookie level, slugging .500 in the Gulf Coast League.

The Jays have not given up on first baseman Rowdy Tellez. In 2016 he slugged 23 homeruns. The next year he slumped to six homeruns and a .333 slugging percentage. That would give him no future as a first baseman and his lack of speed leaves the outfield out of the question. Last year his power was better (.425 slugging) but still not great, but then he made his major league debut and slugged .614 with four homeruns. His defense is not great and losing some of his 250 plus pounds could improve that. A good spring could see him splitting the first base/DH spot.

Danny Jansen appears to be their catcher of the future and present. Injuries prevented him from playing full seasons early in his career, but last year and 2017 he was able to play over 100 games. His bat makes solid contact, creating over the fence pop on occasion. The defensive tools are there to make him a two way catcher. Last year he made his major league debut, hitting .247. He should see the bulk of the Jays catching duties in 2019.

Reese McGwire was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2013. The Blue Jays acquired him three years later expecting him to be their starting catcher in a couple years. Health has been an issue, but his best hope now is to be a backup for Jansen. His defense may be better but his bat is not as strong.

The Jays are not as strong in the outfield. At one point everyone thought Anthony Alford was going to be a superstar. Injuries have stalled his career. The ex-football player looked as if he carved out a starting spot in 2017 but an injury after four major league games put him back on the prospect highway. The power is there and his speed is explosive but barrel on ball contact is still a mystery. He did get 13 more games in the major leagues last year but only hit .105. His .238 average and .339 slugging was not deserving of a major league promotion. He will see another season in AAA in hopes his athletic tools will result in a breakout year.

Billy McKinney was a first round pick of the Athletics in 2013 but his career has stalled. He made a splash last year with six major league homeruns in 38 games after hitting 16 dingers in AAA. The Blue Jays are his fourth team, having played for the Athletics, Cubs, Yankees and now Blue Jays. His underwhelming defensive play will make him a leftfielder. If his bat continues to develop he could be used as a pinch hitter off the bench.

Demi Orimoleye has some of the most impressive tools in baseball. At 6′3″ he runs like a deer and can hit for impressive power. The Brewers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and traded him last year to the Blue Jays. He was born in Nigeria but grew up in Canada. His biggest issue is making contact with the ball. If he can refine his tools he is a player to watch.

Forrest Wall does not have a strong arm, but his defensive play at second base was a struggle. So the Rockies moved their supplemental 2014 first round pick to the outfield, then traded him to the Blue Jays. His bat has been slow to develop and unless he can find some power he lacks a real position. His arm limits him to left field but he does have the speed to play center. A fourth outfielder role could be his calling.

Nat Pearson is the Blue Jays premier arm. The 2017 first round pick hits triple digits with his fastball. At 6′6″ the hitters do not have a lot of time to react to the pitch when it looks like his hand is about to slap them in the face. A back injury delayed his season and in his only outing he was hit on his pitching arm by a line drive ending his season. He did dominate in the Arizona Fall League so that should be enough for a return to the Florida State League in 2019.

Erik Pardinho is a pitcher the Blue Jays found in Brazil. He stands only 5′10″ but his fastball is electric, hitting the high 90s but sitting mostly in the low 90s. His secondary pitches (curve and change) are quality offerings resulting in a lot of swings and misses. Last year in the rookie league hitters could only muster a .199 average against him. His smaller frame could make him destined for the bullpen, but next year will be a big test for him as he eats up innings in the full season league.

Sean Reid Foley was born in the Northern Marianas Islands. He was a second round pick of the Blue Jays in 2014. The 2017 season was not kind to Sean with a 5.09 ERA. Last year he recovered (3.26) which opened up the gates for his major league debut. The fastball is good, with the capability of reaching north of 95. He may have to focus on one breaking pitch but the secondary offerings will allow him to stay in the rotation. A good spring should see him in the Blue Jays rotation in 2019.

David Paulino was a stud for the Astros. An inability to stay healthy allowed them to trade him to the Blue Jays in the Roberto Osuna trade. Paulino throws hard and at 6′6 is an intimidating presence. His best use may be out of the bullpen. David has had Tommy John surgery and an 80 game drug suspension so he is a risk with lots of upside. A good spring could see him in the Blue Jays bullpen in 2019.

Italian National Team to Train in Mesa

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

The Italian National team will train in Mesa, Arizona between March 16-30th. They have scheduled games with the Oakland Athletics for March 20-23, two college teams on March 25 and 27 and two games against a team from Mexico March 28-29. Chris Colabello, who played for the Twins and Allesandro Maestri, who played in the Reds minor league system before heading to Japan to play in the NPB are two players listed on the roster.

Italy fell short of qualifying for the Premier 12, finishing as the number 16 ranked country in baseball.

Top 100 Prospects - 90-81

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

The next wave of top 100 prospects, with right handed pitchers dominating the mix.

90. D.L. Hall LHP (Orioles) - The Orioles 2017 first round pick has a good fastball for a lefthander, riding the plate at 92-94 with an occasional mid-90s heat. What makes the fastball more effective is his lefthanded movement. It is difficult to make hard contact with his pitches, as evidence by the opposition’s .203 batting average against him. A good curveball and change give him the requisite pitches to fit in the starting rotation. He does need to throw more strikes, last year walking 42 hitters in just 94 innings. That may come with more experience. Next year he should begin the season in High A with a promotion to AA if he achieves success.

89. Trevor Larnach OF (Twins) - The Twins 2018 first round pick played for the 2018 College World Series champion Oregon State. His bat had a break out in power for his junior year, elevating his draft status. That continued into his 2018 minor league season when he hit five homeruns for a .500 slugging average. The bat needs to work because his defense in the outfield is average to below. His arm and speed are best suited for left field, so a high average and 20 plus homeruns are imperative. His 21/28 walk to whiff ratio were also very impressive. Expect him to rise quickly through the ranks, starting at Low A where he finished last year and rising quickly to AA if he achieves success.

88. Dane Dunning RHP (White Sox) - The Nationals traded Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dunning to the White Sox for Adam Eaton. That may be a trade they will regret when all three pitchers are in the White Sox rotation. Dunning was the Nationals 2016 first round pick. He had problems with his elbow last year, which caused him to miss a couple months. That will be something that needs to be watched. Dane throws in the low 90s with his sinker and then mixes in a slider, curve and change. Since he is not overpowering he will need all four pitches to be effective at the major league level. Last year he achieved 15 starts, striking out over ten hitters per nine innings. He should start the 2019 season in AA with the possibility of getting a major league callup mid-season if his elbow holds up.

87. Brady Singer RHP (Royals) - Brady was the Royals top pick in the 2018 draft and was expected to be picked higher than the 18th pick. Last year a minor hamstring injury prevented him from pitching the 2018 season. He also had thrown a number of innings for the Florida Gators. He will break out his low 90s fastball/slider combination probably in the Low A affiliates to start the 2019 season. He showed good command when pitching in college and needing a third pitch (change) was not often necessary so how that translates to professional hitters will be key. If he has success Brady will be a fast riser up the minor league ladder, hitting AA before the season ends. Brady was originally a second round pick of the Jays out of high school but did not sign after a post draft physical turned up some issues. Credit to Brady for staying healthy and raising his stock while pitching for the Gators.

86. Bryse Wilson RHP (Braves) - Bryse rose quickly in the Braves system, starting in High A and ending the season with the Braves. The fourth round 2016 pick stands only 6′1′ but his fastball can reach the plate north of the mid-90s. It sits at 93-94 with plenty of dance. The lack of a quality secondary pitch and his 6′1″ frame could relegate him to the bullpen. Last year major leaguers ripped him at a .308 clip. Minor leaguers could only hit .236. One thing going for him is his excellent command of his fastball, so if his secondary pitches improve he could slot into a third spot in the rotation. A good spring could see him slot in the fifth spot in 2019 but he has a lot of competition with Touki Touissant the favorite to win the spot. Myworld sees him starting the season in AAA.

85. Tyler O’Neil OF (Cardinals) - Tyler is the son of a Canadian weightlifter. Tyler has taken after his dad and is pretty bulked up as well. The Mariners traded him to the Cardinals despite his massive power displays. He regularly hits over 20 homeruns in the minor leagues, last year slugging 26 with an impressive .693 slugging percentage. Many of his shots are of the tape measure variety. When promoted to the Cardinals he continued his power display with nine more homeruns. Power will be his game though he has enough speed to play a quality outfield and the arm to fit in right. Last year in the major leagues he struck out 57 times in 137 at bats, which could result in a low batting average. Next year he should be the Cardinals starting right fielder. Homerun titles could be in his future

84. Julio Pablo Martinez OF (Rangers) - The Rangers spent $2.8 million to sign the Cuban in 2018. At 22 years of age he may have been a bit advanced for the Dominican Summer and Northwest Leagues. The best tool for Julio will be his speed, which will allow him to steal bases and patrol centerfield. He did show some power last year with 9 homeruns and a .457 slugging average, but that may decrease as he faces better pitching at the higher levels. His arm is a better fit for left field. The big test for Julio will be next year when he plays in the full season leagues. He could rise quickly if he can show success at each level he plays.

83. Garrett Hampson 2B/SS (Rockies) - This third round 2016 pick is a scrappy player who always sits north of .300 after the season ends. His tools are not overwhelming but he gets the job done. Not great power, an arm geared more towards second base but he sprays the gaps and his speed turns singles into doubles. His best use for the Rockies could be as a Marwin Gonzalez super utility player. Last year he hit .311 at two minor league stops. Promoted to the major leagues he hit a respectable .275. Brendan Rodgers is the heir apparent at second, third is taken by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story is fixed at short. That leaves Garrett with no permanent position unless he moves his skills to the outfield.

82. Michel Baez RHP (Padres) - This Cuban stands 6′8″ with a fastball that trips across the plate in the high 90s. His big challenges are finding the plate and finding a pitch to get lefthanded hitters out. In four AA starts lefthanded hitters battered him at a .348 clip. He did have some success at High A with a 2.91 ERA and .229 opposition average, but lefthanders still tagged him for a .260 clip. The Padres have a lot of candidates for their starting rotation so if his control is still spotty and his third pitch still a puzzle he could be moved to the bullpen. His fastball has closer potential. His best bet is to repeat AA to find some success but a major league callup is on the horizon.

81. Luiz Gohara LHP (Braves) - The Mariners signed him out of Brazil, then traded him to the Braves for Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons. When you read that his fastball hits triple digits in velocity you wonder why the Mariners gave him away so cheaply. Then you see his 265 pound weight on his 6′3″ frame and the light clicks on, Last year his triple digit fastball dropped to the low to mid-90s resulting in a 4.81 ERA. The Braves gave him an opportunity in their bullpen but he struggled with a 5.95 ERA. The development of a third pitch will determine if he stays in the starting rotation or is relegated to the bullpen. The Braves would like to see the juice return to his fastball for the 2019 season.

Mexico to Open Ten Baseball Academies

Monday, February 25th, 2019

The new President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as many refer to him, is a big baseball fan. He has put ex-major league baseball player Edgar Gonzalez in charge of opening ten baseball academies in Mexico. These academies would be located in 1) San Quintin, Baja California Norte, 2) Guasave and 3) Etchhojoa Sinaloa, 4) Delicias, Chihuahua, 5) Hidalgo, Tamaulipas, 6)Minatitlan, Vera Cruz, 7) Iztapalala, Mexico City, 8) Palenque, Chiapas, 9) Cardenas, Tabasco and 10) Ticul, Yucatan. Players will be available to major league and the local Mexican professional teams.

The academies will be competing with the local professional teams since they sign players prior to turning 16 and sell them to major league teams, often keeping up to 70 percent of the bonus money paid to players. The academies will help negotiate with the major league clubs and claim to only take 5 to 10 percent of the bonus payment to cover the costs of training the players. It is unclear what the market will be for the local professional teams.

Recognizing that not all players signed by major league teams reach the majors, the academies will teach academics to assist them when applying for a college in Mexico or the United States.

It is not known whether Mexico has budgeted for the cost of these academies, but the estimated operating costs of each would be five million pesos annually. That would calculate out to 50 million for the ten academies. The hope is that Mexico would compete with the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Venezuela for major league baseball players. In 2003 there were 23 players from Mexico playing for major league teams. Last year that number was down to 13.

You can read the full article on the academies at baseballmexico.blogspot.

Myworld’s Top 100 - 100 to 91

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

It’ll take some time for myworld to get through this, but this is our Top 100 prospect list using the ratings of Baseball America, MLB.com, fangraphs, baseball prospectus and two rather obscure sights Razzball and Prospects 1500. Values were assigned to those players based on their ratings, i.e. the number one prospect was given 10 points while number 100 was only given .1 points. Below are the first of the bottom hundred.

100. Seth Beer 1B (Astros) - At one point in his youth Seth played on the U.S. College National team with Jake Burger. They won gold. Seth was drafted by the Astros in the first round of the 2018 draft. His defense falls short of being a major leaguer but his bat could get him an opportunity. There is very little speed in his legs to be used in the outfield, so if the Astros want to make good use of him first base and designated hitter are his best spots. Last year he showed some big time power, slugging 12 homeruns and 14 doubles at three different minor league levels, reaching High A. He also seemed pretty adept at taking a walk with a .389 OBA. Not a lot of “hit first with very little defensive ability” have success in the major leagues. The baseball world is still waiting on Dan Vogelbach, which is the type of comparison for Seth Beer.

99. Brandon Lowe 2B (Rays) - The Rays are going pretty Lowe with their top prospects, also having brothers Nathaniel and Joshua on their prospect lists. Brandon will not wow you with his defense or steal a lot of bases. His best tool is a lefthanded bat that sprays the gaps. Last year he opened some eyes with his 22 homeruns, six more than he had hit in his previous two seasons. That got him a major league look where he sent six more over the fence in just 43 games. That power, along with his ability to hit between .270-.300 should give him a major league opportunity next year. Myworld will be surprised if he repeats his 28 homerun total.

98. Bubba Thompson OF (Rangers) - Anyone with the name Bubba has to have some power in his bat. The 2017 first round pick of the Rangers played quarterback in high school and was going to play baseball (and not football) at Alabama until the Rangers offered him $2.1 million. While he is a tremendous athlete his jack of all trades pursuit of sports leaves him a bit raw in baseball. There is speed to play centerfield and the arm to fit in right. His bat does carry some power but he must do a better job making contact (104 whiffs in 84 games). As he focuses on baseball the contact issues should improve. Last year he showed off his speed with 32 stolen bases at Low A.

97. Will Smith C (Dodgers) - Will Smith may lack the tools of Keibert Ruiz but he is ahead of him in the race to the major league roster. Will showed some power in AA with 19 homeruns but then struggled when promoted to AAA hitting just .138. The Dodgers used him a little at third base and he has good speed for a catcher, so left field could be a possibility if Ruiz wins the catcher job. The 2016 first round pick has a strong arm to stay at catcher. In 2017 he was voted the top defensive catcher in the California League. The Dodgers should give him his major league debut some time during the year.

96. O’Neil Cruz SS (Pirates) - At 6′6″ myworld does not see him staying at shortstop but that is the position the Pirates still list him at. Last year he played 102 games at short. If he can stick there his tremendous power will be an asset for the position. His arm is powerful enough to play right field and for a big man he runs well. The Dodgers first signed him in 2015 when he was a mere 6′1″, paying him a $950,000 bonus. They traded him to the Pirates for Tony Watson. Last year he hit 14 homeruns with a .488 slugging percentage. He is still only 20 so the Pirates will be patient with him, promoting him a level a year. Next year it will be High A.

95. Jahmai Jones 2b (Angels) - The 2015 second round pick looked to be a five tool light outfielder, with speed, power, a good throwing arm and the ability to hit for average. Then the Angels moved him to second base, a position he played in high school and those gaudy offensive numbers dropped. Coming into this season Jahmai had a .281 career minor league average. Last year he hit .239 at High A and AA. He has the speed to steal 30 bases and the power should develop enough to hit double digits in homeruns. A second season in AA should show some improvement on the offensive end with a major league debut slated for sometime in 2019.

94. Ronaldo Hernandez C (Rays) - Ronaldo is the second Ray on this list. He will not be the last. The Rays signed him in 2014 after they saw him play as a 15 year old in the infield on the Colombian 18 and under World Cup Team. They moved him behind the plate where Ronaldo has all the tools to be an above average defensive catcher. The arm is strong enough to tame running games and he keeps balls from visiting the back stop. His bat has been a surprise with averages north of .300 in 2016 and 2017. Last year he fell short with a .284 average but he did hit a career high 21 homeruns. It will be a couple years before he makes an impact with the Rays but he will join Jorge Alfaro as another Colombian catcher in the major leagues.

93. Michael Chavis 3B (Red Sox) - It is the first day of spring training games and Chavis has already gone deep. The 2014 first round pick saw his career stalled when he was suspended for 80 games to start the 2018 season after hitting 31 homeruns in 2017. The Red Sox hope to continue to get big time power from him. Last year he hit 9 homeruns in 46 games, which project close to his 2017 totals. With Rafael Devers at first base Chavis may have to move to first. His defense at third would not win any gold gloves. It is the bat the Red Sox would want to get in the lineup.

92. Corbin Martin RHP (Astros) - The 2017 second round pick throws hard. His fastball crosses the plate in the mid-90s and can hit the high 90s. What makes it effective is his ability to hit all four corners of the plate. His curve, slider and change also give him four pitches to fit in the rotation, The Astros received the second round pick from the Cardinals as punishment for hacking the Astros system. Last year Martin pitched in High A and AA, limiting the opposition to a .199 average. He could make the Astros rotation sometime this year if injuries open a spot for him, or his success in the minor leagues is just too good for the Astros to ignore.

91. Nate Lowe 1B (Rays) - The third Ray on this list and the second Lowe. Brandon was a 13th round pick in 2016 while his brother Josh was drafted in the first round of that draft. Nate appears to have had a better year, slugging 27 homeruns and hitting .330 as he climbed all the way to AAA. There is very little speed in his legs for him to move to the outfield, so he needs to show the power to justify him playing at first. Nate destroyed High A and AA pitching for a .340 plus average, striking out just three more times than he walked. That would be excellent for a power hitter.

Minor Leagues to Have European Umpire

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

Zdenek Zidek from the Czech Republic will be working in the Gulf Coast League. According to Mister Baseball he will be the first European umpire in minor league baseball. Zidek also was a softball umpire at the 11th WBSC Junior Women’s Softball World Championship.

The Gulf Coast League is the lowest level of minor leagues composed of players who were just drafted by their major league clubs. The league starts just after the draft in late June. It is made up of 17 teams in the Florida area played at spring training parks. There is no admission to watch teams play in the Gulf Coast League.

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.