Archive for March, 2019

NL East Predictions

Friday, March 29th, 2019

The last of our division predictions.

1. Philadelphia Phillies

Strengths - The new guys. Bryce Harper is the most publicized new guy, but there were more important additions prior to the Harper signing. The trade for J.T. Realmuto provides a more experienced catcher to lead a younger starting rotation. They traded their previous catcher Jorge Alfaro to upgrade at this position. The same holds true for Jean Segura, a quality shortstop who they acquired from the Mariners, including in the trade their previous shortstop J.P. Crawford and again upgrading this position. Signing Andrew McCutchen as a free agent upgrades left field from a defensive stand point and moves the big bat of Rhys Hoskins to first base where his power belongs. Seranthony Dominguez won their closer job last year and did a good job in saving games. Newly acquired David Robertson provides the team choices at the closer position and gives the team an experienced arm in case Dominguez falters.

Weakness - The starting rotation looks slim after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez all have talent but suffer from youthful inconsistency. They certainly fall short of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves starting rotation. Defense is not a strength here. No gold glovers covering the infield or outfield.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Most of their top prospects who were close to the major leagues were traded. What’s left are mostly relievers like Enyel de los Santos and Ranger Suarez. Ranger could help in the rotation but his ceiling is as a fifth starter.

Expected Finish - It will be a four team battle but the Phillies will rise to the top because of improvement in their offense, provided injuries don’t eat into their depth.

2. Washington Nationals

Strengths - The top three starters are the best trio in baseball. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin can not be matched by any other team, provided they stay healthy. That is no sure thing for Strasburg and Corbin needs to show that last year was not a fluke. The left side of the infield with Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner is strong both offensively and defensively. Turner provides the speed while Rendon shows the power.

Weakness - The Nationals have failed to make the playoffs twice, both times when they were favored to win the division. When they make the playoffs they get eliminated in the first round. Much of that is blamed on a lack of leadership in the locker room. That is still a problem, with too many quiet players reluctant to lead. Max Scherzer is the one vocal leader but pitchers are tough to lead since they only appear in the lineup every five days. The outfield lacks depth. Adam Eaton gets injured a lot. This could create a problem if Victor Robles struggles as a rookie and Michael Taylor stays inconsistent.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Victor Robles will not make as great an impact as Juan Soto. His defense will be better but the bat will not be as productive. The speed should create havoc on the bases provided he has the instincts to make the right choices. Carter Kieboom shined during spring training, hitting two homeruns off Justin Verlander. He could be called up by mid-season once injuries eat away at depth. Tanner Rainey has trouble finding the plate but the fastball hits triple digits. The Nationals traded Tanner Roark for him so expect him to get an opportunity.

Predicted Finish - They will fight with the Braves for the wild card spot and win it by a game or two. Starting pitching will prove the difference.

3. Atlanta Braves

Strengths - The depth of the Braves starters is impressive. It is being used early with the injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Guasman. Not a good start to the season. The rookie of the year Ronald Acuna should have a better year his sophomore season, moving from the leadoff spot to the middle of the lineup. Freddie Freeman is a potential MVP at first base.

Weakness - When the Braves were winning consecutive division titles one of their weak areas was the bullpen. This could create a problem in 2019. A.J. Minter served as the closer last year but he will also start the season on the disabled list. Arodys Vizcaino is another option but he has had trouble staying healthy.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Lots of possibilities to fill the rotation to begin the year. Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka and Bryse Wilson are part of the first wave. Ian Anderson and Luiz Gohara are the second options. On the offensive side Austin Riley could be ready for third base. If Josh Donaldson struggles to stay healthy or his bat fails the Braves will not hesitate to bring up Riley. Kolby Allard is a lefthander who lacks explosiveness with his fastball. Command is his strength and he could fill out the bullpen.

Predicted Finish - Starting pitching lacks experience and this will prove critical as they fall short of the Nationals for the last wild card spot.

4. New York Mets

Strengths - Starting pitching if they stay healthy. They don’t get any better than Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young last year. Noah Syndergaard has the potential to win a Cy Young but has struggled to stay healthy the last two years. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are two other talented pitchers who have spent much of their career on the disabled list. The acquisition of Edwin Diaz gives them a 50 save closer from last year.

Weakness - Too many hopes and ambitions. They hope Amed Rosario will be one of the best shortstops in baseball. They hope Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith can provide answers at first base. And they hope Yoennis Cespedes can come back healthy to enhance an outfield lacking in power, except for Michael Conforto. They hope Wilson Ramos can stay healthy for a full year and Robinson Cano does not start feeling his age. And they hope their starting rotation stays healthy. All those hopes will not come to fruition.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Peter Alonso has a powerful bat that has the potential of hitting 30 plus homeruns. His defense is not good but if his bat can be productive the Mets will take the tradeoff. Tomas Nido will act as the back up for Ramos, but this will result in a lot of playing time to keep Ramos healthy. Andres Gimenez and Luis Guillorme will vie for the Mets utility job. Both are superior defensive players but Gimenez may have the better bat.

Predicted Finish - Health and lack of depth will drop them down to fourth but they will stay competitive for a playoff spot into September.

5. Miami Marlins

Strengths - They have the strength to play poorly enough to fight for the first pick in the 2020 draft, if they can be called a strength. Brian Anderson may lack the power to play third but he is the one bat to fear in the lineup. Starlin Castro is a veteran bat who will probably be traded before the year is out.

Weakness - Two of their three outfielders they traded, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich both won MVPs the last couple years. The outfield the Marlins are trotting out this year would be hard pressed to make an All Star team in AAA. Starting rotation will not limit runs and it will get ugly. Same holds true for the bullpen. A lot of ugly on this roster. This team would be more competitive in AAA.

Prospects to Make an Impact - The Marlins have no motivation to use up service time on another wasted season. Isan Diaz could be called up mid-season after Castro is traded. He has been highly touted but his strikeouts have hampered his offensive performance. Sandy Alcantara has made the rotation. His fastball is impressive but his command is lacking.

Predicted Finish - They will fight with the Orioles and Royals for the first pick in the 2020 draft.

deGrom spoils Nationals Opener

Friday, March 29th, 2019

Jacob deGrom won the Cy Young last year. He carved out the Nationals bats in the opener, creating a good start to the 2019 season. The Nationals had opportunities to score runs off him early, but once those failed deGrom cruised through six, striking out 10 Nats. The bullpen completed the final three innings to shut out the Nationals 2-0.

Max Scherzer was brilliant as well, finishing second to deGrom in the Cy Young voting. He gave up a solo homerun to Robinson Cano on a changeup in the first inning with two outs that landed in the centerfield bleachers. Except for Cano he struck out the side in the first inning. He went to strike out 12 for his 7.2 innings of work. He only gave up two hits on the day. The Nationals chose not to pinch hit for him in the seventh with two out and no one on, behind 1-0, but he only worked two outs into the eighth before walking Dominic Smith and seeing his day complete without the win.

Robinson Cano drove in the second run with a single in the eighth off Matt Grace, scoring Dominic Smith. The Mets received good production in the trade with the Mariners that got them Cano and Edwin Diaz when Diaz came on in the ninth and closed out the game with a save. He retired the side in order.

The Nationals had opportunities to score early in the game. With runners on first and second and two outs in the first Ryan Zimmerman lined one between short and third. Jeff McNeil made a diving catch for the third out. The ball was hit so hard it may have been difficult for Trea Turner to score from second.

In the third the Nationals had runners on first and third with no outs. Trea Turner showed some impatience, swinging at a couple high pitches and striking out when he probably could have drawn a walk. Victor Robles then made a base running mistake when Anthony Rendon grounded to third. Robles darted back to third, McNeil threw to second to get the second out, Robles broke for the plate and Cano threw it home to get Robles in a run down. He was tagged out to end the inning.

There are still 161 games to play. The two players acquired by the Mets in the Mariners trade were responsible to win game one. With another four months of the season left to play the other 161 games can turn out very differently.

Nats Notes - It was a sellout crowd of 42,263. The concessions were crowded. Myworld chose one of the stands with the least amount of people. We tried the pupusas on the first floor near the third base side and would highly recommend them…Both Scherzer and deGrom were hitting the radar at 95-97 with excellent secondary pitches. They became only the second duo to strike out 10 or more batters on opening day since Dave McNally and Sam McDowell did it in 1950…Jake Noll made the opening day roster. On opening day every trainer, coach and player is introduced. Noll made his opening day introduction unique. As he was introduced he stumbled getting out of his crouch as he ran to the first base line to join his other teammates. Rookie mistake, but one that did not hurt as much as Victor Robles in the third inning…Lots of activity at the Shake Shake and the Chinese/Korean concession nest to it Chieko. I can’t imagine people getting their food until two innings had passed.

Padres Prospects Ready for Now

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Manny Machado and his youthful brigade of prospects are ready for the 2019 season. The 2017 season was the first year since myworld has been tracking (2008) prospects that the Padres were rated in the top ten. Last year they went from tenth to fourth. Players who appeared in Top 100 lists last year were Fernando Tatis Jr., MacKenzie Gore, Luis Urias, Cal Quantril, Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon and Anderson Espinoza. Myworld will come out with the 2019 rankings for the teams in a couple weeks once we finish the top 100 listings.

The Padres chose not to send Fernando Tatis Jr. down for a month to keep him an extra year. With the spring he had they felt he could help the team now at short. His defense could lack some consistency but his bat will generate lots of offense. The Padres will be as strong as the Dodgers left side of Justin Turner and Corey Seager. Tatis has the bat to drive in 100 runs, the power to hit 20 plus and the speed to steal 20 plus bases. The big issue is how he adjusts to major league pitching. If they find a weak spot they will exploit it.

Francisco Mejia is another player to have made the Padres roster. He will share the playing time with Austin Hedges, but if his bat shows up Mejia will see more action. Francisco has the stronger arm, one of the strongest in baseball, but the other tools are still not as sharp as Hedges, who is considered one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. What Mejia has that Hedges lacks is the bat that can hit for average and power. Like Tatis, he needs to adjust to major league pitching. One of the areas he needs to work on is not swinging at pitcher’s pitches.

Chris Paddock has made the rotation. The 2015 eighth round pick knows how to carve the plate with a fastball in the low 90s that he can dial up to the mid-90s. He also has an excellent changeup. Finding a breaking pitch has been a challenge and could result in struggle if his control and location falter. The Padres will also have to watch his innings. He missed the 2017 season because of Tommy John surgery and only pitched 90 innings last year. Don’t be surprised if the Padres shut him down for a month mid-season.

Luis Urias was supposed to play shortstop this year while Tatis spent a month in the minors. Luis failed to hit in spring training and was sent down to find his bat. Signed out of Mexico in 2013, the bat will pepper the gaps with line drives putting his batting average near .300. Power is lacking and his speed is fringe average, so if he is not spraying the ball for hits his contributions are limited. Last year, in a 48 at bat major league debut he hit just .208. Luis was going to move to second once Tatis got promoted. Now he will play second in AAA, show his bat is ready and play second once promoted to the Padres.

While Paddock made the major league roster, their potential future ace in the rotation is MacKenzie Gore. The lefthander has a plethora of pitches that he can control for strikes, with a fastball sitting in the mid-90s. Last year the 2017 first round pick had blister issues which limited him to just 16 starts. These blisters also made it difficult for him to control his breaking pitches, resulting in an ERA climbing to 4.45, compared to his first year when he had it down to 1.27 in rookie ball. The 2019 season should see him start in High A.

Two Cubans are close to making the rotation. Adrian Morejon is a lefthander who was the MVP of the 15 and under baseball World Cup and then defected when he was 16. The Padres gave him an $11 million bonus. His fastball can rise as high as 98 but sits just south of 95 with solid secondary pitches. He generates lots of swings and misses, averaging more than a whiff per inning, but when his location is not on he can be hit hard (.253 career opposition average). Next year he should see time in AA, just a whisper away from the major leagues.

Less developed is Michel Baez. At 6′8″ with a fastball that can touch the high 90s, his size and velocity can make him an intimidating presence on the mound. That size can also be a challenge for him to find the plate. He also has had his last two seasons delayed because of back issues. If he can stay healthy and find more consistency with his breaking pitches Baez could become a force. This year he should start the season in AA, where he struggled last year in four starts (7.36 ERA) walking 12 hitters in 18 innings.

Anderson Espinoza is the forgotten man. At one point he was compared to Pedro Martinez because of his small stature (6′0″) and his blazing fastball in the mid to high 90s. Tommy John surgery has prevented him from pitching the last two years. After missing two years one has to question whether his stuff will be the same.

Luis Patino is another 6′0″ pitcher hailing from Colombia. Despite his small frame his fastball can ride the plate in the mid 90s and reach as high as 99. His slider was rated as the best in the organization by Baseball America and he filters in a curveball and changeup to keep hitters honest. Durability because of his small frame could be an issue. Last year he was shutdown after 17 starts and 83 innings. He also needs to find a pitch to retire lefthanded hitters, who battered him for a .345 average last year. Next year he should start the season in High A.

Fernando Tatis is not the only son of an ex-major leaguer. Cal Quantril had a father (Paul) who pitched in the major leagues mainly out of the bullpen. Cal hopes to make it as a starter. The Canadian does not have an explosive fastball, sitting mainly in the low 90s, but his slider and change combination can create soft contact. Last year he got six starts in AAA but he was battered around for a .300 average. This year he should start the season in AAA. He is an injury away from being called up.

The Padres are deep at catcher. Austin Allen has shown excellent pop the last two years, hitting 22 homeruns at High A and AA. His defense is fringe behind the plate because of his lack of mobility so a move to first could be an option. Luis Campusano was a second round pick in 2017. He has a strong arm and better defensive tools than Allen. His power is not as great so he needs to make it behind the plate. Next year he will be in High A.

Josh Naylor was a catcher in his youth. His defense behind the plate was limited so a move to first was needed. He has a younger brother who was drafted last year by the Indians as a catcher. The Padres got him from the Marlins, who had drafted him in the first round in 2015. The Canadian has light tower power with his lefthanded bat. Only 5′11″ he weighs 250 so there are conditioning concerns. The Padres have tried him in left field but his lack of speed makes that position a liability for him. If Josh mashes in AAA the Padres could find room for him in the lineup, especially if the DH comes to the National League in a couple years.

Hudson Potts was a first round pick in 2016. He may need to find another position since Manny may have third base covered for a number of years. The bat and power are there for him to be a benefit to a lineup. The speed may be lacking to play the outfield. The Padres drafted him as a shortstop so a move to second base is a possibility. Last year he slugged 19 homeruns. The 2019 season should see him start his season in AA.

Buddy Reed is an outfielder loaded with tools. He has the speed for centerfield and the arm to fit in right. The bat has some pop to make him a potential 30/30 player. The issue is his ability to make contact. Last year he struck out 147 times in just 122 games. While he hit .324 at High A a promotion to AA saw him struggle with a .179 average. AA is where he should begin the 2019 season.

The light may be off for Javy Guerra. He was highly touted a couple years ago. The tools are there to make him a solid shortstop defensively, but the bat has been lacking the last couple years. With Tatis now at shortstop his hope is to fill in as a utility player or get traded to another team that is looking for defense at shortstop.

NL Central Predictions

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

1. Chicago Cubs

Strengths - Overall the lineup is strong, especially the infield. Kris Bryant should have a bounce back year, hampered by injuries the previous year. Anthony Rizzo had his fourth consecutive season of driving in 100 runs. Those two will man the corners. Up the middle Javier Baez will either play short or second, depending on the need. He put up MVP numbers last year. When Baez is at second Addison Russell will play short and when Baez is at short either David Bote or Ben Zobrist will play second. Lots of depth with lots of bats to choose from. Wilson Contreras had a down year at catcher last year but he should bounce back. If Yu Darvish can return to health the starting rotation is a formidable five with Jon Lester, Darvish, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendriks and Jose Quintana.

Weakness - The starting outfield is either short on offense or weak on defense. Albert Almora and Justin Heyward carry silent bats but the defense is gold glove caliber. Kyle Schwarber needs his bat to produce because his defense is subpar. The bullpen has depth but it could use a closer. Brandon Morrow has trouble staying healthy and a proven closer is absent if he is not available.

Prospects to Make an Impact - This is a veteran team so it will be tough for a rookie to break into the lineup. Two pitchers have a shot if injuries to the rotation happen. Adbert Alzolay started just 8 games in AAA until a lat injury ended his year. Give him a half year of AAA pitching and he should be ready. Duane Underwood Jr. was a second round pick in 2012. He got one start for the Cubs last year after seeing 20 AAA starts. His fastball is not what it used to be but it is serviceable in emergencies.

Predicted Finish - A solid rotation with an offense that has the ability to score runs will be too much for this division.

2. Milwaukee Brewers

Strengths - The Brewers will also score a lot of runs. The outfield is especially dangerous with MVP Christian Yelich leading the charge. Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun fill out center and left and Ben Gamels is depth if you should need a fourth outfielder.

Weakness - Not a big fan of their rotation. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes will bring youth and inconsistency. Both pitched mostly out of the bullpen for the Brewers last year. No real number one starters with Jhoulys Chacin, Freddy Peralta and Zach Davis filling out the rotation. All would be mid-rotation starters for playoff teams.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Keston Hiura is a batting title waiting to happen. Last year he hit .272 at AA with six homeruns. Mike Moustakas is playing out of position at second base. Corbin Burnes has won a spot in the rotation for the Brewers. Last year he pitched for them out of the bullpen. Mauricio Dubon was hitting .343 after 27 games at AAA until a knee injury ended his season. Another start like that and he could see a role as a utility player.

Predicted Finish - As the NL east adversaries beat each other up the Brewers should sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

Strengths - The Cardinals got some pop for first base when they picked up Paul Goldschmidt. He has hit 30 or more homeruns in four of his last six seasons and driven in 100 or more runs in three of his last six. Picking up Andrew Miller in free agency and using the oft injured Alex Reyes in the bullpen gives the Cardinals three pitchers with closer like stuff when you add in current closer Jordan Hicks. Carlos Martinez may also be used out of the bullpen when he returns from the disabled list. There will be lots of swings and misses in the late innings.

Weakness - The starting rotation lacks an ace. Jack Flaherty may turn into one before the season is complete. Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez looked like aces a couple years ago but now injuries could force them to be used out of the bullpen. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha started just 23 games last year, not enough starts to fill one rotation spot. No defense made more errors last year than the Cardinals. Giving teams four outs in an inning can be frustrating to a pitcher.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Alex Reyes will be used out of the bullpen to start the season and could be used out of the rotation later. He has been felled by drug suspensions and injuries. Tyler O’Neil appears to have won one of the corner outfield jobs. He has the power that should exceed 20 plus homeruns. He also has the ability to record 200 whiffs. With the injury of Carlos Martinez it appears Dakota Hudson will be in the starting rotation. He pitched 26 games in relief last year for the Cardinals, limiting the opposition to a .186 average. Genesis Cabrera is a hard throwing lefthander with a mid-90s fastball who could be used in the bullpen by mid-season. The Cardinals lack depth with lefties out of their bullpen. The Cardinals are stacked at corner outfield but Adolis Garcia slugged 22 homeruns out of AA last year. The brother of Adonis is 26 and ready for the major leagues, while packing enough corners he could be surplus his rookie year.

Predicted Finish - Doesn’t appear to be enough flash or depth to pull the Cardinals into the playoffs.

4. Cincinnati Reds

Strengths - The Scooter Gennett injury puts a big dent in what was a solid offensive infield. Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in baseball and will occupy first while Jose Peraza shifts to second. Last year Peraza increased his power numbers by close to 100 slugging points. Joey is the new human walk machine with OBAs north of .400. Eugenio Suarez homerun numbers keep on rising from 13 to 21 to 26 to 34 in the last four years. The Reds appear to be going with defensive minded Jose Iglesias at short as Peraza moves over to second. The Reds starting rotation was certainly juiced up with Sonny Gray, Tanner Rourke and Alex Wood. That is a change in pace from the young pitchers they trotted out last year.

Weakness - The outfield defense is certainly not a strength with Scott Schebler in center and Jessie Winker, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig fighting out for the corner spots. The catching could be offensively challenged with Tucker Barnhart the best of what they have for offense.

Prospects to make an Impact - Nick Senzel was going to get some more defensive experience in center. Now another injury may delay his call to the majors. The bat has the power to hit 30 plus homeruns. His original position of third base is occupied by Suarez. Jose Siri is a multi tooled outfielder who has the potential to hit 20 plus homers while stealing 20 plus bases.

Predicted Finish - Still a little too young to make the playoffs but they will make a run for it.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Strengths - They have two catchers in Francisco Cervelli and Elais Diaz who could start for many of the other 29 teams. The outfield of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson is one of the most talented in baseball, especially if you take into account the number of runs they erase because of their defense. They have one of the top closers in Felipe Vazquez.

Weakness - The middle infielders are two unproven players in Erik Gonzalez and Adam Frazier. Both may be better suited for utility roles. Adding to the offensive squalor along the infield there is uncertainty whether Jung Ho Kang can provide consistent offense at third. He hit a number of homeruns in spring training, but they were also most of his hits. Josh Bell is below average for a first baseman in pop. Back end of their rotation will be feasted upon by some of the more powerful offenses.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Mitch Keller is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Last year he struggled in 10 starts at AAA but he should make his major league debut by mid-season. There are no sure things at the middle infield positions which could open up opportunities for Kevin Kramer, Cole Tucker and Kevin Newman. None of the trio will put up better than average numbers.

Predicted Finish - They may not say they are rebuilding or tanking but they are.

Nats Win Last Exhibition Game

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

In front of a sparse crowd on a cold day, the Nationals pulled out a 5-3 win in their last exhibition game of the 2019 season. With the Yankees in town starting their top lineup myworld would have expected a larger crowd. The listed attendance was 22,000 but with the threat of rain and the cold weather there was less than half that in attendance.

Anthony Rendon got things started for the Nationals by sending a ball deep into the left field bleachers off Stephen Tarply in the first inning for an early 2-0 lead.

Anibal Sanchez pitched well for the Nationals, going 5.1 innings. He gave up a solo homerun to Troy Tulowitski, who smacked a line drive into the centerfield bleachers. That was all the Yankees could muster off Sanchez, despite have their big guns in the lineup. Those big guns were gone by the fourth inning.

The Nationals added two more in the fourth. Juan Soto started the inning lining a double over the head of Giancarlo Stanton. A walk to Rendon put two runners on and a single by Ryan Zimmerman loaded the bases with no outs off Tommy Kahnle. He struck out Matt Adams but Kurt Suzuki drove one far enough into left field to score Juan Soto. Brian Dozier dropped a single in front of Aaron Judge to score the second run of the inning to make it 4-1.

The two teams traded runs in the sixth. A leadoff walk to Zack Zehner by Aaron Barrett set up the run scoring double by Greg Bird. The ball was poorly played by Juan Soto in left allowing Zehner to score. Matt Adams clubbed a line drive into the right field bleachers off Nestor Cortes Jr. to give the Nationals a run putting the score at 5-2.

The Nationals pulled most of their starters after the sixth inning, but the weather proved too much of a factor. Myworld said adios. Until the home opener on Thursday.

Nats Notes: The Rendon homer came with such an easy swing and the ball just seem to glide into the middle of the left field bleachers…The Nationals have no place on the scoreboard for their pitchers. Since they were using the DH it was tough to know who was pitching without a scorecard. Nestor Cortes Jr. was announced as the starting pitcher but it was actually Stephen Tarpley who started and Cortes came on in the fourth. He pitched 3.1 innings…Good to see Aaron Barrett back on the mound. He could be a nice addition to the Nats bullpen.

Four Sellouts for Korean Opening Day

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

The KBO had five opening day matches on Saturday. Four of them were sellouts. A little over 114,000 fans attended the opening games, a record turn out for the KBO. Another 100,000 fans turned out for day two, the first time more than 100,000 fans had turned out on back to back days.

The NC Dinos played at their new stadium on Saturday before 22,112 fans. Eddie Butler rewarded them with seven innings of shutout ball. New free agent acquisition Eui-Ji Yang slugged a solo homerun while their new foreign acquisition Christian Bethancourt blasted a three run job to lead the Dinos to a 7-0 win. Jin-Hyuk No also hit a two run homerun. Lions pitcher Deck McGwire gave up all seven runs in less than four innings of work.

The Doosan Bears played in Seoul to a sell out crowd and rewarded them with a 5-4 win over the Hanwha Eagles. Kun-Woo Park hit a two run homer in the fourth but it was foreign Cuban acquisition Jose Miguel Fernandez who drove in the last three runs with an RBI single in the sixth and a two run double in the eighth that sealed the win. The Eagles loaded the bases with one out in the ninth but could score only one run on a sacrifice fly. Warwick Saupold gave up three runs for the Eagles in 5.2 innings of work while Josh Lindblom gave up two in the same number of innings despite giving up more hits (9 to 5).

The Lotte Giants played to a sellout crowd but could not provide their fans a victory, losing to the newly named Kiwoom Heroes 7-4. Byung-Ho Park proved the difference with his four runs driven in, two of them on a single in the fifth and one each on a solo blast in the third and RBI single in the eighth. Brooks Raley was ineffective for the Giants allowing five runs in four innings. Jake Brigham was just as ineffective for the Heroes giving up four runs, three earned in five innings.

The Kia Tigers bats were silent playing before their sellout crowd, shutout by Tyler Wilson and the LG Twins 2-0. Wilson went seven and gave up just three hits.

The only game that was not a sellout was at SK Wyverns, the defending champs, who got past the newest Korean team the KT Wiz 7-4. Jamie Romak and Dong-Min Han each walloped two run homers to prove the difference. The Romak clout in the seventh inning broke a 4-4 tie.

Burkina Faso and Nigeria advance to the Africa Cup

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Burkina Faso proved to be the more dominant team in the preliminary Zone West pre-Qualifier to see who would advance to South Africa for the Africa’s Cup. Burkina Faso out scored Nigeria in the opener 13-3. They then beat the hosts Ghana 14-4.

Nigeria was also able to advance with a 7-6 win over Ghana. They scored the winning run courtesy of two Ghana errors in the seventh inning. Ghana made eight errors in the game.

Two other regional matches will be played, the first in Zone East, which will be April 5-7 between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in Nairobi, Kenya. The second will be in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 27-29 between South Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

The top two teams from each zone will play the Africa Regional in Johannesburg May 1-5. The winner will then go to Europe (Parma and Bologna, Italy) to play in the Europe/Africa Qualifier September 18-22. The winner of that will qualify for the Olympics to be played in Tokyo in 2020. The runner up will go to Taiwan to play in a final qualifier in early 2020.

Top 100 - 30-21

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Though the Braves added one more righthanded pitcher after including three in the 40-31 prospect list, the White Sox dominated this ten with two righthanded pitchers and an infielder.

30. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) - The Canadian pitcher and first round pick of the Braves in 2015 was limited to 11 starts last year because of injury, five of those starts in the major leagues. At 6′4″ with a fastball that sits in the low 90s but can touch mid 90s he has the quality secondary pitches to be a perfect fit as a mid-rotation starter. Injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Guasman could improve his opportunities. The Braves will be in a pennant race but it may be wise to limit his innings and start his 2019 season in AAA. What sets Soroka apart from other pitchers is his excellent command. He throws it to all quadrants of the plate and appears to have a purpose for each pitch.

29. Nick Madrigal 2B/SS (White Sox) - Nick was a first round pick of the White Sox in 2018. He played second base for NCAA champion Oregon, but he could have just as well played shortstop. At 5′8″ he is small in stature but his bat sprays line drives to all parts of the park. His bat will not hit for a lot of power, but batting titles could be in his future. The arm may be better suited for second base but if Nick can make it as a shortstop he would increase his value to the lineup. He should rise quickly, finishing at AA in 2019.

28. Dylan Cease RHP (White Sox) - The Cubs traded Cease to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade sacrificing a pitcher for the future for one that could help them in the present. The sixth round pick in 2014 throws in the mid 90s and can hit triple digits. His secondary pitches lack consistency and he has trouble finding the plate. Last year he had success in AA with a 1.72 ERA, limiting the opposition to a .168 average. The White Sox are in rebuilding mode. Dylan will probably start the season in AAA and be promoted to the major league team by mid-season if he shows success in AAA.

27. Mitch Keller RHP (Pirates) - Last year Mitch Keller struggled for the first time since being drafted in the second round in 2014. He finished with an ERA of 4.82 in 10 AAA starts. His fastball hits the mid-90s and reaches the high 90s. Normally it is unhittable, but AAA hitters assaulted him for a .280 average last year. Both his fastball and curveball are the best in the Pirates system so they expect a bounce back. He is a better alternative than Nick Kingham or Jordan Lyles in the rotation so after a few starts in AAA he will be the Pirates number five starter by mid-May.

26. Francisco Mejia C (Padres) - With Manny Machado at third and the Padres outfield crowded Mejia will have to make it as a catcher. His arm is one of the strongest in baseball but his other tools for the position are fringy. Austin Hedges is the better defensive catcher but Mejia has the better bat. The Padres acquired the Dominican from the Indians last year for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Francisco has the potential to hit for a high average with good gap power. Last year he slugged 17 homeruns. If he starts the season with the Padres he will be the starting catcher with Hedges taking on the back up role.

25. Austin Riley 3B (Braves) - The Josh Donaldson signing delayed the arrival of Riley to the Braves by one year. The 2015 first round pick is a potential All Star who can provide quality defense and hit bombs far over the fence. If Riley has an Achilles heel it is his penchant for not making contact. The Braves will accept that as long as it comes with light tower pops. Last year Riley played at AAA hitting .282 with 11 homeruns. His .456 slugging average was below his norm. For the 2019 season he will start the season in AAA and if Donaldson is injured or struggles to find any offensive consistency Riley will be with the Braves by mid-season.

24. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - Drug suspensions, Tommy John surgery and injured lat muscles have kept Alex on the prospect lists two years longer than he would like. He was supposed to be in the Cardinals rotation a couple years ago. Because of his injuries he may start the year in the bullpen to lesson his innings and could move into the rotation towards the end of the year. His fastball is electric, consistently hitting the mid-90s and shaving the triple digits. He’s also got excellent secondary pitches which would make a move to the bullpen a waste. If he can’t stay healthy enough to stay in the starting rotation Alex would be a top notch closer. He should start the 2019 season in the Cardinals bullpen.

23. Casey Mize RHP (Tigers) - Casey was a first round pick of the Tigers in 2018. He has lept ahead of the other Tiger pitching prospects by being the first player selected in that draft. The fastball flashes across the plate in the mid-90s but what makes it so impactful is a quality splitter that gets a lot of swings and misses as it dives out of the strike zone. As a college drafted pitcher Casey should rise quickly. Last year he got four starts in High A, but hitters attacked him for a .295 average. High A is where he should begin his 2019 season.

22. Michael Kopech RHP (White Sox) - He owned the best fastball in the minor leagues, reaching triple digits consistently and sitting north of 95. Tommy John surgery will put a halt to his 2019 season. Command of his pitches had been his biggest impediment, but just when he appeared to be mastering his control he was felled by his UCL. Prior to his injury he did get four starts in the major leagues and they hit him at a blistery .328 clip. It will be probably sometime in mid 2020 before he can again try to make an impact with the White Sox.

21. Luis Urias SS/3B (Padres) - The 2016 signing out of Mexico will begin the 2019 season playing shortstop for the Padres. Once Tatis is called up he will move over to second base. The arm is strong enough to play short but the range is lacking. Second base he could win gold gloves. His bat lacks power but will fill the gaps. In time Luis could win batting averages. Rookie of the year will be within his grasp for 2019 if his teammate Fernando Tatis does not take it away from him.

NL West Predictions

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Strengths - Getting Corey Seager back and keeping Justin Turner healthy will give the Dodgers excellent offensive production from the left side of the infield. The starting rotation is always deep and the Dodgers large park keeps the ERA down. Health remains a factor. Clayton Kershaw appears to be on the down side of his career, but when he is healthy he dominates. Walker Buehler has shown he can pitch. If they can get full seasons from Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill the Dodgers will again lead the National League in ERA.

Weakness - They did not stay healthy last year and they still won the division. Some of those players are a year older now. Kenley Jansen showed some cracks last year as the closer and the crew behind him looks a bit shallow. Joe Kelly throws hard but he has trouble finding the plate resulting in ERAs above 4. Perhaps Dodger stadium and the National League will change that. Time will tell whether the season Max Muncy had was a mirage.

Prospects to Make an Impact - An outfield spot is blocked for Alex Verdugo but if Max Muncy struggles early Cody Bellinger could return to first opening up an opportunity for Verdugo. Alex is more a gap hitter than a homerun hitter so they could lose a bit in power. Dustin May could be the Walker Buehler of 2018. The Dodgers rotation has been injury prone. Dustin lacks the ace stuff of Buehler but he could fit well at the back end of the rotation.

Expected Finish - It will be seven division titles in a row for the Dodgers, who are riding the road to eclipse the Braves and Phillies for most division titles in a row. Philadelphia had five but Atlanta is still well ahead of them with 11.

2. Colorado Rockies

Strengths - The left side of the infield in Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado combined for 75 homeruns. Only Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez were greater with 77. The park and the high altitude is noted for inflating the offensive production. The fact that Kyle Freeland finished the season with a 2.85 ERA is truly amazing. He also won 17 games and gave the Rockies 202 innings. Can he repeat that performance? If so, the Rockies have an ace.

Weakness - It was time to add some new blood to the outfield. Gone is Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra. Arriving will be David Dahl and Raimel Tapia. How long they stick with Ian Desmond in centerfield and his below par defense and offensive production will be critical to their playoff chances. It will be a scrum at second base to see who replaces D.J. LeMahieu. Ryan McMahon lacks the defensive chops but could provide the offensive production. Garrett Hampson lacks the experience but could provide a better all around game.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Garrett Hampson could win the second base job. He provides better defense than McMahon and has a bat similar to LeMahieu, not a lot of power but will hit for a good average. If both of them fail watch for Brendan Rodgers. He is blocked at short by Story and second base is his secondary position. He provides the power of McMahon with good defense.

Expected Finish - Far from the Dodgers and just missing a wild card spot.

3. San Diego Padres

Strengths - Manny Machado and his $300 million contract gave the team some buzz. He is a superstar who could lead the young bucks once they get promoted. One thing he will learn is Petco Park is more like Dodger Stadium than Camden Yards. Manny slugged .487 at Dodger stadium last year compared to .575 at Camden. Lots of depth and potential sluggers in the outfield with Will Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero all competing for playing time. When will youth be served? By May Fernando Tatis Jr will be at shortstop and the bat of Francisco Mejia will win over the catching job from Austin Hedges.

Weakness - The pitching staff is young. Last year they were near the bottom in ERA. And they play their games in a pitcher’s park. That will not change in 2019 with young arms learning the ropes in the major leagues. There is no ace veteran they can learn from who would shield them from opponent’s aces by biting the bullet and taking the start.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Fernando Tatis Jr. should join the roster in May. He is an impact player who will surpass the numbers his father put up in the major leagues. Francisco Mejia has a better bat than Austin Hedges. Other than his arm his defense is not as strong. If he is on the roster the Padres will want to play him. Luis Urias will start at shortstop until Tatis arrives, then move to second. He will not hit for a lot of power but his bat will spray the gaps. There will be a learning curve, but eventually he will be a .300 hitter. Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, Cal Qauntrill and Michel Baez all could see the rotation by mid-season. Who gets in will depend on how well they pitch in AA or AAA.

Expected Finish - If they finish over .500 that will be an accomplishment.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

Strengths - If you look at the Braves roster a lot of their strengths were traded away. It doesn’t appear that they got anything in return. Their starting rotation was strong last year but losing Patrick Corbin was a big blow. Luke Weaver is the replacement in the rotation and he did not put up the numbers of Corbin. Other than that the strengths are limited. If Steven Sousa finds his power he would pair up with David Peralta to give the team two corner outfielders with 30 plus homerun pop.

Weaknesses - Hard to see the infield providing any kind of offense. Jake Lamb cannot replace the production of Paul Goldschmidt at first base. Ketel Marte will move to centerfield and he will not replace the production of A.J. Pollock. This team will struggle to score runs.

Prospects to Make an Impact - They traded most of their good ones to the Braves and must start from scratch. Carson Kelly is a great defensive catcher but he has never hit in his major league callups. He was acquired from the Cardinals in the Goldschmidt trade and could be their starting catcher if his bat cooperates. Jon Duplantier could be in the rotation by mid-season if his arm can stay healthy. Injuries limited him to a half season last year. Yoan Lopez and his high 90s fastball could make a contribution to the bullpen. If Archie Bradley struggles at the closer Lopez could be given an opportunity.

Expected Finish - They don’t use the word “tank” but trading Paul Goldschmidt after allowing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to leave for free agency subtracted about 12 games from their win total. This is another team in tank mode.

5. San Francisco Giants

Strengths - Their strengths are getting long in the tooth. Buster Posey is solid behind the plate but his better days are behind him. The same can be said of Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria and on the pitching front Madison Bumgarner.

Weaknesses - The departure of Barry Bonds has put a curse on Giant outfielders. Hunter Pence was decent, but this group, whoever they end up being would be hard pressed to make the Yankees AAA team. The back end of the rotation looks weak and the bullpen appears to lack a closer if Mark Melancon does not bounce back.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Ray Black and Melvin Adon have fastballs that would be good for the bullpen. Both have trouble throwing strikes. Chris Shaw is a first baseman by trade but Belt and Posey hold that position. His defense in the outfield is subpar but if the Giants are looking for offense he can supply it.

Expected Finish - Bruce Bochy has said this will be his last year as manager and a last place finish is not a good send off. This is another team in tank mode.

AL East Predictions

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

1. New York Yankees

Strengths - Though the back injury to Aaron Hicks is concerning if he can recover this could be the best outfield in baseball. Aaron Judge and Hicks are solid two way players and a platoon of Bret Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton in left, with Stanton seeing the DH slot when not playing the field, could be the best in baseball. Last year the foursome combined for four homeruns over 100. The rival Red Sox may be better defensively but fall short offensively. If Hicks spends a significant time on the disabled list Gardner could move to center creating more playing time for the injury prone Stanton in the outfield and hurting the defense. The Yankees also did a good job of loading up their bullpen. Aroldis Chapman will be the primary closer but Zack Britton and Dellin Betances have had experience there. Adam Ottavino carved out six saves for the Rockies last year. The only concern is all four players are at the north side of 30.

Weakness - There could be a weakness at first. Greg Bird is having a nice spring but he has not proven himself at the major league level. Luke Voit had a special season last year but the Yankees have seen a lot of one and dones. The left side of the infield could be a hole defensively. Miguel Andujar could eventually move to first when Didi Gregorius returns to short, moving Tulowitski to third. It remains to be seen what Tulo has left and whether he can even stay healthy. Gleyber Torres could still see a lot of time at short with D.J. LeMahieu playing a lot at second. This team also seems prone to injury so depth is important.

Prospects to Make an Impact - The Yankees have a number of high level minor league pitchers ready to make a difference. Jonathan Loaisiga could be the first to get the call. He started four games for the Yankees last year. Michael King dominated in AAA (1.15 ERA) in six starts with a .147 opposition average. Albert Abreu, Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo are other possibilities. All five could also contribute in the bullpen. Thairo Estrada could see utility time, especially if Troy shows he can not stay healthy. Thairo is a sold fielding shortstop with a questionable bat. He is still trying to recover from a bullet wound he received in Venezuela a couple years ago.

Expected Finish - This lineup should score a lot of runs if clicking on all cylinders. If they can get to the bullpen with the lead after six innings the game is over.

2. Boston Red Sox

Strengths - Hard to go against the defending World Series champions. Like the Yankees, the Red Sox outfield is premium good. Mookie Betts may be the best player in baseball outside of Mike Trout. Andrew Benintendi has a boatload of talent and Jackie Bradley is a superior defender. They may not provide the offense of the Yankees but the defense is top notch. J.D. Martinez is the best DH in the American League and one of the more dangerous. He can also play left field. The starting pitching has the potential to be good with Chris Sale and David Price providing a one/two punch and Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez making it a solid five.

Weakness - The bullpen lost their closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly. It will be interesting how they sort out the roles. The blown saves will knock them out of first place. Behind the plate the Red Sox have little offense. Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez were once promising hitters when they were prospects in the minor leagues, but that has not transferred against big league pitching. Sandy Leon is the third catcher the Red Sox would like to trade.

Prospects to Make an Impact - The bullpen could use some help and Darwinzon Hernandez may be available by mid season. After that the farm system gets a little thin at the upper levels.

Expected Finish - With six teams tanking in the American League the Red Sox should still win 100 games and make the playoffs as a wild card team.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Strengths - The Rays invented the opener because they lacked starting pitching. This could again be an issue in 2019. They do have Cy Young award winner Blake Snell who they just signed to an extension. He may be the best pitcher in baseball. They also have a lot of youth in Austin Meadows, Willy Adames and Tyler Glasnow which could lead to some upside.

Weakness - Where’s the pop? Mike Zunino and Tommy Pham may be the only players with the potential to hit 20 plus homeruns. Austin Meadows is unproven but has shown some power in the minor leagues. The lack of run support could put pressure on the pitchers to throw shutouts in every outing. They also go into the 2019 season without any proven closer. Sergio Romo and Alex Colome combined for 36 saves last year but they departed via free agency.

Prospects to Make an Impact - The Rays are a prospect machine, trading veterans early when their tread is gone. Brent Honeywell was supposed to be in the rotation last year but lost 2019 to Tommy John. He will start the season in the minors and could be up by mid-season. The Rays will want to watch his innings. Brandon Lowe and Nat Lowe can provide some instant highs on offense. Brandon could be used in a utility role and Nate will provide big time power at first base.

Expected Finish - They will fall short of a wildcard appearance and fall far behind the Yankees and Red Sox in third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Strengths - This is a team that may not be at full throttle tanking but they have no expectation on making the playoffs. They signed a number of veterans to fill out positions and could trade them as the season winds down, bringing up prospects from the minor league so they can eye the future.

Weakness - The starting rotation has promise but Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez had ERAs bordering 5 last year. This is a rotation that could benefit from an opener. A lot of pitchers whose best years are in the past.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Vladimir Guerrero will be ready to post himself at third in May. He is the best prospect in baseball and should be in the Blue Jays opening day lineup. Danny Jansen is a catcher who can provide some offense. Last year he played 31 games in the major leagues so he should take over the starting role in 2019. With a porous rotation Sean-Reid Foley should see some time in the rotation by May. He made seven starts last year but was prone to the long ball.

Expected Finish - They went into this season knowing they had no chance to make the playoffs. They will finish far behind the Rays with double digit wins above the Orioles.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Strengths - When they were losing at least they bashed homeruns. That is in doubt now. If Chris Davis can resurrect his career he would attract some fans to the park. Hopefully those that do come to the games will see the hustle of youth.

Weakness - The Orioles used to win games with defense. That will not be on display this year. The starting rotation had a major league worst 5.48 ERA last year. That could go higher this year with the poor defense and the average to below average arms.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Rule V pick Richie Martin will play shortstop. His offense was a surprise last year but his defense also took a hit. Last year he made 16 errors in just 96 games at AA. It won’t take Austin Hayes long to get called back up to play right field. Last year foot injuries limited him to 66 games. Drew Jackson is a second Rule V pick who the Orioles appear to be keeping on the major league roster, He will fill a utility role around the infield. Hunter Harvey could make an appearance by mid-season but don’t be surprised if it is in the bullpen. Keegan Akin is a solid lefty who will be given an opportunity before the year is out. The Orioles have to show something for the Manny Machado trade so expect opportunities for Dean Kremer in the rotation and Zach Pop in the bullpen. Even Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz could find himself in right field by mid-season, moving Hays to left.

Expected Finish - They will battle the Marlins and Royals for the number one pick in 2020. They finished last year with the worst record, breaking a record for number of losses during a season. Two straight years with the number one pick is how one resurrects a franchise.