Archive for September, 2019

NPB Playoff Teams Decided on the Last Day

Monday, September 30th, 2019

In the Central League the Hiroshima Carp needed just two wins in their last six games or the Hanshin Tigers needed to lose two of their last eight and the Carp would go onto the playoffs. The Carp could win only one and the Tigers kept winning and on the last day of the season the two teams were tied for the last wild card spot.

The Hanshin Tigers won their last game, beating the Chunichi Dragons 3-0. Koyo Aoyagi threw five shutout innings before turning it over to his bullpen. He gave up only two hits and struck out five. Five different relievers threw the last four innings, also giving up just two hits to complete the shutout. Kyuji Fujikawa pitched the last inning to pick up his 16th save.

Yusuke Oyama drove in the only run with an RBI single in the fourth. The two other runs scored on wild pitches in the fourth and fifth innings. Because ties are possible in Japan a win by half a game in the standings is not unusual. The Tigers finished the season with six ties while the Carp only had three.

The Tigers will travel Tokyo to play the Yokohama Bay Stars to play a best two out of three, all played in the Bay Stars park. The winner will play the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo. The Giants/Tigers rivalry is compared to the Red Sox/Yankees so the media would like to see another historic Giants/Tigers playoff to see who will represent the Central in the Japan Series.

In the Pacific Conference the Rakuten Golden Eagles (who just purchased the LaMiga Monkeys in the CPBL) will play the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at the Hawks park. The winner will play the Saitama Seibu Lions at the Lions park.

In the conference series game they sort of play a best of seven, but they only play six games. All the games are played in the conference winners park and they also enter the series with a 1-0 lead, being given a win before the series even begins. The NPB allowed two wild card teams, but they made it very hard for them to advance to the Japan Series.

Top Minor League Shortstop Prospects

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Below are myworld’s top minor league shortstop prospects. There is a bundle of athletic talent at this position. With this list our infield is complete. Next will be the outfield and then the pitching staff.

1) Wander Franco (Rays) - Any player who would be considered the top prospect in baseball in 2020 has to be considered as the top shortstop prospect. But at one time Jurickson Profar was the top prospect in baseball, but he is still struggling to make his mark in the major leagues. Wander has the ability to hit for average and power. In 2018 he hit .351 with a 1.005 OPS, slugging 11 homeruns in just 61 games in the rookie league. In 2019 he got his opportunity to play full season ball and hit .327 with an .885 OPS and 9 homeruns. His defensive tools are not superb, but they are good enough to play shortstop. If he has to move to second or third base the bat is certainly strong enough for him to be an All Star at any position he plays. Next year he should start his season in AA and he could reach the majors as a teenager. Willy Adames is currently the shortstop but he has yet to break out the offensive tools that Franco possesses.

2) Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals) - With newness comes expectations of grandeur. No one has witnessed the warts yet. Witt was the second pick in the 2019 draft. Myworld saw him put on a homerun derby spectacle at the All Star game in D.C. His dad is Bobby Witt and he was a first round pick way back in 1985. His son has chosen to swing the bat rather than pitch. He has five pretty impressive tools. The bat carries plenty of pop and he should be able to hit for average. In his first taste of minor league baseball he hit .262 with just one homerun for an uninspiring .670 OPS. His legs show a lot of speed as witnessed by his five triples and 9 stolen bases in just 37 games. Defensively he has good range and a rocket arm that can throw in the mid-90s if he was asked to pitch. Next year he should make his debut in full season ball where he will be expected to show a little more pop than he did in 2019.

3) Royce Lewis (Twins) - Back in 2017 Royce was the first pick in the draft. You would think this would still make him the top prospect among shortstops but some warts have popped up. In the AFL the Twins have been playing him at other positions, using him at centerfield and third base, in case shortstop continues to be occupied by Jorge Polanco and they need his bat in the lineup. His bat should hit for average and power, but in 2019 he could only manage a .236 average. His strikeout rate went up leading to a drop in average. An OPS of .661 is very disappointing for a player of his tools. He has great speed and should be an above average defender at shortstop, but needs to improve his consistency fielding his position. Last year he finished at AA, which is where he should start the 2020 season. He could see some time in the majors next year if he can find some quality at bats.

4) Ronny Mauricio (Mets) - The Mets are flush with shortstops, with Amed Rosario improving on his defense in the second half, with a bat that has come to life, filling the major league roster. Mauricio is another live bat that can play the position. He is still a few years away from the major leagues. At 6′3″ he could out grow the position, but at this point he would have the bat to move to third or second base. As he fills out the bat will hit for power. In 2019 he hit for a .665 OPS in Low A ball. The arm is good enough to play third or short, but his lack of speed could limit his range at short as he fills out. He also needs to show a little more patience at the plate to take advantage of his hitting potential. Next year Ronny should see half a season at High A and perhaps half a season at AA, depending on how he develops. He could see the majors in 2021 as a 20 year old.

5) Jazz Chisolm (Marlins) - Two shortstops were signed out of the Bahamas in 2015. Lucius Fox signed with the Giants for $6 million and Jazz signed with the Diamondbacks for just $200,000. Jazz is the player on this list. The Diamondbacks traded him to the Marlins in 2019 for Zac Gaillen. Though Zac is a nice pitching prospect, Jazz may turn out to be a premier shortstop. With the Diamondbacks he struggled to make contact, which resulted in a low average (.204), but he did show some power with 18 homeruns. With the Marlins the average went up (.284) and the power was still there to hit three homeruns in 23 games. Defensively, he has the tools to stay at shortstop. The Marlins might see him with their big league club some time by mid-season in 2020.

6) O’Neil Cruz (Pirates) - The Pirates have been developing some pretty vanilla shortstops over the years in Jody Mercer, Kevin Newman, Kevin Cramer and Cole Tucker. If Cruz can stay at shortstop he could fall far right of that Bell curve. At 6′7 myworld expects him to move to first base or right field, but if he can stay at short he could provide consistent 30 plus homerun power at the position. For a big man with a large strike zone he makes pretty good contact. In 2019 he reached AA but he did not make a big impact, hitting just .269 in 35 games with one homerun and a .412 slugging percentage. After a down 2019 the Pirates will be in rebuilding mode for 2020 and Cruz should be a big part of that. Expect him to start next year in AA.

7) Gavin Lux (Dodgers) - After an injury to Max Muncy, the Dodgers called Gavin up in September to handle second base. With Corey Seager at short that position could be filled for the future years. The 2016 first round pick had hit .392 in AAA and combined for 26 homeruns between AA and AAA in just 113 games. He struggled a bit with the Dodgers, hitting just .240 with two homeruns. After a poor 2017 season many were calling him a bust. After two years of hitting .320 plus he is now firmly entrenched in the Dodgers plans. The tools are there to play shortstop, but he has shown a lack of consistency in finding first base with his throws. A move to second may make the throws just a bit easier. Expect him to start the 2020 season with the Dodgers either as their second baseman, or someone who can play second, short and third.

8) Jose Devers (Marlins) - With the acquisition of Jazz the Marlins have two quality defenders they can put at short. Jose is the brother of Rafael, who plays third base for the Red Sox. Jose may not carry the power of his older brother, but time will tell. He just finished his third year with the Marlins and he has only hit one homerun. Jose makes good contact with the bat and last year hit .322 at three different levels, rising all the way to High A. He also has the speed to steal bases and turn singles into doubles. Defensively he has the tools to be an above average shortstop. Next year in his age 20 season he should see AA.

9) Marco Luciano (Giants) - The Giants are in a rebuilding mode and Marco should be a important part of that process. He is another shortstop discovered in the Bahamas, as they replace San Pedro de Macoris and Curacao as the land of the next wave of shortstops. The Giants traded Lucius Fox, who they signed out of the Bahamas for $6 million to the Rays, then went back to the well to sign Marco for $2.6 million. He has the potential for five tools, showing the tools for a strong bat, good speed, solid arm and strong defense. The 2019 season was his first year to show off those tools and he hit .322 with 10 homeruns. This should allow him to start the 2020 season in a full season league.

10) Jorge Mateo (Athletics) - Jorge has been around awhile, signed by the Yankees way back in 2012. He complained back in 2016 when he was not promoted to AA. His prospect status dropped after the 2018 season when he hit only .230 in AAA with just three homeruns. He got his mojo back in 2019 after hitting .289 with 29 doubles, 14 triples and 19 homeruns. There is some sneaky power in his bat. The Athletics have tried him in centerfield and second base. With Marcus Semien at shortstop they do not need help at that position. Expect Jorge to make the Athletics roster in the 2020 season as a super utility player who can move all around the diamond. His speed is terrorizing on the bases, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Nats Pull Out Victory Day After Clinching Playoff Spot

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Normally, teams do not play as well the day after clinching a playoff spot. There are a lot of celebrations and the manager usually rests the top players the next day. Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner were not in the lineup today, but despite that the Nationals were able to squeeze out a victory against the Phillies 5-2. Another win and they will complete a rare five game sweep.

Both Anibal Sanchez and Drew Smyly were sharp early. Smyly retired the first 12 hitters he faced, seven of them on strikeouts. Sanchez retired nine of the first ten hitters he faced.

The Phillies struck first and it was Bryce Harper who led the charge in the fourth inning. He lined a hit into left center and clearly did not want to settle for a single. He took advantage of a somewhat casual Juan Soto and Victor Robles pursuit of the ball and turned it into a double. Rhys Hoskins dribbled the next pitch from Sanchez up the middle and into centerfield. The determined Harper raced home to score the first run. The one thing you can say about Harper is he can hustle with the best of them, but he can also turn it off just as easily if circumstances do not go well.

The Nationals tied it in the bottom frame. After Smyly had retired the first 12 batters, Howie Kendrick ran the count full before pulling a pitch into the left field bleachers for his 17th homerun.

Both pitchers continued their zeros until Brad Miller took the first pitch from Anibal in the seventh and sent it over the Nationals bullpen into the third deck. Miller had hit two homeruns his previous game. Scott Kingery laced a two out single and stole second and third, taking advantage of the shift being deployed for Andrew Knapp. Sanchez was able to strike out Knapp to limit the damage to one.

Just like they did in the third, the Nationals battled back in the bottom frame. Asdrubal Cabrera sent Smyly to the showers with his one out single. Yan Gomes lined a double past the glove of Rhys Hoskins that settled into the right field corner to put runners at second and third. Victor Robles drove in one run with a shallow fly ball to center, the throw skipping past the catcher into the back stop, otherwise it would have been a close play at home. Wilmer Difo punched a single into right center to score Gomes and give the Nationals a 3-2 lead.

The Nationals added two more insurance runs in the eighth off Jose Alvarez. Brian Dozier led the inning off, taking a 2-0 pitch from Alvarez into the left field bleachers. Cesar Hernandez booted a slow roller from Adam Eaton for an error. Hoskins misjudged a foul popup from Kendrick and Kendrick took advantage of the extended life by lining a single to left field, Eaton advancing to third. Juan Soto scored Eaton with a deep fly to center.

Sean Doolittle came on to pick up the easy save in the ninth. He looked sharp, striking out three hitters. He gave a one out single to Jean Segura, but struck out the next two hitters to complete the save.

Game Notes: Harper was critical of the fans in the bleachers in right field. In the eighth inning he was responding to them, almost signaling for them to bring it on. After the game he said the fans had taken it too far, but did not provide specifics as to what the fans had done. He did take the opportunity to praise the Philly fans when comparing them to Nationals fans, looking forward to returning to Philly and their 60,000 loyal fans. Myworld does not blame Harper for going to Philly. Virtually all the fans who are booing Harper would have made the same decision as Harper did when leaving the Nationals. The Phillies offer was clearly better. The Nationals offer was just enough to save face, but a clear message to Harper that they did not want him. Let’s hope they do not take the same approach with Anthony Rendon…Harper had another hustle double in the eighth that was ruled a single and an error after a Robles bobble…Adam Eaton looked horrible on a ball hit to right, turning the wrong way and watching it hit at the base of the fence. He looked like a player who had still not recovered from a night of heavy libations…Myworld will be the first to admit that we gave up on the Nationals making the playoffs after their 19-31 start. It was a remarkable show of resiliency they were able to come back and clinch a playoff spot after that horrible start…The Nationals still need to win games in order to host the wild card game. They are a game ahead of the Brewers who are just a game and a half behind the Cardinals for the NL Central Division…The loss for the Phillies dropped them to .500 and was another mini-collapse as the season came to a close (18-34 the last two Septembers). This can not be a good thing for the long term future of Gabe Kapler…J.T. Realmuto appears done for the season. He will need minor knee surgery to clean up his meniscus. He becomes a free agent after this season.

Israel Qualifies for Olympics in Baseball

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Israel was able to overcome the European favorites Italy and Netherlands to qualify for the Olympics next year. In the Europe/Africa qualifier Israel defeated South Africa 11-1 to finish in first place in their round robin pool play. They become the second of six teams to qualify for the Olympics in baseball. Japan is the first because they are hosting the tournament.

The Premier 12 which will be held in Tokyo, Japan in November will determine two more. The Americas Olympic qualifier held in Arizona in March 2020 will determine the fifth country. A Global Qualifier to be held in Taiwan in March 2020 will determine the last Olympic qualifier.

Israel had lost to the Czech Republic the previous day to put them tied with Netherlands for first place at 4-1. They won the tie breaker, beating the Netherlands when they played them earlier. Italy hosted the tournament but had a disappointing showing. They lost three games, including their last game against Spain, when a brawl occurred after the game ended.

The one African representative, South Africa went winless for the tournament (0-5).

This is considered a bit of an upset since Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic were all rated ahead of Israel in the World Baseball rankings. But Israel was able to sprinkle in a few ex major and minor leaguers on their roster, names like Jeremy Bleich, Blake Gailen, Tyler Kelly and Daniel Valencia.

Rakuten Buys the LaMigo Monkeys

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Myworld liked the name LaMigo Monkeys. With the purchase of the team by Rakuten the new name could change to Rakuten Golden Eagles. Rakuten has a Japanese team in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) that is named the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Myworld would not object to the Rakuten Golden Monkeys.

Apparently the team will stay in Taoyuan City. Bummer about the name change.

Another Japanense No Hitter

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

The NPB had another no hitter Saturday night. Lefthander Yudai Ono tossed a no hitter against the Hanshin Tigers to lead the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-0 win. It came just a week after the first no hitter of the year thrown by the Hawks Kodai Senga. The Dragons last no hitter was thrown by Daisuke Yamai in 2013. Ono walked one and another runner got on base via an error.

The Dragons scored early scoring one in the second when Dayan Viciedo led off the inning with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch. An error led to another run in the third, that run scoring on a Nobumasa Fukuda sacrifice fly. Viciedo had a perfect 3 for 3 day and drove in the third run with a single in the fifth.

Ono is just ten days shy of his 31st birthday. At 9-8 with a 2.59 ERA Ono is having a solid year. The last year his ERA was below 3 was in 2015. He was a first round pick of the Dragons in 2010 and made his NPB debut in 2011. Ironic that the Hanshin Tigers were Ono’s favorite tem growing up.

The Dragons are still in the playoff hunt a half game behind the Tigers and four games behind the Hiroshima for the last playoff spot.

Netherlands Wins the Eruopean Championship

Monday, September 16th, 2019

The Netherlands wins the European championship defeating Italy 5-1 for their third consecutive European championship. The European Olympic qualifiers play this week with the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Israel all qualifying. In a critical game Czech Republic beat Germany 4-3 to become the fifth European team to qualify. South Africa is the lone African representative to play in the European/African qualifier for the Olympics.

Netherlands 5 Italy 1

Kalian Sams hit a grand slam homerun in the fourth inning and one out later John Polonius hit a solo shot to give the Netherlands an early 5-0 lead. Donny Breek coughed up a solo shot by Alberto Mineo in the fifth. He finished his outing after a two out walk in the fifth. Four different relief pitchers came on to shut out Italy for the remaining 4.1 innings.

Czech Republic 4 Germany 3

This game was critical because it determined the fifth European representative in the Europe/Africa qualifier for the Olympics. Martin Cervenka got the big hit for the Czechs with a three run homer in the third inning to erase a 2-0 German lead. After Germany tied it in the sixth it was a Martin Schneider solo shot in the 8th that put the Czechs up for good.

Germany loaded the bases in the 9th inning with no outs on two walks and a bunt single. The Czechs were able to pull a 6-2-5 double play to get two out and retired the last hitter on a pop up to escape with a victory.

Spain 16 Israel 11

Israel hit five homeruns and Spain just four, but Spain outhit Israel 20 to 11. It was nine inning batting practice.

Italy and Netherlands to Compete for European Championship

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

It was not as easy as in previous years. Spain and Israel battled with Italy and Netherlands in the semi-finals, but the usual suspects prevailed.

Netherlands 1 Spain 0

Spain has some explosive bats but a trio of Dutch pitchers managed to deaden them. Diegomar Markwell went the first three innings, Tom De Blok worked five innings and Juan Carlos Sulbaran danced out of trouble in the ninth to shut down Spain and win 1-0. Netherlands scored the only run of the game in the eighth inning on a clutch Calten Daal two out single that scored Kaliam Sams, who had led the inning off with a single. Spain put two runners on in the top of the ninth, but Jesus Martinez grounded out to end the game.

Lowuin Sacramento had limited Netherlands to just two hits until the eighth. Sacramento slowed down Ademar Rifaela, who had hit 6 homeruns and drove in 16 runs in his last four games. Rifaela went 0 for 3.

Italy 7 Israel 6

Italy rallied for three runs in the eighth to pull out their victory over Israel. Chris Colabello slugged his fifth homerun of the tournament, a solo shot that pulled Italy to within one. Later in the inning Alberto Mineo gave Italy the lead with a two run homer. Israel put two runners on in the ninth but Alex Bassani, working his second inning was able to get the last out to earn the save.

Israel slugged three homeruns to account for all their runs. Daniel Valencia and Rob Paller each hit solo shots while Simon Rosenbaum hit a grand slam homer in the fourth to give Israel a 5-4 lead. Italy scored four runs in the third inning, benefiting from two Israeli errors that made three of those run unearned.

European Championships - Playoff Time

Friday, September 13th, 2019

Below are the final pool standings. The big game on the final day of pool play was Netherlands sending Israel to their first loss in convincing fashion.

Pool A

1) Netherlands 4-1, 2) Israel 4-1, 3) Czech Republic 3-2, 4) Germany 2-3, 5) Great Britain 2-3, 6) Sweden 0-5

Pool B

1) Italy 5-0, 2) Spain 4-1, 3) France 3-2, 4) Belgium 2-3, 5) Austria 1-4, 6) Croatia 0-5

Netherlands 13 Israel 4

A six run seventh broke the game open. Ademar Rifaela continued to stay hot slugging a three run homer in the inning and finishing the game with five RBIs. He also mashed a two run homer in the fifth. That gives him five homeruns and 12 RBIs in his last two games. Hendrik Clementina and Kalian Sams also went deep with solo shots for the Netherlands. Daniel Valencia had a two run blast for Israel.

Italy 11 Belgium 4

Angelo Palumbo pitched five innings of two hit shut out ball and Chris Colabello slugged a three run homer to lead Italy to a win and a first place seed in the playoffs. John Andreoli got the scoring started with his solo homerun in the first. Alessandro Vaglio drove in three runs with a two run single in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth. Beau Maggi drove in two runs, each with a double.

Spain 19 Austria 1

Spain scored a run in all six innings they batted. Jesus Ustariz started the scoring with a two run homer in the first inning. Javier Monzon finished the game with five RBIs, a two run double in the fifth and a three run homer in the sixth. Oscar Angulo scored four times on a perfect 3 for 3 day with one walk.

Great Britain 13 Sweden 7

Great Britain received 9 RBIs from the bottom of their lineup to trigger their win. Nateshon Thomas led the charge with three RBIs and two runs scored on a perfect 3 for 3 day. He also stole two bases.

France 23 Croatia 0

A 14 run second ended this game in six. Bastien Dagneau finished the game with six RBIs. Dagneau had two singles in the third inning that drove in three runs and blasted a 3-run tater in the third.

Netherlands 10 Great Britain 2

In a makeup game the Netherlands romped. Sharlon Schoop drove in three runs on three hits. Rifaela continued his RBI tear with two more. He and Chris Colabello share the RBI lead with 14, but Rifaela has driven in all 14 of his run in the last three games. Orlando Yntema tossed six innings of three hit shutout ball to net the win.

Czech Republic 10 Germany 6

The Czechs win put them in third place in pool A. Matej Hejma clubbed a three run homerun and drove in four to prove the difference in the game.

In a couple of play in playoff games between the bottom two teams in pool play Austria defeated Great Britain 6-1 and Croatia blasted Sweden 17-2.

European Championships - Day 4

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Italy downed Spain to send them to their first loss. And there appears to be a new powerhouse in the European game, with Israel remaining undefeated after four games. The big test for Israel will be today when they play Netherlands.

Italy 13 Spain 3

This was the opportunity for Spain to show Europe that they could play with the big boys. The game was close until the bats for Italy came alive with 10 runs in the last three innings. Chris Colabello got the scoring started for Italy in the first with a two run homer. He would contribute three more RBIs with an RBI single in the 7th and a 2-run single in the 9th. Giuseppe Mazzanti blasted a 3-run homer in the 7th and added an RBI single in the third. Alberto Mineo added a three run homer in the six run ninth. Those three players combined to drive in 12 of the 13 runs scored by Italy.

Spain scored two in the sixth on a Aaron Galvan double to pull within one, 3-2, but that was as close as they would get.

Israel 7 Great Britain 4

Blake Gaillen broke a 3-3 tie with a two run homer in the seventh inning. He added another solo shot in the ninth for insurance. Zach Weiss came on in the ninth to close out the game.

Great Britain had jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on a 3-run homer from Ben Andrews in the first inning.

Netherlands 8 Germany 1

Lars Hujer kept the German bats quiet, limiting them to one run in 6.2 innings. He struck out 11, allowing just four hits. Ademar Rifaela had a pretty impressive hitting day, going deep three times to drive in 7 of the 8 Dutch runs. Sharlon Schoop drove in the first run for the Netherlands with an RBI single in the first. After that it was all Ademar, blasting a 2-run homer in the second, another 2-run homer in the fourth and finally finishing it off with a 3-run homer in the eighth.

France 12 Belgium 2

France stayed alive with a win over Belgium, both teams now sitting at 2-2. France battered the Belgium pitchers for 18 hits and three homeruns. Maxime Lefevre was a perfect 3 for 3 with two doubles and three runs scored. Maei Zan added a 2-run homer in the 4th, Andy Paz hit a 2-run homer in the 8th and Bastien Dagneau made it back to back with his solo shot in the 8th.

Marc-Andre Habeck went seven innings for France, giving up just one run and striking out nine.

Austria 12 Croatia 1

In a battle of the winless, Austria came out on top. An eight run sixth put the game out of reach. Alex Seidl pitched a complete game seven innings. Croatian pitchers walked nine batters. Samuel Hackl got the scoring started for Austria with a 3-run homer in the first. Dominik Talir closed out the scoring with a grand slam in the sixth.

Czech Republic 10 Sweden 3

The Czechs scored five in the first and it was over after that. Martin Cervenka drove in the first two runs with a single. Jan Tomek pitched six innings of one run ball. The Czechs are tied with Great Britain and Germany at 2-2 for third place in pool A.