Archive for April, 2020

KBO to Begin May 5

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

The Korean Baseball Organization will start their season on May 5. The exhibition season has been expanded from four games to seven to give the Korean teams more opportunities to have their pitchers get some innings. It is unclear whether the full 144 game schedule will be played. That depends on if there are COVID-12 cases that involve players during the season.

The plan is for the season to end November 2. The post season will start two days later and end on November 28. The post season games will all be held in the only domed stadium in Korea, Gocheok Skydome in Seoul. The first round of the post season games will be reduced from a best of five to a best of three.

The games will be played with no fans, but cheerleaders will be allowed at the games. Doubleheaders and Monday games will be played to make up for rainouts. Normally, the KBO schedules rainouts at the end of their schedule.

Rakuten Monkeys Off to Fast Start

Monday, April 20th, 2020

The defending champion Rakuten Monkeys have gotten off to a quick start with five straight wins to open the season. They swept a three game series against the Fubon Guardians, a series made more exciting by a rare brawl. So much for social distancing.

The brawl started when Fubon Guardians pitcher Henry Sosa hit infielder Kuo Yen-Wen in the posterior. It was the fourth straight inside pitch thrown to the Rakuten Monkeys infielder. Brawls are rare in Taiwan baseball, especially in front of an empty stadium filled with robots.

Eleven Sports Twitter feed has been announcing the Rakuten Monkeys games in English. They claimed to have close to a million views for two games live streamed with English commentary last week. The games are live but United States viewers would have to get up at 6 AM to watch games, since there is about a 12 hour time difference.

KBO Set to Start Season in Early May

Monday, April 20th, 2020

South Korea is another country lauded for its response to the corona virus pandemic. Now they are getting ready to start their baseball season in early May. They have already scheduled a series of four exhibition games for each team until April 27 and then the schedule will be announced. Prior to this the KBO teams have been practicing, but the only games that have been played have been intra-squad games. Some foreign pitchers who had been sent home and have just returned were subject to 14 day quarantines and have only just begun to practice. They may not be ready to pitch in the exhibition games.

At least to start the season the games will be held without fans. Players will have their temperatures checked twice before games and complete daily health questionnaires that have been given to them on an app. They will be asked to wear masks in clubhouses and in all areas of the stadium during games except for when they are on the field and in the dugout (the bullpen was not addressed). High fives and handshakes will be discouraged and spitting will be prohibited (wonder if that will lead to ejection or fine).

The umpires will be required to wear masks and gloves and they will be prohibited from making any contact with the players. All other baseball personnel who travel with the team will be required to wear masks and gloves. It is unclear if the umpires are subject to the same temperature checks and completion of health questionnaire as the players, but I would assume that would be the case.

If a player is found to test positive for COVID-19 he will be quarantined and the stadium where he last played will be closed for at least two days. If the player tests positive there will be contact tracing and others he came in contact with will be subject to 14 day quarantine (that could end up being the whole team). The KBO would not immediately halt play but will hold a meeting with team executives to discuss strategies.

The information above was obtained from the Yonhap News agency.

Top Venezuelan Prospects - American League

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Venezuela has not kept up with the Dominican Republic in the last couple years with the number of premium prospects coming out of the country. Cuba was at the point of surpassing them, but the United States placing further restrictions on travel from Cuba made it more difficult for Cuban ball players to emigrate. With the perceived dangers out of Venezuela the scouting has been reduced and teams move their Venezuelan prospects to Dominican facilities to work out.

In the American League some prospects from last year’s list have dropped. Luis Rengifo and Luis Arraez are two players who graduated to the major leagues. Rengifo, the number seven prospect last year will probably end up in a utility role while Arraez, who fell a spot behind him will have a couple years as a starter. His lack of power will require him to continue to hit for average if he hopes to keep his starting role. One player was traded to the National League.

Below are the top ten prospects out of Venezuela from the American League. No real superstars from this bunch, but some solid major league possibilities. A bucket load of shortstops on this list, many of whom will have to turn to third or second base.

1. Aaron Bracho 2B (Indians) - The Indians spent $1.5 million to sign him in 2017. Aaron does not have one outstanding tool, but also has no weak points to his game. He missed the 2018 season because of an arm injury so he didn’t even make the top ten list last year. Now he is number one in what is not an illuminating group. Last year he hit .281 with a .570 slugging percentage. His 28/29 walk to whiff ratio for a .402 OBA was impressive. The tools are there for him to be an average shortstop but the Indians had him playing second base last year to get his bat in the lineup. Currently his power is more oriented towards the gap but as he matures he should consistently hit in the double digit homerun area. If the season ever starts he could begin it in Low A, but at 19 years old he has plenty of time to develop.

2. Brayan Rocchio SS (Indians) - Another 2017 signing, but at $125,000 the Indians may have gotten a better bargain. His defensive tools for playing shortstop are better than Bracho, with the arm a little above average and his legs carrying faster speed, which results in better range. What Brayan lacks is power. Last year was his second season in short season ball after having success in the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Rookie League in 2018, hitting .335 at the two levels. Last year was not as strong in the New York Penn League, with his average dropping to .250 and his slugging at .373. He is noted for his high baseball IQ which has given him the nickname professor. He is a little ahead of Bracho on the depth chart, but they should be the infield combo at Low A next year.

3. Maximo Acosta SS (Rangers) - Maximo is the third new player on this list. The Rangers signed him in 2019 for $1.65 million. He has yet to play in the minor leagues, but his tools are strong enough to carry a lot of buzz. The defensive tools, including strong arm and decent range are there for him to play shortstop. The bat is also strong and should hit for a high average and develop some easy double digit homerun power. The 2020 season will be an indication of whether all of that is true. Kevin Maitan also had all those accolades and as his tools failed to progress he dropped off the list. The 2020 season will be a critical one. He could start it in the Dominican League or stateside in the Rookie League. He will be 17 years of age, young to be playing stateside.

4. Darwinzon Hernandez LHP (Red Sox) - Back in 2013 the Red Sox signed Darwinzon for just $7,500. Six years later he made his Red Sox debut, pitching mainly in the bullpen with 28 relief appearances and one start. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and has a little more zip to it when in the bullpen. He was a starter in the minor leagues, but a lack of command and inconsistent secondary pitches make the bullpen the best fit for him. He gets a lot of whiffs, averaging 16.9 strikeouts per 9 innings in his 29 major league appearances, but he also walked 26 batters in just 30 innings. The inability to throw strikes will lead to greater pitch counts and shorter innings, so the bullpen will be best. He should start the 2020 season in the Red Sox bullpen but that will depend on his second spring whenever the baseball season starts again. Last year Darwinzon was sixth on this list. He becomes the first player from last year to make this year’s list, though the number one player Brusdar Graterol was traded to the National League.

5. Oswaldo Peraza SS (Yankees) - The fourth middle infielder to make this list and the third shorstop. Oswaldo was signed by the Yankees for $175,000 in 2016 when they were restricted to signing players for $300,000 or less. The tool set is there for him to be an above average defensive shortstop with a strong arm and good range. He makes solid contact with the bat, though his ability to hit for power is below average. Last year he hit .263 with a .340 slugging, but he did make his debut in Low A, hitting .273 with a 16/28 walk to whiff ratio. Oswaldo has the speed to steal bases, swiping 23 last year, 18 of them in Low A. He is still a teenager and won’t turn 20 until June. Expect him to have another go at Low A with an early promotion to High A if he does well.

6. Franklin Perez RHP (Tigers) - Franklin was number two on this list last year. The Astros signed him for $1 million back in 2014 and he worked his way up to being their top prospect. They traded him to Detroit as the key player in the Justin Verlander trade in 2017. Injuries have only allowed Franklin to work 27 innings in nine starts the last couple years. It may be best to see how he handles the bullpen. When healthy Franklin can get his fastball into the mid-90s, but shoulder issues have put those velocities in question. His secondary pitches also had the potential to be above average pitches, with his changeup being his top pitch. Last year he only had two starts in High A. The 2020 season will be key. At 22 years of age his prospect clock is ticking. The Tigers have to hope to get him some AA time before the season ends so he can be ready for his major league debut sometime in 2021.

7. Luisangel Acuna SS (Rangers) - Luisangel is the brother of Ronald. Those are some big shoes to fill. He would like to have bigger shoes as he stands only 5′8″ to 5′9″. His brother can tell Luisangel the story of how a team told him to go home because he was too small to play baseball. Ronald grew to a nice 6′0″. Luisangel signed for a bigger bonus that his brother, his $425,000 more than $300,000 greater than his older brother. He also plays a different position, though he has the speed and the arm to play centerfield. He lacks the power of his brother, but at 17 he could still grow. Last year in the Dominican Summer League he raked for a .342 average, stealing 17 bases and producing an impressive 34/26 walk to whiff ratio. The 2020 season should see him in the short season leagues where the pitching will be much better.

8. Gabriel Rodriguez SS (Indians) - This is the third Indian middle infielder on this list. The Indians rolled out $2.1 million for Gabriel in 2018. He made his debut last year in the Dominican Summer League and was later promoted to the Rookie League for 18 games, where he only hit .218. He doesn’t carry any one outstanding tool, but tends to be above average in all phases. At 6′2″ the power could develop as he matures. This could slow him down defensively and force a move to third. The 2020 season should see another year in Rookie ball with a promotion to Low A towards the end of the year.

9. Arol Vera SS (Angels) - The seventh middle infielder among this group. A lot of unknowns about him since he signed in 2019 and didn’t play any minor league ball. Since the Angels paid $2 million to sign him the skills have got to be there. Currently he is an average runner, which could get worse as he matures, so a move to third base is probable. The power is there for him to make the move. The Angels like his intangibles. Arol could start the season in Rookie ball in 2020.

10. Everson Pereira OF (Yankees) - The tenth spot is what he occupied last year. A disappointing season (.171) and injuries (hamstring and ankle) limited him to 18 games. He was not on this list until Brusdar Graterol got traded from the American League to the National. The Yankees opened up their pocketbook to pay Everson $1.5 million in 2017. The tools are all there, with power, speed, arm and the ability to hit for average. He will still be a teenager for the entire 2020 season so another start in Rookie ball with a promotion to Low A before the season ends would be good for him.

Baseball in a Bubble

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Curious what will happen if major league baseball is played in a bubble at spring training sites in Arizona and Florida. Will the major leagues do frequent testing to determine the health of the players? And if one of those players tests positive for the corona virus will that put him on the disabled list? What happens to his 25-28 teammates and the opposition that played against his team? Will they get immediately tested to determine if they are safe? And if the tests continue to take five to 12 days in order to get results will the games continue to be played?

The “game changer” that was supposed to conduct testing and produce same day results does not appear to be a panacea. The cartridges to conduct the testing are in short supply. Should those cartridges be used for ballplayers to play a game or our health care workers who are caring for patients?

Perhaps continued temperature tests can identify symptoms, but unless you can get back quick results myworld sees a quagmire in starting professional sports. All it takes is one positive test to muck things up. The CPBL is starting their season. They will be the guinea pig to see what kind of pitfalls they run into. They are already playing games in front of no fans. But if one player tests positive for the corona virus, how will that impact the league?

Lions Defeat Brothers in 11

Monday, April 13th, 2020

It’s been awhile since professional baseball has been played. The first game was to be Saturday but that game got rained out. Sunday saw the first game between the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions and the Chinatrust Brothers. In fitting fashion, the game took 11 innings to play but the Lions pulled it out with three runs in the top of the 11th to win 4-1.

Baseball is back - at least in Taiwan. Unfortunately, the boxscores are in Chinese so I can’t read them but two homeruns by the Lions and a two run single in the 11th appear to have made a difference in the game.

Myworld has a 7-11 baseball jersey. This is the day to wear it.

Baseball is Almost Back - in Taiwan

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Taiwan has made many good policy decisions in fighting the corona virus. They recognized the seriousness of the disease in January and as a result there cases are minimal. Taiwan had their first recognized case on January 21 (a day after the United States had recognized cases) and took actions to contain it (unlike the United States, which just hoped it would go away, especially when warmer weather arrived in April). Now they only have less than 400 cases with only five deaths, while the United States faces much larger numbers and the possibility of no baseball season. Granted, Taiwan and the United States are vastly different in size but the comparisons on the results are stark.

Life has not changed too much as a result of Taiwan’s early actions. Masks, temperature checks have allowed economic activity to continue as normal. There have been no school closures or business closures, though social distancing is still respected. Baseball was also supposed to be back on Saturday, an opener between the Rakuten Monkeys and the Chinatrust Brothers. Taiwan was still being cautious with the fear of corona virus spreading so they made the decision to play the games in front of no fans, though a number of robots would be in the stands acting as fans.

Unfortunately, rain prevented the opener from being played. So they will again try to play the game on Sunday, the first professional baseball game to be played in close to a month. Myworld is looking forward to at least report on a result of a baseball game. It has been too long to be without.

World Baseball Classics and Olympics Could Clash in 2021

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

With the corona virus playing havoc on the world stage the Olympics being held in Tokyo, Japan moved to 2021. While the World Baseball Classic (WBC) will be held in March 2021 and the Olympics in June of 2021 there are still some issues.

Many of the Asian countries postpone their season to compete in the Olympics, if their teams qualify. Japan, the host of the Olympics is one team that has qualified. Korea, Mexico and Israel are the three other qualifying countries. Two additional Olympic qualifiers need to be played to determine the other participants for a total of six countries competing. Dates for those events have not been set yet, with the last qualifier dependent on the date of the next to last qualifier.

The WBC was hoping to expand to four additional countries, increasing the number of countries competing to 20. Two qualifiers were supposed to be played in March to identify those additional four countries. They had to be postponed because of the corona virus and no new dates have been established.

Because Japan will be starting early to make up for the days in their season lost to the Olympics, their season will begin in March. Just like the major leagues, they have their best compete in the WBC. But unlike the major leagues, they also have their best compete in the Olympics. So they may either have to send college or industrial league players to compete in the WBC in March or NPB teams will have to sacrifice doing without during the NPB season those players selected to the WBC roster. Just like the major league owners, I doubt the NPB owners will allow their players to compete in the WBC during the season.

While the WBC is organized by the major leagues, they rely heavily on the advertising money Japan sponsors contribute to the event. If the Japan professionals are not playing in this event, the advertising money will not be as great. As we all know, money talks. And since Japan is hosting the Olympics, that will take priority over the WBC even though in the past Japan has hosted many of the events at the WBC. There has always been some rancor over their lack of influence in the WBC.

One challenge for Japan and their hosting WBC games is those games are played at NPB stadiums. If those stadiums are not available it will become difficult for them to host games. That would either involve major scheduling revisions, which they are already doing for the Olympics, or playing at stadiums that normally do not have NPB games.

Another issue facing the WBC is at what point do they identify the other four teams to compete. The 16 they have already identified were easy to select since they did not eliminate any country from the previous WBC. To identify the new participants they will have to conduct these tournaments in November if they want to have teams eligible for March, and the major leagues has never been fond of holding events in November, especially this year if the major and minor league season need to be extended.

The other complicating issue is again the corona virus. Teams have not been able to practice. There is still a lot of uncertainty about when this pandemic will end. Many are of the view that organized sports may not be able to begin until November. This will make it difficult for teams to prepare for a qualifier for the WBC if those time frames prove realistic.

It is also still not clear what kind of team Korea will bring if they move their season openers in 2021 to March to accommodate the Olympics. They are another country that plays on postponing their professional season for the Olympics. Since they are not hosting the Olympics they may still be willing to send their best to the WBC and either shorten their season or extend the season into November. With the corona virus issues they have already been talking of extending the 2020 season and having playoff games at neutral sites at baseball parks with domed stadiums. Doing it again in 2021 may not be attractive if they had issues in 2020.

Not that myworld has any influence, but it might be wise for the WBC to push their event back to 2022.

Top Cuban Prospects - National League

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Myworld had a tough time finding that sure number one Cuban prospect for the National League. Last year Adrian Morejon was number one. This year he has dropped. Yadier Alvarez and Yoan Lopez graduated from last year’s list. With just two players dropping (Adolis Garcia and Vladimir Gutierrez) that left room for only four new players on the list. Below are the top Cuban prospects in the National League for 2020.

1. Jose Garcia SS (Reds) - He jumped all the way up from number 9. Perhaps I was too influenced by the kind of spring he was having before the corona virus hit. Unlike Luis Robert, the number one Cuban prospect in the American League Jose is not blessed with extraordinary tools. The Reds signed him for $5 million in 2017. He moved from second to short and has shown he possesses the glove and the arm for the position. His bat was a question mark. The first year he hit just .245 in Low A with a .344 slugging average. Last year he improved his hitting in High A with a .280 average and a .436 slugging. Most of the increase in slugging was due to his 37 doubles, an increase of 15 over last year. Garcia will mainly be a gap hitter, though his 6′2″ frame could reflect double digit homerun power as he matures. Jose should play AA next year. With a good season he could get a callup in 2020, but more likely 2021.

2. Randy Arozarena OF (Rays) - He went from not appearing on this list last year to number 2. At 25 he may be a little old to be a highly rated prospect. The Cardinals traded him this year in the Matthew Liberatore trade to free some outfield space. The Rays outfield is a bit crowded as well but Arozarena should find himself somewhere in the lineup before the season ends. The Cardinals signed him for $1.25 million in 2016. His power seems to be improving with 15 homeruns between AA and AAA with a slugging percentage of .571. This led to a promotion to the major leagues where he added one more tater. He has the speed to cover centerfield and the arm to play right. As a centerfielder he would probably be average defensively, but put him on the corner and he could win gold gloves. He hopes to build on his 2019 season and earn a starting role in 2020 for the Rays.

3. Victor Victor Mesa OF (Marlins) - He and his younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. defected on the same day. Victor Victor got the brunt of the bonus money signing for $5.2 million while his younger brother signed for just $1 million. Victor Victor is five years older than his younger brother so in due time Victor Jr may develop into a better player. Their dad is a Cuban Hall of Famer and one of the reasons Victor Victor left Cuba was the pressure the Cuban fans placed on him to meet their expectations of the son of a Hall of Famer. The transition has been a struggle. In High A he hit only .252 which resulted in a promotion to AA where he only hit .178 for a .235 average. He failed to have a ball sail over the park in 464 at bats and only slugged .263 with a .274 OBA. If he had put those numbers up in Cuba they would be roasting him but in the minor leagues he is barely noticed. Defensively he has great speed to cover ground in centerfield with a very strong arm. He does make good contact with the ball but the exit velocity is lacking. If he wants to make it to the major league he needs to do it with a better bat. At 24 years of age in July his best bet is to play AA to get him close to the major leagues for a 2021 debut.

4. Michel Baez RHP (Padres) - At 6′8″ Michel has a dominating presence. The Padres signed him for $3 million in 2016. Last year he made his major league debut, getting 23 relief appearances. As a starter his command just wasn’t there and a quality breaking pitch was lacking. His fastball/change combination were better suited for the bullpen. His fastball reaches 99. In AA he averaged 12.7 whiffs per nine innings, but that dropped to 8.5 in the major leagues. Expect him to start the year in the Padres bullpen.

5. Malcolm Nunez 3B (Cardinals) - The Cardinals are a little crowded at third with Nolan Gorman and Elehuris Montero ahead of him in the minor leagues. Malcolm was signed for only $300,000 in 2018. The Cardinals were rewarded with a power bat in 2018 where a .414 average and 13 homeruns with a .774 slugging average in the Rookie League put him on the prospect map. He could not replicate those numbers last year, struggling with a .183 average in Low A. He got sent back down to Rookie ball where he hit .254, still not near his average of the previous year. His burly physique will limit him to third base or first base. His foot speed is too slow to make it as an outfielder. His power will reward his team for putting his bat in the lineup but a position may be lacking. Perhaps when he is ready the National League will have the DH. That will be around 2023 if he can get past Rookie ball.

6. Andy Pages OF (Dodgers) - Compared to what the Dodgers have spent on Cuban prospects Pages was a bargain at $300,000. They signed him in 2018 when international salary caps were in place, protecting the Dodgers against themselves. Last year was the first full year Andy played in the United States and he showed some excellent power, slugging 19 homeruns in Rookie ball. He also hit for an acceptable .298 average despite 79 whiffs in just 63 games. Pages has average speed and could survive in centerfield, but his strong arm makes him a better fit for right. At 19 he is still young, but the tools he has are impressive. There is still a couple years of minor leagues he has to play before he is ready to wear a Dodger uniform, but he is certainly a player to watch.

7. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) - Last year Morejon was first on this list. An off year where he got lit up in a brief major league appearance (10.13 ERA) calls into question whether his stuff is good enough to be a top of the rotation starter. Major league hitters mashed him at a .385 clip. Even his AA outings were disappointing (4.25 ERA), although he whiffed 11 hitters per nine innings and limited opponents to a .215 average. His fastball hits the mid-90s but he has too many outings where he just doesn’t know where it is going. His secondary pitches also show promise for the rotation. Another issue that keeps coming up is his susceptibility to getting injured. He has yet to pitch over 70 innings in a season. This could result in an eventual move to the bullpen. Last year his season ended early because of shoulder issues, so he will start the 2020 season in AAA. Eventually, if the injuries keep occurring he will be moved to the bullpen.

8. Johan Oviedo RHP (Cardinals) - The Cardinals signed Oviedo for $1.9 million in 2016, the same year they also signed Arozarena. At 6′6″ Johan has intimidating size, but all that length makes it difficult for him to throw strikes. At 22 he is still young. He dominated at High A going 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five starts. His mid-90s fastball can get swings and misses but his inability to find the plate resulted in 64 walks in 113 innings at AA for a 5.65 ERA in 23 starts. He may have to repeat AA in 2020 but a good year could see him crack the Cardinals rotation. He should be ready to compete for a spot in 2021.

9. Ronald Bolanos RHP (Padres) - Bolanos is the third Padre on this list. They signed him in 2016 for $2.25 million, the same year as the signings of Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon. He started his season in High A, but before the year was done he found himself wearing a major league uniform. The fastball hits the mid-90s and the breaking balls (slider and curve) are solid. His change still needs work as does the command of his pitches. In his major league debut he walked 12 batters in 20 innings resulting in a 5.95 ERA. The Padres have a lot of options for their starting rotation, so if Bolanos still struggles to find the plate he could be another arm used out of the bullpen. The 2020 season should see him work more innings for the Padres.

10. Victor Mesa Jr OF (Marlins) - Myworld was torn between Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers and Victor. Miguel may lack the power or defense to play third and his speed would be a detriment to the outfield. Without power first base would not be a good fit. So we went with Victor Jr., who signed for $1 million, $4 million less than his brother. Last year saw him have a better year than his older brother, hitting .284 in Rookie ball with the only homerun among the Mesa brothers. Like his older brother, Victor Jr. is not expected to have a power bat but his speed is not as fast as his brother. Playing a corner outfield without that power is not a good fit. He is only 18 so there is plenty of time to work on improving the bat. He is still a few years away from playing for the Marlins.

Robotic Fans in Taiwan

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

According to CPBLstats.com the Rakuten Monkeys will put out 500 robot mannequins to act as fans in their home opener that is supposed to be played on April 11. That will address the issue of empty seats. It is not clear from the article whether these robots have the ability to cheer.

Taiwan will begin their season with no fans. You can see pictures of the robots at CPBLstats.com. Looking forward to the opening of the CPBL season when that will be the first baseball played in awhile.