Archive for December, 2020

Australian League Dealing with Corona Virus Postponements

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

The Australian Baseball League (ABL) is having some difficulty playing their games because of the corona virus. The Sydney area has had an outbreak and because of that there is a 14 day quarantine for anyone going to or leaving Sydney. This prevents teams from going to Sydney to play games or prevents players from the Sydney area to travel to play games.

Three games scheduled for January 1-3 between Sydney and Canberra have been pushed back. Three games between Sydney and Canberra for December 28-31 were postponed last week. A series between Sydney and Melbourne was shortened to two games because players from Melbourne had to leave Sydney before the quarantine was put into effect. Six of the eight games scheduled for the opening day had to be cancelled because of the corona virus.

A number of players from other teams also live in the greater Sydney area that is subject to the quarantine so games between teams other than Sydney have also had to be postponed. The only games being played this weekend in Australia is between the Perth Heat and the Melbourne Aces.

A revised schedule for the ABL to take into account these postponements will be issued tomorrow.

Stars Come Out for the Dominican Playoffs

Monday, December 28th, 2020

The Dominican Republic has started their playoffs. There was a three way tie for first between the Gigants, Aguilas and Toros del Este with 16-14 records. The three first place teams will get a buy in the playoffs in the first round. Estrellas (15-15)and Leones (14-16) also made the playoffs while the lone team eliminated was the Licey Tigers (13-17). Estrellas and Leones will play a best two out of three to see who makes the playoffs with the three first place teams.

Leones and Estrellas played the opener of a best of three. The stars came out for the playoffs. Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Franchy Cordero and Estevan Florial were in the lineup for Leones. Estrellas saw Fernando Tatis Jr, Robinson Cano and Lewin Diaz make their lineup card.

Robinson Cano went deep his first two times to the plate, a solo shot in the first and a three run blast in the third to jump start the Estrellas offense to a 4-1 lead, both his homeruns off David Kubiak, who came into the game as the ERA leader in the Dominican League. Kubiak was not sharp as he gave up four runs in two innings in the 8-4 loss.

Jeremy Pena hit a two run homer in the sixth inning and Christian Bethancourt went deep with a solo shot in the eighth to spur the offense. Bethancourt also had an RBI single in the sixth inning that broke a 4-4 tie. Pena followed with a homerun to bring the score up to 7-4. Domingo Robles pitched three innings of no hit ball to get the win.

Estevan Florial was the big bat for Leones with three hits and a walk in four at bats. He also contributed an RBI single.

In game two Estrellas shutout Leones to advance to the second round with a 2-0 win. Cano was again the hitting star. He doubled in the fourth and later scored on a two out single by Junior Lake to give Estrellas their first run. Lewin Diaz gave Estrellas an insurance run in the ninth with an RBI single.

Andy Otero threw six innings of shut out two hit ball, striking out seven and walking no one. Enny Romero had a good start for Leones, giving up the lone run in his five innings while also striking out seven. Matt Pobereyko picked up the save with a scoreless ninth inning.

Asian Teams Jump on Free Agent Market

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

In the NPB, the KBO and the CPBL free agency is not as prevalent among their domestic market. The biggest free agents are the foreign players and the Asian teams are quickly scooping up their quota of signing foreign players. In the CPBL (China Professional Baseball League) each team is allowed three foreign players (with the exception of the expansion team Dragons, who can sign five foreign players, with four playing on the CPBL team). The expansion team Wei Chua Dragons signed five foreign players to contracts, giving each team at least three foreign players (four for the Dragons) to play on their first team.

If a team signs more than three foreign players (or four for the Dragons), only three can appear on the CPBL roster. The extra players will play on the equivalent of the minor league team. For the most part, the CPBL sign starting pitchers to fill their foreign roster spots. In myworld’s opinion, this reliance on foreign pitchers stagnates the growth of their domestic pitchers. Myworld would like to see them go the KBO route, three foreign players, but a maximum of two pitchers or two position players.

Below are the names of the foreign players signed by each of the five teams. This does not prevent these teams from signing more players. You can go to CBPLstats.com for the list.

Uni Lions

Tim Melville, Brock Dykxhoorn, Teddy Stankiewicz and Felix Doubront

China Trust Brothers

Mitch Lively, Jose De Paula and Onelki Garcia

Rakuten Monkeys

Ryan Bollinger, Aaron Wilkerson (pitcher) and Dillon Overton,

Fubon Guardians

Henry Sosa, Mike Loree, Manny Banuelos and Hector Noesi

Wei Chun Dragons

Jake Brigham, Drew Gagon, Junichi Tazawa, Rosell Herrera and Bryan Woodall

Hawks Refuse to Post Senga

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

One of the best pitchers in Japan, Kodai Senga has asked the Softbank Hawks to post him. He and Tomoyuki Sugano were voted the top pitchers in the Central and Pacific Conferences in the NPB. Recently the Rangers signed Kohei Arihara to a two year $6.2 million contract, with yearly salaries of $2.6 million in 2021, $3.6 million in 2022 and a $1.24 million posting fee. Sugano is expected to receive much more than that.

Instead of posting Senga the Hawks gave him a 100 million yen raise, the equivalent of $975,000. That elevates his salary to 400 million yen, not including incentives, which is the equivalent of $3.9 million. What he is actually worth will be determined by what Sugano gets. At 27 years of age Senga is four years younger than Sugano, which would attract more suiters and probably a greater salary.

In the Hawks mind, a four time champion in the NPB, they would be challenged to win the championship without Senga as their ace. Posting him is not to their benefit. Sugano will be eligible to declare himself an international free agent after the 2022 season.

Japan Nine

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Japan gives out awards for the best player at each position. They included one player who was posted last year but major league teams did not sign (Kikuchi) and one current player who has been posted (Sugano). For the first time in a number of years no foreign player made the list.

Pacific League

Pitcher - Kodai Senga (Hawks) 11-6, 2.16
Catcher - Takuya Kai (Hawks) .211, 11, 33
First Base - Sho Nakata (Fighters) .239, 31, 108
Second Base - Hideto Asamura (Eagles) .280, 32, 108
Third Base - Daichi Suzuki (Eagles) .295, 4, 55
Shortstop - Sosuke Genda (Lions) .270, 1, 21
OF - Yuki Yanagita (Hawks) .342, 29, 86, Masataka Yoshida (Buffaloes) .350, 14, 64, Kensuke Kondoh (Fighters) .340, 5, 60
Designated hitter - Takumi Kuriyama (Lions) .272, 12, 67

Central League

Pitcher - Tomoyuki Sugano (Giants) 14-2, 1.97
Catcher - Takumi Ohshiro (Giants) .270, 9, 41
First Base - Munetaka Murakami (Swallows) .307, 28, 86
Second Base - Ryosuke Kikuchi (Carp) .271, 10, 41
Third Base - Kazuma Okamoto (Giants) .275, 31, 97
Shortstop - Hayato Sakamoto (Giants) .289, 19, 65
Outfield - Keita Sano (Bay Stars) .328, 20, 69, Yoshihiro Maru (Giants) .284, 27, 77, Seiya Suzuki (Carp) .314, 25, 75
No designated hitter in the Central League

Tracking the Braves Number One Picks From 2016 Roster

Friday, December 25th, 2020

Back in February 2016 myworld was impressed that at least 20 players on the Braves roster were first round picks (we miscounted and incorrectly stated 21 but only listed 20 players). With that many first round picks you would have thought this team would have won some games that year. They didn’t. The 2016 season saw them end it 68-93 with many of those players traded or released before the season ended.

The good news is they won the division in 2018 and two seasons after that. Only six of the 20 players contributed to the Braves 2020 season. Below is the list of those 20 players and what happened to them. In parenthesis is the year they were drafted in the first round.

1. Jason Grilli (1997) - Traded in May 2016 to the Blue Jays for Sean Ratcliffe. His last major league season was in 2017.

2. Nick Swisher (2002) - Released by the Braves in March 2016. Signed by the Yankees in April and released in July. The 2015 season was his last major league season.

3. Jeff Francouer (2002) - Traded to the Marlins in August 2016 for Matt Foley. The 2016 season was his last in the major leagues.

4. Nick Markakis (2003) - Initially opted out for the 2020 season but returned to finish out season.

5. Chris Withrow ((2007) - Left as a free agent after the 2016 season. Last major league season was 2016.

6. Gordon Beckham (2008) - Traded to the Giants in September 2016 for Richard Rodriguez. Last major league season was in 2019.

7. Casey Kelly (2008) - Granted free agency at the end of the 2016 season. Pitched in Korea last year.

8. Tyrell Jackson (2010 supplemental) - Traded to Rangers in December 2016 for Luke Jackson. Only major league season was with the Braves in 2016 (2-4, 5.88).

9. Mike Foltynewicz (2010) - Designated for assignment by the Braves in 2020. Still in their minor league system.

10. Jace Peterson (2011) - Granted free agency after the 2017 season. Played with the Brewers in 2020.

11. Lucas Sims (2012) - Traded to the Reds in July 2018 for Adam Duvall. Pitched for the Reds in 2020.

12. Max Fried (2012) - Ace of the Braves rotation last season.

13. Aaron Blair (2013) - Released by the Braves in May 2018. Last major league season 2017.

14. Jason Hursh (2013) - Granted free agency in November 2019. Last major league season was in 2017.

15. Sean Newcomb (2014) - Pitched for Braves in 2020 (0-2, 11.20). He was 12-9. 3.90 in 2018.

16. Touki Toussant (2014) - Pitched for Braves in 2020 (0-2, 8.88).

17. Braxton Davidson (2014) - Released by Braves in May 2020. No major league appearances. Played Independent ball after release in 2020.

18. Austin Riley (2015) - Played for Braves in 2020 (.239, 8, 27). This was his second major league season.

19. Mike Soroka (2015) - Pitched for Braves in 2020 (0-1, 3.95). An injury ended his season after just three starts.

20. Dansby Swanson (2015) - Played for Braves in 2020 in fifth major league season (.274, 10, 35).

Top Right Handed Pitching Prospects

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Below are the top right handed pitching prospects. Because of five man rotations myworld has decided to list our top 20.

1. Casey Mize (Tigers) - Not a lot of first picks in the draft are the best prospects once they test the minor leagues. Mize was the first player selected in 2018 after starring at Auburn. The 2019 season was his only full minor league season where he could eat up innings. In 21 starts he chewed up 109 innings. That appeared to be good enough for him to make his major league debut in 2020, starting seven games while piecing together 28 innings. It was a struggle. He gave up seven homeruns, the same number he gave up in the minor leagues in almost 100 more innings. Major league hitters raked him for a .252 average, 43 points higher than his career minor league average. His best pitch may be his splitter, but he also throws a mid 90s fastball with a mid-80s slider. The splitter in the mid-80s can act as his off speed pitch. The Tigers could start his 2021 season in AAA then call him up after he achieves some success there. He needs a confidence booster after being mauled in 2020.

2. Nate Pearson (Blue Jays) - The 2017 pick is one of the hardest throwers in baseball. His fastball can dart across the plate at 102 miles per hour. The secondary pitches, especially the slider will keep him in the rotation. His command could probably use a little more enhancement, especially in the major leagues. Nate made his major league debut in 2020, walking 13 batters in 18 innings. He also let five balls leave the yard. He pitched much better in 2019 pitching at three different minor league levels. At 6′6 inches his pitches come right at you. Minor leaguers hit just .173 againt him. Like Casey Mize, he could start the 2021 season in AAA, then get called up once he achieves some success and gets his confidence back. A good spring could see him start his season with Toronto.

3. Sixto Sanchez (Marlins) - Sixto may have pitched the Marlins to the 2020 playoffs. He was originally signed by the Phillies for the paltry sum of $35,000 back in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. The Phillies included him in a trade for J.T. Realmuto. Ironic that the rebuilding Marlins saw the playoffs before the Phillies. Standing at just 6′0 usually does not spell success for a right handed starter. Sixto proved to be an exception, like his native countryman Pedro Martinez. Sixto slings his fastball in the high 90s and occasionally clips the three digit territory. His change is also a quality pitch and the slider acts as a third pitch enough to allow him to survive in the rotation. He made his major league debut last year and started seven games, finishing with a 3.46 ERA. Without that contribution the Marlins would not have made the playoffs. For a pitcher with his velocity he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, but they make enough soft contact for Sixto to achieve success. He should start the 2021 season in the Marlins rotation.

4. Spencer Howard (Phillies) - This 2017 second round pick also made his major league debut in 2020. Like Mize and Pearson above him he struggled, with major leaguers hitting him at a .300 clip, resulting in a 5.92 ERA in six starts. In the minors in 2019 Spencer limited the opposition to just a .173 average. His fastball is explosive, hitting the mid-90s consistently and reaching the high 90s. It has enough movement that he gets a lot of swings and misses. His secondary breaking pitches (slider and curve) are a tick above average to allow him to survive in the rotation, but his change has turned into an above average pitch. His command can get off kilter but with a little more experience he could become the ace of the Phillies rotation. It would not hurt to start his 2021 season in AAA with a callup a little later in the season. The Phillies keep on acquiring veteran players, trading top prospects to achieve their goal. It could be a top prospect like Howard that could finally get the Phillies into the playoffs.

5. Forrest Whitley (Astros) - The 6′7″ first round pick in 2016 may have the best stuff of the pitchers on this list. Staying healthy and finding the strike zone have always been a challenge. He also missed 50 games for violating the minor league drug policy. In 2019 shoulder problems left his delivery out of whack and he finished with a 7.99 ERA in just 60 innings, walking 44 batters. In his four seasons he has yet to surpass 100 innings pitched. The fastball can travel across the plate in the mid-90s and a quality slider and change feed off the fastball to make him difficult to hit, if he can find the plate. If his command stays inconsistent he could always turn into a closer, but he has too many quality pitches not to keep in the rotation. Expect him to start the 2021 season in AAA, where he finished with a 12.21 ERA in 2019 in five starts.

6. Michael Kopech (White Sox) - The 2014 first round pick opted out of the 2020 season. This after missing all of the 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery. Michael seemed to have announced his arrival after being able to find the plate in four major league starts in 2018, but his elbow did not allow him to finish the season. His fastball cuts across the plate in the triple digits, even hitting 105 in one game. His slider has plus quality, but finding a third pitch and the plate set him back. It will be interesting to see if he can find the plate after his two year absence. The White Sox made the playoffs last year without him. If he could fill the White Sox rotation in 2021 it would be an asset to repeating a playoff run in 2021.

7. Grayson Rodriguez (Orioles) - The Orioles 2018 first round pick stands at a sturdy 6′5. He pitched out of Texas. The Orioles hope he can mimic a couple Texas icons in Roger Clemons and Nolan Ryan. With a mid-90s fastball and a quality slider, he gathers up the swings and misses in the minor leagues. In 20 starts in Low A he held opponents to a .171 average with 129 whiffs in 94 innings. He has enough command of his four pitches that should allow him to be the ace of the Orioles rotation in a couple years. For the 2021 season he will probably spend most of it in AA, not seeing the major leagues until sometime during the middle of the 2022 season.

8. Luis Patino (Padres) - The Padres signed the 6′1″ righthander for just $130,000 out of Colombia back in 2016. Despite his lack of height he has built up enough bulk to reach the mid 90s with his fastball, often lighting up the radar in the high 90s. He also has a quality slider that elicits swings and misses. In his three minor league seasons he has never had an ERA above 2.57 and he has limited opponents to a .208 average. He gets lots of swings and misses and limits balls from traveling over the fence, giving up just seven taters in 234 innings. Luis made his major league debut in 2020 and struggled with his command, walking 14 in 17 innings. Opponents hit him at a .257 clip leaving his ERA at an elevated 5.19. This will probably result him starting the 2021 season in AAA and waiting until he achieves some success there before being promoted to the Padres.

9. Matt Manning (Tigers) - The first round 2016 pick was drafted out of high school so he is taking a more patient rise up the minor league ladder than Mize. Manning is one year younger than Mize and after achieving success in AA in 2019 (2.56 ERA) he should be joining Mize in the rotation sometime in 2021. He has a nice 6′6 frame that gives him challenges finding a consistent release point, but his control improved in 2019. He is the son of Rich Manning, who played in the NBA, a sport Matt played while in high school. The fastball sits at the lower edges of the mid-90s, but it is probably his second best pitch, with a curveball that dives to the ground and gets awkward swings and misses. An improved change in 2019 gives him the requisite three pitches to survive in the starting rotation. He will probably start the 2019 season in AAA and at some point may join Mize and Tarik Skubal to make an awesome front three for the rotation.

10. Max Meyer (Marlins) - Max was the third player selected in the 2020 draft. He pitched in relief early in his career with Minnesota but moved to the starting rotation midway through his sophomore year. At 6′0″ he does not carry the height that you like to see in right handed pitchers. His best pitch may be his slider, and when combined with his mid-90s fastball that touched triple digits, it will garner lots of swings and misses. His change shows flashes of brilliance, which should be enough for him to stick in the rotation. The 2021 season will be his first in the minor leagues, but he should rise up quickly. If he has success and the Marlins are making another playoff run do not be surprised if they don’t use him in relief to begin his major league career, with a later transition to the starting rotation.

11. Logan Gilbert (Mariners) - The 2018 first round pick is another giant, who stands at 6′6″. The fastball crosses the plate in the mid-90s and his breaking pitches and change show enough quality that will allow him to stick in the rotation. His pitches are enhanced by his ability to find the strike zone consistently, something not common among pitchers his height. Logan has only one minor league season under his built, seeing three levels in 2019. He finished in AA with a 2.13 ERA putting together 26 starts and 135 innings. Opponents hit him at a .198 clip, including a .194 average in 9 AA starts. This should make him major league ready sometime during the mid-season of 2021 after starting the year in AAA.

12. Ian Anderson (Braves) - The 2016 first round pick can hit the mid-90s with his fastball. Hitters can have a difficult time getting elevation on the pitch because of its downward spike as it travels across the plate. He mixes in a curve and a change that keeps hitters off balance. In his first three years he had only allowed three homeruns in 243 innings. In 2019 he gave up an uncharacteristic 13 homeruns in just 135 innings. The 2020 season saw him make his major league debut where he baffled major league hitters to a .172 average and a 1.95 ERA in six starts. It will be interesting if he can replicate that success in 2021. Unless he bombs during spring training he should start the 2021 season in the Braves rotation.

13. Emerson Hancock (Mariners) - The second 2020 draft pick to appear on this list and the sixth player selected in the draft. The 6′4″ righthander can reach the high 90s with his fastball, but sits in the mid-90s. He complements his fastball with two quality breaking pitches (slider and curve) and a quality change. All of those pitches are enhanced by his above average command. With no minor league experience he should begin the 2021 season in A ball and could rise quickly with some success. Mariner fans should not expect to see him until late in the 2022 season.

14. Dane Dunning (Rangers) - The Nationals first round pick in 2016 is on his third team. The Nationals traded him to the White Sox with two other pitchers (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez) for Adam Eaton. The White Sox traded Dunning to the Rangers after the 2020 season to get a veteran pitcher for the 2021 season. Dunning missed all of the 2019 season after Tommy John surgery but had progressed enough that the White Sox put him in their rotation for the 2020 season seven times. He had a 3.97 ERA and limited the opposition to a .197 average. Lynn in 13 starts for the Rangers carried a 3.32 ERA. Lynn only has one more year in his contract before becoming a free agent while Dunning will be controlled by the Rangers for at least five more years. Dunning should start the season in the Rangers rotation in 2021.

15. Triston McKenzie (Indians) - The Indians supplemental first round pick in 2015 had surprising success in the Indians rotation last year, despite being limited to just 90 innings his last two years because of injuries. He did not pitch at all in 2019 because of back issues. The lanky 6′5″ righthander spun together a 3.24 ERA in six starts and 33 innings in the major leagues. Major league hitters hit only .179 against him. At 23 years of age he should gain more weight on his 165 pound frame. This should add some velocity to his low 90s fastball that can reach the mid-90s. He has a quality curveball to go with a slider and change that keeps hitters off balance. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate his success in 2021. The Indians will start him in the rotation in 2021 and whether he stays there will be dictated by his success.

16. Edward Cabrera (Marlins) - The Marlins signed the Dominican in 2015 for the bargain price of $100,000. He has journeyed through the minor leagues impressing hitters with a mid-90s fastball that touches triple digits. At 6′5″ and 217 pounds his frame carries intimidation. His secondary pitches could use some improvement. The slider has enough downward bite to get hitters to beat the ball to the ground and there is enough separation of his change compared to his fastball to get swings and misses. The lack of quality secondary pitches and inconsistent command could move him to the bullpen. His 2019 season was a breakout year with a 2.23 ERA and .190 opposition average, both much better than his previous years. Edward could start the 2021 season in AAA with a possible promotion to the Marlins if he achieves success, or a propensity to pitch out of the bullpen.

17. Jordan Balazovic (Twins) - The Canadian was not drafted until the fifth round of the 2016 draft. He has sprouted to 6′5″ and packed on 45 additional pounds to get his fastball consistently in the mid-90s. The secondary pitches (slider and change) are commendable pitches that could see him stick in the rotation, but his skills seem to fit better in the bullpen. Jordan has no trouble finding the plate, which should help him stay in the rotation. He has made a slow trek through the minors, finally reaching full season ball in 2019, reaching High A. He will probably start the 2021 season in AA with a Twins appearance sometime in 2022.

18. Hunter Greene (Reds) - It has been a long, slow trek for the player picked second in the 2017 draft. The fastball was triple digit quality but he failed to find the plate. His first year he finished with a 12.46 ERA in three starts covering 4 innings. That improved to 4.48 in 2018. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2019 season. It will be interesting if he can sustain his three digit heat into the 2021 season. His secondary pitches (slider and change) could allow him to survive in the rotation. His surgery and his premier fastball could move him into the bullpen. He finished his 2018 season in Low A. It will not be until late in the 2022 season before the Reds see him in their rotation.

19. Shane Baz (Rays) - The Rays do a good job of developing starting pitchers. Shane was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2017. The Rays stole him, Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows from the Pirates for Chris Archer. If Baz makes the Rays it will be one of the biggest swindles in baseball. Baz has a fastball that lights the radar gun in the triple digits, sitting in the mid-90s. His inability to find the plate will make it difficult for him to stay in the rotation. He also lacks a quality third pitch, showing a fastball/slider combination with a pedestrian change. Shane has yet to check in at the 100 inning level in any of his three minor league seasons. The 2021 season could see him start it in AA. Rays fans will have to wait until at least 2022 before they see him in the bullpen, or 2023 before he hits the rotation.

20. Jackson Kowar (Royals) - Kowar pitched with Brady Singer at Florida. The Royals made Singer their first pick and Kowar became pick 1A as he was drafted as a supplemental first round pick. He hopes to join Singer in the Royals rotation in 2021. His fastball sits at the lower edges of the mid-90s, but it is has change that complements the fastball that makes him a quality pitcher. His curveball has decent enough action to put him in the middle of the Royals rotation. He finished the 2019 season in AA, but was pretty hittable at that level, the opposition teeing off for a .254 average. His control is good and he gets about one whiff per inning with his fastball/change combination. Jackson should start the 2021 season in AA and could join Singer in the rotation late in 2021 or sometime in 2022.

Top Lefthanded Pitching Prospects

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Lefthanded pitchers are a bit different than righthanders. They tend to throw with less velocity but have more movement on their pitches. They also have to face a batting order that traditionally has more right handed hitters than left handed. But lefthanded pitchers are more valued because there are less of them, and those few are needed to retire some of the more powerful lefthanded bats. Below are the top left handed pitching prospects, some of whom will ultimately end up as relievers. Lefthanders may be one of the more valuable commodities in baseball.

1. MacKenzie Gore (Padres) - The third pick in the 2017 draft may be considered the top pitching prospect in baseball. Others who have laid that claim but with little success include Archie Bradley and Mark Prior. The Padres hope Gore will have a better fate. He has four quality pitches, which is something that can not be said about most people on this list. A fastball, curveball, slider and change. The fastball slices through the plate with readings between the low to mid 90s, but it carries a lot of dart and dash. The slider is probably his best strikeout pitch. There are no issues with command of his four pitches. In 2018 when he experienced blister problems his ERA stood ugly at 4.45. When healthy in 2017 and 2019 his ERAs were an impeccable 1.27 and 1.69. Opponents have hit less than .200 in both years in which he was healthy. Myworld would not be surprised if with a good spring he is with the Padres in 2021, though mid season would be the best bet.

2. A.J. Puk (Athletics) - Injuries have prevented him from making a major league impact. The 2016 first round pick got some major league time in relief in 2019, putting together an impressive 3.18 ERA. He was ticketed for the starting rotation in 2020 but shoulder issues ended his season. Puk had Tommy John surgery that prevented him from pitching in 2018, so injuries have been an issue. At 6′7″ he does not have the same reach as Randy Johnson, but his fastball travels as fast, hitting the high 90s and clipping three digits pretty consistently. He also has more command than Randy, but the Athletics would like to see a little improvement in that area. His slider is an above average pitch but his change is average. It may be best that he abandon his curve. He is supposed to be healthy to start the 2021 season and is slotted to fit in a rotation spot. Whether he can stay healthy is another issue.

3. Brailyn Marquez (Cubs) - The 6′4 inch Dominican lefthander signed for only $600,000 in 2015. That was still the highest international signing for a pitcher that year. At 16 years of age he was already hitting the low 90s with his fastball. Now he probably has the highest readings of any minor league lefthander in baseball, hitting triple digits consistently. He made one appearance in 2020 with the Cubs and only retired two batters, walking three and giving up two hits resulting in a 67.50 ERA. He should get another opportunity at major league hitters to lower that ERA. His other pitches do not have the quality as his fastball, with his slider and change at just average. Command has also been an issue, with a little less than one walk every two innings pitched in 2019. If he can enhance his slider and change he could become a number one starter in the major leagues. If not, there is an opportunity to fill a closer role. The 2021 season should see the Cubs give him opportunities to fill their major league rotation.

4. Tarik Skubal (Tigers) - The Tigers scooped up Tarik in the ninth round of the 2018 draft. He was a promising pitcher out of Seattle University who had missed a season because of Tommy John surgery. He has been dominant in his two minor league seasons, finishing with a 0.40 ERA his first year and 2.42 ERA his second year in 2019. Opponents hit him at a .195 clip and he struck out 212 hitters in just 145 innings. The Tigers called him up mid season in 2020 and he struggled with a 5.63 ERA, giving up 9 homeruns in just 32 innings. His other numbers were good with a .235 opponent batting average and 37 whiffs in 32 innings. The fastball hits the mid 90s and when combined with a quality slider result in a lot of swings and misses. He still needs to improve his changeup and perhaps abandon his curve to have success in the major leagues. Tarik could start the 2021 season in AAA and then get another mid-season callup. A lot of that will depend on how successful his spring is.

5. Garrett Crochet (White Sox) - The 2020 first round pick of the White Sox was still able to pitch in five major league games, despite not having a minor league season. In those five relief appearances he did not allow a run in six innings and struck out eight, without allowing a walk. He also showed a fastball that hit the high 90s and climbed into the triple digit category. The fastball is his premier pitch, but it will probably hover closer to the mid-90s range if the White Sox use him in a starter capacity. At 6′6″ his long arms can get out of synch at times, leading to struggles with command. While his slider is a quality pitch the change and curve need some work. The White Sox will probably have him start the season as a starter in AA and could call him up before the season expires if he is doing well. Last year was their first playoff appearance in a number of years. They don’t need to wait for Garrett to percolate in the minors accruing service time. If he can help them with their rotation, or even in the bullpen in 2021, they will call him up for the playoff run.

6. Daniel Lynch (Royals) - Daniel was one of three first round pitchers for the Royals in 2018. Brady Singer made the rotation last year. Jackson Kowar could make it in 2021. Lynch needs to eat up more innings before he is ready. Minor injuries limited him to just 96 innings in 2019. The signature pitch for Lynch is his slider. His fastball is in the mid-90s but when he wants to get a strikeout the slider is his go to pitch. The change also has potential to be a quality pitch. Standing at 6′6″ Lynch has an intimidating presence on the mound. The Royals will give him time in AA and after the 2021 season he will join Singer and Kowar in the rotation in 2022.

7. Matthew Liberatore (Cardinals) - Matthew was a first round pick of the Rays in 2016. They used his talented left arm to entice the Cardinals to trade them Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena. The more heralded Martinez turned into a bust but Arozarena became a homerun machine for the Rays during the playoffs. The Cardinals hope the Rays short term gain will be the Cardinals long term success. The 6′5 lefthander relies more on his breaking pitches to retire hitters. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but can climb to 95, but his curveball drops off the table, resulting in lots of ground outs. Liberatore has only seen two balls leave the park in his 111 innings of minor league work. His change is also a promising pitch, while his slider is still in the work in progress stage and may not surpass his curve. The lost 2020 season will probably delay his major league debut until sometime in 2022. He’ll start 2021 in AA and hope that success will carry him to the major leagues.

8. Asa Lacey (Royals) - The first round pick of the Royals in 2020 stands an impressive 6′4″ and carries 215 pounds. His fastball has climbed to the low and mid 90s and when used against a quality slider leave hitters guessing. He also throws a quality change that keeps hitters off balance. The area he needs to work on is the command of his pitches. Not having a 2020 season did not help with that development. After having three years of pitching success with Texas A&M, it won’t take long for him to reach the major leagues. The Royals may start him at AA and he could join Lynch in the rotation sometime by the middle of the 2022 season.

9. Shane McClanahan (Rays) - The 2018 first round supplemental pick lacks the height of the other players rated ahead of him, standing just 6′1″. Despite lacking the long levers of the taller pitchers, Shane can still sling his fastball across the plate in triple digits. He used that fastball to get himself on the Rays playoff roster, without pitching in a regular major league game. He was used in relief in the playoffs and that may be his ultimate role in the major leagues. He got 22 starts in the minor leagues in 2019, but a lack of control results in a high number of walks. The slider is a quality pitch but the change needs some work to give him the requisite three pitches to make it in the starting rotation. The Rays will send him down to the minors in 2021, perhaps placing him in AA where he struggled to a 8.35 ERA in four starts there last year. To save on innings they may then call up him up for the playoff run to use him out of the bullpen again.

10. Brendan McKay (Rays) - Myworld is not a real fan of this multi disciplined pitcher use at the DH or a position role. It has not really worked for Shohei Ohtani at the major league level and McKay has also struggled with it as well. McKay seemed very hittable in his major league debut in 2019 after dominating in the minors. Opponents hit him at a .268 clip in the majors after being limited to a .178 average in his three years in the minors. While he was mainly a hitter in college who pitched in relief, his hitting of major league pitching has become a challenge. He did not pitch the 2020 season because of shoulder issues that ultimately required surgery. He relies more on the command of his pitches to retire hitters, pinpointing his mid 90s fastball while mixing in a quality cutter. His curve ball and change still need some work to be quality major league pitches. Brendan will probably spend the 2021 season pitching in AAA, rehabbing his shoulder. Rays fans may see him late in the 2021 season, depending on how his rehab process goes.

11. Nick Lodolo (Reds) - Lodolo was a first round pick of the Reds in 2019. He pitched briefly that year, striking out 30 in his 18 innings while not allowing one hitter to reach base via a walk. A towering 6′6″, his fastball stays in the low 90s but can hit the mid 90s. Despite his tall frame, he relies on the command of his pitches to retire hitters. It is possible he relies too much in the strike zone as hitters slapped him around for a .247 average. Further development of his slider and change should allow him to remain in the starting rotation, especially with his capability to move the ball to the corners of the plate. Having pitched in college it should not take him long to be fitted into the Reds rotation. Expect him to start the season in High A and move up quickly as he achieves success, making his major league debut in 2022.

12. D.L. Hall (Orioles) - The 2017 first round pick is one of many quality arms the Orioles are collecting in the minor leagues. The 6′2 lefty packs mid-90s heat to his fastball, but his biggest challenge is finding the plate enough to get called strikes. In 2019 he walked 54 hitters in 81 innings. The wildness may help because when the hitters want to hit they have been limited to .203 and .189 averages the last two years. Hall throws a change and a curve, but those pitches still need some work to become quality offerings. If he fails to develop a third pitch and continues to struggle finding the strike zone he could be moved to the bullpen. Next year Hall will start the season in AA. They may first use him out of the bullpen when they call him up to the major leagues, but they probably will not do that until 2022.

13. Seth Corry (Giants) - Corry drooped to the third round of the 2017 draft for the Giants. He was just a vanilla pitcher until his curveball developed into a plus pitch in 2019, resulting in a breakout year. In 26 starts in 2019 he limited the opposition to a .171 average, resulting in an impressive ERA of 1.76. He saw no game action in 2020. The 2021 season will determine whether he can continue the mastery of the curveball. The fastball sits in the low 90s and can have occasional mid-90s readings. His change has improved enough to be an above average offering. The 2021 season will see him start in AA with a major league debut in 2022.

14. Reid Detmers (Angels) - The Angels have always been hurting for pitching. They drafted Reid in the first round of the 2020 draft to address that need. Detmers got a lot of whiffs pitching for Louisville in college. He relies more on his curve to retire hitters since his fastball travels across the plate at a pedestrian low 90s. Whether that repertoire will work in striking out major league hitters is open to question. While the Angels need help in pitching now, it may take Detmers a couple years to toe the rubber with the Angels. The Angels may leapfrog him to AA to see how he handles the competition.

15. Jay Groome (Red Sox) - The 2016 first round pick has a pretty impressive fastball. Injuries have prevented his rise up the minor league ladder. He missed the entire 2018 season because of Tommy John surgery. He came back to make three rehab starts in shortseason ball in 2019. Besides injuries, finding the plate was also a problem. At 6′6″ with a fastball ticking in the high 90s can be intimidating, especially if it is flying all over the place. His curveball was also rated as the best in the 2016 draft. Enhancing his change would give him the three requisite pitches to make it in the starting rotation. Injuries and struggles with command may leave him in a bullpen role. Expect him to start the 2021 season in AA at best. He has had the entire 2020 season to use as rehab. The Red Sox bullpen was a shambles last year, so using him in the bullpen in 2022 is a possibility before a starting role opens up for him.

Final Qualifiers for Olympics Scheduled for June

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

Before the corona virus postponed many athletic events, there were still two Olympic qualifiers that were not played in the United States and Taiwan to establish the final two teams to play in the event. It appears the first qualifier will be played in the United States in early June. The second qualifier will be played in Taichung City, Taiwan from June 16 to June 20.

The final qualifier will feature Taiwan, China, Australia, Netherlands and the second and third place team from the United States event. The United States qualifier had Puerto Rico, United States, Dominican Republic, Nicaraugua, Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and Colombia. It is still unclear of all those teams will choose to participate.

The teams that have qualified for the Olympics are Japan (host), Israel, Mexico and South Korea.

Cepeda Becomes One of a Kind in Cuban Baseball

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

During the time when Cubans were defecting like an open bag of M&M’s, Frederich Cepeda stayed in Cuba. Not because he was not good enough to play in the major leagues. More so because he was a bit too aged for what major league teams were looking for in a baseball player. It appears he has aged like fine wine. He may be one of the best hitters the major league teams never signed.

The former outfielder who now spends more of his time at designated hitter became the first Cuban player in the history of the Nacional Series to accumulate 2,000 hits, 300 homeruns and 400 doubles according to the WBSC website, though Baseball Reference still shows him falling short of those numbers (1901, 292 and 371). The 39 year old started his career in 1997 playing for the Sancti Spiritus Gallos. He is still playing for them now. They are currently in second place in the Cuban League.

There is a lot of history in his game, something he can tell youngsters once he retires. An Olympic gold and silver medal achieved in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). One year of playing the game in the NPB in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants (2014), though he only hit .163 in 129 at bats. Participation in World Cups and World Baseball Classics. The game of baseball has taken him to all corners of the world. And he has come back as a champion in many of those events, taking home eight gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze.

Yuriel and Lourdes Gurriel played with him for Sancti Spiritus. Yuriel is only two years younger than Cepeda, but has still had success in the major leagues, including a World Series ring with the Houston Astros, something he never accomplished in Cuba. The Sancti Spiritus Gallos have yet to win a championship with Cepeda playing on the team. The only championship they have won was in 1979.

Perhaps the 2020/21 season will give him a Cuban championship with Sancti Spiritus.