Ciego De Avila Reaches Cuban Finals

January 12th, 2017

Ciego de Avila won their best of seven series over Villa Clara four games to two to advance to the Cuban finals. In the four games they won the team scored 8 runs or more, winning the last game 9-3. Danier Galvez and Julio Martinez each hit solo shots for the Tigers game four win. Bladimir Banos pitched six innings to earn the victory while Raidel Martinez pitched the last three innings to pick up the save.

For Banos it was his second win in the best of seven series. Vladimir Garcia also picked up two wins for Ciego de Avila. They are the defending champions and have won two of the last four years.

In the other series Matanzas is battling with Granma, leading the series three games to two. In the last two games the Crocodiles bats have come to life for 9-3 and 13-3 wins. William Saavedra of Matanzas and Alfredo Despaigne from Granma have each gone deep twice in the series.

Neither Granma or Matanzas has ever won a Cuban championship so at least one virgin team will be guaranteed a spot to battle for their first championship.

Korean Spring Training in the United States

January 11th, 2017

For those who want to watch some baseball spring training and get ahead of the game by identifying those Korean players who could become major league stars, you could watch them perform at spring training sites in Arizona, Florida, Guam and Los Angeles. It is not clear where those sites are or whether they would be open to the public.

NC Dinos - Tucson, Arizona February 1-19, Los Angeles, California February 19 to March 11
LG Twins - Pheonix, Arizona February 1-11, Papago, Arizona Februay 12 to March 7
Nexen Heroes - Surprise, Arizona January 30 to February 17
SK Wyverns - Vero Beach, Florida February 1-24
Lotte Giants - Peoria, Arizona January 30 to February 22
Samsung Lions - Guam January 30 to February 11
KT Tigers - Tucson, Arizona February 1 -17, Los Angeles, California February 18 to March 8

Info courtesy of my kbo.

Puerto Rico - Santurce Advances to Finals

January 11th, 2017

Ivan Dejesus Jr hit a two run homer in the third providing all the runs the Santurce Crabbers needed in their 2-1 win over the Carolina Giants. They win the seven game series four games to one.

Santurce used six different pitchers to limit Carolina to the single run. Fernando Cabrera pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his second save of the series, striking out two of the three hitters he faced.

Santurce will play the winner of the Caguas/Mayaguez series. Caguas leads that series three games to two after winning their game last night 2-1. Ruben Gotay drove in both runs with RBI singles in the fourth and ninth innings. Eddie Rosario had started the game off well for Mayaguez with a leadoff homerun, but the Indios could not cross the plate after that inning.

A Cuban Defects and Another Signs

January 10th, 2017

A promising Cuban ball player Luis Robert defected, while another player Jose Miguel Fernandez signed according to Baseball America and a number of other sights. In a post myworld put up on November 15 of last year we identified Robert as one of the top young players in the Cuban League. At the time he was leading the league in homeruns, but after we posted the article we never saw him in the starting lineup again.

Luis Robert was also named to the under 18 All tournament team after hitting .406 with two homeruns, 11 RBIs, and four stolen bases. Other players named on that team were Josh Naylor, first round pick of the Marlins and later traded to the Padres and Blake Rutherford, a first round pick of the New York Yankees. The very first player selected in the draft by the Phillies Mickey Moniak played for the United States team and was not named to the all tournament team. Luis was one of the better players in that tournament so expect first round money for him.

Roberts is only 19 and appears to have the potential to be an All Star caliber player when he develops. When he left Cuba he was leading the Cuban League in homeruns with 12 with a .401 average. While the Cuban League has been sapped of their high caliber players, those numbers are still pretty impressive for a 19 year old against some of the veteran Cuban pitchers that are still on the island. At 6′3″ he has the power and speed that could define a five tool player for centerfield.

The key for Roberts is to get a quick approval so he can sign by June 15th if he wants to get a large bonus. After June 15th major league baseball teams will have to abide by the rules in place under the new collective bargaining agreement, where teams are handcuffed by a hard international salary cap. They can trade with other teams to increase the cap, but there is no going over the cap that was in place previous seasons when teams would be penalized with restrictions once they exceeded the cap. Many teams have already committed salary to Dominican players for next year who have not reached their 16th birthday yet, so Roberts opportunity to earn a big bonus will be restricted after June 15th of this year.

The Cuban player who signed is Jose Miguel Fernandez. He has been floating around tryout camps for the last two years since his defection. The 28 year old signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a meager bonus of $200,000. His signing may have been delayed by his attempts to get a greater bonus. The reality is Fernandez is a second baseman who will not hit for a lot of power or steal a lot of bases. His defense lacks gold glove quality. His hope is that he hits for high average with his ability to make consistent contact. He may earn a job as a starting second baseman, but he will put up very vanilla results. If he was flexible enough to play a number of different positions he could fit in as a utility player, but he has been mostly a second baseman.

In the 2013 World Baseball Classic Fernandez wowed the scouts with his .524 average. His big contribution is if he can hit line drives that will keep his average in the neighborhood of .300. The fact he has been inactive for two years, is 28 years old and will need at least a half a season in the minor leagues could be three strikes against him achieving a major league career. In his last year in Cuba he was voted the top offensive second baseman after hitting .326 with five homeruns and 42 RBIs.

The Dodgers have had limited success after signing middle infielders from Cuba with large bonuses. Alexander Guerrero left for Japan and Erisbel Arruebarrena saw one limited season in the majors in 2014 where he hit .195 in 45 at bats. Both players created more headaches for the team with their personality traits. The Dodgers suspended Erisbel for most of the season in 2015 and 2016 so his playing time has been limited. The Dodgers eventually released Guerrero and once no other major league teams appeared interested in signing him he has taken his skills to Japan.

Venezuela - Caribes Advances to Final Four

January 10th, 2017

Denis Phipps went deep twice and doubled to drive in four runs and score four runs leading Caribes to an 18-4 slaughter of La Guairá to win the season series four games to two. Rene Reyes also scored four runs and Tomas Telis drove in four as well, with each player contributing three hits.

The final two teams to advance to the final four are Margarita and Lara. Lara got 6.1 shutout innings from Jorge Martinez, despite giving up ten hits and beat Margarita 3-0 to even the series at three games apiece. Regardless of the outcome of the game tomorrow both teams will advance, one as the winner and the other as the losing team with the best record.

Randy Boone threw six shutout innings, allowing just one hit for Margarita in a losing cause. Carlos Rivero got the scoring started with a two run homer off Manny Corpas in the seventh inning.

Zulia had already qualified for the final four after a sweep of Aragua, completed on Friday. The winner of the final four goes to the Series del Caribe.

Status of Domincan Republic WBC team

January 10th, 2017

The defending WBC champion Dominican Republic is similar to the United States as far as talent level, most of the commitments at the early stage coming from position players, while the pitching staff is still short on players. The Asian teams (with a few exceptions from those playing major league baseball) and the Cuban team do not have to rely on major league baseball to put their roster together, so for the most part they have their 28 to 40 man tentative rosters established. The Caribbean teams, Mexico, Australia and Europe are reliant on the approval of major league baseball teams for many of their star players.

Below are some of the Dominican players identified by mlb.com who have committed to play for the Dominican Republic in the WBC:

Pitchers

Starters - Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes

Bullpen - Dellen Betances

Catchers

Wellington Castillo, Gary Sanchez

Infielders

Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez

Outfielders

Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Nelson Cruz

The pitching staff has two young, but hard throwing righties whose future brands them as ace starters in a couple years. The WBC is in 2017 so that future is not here yet, but they do have more talent than previous pitchers the Dominican Republic has thrown on the mound. Gary Sanchez behind the plate is young and had a breakout year last year. He will start for the Yankees behind the plate in 2017 but some players struggle in their second year when a league becomes more exposed to them. The infield is solid all around if they use Manny Machado at shortstop, but that is not his normal position. The outfield is two deep with Pirates and Nelson Cruz can play there but is a liability defensively. Jose Reyes can be used as a super utility player to move around second, third and short.

Expect the team to add a couple more outfielders, a firstbaseman who can hit lefthanded, at least one more starting pitcher to get them through the first round and a slew of bullpen arms. The offense seems to be short of lefthanded bats so that maybe something they look at.

Mexican Winter League Final Four Decided

January 9th, 2017

The four teams for the Mexican final four have been decided. Los Mochis was the first team to qualify after defeating Mazatlán 4-3 to win their series four games to two. Despite being out hit 15 to 5 and committing two more errors than the Venados, the Caneros were still able to eke out the victory. A Sebastian Valle lead off double in the seventh inning was responsible for the game winning run, breaking a 3-3 tie. He was bunted to third and scored on a Jose Aguilar fly ball. Sergio Romo got the last four outs to pick up the save, though the last out was recorded by Valle when he threw out Samar Levya trying to steal.

Mexicali took ten innings but they finally beat Navojoa 6-4 to advance to the final four with their four games to two win. C.J. Retherford hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and drove in the second of two runs in the tenth with a sacrifice fly to lead the Aguilas to victory. Jon Del Campo, who collected four hits in the game got the inning started with a single then scored the go ahead run when the catcher dropped a throw from the first baseman on an attempted first to home double play.

The final two teams will be Hermosillo and Culiacan. They are tied in their series three games apiece but both will advance because the losing team will be best of the three teams. The seventh game is only being played for seeding purposes.

Manny to Play in Japan

January 9th, 2017

Manny Ramirez was a hit when he played one year in Taiwan back in 2013. Attendance sky rocketed in those games in which he played whether he was a visiting player or not. Even at 44 years of age Manny feels he still has some baseball left in him. He signed with the Independent team the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League.

In a youtube interview quoted by yakyudb he stated that he would have interest in playing in the NPB, the Japanese professional league and would use this opportunity to show case his talent. He indicated he had received offers from other teams in other countries, but enjoys the Japanese culture and the way Japan plays baseball, influencing his decision to go to Japan.

WBC United States Roster

January 9th, 2017

MLB.com did a review of the United States World Baseball Classic roster. For those players who have committed it appears the team is stacked with position players but a little short on pitchers. Major league teams are a little hesitant about star pitchers participating in a high level event so early in the season for fear of injury when pitchers try to do too much too early.

Below are the players committed to the United States team.

Pitching

Starters - Chris Archer, Max Scherzer and Marcus Stroman

Relievers - Mychal Givens, Luke Gregerson and Andrew Miller

Catchers

Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey

Infield

Nolan Arenado, Brandon Crawford, Paul Goldscmidt, Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy

Outfield

Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen and Christian Yelich

They have the starting pitchers to play the first pool and based on how the rules for the rosters are set up you can add players to the second round if your teams advance. The starting pitching should be covered but the bullpen needs a few arms. If they were to add a starter it would be one who throws from the left side to counteract a team whose bats may lean to the left.

The outfield could use a couple more players and a good utility player who could play multiple positions would be nice. Otherwise this would be a starting lineup already with some potent All Star bats. A lot will depend on whether the Andrew McCutchen you saw last year was an aberration and he bonces back for a solid 2017 season.

Past United States WBC have had strong rosters but they could not get past the second round. Two of the teams who advanced to the finals at the last WBC were the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, composed of players who had participated in winter leagues.

Zulia Sweeps Aragua to Advance in Venezuelan Playoffs

January 7th, 2017

Zulia was too much for Aragua, sweeping them in four games to advance to the semi-finals of the Venezuelan playoffs. By being swept Aragua has no opportunity of advancing as the best losing team in the three best of seven playoffs.

The Aguilas won the final game 5-1 with four different pitchers scattering 9 hits but allowing only one run to cross the plate. Carlos Hernandez got the win going 2.2 innings of shutout relief. Jose Tabata strung together three hits to drive in three of the five Aguilas runs.

The big bats for Zulia in the four game sweep were Tabata (.500), Ali Castillo (.500) and Freddy Galvis (.444). Galvis had three doubles and a triple as part of his 8 hits.