Matanzas Survives One More Day

April 3rd, 2021

Down three games to one the Matanzas Crocodiles stayed alive in the Cuban championships with a 4-3 win over the Granma Stallions. The winning run scored in the ninth inning on a wild pitch by Miguel Paradelo.

Matanzas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with three in the third. Lazaro Blanco walked Andrys Perez to lead off the third inning. The inning went south after that. The number nine hitter Eduardo Blanco laid down a bunt that rolled underneath and past the glove of Lazaro coming off the mound to put two runners on. Anibal Medina popped up on a failed bunt attempt. The meat of the order Yadiel Mujica and Ariel Sanchez hit back to back singles to score one run. Yadil Drake grounded out, but a second run scored when the play went to second base. A line drive single by Yariel Duque drove in the third run.

Granma trimmed the lead to one with two in the fourth. They started the inning the same as Matanzas with a leadoff walk to Roel Santos. Osvaldo Abreu and Raico Santos followed up with singles to cut the lead to 3-1. Carlos Benitez sent a fly deep enough to center to score Abreu with the second run. Granma lost an opportunity to tie when Santos stole second, Guillermo Aviles singled to center and Eduardo Blanco gunned Santos out at the plate.

In the bottom frame Matanzas lost out on a run. Catcher Andrys Perez rifled a ball to left that rolled to the fence, but he could only manage a single. A single by Blanco moved him to second (but with a little more speed he should have been on third). Anibal Medina fouled off a two strike bunt attempt. Ariel Sanchez hit a two out single past the second baseman into right field, but the legs of Perez were just not fast enough to beat the throw home.

In a bit of baserunning hilarity, Granma loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. Carlos Benitez ripped a single to left field. Miguel Gonzalez scored but the third base coach got in the way of Roel Santos as he rounded third. Santos had to stop while the third base coach hit the grass. Santos was caught between third and home and eventually tagged out. What could have been two runs and the lead was only one run and a tie.

With runners on second and third in the ninth and two outs and an 0-2 count on Ariel Sanchez, the catcher squatted for an outside waste pitch. Miguel Paradelo had just come on in relief, walking Yadil Mujica intentionally. Paradelo wasted the 0-2 pitch too much, throwing it way outside and in the dirt to allow the winning run to score from third.

Yoanni Yera lasted eight innings for Matanzas, but Noelvis Entenza got the win by only facing three hitters in the ninth. It allowed Matanzas to survive to play another day.

A Lotte Marine Two Game Explosion

April 2nd, 2021

The Lotte Marines started the season 0-5. Hisanori Yasuda looked at the scoreboard and saw a batting average of .058. Not a very good start to the season. They had scored 10 runs in their first five games, which included one 5 run explosion against the Softbank Hawks that they lost 6-5. They were playing their last game of their series against the Rakuten Eagles, who were 4-1 and had only given up one run in the first two games of the series. The nightmare had to end.

In the second inning the Marines exploded for nine runs, just one less run than they had scored in the first five games. They went on to win 16-5, accumulating only 12 hits but drawing nine walks. Yasuda saw his average rise to .136 with a 2 for 5 day. More importantly he had driven in five runs in the game.

The next day was their opener against the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Marines again exploded for 16 runs to win their second game 16-4. Yasuda hit his first homerun of the season and drove in four runs to support the cause. He again went 2 for 5 and raised his average to .185. But with that .185 average his 10 RBIs now led the Pacific League. Leonys Martin hit his third homerun of the year, his second in two days.

Chiba fans would probably like the Marines to save some of those runs for other games. Scoring 32 runs in two games could be distributed more fairly to garner a few more wins, but when you start out the season 0-5, any win is satisfactory no matter how you do it. The gluttony of runs has to end sometime.

Top 2021 Cuban Prospects in the American League

April 2nd, 2021

From last year’s list Luis Robert, the top prospect on last year’s list graduated. Ronald Bolanos and Randy Arozarena moved from the National League to the American League. If you included Arozarena’s at bats from the playoffs he would have graduated, but he is still eligible as a rookie. Julio Pablo Martinez, Yordys Valdes and Orlando Martinez dropped from the list. Two new players who were signed by the White Sox in 2021 were added to this list.

1. Rando Arozarena OF (Rays) - No one has ever been hotter in the playoffs when Arozarena, who hit 10 homeruns in 20 playoff games. For the longest time Babe Ruth held the record for most homeruns in the post season with 15, but then during that era they only played one seven game series. Arozarena almost equaled that amount in one playoff year. Don’t expect that power to result in Ruthian numbers during the regular season. He hits the ball hard but it’ll probably settle in the 30 plus homerun range. He was signed by the Cardinals in 2016 for what was then a modest bonus of $1.25 million. He has failed to fall high on prospect lists, but myworld did rate him as the second rated Cuban prospect in the National League last year. He appears to have a good hit tool, with the ability to hit in the neighborhood of .300. His speed will allow him to play centerfield, but he is a better fit in a corner with an arm strong enough for right field. The Rays acquired him from the Cardinals for Mike Liberatore. Arozarena should start at a corner for the Rays in 2021 with possible spot starts in centerfield.

2. Roberto Campos OF (Tigers) - The Tigers paid out $2.85 million to sign Campos. Like a lot of Cubans, not a lot is known about the 17 year old. In the United States he would still be in high school. He has the big, right field frame at 6′3″ and 200 pounds. He left Cuba at 13 and trained at a facility in the Dominican Republic for three years. His batting practices are impressive, but there is no game like action to show what he can do with a mixture of different offerings. The speed is there to play center, but like Arozarena his best fit appears to be right. He will probably start the 2021 season in Low A, since there will not be any rookie leagues.

3. Yusniel Diaz OF ( Orioles) - The tools are there for him to be a major leaguer. Some question whether he has the motivation. The Dodgers wheel barreled out $15 million to sign him back in 2015. They traded him to the Orioles for a half season use of Manny Machado. He slogged around in AA for more than two years. This spring he was hoping to win a job with the Orioles, but he will probably start the season in AAA. His tools are probably just above average in all categories, but power wise and defense fall far short of Manny Machado. Because he lacks the burner speed to play center, how his power develops will determine whether his bat can fit into a corner. His highest homerun total is 11 with a career slugging average of .440. Most teams want to see higher production from a corner outfielder. He will need a good season in AAA in 2021 and a couple injuries before he fits with the Orioles.

4. Yoelquis Cespedes OF (White Sox) - He is the younger brother of Yoennis Cespedes, who had a great early career in Cuba before he signed a major league contract. Yoelquis numbers in the Cuban league pale in comparison to Yoennis, yet the White Sox were still willing to pay $2.05 million for him. Yoennis signed a four year contract with the Oakland Athletics for $36 million, when there were not as many restrictions on bonuses for international players. Yoennis hit 177 homeruns in Cuba while Yoelquis has hit 12. Yoelquis only stands 5′9″, so we hold out little hope he will be a stand out player. His arm may be his strongest tool, but it is said he has some power, despite his vanilla .415 slugging percentage in Cuba. The speed is there to play center so if his power does not develop he could survive on his defense and moderate power. He reminds me a bit too much of Adolis Garcia. At 23, he should probably start the year in AA with a potential major league debut in 2022.

5. Alexander Vargas SS (Yankees) - The Yankees spent $2.5 million to sign Vargas in 2019. The 19 year old showed a smooth glove in his rookie league debut, but a little overmatched with the bat. His speed allowed him to steal 15 bases in 48 games and leg out 7 triples. At 5′11″ and only 150 pounds the power is a little short but should improve as he gets stronger. The defensive tools are there for him to stick at short. He needs to show a little better bat if he doesn’t want to fall into oblivion like a number of other Cuban shortstops that are short with the stick and battling for an opportunity to play in the major leagues. Alexander should start the 2021 season in Low A. The Yankees seem to be flush with shortstops so it would not surprise myworld if Vargas is not traded in a couple years for playoff pieces.

6. Norge Vera RHP (White Sox) - Norge is the son of Norge Luis Vera, who was a star for the Cuban National team that won a number of Olympic gold medals. At 6′4″ he has a good frame for a pitcher. The White Sox signed him for $1.5 million in 2021. That is over $3 million the White Sox spent for two Cubans. Norge throws his fastball in the low 90s but it should gain velo as he matures physically. He appears to have the requisite secondary pitches to fit in the middle of a rotation. His long levers had difficulty finding the plate when he pitched in the Cuban League, but he was only 18 then. The White Sox will start him in Low A in 2021.

7. Lazaro Armentaros OF (Athletics) - Lazaro came from Cuba with too much hype. The Athletics believed that hype and spent $3 million to sign him in 2016. He was advertised as a five tool athlete, but his arm is weak and dedicated to left field and he has trouble making contact. He struck out 227 times in 2019. If the pitch has a bend to it Lazaro has trouble making contact. He does have some speed and shows some power when he can make contact. He fell three homeruns short in 2019 from being a 20/20 player in the minor leagues. The 2021 season should see him start it in AA where he needs to focus on making more consistent contact.

8. Bryan Ramos 3B (White Sox) - The third White Sox on this list, but Ramos signed for only $300,000 in 2018. The power is there for him to stick at a corner infield position, but the glove at third may force a move to first. If that is the case there may be more pressure on him for his power to really perform. Major league teams have been reluctant to have right handed gloves who bat right handed play first base. His speed is not great, but he could also move to a corner outfield position. In his one season of Rookie level ball in 2019 he had trouble making contact with 44 whiffs in 51 games. The 2021 season should see him start in Low A.

9. Ronald Bolanos RHP (Royals) - Ronald appeared as the ninth top Cuban prospect in the National League last year. He appears as the ninth best prospect in the American League this year. The Padres signed Bolanos for $2 million in 2016, then included him in a trade to the Royals with Franchy Cordero for Tim Hill. He did get an opportunity to pitch with the Padres in 2019 and with the Royals in 2020, but his seven appearances result in an ERA of 6.94. Throwing strikes has been a bit of a challenge in the major leagues, resulting in 5 dingers in just 23 innings. His fastball hits the mid-90s and his curve has a good break, but if he wants to fit into the rotation he needs to enhance his change to get a third effective pitch. He will start the 2021 season in AAA.

10. Yolbert Sanchez SS (White Sox) - The fourth White Sox on this list. The White Sox signed him for $2.5 million. At 24 he is a veteran of the Cuban League, hitting just two homeruns in his three years there, with averages ranging from .255 to .350. In 2019 he played 29 games in the Dominican Summer League where he was playing against much younger players. The defensive tools are there to play shortstop but the bat needs to improve if he hopes to take on a regular role. A utility option exists if his bat fails to mature. The White Sox may be aggressive with him in 2021 and start him in High A or AA.

Granma With the Slaughter in Cuban Championship

April 2nd, 2021

In Cuba, if you are up by more than 10 runs after seven innings the game is over. No chance for a major comeback. When Granma scored six in the seventh to go up 15-1, Matanzas rallied back to score four. But it was one too short to continue the game as Granma came out the winners 15-5 to go up in the series three games to one.

Guillermo Garcia was the big bat for Granma. He went 4 for 5 with two homeruns and six RBIs. He drove in his first run in the second on a single to finish off the scoring in a five run second. He hit a solo shot in the fifth to put Granma up 6-0. Another single in the sixth drove in two more runs and finally his two run homer in the seventh finished off the scoring. Garcia drove in at least one run in all four innings Granma scored.

Carlos Benitez was also a big bat driving in four. He drove in two runs in the five run second with his double. Carlos added a two run single in the six run seventh, a ball that hit the fence in the air, but Carlos was content turning it into a single.

Joel Mojena worked the first six innings to get the win. He gave up one run, issuing four walks and giving up four hits. Juan Perez almost extended the game in his one inning of work. He gave up four runs on four hits and one walk.

Reinier Rivero, who started game three and was pulled after 2.2 innings because he could not find the plate was equally ineffective yesterday. He found the plate better, walking just one but still could not survive past the second inning, coughing up four of the five runs and giving up five hits in the second inning.

Crocodiles Win One in Cuban Championship Playoff Game

April 1st, 2021

In the semi-finals the Matanzas Crocodiles lost the first two games of the seven game series before roaring back and winning four in a row. In the championship series against the Granma Stallions they lost their first two games. Are they roaring back? Yesterday they got 6.2 innings of strong relief from Naykel Cruz and beat Granma 3-1 to win that first game. Now they need three more.

Reiner Rivera appeared to be a bit wild, walking three and hitting three in his 2.1 innings of work. While he did not allow a hit, Cruz seemed the better alternative and proved that as he finished the game. After the third hit by pitch by Rivera that loaded the bases in the third Cruz came in to get a pop up and ground out to end the inning. The only run he allowed was a Roel Santos homerun in the seventh.

Matanzas strung together three singles in the third to score the first run in the game. Ariel Sanchez lined a single to right to score Eduardo Blanco from second. Despite having runners on first and third with one out the Crocodiles could not score the second run.

They did score two in the fourth. A single by Yariel Duque and a walk to Erisbel Arruebaruena put two runners on to start the inning. Eduardo Blanco bunted, the first baseman made a diving attempt to catch the bunt but it slipped out of his glove when he hit the ground. Blanco made it to first, despite colliding with the pitcher to load the bases with no outs. They scored one run on an error by the third baseman Osvaldo Abreu on a hard ground ball that glanced off his glove. Yudil Mujica single to score the second run. That ended the day for Cesar Garcia, who was 2-0 in his two previous playoff starts. Ariel Sanchez hit a fly ball to center that appeared to score the third run. A replay showed the runner never touched home plate on his slide, instead the catchers foot blocked the plate, the runners hand could only touch the catcher’s foot and the safe call was reversed to an out call.

In the ninth Yulian Milan hit a two out single on a ball that hit the ground and one hopped into his check swing bat to roll into right field for a hit. Darien Garcia was sent to pinch hit, representing the tying run, but Cruz struck him out on a 91 mile per hour fastball to finish the game.

Israel Olympic Team to Tune up with Games in the United States

March 31st, 2021

Israel was the first team to qualify for the Olympics by winning the European qualification championships. It has been a long time since they have gotten together to play games. Soon those Zoom conference calls will turn into games, scheduled to be played against teams in the United States.

They will practice at the Palisades Credit Union Park, the home of the New York Boulders of the Frontier League. They will then play a couple of exhibition games against the Boulders. The first of those games will be played July 12.

The team also plans on playing exhibition games against teams in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland. Ian Kinsler is planning on playing for Team Israel. Kinsler also played for the Team USA team when they won the gold medal at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. With a win at the Olympics he will become the first player to win a World Series, a World Baseball Classic championship and an Olympics.

Granma Goes up 2-0 in Cuban Championship

March 30th, 2021

There is no panic for Matanzas after a 6-5 loss to Granma in game two put them down two games to none. They were down two games to none in the semi-finals when they came roaring back to win four straight games and advance to the championship. Raico Santos blasted a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to break a 5-5 tie and give Granma their second win in a row.

Granma took advantage of the wildness of Noelvis Entenza in the opening frame with two of the first four hitters getting a free pass. A wild pitch advanced Roel Santos to third, but for some reason Carlos Benitez stayed anchored on first. That proved costly when Guillermo Aviles bounced a slow single up the middle that would have scored Benitez, but instead he only advanced to third. Ivan Prieto grounded out to end the inning.

The walks proved costly again for Entenza when he walked the lead off batter in the second inning. A boot by the shortstop Arruebaruena on what should have been a double play grounder put runners on first and second, though the ball did take a bad hop. A bunt moved the runners to second and third where they scored on a gapper into left center by Roel Santos that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.

Matanzas had done nothing against Leandro Martinez in the first four innings. They had a walk but a double play erased that baserunner, so it was 12 up and 12 down through the first four. A walk and a bloop single into centerfield put two runners on and ended the no hitter. Ariel Sanchez then connected on a pitch, sending it just over the left field fence for a three run homer to tie the game at 3-3.

In the sixth Matanzas scored two to take a brief 5-3 lead. Granma decided to go with Juan Perez to start the sixth, ending the day for Martinez despite giving up just two hits. Perez was greeted with two singles by Yadil Mujica and Javier Camero. A walk to Arruebaruena loaded the bases with just one out and ended the day for Perez. He was replaced by Erluis Blanco. Yadir Drake tomahawked a pitch into left field to score two. Arruebaruena made a costly baserunning error, sliding past third base and getting tagged for the second out to put a dagger into the rally.

Granma came back in the bottom frame with a single, walk and a sacrifice bunt that was dropped by the catcher to load the bases with no one out. That ended the day for Entenza, who walked four, three of them scoring. Naykel Cruz replaced Entenza on the mound. He retired the first two hitters he faced on a pop out and punch out. Raico Santos was not so easy. He lined a single up the middle to score two and end the day for Cruz. The game was tied 5-5.

Santos put his stamp on the game in the eighth inning by driving a ball deep into right field to put Granma up for good 6-5. Carlos Santana came on in the ninth to close the game. He gave up hits to the first two hitters he faced to put runners on first and third with no outs. A hard grounder to first turned into a 3-6-3 double play without scoring the runner from third. A whiff on a downward breaking ball ended the game.

Top Ten Prospects From the Bahamas for 2021

March 29th, 2021

Without a 2020 season it is difficult to assess any changes in the prospect status for players from the Bahamas. So we will list the top ten prospect list from 2019 and identify any changes. Three new signees, all shortstops could appear on the top ten list next year. They are the Cardinals Adari Grant, the Marlins Ian Lewis and the Rangers Zion Bannister.

1. Jazz Chisholm SS (Marlins) - Won the starting second base job for the Marlins out of spring training this year. That will make the trade of Zac Gallen more palatable.

2. Kristian Robinson OF (Diamondbacks) - Continues to rise up the prospect level show casing his five tools.

3. D’Shawn Knowles OF (Angels) -

4. Lucius Fox SS (Royals) - Could play a back up role for the Royals this year. Not an impact player despite the $6 million the Giants doled out to sign him.

5. Tahnaj Thomas RHP (Pirates) -

6. Trent Deveaux OF (Angels) -

7. Keithron Moss 2B (Rangers -

8. Chavez Young OF (Blue Jays) - Played for the Canberra Cavalry in Australia in 2020.

9. D’Vaughn Knowles OF (Yankees) - Twin brother of D’Shawn, but not as highly thought of as a prospect.

10. Reshard Munroe OF (Reds) - Released by the Reds July 25, 2019. Signed a contract with the Tri-City Valley Cats of the Frontier League.

Recent Signings from the Bahamas since 2019.

Houston Astros - Everette Cooper OF

St. Louis Cardinals - Adari Grant SS

Miami Marlins - Ian Lewis SS

Baltimore Orioles - Dax Stubbs OF

San Diego Padres - Evan Sweeting RHP

Texas Rangers - Zion Bannister SS

Granma Takes the Opener in Cuban Champships

March 29th, 2021

Osvaldo Abreu smacked a two run triple in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie and that was enough to give Granma a 3-2 win over defending champs Matanzas. Lazaro Blanco went eight innings to get the win. Carlos Santana worked a perfect ninth to earn the save.

Blanco only gave up four hits in the game, but half of those cleared the fence. Yadil Mujica hit a solo shot in the first inning. Anibal Medina pulled Matanzas to within one run with his solo in the sixth. After that second solo shot Matanzas managed only one baserunner in the last three innings.

Yoanni Yera went the full eight innings for the Crocs. He gave up five hits and struck out 11. Three of those five hits came in innings where he gave up his three runs. The only walk he issued scored ahead of the Abreu triple.

Roel Santos scored the first run when he led off the inning with a single. He stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a fly ball hit by Raico Santos.

NPB Season Openers

March 29th, 2021

The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has had their season openers. Myworld was in Pennsylvania focusing on coaching volleyball all weekend so we missed out on reporting the results. Better late than never.

Yomiuri Giants 8 Yokohama Bay Stars 7

The Giants overcame six RBIs from Shunta Tanaka to eke out a victory over the Bay Stars. Tanaka was a compensation pick of the Bay Stars after the Giants signed Takayuki Kajitani. The Giants got a three run homer from Takumi Ohshiro, but it was the lead off walk off homer by Yoshiyuki Kamei in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Giants the win. This year games are only going nine innings so the walk off homer prevented a tie. Almost major leaguer Tomoyuki Sugano did not have a good first outing, giving up three runs on eight hits in six innings.

Kajatani led off in that game going 0 for 3 in the opener. The next night he would hit a grand slam homerun to lead the Giants to a 10-5 win.

Hanshin Tigers 4 Tokyo Swallows 3

The Tigers used two solo shots from Jerry Sands to give them their 4-3 victory over the Swallows. He went a perfect 3 for 3 with one walk and for the weekend hit .500. His solo shot in the eighth inning broke a 3-3 tie. The Tigers used the win to start the weekend 3-0. Sands smashed another round tripper and drove in an additional five runs to give him seven RBIs over the weekend.

The Tigers are still hoping that Shintaro Fujinami can meet his lofty expectations. At one point he was the ace of the Japanese 18 and under team that had Shohei Ohtani in their rotation. He gave up two runs in five innings of work, but what has caused him the most headaches during his career continued with his five walks.

Chunichi Dragons 7 Hiroshima Carp 6

The Dragons over came an early 4-0 deficit to beat the Carp. Dayan Viciedo launched a two run homer in the five run eighth to fuel the rally. Ryosuke Kikuchi went 3 for 5 for the Carp with three runs driven in. He tried to lead a Dragon comeback in the bottom of the ninth as they scored two runs, but it fell one run short. He is also batting .500 for the weekend. Daisuke Sobue got credit for the save despite giving up two runs on three hits.

Rakuten Golden Eagles 8 Nippon Ham Fighters 2

The Eagles were supposed to start recently signed free agent Masahiro Tanaka for the opener, but he injured his calf and will miss probably the first three weeks of the season. The Eagles went with Hideaki Wakui instead and he worked seven shutout innings to give the Eagles the opening day win. The Eagles Ryosuke Tatsumi hit the first 2021 NPB homer of the season with a lead off shot in the first that marched the offense to victory. Daichi Suzuki drove in three runs to lead the charge.

Seibu Lions 4 Orix Buffaloes 3

The Lions scored four early runs in the first three innings and hung on for their victory. Tomoya Mori hopes to have a bounce back year for the Lions and his solo shot in the third was a good sign. He hit another homerun over the weekend, but his two shots are his only two hits over the three games. The Buffaloes got solo shots from Masataka Yoshida and Yuma Tongu, but came up short. Two Buffaloe errors allowed three unearned runs to score and pinned the loss on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who worked seven innings.

Softbank Hawks 8 Chibba Lotte Marines 2

The four time defending champ Hawks started the season off in dominating fashion. The Hawks slugged four homeruns to account for six of their eight runs. The first was a two run blast by Kenta Imamiya in the first to give the Hawks an early 2-0 lead. Ukyo Shuto made it 3-0 after three with his solo shot. Yuki Yanagita went deep with a two run homer in the sixth and Takuya Kai added a solo in the seventh. Shuta Ishikawa went seven innings to earn the victory. The Hawks went on to sweep the Buffoloes over the weekend to start the season 3-0, though the last two games were decided by walk off hits.

Imamiya had a walk off double on Saturday for a 3-2 win. Kenzo Kawashima hit a two run walk off double to give the Hawks a 6-5 win on Sunday. Alfredo Despaigne had hit a two run homer in the eighth to give the Hawks a 4-3 lead. The Buffaloes responded with a two run pinch hit homer from Tsuyoshi Sugano to recapture the lead 5-4.