Israel 2017 WBC Review

February 18th, 2017

Overview - Israel does not have much of an international history in baseball. They did try to run a professional league with United States financial backing but that fell through. Major league baseball still favors them and selected them for a qualifier in 2012. They won their first two games, including defeating the eventual winner Spain but they lost to Spain in the finals 9-7.

Back to the drawing board and this time Israel went undefeated, beating Great Britain twice and Brazil to qualify for the WBC. This will be their first significant international baseball event.

The rules for the WBC allows you to play for a country if you can obtain a passport from that country. That usually means you were born there or had a mother or father who was born in that country. For Israel you can obtain a passport if you are Jewish. It is an easier standard to meet allowing Israel to stock their roster with Jewish major leaguers.

Current International Ranking - Israel is currently ranked 41st in the international rankings, the lowest of any team who qualified for this event. They will be playing South Korea (3), Taiwan (4) and the Netherlands (9). That will be some tough company to beat.

Roster

Pitchers - Dylan Axelrod, Corey Baker, Jeremy Bleich, Craig Breslow, Danny Burawa, Gabe Cramer, Tyler Herron, Jake Kalish, Alex Katz, Dean Kremer, Shlomo Lipitz, Jason Marquis, Troy Neiman, R.C. Orlan, Joey Wagman (DPP), Josh Zeid

Designated Pitchers Pool - Richard Bleier, Scott Feldman, Jake Fishman, Brad Goldberg, Kenny Koplove, Jared Lakind, Ryan Sherriff, Zack Thornton

Catchers - Ryan Lavarnway, Nick Rickles

Infield - Scott Burcham, Ike Davis, Cody Decker, Nate Freiman, Ty Kelly, Tyler Krieger

Outfield - Zach Borenstein, Sam Fuld, Blake Gailen, Mike Meyers

Strengths - They have a veteran in Jason Marquis who can shut down a team for one game. Some bullpen pieces in Josh Zeid, Craig Breslow and Danny Burawa who can hold teams down in the later innings. It will be interesting to see what Ike Davis has left. He could be another Chris Colabello who led Italy in the last WBC. Nate Freiman is another power bat but too much swing and miss put a dead end to his major league career.

Weakness - Not enough fire power for this division. Overall their pitching and hitting will be weak. They have a number of journeyman minor leaguers such as Zach Borenstein and Sam Fuld trying to lead this offense.

Prospect to Watch - Tyler Krieger was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He had labrum surgery so missed the 2015 season but hit .299 at two levels in the minors (Low A/High A). His one big attribute is his speed.

Expected Finish - If they win a game and do not have to qualify for the 2021 WBC that would be an accomplishment. They will not advance past the first round.

Top Dominican Prospects - NL

February 17th, 2017

Not a lot changed with the top Dominican prospects from the National League. No player graduated to the major leagues. Myworld could have cut and pasted from the 2016 list and added it to the 2017 list. Below are the top Dominican prospects with a few new additions.

1. Alex Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - Last year his season was delayed by a drug suspension. This year his season will not get started because of Tommy John surgery. Throwing three digit fastballs can put a lot of stress on that elbow. In his 14 starts last year he put up the worst numbers of his career with a 4.96 ERA and a .252 opposition average. Perhaps his elbow was bothering him then. It will be interesting to see if he can recover all the velocity on his fastball when he returns but it will be at least until mid 2018 before Cardinal fans will see that. Since he has not pitched over 111 innings in his minor league career his pitch counts will be strictly monitored upon his return.

2. Amed Rosario SS (Mets) - Met fans will know how Yankee fans felt when they compared the defensive range of Derek Jeter in his final year at shortstop to that of Didi Gregorius. Amed has gold glove tools for a defensive player at the position far greater than what Asdrubal Cabrera or Wilmer Flores will ever show. He can also hit for average with a .341 average in a 200 at bat trial in AA. The power is short but the speed and the patience to take walks is there for him to be an effective lead off hitter. Expect him to start the season in AAA and when the contract of Cabrera expires after 2017 he will be the Mets shortstop.

3. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) - Robles has yet to show the power but it should come as he matures. He won’t be a slugger but he has the other four tools to create havoc on the opposition. His arm is plus for right field, his speed could play in center and his bat should consistently sit in the .300 neighborhood. Once the power comes Robles has the opportunity to be a 20/20 player on a good year. The Nationals expect Robles to take the place of Harper after Bryce leaves for free agency.

4. Eloy Jimenez OF (Cubs) - Eloy is another one of those 6′4″ giants who can extend his arms and hit the ball a long way. Eloy lacks the speed or the arm to play anything but left field, so that will limit him. Last year in his first year of full season ball he hit .329 with 14 homeruns, putting together a .901 OPS. The Cubs can show a lot of patience with Eloy. Expect him to spend a full season in High A. He will probably not see the Cubs outfield until 2018.

5. Manuel Margot OF (Padres) - The Padres acquired Margot in the Craig Kimbrel trade. His tools and upside are much greater than current centerfielder Travis Jankowski. Last year he had a 10 game September debut and held his own with a .243 average. The power has yet to come but Manuel easily has the other four tools, good speed, ability to hit for average, ability to cover ground in centerfield and the arm to fit in right field should that be a need. Until his power develops he will start his career as a leadoff hitter, but he could move into the number three spot in a couple years.

6. Raimel Tapia OF (Rockies) - Raimel has hit .300 every place he has played. His one failure was his major league debut this year when he only hit .263. His arm fits well in right and he has the speed to play center but the Rockies do not use him there. He may fit the Ichiro role by becoming a .300 hitting right fielder who does not hit for a lot of power. The Rockies outfield situation is a bit crowded so until they get rid of an outfielder Tapia is destined for AAA where he can improve on his .317 minor league career average. The one skill he needs to improve on is his ability to successfully steal bases. His success percentage is very poor.

7. Jeimer Candelario 3B/1B (Cubs) - The nice thing about the Cubs is they like moving players around to different positions. For Jeimer that is a good thing since he plays the same position as Kris Bryant. Jeimer does not have the speed to play the outfield so he will be limited to the corner infield positions. His power has also not shown yet to profile well at the corner infield, though he did slug .542 with 9 homeruns in a 260 at bat debut in AAA. Once he learns to turn on pitches the power will come. His batting average will always be around .300.

8. Aristides Aquino OF (Reds) - Another 6′4 outfielder but Aristides has the arm to play right field. He has already shown his power bat with 23 homeruns in the Florida State League. His lack of burner speed profiles him best as a right fielder, with a plus arm. One thing Aristides can improve on is his walk to whiff ratio (34/104). That could restrict his average to the .250s once he faces major league pitching. Expect him to play a full season in AA in 2017.

9. Dinelson Lamet RHP (Padres) - There is a lot of swing and miss in his pitches, with 11 whiffs per nine innings in AA. Myworld likes his 6′4 inch height and his mid-90s fastball. His slider is plus but he just started throwing his change up last year. If that pitch does not become at least average he could move to the bullpen. Last year Dinelson moved from High A to AAA. In 2017 he could make his major league debut.

10. Juan Soto OF (Nationals) - Rafael Bautista just missed making this list. That gives the Nationals three good outfielders in a couple years. Soto may have the most power among this trio but his speed plays below the other two. His arm is good enough for right field but it falls short of Robles so he may be destined for left field if all three patrol the Nationals outfield in a few years. The 2017 season will be his first in a full season league so it will be interesting to see what numbers he puts up. Last year he hit .368 at the two rookie level leagues in 190 at bats. If he can continue that the Nationals will move him up quickly.

Domincan Republic Prospects NL 2016

Domincan Republic 2017 WBC Review

February 17th, 2017

Overview - The Dominican Republic are the defending champions. That is all you need to say. They overcame a stunning upset by the Netherlands in 2013 eliminating them from second round competition to win it the next time, dethroning two time defending champion Japan and beating the Netherlands in a semi-final game to get there. It was the perfect finish to the 2013 WBC. The ideal scenario would have them defeat Japan in the finals but the Japanese were upset by Puerto Rico in the semifinals.

The WBC is their bread and butter when it comes to their international play. That is when the major leaguers participate. In the amateur international competition they are not so great, which is a reason for their low overall international ranking. In World Cup competition you have to go back almost 50 years the last time they won a medal. Their best finish was in 1948 when they won a gold. They won silver medals in 1942, 1950 and 1952 and took bronze in 1943 and 1969. When major league teams started stealing their ballplayers the Dominican Republic did not have the organizational capability of putting winning teams together absent their major league talent.

In the Pan Am games the Dominican Republic took the gold 1n 1955 and snatched the silver in 1979 but they have not medaled since then. They are even losing their dominance in the Series del Caribe as more major leaguers choose not to play in the event. This year they were the first team eliminated from the playoff round. They have not won the event since 2012. With the win by Puerto Rico only Venezuela has a longer run of not winning a Series del Caribe championship.

In youth tournaments, the building block for creating players the Dominican Republic is usual absent from the tournament or absent from the medal rounds. Most of their youth 16 and under are hanging out at the major league training facilities that dot the Dominican landscape hoping for an opportunity to show someone they have major league skills. They have no interest in competing in international tournaments.

Because the Dominican Republic does not do so well in international tournaments their international ranking is low. To qualify for the Premier 12 tournament a country has to be ranked in the top 12 of countries for baseball. The Dominican Republic falls one short of that at 13th. It is rumored that if the WBC does not achieve revenue for the 2017 event that major league baseball will turn the Premier 12 into the top international baseball event. The problem with that is at the last Premier 12 in 2015 major league baseball did not allow any player on the 40 man major league roster to participate in the event. As the event was held in November and some teams added players to their 40 man roster while the championship game was being played the United States had to remove players from their roster who were added to 40 man rosters with no replacements available.

The only time the Dominican Republic qualified for the Olympics was in 1992. They finished pool play 2-6, defeating Italy and Spain but failing to advance to the medal round. In three consecutive games against Japan, Taiwan and the United States they lost by the combined scores of 38-0, with the games not going the full nine innings because of the slaughter rule.

As stated, the event the Dominican Republic shines in is the WBC, when major league roster players show their patriotic pride and participate in the event. In the first WBC in 2006 they were able to advance to the medal rounds but were upset by Cuba in the semi-finals. History tells us it is the Cubans who brought baseball to the Dominican Republic so losing to them hurt.

In the 2009 WBC in a double elimination format they lost the opening game to a surprising team from the Netherlands that had a kid named Kenley Jansen as their catcher (now the closer for the Dodgers). They were able to bounce back against an outmanned Panama team to get a rematch against Netherlands with the winner advancing to the second round. The feared offensive sluggers David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Bautista, Miguel Tejeda, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz did not score their first run against the Netherlands pitching staff until the 11th inning. Unfortunately they gave up two runs in the bottom frame to be eliminated in the first round.

It was a lesson learned for the 2013 WBC. They rolled through the first round finishing undefeated. In the opening round double elimination second round game they escaped a scare by Italy, winning 5-4 after giving up four runs in the first. They defeated the United States in the second game and Puerto Rico in the final to continue undefeated. In the medal rounds they achieved some measure of revenge by defeating the Netherlands to face a surprising Puerto Rican team they had shutout in the second round. In the gold medal game, they again shutout Puerto Rico to win the championship, with Fernando Rodney shooting his arrow into the sky in celebration.

Don’t know what will happen with the Dominican Republic if the WBC decides not to continue their event.

Current World Ranking - Because of their poor showings in most international events not named the World Baseball Classic the Dominican Republic is ranked 13th among all countries playing baseball. Two teams in their pool the United States (2) and Canada (5) are ranked ahead of them while Colombia is ranked at 19th.

Roster

Pitching - Dellin Betances, Santiago Casilla, Alex Colome, Johnny Cueto, Samuel Deduno (DPP), Jumbo Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Martinez, Hector Neris, Wily Peralta (DPP0, Hansel Robles, Fernando Rodney, Enny Romero, Edinson Volquez

Designated Pitcher Pool - Fernando Abad, Bartolo Colon, Edgar Garcia, Ivan Nova, Alex Reyes (Tommy John surgery), Bryan Rodriguez, Luis Severino, Cesar Valdez

Catcher - Wellington Castillo, Alberto Rosario

Infielders - Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Carlos Santana, Jonathan Villar

Outfielders - Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Mel Rojas Jr.

Strengths - Many of these players participated in the first WBC in 2006. One big absence from this roster is David Ortiz. The lineup is solid especially when you have to choose between Manny Machado or Adrian Beltre for third base. Jose Reyes is at shortstop so if the manager wants to get both bats in the lineup without using up his DH slot Manny can move to shortstop. Carlos Santana and Hanley Ramirez provide power options at first and Robinson Cano is at second. Jonathan Villar can play second or short. This is probably the strongest unit in the WBC, the Dominican Republic infield. The outfield is not too shabby either if Jose Bautista can return to his glory days. That would give them two corners with 40 plus pop with Nelson Cruz playing the other corner. Starling Marte will handle center. The bullpen looks deep with Dellin Betances and Fernando Rodney taking care of the later innings. Alex Colome and Jeurys Familia are not too shabby either. It is a luxury of riches to have four closers in the pen.

Weakness - The catching is not All Star caliber. A lot of teams would like to have a catcher with the skills of Wellington Castillo, but when compared to his teammates he falls far short of being an All Star. Mel Rojas Jr. appears to be a bit out of place on this roster. You think they could have found a bigger name to take that spot as the backup to Marte. He plays a good defensive outfield but his bat is weak. Starting pitching appears a little short, especially with the injury to Alex Reyes. He was not going to be available until the second round anyway. Their first round starters will be Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez and Edinson Volquez. That is still better than the options they had in 2013 when they had to go with Samuel Deduno in a second round game against the United States. In the second round they have the option of going with the veteran in Bartolo Colon or a couple of unproven youngsters in Luis Severino or Ivan Nova.

Prospects to Watch - This is a veteran team so there are not a lot of prospects here. Mel Rojas Jr. and Hansel Robles would be fringe prospects.

Expected Finish - If this team was put together on a major league team it would be favored to make the playoffs and win most of the divisions. There is no reason for them not to repeat as WBC champs, though the previous champs Japan and the always disappointing United States have rosters to match.

Cuba - 2017 WBC Review

February 16th, 2017

Overview - For a number of years Cuba dominated the international baseball circuit. From 1976 to 2005 they won 12 of the 13 baseball world cups. The only reason they did not win in 1982 was because they did not participate. They also dominated the Pan Am games winning 10 straight tournaments from 1971 to 2007. Their dominance stopped after that, when more countries stocked their team with more talented players.

The last three World Cups were won by the United States (2007, 2009), Netherlands (2011) and then the replacement for the World Cup the Premier 12 was won by South Korea. Cuba finished second in the three latest World Cups they did not win and in the Premier 12 they advanced past the first round but lost their first game of a single elimination round to eventual champion South Korea.

When the World Baseball Classic was first put together in 2006 everyone was curious how the Cubans would compete in a tournament filled with major leaguers. Many felt they would finally be put in their place when facing major league players some argued were far more talented than whatever this tiny island nation can provide.

Cuba was put in a division with Puerto Rico, Netherlands and Panama and did quite well, finishing second in their pool, good enough to advance to the second round. The only team they lost to was Puerto Rico, who crushed them 12-2. The second round they were in a more competitive pool with Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. They defeated Venezuela, which was considered a surprise, lost to Dominican Republic and then needing a win over Puerto Rico to advance to the medal rounds they got their revenge with a 4-3 win. The United States was eliminated from the second round after an embarrassing loss to a winless team from Mexico.

Cuba advanced to the final four and the United States didn’t. There were videos showing Cubans celebrating the accomplishments of their baseball heroes. The celebrations became even greater when Cuba upset the Dominican Republic 3-1 to enter the gold medal game with Japan. Japan has been a thorn in the Cubans side in these WBCs and that thorn began in 2006 with a 10-6 win. Cubans were happy to finish in second place in a tournament many did not think they would survive past the second round.

Take a look at the Cuban roster and you will find the seeds of defection were planted after that torunament. There was Yunesky Maya, Leslie Anderson, Yuliesky Gurriel and Alexei Ramirez on that roster who eventually defected. Only Ramirez departed from this team prior to the 2009 WBC but the trickle would become an avalanche after the the next WBC games in 2009 and 2013.

In 2009 Cuba did not fare so well in the WBC. They rolled through the first round in a double elimination format, beating teams from South Africa, Australia and Mexico. In the second round in a double elimination format they were shutout by their nemesis Japan, and then after beating Mexico they were eliminated after a second shutout by Japan. That eliminated Cuba from appearing in the final four.

After that tournament is when the departures began. Aroldis Chapman, Yunesky Maya, Yuliesky Gurriel, Hector Olivera, Leslie Anderson, Yoenis Cespedes and Leonys Martin are now major leaguers, though Gurriel and Olivera left after the 2013 WBC.

The 2013 WBC the Cubans went undefeated in the first round beating Japan, China and Brazil. The game against Japan was not that critical since both teams were guaranteed of advancing despite the result. In a second round match up double elimination Japan knocked Cuba to the losers bracket with a 16-4 thrashing. Still stinging from that loss the Netherlands upset Cuba 7-6, scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Kalian Sams to win the game, eliminating Cuba from advancing to the final four for the second season in a row.

Gone from that team after signing major league contracts are Odrisamer Despaigne, Raciel Iglesias, Jose Abreu, Erisbel Arruebarruena, Jose Fernandez, Yuliesky Gurriel, Andy Ibanez, Alexei Bell, Guillermo Heredia and Yasmany Tomas.

The Cubans would like to show these defections are having a minimal impact on the qualify of baseball in Cuba. The team is young. They are talented. The fans are confident they will do well in the 2017 WBC.

Current Baseball Ranking - Cuba was number one for the beginning of these baseball rankings, but they have now dropped to five based on their performances in previous WBC events. They are still quite competitive in the international youth tournaments. They are in the same bracket as the number one team Japan, the number ten team Australia and number 18 China.

Roster

Pitchers - Freddy Alvarez (DPP), Vladimir Banos, Lazaro Blanco, Noelvis Entenza, Jose Angel Garcia, Vladimir Garcia, Miguel Lahera, Leandro Martinez (DPP), Raidel Martinez, Livan Moinelo, Alain Sanchez, Yosvani Torres, Yoanni Yera,

Designated Pitchers Pool - Erlis Casanova, Yoalkis Cruz, Dachel Duquesne, Leomil Gonzalez, Yasmany Hernandez, Jonder Martinez, Frank Medina, Jose Rodriguez

Catchers - Yosvani Alarcon, Frank Morejon, Osvaldo Vazquez

Infielders - Guillermo Aviles, Alexander Ayala, Carlos Benitez, Jeferson Delgado, Alfredo Despaigne, Yurisbel Gracial, Yordan Manduley, William Saavedra

Outfielders - Frederich Cepeda, Yoelkys Cespedes, Victor Mesa, Roel Santos

Strengths - They do have some veteran starting pitchers in Freddy Alvarez and Vladimir Banos that will probably start the first two games. Yoanni Yera is a good third starter who will give any teams fits. They also like to use the diminutive Livan Moinello in a set up role. He throws a lot of innings in middle relief. The closer is Miguel Lahera. Though he is listed as an infielder Alfredo Despaigne is their big slugger and usually plays the outfield. There are not a lot of players who have the power of Despaigne. The outfield is talented and fast with Yoelkis Cespedes, the younger brother of Yoenis, Victor Mesa and Roel Santos patrolling the green leaving Despaigne to get most of his playing time in the DH spot.

Weakness - Don’t know how much Frederich Cepeda has left. There is also not a lot of room for him in the lineup. The pitching after the starters and Moinelo and Lahera could be a little dicey. The catching is focused more on their defense than their offense and the infield has been decimated by defections of talented players. The hitters have also had trouble making contact against pitchers who can throw the slider since that pitch is not in the repertoire of most pitchers in Cuba.

Prospects to Watch - Victor Mesa will show he can cover a lot of ground in centerfield. He also can be a terror on the bases, though Cuba does not traditionally believe in stealing a lot of bases. He does not have a lot of power but he gets on base. Despite his small stature Moinelo is a lefty that gets hitters out. He doesn’t throw hard but he has a wide array of pitches with good command of those pitches. Yera and Alvarez are two pitchers who are relatively young at 28 but would fit right now in a major league rotation. Guillermo Aviles stock is down now that he has been moved from the outfield to play first base. Myworld does not think he has the power to fit the position. Roel Santos is another small in stature player that can impact the game with his speed.

Predicted Finish - They should finish in second place in this pool to advance to the second round. Their biggest obstacle will be Australia. Fans will not be pleased with any finish other than first.

30 Teams 30 Days - Tampa Bay Rays

February 16th, 2017

Overview - When Tampa Bay put the “Devil” out of their name they made the playoffs. They have not had a winning record the last three years so maybe they should look at tweaking their name a second time. Their 68-94 record puts them back at where they were when they were an expansion club, with the opportunity to draft a pretty good player in 2017 with a top five pick. They had a losing record for every month of the season except October, which has only two games on its schedule. Pitching was no longer a strength with an ERA buried in the middle of the pack. Hitting continued to be a sore spot with a batting average last in the league. They did hit for some power but that did not prevent them from having the second worst run production in the league.

Strengths - The franchise player is Evan Longoria. He is their mister consistency with a career high 36 homeruns last year while playing in all but two games for the fourth year in a row. He was two RBIs shy of 100. Finding a place for Brad Miller is critical. He moved from shortstop to first base, but the Rays have Logan Morrison to play first. Both bat lefthanded so a platoon does not make sense. They need to find a place for those 30 homeruns in the lineup. Brad could play second base or move to DH. Catching could be a strength if Wilson Ramos comes back healthy in June. Last year he was one of the best catchers in the game, but he has always been injury prone. If he is not healthy this position becomes a weakness. One of the best defensive centerfielders in the game is Kevin Kiermaier but he was limited to just 105 games last year. His bat is also a bit soft. The Rays have to hope for a turn around from Chris Archer. If he can pitch as he did in the second half of the season the rotation should be solid with Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell leading the trifecta. Two other pitchers have to be located during spring with Jose Deleon getting a pretty good look if Alex Cobb can not come back from his injury.

Weakness - Myworld can’t really see Matt Duffy play short. If he is better than Brad Miller that makes a big statement. The Rays may be better when Willy Adames is ready by mid-season. They could also go back to Brad Miller as their shortstop. The Rays signed Colby Rasmus to give their outfield another swing and miss candidate. Stephen Souza occupies right field and his 159 whiffs did not come with the expected power (17 homeruns). On the other corner Rasmus whiffed 121 times in 107 games with a .207 average. The Rays need to see a higher batting average and more pop from the two corner outfielders if they hope to finish over .500. Logan Morrison has a bat that is too quiet for first base. He was limited to 15 homeruns last year though he only played in 107 games. Nick Franklin is better suited as a utility player which could open second base to Brad Miller. They traded away Logan Forsythe and his 20 homeruns for a future pitching prospect in Jose Deleon.

Non-Roster Invitees - Dayron Varona and Rickie Weeks are two interesting candidates to fill the Rays outfield. Varona hit 14 homeruns in AAA last year and Weeks was on the Diamondbacks roster all season as a fourth outfiielder pinch hitter. He could end up filling that role for the Rays.

Breakout Prospects - Willy Adames could fill the shortstop job by mid-season, unless the Rays choose to save his service time. He has the potential to be a power hitting shortstop with plus defensive tools. Jose Deleon was recently acquired from the Dodgers and could fill the back end of the rotation by mid-season. If Alex Cobb is not healthy he could open the season in the rotation. Last year he got battered in four starts for the Dodgers. AAA will be the best spot for him to begin his career. Brent Honeywell could be the 2016 version of Blake Snell. Except for the shutout streak their minor league seasons mirrored each other. Honeywell has a nice screwball, which is a pitch not thrown by many. Casey Gillaspie hits for power but does not match the glove of Logan Morrison. He could also fill the DH role if the Rays feel they need to add more punch to their offense.

Prospects to Watch - Lucius Fox was one of the players acquired for Matt Moore. He plays a fluid defense at short but the bat still needs to develop. The Giants paid a $6 million bonus for the native from the Bahamas. He could move Willy Adames to third. Adrian Rondon is another high salaried bonus baby who the Rays paid close to $3 million to sign him. He has been a bit of a disappointment offensively but his defense at short has been solid. Nick Ciuffo was a first round pick in 2013 but has been a big disappointment from an offensive stand point. The lack of high first round draft picks has disappeared from the Rays repertoire in past seasons because of winning records. The 2017 season should see a return to a high number one pick. The Rays hope this lasts only one season.

Expected Finish - Like last year they will finish at the bottom, far from the next to last place team. Another 90 loss season is in the forecast unless their pitching shows major improvement.

New Baseball Stat - BPO

February 15th, 2017

The baseball geeks are always coming up with a new baseball stat to define who is the best in baseball. The newest stat is the BPO or Bases Per Out. After all, the game is about running around the bases. The more bases you run the better your chance of reaching home.

The statistics used to calculate BPO are the count of the bases a batter reaches through hits, i.e a double is two, walks, stolen bases and being hit by pitch. Add the bases he gains for his team by advancing other runners with sacrifice bunts and flies. What is missing in this calculation is the number of bases a hitter advances runners that is an out that is not considered a sacrifice.

You also count the outs he makes, including double plays, sacrifices and times caught stealing. Now you might say that sacrifices are included in the above, but with runners on first and second a sacrifice could get you two bases while the bunt will only give you one out.

You the divide the first number of the bases you advance by the second number of outs you make and get a result.

If you use this number to identify the top pitcher in the American League that would be Corey Kluber with a 77.0 BPO. In the National League it would be Kyle Hendricks at 77.3. The top hitter in the American League would be Mike Trout (1.181 BPO) while in the National League it would be Joey Votto (1.088). The retired David Ortiz had the second best BPO rating in the American League (1.068).

To show how accurate this statistic is in predicting the wins and losses of a team consider that the top criteria for predicting wins and losses is if one team scores more runs than the other. That is usually a 100 percent indicator of a win. The second most accurate indicator of a win at 81.8 percent is the winning team will accumulates the most bases than the losing team. No other statistic achieved over a 77 percent accuracy rate.

So for you stat geeks another acronym for you to digest and argue over.

Colombia 2017 WBC Review

February 15th, 2017

Overview - Baseball is a curiosity sport in Colombia but it is picking up steam in popularity. Not everyone is enamored with soccer so the niche sports can prosper. In Colombia baseball is the niche sport for those kids who are outclassed by the soccer super stars. If you are not good with your feet perhaps you are better with your hands.

Colombia got in the WBC by winning a qualifier over teams from France, Panama and Spain. Panama was the favorite but a homerun from Dilson Herrera in the eighth inning gave Colombia the 2-1 win in the finals. It was the second time Colombia had defeated Panama in the tournament so they have earned their right to play. Unfortunately, they will be placed in one of the toughest pools with the United States, the defending champion Dominican Republic and Canada.

While many think baseball is in its infancy in Colombia they do have a record of winning medals in the baseball World Cups. The last medal they won was in 1974, though they have won gold medals in 1947 and 1965. Silver medals were earned in 1945 and 1971 while another bronze was taken in 1948. In both years they won the gold medal the games were hosted by Colombia in Cartagena. Interestingly, those are the only two world cups they have ever hosted for baseball. So there is some winning history for baseball in Colombia, who had an overall record of 91-84 in World Cup competetion.

This will be their first time playing in a WBC. They have competed in two qualifiers, not advancing in the first but advancing to the big show in the second.

Current World Ranking - Colombia falls out of the top 12 listed as the 19th ranked country for baseball. The United States is number two and Canada sits at number eight. The Dominican Republic may be ranked 13th but they are the defending champions. They do not fare as well in international tournaments without their major leaguers so their ranking for the WBC is probably lower than it should be.

Roster

Pitchers - Horacio Acosta (DPP), Nabil Crismatt, William Cuevas, Dayan Diaz, Ernesto Frieri, Tayron Guerrero, Sugar Ray Marimon, Guillermo Moscoso, Gregg Nappo (DPP), Javier Ortiz, Yohan Pino, Jose Quintana, Julio Tehran, Karl Triana

Designated Pitchers Pool - Kendy Batista, Randy Consuegra, Luis Escobar, Erling Moreno, Reiver SanMartin, Angel Vilchez, Ezequiel Zabaleta

Catchers - Jorge Alfaro, Jhonatan Solano, Meibrys Viloria

Infielders - Dilson Herrera, Mauricio Ramos, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Adrian Sanchez, Donovan Solano, Giovanny Urshela

Outfielders - Efrain Contreras, Tito Polo, Jesus Valdez

Strengths - While they are the underdogs Colombia should not be overmatched, not when you have two aces like Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran in your rotation. The challenge will be finding the third starter to finish out the pool. Tayron Guerrero throws in the mid 90s but Ernest Frieri and Sugar Ray Morimon have more experience. They also have some strength behind the plate. If you want tools you’ll go with Jorge Alfaro and if you want experience call on Jhonaton Solano. Meibrys Viloria is one of the hottest prospects in the low minors hitting over .340. The middle infield should be solid with Dilson Herrera and Donavan Solano taking up those spots. Herrera got the game winning homerun to put Colombia into the WBC and Solano is a utility infielder good enough to make the major leagues. Giovanny Urshela is a good defensive option at third but he was demoted by the Indians a couple years ago because of a lack of offensive production.

Weakness - The starters will not go nine so that is where a solid bullpen comes into play. Colombia is weak there. If Guerrero does not start he may be asked to be their closer. They also do not have a lot of depth and zero major league experience in their outfield. While they have some talented players, many of them are only highly touted prospects in the minor leagues. The only major leaguers on this roster Quintana, Tehran, the Solanos and Frieri with Herrera also seeing some time are not enough to compete in this pool. They are playing in a pool with three teams whose rosters are filled with major leaguers. For Colombia you can only say their roster is dotted with major leaguers.

Prospects to Watch - They have a ton of them. The most talented pitcher is probably Tayron Guerrero. He can throw the ball hard but lacks command. Two catchers are future potential stars in the major leagues. Jorge Alfaro is a top prospect who will make his name known in 2017 with his power bat and solid defense behind the plate. Meibrys Viloria is a prospect on the rise who will probably not see a lot of playing time in these games. Dilson Herrera should compete for playing time at second base for the Reds now that they have traded Brandon Phillips. Tito Polo is a fringe outfield prospect while Giovanny Urshela made the Indians roster as a third baseman but was demoted because of his lack of offense.

Expected Finish - With Quintana and Teheran they could surprise with one win and Canada is a team they can beat. They may choose to start their two aces against the United States and Dominican Republic, which will leave a lesser starter to do battle against Canada. Myworld does not see them advancing past the first round.

Taiwan 2017 WBC Review

February 14th, 2017

Overview - Taiwan has a professional league (China Professional Baseball League) but that league is not assisting Taiwan in the formation of the World Baseball Classic tournament roster. That team is put together by the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTPA). Lots of drama goes on between these two. The CPBL left it up to the four teams in the CPBL whether they would allow their players to participate. Only one team, the Lamiga Monkees did not allow their players to participate.

The Taiwan professional league is considered the third rated professional league in Asia behind Japan and Korea. One has to wonder where all those talented Little League stars played once they grew to adults. Despite all those Little League World Series victories their best finish in the International Baseball World Cups was in 1984 when they won the silver medal, finishing second to the power house Cuban team. They won bronze medals in 1986, 1988 and 2001 and finished with a respectable 93-77 record.

In 1992 when baseball was introduced into the Olympics Taiwan won the silver medal, again finishing behind the gold medal Cuban team. They lost to the United States team in pool play 10-9 but finished in the top four to qualify for the medal round, upsetting the Japanese team 5-2 to go to the gold medal game. The United States team played Cuba in the other semi-final match and lost 6-1. Japan would trounce the United States 8-3 to win the bronze while Cuba pounded Taiwan 11-1. They were embarrassed in the last Olympics in 2008 losing to China 8-7. That loss virtually knocked them out of being in the final four and competing for a medal. After the initial medal in the first Olympics Taiwan has not won a medal since.

In the Asian Baseball championships Taiwan has surprised in the last three events by taking the silver. The last time they won the gold in this event was back in 2001. They are usually considered the third team behind Japan and Korea.

In the three World Baseball Classics they have yet to medal. In 2006 they failed to advance past the first round, with South Korea and Japan the two teams advancing ahead of them. The only team they were able to conquer was China. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic they lost both their games in the double elimination tournament, including a losers bracket game to China that closely followed a loss in the 1988 Olympics. Many of the players on the two rosters were later implicated in a gambling scandal in the CPBL with some of the players indicted. They were forced to qualify for the 2013 WBC, did so and advanced past the first round for the first time when a three way tie between Taiwan, Netherlands and Korea eliminated Korea from advancing. Taiwan lost both their games in a double elimination second round, the first to Japan and the second to Cuba.

In the WBSC 2015 Premier 12, which is composed of the top 12 countries in baseball, but usually lacks major leaguers, Taiwan just missed advancing to the second round. They finished tied with Puerto Rico for fourth place and Puerto Rico advanced as a result of their win over Taiwan in pool play.

Current World Ranking - Taiwan is currently ranked fourth in the world in baseball, much of that fueled by their performance in international youth tournaments. Of the other teams in their pool Korea is ranked third, the Netherlands is ninth and Israel is ranked 41st. The 41st ranking by Israel does not reflect that the WBC will have a number of major league baseball players of Jewish descent on their roster, so this will be a very competitive pool.

Roster

Pitchers - Hung-Wen Chen, Kuan-Ju Chen, Yun-Wen Chen (DPP), Shao-Ching Chiang, Sheng-Hsiung Huang, Chun-Lin Kuo, Che-Hsuan Lin, Chen-Hua Lin, Kuo Hua Lo (DPP), Fu-Te Ni, Wei-Lun Pan, Chia-Hao Sung, Ming-Chin Tsai, Ching-Ming Wang

Catchers - Ta-Hung Cheng, Kun-Sheng Lin

Infielders - Chia-Hao Chang, Yung-Chi Chen, Chi-Hung Hsu, Chin-Lung Hu, Chih-Hsiang Lin, Chih-Sheng Lin, Yi-Chuan Lin, Sheng-Wei Wang

Outfielders - Cheng-Wei Chang, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Kuo-Hui Kao, Guo-Long Luo

More Designated Pitchers Pool - Ping-Hsueh Chen, Hung-Cheng Lai, Yen-Cheng Lu, Cheng-Hao Wang, Chien-Ming Wang, Wei-Chung Wang, Chun-Chieh Wu, Chien-Fu Yang

Strength - They have a lot of pitchers in the designated pitchers pool but it is unclear what that quality is. Fu-Te Ni once played for the Detroit Tigers in the major leagues and he will probably be their ace. Another ex-major leaguer is the ex-Yankee star Chien-Ming Wang but he appears to be listed among those pitchers available if Taiwan advances past the first round. Three minor league pitchers on the staff are the Indians Ping-Hsueh Chen and Shao-Ching Chiang and the Brewers Wei-Chung Wang. Chen and Wang are in the designated pitchers pool available for the second round. Of the pitchers on the roster the best appear to be the other Ching-Ming Wang (3.49 ERA) in the CPBL and Chia Hao Sung from the Japanese NPB Rakuten Eagles (2.44 ERA).

The big power bats will belong to outfielder Kuo-Hui Kao who hit 34 homeruns in the CPBL and drove in 104 runs and infielders Chih-Shing Lin (.337, 34, 107) and Chih-Hsien Chiang (.402, 30, 104). The CPBL appears to be an offensive league with a lot of high ERAs and explosive batting averages. Teams in the CPBL are allowed to fill their rosters with three foreign players and those are usually pitchers, watering down the local pitching talent for the CPBL to back end rotation starters or long relief pitchers.

Weakness - The CPBL tends to be a league measured at between High A and AA. Many ex-major leaguers who can’t play in Japan drop down to Korea. If they fail in Korea their next step is Taiwan. Only time will tell how these players from the CPBL, mixed with Taiwanese players from the Japanese and United States major and minor leagues fare against the best in the world. Pitching will probably be their down fall and an inability to hit the major league slider.

Prospects to Watch - Wei-Chung Wang may be the best prospect, but he isn’t really a prospect anymore since he spent one whole season as a Rule V pick with the Brewers. Shao-Ching Chiang got 27 starts in Low A as a 23 year old but with uninspiring numbers.

Expected Finish - The Korean team has been hit by a number of injuries so it is possible for Taiwan to advance. Myworld believes they will fall short in a very competitive pool.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Cleveland Indians

February 14th, 2017

Overview - Myworld has been predicting an Indians division win for the last couple years and it finally came true last year. Their starting pitching is the class of the division if not the American League. Despite injuries that happened to key players the Indians were able to keep afloat in the division. This year they could walk away from the division if the Tigers and Royals do not do well and decide to rebuild like the two other teams in their division. At some point you have to wonder when the fans will come out again to support the team. They used to be a guaranteed sell out now the stadium is half full for a World Series team.

Strengths - Francisco Lindor won the gold glove last year as the best fielding shortstop in the American League. He also showed that his offensive improvement in the major leagues last year was not a fluke, hitting .301 with 15 homeruns. The Indians will have this position covered for a while. Edwin Encarnacion was a nice free agent signing to fill the DH spot. His one consistency over the last four years is that he hits 40 plus homeruns per year. The park in Cleveland is not as conducive to the long ball as the Blue Jays park, but Edwin will get his share of homeruns. Where did Jose Ramirez come from? He doesn’t have the power you would like to see from your third baseman, but he is a solid defensive player who hit .312 with 46 doubles. The big unknown is whether he can replicate those numbers. Carlos Santana doesn’t hit for average anymore but he is good for 30 plus homeruns and 100 plus walks. The starting pitching has a solid four in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. Kluber has already won a Cy Young. Carrasco could be next. The oldest of this group is Kluber at 31. Andrew Miller adds some depth to their bullpen and gives them an alternate closer. Cody Allen saved 32 games for them last year. The bullpen is good enough to hold leads for three innings.

Weakness - The outfield depends a lot on the health of Mickey Brantley. He almost won the MVP a couple years ago but injuries allowed him to only play 11 games in 2016. If he is not healthy the Indians may have to fill the slot with young players or rookies. The replacement for Brantley is Brandon Guyer and perhaps a left handed bat. Tyler Naquin does not cover a lot of range in center field but his average is .296 with 14 homeruns. Lonnie Chisenhall is their right fielder. He failed to hit double digits in homeruns and struggled against left handed pitching. If Brantley is healthy Guyer could swing over to right field to be his platoon partner. Yan Gomes was injured much of the year, but even when he was healthy he hit just .167. That is a far cry from what he could do when he took over the position a couple years ago. They have a good young player in catcher Francisco Mejia but he will not be ready until 2018. The Indians need a bounce back from this position in 2017.

Non-Roster Invitees - Chris Colabello could fit at first base or in the outfield. He was a late bloomer who has not been the same since his drug suspension. Richie Shaffer has bounced around the waiver wire but seems to have settled in Cleveland. If he can make better contact he has the potential for 30 plus homeruns. Austin Jackson can steal a base and play centerfield. He should make the team if he has anything left in the tank.

Impact Prospects - Bradley Zimmer is ready to break into the outfield in 2017. The 2014 first rounder has the potential for 20 plus homeruns. Myworld thinks he is better suited for a corner outfield spot, but some think he can handle centerfield. The player myworld likes for center is Greg Allen. He has only played 37 games in AA so some more seasoning is needed. A mid-season call up is a possibility. Greg lacks the power of Bradley but is the superior defensive player with the potential to steal 40 plus bases per year. Francisco Mejia had a 50 game hitting streak last year. The Indians almost traded him mid season in their playoff run to improve their major league catching position. If Gomes struggles again Mejia could be asked to take over behind the plate. Erik Gonzalez could fit in a utility role. Richie Shaffer has the potential to offer a power bat in a corner infield or outfield position if he can make better contact. The Indians are pretty set in the rotation but if injuries make their appearance Ryan Merritt is a lefty arm who can fit in a rotation. Rob Kaminsky, a 2013 first round pick of the Cardinals is another lefthanded arm who may be best suited for the bullpen. Last year he started 25 games in the minors.

Prospects to Watch - One of the best prospects we saw play was the long limbed Triston McKenzie. He is a 2015 supplemental first round pick who stands 6′5″ with mid-90s heat. Brady Aiken was the first pick in the 2014 draft by the Astros but he did not sign because of injury concerns and lowered bonus money. He had Tommy John surgery shortly afterward and struggled in his first year back after the surgery. He could move quickly if he achieves some success early. Bobby Bradley is a slugging first baseman with 30 plus homerun power. He will have to wait until Carlos Santana relinquishes the position. Adam Plutko had some success with UCLA, leading them to a College World Series. His stuff is not overpowering but he can get hitters out.

Expected Finish - They will run away with this division.

China 2017 WBC Review

February 13th, 2017

Overview: Not much is known about the ballplayers that litter the China roster. They have not participated in many international events since baseball under Chairman Mao was prohibited. They used to have a professional league but that has fallen out of popularity. Major league baseball has a big interest in seeing that baseball succeeds in China because there is a huge economic benefit from it.

China has participated in the Asian Series baseball tournament but has never finished better than the bronze medal. They always fall behind the three power houses of baseball in Asia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. When the World Cup was in their final stages they would participate in the event but they never finished with a medal, their overall record 6-19.

They have been able to surprise Taiwan in the Beijing Olympics and in the 2009 WBC but those victories were tainted by gambling concerns. A number of players on that Taiwan roster were implicated or convicted of throwing matches in the CPBL.

In the WBC China has never advanced past the first round. They have not had to qualify for future WBC events based on the fact they have always managed to pull out a victory in the last two events. In 2013 they beat Brazil. In 2009 they upset Taiwan in a losers bracket game, forcing Taiwan to have to qualify for the 2013 event. In 2006 they did not win a game but there was no qualifying round for the 2009 games.

Current World Ranking - China is currently ranked 18th in the international baseball rankings, which puts them too low to qualify for the Premier 12, which is composed of the top 12 ranked countries in baseball. They are in a tough pool with Japan, the top ranked team in baseball, Cuba, who used to be number one, but after a number of defections from players to the major leagues dropped to five and Australia at ten.

Roster

Pitchers - Bruce Chen, Kun Chen, Andrew Chin, Quan Gan, Haicheng Gong, Kwon Ju, Xin Li, Yu Liu, Chao Lu, Yusong Lu, Xia Luo, Jiping Qi, Menghao Wang, Chaoqun Zheng

Catchers - Ning Li, Weiqiang Meng, Wei Wang

Infielders - Ray Chang, Yanpeng Chen, Fujia Chu, Xiaolei Du, Zeyuan Li, Joey Wong, Gui Yuan Xu

Outfielders - Zhenhong Lu, Chuang Na, Shunyi Yang, Yanyong Yang

Strengths - Myworld would not call these strengths but they will make China competitive. Bruce Chen used to be a nice middle or back end of the rotation starter in the major leagues. He was actually born in Panama but his parents are Chinese. He gives them a nice ace who could shut an offense down. Wei Wang is a solid catcher who was touted as the first major league signing. He did not make it to the major leagues and at 38 his time has passed. But he can provide his veteran knowledge to the young pitching staff. In the Beijing Olympics he was the catcher that was bowled over by a United States player that caused bad blood between the two teams. Joey Wong is a minor leaguer who has reached AAA after eight seasons in the minor leagues. He could play a role in the middle infield position. Wong will team with Ray Chang another minor leaguer who played shortstop for China in the Beijing Olympics. That will probably be the position he plays in this WBC. Neither player has a lot of pop to make a difference in the offense, but their defense up the middle should be solid.

Weakness - There are not a lot of young prospects on this team scouts can look for as possible major league fodder. The experience should help them in games, but it won’t be the same as the experience received by the major league players.

Prospects to Watch - None that myworld is aware of. The youngest player is Gui Yuan Xu who is 21. There are a number of players who lack birth dates on the WBC roster site.

Expected Finish - It will be an accomplishment if they can win a game to again not have to qualify. This will be a tough division to do that in. The prediction - 0-3.