Another Thriller in WBC; United States Prevails Over Japan

March 22nd, 2017

Another one run ball game. In a previous final four Japan had beaten the United States 9-4 on their way to their first WBC championship back in 2006. The faces have changed in 2013 but this time the United States wins 2-1. A ground ball out to third scored the winning run in the top of the eighth inning. The United States will now face Puerto Rico for the WBC championship. This is the farthest the United States has gone in a WBC event. The undefeated Puerto Ricans lost in the finals in 2013 to the Dominican Republic.

Both starting pitchers were excellent. Tanner Roark went four innings allowing just two hits. The Japanese could only get four hits against the United States pitching staff. Tomoyuki Sugano went six innings and allowed just three hits. An uncharacteristic error by Japan allowed an unearned run to score in the fourth that proved to be the difference in the game.

Ryosuke Kikuchi booted a Christian Yelich grounder with one out in the fourth inning to help the United States score their first run. After Nolan Arenado struck out Eric Hosmer coaxed a walk. Andrew McCutchen bounced a single into left field to score Yelich with the first run of the game.

After Tanner Roark cruised through the first four innings Nate Jones came on to start the fifth. Ryosuke Kikuchi balanced the books for his error with one out in the sixth by roping a ball over the center field fence for a homerun to tie the game 1-1. Andrew Miller came on to replace Nate Jones after the homerun. He walked the first hitter he faced but retired the next two hitters on a strikeout and pop up to end the inning. Miller has been struggling in this tournament so it was good to see him keep the game tied.

In the eighth a one out single by Brandon Crawford got the final United States rally started. Ian Kinsler doubled to put Crawford on third. With one out Japan chose to play the infield deep and Adam Jones grounded to third. Crawford broke for the plate and Nobuhiro Matsuda chose to make the out at first after bobbling the ball, giving the United States a 2-1 lead. If not for the bobble Matsuda may still have been able to get Crawford out at home.

Japan got a leadoff single from Seiichi Uchikawa in the eighth. A bunt moved pinch runner Kosuke Tanaka to second. Tetsuto Yamada bunted the ball, a player capable of hitting 30 plus homeruns. Mark Melancon struck out Kikuchi for the second out. A walk to Norichika Aoki brought in Sam Dyson to face Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, who brought a charge to the crowd when he lined hard to right field, but Andrew McCutchen was able to track the ball for the third out.

Luke Gregerson retired the Japanese in order in the ninth to pick up the save to the delight of the 33,462 in attendance. Marcus Stroman will get the start for the United States. He will pitch against Seth Lugo, representing Puerto Rico. Stroman’s last start he gave up six consecutive hits to open the game against Puerto Rico.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Milwaukee Brewers

March 21st, 2017

Overview - Another team in rebuilding mode. You’d think a team releasing a player who hit 41 homeruns in 2016 would have a solid lineup. Chris Carter was not much of a first baseman and the Brewers took a chance at KBO MVP Eric Thames to hold down the position. Cost was the biggest reason for the pink slip to Carter. They also have the stolen base leader in Jonathan Villar on their roster but the Brewers decided to keep him. It will still be a rebuilding year but some of the blocks will be appearing on the major league roster in 2017 giving the Brewers a sneak preview of what 2019 will be about.

Strengths - Enhanced by steroids or not Ryan Braun provides the Brewers some power in left field. He hit 30 homeruns and drove in 91 runs. Last year he had to spend some time in right field, but this year he will be at his more comfortable position in left field. The Brewers hope this will help him offensively. The Brewers will find a place for stolen base leader Jonathan Villar to play. After hitting .285 with 19 homeruns Villar stole a league leading 62 bases. The Brewers acquired Travis Shaw to play third base so expect Villar to knock Scooter Gennett into a utility role. Hernan Perez had a wonderful season hitting .272 with 13 homeruns and 34 stolen bases. The Brewers traded for Travis Shaw so Perez will probably fit in a utility role as well. This gives the Brewers a lot of flexibility with their infield.

Weaknesses - As a rebuilding club they have lots of them, and it usually starts off with pitching. There ace is Junior Guerra who a couple years ago was pitching in Europe. He came to the United States and limited the opposition to a .213 average. Repeating that success will be difficult. After Guerra finding a starting pitcher with an ERA under 4 is a real challenge. With the trade of Tyler Thornburg the bullpen lacks a big time closer. Nefteli Perez at one time was supposed to be the closer for the Rangers but arm injuries ended those hopes. Carlos Torres is another option. He led the team in appearances (72) last year with an ERA of 2.73. Jonathan Lucroy will be missed with his presence behind the plate. Jett Mandy, Andrew Susac and Manny Pina will battle for playing time at catcher. Finding any offense in that trio will be a challenge. The outfield will struggle to score runs unless Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton meet their potential. Myworld expects Lewis Brinson to be playing centerfield before the All Star break.

Non-Roster Invitees - The Brewers have a lot of arms in camp. Myworld likes Forest Snow as a sneaker pick with Joba Chamberlain trying to show he still has his fastball.

Breakout Prospects - Lewis Brinson could win the centerfield job by mid-season after Broxton gets injured or fails to produce any offense. Brinson has speed to play center and take the extra base with the bat to generate an offense to slug multiple balls over the fence. With Brinson, Villar and Perez in the lineup the Brewers will again lead the National League in stolen bases. Josh Hader is a pitcher who has bloomed late, a lefthanded arm that can dial it up at 98 to 99. He has already been on three teams in his short career in the minors. Luis Ortiz is another pitcher who can rise to the top spot in the rotation. He was acquired from the Rangers in the Jonathn Lucroy trade and will start his season in AAA. Jorge Lppez had a rough AAA last year but has been pitching well for the Puerto Rico WBC team and finished last year with a 3.97 ERA in eight starts in AA.

Prospects to Watch - Corey Ray was the Brewers first round pick in 2016. A combination of speed and power makes him a potential impact player. Isan Diaz is a hitting machine. His 2016 season paled in comparison to his 2015 but he did hit a career high 20 homeruns. Defense is his weakness and a move from shortstop to second base is necessary. Trent Clark had a rough year last year, hitting just .231 but injuries limited him to 59 games. He was the Brewers first round pick in 2015 but falls short of Ray in the power and speed category. Lucas Erceg hit .400 in a 100 at bat season in rookie ball. His bat has pop and the tools are there for him to stick at third. Keep an eye on Demi Orimoloye. The Nigerian born outfielder who settled in Canada has five tools, but an inability to recognize pitches and make contact with the ball has held him back.

Expected Finish - Both the Reds and Brewers are forfeiting the 2017 season as they rebuild with prospects. The Brewers are stronger in the position areas and this will put them ahead of the Reds.

Puerto Rico Books Second Trip to the Finals

March 21st, 2017

It took 11 innings and the initiation of the international rule of putting runners on first and second with no outs but Puerto Rico finally won the semi-final game 4-3. A crowd of 24,865 watched as the Netherlands failed to score in the top of the 11th, Curt Smith grounding into a bases loaded double play. Puerto Rico pulled the same strategy with a bunt moving the runners over. The Netherlands Loek Van Mil walked Javier Baez to load the bases but Eddie Rosario lifted a line drive fly ball deep enough into centerfield to score Carlos Correa with the winning run, the throw Profar just a little off line.

It was an epic battle between two talented teams. Both scored in the first but for the Netherlands it could have been so much more. Yadier Molina made his arm known after a single by Andrelton Simmons and a hit by pitch to Xander Bogaerts put runners on first and second with no out. Yadier caught Andrelton leaning too far off second and picked him off. Jurickson Profar followed with a single advancing Bogaerts to third. Jurickson Profar was picked off at first when the throw after the single went to Yadier Molina who threw to T.j. Rivera to nail Profar for the second out. When Wladimir Balentien slugged a homer into centerfield to make it 2-0 the Netherlands thought they should have had so much more to the inning.

Puerto Rico climbed back to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom half. Francisco Lindor doubled with Carlos Correa following with a homerun into centerfield. A Carlos Beltran single was proved null and void after Yadier Molina grounded into a double play to end the inning.

T.J. Rivera went deep in the bottom of the second inning to give Puerto Rico a 3-2 lead. That would be the extent of the Puerto Rican offense until the 11th. Jair Jurrjens replaced Rick VanDen Hurk in the third and the Netherlands bullpen quieted the Puerto Rican bats.

Puerto Rico was able to put runners on second and third with just one out in the third. Stolen bases by Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario taking advantage of the Netherlands battery. T.J. Rivera popped out and Reymond Fuentes grounded out to end the threat.

The Netherlands scored again in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3 but had another runner thrown out at the bases. A double by Wladimir Balentien and an intentional walk to Jonathan Schoop put runners on first and second with two out. Shawn Zarraga lined a double to left field scoring Balentien, but Jonathan Schoop was thrown out at home by a throw from Angel Pagan to Javier Baez to Yadier Molina for the last out of the inning.

Edwin Diaz pitched the last two innings to get the win. He struck out the side in the tenth inning. Puerto Rico turned four double plays, all of them in the seventh inning or after. The only time Puerto Rico did not turn a double play after the seventh inning was in the tenth inning when Edwin Diaz struck out the side. The Netherlands turned three double plays.

Eddie Rosario has been making a name for himself in these games, throwing out base runners and getting key hits for the undefeated Puerto Rican team. They now wait to see who wins the battle between the United States and Japan, playing the winner for the WBC championship.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Cincinnati Reds

March 21st, 2017

Myworld would have nailed this division but we picked Pittsburgh for second and St. Louis for third. St. Louis finished second after a Pirate collapse.

Overview - The Reds are more favored to finish with the highest pick in the draft than a first place finish. They are in the process of a major rebuilding project. They do have one nice piece in Joey Votto, but his salary, age and the surplus at the position he plays makes it tough for the Reds to get anything for him. The team was at or near the bottom in most defensive, offensive and pitching statistics except stolen bases. A young team with speedsters like Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza put them second in the major leagues in stolen bases with 139, though many teams seem to de-emphasize the need to steal a base. The Reds were finally able to trade Brandon Phillips after three years of trying, failing to get any minor leaguer of note. This opens up a spot for Jose Peraza at second base.

Strengths - Joey Votto had a career year last year with a .326 average, .434 OBA and .550 slugging percentage. He walked 108 times and he could see an increase in that number in 2017 because there is no good bat that can hit behind him. Billy Hamilton seems to have figured it out. His defense in centerfield was near gold glove and he seemed to have finally figured it out with his bat (.260/.321/.343). He was second in the National League in stolen bases with 58. Jose Pereza has now been given a position to lose - second base. Last year he had a career year in his rookie seasons hitting .324 with 21 stolen bases. It is doubtful he can repeat those numbers. Zach Cosart gives you solid production at short with his 16 homeruns and solid defense. It is unclear how long he will be in the Reds lineup before being traded to a playoff contender.

Weaknesses - It looks like they lost their veteran Homer Bailey to begin the season. It is unclear how much Homer has left even when he comes back. Their ace of last year Anthony Desclafina will miss the start of the season with a UCL sprain leaving the opening day starter a fight between Scott Feldman and Brandon Finnegan. Feldman has the experience while Finnegan brings the youth. After that the Reds starting five will bring out the youth in their first or second year of major league service. That is usually a recipe for disaster. The relief pitching lacks a proven closer, though that was Raisel Iglesias position in the Cuban professional league. The Reds were hoping to make him a starting pitcher but durability issues became a concern. The corner outfield is a little weak with the unproved Scott Schebler in right field and the defensively Adam Duvall in left field. Duvall struck out in 164 at bats which left his average down to .241. Schebler had some issues hitting lefthanders (.195) but the power stroke came easy with 9 homeruns in just 82 games. The catching has Devin Mesoraco behind the plate but he is having trouble staying healthy. Tucker Barnhart will get the starts in his place. His bat is too much vanilla but his defense Is solid.

Non-Roster Invitees - The starting pitching for the Reds is so thin Bronson Arroyo has a shot to make the rotation provided he can show his arm can stay healthy. Rob Brantley could take the back up catching position if Devin continues to battle injuries. Ryan Raburn is a right handed bat that the Reds could platoon with Schebler.

Breakout Prospects - The Reds are rebuilding, especially in the pitching rotation. Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson are two pitchers who can make the rotation with decent springs. Amir is an ex-basketball player with a left handed fastball that can hit mid-90s but with rudimentary secondary pitches. Stephenson throws from the right side with a fastball in the high 90s. His big issue is getting command of the strike zone. The Reds would like to see more power generated from the bat of outfielder Jesse Winker. He is not a strong defensive player so if he doesn’t hit he probably will not play. Nick Travieso was a former number one pick in 2012. The stuff is not there with a low 90s fastball and average to below secondary offerings.

Prospects to Watch - The Reds have delved into the Cuban market, signing pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez and shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez. This will be the first year for Vladimir facing major league hitters. His fastball has gained velocity since arriving in the United States going from the high 80s to low 90s. His curveball is a good pitch. The Reds signed him for a $4.75 bonus. Alfredo Rodriguez struggled in rookie ball (.234) not something you want to see from a 22 year old. He will play a superb defensive shortstop but his bat will hit near the bottom of the order. Nick Senzel was the Reds first round pick in 2016. A college bat who can rise quickly if he can show the power for third base. Last year he slugged .567 at Dayton. Aristides Aquino can hit for power with 23 homeruns last year in High A. At 6′4″with a rifle for an arm he will eventually fill right field for the Reds. Tyler Stephenson was a Reds 2015 first round pick. The catcher struggled with the bat (.216) but injuries limited him to 44 games with the injuries probably having an impact on his offensive struggles. The Reds hope he can find his offense in 2017.

Expected Finish - The Reds will be battling for the first round pick in 2018. They have no expectation to contend.

MyWorlds Top 100 - 20-11

March 20th, 2017

20. Michael Kopech RHP (White Sox) 7.83 - Michael was the Red Sox first round pick in the 2014 draft. He created quite a buzz last year when his fastball hit 105. The Red Sox made him part of the prospect haul of the White Sox in the David Price trade. Maturity issues are his big obstacle. He has two suspensions in his short career, one for drugs and one for fighting. His fastball is probably one of the top five in the minor leagues consistently hitting triple digits. He complements that fastball with a nice low 90s slider, with a change that he can throw as his third pitch. Single A hitters managed to hit only .147 against him and he was filthy with the strikeouts. Command could use improvement but that should come with time. The White Sox will probably start Kopech in AA. Because he has not eaten up a lot of innings they will be patient with his pitch count. If a major league promotion occurs it will not be until September.

19. Anderson Espinoza RHP (Padres) 8.05 - At 6′0″ with a fastball in the mid 90s the Domincan Espinoza is compared to Pedro Martinez. The Red Sox shelled out a $1.8 million bonus to sign him then traded him to the Padres for Drew Pomeranz. What separates Anderson from many pitchers his age is his ability to throw his change with a similar delivery as his fastball, giving him two plus pitches. His curve needs more consistency but it has the makings to be a plus pitch. Despite the glowing reports on his mid-90s fastball that can hit triple digits and a plus change hitters had success against him last year with a .276 opposition average at Low A. His small stature brings discussions of durability, which could result in a move to the pen as a closer. Expect Anderson to start the 2017 season in High A.

18. Nick Senzel 3B (Reds) 8.27 - Myworld has not seen much of Senzel. He was the Reds first round pick in the 2016 draft and to rise this high in many prospect rankings this early in his career is impressive. He has a college bat so a lot is already known about him. In his professional debut in Low A he hit .329. He also had a .982 OPS hitting seven homeruns. What was surprising was his 15 stolen bases, a lot for a player with average speed who plays the hot corner. More will be known about him as he rises up the minor league ladder and faces better pitching. A .415 OBA with a 32/45 walk to whiff ratio was also eye opening and his defensive tools should play out at third. As a college bat expect him to rise quickly in the minor leagues, with a start in High A and a promotion to AA if he continues to find success.

17. Willy Adames SS (Rays) 8.3 - The Tigers originally signed Adames but traded him to the Rays in their playoff drive to acquire David Price. Adames has a lot of upside with a bat that could hit for average and the power to hit for 20 plus homeruns. His tools should allow him to stay at short, though there is some question about his range. A strong arm and quick feet should help with that issue. The Rays have a shortstop opening and Adames hit .274 with a .802 OPS last year in AA. Myworld expects him to start the season in AAA but would not be surprised to see him with the major league club by mid-season.

16. Ozzie Albies 2B/SS (Braves) 8.38 - Ozzie was one reason the Braves felt they could trade Jose Peraza. The 20 year old from Curacao lost out on the shortstop job to Dansby Swanson and appears to be destined for second base. A late season injury last year may have prevented him from joining Dansby on the major league club. Ozzie has speed, the tools to play shortstop and the bat to stay near .300. What he lacks is power. An ability to draw walks with a .358 OBA between AA and AAA will allow him to hit at the top of the order to set the stage for the run producers. Myworld expects him to start his season in AAA with a quick callup when the Braves need help at second base or in a super utility role.

15. Tyler Glasnow RHP (Pirates) 8.68 - Tyler was a fifth round pick in 2012 but at 6′8″ with a lefty arm that hits the mid to upper 90s with his fastball his stock rose quickly. He also has a curve that misses bats and a change that is serviceable. His big issue is finding command. The opposition only hit .190 against him and he averaged over a strikeout per inning. Runners reached base consistently as he walks more than one hitter per two innings. In the major leagues his 4.24 ERA was inflated by a 13/24 walk to whiff ratio in just 23 innings. That lack of command also impacts hitters looking for the fastball when he gets behind in the count and major league hitters burned him for a .250 average. Expect him to start the 2017 season in AAA as he further tries to improve his command by working on a consistent delivery.

14. Rafael Devers 3B (Red Sox) 8.78 - Devers is one player the Red Sox tried to avoid having in conversations in trade talks. The Red Sox have hopes that he will take over the third base position when Pablo Sandoval is done. His lefthanded swing should find the .300 neighborhood with 30 plus homeruns an achievable goal. As a teenager in High A he slugged .448 with most of his power dedicated towards the gaps. As he matures and gets stronger those gap shots should get closer to the fences. His fielding at third will not win any gold gloves but it should do the job. If not a move to first is still a possibility. He lacks the foot speed to fit in the outfield. The 2017 season will see him do damage to AA pitchers.

13. Lucas Giolito RHP (White Sox) 8.82 - Lucas was a first round pick of the Nationals in 2012. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching but one start that year and in 2013 it was only rehab. He was considered the top pitching prospect entering the 2016 season but struggles against major league hitters in his major league debut dropped him down a notch. It also convinced the Nationals that they could include him in a trade for Adam Eaton. At 6′6″ with a fastball in the mid to high 90s Giolito can be intimidating. He also has a nice break to his curve and a dropping changeup that leads to a lot of swings and misses in the minor leagues. His velocity dropped when promoted to the major leagues and his command was poor with a 12/11 walk to whiff ratio. He also saw seven balls leave the park in just 21 innings of work, equaling the number of jacks he gave up in the minors in 115 innings. A good spring and a return to the high 90s in velocity could see him open the season in the White Sox rotation. The better bet is he starts the season in AAA.

12. Austin Meadows OF (Pirates) 8.83 - Austin was a first round pick of the Pirates in 2013. Injuries last season limited him to just 87 games. He did reach AAA but in 126 at bats he only hit .214 with a .297 OBA. The left handed stroke of Austin should hit for average as his .311 batting average in AA attests. His power should also come where he should hit 20 plus homeruns every year. The speed is there for him to steal 20 plus bases and cover centerfield, but the arm is below average so if centerfield is not a possibility a move to left would be an alternative. The Pirates outfield is a little crowded so expect Austin to spend his 2017 season in AAA. He is just a major injury away from getting a callup, or a Andrew McCutchen trade away if the Pirates should fall out of the playoff race.

11. Victor Robles OF (Nationals) 8.85 - Victor Robles has all five tools to make him a superstar. He will hit for average (.305 in low A), carries the potential power to hit 20 plus homeruns, has the foot speed to steal 50 plus bases and the tools and arm to play either center or right. At 19 years of age he held his own in High A, hitting .262 with a .354 OBA. A good work ethic and a leader in the clubhouse could add a sixth tool to his skills. It is difficult to watch these tools and show patience with him to allow him to develop in the minor leagues. With less than 200 at bats it may be best for Robles to start the season in High A with a promotion to AA once he achieves success.

CPBL To Lead Future National Teams

March 19th, 2017

The fans were not too thrilled with the performance of Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). They did not win a game in their pool and must again qualify for the next WBC in 2021. The China Professional Baseball League (CPBL), who runs the professional league and the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) who oversee baseball outside the professional league feuded over the organization and selection of the national team. The CPBL got so frustrated with the CTBA and their lack of respect they showed the CPBL that they dropped out of the formation of the WBC team, leaving it up to the owners of the four professional baseball teams in the CPBL whether they would allow their players to participate.

Three of the four teams allowed their players to participate. The LaMigo Monkeys, who were the top team in the CPBL with some of the better players did not allow their players to participate. This left a couple key players off the team, including outfielder Po-Jung Wang, a young talent who hit .414 and broke the CPBL record for extra base hits in his rookie season and catcher Hung-Yu Lin. Seven players on the Premier 12 national team in 2015 played for the Lamigo Monkeys.

Taiwan also could not use two professional pitchers, which decimated a young pitching staff. Wei-Yen Chen of the Marlins and Chien-Ming Wang ex of the Yankees/Royals and now a free agent also decided not to participate, eliminating two experienced arms that could have headed the rotation for the team.

Sports Administration Director General Te-Fu Lin transferred the power of organizing the senior national team to the CPBL, including the 2019 Premier 12, the Olympics in Tokyo and the 2021 WBC teams. Also, to expand the talent level of baseball in Taiwan there was discussion of expanding the CPBL from four teams to six teams.

The poor performance of the Taiwan national team in the WBC was the final blow in transferring power from the CTBA to the CPBL. Now the pressure is on the CPBL to improve the performance of the national team in these important baseball tournaments. At least they will not do any worse than 0-3.

United States Knocks Out Dominican Republic

March 19th, 2017

The United States will be the new kid on the block in the 2017 final four of the World Baseball Classic. In 2013 Japan, Netherlands and Puerto Rico appeared in the final four with the eventual champions the Dominican Republic. The United States eliminated the defending champions and will join the final four party, facing off against two time champions Japan. A Giancarlo Stanton two run homer in the fourth broke a 2-2 tie and propelled the United States to a 6-3 win.

It didn’t start out well for the United States. It almost reminded the sellout 43,002 in attendance of the game against Puerto Rico when six straight hits to begin the game proved fatal to the United States team. An error by the gold glover shortstop Brandon Crawford got the inning started for the Dominicans. Robinson Cano followed with a double to score Manny Machado. A strikeout of Nelson Cruz got past the catcher to put runners on first and third with one out. Carlos Santana singled to make it 2-0 with Cruz advancing to third. It appeared the United States was on the verge of collapse again, digging themselves a big hole to start the game.

Starling Marte grounded a ball to Barandon Crawford at short. Nelson Cruz broke for home. The throw beat Cruz to the plate and the whole complexion of the game seemed to change after that. Adrian Beltre grounded out and the United States got out of the inning trailing only 2-0.

The Dominicans looked like they were going to score again in the second. Gregory Polanco started the inning with a single. Wellington Castillo followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. Danny Duffy bore down, getting Jose Reyes to pop out. Manny Machado flied out to Adam Jones in center, too shallow to score Polanco (read further to read about a longer fly out hit by Machado to Jones). Robinson Cano hit a hard grounder to Brandon Crawford at short, who made the play to get out of the inning with no runs.

The United States bounced back in the third, Giancarlo Stanton getting the inning started with a single. Jonathan Lucroy moved Stanton to third with a single. Ian Kinsler grounded to short, Reyes going for two but falling short with Stanton scoring on the play. With two outs Christian Yelich laced a double into center to score Kinsler and tie the game 2-2.

The fourth was reserved for the Giancarlo Stanton two out two run homer. Brandon Crawford got the inning started with a two out single. That was it for Ervin Santana, replaced by Hector Neris to get the last out of the inning.

The Dominicans failed at another opportunity to score a run in the fifth. A leadoff single by Manny Machado ended the day for Danny Duffy. A one out double by Nelson Cruz to left field put runners on second and third with just one out. Again the Dominicans failed to score with Pat Neshek getting Carlos Santana to pop out and Starling Marte to strike out.

The Dominicans pulled to within one in the seventh after a Robinson Cano solo homer with one out. Read further for the hit that occurred earlier that created the one out.

The United States took advantage of the wildness of Alex Colome in the eighth. Christian Yelich walked and Eric Hosmer was hit by a pitch. Andrew McCutchen made that wildness pay with a big double into center field to score two runs and give the United States a 6-3 lead.

The Dominicans were deflated after that. The United States retired the Dominicans in order in the eighth and ninth innings to get the victory, Sam Dyson and Luke Gregerson doing the honors. Dyson also got the last two outs of the seventh after the Robinson Cano homer off Tyler Clippard.

Adam Jones perhaps made the catch of a lifetime in the seventh inning prior to the Cano homerun. Jones teammate Manny Machado led off the seventh mashing a ball that appeared to be clearly going over the fence. Jones never gave up racing back, jumping high and reaching his glove over the short fence to rob Machado of a homerun and robbing a fan of a souvenir. The fans erupted in cheers after the catch, many staring in disbelief. All Machado could do is tip his cap to Jones for the catch. He has seen him do that many times before while in an Orioles uniform. This time it was in a uniform that stated “USA”. Tyler Clippard could be seen mouthing from his lips “Oh my God”. It certainly defined what these games are all about. A collection of All Stars or semi All Stars making tremendous plays in the game.

Puerto Rico 13 Venezuela 2

In a game that didn’t mean much since Puerto Rico had clinched their final four advancement and Venezuela was eliminated, Puerto Rico thrashed the Venezuelans with 17 hits. Most of the damage was done in the later innings, when Venezuela went to its thin bullpen. Puerto Rico scored in every inning after the fifth, turning a 2-0 game into a rout.

The still unsigned Angel Pagan racked up three hits from the leadoff spot and Mike Aviles strung together four hits. Kennys Vargas closed out the scoring by slugging a two run homer in the ninth. Jose Deleon worked two outs into the third leaving Venezuela scoreless. Puerto Rico turned to what has turned into a very stingy bullpen to close out the game.

The semifinals begin Monday with the Netherlands doing battle with Puerto Rico. Both teams rely on young infielders to lead their teams. For the Netherlands it is Jonathan Schoop, Xander Bogaerts, Jurickson Profar (playing the outfield), Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons. Puerto Rico relies on Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez.

On Tuesday the two traditional baseball powers Japan and the United States do battle. Both teams have a solid veteran presence, but Japan has some youth in Tetsuto Yamada and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh who have carried the team offensively.

The fun that has defined the World Baseball Classic will continue for a few more days.

30 Teams in 30 Days - Los Angeles Dodgers

March 19th, 2017

Overview - The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the National League West the last four years, yet have not appeared in the World Series during that streak. They have gone 28 years since their last World Series win. Their counterparts in the division, the San Francisco Giants have won two World Series in the last five years. The Dodgers pay roll has ballooned to the largest in baseball and with that comes a large luxury tax. Management is trying to pare down this mountain of a salary structure, limiting their free agent signings to their own players. They resigned Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Justin Turner and hope that will be enough for them to win the division. They also hope to have Hyun-Jin Ryu return healthy to the rotation.

Strengths - The biggest strength for the Dodgers is their ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Despite missing two months of the season Clayton finished 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA, falling just 28 whiffs short of 200. With all his Cy Young winnings it is hard to believe that Clayton is only 29. The starting pitching should continue to be a strength with the return of Ryu, the resignings of McCarthy and Hill and Kenta Maeda on the mound. Julio Urias could have the potential to be another Kershaw in the making. The Dodgers should get a full season from him, though his innings pitched will be controlled. The pen will be bolstered by one of the top closers in the game. Kenley Jansen finished the 2017 season with 47 saves. The Dodgers also have the rookie of the year at short in Corey Seager. Some argue his defense is better suited for third base, but his bat with his 26 homeruns is not in question. Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez filled the corner positions with 90 RBIs each. For Gonzalez it was a down year and at 35 years old the Dodgers should start looking for a replacement as his production goes down. The acquisition of Logan Forsythe to play second gives them a power packed infield. Last year Forsythe hit 20 homeruns for the Rays. That would give them an infield where all their players have the potential to hit 20 or more homeruns.

Weaknesses - There was a time when the Dodgers had more quality outfielders than they had positions in the outfield. Now they would like to see more production from their disappointing outfielders. Yasiel Puig has seen his numbers drop each year from his rookie season. His OPS for last year was .739. Joc Pederson tends to strike out too much but he has the ability to hit the long ball. Last year he hit 26 homeruns. Andre Ethier was injured much of last year giving an opportunity for Andrew Toles to show what he has got. Toles struggled against lefthanded pitching and Etheir also hits lefthanded so expect Trayce Thompson, Enrique Hernandez or Franklin Gutierrez to compete for those righthanded at bats.

NonRoster Invitees - It’ll be tough for any of these players to make the roster out of spring training. Brandon Morrow is an interesting name, but he has not had the ability to stay healthy.

Break Out Prospects - This is a veteran team so it will be tough for any rookies to make this roster. If Adrian Gonzalez gets injured for a significant part of the season expect the Dodgers to call up their top prospect Cody Bellinger. He is a potential gold glove fielding first baseman that has the power to hit 30 plus homeruns. Alex Verdugo is a solid outfielder who could put himself in the outfield mix by mid season. The lefty hitter is a solid corner outfielder with a little bit of pop. Willie Calhoun at 5′8″ is a powder keg, hitting 27 homeruns at AA. His defense is not strong at second base so the Dodgers may try him in left field. A weak arm makes that the only viable position for him besides second base. Austin Barnes could make the roster as a catcher/utility player. Despite his lack of speed he was able to steal 18 bases in 21 attempts. Andrew Toles still qualifies as a rookie outfielder and based on his 2016 performance (.314 average) should see some time in left field. A good spring training would cement that position for him.

Prospects to Watch - The Dodgers have not had a lot of luck with their Cuban signings, shelling out large bonuses for little production. Yadier Alvarez could change all that with his fastball that hits three digits. He still needs to improve on throwing the pitch across the plate for strikes. Yusniel Diaz is a Cuban outfielder the Dodgers paid $15.5 million. He shows a good bat with the potential to hit for power. His speed is a fit for centerfield and his arm can take a move to right. Yasiel Sierra is another right handed pitcher who throws in the mid 90s but at 26 there is not a lot more projection for him. The Dodgers signed him for $30 million for six years. A lack of command and under development of his secondary pitchers created struggles for him in his first season in the United States. Non-Cubans to watch are Gavin Lux, the Dodgers first round 2016 pick. The shortstop played well in his first season, hitting .296 in over 200 at bats, though none of his hits went over the fence. Walker Buehler was the Dodgers first round pick in 2015. Tommy John surgery prevented him from pitching that season and he only got in five innings in 2016. This is a big year to see if his mid-90s fastball is still alive.

Expected Finish - The Dodgers should win this division though the Giants will again give them a battle.

Puerto Rico Stings United States; Clinches Final Four Appearance

March 18th, 2017

Puerto Rico rode a big four run first inning and made it stand to upset the United States 6-5. Marcus Stroman was not sharp as he gave up hits to the first six hitters he faced. If not for a flyout double play where Christian Yelich threw out Yadier Molina at third the inning could have been much worse. Carlos Beltran still scored the fourth run on the play to give Puerto Rico an early 4-0 lead.

The United States tried to peck away at the lead. A Nolan Arenado leadoff double and Eric Hosmer single in the second inning scored one run. Buster Posey walked to put two runners on but Daniel Murphy grounded into 1-6-3 double play. With a runner on third and two out Brandon Crawford grounded to second.

Marcus Stroman settled down after the first inning and pitched into the fifth when two out back to back singles resulted in his departure. Buster Posey had hit a solo shot in the top of the fifth to pull the United States to within 4-2. With two outs and two runners on Mychal Givens retired Yadier Molina on a fly out to keep the score at 4-2.

Andrew McCutchen got a little heated in the top of the sixth after a strike three call and was ejected from the game. Adam Jones followed with a solo homer to pull the United States to within one run. There were chants of U-S-A echoing in the background with the crowd smelling victory.

It was not to be. In the bottom of the sixth the Puerto Ricans won the game, scoring two runs without benefit of a hit. Javier Baez was hit by a pitch to start the inning. He stole second and Andrew Miller replaced Givens. Eddie Rosario walked. After a T.J. Rivera strikeout Puerto Rico pulled a double steal to put runners on second and third with one out. Miller was still able to strike out pinch hitter Enrique Hernandez for the second out. Angel Pagan grounded to Nolan Arenado at third for what appeared to be the third out but Arenado threw the ball away, allowing two runs to score. Puerto Rico had the lead back 6-3.

The United States rallied in the ninth falling 90 feet short of tying the game. Edwin Diaz began the inning by walking Nolan Arenado and giving up a single to Eric Hosmer putting runners on first and second with no out. Buster Posey struck out but a wild pitch moved the runners up one base. Paul Goldschmidt also struck out. Brandon Crawford put a charge into the crowd with a triple to left field. Edwin Diaz bore down and struck out Josh Harrison to end the game.

There were 32,463, the largest crowd at Petco Park for a WBC game. The win clinched a spot for Puerto Rico in the final four. Who goes with them to Los Angeles will depend on the winner of the United States and Dominican Republic game. A win by the Dominican Republic would make it a repeat of the final four from the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The Dominican Republic made a nice come back to win an exciting 6-5 game in the first round. They hope to repeat those efforts tonight to advance.

30 Teams 30 Days - San Francisco Giants

March 17th, 2017

Overview - The Giants streak ended. For the last three even numbered years they won the World Series. Not 2016. It was the Cubs destiny and they eliminated the Giants in the playoffs. A bullpen collapse was the Giants undoing, blowing 30 save opportunities, the most in the major leagues. They signed Mark Melancon to a free agent contract to address the bullpen needs. They also let go bullpen stalwarts Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.

Strengths - Their strongest position is having Buster Posey behind the plate. It was a down offensive year for Buster, but his defense behind the plate remains solid and his handling of the pitching staff always puts them in the top five in the major leagues. At 30 years of age he could be hitting the down side of his career. Brandon Crawford is about as solid a shortstop you can get. He was one of three Giants to win a Gold Glove. Second baseman Joe Panik was one and Buster Posey was the third. Crawford can also generate some offense with a .430 slugging percentage based on his 28 doubles, 11 Triples and 12 homeruns. The other Brandon, Belt did not win a gold glove but he has got the defensive tools to win one at first base. His bat lacks homerun power but he hit the gaps for 41 doubles and shows the patience to walk 104 times. The starting pitching has two aces at the top of the rotation in Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. After that it gets a little fuzzy. Mark Melancon has been one of the best closers in the game the last couple years. Last year he saved 47 games. It will be tough for the Giants to blow 30 leads with Melancon in the pen.

Weaknesses - The outfield lacks an impact player. Left field is a big hole. If Buster Posey plays first on the days the Giants want to rest him from his catching responsibilities Brandon Belt can always move to left field. Otherwise they will have to turn to unproven players in Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker, Kyle Blanks or Gorkys Hernandez. Denard Span had some issues defensively in centerfield and failed to have a good year offensively. He hit .266 but only .217 against lefthanders. Hunter Pence failed to stay healthy for a second year in a row, limited to just 106 games. At 34 he is on the sliding scale down in his career. They lack a lefthander in the bullpen to get the tough lefthanders out late in the game. Will Smith is the only true commodity. Eduardo Nunez does not provide a lot of power at third. He also only hit .174 versus lefthanders in his 50 game trial with the Giants. With the Twins he finished with a .764 OPS. The Giants would like to see him turn into that kind of player. He may turn into a utility player with the Giants signing of Jae-Gyun Hwang. Hwang put up good offensive numbers in Korea but there was not a lot of offensive success with the three Korean bats who signed major league contracts last year.

Non-Roster Invitees - Myworld has to wonder if Michael Morse or Jimmy Rollins has anything left. If they can show they do in spring training they can be players who come off the bench. Rollins may have to learn to play a utility role, moving to defensive positions he is not familiar with. David Hernandez has a good enough arm to slot into the bullpen. If Kyle Blanks can stay healthy his bat would be interesting to put out in left field. The 6′6″ power hitter has not been healthy in the last couple years, bothered by foot problems.

Breakout Prospects - The rotation is pretty solid but a lot of that depends on the health and effectiveness of Matt Cain. Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez and Ty Blach are all pitchers they can call on. Beede throws from the right side and Blach made his major league debut last year. None of the three has an overpowering fastball but rely more on command to get hitters out. Christian Arroyo, the teams 2013 first round pick should make his major league debut in 2017. He is more a utility player, with his power too light to play the hot corner and lacking sufficient range to play short on an extended basis.

Prospects to Watch - Chris Shaw has some power to play first. A major injury to Brandon Belt would need to happen for him to get any significant playing time in 2017. Last year he combined for 21 homeruns between High A and AA. The strikeouts are a bit frequent and his defense falls short of Belt. Reyes Moronta is a pitcher who can hit triple digits with his fastball. The Giants are grooming him to be a closer but he needs to keep his weight in check. Last year he saved 14 games and averaged 14.2 whiffs per nine innings. We can’t really get excited about anyone else down in their farm system.

Expected Finish - They will not catch the talented Dodgers roster but they should win enough games to slide into the wild card game.