Yoenis Cespedes has gotten off to a sluggish start in the Dominican League playoffs, but he flashed his bat speed and power potential tonight with his first home run since joining the Aguilas Cibaeñas.
In a 3-2 count against Astros righthander Rhiner Cruz, Cespedes lifted a 97-mph fastball over the left field wall in the sixth inning. Including tonight's 1-for-4 showing, Cespedes is 3-for-23 (.130) with a hit by pitch, no walks and six strikeouts while serving as the Aguilas DH.
Here's the home run, for your viewing pleasure:
Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has put on some electrifying showcases for scouts in the past couple of months, but his winter ball debut tonight didn't include anything that will go on his highlight reel.
Serving as the DH for the Aguilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican League playoffs, Cespedes went 0-for-3, striking out in his first three plate appearances before getting hit by a pitch in his fourth trip to the plate against the Gigantes del Cibao.
Cespedes showed some patience in his first plate appearance against Astros righthander Erick Abreu, taking the first four pitches to get to 3-1 before fouling off an inside fastball. The next pitch to Cespedes was a breaking ball that he swung through for the strikeout, with the bat flying out of his hands and nearly splintering someone near the third base on-deck circle.
Facing Mets righthander Jeurys Familia in his next at-bat, Cespedes struck out on three straight 95-mph fastballs, watching the first one go by before swinging and missing at the next two. Astros righthander Rhiner Cruz (the top pick in December's Rule 5 draft) recorded Cespedes' third strikeout of the night, getting him to chase an 0-2 breaking ball off the plate. Cespedes did reach base in his final plate appearance when righthander Roman Colon hit him with a 2-1 fastball.
Playing in the Dominican League is a risky move for the 26-year-old Cespedes, who has done plenty to generate interest from teams between his performance in Cuba, his showings over the last two years on the international circuit and most recently in private workouts for teams in the Dominican Republic. While Cespedes has been working out and facing live pitching for teams that have put him through those private workouts, he hasn't played baseball in a competitive game environment (including night games under the lights) since last April when his season with Granma ended in Cuba's Serie Nacional. So while it was a rough debut, there's no reason to put much stock into one game.
Cespedes still is in the process of trying to acquire Dominican residency before Major League Baseball declares him a free agent, the timetable for which is unclear.
SURPRISE, Ariz.—The Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game will feature most of the top players in the AFL, but it doesn't have the one player everyone wants to see.
Bryce Harper, the Nationals' No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, just missed being the youngest player in Fall League history. When made his debut in the AFL, he was four days older than Mets prospect Fernando Martinez was when he played here in 2006.
Harper has bigger tools than Martinez, who has reached the big leagues but hasn't established himself as a regular yet. It's not easy to say when Harper will establish himself, but he has already set himself apart from many of his AFL peers with his hard play and effort, not to mention his tools.
"He plays the game the right way and has baseball instincts," said East manager Randy Knorr, who managed Harrisburg in the Nats' system this season. "He goes hard at all times. He's fun to watch for sure." [...] Continue Reading »
Thanks to the Pitch F/X data that is being gathered at several Arizona Fall League sites, we have consistent pitch data that has never been available for prospects before. So if you want to know who’s the hardest and softest tossers in the AFL, now we know. You probably won’t be surprised by who’s No. 1, but it’s worth noting that converted shortstop Sergio Santos may have a future as a pitcher if his raw arm strength is any indication.
BY BILL MITCHELL
PHOENIX—The Arizona Fall League championship game was supposed to be the occasion for No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg to lead the Phoenix Desert Dogs to their sixth straight league championship in front of a national TV audience.
Instead, local product C.J. Retherford (White Sox), who went undrafted in 2007 after the end of his career at Arizona State, turned himself into the unlikely hero of the game. Retherford’s two-run homer off Desert Dog reliever Josh Perrault (Orioles) in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Peoria Javelinas a dramatic 5-4 victory for the AFL title. [...] Continue Reading »
The Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game didn’t have Stephen Strasburg in it, as the 2009 No. 1 draft pick and Nationals phenom was scratched from his appearance by a stiff neck.
Mike Minor, the lefthander out of Vanderbilt whom the Braves drafted six picks after Strasburg, probably wishes he’d slept the wrong way too.
Minor gave up seven runs in the first inning, including giving up a three-run homer to Brandon Allen (Diamondbacks) to dead center field. That set the tone for the evening, an entertaining all-star game with plenty of offense and tools on display. Minor’s West Division club overcame the East’s seven-spot in the first, capping the rally for an 8-7 victory with a two-run eighth-inning home run by Matt McBryde (Indians) off Strasburg’s fellow Nationals prospect, righthander Drew Storen. [...] Continue Reading »
Some prospect injury news that is still a bit developing. First, No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg will miss his scheduled start in Saturday’s Rising Stars game at the Arizona Fall League. The National righthander has a muscle strain in his neck, according to an AFL press release. Righthander Tommy Mendoza (Angels) has replaced Strasburg on the Rising Stars roster.
Second, Twins catcher Wilson Ramos, who is tearing up winter ball in his native Venezuela, left a game last night with an apparent right knee injury. Twins general manager Bill Smith said the club is aware of the injury but is not yet aware of the severity of the problem. Ramos ranks second in the Venezuelan League in batting at .403 with a league-high six home runs through 20 games and 77 at-bats.
BA’s AFL maven Bill Mitchell reports that Athletics farmhand Grant Desme has homered twice again Wednesday. Batting cleanup for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, Desme hit his ninth and 10th home runs in an 11-6 victory against the Peoria Javelinas.
Desme, a second-round pick in 2007 out of Cal Poly, homered in the first inning off Brewers righthander Josh Butler, a three-run shot. He hit a solo homer in the eighth inning off Brewers righty Omar Aguilar for his 10th. Desme, the minors’ only 30-homer, 30-steals performer in 2009, is now just four home runs shy of the AFL record set in 2005 by Brandon Wood, and he’s done his damage in just 12 games. [...] Continue Reading »
The Royals have replaced outfielder David Lough in their Arizona Fall League contingent, with the Surprise Rafters, with outfielder Jarrod Dyson.
Lough left the AFL with a back injury, ending what had been a breakout season. Splitting his season almost evenly between high Class A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, he hit .325/.370/.496 with 14 home runs and 19 stolen bases. The 23-year-old out of Mercyhurst (Pa.) was the system’s best position player in the minors this season.
Dyson, 25, is a different kind of player, a 25-year-old speedster who stole 46 bases this season and made his first trip to Double-A. He has yet to hit a home run in 801 professional at-bats and hit .276/.345/.337 overall this season between low Class A Burlington and Northwest Arkansas. He struck out 68 times in 315 at-bats.
Few teams can match the international scouting track presence of the Mariners.
Milwaukee’s Double-A Huntsville club was a nightmare for Southern League pitchers in 2008.
Huntsville routinely rolled out a prospect-heavy lineup, mixing in Matt LaPorta, Mat Gamel, Angel Salome, Michael Brantley, Lorenzo Cain and Cole Gillespie throughout the season. The final product was an offense that led the league with 733 runs scored in 140 games, outscoring the league’s second-highest scoring team by 52 runs.
With all the young talent and the huge offensive years from LaPorta and Gamel, scouts and managers who watched Huntsville last season often came away saying the same thing: the team’s best prospect is Alcides Escobar.
Playing for Cardenales de Lara this winter in his native Venezuela, Escobar batted just .224/.289/.302 in 128 plate appearances, though he maintained a solid 11-13 BB-K mark. Even though the hits weren’t falling for Escobar, that didn’t stop scouts who watched him from gushing over his defense at shortstop.
"He can do it all in the field," said one scout. "He could play in the major leagues right now at shortstop if given the chance. He’s got that looseness where everything comes easy for him at shortstop."
As mentioned, the Puerto Rican League was full of more veterans than prospects in its return, but it still had plenty of storylines.. Consider:
IAN KENNEDY, RHP, YANKEES
Kennedy had as bad a year in 2008 as he had in 2007, when he shot through three minor league levels and finished his first full pro season in the major leagues. In 2008, he began the year in the Yankees rotation and finished it in the doghouse, posting an 0-4, 8.17 mark.
Sent to Puerto Rico in an attempt to salvage something of his season, Kennedy went 2-2, 1.56 in 34 2/3 innings. He also struck out 31 and issued 12 walks. [...] Continue Reading »
Used to be, winter league baseball in Puerto Rico and Mexico brought out the stars and the crowds, with many of the game’s top-flight minor leaguers on display, too.
Indeed, the 1960s and into the 1990s were the good old days—a period of time that seems to get better by the year whenever old-timers sit around and reminisce.
In 2008, however, the Mexican Pacific League and the resuscitated Puerto Rican League hardly overwhelmed scouts and others with long-time ties to both circuits. [...] Continue Reading »
Sift through the pile of stats coming out of the Dominican League, and it’s almost too good to be true.
Pablo Ozuna, a 34-year-old third baseman, must have found the fountain of youth. What else to make of his time there? When the playoffs got under way, he was the regular-season batting champ and led in on-base percentage and was third in slugging in finishing .390/.467/.568.
But on the website BA uses to check the Dominican League’s official stats, the names of the ERA leaders are, well, absent. And maybe that’s to protect the innocent.
The Dominican League’s runs per game came in at a whopping 5.9 this year. That was a full two runs more than a year ago, and 1.7 runs more than in 2006. More surprising, consider hits from last year (2,355) compared to this year (2,963), and consider home runs from last year (126) to home runs this year (289).
So what gives?
"The pitching was down, and the umpires were awful," one National League scout said. "The pitchers were kind of forced to lay it in there. And there were comments like, ‘We’ve never seen this before.’"
[...] Continue Reading »
Fernando Martinez’s winter-ball season may be over. But at least this time his absence is not being brought about by injury.
The Venezuelan League’s Caracas Lions announced today that they have released the 20-year-old Martinez, who this offseason repeated as the Mets’ No. 1 prospect. (You can read a rough translation of the story in Caracas’ El Universal.) Replacing Martinez on the roster is 37-year-old Armando Rios, a native of Puerto Rico who hasn’t played affiliated ball since 2004.
The VL is engaged in the round-robin portion of its playoffs, after which the winner will represent Venezuela in the Caribbean World Series, which begins on Feb. 2.
Martinez, a Dominican who signed with the Mets for $1.4 million in 2005, batted just .160/.276/.320 in 25 at-bats for Caracas, the team he joined at the outset of the VL playoffs. Most of that damage was done in his first game, however, in which he went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Outside of that game, Martinez was 2-for-21 with zero extra-base hits. In eight games, he scored four runs, drove in one and compiled three walks and seven strikeouts. [...] Continue Reading »
The Arizona Fall League is considered the place to be for prospects when the regular season ends, but the Caribbean leagues are peppered with plenty of prospects still playing ball.
And leagues like the Venezuela League offer advantages over the AFL, one of which is the length of the season. While the AFL season ends after 38 games and managers have to shuffle their rosters around to get all of their prospects adequate playing time, the Venezuela League’s regular season spans 63 games, the equivalent of 45 percent of the 140-game minor league regular season.
Most of the league’s best prospects are native Venezuelans, though some U.S.-born prospects, such as Seattle’s Mike Carp and Shawn Kelley, are also in the league. The league is a mix of prospects, a few big leaguers and ex-big leaguers (Rich Garces led the league with 19 saves, just for example). Scouts and player development officials say hitters often see a steady stream of offspeed pitches relative to what they’re used to seeing during the minor league season, giving teams an opportunity to challenge players who need to improve their approach or learn to stay back against breaking balls and changeups.
With the regular season in Venezuela over and the league’s playoffs underway, we’ll start things off today by updating the progress of a few prospects playing in Venezuela. Throughout the rest of the month, we’ll check back in on other prospects playing in Venezuela and on prospects in the other Caribbean winter leagues.
A junior circuit that will shadow the Arizona Fall League became closer to reality late Tuesday when Hawaii Winter Baseball announced that its contract with Major League Baseball would not be extended.
The junior circuit, not yet given an official name, would in essence shift the format of Hawaii Winter Baseball to the Phoenix area and coincide with the AFL, which next season will be in its 18th year.
HWB owner Duane Kurisu said general managers of major league teams voted for the move at the winter meetings in Las Vegas. The AFL has become thought of as a finishing school and is comprised of Triple-A and Double-A players, with each of its six teams allotted only one player from the Class A level. The HWB allowed less experienced players to get winter league experience as well, and it became a popular first stop for several first-round picks with Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Matt Wieters making their professional debuts in Hawaii.
Now with the demise of the Hawaii league, that role will be moved to Arizona, allowing teams to cut down on travel costs to scout and evaluate the league. One baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the new league had yet to be formally announced, indicated last week that the junior circuit would be played in the spring training homes within the Cactus League framework. [...] Continue Reading »
Baseball America subscribers can read full scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Hawaii Winter Baseball league, but here is the list of the top 20 prospects from the league, as compiled by John Manuel after talking to scouts and HWB managers. Have your own opinions about the list? Leave comments here on the blog.
1. Buster Posey, c, Waikiki BeachBoys (Giants)
2. Andrew Brackman, rhp, Waikiki BeachBoys (Yankees)
3. Yonder Alonso, 1b, Waikiki BeachBoys (Reds)
4. Dominic Brown, of, Honolulu Sharks (Phillies)
5. Kyle Drabek, rhp, Honolulu Sharks (Phillies)
6. Jason Castro, c, North Shore Honu (Astros)
7. Todd Frazier, if/of, Waikiki BeachBoys (Reds)
8. Jeremy Bleich, lhp, Waikiki BeachBoys (Yankees)
9. Michael Taylor, of, Honolulu Sharks (Phillies)
10. Roger Kieschnick, of, Waikiki BeachBoys (Giants)
11. Chris Carter, 1b, North Shore (Athletics).
12. Caleb Gindl, of, West Oahu (Brewers).
13. Brad Emaus, 2b/3b, Honolulu (Blue Jays).
14. Jonny Venters, lhp, Honolulu (Braves).
15. Kyle Martin, ss/3b, North Shore (Royals).
16. Ryan Kalish, of, North Shore (Red Sox).
17. Mark Hallberg, 2b, West Oahu (Diamondbacks).
18. Javy Guerra, rhp, Waikiki (Dodgers).
19. Kyle Bloom, lhp, West Oahu (Pirates).
20. Tony Cruz, c/3b, Honolulu (Cardinals)
Talk about putting heavy weight on recent performance.
After Brandon Wood’s .167/.259/.250 start in 13 games for Estrellas, the Dominican Winter League club has released Wood, according to Baseball America correspondent Bill Shaikin.
"You’ve got to perform pretty much right off the plane," Angels farm director Abe Flores told Shaikin.
No kidding. Wood, playing primarily third base, had six walks and 16 strikeouts in 54 plate appearances. Other than Wood, Wilton Veras (.563 OPS in 13 games) and Ed Rogers (.606 OPS in 9 games) have seen the most time at third base for Estrellas, which also has sent Tony Blanco, Javier Guzman and Henry Mateo out to the hot corner this winter.
Wood, 23, hit .296/.375/.595 in 103 games during the regular season for Triple-A Salt Lake, though he managed to bat just .200/.224/.327 in 155 at-bats with the big league club.
Waikiki 5, West Oahu 1
Waikiki won its first ever HWB league title on Sunday with a 5-1 victory over West Oahu. Waikiki catcher Buster Posey (Giants) finished off an outstanding winter campaign with a 2-for-3 night. Posey’s three-run homer in the seventh put the game away for the BeachBoys and hit his first home run of the winter. Posey finshed the HWB league regular season fourth in hitting at .338. Waikiki center fielder James McOwen (Mariners) went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI, and third baseman Marquez Smith (Cubs) added a 2-for-4 night with a run and two doubles in the win. BeachBoys left hander Mitsuo Yoshikawa (Nippon Ham Fighters) finished off a solid winter campaign going five innings giving up four hits, one run, and striking out six. Yoshikawa had a HWB league regular season ERA of 4.55 with three wins. BeachBoys right hander Steven Richard (Mariners) finished the game by going four innings allowing one hit, no runs, and striking out two. Richards finished the HWB league regular season with a 1.93 ERA but this was his first HWB league save. West Oahu second baseman Mark Hallberg (Diamondbacks) finsihed the game going 2-for-4. Hallberg finished the HWB league regular season at .362, good for third in the HWB league.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog