Former Red Sox top prospect Ryan Westmoreland announced his retirement from baseball today in a statement he emailed to members of the media.
Westmoreland, 22, hadn't played in a game since doctors detected a cavernous malformation in his brain in March 2010, and performed five hours of surgery to repair it. After making significant progress in his comeback and targeting a return to the diamond by the end of last season, he developed complications related to the malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels) and had a second surgery last July.
"With a clear mind and heart, as well as the unwavering support and friendship of my family, friends, agent(s), doctors, therapists and the Boston Red Sox, I have decided to voluntarily retire as a professional baseball player," Westmoreland said in his statement. "Although it is a very difficult decision for me, it has become clear that the neurological damage caused by the most recent cavernous malformation and surgery leaves me with physical challenges that make it impossible to play the game at such a high level."
A fifth-round pick out of Portsmouth (R.I.) High in 2008, Westmoreland signed for $2 million. He played his lone pro season in 2009, when he batted .296/.401/.484 at short-season Lowell and rated as the New York-Penn League's No. 1 prospect. We ranked him as Boston's No. 1 prospect after that season, filing this scouting report:
Background: Westmoreland drew relatively little interest as a high school senior in 2008. He showed interesting athleticism at the Area Code Games the summer before, but didn't stand out. His commitment to Vanderbilt, $2 million asking price and the weather-related difficulties of scouting a Rhode Island prep player meant that few teams focused on him in the spring. One of just four clubs to talk to him directly, Boston selected him in the fifth round. Westmoreland joined the Bayside Yankees, one of the nation's top amateur teams, for the summer, giving the Red Sox more time to evaluate him. After watching him hit .557/.658/.918 for Bayside, they considered him the equivalent of a top-five-overall pick and gladly paid him $2 million at the Aug. 15 signing deadline. A pre-existing injury to his throwing shoulder turned out to be a torn labrum and required surgery in November, so Boston had him mostly DH during his pro debut at short-season Lowell in 2009. Westmoreland rated as the New York-Penn League's top prospect after exuding five-tool potential. The only negative came on Aug. 28, when he broke his collarbone crashing into the outfield wall while making a catch. Westmoreland didn't do any further damage to his shoulder and should be healthy for spring training.
Strengths: Former Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod says Westmoreland has more upside than any player the club selected in his five years running its drafts. His skills are just as impressive as his considerable tools. Westmoreland has an advanced approach for a teenager, with a short stroke, control of the strike zone and a willingness to use the entire field. His hand-eye coordination allows him to barrel balls consistently, and he has above-average power potential. He has plus-plus speed and knows how to use it, swiping 19 bases without getting caught at Lowell. Westmoreland has above-average range and should be a quality defender in center field. He also starred as a pitcher in high school, and his arm should grade as at least average once it's back to 100 percent. He's an intelligent player with the makeup to succeed.
Weaknesses: Westmoreland basically just needs to get healthy and soak up pro experience. An all-state soccer player and basketball star, he never concentrated on baseball year-round before turning pro. Boston has had him take it easy on his shoulder, so his arm isn't back to full strength yet. He used a low-three-quarters delivery when he pitched in high school and needs to raise his arm angle as an outfielder. While he has the tools for center field, he has yet to play there in pro ball.
The Future: After watching the hype get to their last two No. 1 prospects, Clay Buchholz and Lars Anderson, the Red Sox are trying to temper expectations for Westmoreland. That's hard to do with such a polished athlete, especially one with New England roots. He'll probably open 2010 at low Class A Greenville but is talented enough to force a promotion to high Class A Salem by season's end. He's a potential 30-30 player who one day could bat third in the Boston lineup.
Pools A and B have wrapped in the Far East, with Cuba and Japan advancing out of Pool A in Fukuoka, Japan, and host Taiwan and the Netherlands advancing out of Pool B.
Pools C and D begin tomorrow, and the Baseball America World Baseball Classic Guide is now available to take you the rest of the way. It's 60-plus pages packed with previews, rosters, features and analysis of all things WBC.
It's available exclusively for the Apple iPad or iPhone, so if you haven't already, download the BA App at the iTunes Store. The app is free, and the WBC Guide costs just 99 cents.
FUKUOKA, Japan—Power bats led Cuba to a 6-3 victory over Japan today as the Cubans held off a ninth-inning surge from Japan to win Pool A of the World Baseball Classic with a 3-0 record.
Cuba took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on a home run by right fielder Yasmany Tomas, who got the start over Alexei Bell. Tomas, 22, has shown plus raw power and has looked like one of the young breakout players on the Cuban national team.
Cuba made it 2-0 in the fourth when Jose Fernandez led off with a single to center field and scored on the next play on a Frederich Cepeda double. It was 3-0 in the sixth after Jose Abreu pulled a single to left field to score Luis Rivera. Alfredo Despaigne helped Cuba pull away in the eighth with a three-run homer to make it 6-0, punishing a mistake left up out over the plate before taking plenty of time to admire the trajectory of his hit. [...] Continue Reading »
Kolby Copeland, the Marlins' supplemental third-round selection last June, refused to take an offseason drug test and will be suspended for the first 50 games of 2013 without pay. The commissioner's office made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.
The 19-year-old outfielder spent the bulk of his 2012 debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, batting .286/.331/.406 with 14 doubles in 217 at-bats. Copeland attended Parkway High in Bossier City, La.
Drake Britton, a lefthanded pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, was arrested Saturday morning in Estero, Fla., and charged with driving under the influence.
According to a report from weei.com, Britton also faces charges of reckless driving and property damage. The arrest report states that he drove his pickup truck 111 mph in a 45-mph zone and swerved among other vehicles before jumping a curve and knocking over a barbed-wire fence. He continued down a dirt road for another quarter-mile and attempted to drive into a wooded area before stopping.
Britton refused to take a breath test but told the arresting office he had been drinking.
Britton, 23, signed for $700,000 as a 23rd-round pick out of Tomball (Texas) High in 2007. He went 7-12, 4.44 with 118 strikeouts in 130 innings last year between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland, and he ranked No. 11 on our Red Sox Top 30 Prospects list in the 2013 Prospect Handbook.
Britton had been attending Boston's major league camp for the first time this spring, but the team optioned him to Portland on Monday.
South Korea improved to 14-5 all-time in World Baseball Classic play Tuesday, rallying for three runs in the eighth and beating host Taiwan 3-2 to move to 2-1 in the 2013 WBC.
And yet that is the end of the tournament for Korea, which was eliminated despite the victory. Taiwan, the Netherlands and Korea all went 2-1 in Pool B, while Australia went 0-3. Using the TBQ formula the WBC employs to break three-way ties—essentially distilling runs scored and runs allowed versus each other—South Korea lost out to Taiwan and the Netherlands, which advance to the second round. [...] Continue Reading »
Success in international tournaments is becoming routine for the Netherlands.
The national team reached the second round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic and won the 2011 World Cup in Panama. Tuesday in Taiwan, the Dutch added another success, beating Australia 4-1 to move to 2-1 in Pool B in Taiwan and advance to the second round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
The Netherlands saved top starter Rob Cordemans, the 38-year-old ace and six-time Dutch Major League ERA champ, for the third and final game, and Cordemans came through with a gem. With a 65-pitch limit as part of WBC rules, Cordemans tossed five scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out three without walking anyone.
Cordemans, who pitched in four Olympics (1996, 2000, '04 and '08), and continued his recent international success. He won both starts (one over Cuba) in the '11 World Cup and pitched 6.2 scoreless innings in the '09 WBC. [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—Chinese baseball took another step forward today, rallying for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Brazil 5-2 and secure automatic entry into the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
The game was essentially the Relegation Bowl, with a pair of 0-2 teams with limited baseball history fighting for a victory to avoid having to play a qualifier to be in the 2017 WBC and thus perhaps miss the '17 event altogether.
For most of the game, Brazil appeared to be in control, carrying a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. That's when suddenly, the free-swinging, light-hitting Chinese team started to show some semblance of an offensive approach, combined with a meltdown by a Brazilian bullpen that's had its lack of depth exposed in Japan's come-from-behind, 5-3 victory on the first day of the tournament.
Weqiang Meng singled to lead off the inning. After Yanyong Yang struck out swinging, Xiao Cui and Xu An drew back-to-back walks to load the bases for three-hole hitter Lei Li. Brazil manager Barry Larkin removed Astros righthander Murilo Gouvea from the game and went to the low-90s fastball of Mariners righthander Thyago Vieira.
Vieira promptly walked Li to make it a 2-1 game. Ray Chang, a 29-year-old who played in Triple-A for the Twins last year and is by far the team's best player, came through with a two-run single to give China a 3-2 lead. After a Fujia Chu groundout, Vieira hit Wei Wang with a pitch to load the bases, prompting Larkin to summon Hugo Kanabushi from the bullpen.
Kanabushi's control was no better, as he issued back-to-back, bases-loaded walks to Zhenhong Lu and Meng to push Brazil ahead 5-2 before 16-year-old Daniel Missaki came on to get the final out of the eighth inning.
"No doubt that was the biggest hit of my life," Chang said. "I've played seven, eight years of professional baseball and I've had some clutch hits in my career, but nothing like this. This is not just for a Single-A, Double-A team, this is for an entire country. We knew how big this game was and you could see the emotions on the guys' faces after the win how much it meant to them. To be able to play a part in that in the end, it's just surreal. I can't even believe it. It's an awesome feeling."
After an opening loss to the Netherlands, South Korea had to have a win against Australia to stay in the running to be one of the two teams that will advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic out of Pool B in Taichong, Taiwan.
Behind former Red Sox farmhand Song Seung Jun and an 11-hit attack, the Koreans did just that, beating Australia 6-0 for their first WBC win of 2013.
Leadoff man Lee Yong Kyu had two and scored twice, while first baseman Lee Seung Yeop and DH Lee Dae Ho, the heart of the Korean lineup, had three hits apiece. South Korea jumped on Cubs farmhand Ryan Searle for four hits and four runs in the first two innings, giving Song a working margin early. [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—In a nearly empty stadium that had the energy of a library, Cuba trounced China 12-0, invoking the mercy rule after the top of the seventh inning to improve to 2-0 in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
The official attendance of the game was listed at 3,123, but whoever was counting must have included every player, coach, scout, media member and stadium employee who walked through the gate because the stadium was virtually empty. In reality, there appeared to be about 86 fans in the stadium, with neither team proving to be much of a draw for the fans in Fukuoka, creating the feeling of an Arizona Fall League game in a dome.
China kept the game competitive early, with Cuba holding a 2-0 edge after three innings, but Cuba broke things open in the bottom of the fourth. Right fielder Alexei Bell, who wore batting gloves to the postgame press conference, hit a two-run homer to give Cuba a 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, left fielder Alfredo Despaigne brought two runs home with a double to left field to make it 6-0.
FUKUOKA, Japan—China kept the game close in the early innings, but Japan scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth en route to a 5-2 victory on the second day of the World Baseball Classic.
While Japan improved to 2-0, the 2013 national team hasn't looked strong as the ones that won the two previous WBCs with Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Games against Brazil and China should have been easy victories for Japan, but it took a late-inning comeback to beat Brazil and Japanese hitters had trouble handling well-below-average stuff from Chinese pitchers in a game in which some scouts before the game thought the mercy rule would have to come into play.
Chinese starter Xia Luo was only throwing 82-84 mph but managed to keep runs off the board, limiting Japan to one run over 3 2/3 innings. China manager John McLaren said that he shuffled around his pitchers before the game, so Luo didn't know until game time that he would be getting the start.
"He was moving the ball around and he was changing speeds," McLaren said. "He was getting ahead of them. When you get ahead, I don't care what level you are, there's a lot of pitchers in the big leagues who don't throw hard that have feel for pitching. I was really proud of him."
Luo gave up one run in the bottom of the second inning, when left fielder Sho Nakata singled on a ground ball to left field, scoring right fielder Yoshi Itoi. With Luo out of the game, Japan tacked on four runs in the fifth, with Seiichi Uchikawa driving home a run on a single to right field, followed by a Yoshio Itoi double that scored three runs.
Japanese starter Kenta Maeda posted a strong line with five shutout innings, one hit, one walk and six strikeouts. That had more to do with China's lack of impact at the plate than anything special from Maeda, who sat at 87-90 mph and mixed in a sharp breaking ball.
"We have a long way to go," McLaren said. "We strike out a lot and we don't work the count, but give us time. Give us time."
China's hitters were quiet for the first eight innings, but they rallied to score two runs in the ninth inning after back-to-back singles by Weiqiang Meng and Xiao Cui along with a couple of wild pitches to move them along.
"We haven't been playing baseball as long as Japan and Korea, but we're going to get better," McLaren said. "We're working at it hard. They're starting to play baseball on a regular basis in China, so we just want the fans in China and the young kids to see us playing on TV, give them inspiration to play the game."
Netherlands and host Taiwan entered Saturday's game tied atop Pool B with first-game victories against South Korea and Austrlia, respectively. The winner of their contest would be nearly ensured of being one of the two teams to advance to the second round out of pool play, making it the most crucial of the World Baseball Classic so far.
Taiwan responded with a dominating performance, rallying from an early 3-0 deficit to win 8-3 in front of a capacity crowd of 20,035 in Taichung. Six Taiwan pitchers limited the Netherlands to one hit, a two-run second-inning single by Dashenko Ricardo (Giants). [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—Brazil kept the game competitive early for the second straight day, but the bullpen couldn't hold back Cuba in a 5-2 loss to Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, dropping Brazil to 0-2 and putting Cuba at 1-0 in Pool A.
White Sox righthander Andre Rienzo held Brazil scoreless through four innings, but Cuba got on the board in the fifth inning and continued doing damage against Brazil's bullpen, after Rienzo had surpassed his WBC-mandated first-round pitch count of 65.
In the fifth inning, after second baseman Jose Fernandez drew a walk and catcher Eriel Sanchez struck out on a bunt attempt, shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena singled to center field, sending Fernandez to third. Facing center fielder Guillermo Heredia, Rienzo induced a ground ball to shortstop Marcio Tanaka in what what likely would have been an inning-ending double play, but Arruebarruena was running on the pitch and beat the flip to second base. Heredia was out at first base, but Fernandez scored from third base to give Cuba its first run.
With Rienzo having hit his pitch count, righthander Ernesto Noris—a 40-year-old Cuban emigre—came on in relief and surrendered a line-drive single to left field by right fielder Alexei Bell, scoring Arruebarruena to give Cuba a 2-0 lead. Cuba tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning, with Arruebarruena driving in two of the runs on a single to left field.
Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez struck out six with no walks and four hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Brazil had chances to score early in the game but couldn't capitalize. "We had runners on base early in the ballgame," manager Barry Larkin said, "but Jimenez made pitches when he had to."
In the second inning, left fielder Tiago Magalhaes hit a one-out double to center field, then advanced to third on the single by right fielder Juan Carlos Muniz 9also of Cuban descent). Brazil couldn't push a run across the plate, however, as catcher Diego Franca struck out swinging and Muniz, 37, got thrown out stealing second to end the inning.
In the third inning, second baseman Felipe Burin grounded a two-out single up the middle, then moved ahead to second base on a line-drive single to center field by third baseman Leonardo Reginatto (Rays). First baseman Daniel Matsumoto put a charge into a ball over the head of Heredia in center field, but Heredia tracked it down for the final out of the inning.
Arruebarruena finished 2-for-4 a run scored and drove in two runs, while Cuban DH Frederich Cepeda went 2-for-4 with a walk and scored a run. The 32-year-old Cepeda, a Cuban national team stalwart playing in his third WBC, is now 24-for-54 (.444) all-time in WBC play.
Matsomoto went 2-for-4 and drove in a run for Brazil, which scored two unearned runs in the sixth to close the gap. Reliever Raciel Iglesias struck out five in three scoreless innings for Cuba to shut the door and earn the save.
In 2009, the Netherlands' national team was one of the World Baseball Classic's biggest stories, pulling off a pair of upsets against the Dominican Republic to advance to the second round.
That, and the Dutch 2011 World Cup championship, made Saturday's 5-0 victory against South Korea a bit less of a surprise to international baseball observers. But it was still an upset, considering South Korea's 12-4 overall record in the first two Classics.
The Dutch got four scoreless innings from lefthander Diegomar Markwell, a former Blue Jays farmhand and international veteran. The 32-year-old earned the victory and got a significant assist from another Dutch national team vet, righthander Orlando Yntema, who pitched in the U.S. minors in the Giants system. [...] Continue Reading »
FUKUOKA, Japan—Brazil nearly pulled off another upset, but Japan rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth inning to win 5-3 in the World Baseball Classic opener in the Fukuoka pool.
Brazil jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and caught a break when Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, one of the main attractions for scouts in the WBC, was pulled after only two innings and 26 pitches. Tanaka, 24, allowed one run (it was unearned) with four hits, no walks and no strikeouts.
"His first outing was rough," said Japan manager Koji Yamamoto through an interpreter. "Today in his second inning, although he was facing (Brazil's) seventh and eighth hitters, it was not solid pitching, so that's why we changed (pitchers)."
Brazil third baseman Leonardo Reginatto went 3-for-4 with two doubles and drive in two runs, including a fifth-inning double into the left-center field gap to give Brazil a 3-2 lead.
Brazil held on to that edge until the eighth inning, when Japan first baseman Hirokazu Ibata tied the game with an RBI single to right field. Shunnosuke Abe, the MVP of Japan's Central League last year who was out of the starting lineup due to a knee injury, lined a rocket off the glove of the diving second baseman, who got the force out at second base but scored center fielder Hisayoshi Chono from third base to make it 4-3. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda made it 5-3 with a line drive single to center field.
In the first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wang Chien-Ming tossed six scoreless innings to lead host Taiwan to a 4-1 victory against Australia.
The former Yankees 19-game winner, who pitched in the majors for the Nationals last year but is an unsigned free agent, allowed just four hits and struck out two while walking none against an Aussie lineup featuring four former major leaguers.
Taiwan got on top early against Australia's Chris Oxspring, also a former major leaguer, with a run in the first inning. They chased Oxspring with two more in the third as the former Padres righty gave up three runs and five hits in 2.2 innings. Taiwan had 10 hits overall off seven Aussie pitchers to please the home crowd of 20,035.
Mets farmhand Stefan Welch homered for Australia's lone run.
Official minor league transactions, conveyed to us by Major League Baseball, for the period Feb. 20-25.
Signed: C Rony Rodriguez (Quebec (Can-Am))
Chicago White Sox
Traded: RHP Jeff Soptic to Giants for 3B Conor Gillaspie
Released: C Franmy Pena [...] Continue Reading »
Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar signed for $1.55 million out of Curacao on July 2, 2009. After starting his career in the short-season Northwest League as a 17-year-old in 2010, Profar had a breakout season in 2011, made his major league debut in 2012 and is now the best prospect in baseball.
Usually it doesn't all come together so quickly. For most Latin American prospects, the first stop is either the Dominican Summer League or the Venezuelan Summer League. While players like Profar, Braves righthander Julio Teheran or Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez occasionally are so advanced that they skip the DSL, the majority of the game's best Latin American prospects made their pro debut outside of the United States. Twelve international prospects in the Top 100—Oscar Taveras, Xander Bogaerts, Miguel Sano, Carlos Martinez, Oswaldo Arcia, Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, Avisail Garcia, Marcell Ozuna, Yordano Ventura, Daniel Corcino and Bruce Rondon—all played in either the DSL or the VSL. Bogaerts and Martinez were on BA's inaugural DSL/VSL Top 20 list in 2010 ($).
A player performing well in one of the Latin American summer leagues isn't necessarily an indicator of future success, but players can elevate their prospect stock with a strong on-field performance, while a position player who struggles to hit in the DSL raises questions about whether he'll ever be able to hit more advanced pitching. Performance matters less for pitchers at this level, since they are still growing into their bodies and can see their stuff jump up significantly when they do, but all players are ranked on this list based on their long-term major league potential. This year's list of players from the 2012 DSL and VSL includes high-profile international signings from recent years as well as five players who signed for less than $100,000.
Major League Baseball's investigation into the age of Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz is still ongoing, according to multiple sources.
Diaz, who is represented by Jaime Torres, has been presenting himself as a 23-year-old born on Jan. 8, 1990, which would make him exempt from the international bonus pools. However, Baseball America reported last month that there were multiple sources that listed Diaz with a different date of birth from his time in Cuba.
A December 2007 story on the website of Cuba's top league referred to him being born Aug. 1, 1990, which would make him 22 and match several stories from Cuban media outlets in July 2012 that referred to him as 21 when news surfaced that he had left Cuba. Another roster from the 2010 Pan-American games says that Diaz was born in 1991, although the roster only provides the year and no specific date of birth. A third roster from Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands last July lists Diaz with an Aug. 1, 1991 date of birth, which would make him 21.
Diaz has already submitted official documentation to MLB with his Jan. 8, 1990 date of birth and used that date to obtain permanent Mexican residency papers, according to Torres. Now MLB must determine Diaz's true age, whether he's subject to the international bonus pools and whether he's going to face any penalties for potentially submitting false information to the league about his age.
Free agent righthander Mark Hamburger, released by the Astros on Feb. 13, must serve a 50-game suspension if he latches on with a new organization. He failed two tests for recreational drugs as defined by the minor league drug prevention and treatment program.
Signed as a nondrafted free agent by the Twins in 2007, Hamburger reached the big leagues briefly in 2011, making five appearances for Texas. The 26-year-old reliever pitched at the Triple-A level for the Rangers, Padres and Astros last season, notching 7.2 strikeouts and 4.1 walks per nine innings for three Pacific Coast League clubs.
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