Archive for August 2018

Ayami Sato — World’s Best Female Pitcher?

August 31, 2018

I saw this article linked on today describing Ayami Sato, a Japanese female pitcher who has been dominating in international play since 2010.  She stands only 5’5″ and has a fastball that at its best touches about 80 mph, but she has a great curveball.

Sato has played in Japan’s Women’s League, about which I know next to nothing, since 2009.  As far as I am aware, she has not pitched in a men’s pro league, such as Japan’s independent Baseball Challenge (BC) League, where Eri Yoshida played without much on-field success for several seasons in recent years.

Stacy Piagno in 2017 became the first woman to win a professional game in North American men’s professional baseball since Yoshida.  She pitched in 16 games over two seasons for the Sonoma Stompers of the Indy-A Pacific Association, but her career 7.67 ERA suggests Piagno was mainly an Indy-A novelty act.

New York Yankees Acquire Andrew McCutchen

August 31, 2018

The San Francisco Giants were able to pull the trigger on an Andrew McCutchen trade, sending him to the Yankees for minor middle infielder Abiatal Avelino and right-handed pitcher Juan De Paula.

Avelino is 23 this season. He hit well at AA, but has struggled with the bat since his promotion to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  Avelino looks more like a future Kelby Tomlinson than Brandon Crawford, but we’ll have to wait and see if that turns out to be the case.

De Paula turns 21 in late September and he’s currently pitching well as a starter in the short-season New York-Pennsylvania League (A-).  He has struck out 220 batters in 228 innings pitched in the low minors and has a career professional ERA of 2.49.  Hopefully, the Giants can give him a start or two at Class A Augusta before the minor league season ends.  De Paula is a long way from the majors, but at least he appears to have some talent.

I can’t say I’m that excited about what the Giants got, but what can you expect for one month of Andrew McCutchen’s 2018 performance?  The main thing is that the Giants did trade McCutchen and got something more in return than cash considerations or $250,000 in international bonus money.

Meanwhile, the Giants have called up former 1st round draft pick Chris Shaw to take McCutchen’s roster spot.  Shaw was just O.K. at AAA Sacramento this year, slashing .259/.308/.505 in 422 plate appearances.  In other words, he’s got power (he’s currently tied for 5th with 24 HRs in the Pacific Coast League), but he doesn’t draw many walks.

I kind of expect major league pitchers will carve up Shaw in September, but at least at age 24 (Shaw turns 25 in late October), he’s getting some major league experience.  I’m not convinced that Shaw will amount to much of a major league player, but we can’t know for certain unless he gets his shot.

San Francisco Giants Take Another Hit

August 30, 2018

24 year old CF Steve Duggar has a torn labrum and will almost certainly miss the rest of the 2018 season.  It’s yet another hit for the Giants, who have had great difficulty developing in-house outfielders the last few years, because their prospects keep getting hurt.

I’m more hurt by the Giants losing Duggar than I am about the fact that Buster Posey will miss the rest of the season after hip surgery.  MLB catchers with Posey’s mileage wear out, and having his hip worked on might well make Posey a more productive hitter in 2019 than he was in 2018.

Duggar, on the other hand, is a young player of a certain age who needs to be playing every day to become a major league regular.  At age 24 this season, he’s basically on the cusp of the age at which prospects can still have a reasonable chance of turning into successful major league every day player.

Last year, Austin Slater was having a fine rookie year at age 24, until he hurt his hip in early July and only played in five September games the rest of the 2017 season.  That injury has definitely interfered with his development, as he had to return to AAA this year and earn his way back to the majors.

Mac Williamson had a major injury in 2014 that interfered with his development, and he had a minor injury this year after he was called up following a hot start at AAA.  Williamson is now 28 years old, and it looks like he won’t ever amount to much as a major league player.

Jarrett Parker looked like he was finally going to get his shot in 2017, but he broke his collar bone in mid-April and didn’t return until early August.  The Giants released him at the end of Spring Training this year, and it appears that Parker has at least temporarily retired, as I can find no record of him playing anywhere this year.

It seems like forever since the Giants developed an outfielder.  Nate Schierholtz in 2011 is the last home-grown outfielder to manage even 300 plate appearances in a season, and the Giants haven’t drafted and developed an outfielder who was even arguably worth half a damn since Marvin Benard.  Pretty pathetic!

Arizona Diamondbacks Sign Japanese Amateur Pitcher Shumpei Yoshikawa

August 28, 2018

The Diamondbacks signed 23 year Japanese pitcher Shumpei Yoshikawa to a contract out of Japan’s industrial leagues a couple of days ago.  I wouldn’t bother with a post of this signing, except for the fact that it isn’t often I get to scoop on a signing.

Yoshikawa was expected to be a high draft pick in Japan’s NPB next year, and he’ the first premier amateur Japanese pitcher to sign with an MLB club rather than an NPB team since Junichi Tazawa back in 2008.

By signing with an MLB team first, Yoshikawa will never be allowed to play on the Japanese National team, and as a practical matter may never be allowed to play in the NPB under NPB rules designed to punish Japanese amateurs who sign with MLB organizations.  In that case, I hope Yoshikawa got a big signing bonus or guaranteed contract, since there’s no guarantee he will be as successful as Tazawa, who has earned close to $24 million in his professional career to date.

A San Francisco Giants Coincidence

August 26, 2018

Until just this moment, I had not known that the Dominican Winter League Gigantes (de Cibao) play in San Francisco de Macoris, D.R.  (San Pedro de Macoris is where all the major leaguers come from.)

How Much Are the Boston Red Sox Willing to Take Advantage of the 10-Day DL for Chris Sale?

August 25, 2018

I and a lot of other people are wondering whether the BoSox put Chris Sale on the Disabled List for the second time since Sale’s July 27th start not because his arm was hurting, but because they want to rest Sale’s arm for the post-season.

Sale has a history of getting tired in August and particularly September that carried into the 2017 Division Series against the Astros.  It would certainly make sense to skip as many starts, up to every other one, to keep Sale’s arm fresh for October while still keeping him sharp.  There isn’t any doubt that the Red Sox will make the post-season and will need Sale to pitch like he does in June (2.54 career ERA) and July (2.40 career ERA).

So what happens if the Red Sox stick Sale back on the DL every one or two starts the rest of the way?  It might be the best way of keeping Sale fresh, but it will be obvious to everyone else that the Red Sox are taking advantage of the 10-Day DL.

I don’t see teams wanting to go back to a 15-Day DL.  Every team benefits too much from shorter disabled list minimums, particularly where the players themselves are such extreme investments that you don’t want them trying to play through pain unless the pennant or the post-season are on the line.

If other teams feel that using the DL solely to rest a player for the post-season instead of actual injury is wrong, I could see the possibility of teams agreeing to move back to a 12-game minimum for the DL. Still, it seems unlikely that a majority of teams would agree to jettison the benefits they have received from the flexibility of a 10-day DL.

Not to mention that the Players Association would hate any change in the 10-day minimum.  Teams using the DL more is obviously good for the players collectively because it means more players earning major league salaries and service time while a veteran on a guaranteed contract “rehabilitates.”

Inside-the-Park Home Runs

August 24, 2018

I can’t do better than this wikipedia article on the subject, but here are few highlights.

Jesse “The Crab” Burkett is the all-time leader with 55 career inside-the-park home runs.  Willie Wilson‘s 13 career inside-the-park sprints is the most by any player since 1950.

Wahoo Sam Crawford hit an astounding 12 inside-the-parkers in 1901 for the Cincinnati Reds.  Crawford is, of course, the all-time career leader with 309 triples, back in the days when the triple was major league baseball’s big power hit.

When Big Ed Delahanty hit four home runs in a game on July 25, 1896, two of the inside-the-park variety, making him the only player to have an inside-the-parker as part of a four home run game.

When Alcides Escobar hit an inside-the-park home run on October 27, 2015, he became the first player to do so in a World Series game since 1929.  It was fairly common before that, occurring nine times in the first 26 World Series.

Roberto Clemente became the first and only player to hit a walk-off inside-the-park grand slam, when he did it on July 25, 1956, during his break-out season at age 21.

Ichiro Suzuki is the only player to have hit an inside-the-park home run in the All-Star Game when he did it in 2007.

On August 18, 2009, Kyle Blanks, weighing in at 285 lbs, became the heaviest player ever to hit an inside-the-park job.

On July 18, 2010, Jhonny Peralta hit the slowest recorded inside-the-park home run.  It took him 16.74 seconds to round the bases after outfielder Ryan Rayburn crashed through the bullpen fence trying to catch the ball.

Buster Posey Needs Hip Surgery

August 22, 2018

San Francisco Giants super star Buster Posey reportedly needs hip surgery.  I can’t say I’m surprised, given the drop in his power this year.  He certainly hasn’t played like he’s getting enough torque from this hips.

If he needs the surgery, Buster should get it now, so he’s ready by the start of 2019.  The Giants don’t have a realistic shot at making the play-offs in 4th place eight games back and with five other teams at least 5.5 games ahead of the Gints for the two wild-card spots in late August.

I have previously opined that the Giants have kept playing to win because they are still filling AT&T Park every night.  Well, it’s time to make some moves so that the Giants suck less next year.

The Giants have put Andrew McCutchen on revocable waivers, but is he as valuable now as he obviously was at the trade deadline, when most of the contenders traded for other outfielders?  If the Giants can get anything for McCutchen, they should trade him.

If Buster has surgery, then Aramis Garcia gets a chance to start his major league career at age 25.  He’s only had seven games at AAA Sacramento, and he will almost certainly struggle in his major league action, but at least it will teach him something he might be able to use in the future.  Trevor Brown is also still around, although he’s still clearly not a major league hitter.

Independent-A Run-Down

August 21, 2018

Here are some comments on the top prospects at this moment in the Indy-A Leagues.

27 year old Bennett Parry signed with the CPBL’s ChinaTrust Brothers as their back-up foreigner more than two weeks ago.  He still leads the Atlantic League in strikeouts as I write this.

Dave Kubiak also escaped the Atlantic League for the warmer climbs of Mexico.  Alas, his brains have been beaten out his first two Mexican League starts.

Blake Gailen is the Atlantic League’s best hitter for the umpteenth time, but at age 33 this year, there is nowhere for him to go except Mexico, where he has played successfully before and thus may not be interested in playing there again.  Otherwise, go to Mexico, Blake.

Former major leaguer David Rollins pitched his way out of the Can-Am League to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, but, alas, he got bombed in his first Pacific Coast League start.

Just turned 27 year old outfielder David Harris deserves another shot with an MLB organization.  Still 22 year old Martin Figuero also deserves another shot with an MLB organization, although he’s come down to earth since I wrote about him six weeks ago.

In the American Association, 25 year old Dillon Thomas did not go gentle into the good night of his career after the Rockies released him.  He’s leading the AA in with a 1.021 OPS.

Also 25 year old Dylan Tice earned his way back into the Mets’ organization.  Just turned 28 year old Jay Austin has earned his way up to the Mexican League, where so far so good.

28 year old Tommy Collier needs to pitch in the winter leagues this off-season to boost a move up to a better league, but I sure wouldn’t want to pitch in Venezuela again this winter.

The Wichita Wingnuts’ Travis Banwart, now 32, might more properly be pitching in the CPBL for a lot more money, what with his three seasons of KBO experience, but he’s actually from Wichita, which complicates the matter.  Banwart is one of the best American pitchers not to have pitched at all in the majors.

If you want to read more about Indy-A players who recently signed with major league organizations, go to the Atlantic League’s, the Can-Am League’s and the American Association‘s respective websites.  The Indy-A Leagues scream from the rooftops every time one of their boys signs with a major league organization — that’s what gets most of their boys to play for peanuts.

Tiago Da Silva

August 19, 2018

Tiago Da Silva has recently caught my eye.  He’s a 33 year old Brazilian who is currently a top starter in the Mexican League, and he has had quite a baseball odyssey.

Born in Sao Paolo, Da Silva has some Japanese ancestry — there are more Brazilians of Japanese ancestry than you might think and are probably part of the reason why baseball is more popular in Brazil than you might think.  Sao Paolo is something of a Brazilian baseball hotbed, what with Yan Gomes, Paulo Orlando and Andre Rienzo also hailing from Brazil’s largest city.

Presumably, Da Silva made a name for himself in Sao Paolo’s amateur baseball circuit, but didn’t attract any attention from MLB organizations because he’s a small right-hander — at age 33 he’s listed as 5’9″ and 180 lbs — he was almost certainly a lot lighter when he was prospect age.  However, Da Silva could pitch: from the video I’ve seen, he has an unusual, deceptive motion and gets good movement on his pitches.

After playing for Brazil in the 2003 Baseball World Cup, he was signed by and played briefly in Taiwan’s CPBL.  He got bombed in limited work, and ended up taking his baseball talents to Italy.  The baseball cognoscenti know that Italy and Holland have had professional baseball leagues for quite some time, although regular season schedules are typically only 42 to 60 games and played mostly on the weekends.

He was extremely successful there for T&A San Marino, going a combined 41-12 over his last six seasons, as the San Marino club went from a .500 team to a perennial powerhouse.

Da Silva pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League successfully in the winter of 2013-2014 and then moved up the Mexican League in 2014.  He was good enough to get a shot with the Blue Jays’ organization in 2015 pitching at the A+ (mostly) and AA levels, where he struck out 28 batters in 22.2 IP while allowing only 16 hits and four walks.  However, he was a small, 30 year old right-hander that season and returned to Mexico for the summer of 2016.

Da Silva was a top closer in the Mexican League in 2016 and 2017, combining for 49 saves, which is impressive when you remember that Mexican League teams only played about 110 games per season those years.

He’s become a starter again in 2018, and he’s been equally good in that role.  It has me wondering whether a CPBL team will give him another shot in 2019.  Da Silva is making a reasonable living pitching his summers in Mexico and his winters in Venezuela, but with things falling apart in Venezuala, a return to Taiwan might look a whole lot more appealing than it did even a year or two ago.

Da Silva is a great example of a player who has carved out a reasonably successful professional career without ever coming close to pitching in the MLB major leagues, or even the major leagues in Japan or South Korea.  He has a career record at all professional levels published by baseball reference of 81-34 with 83 saves and 2.47 ERA.  He likely hasn’t made enough money to retire on, even in Brazil, but he has probably lived comfortably at least since returning to Mexico in 2016.

Da Silva’s professional success may also have something to do with his smarts.  He speaks five languages — Japanese, Spanish, Italian, English and his native Portuguese.  If nothing else, he’ll probably be able to find paying work as a translator when his playing career is over.