Notes on players from the World Wood Bat Association Championships.
Wilberto Rivera, RHP, Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Naranjito, PR
Rivera has gained notoriety over the past few months as a notable player to watch in advance of the next draft. He has a lot of things you like to look for in young arms including athleticism, size, and explosiveness. Standing 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he still has quite a bit of room for physical growth, especially in his lower half. Wilberto pitches from a full windup with a quick, deep but loose arm action, with good arm speed from a three-quarters slot. His fastball ranged from 93-95, touching 96. In prior outings this summer, he would struggle to command his arsenal as he would lose his balance and overall delivery. In Jupiter his delivery showed slight improvement, which led to more control over his fastball and being able to put away opposing hitters. His command is a work in progress as he was still rather loose in the zone, but still generated six strikeouts over three innings, as well as 14 swings-and-misses with his fastball. His curveball is a 75-76 offering with 11/5 shape, but he has struggled with the pitch in my viewings. At times it shows impressive depth and consistent shape, but is far too inconsistent currently and lacks premium action.
Sam Carlson, RHP, Burnsville HS, Burnsville, MN
While Minnesota is traditionally not a strong baseball state, Carlson and 2016 third-rounder Nick Hanson have made a case for themselves as power arms to keep an eye on. Similar to Rivera, Carlson has a lot of positives going for him including his overall athleticism, arsenal, size, and his clean delivery. Standing 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, he is still lean and has potential for added good weight. Pitching from a full windup, Carlson has a simple pump-and-go delivery with a clean, loose arm action from a three-quarters slot. His fastball averaged 91-93, touching 94 with late life, jumping on hitters. He commanded the pitch especially well, spotting to both sides of the plate. His curveball, which was 78-79, had consistent 11/5 shape with above-average depth and bite, although he struggled to command the pitch at the necessary times. His changeup could be a potential plus offering; coming in between 81-83, he shows advanced feel for it, while showcasing above-average depth and break. He is able to replicate the arm speed necessary and with further advancement could be even better.
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Tigres del Licey assistant GM (and former BP alum) Carlos Jose Lugo discusses what goes into building a DWL team.
During my season-long conquest of the Midwest League, I had the opportunity to meet many great people, including BP alum Carlos Jose Lugo, the assistant general manager of Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. Our game-long conversation became a highlight of the season, as I learned a ton about the Dominican Winter League, Licey, and how teams operate in the Dominican. Here'[s a snapshot of some of the topics we covered.
Grant Jones: As the assistant GM of Licey, what are the day-to-day operations like for you? And how does what you do differ from how an MLB team operates?
Carlos Jose Lugo: The position involves many of the same responsibilities an assistant GM has in an MLB organization. The difference of course being the length of both seasons and also the time of the year. In the offseason I spent most of the time following our players’ performances in minor-league baseball or in some cases Asian leagues, taking notes and gathering information on players that project to be eligible for our annual draft, building a list of players that could be good candidates to play winter ball as imports, working with the GM and the other assistants on possible trade scenarios, and so on.
The busiest time of the year for us is between July through the end of the season in January. In July we initiate the contacts with the American or other foreign players we’re interested in as imports and work more closely on the upcoming draft, and that includes the scouting trip to the South Atlantic and Midwest Leagues. August and September, the workload increases as we now focus on both the roster and the draft, and at the same time setting up the training camp, etc. Once the season is approaching, I also got more involved with our analytics unit with projections, scouting reports, player evaluations, and all kinds of information we think our GM, the coaching staff, and the manager can use.
GJ: Can you elaborate on how the DWL is? Is it as competitive as MLB or is it more developmental like the minor leagues?
CJL: Oh yes, it’s as competitive and perhaps even more than MLB. Winter ball is totally different to minor-league baseball in this regard. The main goal in these leagues is to win the championship–not even make the playoffs–it’s win the championship. Anything else is a failure. The fans are totally obsessed, and they don’t accept losing in any way or form. But winter ball can be viewed as a good developmental step and environment for young players. As you know, in the minor leagues the goal is to develop the player, not necessarily to win, so the kids are not really exposed to the pressures and challenges that go in hand with a winning culture. Playing in front of 15,000 rabid fans in winter ball, from my perspective, will only benefit a young player with major-league potential.
Ben and Sam banter about mean-spirited nicknames, then answer emails about Kyle Schwarber's bat, Jon Lester's long con, the neglected White Sox drought, the Nationals' 2016 "success," overcoming bad broadcasters, paying to play in the World Series, and more.
Notes on Anthony Alford, Brent Honeywell, Nick Gordon, Lew Ford (!?) and, yes, Tim Tebow.
Hitter of the Day:
Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (AFL Mesa Solar Sox): 2-3, BB, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI. Alford’s tantalizing tools were stuck in the garage for big chunks of this season, but he’s built quite the foundation in Arizona thus far. Seventy-grade speed and potentially plus defense in center set a nice floor for his profile, and his advanced approach for a player who is still relatively baseball-raw is encouraging given the physical gifts. He has the talent to emerge as one of the breakout stars of this year’s AFL if he can keep up anything close to his early pace.
Clayton Kershaw kicked and delivered. Forty-thousand people passed along their hopes and fears in wordless song. The broadcasters paused with significance. In my living room, 2,000 miles west on Interstate 90, the baby cried.
He does this a lot. He cried during the second inning, in his highchair as I sat perched before him, a spoon full of speckled purple paste hovering in a poised right hand, waiting for a moment of weakness. He cried as I built cairns out of Duplo blocks, replacing them as he tore them methodically and clumsily apart like a wounded machine. He cried in the fifth while he bathed, cried in the seventh as my wife rocked him and I read his sister Fox in Socks, neither of them entertained. He cried as I took him and Charley Steiner into the darkness of my office, cried and twisted and screamed at sleep itself.