WBCQ Projected Rosters: Philippines

In every World Baseball Classic Qualifier, a Southeast Asian representative has always had one player with impressive name recognition. In 2013, Thailand featured Johnny Damon. Last time, the Philippines had Chris Aguila and Clay Rapada. This time, the island nation could boast Tim Tebow, to say nothing of Chase d’Arnaud a  nd MLB Draft Pick Andrew Magno. Whether these names and the success of December’s gold medal at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games will come together for the nation’s first WBCQ win remains to be seen.

On balance, the Philippines appears to have opted for a more Filipino-centred team as it attempts to recover from the sport’s nadir in the middle part of the decade. From 2013-18, there was no national baseball league in the Philippines and one newspaper described the sport as “dead” [link]. In advance of the SEA Games in Manila, however, the Philippines Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) re-formed and hired Philippine sport legend Chito Loyzaga to right the ship [link].

The move seems to have worked, as PABA fielded a team that won the 2018 East Asia Cup, qualifying for last year’s Asian Championship (ABC). In 2019, a Philippines Baseball League was recreated for the first time since 2012, with a heavy emphasis on university teams and playing time for national teamers. Perhaps most impressively, a newly formed women’s baseball national team won bronze at the Asia Women’s Baseball Cup and qualified for the World Cup.

The Philippines are poised to return 10 players from the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, six of whom were developed in the Philippines. Gone from that squad are major leaguers Aguila and Rapada, though Filipino-American veterans J.R. Bunda, Brady Conlan, Brad Haynal, and Angelo Songco return. Eleven SEA Games gold medal winners (including Dino Altomonte, below, with gold medal-winning softball sister and mother) and 12 ABC players ensure some continuity from more recent rosters.

Lineup
Veterans like d’Arnaud and Songco will play important roles if they travel with the team to Arizona. Having the presence of a player like d’Arnaud will anchor the lineup, particularly as the only player with a full-season above Double-A. Songco and, indeed, Tebow are the only others out of six current and former minor leaguers to progress beyond A-ball. When we saw Songco in Double-A in 2013, his power was legitimate. Five years in independent ball have confirmed that.

The rest of the lineup should feature four players with NCAA Division-I and low-level minor league experience: Andre Mercurio, Brady Conlan, Haynal, and Devon Ramírez. One intriguing young player, however, could play a crucial role: Ripken Reyes. Reyes was a 30th-Round Draft Pick by the Padres out of the University of San Diego, for whom he hit .366/.462/.500. Although older than the average player, Reyes continued to put up excellent numbers in his first pro season: .308/.412/.430 with 15 stolen bases. In his university, summer league, and professional career, he has walked almost as much as he has struck out (109-to-153 in 1,166 plate appearances) with a .405 OBP.

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
SS
Addison Russell
Chicago Cubs
MLB
2B
Tyler Saladino
Milwaukee Brewers
MLB
C
Travis d’Arnaud
New York Mets
MLB
CF
Andre Mercurio
Florence Freedom
Frontier League
SS
Ripken Reyes
Padres
A-
3B
Chase d’Arnaud
Texas Rangers
MLB
1B
Angelo Songco
Free Agent
AA
LF
Tim Tebow
New York Mets
AAA
DH
Brady Conlan
Free Agent
A+
C
Brad Haynal
Retired
A+
CF
Matt Vance
Buchbinder Legionäre
Bundesliga
RF
Devon Ramirez
Napa Silverados
Pacific Association

Bench
Even if Filipino-Americans dominate the starting lineup, native Pinoys may get a shot at playing time as well. Especially interesting are Diego Lozano, Erwin Bosito, and Adriane Ros Bernardo. Lozano was the resurrected 2019 Philippines Baseball League (PBL) MVP and led the league in slugging (.842) and home runs (3). He was also the All-Star first baseman at the 2018 ABC after slashing .400/.429/.800 in 21 at bats.

Meanwhile, Bosito hit .375 and stole four bases at the November ABC, most in the competition. Bosito was a star player for the PBL-winning Adamson University team, from which he graduated last summer. Bernardo was an East Asia Cup All-Star after slashing .471/.526/.765, stealing three bases, and scoring five runs. In the top-tier Asian tourney, he delivered once more: .267/.421/.400 and did not strike out in 19 PAs.

A trio of dual citizens provide further depth. Jared Cruz is Filipino-Australian and played 49 games in the low minors in 2014-15, continuing to play in the ABL for Melbourne. Only 24, he can play six positions. Jonhil Carreon will join from the independent Baseball Challenge League in Japan, while Brady’s brother Riley Conlan has been confirmed after a stint with the same Australian club as Brady, Ramírez, and Peter Reyes.

There will likely be more players with a connection to Japan as the Yomiuri Giants have opened an academy with two locations, the Samurai Baseball Academy [link]. With 65 children already training in baseball and softball, some will assuredly turn into members of youth national teams. There is a plan to include Under-18 and university-age members as well. Interestingly, part of the Giants’ reasoning is because the club played a game in the Philippines in 1934, the year of its foundation.

Two surprising omissions are long-time Philippines hitters Jonash Ponce and Jennald Pareja. Ponce only hit .231 at the most recent ABC (and .154 in 2017), but was 1-for-4 and drove in a run against New Zealand in 2016. Ponce has played for the squad since 2005, when he was only 23, so age may play a factor. Stranger is Pareja, who made the roster in the last two WBCQs and was in fine form in November, going 10-for-20 with five extra base hits and a walk, claiming All-Star 2B honours.

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
C
Mark Manaig
Unknown
N/A
C
Dino Altomonte
Ateneo de Manila University (2019)
PBL
1B
Dean Long
Retired
A-
3B/2B
Juan Alvaro Macasaet
Ateneo de Manila University
PBL
INF
Adriane Ros Bernardo
Unknown
N/A
UTIL
Jared Cruz
Melbourne
GCL
OF
Erwin Bosito
Adamson University (2019)
PBL
OF
Jonhil Carreon
Kanagawa
BCL League
OF
Riley Conlan
Free Agent
NCAA I
OF/1B
Diego Lozano
De la Salle University
PBL
OF
Jonash Ponce
Thunderz All-Stars
PBL

Pitching
The pitching staff is where Filipinos may see significant innings. There had been some hope among fans that Tim Lincecum might appear, but instead, the Pinoys appear to have lured 15th-rounder Magno to their staff. The southpaw had a 2.09 ERA out of the Ohio State bullpen in 2019 and then almost matched that figure with a 2.05 mark in Low-A after the Tigers took him. In 100 career university and professional-level innings, Magno has struck out 110 and allowed only 69 hits, but walked 82. He will pitch in any key spot for the Philippines given his “nasty” curveball and plus fastball.

The rotation, meanwhile, could potentially feature only Philippines-based players. The one exception could be Devon Ramírez, who will likely return from the previous two WBCQ rosters. Ramírez has played in five countries, including three years in the Pacific Association (PACA) and three years in the Czech Extraliga, most recently with the 2018 champion Arrows Ostrava. In the PACA, he had a 4.93 ERA in 158.2 career innings and a .376 OBP and 13 stolen bases in 52 games as an outfielder.

 

Francis “Kiko” Gesmundo had a strong 2019 season in the PBL, capped by an MVP award in the finals, and excelled in an ABC start against Pakistan (4IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 3K). He then shut out Hong Kong for seven innings, whiffing eight and permitting only four hits and one free pass. Romeo Jasmin, Jr. earned a win in the Asian tourney in a 1-0 upset over China, going 6.2 frames with seven strikeouts and no walks, scattering five hits. The righty then tossed two innings against Sri Lanka in a 7-1 victory. Two years prior, Jasmin earned wins over Sri Lanka and Hong Kong in the same event and has been on the national squad for 10 years.

Others who could get a look include long-time Pinoy national teamer Jon-Jon Robles and youngster Jerome Yenson. Robles was named to the East Asia All-Star Team after winning two games with a 1.00 ERA, but was not selected for the ABC. The lefty has, however, been a part of the national team for 14 years. In the late 00s, Robles also pitched for two years in the Czech Republic, the Philippines’ first qualifier opponent.

On the other hand, the youthful Yenson (right) was the 2018 University finals MVP and won the PBL title with Adamson last summer.

Rotation

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
RHP
Tim Lincecum
FA
MLB
RHP/3B
Francis “Kiko” Gesmundo
De la Salle University (2019)
PBL
RHP
Romeo Jasmin Jr.
Philippine Air Force
PBL
LHP/OF
Devon Ramirez
Free Agent
Pacific Association

Bullpen
Magno is the headliner and, along with J.R. Bunda, a five-year independent league veteran. Working his way up to the American Association, the returning staff member has a 2.65 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 156 career indy frames. The only other professionals are 21-year old Yuki Takayama, who already has two seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters under his belt, PACA’s Peter Reyes (4.16 ERA in three season), and the Bundesliga’s Miguel Salud, who pitched last year for the Mannheim Tornadoes.

A bevy of PBL players make up most of the rest of the bullpen, from 10-year veteran Vladimir Eguia to Carlos Alberto Muñoz (left). The latter threw the first no-hitter in Filipino league play as a 17-year old in 2011 and is a rare player that is “half-Spanish, part-Filipino, part-Chinese, part-Swiss, part-Scottish roots” [link]. Muñoz has represented the Philippines at the Little League World Series, IBAF (!) Under-18 events, and senior team tournaments during this career.

Bullpen

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
RHP
J.R. Bunda
Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks
American Association
P
Pablo Luis Capati
De la Salle University (2019)
PBL
LHP
Ron Christian de la Cruz
University of Santo Thomas
PBL
LHP
Junmar Diarao
Philippine Air Force
PBL
LHP
Vladimir Eguia
Unknown
N/A
RHP
Austin Haynal
Retired
NCAA I
RHP
Tsuyoshi Horibata
Retired
NCAA I
LHP/OF/1B
Diego Lozano
De la Salle University
PBL
RHP
Juan Pablo Macasaet
Ateneo de Manila University (2019)
PBL
LHP
Andrew Magno
Tigers
A-
RHP/SS
Clarence Lyle Molina Caasalan
Philippine Air Force
PBL
P/OF
Carlos Alberto Muñoz
Katayama Baseball Academy
PBL
LHP
Ryuya Ogawa
Saitama Seibu Lions
NPB
RHP
Peter Reyes
Vallejo Admirals
Pacific Association
LHP
Jon-Jon Robles
Philippine Air Force
PBL
RHP
Miguel Salud
Mannheim Tornadoes (2019)
Bundesliga
LHP
Yuki Takayama
Nippon Ham Fighters
NPB
P/IF
Kennedy Torres
Unknown
N/A
RHP/OF
Jerome Yenson
Adamson University (2019)
PBL
RHP
Kevin Vance
Retired
AAA

Above, we have used guest writer Alex Ayala’s projected rosters from a year ago that, as you can see, accurately predicted most of the players, with the exception of emerging Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. Below, we leave you with a few thoughts from Ayala.

Overall
The chances of this team [as wishfully constituted above] happening is probably pretty slim, but [it was] assuming the team receives all their players. You can look at it as a best-case scenario, which is what the main point of these WBC thread is.

Anyway, should the players I’ve listed here join, then this is a pretty good team. This team has depth which some countries might not have. A good hitting line-up with a so-so rotation and a bullpen which should rely heavily on the Filipino-Americans. Because of the hitters on this team, they might be able to hold their own against higher-tier countries like Panama or Nicaragua in the qualifiers if the pitching holds up.

Strength: Hitting
Tim Tebow (pictured left in the Philippines [link]) joining might seem like a huge stretch but stranger things have happened in the WBC, so let’s have fun with this!

It’s a good hitting line-up. No reason for it to not be successful. Not only do they have current MLB players, which is a huge boon in itself, but they also have hitters from independent ball, so the bottom of the line-up can hold their own and won’t be over-matched.

If these hitters were facing, let’s say China or New Zealand, not only is there the chance to score a decent amount of runs due to the top half of their line-up being MLB-heavy.

Devon Ramierez has a 4.93 ERA in his independent ball career all in the Pacific Association. His best chance at success is probably pitching against one of the of lower ranked teams (i.e China or New Zealand).

Everyone else like Gesmundo and Yenson probably won’t do well against other teams besides maybe Pakistan and possibly China and New Zealand though history says otherwise.

Weakness: Bench, Bullpen
I’ll start off with the bench. Many of these players regularly hit the line up during non-WBC tournaments but here, there are obviously better options. Many of these players are, at best, a pinch running option. I doubt they’ll get any pinch hitting opportunities or take a spot in the line-up. I don’t know how well their defense is to be a late-in-game defensive replacement.

Now for the bullpen. After the Filipino-Americans and Ogawa [the loss of whom is a big blow], it is pretty [light]. A trend with the Philippines (and a lot of low-tier baseball countries in general) [is that in a game against] a high-tier baseball country, it is close for about four-to-five innings before it blows up in one big inning.

Team
Tournament
Score and innings before blowout
Inning it blows up
Final Score
South Korea
2019 Asian Baseball Championship
3-0 for three innings
7 runs in the fourth
12-2
South Korea (Super Round)
2017 Asian Baseball Championship
4-0 for six innings
7 runs in the seventh
11-0
New Zealand
2016 WBCQ
5-7 for five innings
6 runs in the fifth
17-7
Australia
2016 WBCQ
3-1 for six innings
7 runs in the seventh
11-1
Taiwan
2012 WBCQ
3-0 for four innings
8 runs in the fifth inning
16-0

What does this mean? Besides bad hitting (all these games ended via mercy with little to no hits), it means pitching is thin for the team and it’s the same story here. The Filipino-Americans can probably hold their own, but everyone else can’t. Not only do the relievers in the bullpen have a history of games being blown up by them. Tandem starting is not really an option since I’m not sure how long the Filipino-Americans and Japanese relievers can go. Not to mention their rotation is [already] pretty thin.

Despite Ayala’s accurate reading of past qualifiers, perhaps the tide has turned. It is clear that Loyzaga and PABA are making a real effort to re-set the sport in the Philippines and it appears to be paying off. Its most recent Asian Championship included a nail-biting win over China and dominant victories over Pakistan, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka, all of whom seemed like nations ready to ascend to the second-tier of Asian countries with China and, possibly, the Philippines. If the PBL and university baseball are, indeed, offering quality opposition, the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers offer a chance to display an ascendant Pinoy squad.

Articles in this series:
Introduction [Link]
Nicaragua [Link]
Pakistan [Link]
Panama [Link]
Czech Republic [Link]
Philippines [Link]

Thanks to the PhilStar [link], ABS-CBN Sports, and the Tiebreaker Times [link] for their excellent coverage of Filipino baseball. Pictures copyright PABA, Rappler.com, Napa Valley Register, ABS-CBN Sports, the Adamson Chronicle, the Tiebreaker Times, and Christianity Today [link].

Posted in Asia, Asian Baseball Championship, Philippines, Tournaments, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Play Everywhere: Baseball5 Update and 2020 Schedule

Since we published our history of baseball5 events last March [updated link], the WBSC’s newest discipline has spread quickly around the globe. From its creation 18 months before then, 75 events had been held involving 39 countries. As we shall see, both numbers have grown significant in the last year, aided by a number of WBSC announcements. These include the successful bid to include baseball5 at the 2022 Summer Youth Olympics and series of statements about the first Baseball5 World Cup.

Fast-forward almost a year from our last article and numbers of events and participating countries have expanded enormously. There have been 177 officially sanctioned baseball5 clinics, demonstrations, games, and tournaments in an incredible 63 countries, with countless other team practices, friendly matches, and children’s games not included.

Growth of the sport was unabated in 2019, even before the announcement that Mexico would host Baseball5 World Cups at the senior and Under-18 levels. Two countries, the United Kingdom and Australia have announced the inclusion of baseball5 in schools in their countries, with the latter to release it nationwide in 2020. France has successfully included the sport at multiple universities, while in Japan, women’s baseball teams have held several taster sessions in the last three months.

Japan has been the most active baseball5 country in Asia, though the WBSC has particularly encouraged the sport’s growth in southeast Asia as well. In total, Japan has hosted 11 baseball5 events, mostly in the past six months. Argentina’s late-2018 surge around the World Youth Games has continued, with seven events last year and 12 overall.

Elsewhere in the Americas, Mexico has demonstrated why it was chosen to host the first baseball5 world cups. Probeis, the national professional baseball organisation for Mexico, has hosted 11 ‘Ferias de baseball5’ (Baseball5 Fairs) around the country in the last two months alone. It offered training to 90 coaches at the annual meeting of CONADE, Mexico’s Commission for Physical Culture and Sport.

Not to be outdone, Canada has also invested heavily in baseball5. Québec, in particular, has taken the lead, with seven events in the last seven months. In January, a baseball5 league was initiated in the province, one of only four known baseball5 leagues in the world.

Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Argentina, Asia, Baseball5, Baseball5 World Cup, Bulgaria, Caribbean, Colombia, Cuba, Europe, France, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Netherlands, South America, Spain, Thailand, Tournaments, Tunisia, Ukraine | Leave a comment

WBCQ Projected Rosters: Czech Republic

Our series of WBSC roster projections continues with Czech Republic, which had a solid 2019, claiming the European Under-23 title, finishing third at the Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier, and performing admirably at the Under-12 World Cup. Baseball Czech will bring its usual WBC roster of Extraliga veterans, young prospects with minor league or U.S. university experience, and a few Czech-American professionals. The biggest name on the roster was a surprise addition, given that he is 46 years old: Brett Tomko.

Despite writing in September 2018, guest contributor Alex Ayala accurately predicted almost the entire roster, including multiple U.S. professionals. Only six players he listed were left off the federation’s long-list and, of those, one has a realistic chance of winning a job on a major league roster (Hunter Červenka) and two others are regulars for a top NCAA Division-I university (Vojtěch Menšík and Marek Chlup). We have written extensively about Menšík and Chlup, the former of which has a very good chance to be the first Czech taken in the MLB Amateur Draft. Unfortunately, their status as legitimate prospects means they are unavailable for their home country in the middle of the university season.

Continue reading

Posted in Czech Republic, Europe, Tournaments, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EXCLUSIVE: A Sneak Peak into Pakistan’s Official WBCQ Roster

Pakistan Baseball West Asia CupDays after we released guest author Alex Ayala’s roster projection on Pakistan [link], we have been given an exclusive preview into Pakistan Federation Baseball’s (PFB) official World Baseball Classic Qualifier roster. The federation’s official list includes 29 players, of which several are alternates, and we have been given access to 18 from that total. These players include the first-ever set of twins to play in a WBC event and reveal much about the progress made in the country since the Brooklyn Qualifier in 2016.

Only seven of these 18 players return from the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier, including six from the team’s starting lineup. We successfully predicted the inclusion of 13 of that 18, with the other five all 20 years old and younger.

The sextet of players with WBC experience includes centrefielder and leadoff hitter Muhammad Sumair Zawar and scrappy shortstop Arsalan Jamashaid, plus first baseman Jawad Ali, the top three in the order. Also returning are leftfielder Fazal Ur Rehman, catcher Umair Imdad Bhatti, and second baseman Hussain Faqir Hussain. Starting pitcher Muhammad Usman (left), the winning pitcher in the 2019 national championship, is the lone returning hurler known thus far.

Of the remaining 11, four are older players ranging between 25-31. Federation President and Head Coach Syed Fakhar Shah told us on Feb. 9 that “These players will teach our youngsters because of the players we are bringing, half of them only started baseball when they were 22 or 23.”

This older group of WBC neophytes includes pitchers Muhammad Amjad Aslam and Muhammad Taimoor Javed, infielder Asad Ali, and outfielder Muhammad Majeed. We successfully added all four to Ayala’s projection and featured them in the article linked above.

The youngest players are most interesting, however. They include pitchers Amir Asghar (20), Muhammad Haris (19) and Wali Muhammad (18), and infielders Muhammad Hussain (22) and Muhammad Zakir (turning 23 on Mar. 3). Zakir was included in Ayala’s prediction, while we added Haris and Hussain to the list.

In addition, Pakistan will roster first baseman-pitcher Syed Ali Shah and catcher Syed Muhammah Shah, who will make history as the first twins in WBC history. Also noteworthy, though, is that the Shah brothers will compete at 15 years and nine months, making them only slightly older than youthful record-setter Eric Pardinho of Brazil.

Syed Ali Shah served as Pakistan’s leadoff hitter at the Under-15 Asian Championship in 2019 and stole four bases in five games, hitting .267. He also pitched in relief in a pair of contests. A three-sport school star, Syed Ali won two golds and a silver at an international school competition in 2018, setting a record in the 400 metre. It is his tenth team selection, including second senior national team selection (2018 Asian Games).

Syed Muhammad, meanwhile, was the team’s hottest hitter at the U15 tourney, going 6-for-12 in four games. He had three two-hit games, including one against South Korea. Also a track and football star, Syed Muhammad holds records in the 100 and 200 metre races and will also make appearance No. 10 in international competition.

Asghar might only be 20, but could see some key spots for the South Asian nation. In recent workouts, the right-hander has hit 89 and sits 87 on his fastball. Asghar mixes in a change-up and a still-developing curveball.

Alas, two other talented players will not travel with the team. Anonymity has been requested for both, but one is a young pitcher that has registered 93 on the radar gun. The other is a former starter at a top California NAIA programme who had a 3.40 ERA in 82 innings as a senior. A right-handed pitcher, he finished with a 3.96 mark in 127.2 frames over three years. Now 28, the Pakistani-American also hit .250 in 56 at bats.

Even without them, it appears Pakistan has developed some interesting young players worth following in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier.

“We are in the World Baseball Classic because of our talent, not because of our support,” concluded Shah. “If we had a good place and could have MLB coaches and a good facility. I believe with that in only a year we could [have a player sign a professional contract]. If I had something like the One Million Dollar Arm, I could easily give a pitcher that throws 90-plus. We just need time and a little support.”

Photos copyright Pakistan Federation Baseball. Used with permission. 

Posted in Asia, Pakistan, Tournaments, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WBCQ Projected Rosters: Panama

Panama lists a total of 57 players on its World Baseball Classic Qualifier ‘dream team’ and, even with three its best-known players declining—Johan Camargo, Jaime Barria, and Dario Agrazal—should have high enough calibre players for a realistic shot at advancing to its first WBC. In many ways, it mirrors its neighbour Colombia, which rode strong pitching and an average lineup to World Baseball Classic success. Even without the above trio, there is the potential for some name recognition on the final roster, with Randall Delgado, First-Round Draft Pick Daniel Espino, and young Rangers’ righty Ariel Jurado.

Panama is in quite an unusual position among qualifying nations in that it has a deep stable of pitching and catching, but a limited pool of hitters. Of the national pre-selection, a whopping 32 were pitchers and eight were catchers. Long a power in Central and Latin America, Panama could take the next step thanks to a rotation with only major league pitchers and an incredible deep bullpen as well.

Rotation
To do so, its rotation will need to lead the way and has the talent to do so. Jurado will likely be in line for a start and, although his major league numbers are lacking, his talent is legitimate and will be facing much easier lineups than in the big leagues. Paolo Espino and Harold Arauz will also likely claim one. Davis Romero, who has been pitching in Panama only after his early career in the U.S., could be another option.

The final candidate, however, is much more interesting. Daniel Espino was electric in the Under-18 Pan-American Championship in November of 2018 and was then ranked the No. 4 high school prospect in the U.S. by Perfect Game and its top overall pitcher. Espino hit 99 mph at 17 years old and has a wipeout slider as well. Whether Cleveland permits him to throw multiple innings or restricts him to single frames is the important question, however.

Pos Name Team Current/Peak
RHP Jaime Barria Angels MLB
RHP Ariel Jurado Rangers MLB
RHP Dario Agrazal Tigers MLB
RHP Harold Arauz Cardinals AAA
RHP Paolo Espino Nationals MLB
LHP Davis Romero LPBP MLB

Continue reading

Posted in Central America, Panama, Tournaments, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baseball Euros Expansion Under Consideration

In non-WBC Qualifier news out of the Czech Republic, it appears that the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) is considering expanding the European Championship. At the latest congress last weekend, CEB issued a number of awards, including Federation of the Year to the Czech Republic, but a variety of notes are of potentially greater long-term significance.

The first is that CEB is considering changes the regulations for dual citizens, though it is unclear whether this will be a tightening or loosening. Complaints were filed against multiple federations in 2019 over the timing of citizenship for new players, though it appears that Baseball Europe cleared all charges. Changes in the requirements would affect Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, and Spain in particular.

It was announced, though, that there is discussion to enlarge the European Championship to 16 teams, which would be the most ever. The Baseball Euros have had 12 teams since 1997, when it expanded from 10 nations.

Nations likely to benefit from the expansion are Greece (six times, most recently 2016), Ireland (never, but a strong performance in the last two B-Pools, the European Championship Qualifier), Lithuania (never, but runner up in 2016 and 2019), Russia (12 times 2016), Slovakia (never), Slovenia (three times, 2001), Switzerland (never), and the Ukraine (six times, 2010).

It would also make it easier for countries like Austria, Croatia, Great Britain, and Sweden to focus on the A-Pool. All but Great Britain have been relegated in the last tournament, while GB has been in the relegation pool in four-straight tournaments.

CEB is in the process of working out the existence of WBSC Europe and, therefore, the relationship between Baseball Europe and the WBSC. With the WBC Qualifiers and Olympics this year, we may not see a resolution in the immediate future. The next European Championship is in 2021.

This article is based, in part, on a press release by the Czech Baseball Association [link].

 

 

 

 

Posted in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Europe, European Championships, Great Britain, Greeece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tournaments, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WBCQ Projected Rosters: Pakistan

 

 

By Gabriel Fidler and Alex Ayala 

[Ed. Note] Pakistan made its global debut in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, the first time any of the players had ever seen a baseball field outside of Asia. Although it was easily the most overmatched team in the 2016-17 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, it looked like a squad that was close to taking a large stride forward. Pakistan has been invited back to the WBCQs and our second roster projection, compiled by Alex Ayala, should offer a useful primer on the players we should expect.

Pakistan replaced Thailand at the last qualifying round. Thailand had been invited to the 2013 Qualifiers after a string of successes that indicated a nation on the rise. The Southeast Asian nation lost to the Philippines, 8-2, and New Zealand—in its first major tournament in history—12-2. As our recent WBSC Rankings series showed, Thailand has continued to fall since then [link].

As we profiled then, baseball had only been played for 25 years in Pakistan, with the sport established by the, alas, recently deceased Syed Khawar Shah in 1992. Shah had believed so strongly in teaching the game that he sold his family’s car to pay for team’s expenses. His son, the energetic Syed Fakhar Ali Shah, sold his petrol station to help the national team, learning how to make bats and gloves from scratch. You can read more about their inspiring story here [link].

In Brooklyn, Pakistan lost 10-0 in seven innings against Brazil, though the first two innings were scoreless. Great Britain then blasted the South Asian nation, 14-0, in another game ended by the mercy rule. The starter in that game, Muhammad Zohaib, showed a nice breaking ball and hit the high-80s on multiple occasions. Zohaib had only recently converted from baseball to cricket and told us, “I am playing my first international match on any field.”

The Classic was important, then, simply for experience and exposure. MLB also donated 30-40 helmets, uniforms, catching equipment, and other gear to Pakistan Federation Baseball. The team made valuable connections and received hope that they were considered part of MLB’s plans. All things considered, though, the future looked bright for baseball in Pakistan.

“Since 2017, […] we have not gotten any support from MLB for support in this region,” the younger Shah explained to us today (Feb. 9). “The only help we have had is to be invited in 2020.

“Unfortunately, in the last two years we have had no sponsor in Pakistan for the development or from the government, nor from other any other organisation or MLB,” added Shah, elected President of Pakistan Federation Baseball earlier today. “We are doing everything through self-financing.”

Since then, however, an ascendant Sri Lanka has beaten Pakistan in two-of-three meetings in Asian competitions. Pakistan also has not narrowed the gap on its next closest Asian competitor, China, losing to them 11-1 in their most recent meeting at the Asian Baseball Championship last October. It has, however, made gains at the Under-15 level, playing China close (5-2) and almost upsetting South Korea (2-1) in the August 2019 tourney. It appears they also played India in the II Dubai Cup only a few days before publication, though no result is known.

The 2020 Qualifiers’ biggest underdog, Pakistan start with a rematch against Brazil. A win would mean a bout with Nicaragua, while a loss would set up a must-win game against either France or Germany. It is also possible that the team could meet South Africa in Pool 1, held at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.

“Our camp is in Lahore,” said Syed Fakhar Ali Shah to us today. “We can’t afford to have practice aboard so we are doing camp in Pakistan. Last time we had [funding for] coaches for nine months, but this year we started camp in January.”

Other than the above handful of tournaments since September 2016, there are few other sources for information on Pakistan. As of yet, only Muhammad Mohsin Jamil has played abroad, suiting up for two games in the low-level independent Pacific Association. No players from Pakistan are listed on North American baseball rosters either. Perhaps these qualifiers will be the catalyst, then, for the next phase for baseball in Pakistan.

“For me, this team that is coming to the WBC is still for our learning,” remarked the candid Shah. “After that, we will [be able] to do more. These players will teach our youngsters because of the players we are bringing, half of them only started baseball when they were 22 or 23.

“What I have learned since 2017 is that we need to have baseball players who start at age 10, so since then, I have put extra work into our Under-15 and Under-12 team and they are starting to give me results,” exclaimed PFB’s chief. “Last year, at the Under-15 Asian Championship in Shenzhen, we got three awards: the leading hitter was Muhammad Shah, who is coming into our team as the youngest [player]. We also had the ‘Most Home Runs Award” and the “Best Right Fielder Award”. After three years, the world can see how Pakistan [has grown].”

We now offer Ayala’s projected roster and a few thoughts on their chances.

Rotation

Position Player Team Current/Peak
SP Adil Sardar N/A
RHP Inayat Ullah Khan N/A
LHP Muhammad Usman N/A
LHP Muhammad Zohaib (above) N/A
RHP/C Muhammad Waseem N/A
SP Abubakar Virk N/A
RHP/3B Tariq Nadeem N/A

 Bullpen

Position Player Team Current/Peak
SP/RP S. A. Afridi N/A  
SP/RP Arif Ahmad N/A  
RP Asrar Ahmad N/A
SP/RP Rizwan Ali N/A
RP T. Ali N/A
RP M. Anaydullah N/A
RP Muhammad Asad N/A
LHP/RP Muhammad Amjad Aslam N/A  
SP/RP M. Haris N/A  
SP/RP Muhammad Jawed N/A  
RP M. Mahmood N/A  
RP Nabeel Manzoor N/A
RP Syed Shah N/A
RP Syed Sherazi N/A
RHP Ihsan Ullah N/A  

Line-Up

Position Player Team Current/Peak
SS Arsalan Jamashed N/A
CF Muhammad Sumair Zawar N/A
2B Muhammad Mohsin Jamil Free Agent Pacific Association
3B Faqeer Hussain N/A
1B Jawad Ali N/A
C Umair Imdad Bhatti N/A
RF Ubaid Ullah N/A
LF Fazal Ur Rehman N/A
DH Muhammad Zakir N/A

Bench

Position Player Team Current/Peak
C Hidayat Ullah N/A
C M. Abdullah N/A
SP/C Muhammad Waseem N/A  
1B Azad Ali N/A  
INF Inesham Ul Haq N/A  
INF Muhammad Hussain N/A  
INF Zakir Afridi N/A  
INF Muhammad Waqas Ismail N/A
OF Muhammad Rafi N/A
OF Saddam Hussain N/A
OF Muhammad Shah N/A
DH Alamgir Khan N/A
DH M. Ali N/A

Overall [Analysis from Alex Ayala]: 
Pakistan never really has a huge roster in senior competitions, so I had to use players from the 2017 WBCQs to fit in their recent roster from the 2018 Asian Games.

Pakistan is essentially the fifth-best team in Asia after China, but China is still ahead of them by a good margin. I’m glad this team was able to face competition outside of Asia [in the last qualifiers], but it was only for two games. At the same time, when Pakistan played in the WBCQs in New York, they received a lot of positive press coverage locally (Bronx resident here) and nationally in sports so they were able to get a lot of exposure.

That exposure has not done much, though, to improve the national team. They lost to an improving Sri Lanka in the 2017 West Asian Baseball Championship and lost to Hong Kong in the 2017 U23 Asian Baseball Championship, their first chance at a fourth place since China was not participating in the tournament.

[Ed. Pakistan finished fifth in the 2018 Asian Games, easily defeated Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Thailand, but losing in blowouts against China and Pakistan. Last April, Pakistan lost in the West Asia Cup title game to Sri Lanka, the second-straight time it settled for a silver. In July, it was fifth place again at the Asian U15 Championship and, in October at the Asian Championship, it blasted Sri Lanka 10-1, but suffered the ignominy of a blowout loss against Hong Kong.]

In the 2018 U12 Asian Baseball Championship, Pakistan impressively held Japan to one run for three innings before it blew up in the fifth in the bronze medal game (U12 and U15 tournaments are seven innings). It only lost to South Korea 4-1 in the first round [as well], so maybe they have some pitchers on that U12 roster who Pakistan should look to develop for the future and hopefully they receive some high-quality coaching.

I’m not confident this team can win a game but, at the very least, I hope they can play close games with these countries because that alone would show improvement and development on the team. Plenty of countries from the 2013 WBCQs improved in the 2017 WBCQs, so maybe Pakistan will be one of those teams.

Strength: Hitting
Looking at the box scores recently, Pakistan doesn’t strike out a lot compared to some other teams. [Ed. Note: Pakistan struck out only eight times in 14 innings, walking three times.] No one on this team is going to be hitting home runs, but there might be some gap hitters here.

The main problem is not hitting or getting on base, but trying to find a way to score runs. They actually get hits so it’s not like no one is getting on base.

Weakness: Bullpen and pitching as a whole
Pakistan rarely has more than five-to-six pitchers on their senior team in Asian tournaments. [The] only time they had more was for the WBCQs due to the roster rules. Even then, I doubt their pitching can hold the likes of any team. Similar to the Philippines, when Pakistan faced Brazil and Great Britain in the 2017 WBCQs, they were only down by four runs by the fourth inning before the game blew up.

Adil Sardar apparently is their hardest throwing pitcher, clocking in at 81 MPH and has pitched in an Iran Baseball League. [Ed. Note: Muhammad Zohaib sat high-80s at the Brooklyn Qualifier, but he has not appeared on a roster since Brooklyn. However, most of the other pitchers in 2016 matched Sardar in velocity.]

I always try be optimistic when it comes to WBCQ teams, hoping that their strengths outweigh their weakness and having more pros then cons to their weakness, but Pakistan [has a tough task ahead of them]. [They have] no professional […] league, no current or former [professional] players, and no heritage players. [Hopefully] they can iron out some stuff to position themselves, at the very least, to play competitive baseball.

Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Asian Baseball Championship, Pakistan, Tournaments, West Asia Baseball Cup, World Baseball Classic, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WBCQ Projected Rosters: Nicaragua

By Alex Ayala

[Ed. Note] Our first projected World Baseball Classic Qualifiers roster is for Nicaragua, a team that recently announced its long-list (linked below), which is the master roster submitted to the World Baseball Classic to show the potential pool of players. Nicaragua will compete in Pool 1 against Brazil, France, Germany, Pakistan, and South Africa. It also received a first-round bye after finishing second in Qualifier 2 in 2017, meaning it needs only two wins to advance to the 2021 World Baseball Classic.

Although Ayala first published his projected roster in January 2019, he predicted both young minor leaguers and Liga de Béisbol Professional Nacional (LBPN, the Nicaraguan National League) players with incredible foresight. Since then, Wilton Lopez has absented himself to “rest and focus on his water park” [link] (!) and Everth Cabrera also declined a position. Otherwise, only the bench and bullpen have significant changes. In fact, In fact, his list was mirrored closely by La Prensa [link], the Nicaragua paper with the most active baseball coverage. We turn things over now to Ayala, complete with his original comments.

Here is the potential WBC team for Nicaragua. Assuming the team receives all their players, you’ll see plenty of current MLB players. This is a team mixed with plenty of former and current minor leaguers with some playing in higher leagues. Definitely competitive enough to hold their own against tougher competition thanks to their pitching depth, Hitting might be a problem though. Can definitely beat some of the weaker teams in the main tournament. Could see them like upstart Colombia if managed right. In the qualifiers, if put in a tough pool, they can still win it, it just won’t be as easy.

  • The team is a favorite to qualify for the main tournament [if] everything clicks.
  • Strong enough to potentially win first round of main tournament and advance to the second round.

Rotation

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
SP
Erasmo Ramírez
Mets
Majors
SP
JC Ramírez
Free Agent
Majors
SP
Jonathan Loaisiga
Yankees
Majors
SP
Wilton López
Free Agent
Former ML
SP
Roniel Raudes
Red Sox
High-A
SP
Leo Crawford
Dodgers
Double-A

 Bullpen

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
SP/RP
Carlos Teller
Durango
Mexican Baseball League
SP/RP
Dilmer Mejía
Braves
High-A
RP
Diomar Lopez
Reds
High-A
RP
Kevin Gadea
LBPN
Full-Season A
RP
Jairo Beras
Rangers
Double-A
RP
Fidencio Flores
Free Agent
GCL
RP
Jorge Bucardo
LBPN
Triple-A
RP
Randy Pondler
Blue Jays
Double-A
RP
Nelson Leon
Mets
Full-Season A
SP/RP
Osmán Gutierrez
Free Agent
Full Season
SP
Nixson Munoz
Red Sox
DSL
RP
Carlos Gonzalez
Free Agent
Double-A
RP
Jhonny Polanco
Free Agent
Double-A
RP
Berman Espinoza
Free Agent
VSL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheslor Cuthbert, Copyright @BeisbolNic.

Line-Up

Position
Player
Team
Current/Peak
CF
Ismael Munguía
Giants
Full-Season A
DH
Everth Cabrera
Los Mochis
MLB
SS
Álex Blandino
Reds
MLB
3B
Cheslor Cuthbert
White Sox
MLB
DH
Wuillians Vasquez
LBPN
Full-Season A
1B
Ofilio Castro
LBPN
Double-A
2B
Elmer Reyes
LBPN
Triple-A
C
Melvin Novoa
Rangers
High-A
LF
Jilton Calderon
Never Signed
Caribbean Series
LF
Renato Morales
Free Agent
High-A
RF
Dwight Britton
Never Signed

Bench

Position Player Team Current/Peak
C
Janior Montes
Never Signed
C
Rodolfo Bone
Giants
AZL
C/INF
Edgard Montiel
Citta (IBL)
DSL
INF
Omar Obregon
Free Agent
High-A
INF
Brandon Leyton
Diamondbacks
Full-Season A
OF
Isaac Benard
Florence
Low-A
OF
Gean Rigby
Free Agent
DSL
INF
Ronald Garth
Free Agent
High-A

Continue reading

Posted in Central America, Nicaragua, Tournaments, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WBCQ Projected Rosters: Introduction

We are pleased to announce that our newest series will be projected rosters for the each of the 10 nations in the upcoming World Baseball Classic qualifiers. We are very fortunate to have guest author Alex Ayala as the lead for these pieces. Ayala is a moderator of the superb International Baseball subreddit [link], recently named reddit’s No. 1 “Up-and-Coming Community”. Over the past year, Ayala has published roster projections and analysis for more than a dozen nations, including a few potential expansion candidates. Over the next fortnight, we will present his work here, edited to present the most current information.

Ayala plumbed the depths of the internet to explore past rosters, new signings, potential dual citizens or heritage players, and other pertinent information. He suggested connexions like Álex Blandino to Nicaragua, Travis d’Arnaud and Chase d’Arnaud to the Philippines, Eric Sogard and Alex Sogard for the Czech Republic, and many others, long before they were linked to those nations in the press. The idea was to create each nation’s ‘dream team’, with the knowledge that injuries, clubs declining access, and personal priorities (like Wilton Lópeznew water park!) would remove players from the list.

Although these threads are now archived, we encourage you to join the conversation on the subreddit, with the relevant thread here [link]. Reddit can be a little bewildering at first, but it is worth getting used to it.

Finally, a note on the upcoming articles: Each will start with our introduction before we hear from Alex. Where possible, we have left as much of the original text and have made our edits clear, either through “[Ed. note…]” or the use of green script for an edition. [As an accessibility note, this could appear orange, yellow, pink, or grey for those with vision issues.]

If you think we missed a potential player for the rosters, please do get in touch!

Articles in this series:
Nicaragua [Link]
Pakistan [Link]
Panama [Link]
Czech Republic [Link]
Philippines [Link]

You may also find our related series on the recent world baseball rankings (Dec. 31, 2019, released in mid-January) of interest:
Part I: Europe and Israel [link]
Part II: Record-low rankings for traditional powers [link]
Part III: Big years for Mexico and Africa [link]
Part IV: Debutants, revised rankings, and more [link]

Graphic copyright NicaBeis.

Posted in Tournaments, World Baseball Classic Qualifiers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WBSC Rankings 2019 (Part IV): Debutants, Revised Rankings, and More

In our fourth article on the most recent world baseball rankings, we delve even deeper into the methodology to explain some idiosyncracies. Our research affirmed that two nations are missing from the rankings, multiple important tournaments did not deliver rankings points (even ones that had in the past), and that as a result, 16 teams were under-ranked. Thus, in this final piece to the WBSC world baseball rankings puzzle, we offer our take on how the rankings ought to have looked, while also offering insight into two of the newest affiliated countries, Kosovo and Egypt.

New Faces on the Largest Rankings Ever
The December 2019 ballot, released last week, was the largest WBSC or IBAF ranking ever at 85 nations and territories. The previous high was the December 2012 rankings, which had 77 teams. Between October 2009 and December 2018, the rankings averaged 72 teams, making for a massive leap in the most recent listing.

The WBSC billed the enlarged ballot as welcoming 10 newcomers, but that number actually refers to the number of nations on the 2019 rankings that were absent from 2018. A total of five teams had never been ranked before 2019, while the three African nations noted in yesterday’s piece enter the WBSC rankings for the first time. The other two, Fiji and Palau, had simply been unranked since 2014.

The five debutants include the four African nations above and Bangladesh (pictured above), which competed in the West Asia Cup in 2019. Since forming a national team in 2016, the South Asian nation had played at least one friendly against India and competed in the Presidential Cup, failing to earn rankings points at either.

Omissions from the Rankings
A sixth nation ought to have entered the rankings for the first time this year: Jamaica. After awarding 50 points to its winner in 2018, the Caribbean Cup did not award points in 2019, likely because the ‘Dominican Republic’ and ‘Venezuela’ teams were not representatives. The Caribbean island, home to Chili Davis, would have debuted at No. 83, however, bumping Haiti up four rungs to No. 79 and Aruba up 11 spots to No. 58.

The U.S. Virgin Islands (pictured left) would gained even more, leaping from 71st to a tie for 55th after its bronze. The lack of points denied Peru what ought to have been a record ranking of No. 36. The lack of points in this competition alone clearly had a noticeable affect on the world rankings.

One country that should have made its rankings debut in 2018 and is still missing is Laos. The southeast Asian nation competed in the 2018 Asian Games, which awarded points to all other nations that competed. That is, of course, except Sri Lanka, which was oddly denied points for its ninth-place finish. Our assumption on Laos’ exception is that the federation was not yet a registered member of the WBSC, but Sri Lanka’s exclusion is without explanation.

Registering with the WBSC is no small task in an LEDC as annual membership fees cost $400. This amount prevented Zambia from registering to compete in the Africa Pre-Olympic Qualifiers, even with $200 from a donor. With another $10,000 or more on top of this for travel, visas, accommodation, and more, even earning rankings points is difficult.

What is more puzzling, however, are the number of WBSC-sanctioned tournaments in 2019 that failed to provide points. Multiple federations have told us that the lack of points awarded for friendlies and smaller international tournaments discourages them from organising such events.

Four major events did not yield points in 2019: the Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier, European B-Pool Playoff [ed: likely because it had only two teams], Premier 12 friendlies, and the Southeast Asian Games. The inclusion of Premier 12 friendlies on this list may strike you as odd, but many friendlies are listed among rankings points and 60 total points would have been claimed by eight teams. Furthermore, Japan earned eight ranking points for the industrial league team that played France in the Yoshida Challenge, whereas 11 of the 12 nations played each other before the Premier 12.

The omission of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA) cost multiple nations valuable points. It is unclear whether it would be considered a ‘Major Multi-Sport Event’ or an ‘Official Regional Event’, with the latter offering a maximum of 500 points to the winner and the former 100-135 (depending on rankings bonuses are added). It seems likely it to be one of the smaller amounts, but even 100 points would have vaulted the champion Philippines from 32nd to 27th and boosted Singapore 19 places. The SEA Games would also have re-entered Cambodia into the rankings for the first time since December 2012.

The four aforementioned major events are hardly the only games missing, however. In 2019 alone, the following tournaments did not receive rankings points: Danube Cup, U8 and U10 Pan-American Championships, World Port Tournament, and the Caribbean Cup.

Friendlies were played between Argentina and Brazil before Pan-American Games Qualification, Argentina and Dominican Republic friendlies before the actual Pan-Am Games, Cuba and El Salvador, and Puerto Rico and Nicaragua. Not included from 2018 are the U10 Pan-American Championship, Swiss Alpine Cup, Hong Kong International Baseball Open (HKIBO), France – South Africa friendly series, and Barranquilla Series.

None of these omissions are surprising as the Danube Cup, World Port Tournament, Swiss Alpine, and HKIBO have never been ranked, but as illustrated above, earning rankings points costs a lot money. And, if you are not convinced that the above make a difference, consider this: Including the four major tournaments and the friendlies adjusts the positions of 63 different countries, including 16 with upward movement (with most of the others dropping only a place or two), denoted in green, through 1,494 missing points.

Continue reading

Posted in Aruba, Asia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Caribbean, Caribbean Cup, Egypt, Europe, Haiti, Jamaica, Japan, Kosovo, Laos, Peru, Philippines, Rankings, South America, Southeast Asian Games, Tournaments, US Virgin Islands | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment