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CBL Insider / Hawaii Winter Baseball

Winter League Primer

Winter League Primer

Winter League Primer

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Inside: The Winter League Primer. Learn about the teams, cities and players expected to play in this winter’s Hawaii Winter Baseball league.

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Location: Schofield Barracks

A military base designed to provide defense for Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks is almost all US military personnel. With families stationed here for years at a time, the Orange should have no trouble building up a loyal (and likely rowdy) fan base this winter. Baseball will be a nice stress reliever for the men and women serving our country.

Nickname: Orange

Schofield Barracks decided to show their loyalty to their big league club, keeping the Orange as their nickname.

Affiliate Of: Syracuse Orange

Players to Watch: SP Christopher Machamer, SP Charles King, 2B Don Mack

Machamer and King were both recently acquired by Syracuse, and both are top 100 prospects. Machamer was the 3rd overall selection following the 2016 season, while King was selected 1st overall. Machamer held his own in his first professional season, making 30 starts in A ball. He went 8-13 with a 3.93 ERA. King wasn’t quite as impressive, as he struggled with control issues all season. Between rookie ball and A ball, King walked 53 batters while striking out just 49. The Orange will be looking for a bounce back from King, starting this winter.

Don Mack was signed in the infancy of the CBL, and his agent was able to find a loophole that allowed him to become a free agent at the ripe age of 15. He immediately signed with Syracuse (then the Orem Owlz) and has emerged as one of the game’s best prospects two years later. As a 16-year-old for most of the year, Mack hit .264/.336/.447 in rookie ball. His defense gets poor reviews, but to hit as well as he did as the league’s youngest regular is very impressive. Mack might be the most intriguing player to watch in all of Hawaii this winter.
kahului_sharks

Location: Kahului

Nickname: Sharks

Affiliate Of: San Diego Surf Dawgs

Players to Watch: SP Michael McAvene, CF Brock Anderson, LF Nate Dailey

Scouts around the league are very high on Michael McAvene, insisting he’ll figure it all out in the near future. Despite electric stuff, he’s yet to impress statistically. In 13 starts he struck out 45 batters while walking 29, and he had trouble avoiding hits when he did manage to find the zone. This is a big winter for McAvene to show improvement and prove the scouts right.

Brock Anderson went undrafted following the 2016 season and signed a minor league deal with the Surf Dawgs organization. Signed mostly for his great defensive reputation, Anderson surprised many by holding his own offensively this year too. The youngster hit .256/.365/.390 in his first season at Rookie ball, and played his very good defense in the outfield. A great winter league could put him squarely on San Diego’s radar for the future.

Nate Dailey had a great collegiate career, hitting .340/.406/.619 in 192 games over three seasons. He hit 53 home runs in that span. San Diego selected him 13th overall this past June, and promoted him directly to A ball. He hit .243/.333/.339, an underwhelming debut for such a great college hitter. This winter should help his development even more, though, and he might be poised for a breakout 2018 season in the minors.

 

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Location: Wahiawa

Nickname: Pineapples

Affiliate Of: Portland Panthers

Players to Watch: SP Jose Arevalo, LF Mike Murillo, RF Ignacio Mateo

Arevalo, the Oakland, CA native, signed as a 14-year-old in 2015. As a 16-year-old this season in rookie ball, he went 6-2 with a 2.88 ERA in just under 60 innings. “Gimmick” as he’s called by his teammates struck out 51 batters while walking 20, so Portland would love to see him refine his control while in Hawaii.

Mike Murillo was one piece Portland got back in the Machamer trade with Syracuse. As a 16-year-old high school sophomore, Murillo hit .314/.399/.735 with 21 home runs for Riverside high school. After being dismissed from the team for failing to pass his classes, Murillo applied for an age exception from the CBL. To his surprise, the league granted it, and Murillo was instantly a free agent. He signed with Syracuse for $2,000,000 and then hit .293/.338/.414 in 52 games at the rookie level as a 17-year-old.

Ignacio Mateo is another player who failed out of school. After back-to-back impressive collegiate seasons, in which Mateo combined to hit.323/.386/.620 with 25 home runs in 91 games, Mateo was unable to remain eligible. He was not granted an age waiver, however, and spent a season playing in the Mexican Winter League without a team affiliation. Mateo finally turned 21 on July 3, making him a CBL free agent. Portland’s organization signed him finally in August, and they are excited to see if he can return to his collegiate form this winter.

SS Cesar Alvarez and CF William Wallace are worth watching, too. More on those two players can be found here.

Emeralds

Location: Koolaupoko

Nickname: Emeralds

Affiliate Of: Altoona Curve

Players to Watch: SP Don Morton, SP Mason Studstill, SP Drew Parrish

In 2016, Morton was just 19 years old and he went 4-3 in 11 rookie ball starts that year, striking out 78 batters in 65 innings while posting a 2.76 ERA. His 2017 season was cut short when he ruptured a tendon in his finger in his first start. Altoona would love to see Morton return to his 2016 form in Koolaupoko.

Studstill was drafted in the third round following the 2016 season, and signed for a well-over slot value of $2,500,000 in April. In his first professional season, Studstill impressed. He posted a 3.15 ERA in 40 innings, with 40 K’s in Rookie ball. He made 6 starts and 5 relief appearances, although he’s expected to remain a starter long-term.

Drew Parrish was drafted four spots ahead of Studstill, and signed for a much more meager $200,000. Despite projecting long term as a starter, Parrish was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen in his pro debut. In 17 games Parrish posted a 14-2 K:BB ratio. He will likely be used as both a starter and reliever this winter.

 

volcano_eruptionsLocation: Volcano

Nickname: Eruptions

Affiliate Of: Austin Bats

Players to Watch: CL Brad Bass, C Luis Torrens, 2B Luis Macias

Bass was acquired by Austin in the deadline deal this past July that sent Trevor Rosenthal to Dayton. He’s been great at almost every level, and in 22 games after being traded Bass posted a 2.63 ERA, 17 saves and 20 K’s compared to 7 walks. His fastball can touch 99, so a good winter and half-season next year could allow Bass to move quickly through the Bats system.

Luis Torrens was the key piece coming back to Austin in the Salvador Perez trade. Named the #10 prospect in baseball prior to the season, Torrens didn’t disappoint. In 49 games in AA as a 21-year-old, Torrens hit .275/.363/.505 with 10 home runs. That performance earned him a promotion to AAA, where the youngster hit just .220/.280/.387 in 80 games. Scouts insist the 50 game winter league and maybe a half season in AAA should be enough seasoning to get him CBL ready. He’s a future star it would appear.

Macias has long been an afterthought among minor league prospects. Despite hitting well at nearly every minor league stop over the last few years, and playing above average defense at second base, Macias hasn’t shown up on any prospect radar screens for some reason. In 62 games in A-ball, the 21-year-old hit .280/.347/.496 before being promoted to AA. He actually hit even better in AA. In 33 games he hit .279/.350/.519. If he can put together a strong winter league performance, he might crack a top prospect list or two.

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Location: Captain Cook

Nickname: Pirates

Affiliate Of: Vancouver Canadians

Players to Watch: SP Touki Toussaint, SS Ti’Quan Forbes, RF Ed Scott

After being traded from Syracuse to Vancouver near the trade deadline this past July, Touki has now played for 5 different organizations. He’s a bit of a mystery, as his strikeout numbers back up the scouts assertions of his stuff being dynamite. However, he’s yet to dominate at any level. He made 9 starts after the trade, going 5-3 with a 3.23 ERA in just over 47 innings. He had 54 K’s to just 13 walks. His overall AA numbers don’t look quite as great because he struggled with Syracuse, but the potential is still there for Touki to become a top tier starter.

Forbes was also acquired from Syracuse, but in a different deal. Always known for his great defense at shortstop, Forbes bat has started to come around as well. He hit .294/.378/.471 in 23 AA games before being promoted to AAA. The 20-year-old he hit .255/.346/.420 in 83 games, and played elite defense. That led to a late-season promotion to the big league club, but Forbes 25 game coffee cup was a disaster. He went just 8 for 78 in 25 games, hitting .103/.176/.154 and he also was below average defensively. He’s extremely young and 25 games is a very small sample size, so his struggles aren’t too concerning. He should easily be one of the best players in Hawaii this winter.

Ed Scott began the year in AA, and performed so well in his first 25 games the 20-year-old was promoted to AAA. He was likely rushed a bit, but sources close to Vancouver insist that was best for his development. He hit .330/.346/.550 in AA before hitting .245/.274/.373 in 84 AAA games. Scott has the ability to be a solid defender in center field as well, which would make the bar for his bat considerably lower than a corner outfielder. Like Forbes, Scott is one of the more advanced players in Hawaii this winter.

 

west_oahu_canefires

Location: West Oahu

Nickname: Canefires

Affiliate Of: Nashville Outlaws

Players to Watch: SP Kevin Lott, SP Jerry Chandler, SP Dakota Donovan

Nashville decided to send a lot of their youngsters to winter ball that haven’t gotten much playing time over the last season and a half. The offensive side of their roster is lacking the elite talent of other teams, but that doesn’t mean Nashville didn’t send anyone with talent.

Kevin Lott was once the #3 prospect in the CBL, just prior to the 2016 season. He fell to #37 before this season after a poor 2016 season. His 2017 season looks better at first glance, as he posted a 3.91 ERA, almost 4 runs below last season’s 6.71. Unfortunately, he struck out just 15 and walked 10 in 23 innings, and was used out of the bullpen more times than he was used as a starter. The talent is there, but Lott is going to need to start producing to remain a top prospect.

Jerry Chandler uses 5 pitches, and his fastball can reach as high as 101 MPH. Over 2 years in rookie ball, the 17-year-old has made 25 starts. His numbers aren’t eye popping, but for someone as young as he was, it’s still impressive. In those 25 starts, Chandler has thrown just under 134 innings. He went 6-9 with a 4.65 ERA and 114 strikeouts. He was the 55th ranked prospect heading into the 2017 season, and scouts believe he’ll be ranked even higher when the new prospect rankings come out.

Dakota Donovan went 4-5 with a 4.81 ERA as a 19-year-old in rookie ball this season. Those numbers leave a lot to be desired, but scouts insist he has three pitches with plus potential, and his control was good as he walked just 11 in 67 innings while striking out 42. He began the 2017 season 6 spots ahead of Chandler on the prospect rankings, at #49, but he’s likely to be lower this time around.

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Location: Mililani Town

Nickname: Islanders

Affiliate Of: Richardson City Blood Raven

Players to Watch: SP Max Kranick, SS Bo Bichette, SP Josh Worley

Max Kranick continues to just quietly get better. Drafted in the early second round by Richardson City following the 2016 season, Kranick had a great debut season this year. He made 10 starts, going 5-3 with a 2.65 ERA in just under 58 innings pitched. He struck out 41 and walked 18. Scouts insist his stuff is still improving, but at the moment doesn’t project more than average. His control is pinpoint when his mechanics are correct, so scouts expect that to get better each season too. If he can continue to limit the home run ball (2 HR in 58 innings) at the higher levels, he’ll be a top 10 prospect in the near future.

Bo Bichette was drafted fourth overall this past June, with some draft experts calling him the draft’s best talent. An elite defender who will stick at shortstop, Bichette’s bat projects very highly as well. His only real weakness, scouts insist, is strikeouts, but that’s a very minor issue from a power hitting defensive wizard at shortstop. Despite all the praise, Bichette struggled offensively in his first season. In 55 games he hit just .214/.299/.303, with a poor 60 to 22 K:BB ratio. He was very good defensively, though, and he was just 18 years old this season. Fans in Hawaii will be flocking to watch this kid play. Richardson City hopes he’ll put on a show.

Josh Worley was the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, signing for $5,600,000. In 11 starts in rookie ball this year the 19-year-old went 4-0 with a 2.24 ERA in 64 1/3 innings. He struck out 67 batters and walked 18. He received a promotion to low A and struggled in 4 starts, but he’s a kid that shouldn’t be too far away from the big leagues if he can continue to perform well.

Joe Chesley is another interesting player, and you can read more about him by scrolling down here.

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Location: Belle Isle

Nickname: Blue Birds

Affiliate Of: Traverse City Beach Bums

Players to Watch: RF Pat O’Fallon, SP Keith Weisenberg, SP Erik Manoah

O’Fallon hit .274/.320/.494 as a 20-year-old in AA, playing in 125 games and adding 21 home runs. He also was 12 for 15 on steal attempts. He could possibly make the Traverse City opening day roster if things break correctly for him. He’s a great player and should rake in this league this winter.

Weisenberg also starred at AA with his teammate O’Fallon, making 27 starts. He went 13-7 with a 3.55 ERA in 157 1/3 innings, striking out 135 while walking 55 as a 21-year-old. His fastball can touch 98 MPH and scouts insist his curveball is quickly emerging as a major strikeout pitch. Like O’Fallon, he has a chance to be with the big club on opening day. He should be Hawaii’s best pitcher.

If Weisenberg isn’t the league’s best pitcher this winter, it’ll probably be teammate Erik Manoah. He was a level below O’Fallon and Weisenberg, playing in A-ball. He made 14 starts going 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 78 innings. He struck out 91(!) batters and walked just 20. He also tops out at 98 MPH, although he has a better changeup than Weisenberg at this point and his slider has the potential to be the league’s best.

Honorable mention goes to CL Gabriel Gonzalez, who struck out a ridiculous 87 batters in 56 innings of relief this season.

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Location: Hickam

Nickname: Field Rockets

Affiliate Of: Mahoning Valley Scrappers

Players to Watch: SP Anthony Molina, SP Mike Wheeler, RF Shawn Myers

Molina, the second overall pick following the 2016 season, started the season in A-ball. He was unhittable there. He made 7 starts, going 4-1 with a 0.78 ERA in 46 innings. He didn’t allow a home run, and allowed just 26 hits. He struck out 49 and walked just 9 before being promoted to AA. As an 18-year-old in AA Molina did more than just old his own, going 11-5 with a 3.64 ERA in 24 starts. He struck out 137 batters in 150 innings, while walking just 26. He’s an elite prospect who should be CBL ready very, very soon.

Wheeler was the key piece the Scrappers got back when they traded SP Masahiro Tanaka to Charlotte. Wheeler was great this past season, making 24 starts in A Ball before getting promoted to AA. In A, he went 8-6 with a 2.80 ERA in 138 innings. He struck out 169 and walked 50. Once promoted to AA, he continued to do well. The 19-year-old went 2-2 in 6 starts with a 3.21 ERA, striking out 37 batters in 33 innings. He did walk 20, but the sample size is small so it doesn’t mean a lot. He and Molina should be a great 1-2 for the Scrappers fairly soon.

Myers didn’t get a lot of playing time this past season as an 18-year-old, but he hit well in limited duty. His .275/.356/.475 line is solid, and if he can continue to hit well with more opportunities, he could emerge as a solid prospect. He’s definitely a distant third behind the two big horses though.

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5 Comments

  1. Tim Imasa

    Great work as always, Erik!

    There’s a lot of very good pitchers this year in Winter League. Molina, however is ahead of the pack IMO. Dude can play in CBL now. Wheeler on the other hand should be a mid-season call up.

    • Erik Voldness

      Thanks Tim!

      Molina’s ratings look outstanding. I think Steve’s pitchers will be a little better this winter, but Molina’s potential is higher.

  2. Dan Courcelles

    Great work Erik! I’m looking forward to seeing what Forbes and Scott do. They are right on the edge of the majors and yet they are really really young. Great Preview of all teams!

  3. Erik Voldness

    Thanks Dan! Really love Forbes, wanted him from Gary before you got him. Scott should be a nice player too!

  4. Loved the Primer read that drilled down into the stats to support the projections. Nice job and thank you.

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