Archive for the ‘ Winter Leagues ’ Category

Winter League Highlights: Toros fall short despite Cabrera’s efforts

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Alberto Cabrera had a career year in 2012, his first as a full-time reliever. So perhaps it’s only natural the Cubs want to give him another shot at starting.

That’s because the team saw several different pitchers emerge as Cabrera climbed from Tennessee to Iowa to Chicago. In 21 big league innings, he showed a surprisingly lights-out slider. Meanwhile, in the minors, he showed good feel for a change-up that later went unused. This all complements his mid-90s heat. At just 24 and with the team searching for upper-level arms, Cabrera could become a power starter if he truly does have command of all three pitches.

In the Dominican playoffs, the right-hander pitched four scoreless innings on Wednesday, scattering six hits, striking out seven and walking none. But the effort wasn’t enough, as his Toros del Este fell 4-3 and were eliminated from the playoffs.

Cabrera got off to a fast start, retiring the side in order in the first inning behind two strikeouts. He started the second with another strikeout, but then loaded the bases after a pair of singles and a hit batsman. Cabrera worked out of the jam, striking out Fernando Tatis and getting former Cub Henry Blanco to pop out to end the threat.

After surrendering a single to lead off the third, he struck out the side. In his final inning, Cabrera surrendered a bunt single to start off the frame, but started a double play on the next batter. Willy Aybar and Tatis both singled, but Blanco made the third out on a ground ball to the first baseman.

Winter League Highlights: Cubs carry Estrellas to win

Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs   April 10, 2012    Cubs lose 7-5.

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league don’t have a shot at reaching the best-of-seven league finals, which take place later this month, but they’re still playing for pride. On Tuesday, it was a trio of Cubs prospects leading the charge in the Estrellas’ 7-6 victory.

In the third inning, Cubs outfielder Nelson Perez reached on a walk and later advanced to third on a pair of singles by Ray Olmedo and Eliezer Mesa. The 25-year-old was then driven in on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. He stepped up again in the fourth and ripped a home run to right field to give his side a 5-0 lead. Perez was 1-for-3 with a walk, a homer, an RBI and two runs scored.

But Perez wasn’t the only Cubs prospect to contribute. Junior Lake drove in a run of his own on a single in the third inning and finished the day 1-for-4.

Not to be outdone, Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis was awarded the victory. The right-hander pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out one.

The Estrellas are statistically eliminated, as they sit four games out of second place with only two games remaining. The two squads with the best records will square off in the finals next week.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with two RBI, a walk and a run scored for the Cardenales of the Venezuelan league.

Winter League Highlights: Caribbean action wraps up soon

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(Photo by Rodger Wood)

The Caribbean baseball leagues are nearing the final days of their postseason play, with a trip to the Caribbean Series up for grabs for each country. The Dominican postseason round robin wraps up on Jan. 17, with the top two squads facing off in a best-of-nine series for the nation’s title.

The Puerto Rican league, which concludes its round-robin format on Jan. 16, and and the Venezuelan league, which wraps up on the 21st, will each have a best-of-seven series to determine its winner. The Mexican league wraps up on Jan. 20, with a seven-game series of its own.

The winners of each league will compete in the seven-day Caribbean Series, which begins Feb. 1. As the number of teams dwindles, there are fewer players to highlight. Still, a pair of Cubs who have been noted on more than a few occasions this winter came up big again Monday.

Junior Lake went 1-for-4 with an RBI triple for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league. He also scored a run in the 7-3 win.

Luis Valbuena had an RBI single for the Cardenales de Lara of Venezuela. His side fell 4-3 in the Venezuelan playoffs.

Winter League Highlights: Ty’Relle Harris having a solid winter

Cubs prospect Ty’Relle Harris had an active 2012 that took him all over the minor league system. After a stellar April and May in High-A Daytona, the right-hander was promoted to Tennessee. Then he got a late-season call-up to Iowa to round out the year.

He wrapped up the regular season with a combined 4-6 record and a 3.84 ERA in 82.0 innings at three minor league levels. Harris struck out 67 batters and walked 39.

After taking a few months off, he headed to the Caribbean, where he’s been playing for the Gigantes de Carolina, a squad in Puerto Rico. Because he joined late, Harris didn’t see a lot of time during the regular season, but his 12.2 innings were solid regardless.

The 26-year-old posted a 0.71 ERA in five regular season winter league games, including two starts. In the only outing in which he surrendered a run, he allowed six hits over six innings, striking out nine. And he’s only walked four batters total.

Harris’ one winter league blemish came on Sunday, as he gave up three runs in two innings in a 14-7 Gigantes playoff loss.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Luis Valbuena had a pair of hits and two RBI for the Cardenales of the the Venezuelan league. He also scored a run.

Winter League Highlights: Cabrera continues his excellent winter work

9/19/20 REDS @ CUBS

(Photo by Stephen Green)

There are always players likely to start the season in Triple-A who are seen as replaceable or who are simply holding a spot for a prospect in the wings. Then there’s Alberto Cabrera.

The 24-year-old righty has been a potential piece of the Cubs’ future since they signed him in July 2005. The hard thrower has a fastball that reaches 94 miles per hour with a low 80s slider. Prior to the organization going out and obtaining four big league starting pitchers this offseason, there was talk that Cabrera could compete for one of the rotation spots in 2013. Now, he’ll more than likely get everyday starts in Triple-A Iowa to begin the year.

Last season, the Dominican native threw exclusively out of the bullpen, splitting time in Tennessee, Iowa and Chicago. In the minors last year, he went 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 55.0 innings, striking out 74 and walking just 14. Cabrera saw a lot of action in 25 games (21.2 IP) after an August call-up. Despite a 5.40 ERA, the front office fully expects him to return to the major league level in the near future. He could likely fill a bullpen role in 2013, but the Cubs are interested in seeing what the talented righty can do in the starting rotation.

Cabrera opted to play limited winter ball this offseason and finished the Dominican regular season with solid numbers. In 14.1 innings, he recorded a 3.14 ERA and fanned 20 batters for the Toros del Este.

The Toros dropped a playoff matchup against Estrellas on Thursday despite Cabrera’s strong effort. The Cubs prospect surrendered no earned runs and scattered five hits over 5.1 innings, walking two and striking out one.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Nelson Perez recorded a pair of hits for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league.

Winter League Highlights: Caridad’s strong effort not enough

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

All year long, Cubs prospect Esmailin Caridad has had to be ready to enter the game in any situation. The 29-year-old racked up 65.1 innings in 44 games in Triple-A Iowa and has pitched more than his fair share of innings for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican league this winter.

In 42.0 innings pitched over 37 games (including one start), the Dominican native has put up a 2.57 ERA, fanned 49 batters and walked just 12. Ironically, the right-handed pitcher seems to handle left-handed batters slightly better, posting a 2.45 ERA against them, compared to 2.66 against righties.

These stats shouldn’t come as a total surprise to Cubs fans, as Caridad was also tough in the Pacific Coast League this summer. Despite a 1-4 record, his 3.03 ERA was strong, especially considering how often he was used. In his 65.1 innings, he fanned 65 hitters and surrendered just four home runs.

In two scoreless innings of relief Wednesday, Caridad struck out one and scattered two hits, but the Yaquis fell in the ninth by a score of 4-3. Caridad’s squad is now 3-3 in the playoff round robin.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles for the Cardenales of the Venezuelan league.

Winter League Highlights: Valbuena’s double carries Lara

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(Photo by Dave Durochik)

With an increasing number of Cubs heading home from the winter leagues to prepare for the upcoming season, offseason highlights are at a premium. But Luis Valbuena‘s seventh inning output on Monday was more than deserving of mention in an 8-5 Cardenales de Lara win in the Venezuelan postseason.

With Valbuena’s team trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the seventh, the 27-year-old drew a walk to start the inning and eventually scored from second. He came up again later in the frame with the Cardenales leading 4-3. With the bases loaded and two out, the infielder smacked a three-run double to put the game out of reach. He scored an insurance run when the next batter drove him in. He finished the day 1-for-3 with three RBI.

The win jumps Lara into a tie for first place in the round robin-style Venezuelan league playoffs, which wrap up January 21.

Winter League Highlights: Perez is good in a pinch

Outfielder Nelson Perez had 390 at-bats between Daytona and Tennessee in 2012 and was a key cog in both lineups. The same cannot be said for the 25-year-old in his winter league season. Despite getting into 40 games for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league, he’s received just 84 at-bats, or roughly two a game.

For many athletes who are used to playing every day, being relegated to part-time or pinch-hitting duty is a difficult transition. Despite the lack of at-bats, Perez has had a successful season in the Dominican. He recorded 29 walks for the playoff contender, easily the most on the squad, and his .443 on-base percentage was the highest of anyone with more than seven at-bats. Perez has also displayed a knack for timely hitting, plating 21 RBI, second on the team behind only fellow Cubs farmhand Junior Lake.

On Sunday, Perez continued his successful run, going 1-for-1 with a pinch-hit single in the ninth. He would score four batters later, but the Estrellas fell 11-4.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Perez’s teammate Rafael Dolis fanned two batters in 0.2 innings, surrendering one hit and no earned runs.

Winter League Highlights: Lake’s bat does the work

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(Photo by Rodger Wood)

The Estrellas de Oriente were one of the Dominican winter league’s most dominant teams during the regular season. They finished 30-20, two games out of the lead, and easily made the four-team round-robin postseason.

Though the team was led by its solid pitching staff, the offense was powered by Cubs IF/OF Junior Lake, whose bat not only led the Estrellas in multiple categories, but also ranked high among the rest of the league.

The 22-year-old had an excellent all-around season, hitting .312/.382/.474 (AVG/OBP/SLG), good for third, fifth and fifth respectively in the Dominican. His five home runs were tied for seventh, and his 11 stolen bases were tied for second. The only knock on his season offensively is that he struck out a league-high 46 times.

While his nine errors on the defensive side were a little alarming, the natural shortstop was asked to play a bevy of positions this winter, including third base, left field and occasionally center. Lake, who is expected to start the season at Double-A Tennessee, will likely continue honing his craft at multiple positions this year, as he is blocked by Starlin Castro at shortstop.

Playing left field on Thursday, the Dominican native recorded a pair of hits and drove in a run, giving Estrellas its first win of the postseason in six chances. He reached on a bunt single in the third inning, and drove in Eliezer Mesa from third on a single in the fifth. Lake also recorded a walk in the 10-inning game.

Other news around the Caribbean:

Justin Bour ripped an RBI double for the Gigantes in Puerto Rico. He finished 1-for-4.

Esmailin Caridad pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Yaquis de Obregon of Mexico, striking out the side.

Winter League Highlights: Valbuena stays solid at the plate

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Luis Valbuena‘s winter play has been a hot topic of discussion for Cubs fans this entire offseason. Though the coaching staff was impressed with his glove in 2012, it’s his bat that’s been opening eyes in the Venezuelan league. Not only did the infielder’s Cardenales de Lara side capture the final spot in the circuit’s round robin postseason tourney, but Valbuena was a key component in an offense that ranked near the top in many categories.

Though the re-signing of third baseman Ian Stewart might have blocked Valbuena’s best chance to play every day for the Cubs in 2013, he again demonstrated his ability to play multiple positions, including second base, his natural position, and third, where he spent most of his time in 2012. His flexibility around the infield as well as his solid glove work might give him the inside track at a hotly contested utility spot on the Opening Day roster.

The 27-year-old finished the winter league regular season hitting .306/.414/.497 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 183 at-bats and drawing 34 walks, second best on the team. He recorded a team best 15 doubles, and his six homers ranked second. The Venezuelan native also scored 32 runs.

The Cardenales dropped their opening game of the postseason 10-6, though Valbuena recorded a single and scored one of the team’s runs. Lara hosts Caribes on Thursday.

Notes around the Caribbean:

Esmailin Caridad picked up the win for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican league Wednesday. The right-handed reliever pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, fanning two and walking one.

Justin Bour had a base hit in a losing effort for the Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican league.

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