Archive for the ‘ Winter Leagues ’ Category

Winter League Highlights: Caribbean action wraps up soon

LAKE J

(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

CARIDAD E

(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

7/19/12  MARLINS@CUBS

(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

LAKE J

(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

MLB2012

(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.

Winter League Highlights: Chavez walking the walk

Seattle Mariners v Arizona Diamondbacks

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Johermyn Chavez is new to the Cubs organization, but he spent much of the 2012 season playing against the Double-A Tennessee squad in the Southern League. The Cubs front office must have seen something they liked, as they acquired Chavez on Nov. 21 in a minor league free agent deal.

Playing for the Jackson Generals (Mariners) this summer, the 23-year-old outfielder hit .232 with eight home runs and 26 RBI in 246 at-bats. What likely impressed the Cubs was his .339 on-base percentage on 35 walks—that’s a base on balls in 12 percent of his plate appearances. He also slugged .386 and compiled a respectable .725 OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Though his playing time has been limited of late in winter league action, Chavez is hitting .212 with 10 walks in 95 plate appearances. He has driven in 13 runs and scored 12. On Sunday, Chavez went 1-for-5 with a single and a run scored as the Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezuelan league earned a 10-5 win.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Junior Lake had a single and a walk in a 1-for-3 day for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican on Sunday.

Loiger Padron pitched 2/3 of an inning, striking out one for the Leones del Caracas of the Dominican league.

Winter League Highlights: Boscan, Sappelt power teams to wins

Boscan

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Recently acquired Cubs catcher J.C. Boscan continued to swing a hot bat in the Venezuelan Winter League Thursday, going 2-for-3 with a home run and five RBI to lead Caracas to a 10-5 win over Magallanes. Boscan staked Caracas to a 5-4 lead in the fourth, when he took former Blue Jays and Astros pitcher Gustavo Chacin deep to left for a three-run blast. He followed that up in the sixth with a two-run single off Dodgers minor leaguer Amalio Diaz.

The Cubs signed Boscan, a 32-year-old longtime Braves farmhand, to a free agent contract on Nov. 14. He is hitting .271 with one home run and 10 RBI in winter ball.

Rule 5 pick-up Hector Rondon pitched a perfect eighth for Caracas, allowing no hits and striking out one.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Dave Sappelt had only one hit on Thursday, but he made it count, smacking a go-ahead solo home run in the ninth to propel the Bravos de Margarita to a 2-1 victory over the Caribes in Venezuela. Sappelt is batting .336/.378/.526 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with five home runs and 15 RBI on the winter.

Cubs right-hander Esmailin Caridad pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League, giving up two hits and striking out one, to lower his winter ERA to 2.84.

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