Results tagged ‘ Winter League ’
As big leaguers begin to report to Mesa, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training, we at Vine Line had our eyes on a new farmhand who took the mound for Venezuela in the Caribbean Series. Signed in December, right-hander Yeiper Castillo is a former Red Sox prospect picked out of free agency. He also marks yet another acquisition of a player who underwent arm surgery—on his shoulder in 2011. It’s a minor move, so to speak, but we were eager to take an extended glimpse of him Tuesday on ESPN Deportes.
Castillo went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts against Puerto Rico. He threw five pitches from a three-quarters arm slot: a 90-91 mph fastball with natural run, an 87-90 mph sinker, a low-80s change, a mid-80s slider and a 78-81 mph curve. Both his change-up and sinker were able to get swings and misses as they ran low and away from lefties, and his 12-to-6 curve did too when located low on two-strike counts. His slider looked like his weakest pitch, though he did use it throughout the game.
Though Castillo threw a lot of strikes (50 of 75 pitches), his command was inconsistent. He sequenced his pitches and had a game plan to work low and away from hitters. When he did, he successfully kept hitters off balance or hitting the ball on the ground. But he also had a habit of missing up over the plate, with one 3-2 fastball being yanked for a home run and others not being taken advantage of because of his change of speeds.
Castillo stands a fairly thick 6-foot-3, though he doesn’t have power stuff. He threw 137 innings in his first season back from the shoulder injury, and he’s picked up another 45 (with an ERA under 3.00) in winter ball. He’ll be 24 this season, and he could be an interesting depth arm if he can improve his command post-surgery.
Cubs outfielder Dave Sappelt was one of the top performers in the Venezuelan league this winter (Photo by Stephen Green).
Winter league regional play finally came to a conclusion last night as Magallanes fended off Luis Valbuena and his Lara squad to win the Venezuelan title and claim the final spot in the Caribbean Series. The offseason leagues were an opportunity for players to rack up a few more innings of experience while still competing at a high level. Many of the Cubs took advantage of the opportunity, and some excelled in their respective leagues. Below is a list of Cubs representatives who fared well this winter.
Michael Bowden: Pitching for the Aguilas Cibaenas, Bowden posted a 2.76 ERA in 32.2 innings of work. He earned a 3-2 record and struck out 35 batters.
Alberto Cabrera: Playing for the Toros del Este, the Dominican native was used more frequently in the postseason. In 19.2 innings and four starts, Cabrera went 1-1 with a 0.92 ERA, fanning 15 batters and walking just six. He surrendered two earned runs in the playoffs.
Junior Lake: Representing the Estrellas de Oriente, Lake tore apart opposing pitchers, finishing with a line of .312/.382/.474 (AVG/OBP/SLG). The infielder was one of the Cubs’ top performers, hitting five homers, driving in 24 and stealing 11 bases in 154 at-bats.
Nelson Perez: A teammate of Lake’s in the Dominican, Perez was often utilized as a bat off the bench. In 84 at-bats, he compiled a .443 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks and driving in 21. The Estrellas made the playoffs but were eliminated in the round robin portion.
Esmailin Caridad: The lone Cubs representative who will be participating in the Caribbean Series, Caridad was a solid bullpen arm this winter. In 42.0 innings during the regular season, the righty had a 2.57 ERA, struck out 49 and walked 12.
Jay Jackson: Jackson put up consistent numbers for the Venados de Mazatlan, posting a 3.86 ERA in 49.0 innings of work. The righty went 3-2 and struck out 34 batters over 10 starts.
Yoanner Negrin: In 12 starts for the Leones del Caracas, Negrin was tough to beat. Not a huge strikeout guy (38 K in 58.2 innings), the righty still managed a 2.61 ERA and a 4-1 record.
Dave Sappelt: Sappelt was another elite player this winter. In 116 at-bats, the outfielder put up a .336/.378/.526 line, belting five home runs and five doubles. He also stole five bases and drove in 15.
Luis Valbuena: One of the top performers in all the winter leagues, Valbuena powered his Cardenales de Lara side all the way to the Venezuelan championship. The Cardenales were eliminated last night, losing 11-9 in a back-and-forth Game 7 affair. During the regular season, the Cubs infielder hit .306/.414/.497 with 39 RBI in 183 at-bats. He also drew 34 walks. All of those totals were good enough for top 10 in the league. In the postseason, he hit .341 and drove in 21 in 91 at-bats.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
As if Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena hasn’t played a big enough role for the Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela’s championship series against Magallanes, the 27-year-old was heavily involved in his team’s 3-2, 11-inning, Game 5 victory Monday night.
Valbuena finished the night 1-for-4 with a pivotal run scored. He singled to right in the sixth and moved to third after a C.J. Retherford single. But Valbuena was thrown out at home trying to score on a sacrifice fly to center, leaving the game tied at 2.
With a man on in the bottom of the 11th, Valbuena reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. With runners on first and second, Retherford also attempted a bunt, but Magallanes got the runner at third. After Tomas Perez walked to load the bases, Jose Yepez singled to center to score Valbuena and give Lara a 3-2 series lead.
Former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano started for the Navegantes, allowing eight hits, one earned run and striking out five over six innings.
Game six is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
With the Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican titles all wrapped up as of the weekend, the Venezuelan championship is the only show in town. The Navegantes del Magallanes grabbed a 6-5 win over the Cardenales on Saturday to tie the best-of-seven series at 2.
On Friday though, Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena was again the story of the game in a 4-2 Lara win. The 27-year-old finished the day 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk, an RBI and a run scored to continue his stellar winter.
Though Valbuena was ultimately stranded at second after a double in the bottom of the first, he led off the fourth with another double. After moving to third on a wild pitch, he scored what would prove to be the winning run on a Jose Yepez double.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Valbuena drew a walk to give the Cardenales an insurance run and ultimately seal the win.
Lara hosts Magallanes Monday in a 7:30 p.m. matchup, and the teams head to Magallanes Tuesday for Game 6. The seventh game will be on Wednesday if necessary.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
With each of the Caribbean leagues playing its championship series and a trip to the Caribbean Series on the line, scoring runs is as important as ever for the remaining teams. Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena, who has been key in the Cardenales de Lara’s run to the Venezuelan championship, was again at the center of his squad’s 3-0, Game 2 victory Thursday night over the Magalleanes.
Though he only had one hit in the game, he kicked off the scoring in the top of the fifth with a solo shot to right to give Lara a lead they would not relinquish. The Cardenales scored two more runs that inning to seal up the win.
Valbuena’s .333/.400/.551 (AVG/OBP/SLG) postseason numbers are each in the top 10 in Venezuela, and his .951 on-base percentage ranks fourth. His 18 RBI are tied for tops in the league.
The winner of the seven-game series will be awarded a place in the Caribbean Series, a de facto tournament of champions between Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Caribbean Series starts Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 7.
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.