Results tagged ‘ Winter Leagues ’

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


(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: Antigua picks up the win

The winter leagues are a time for players to stay in game shape as well as an opportunity to refine skills, whether that be at the plate, in the field or on the mound. So when looking at farmhand Jeffry Antigua‘s Dominican league regular season, most aren’t going to be overly impressed, especially compared to his 2012 minor league stats.

For the Toros del Este this winter, the southpaw had a 5.09 earned run average in 23 innings pitched, and his inability to keep the ball down resulted in four home runs surrendered. Despite the high ERA, he managed a 4-1 record and struck out 18 batters versus only five walks. And Antigua was used in a variety of situations, pitching two innings on some days and then facing only one batter the next appearance.

Though he pitched just 1/3 of an inning Tuesday, Antigua picked up the win for the Toros. The victory puts his side at 5-5 in the playoffs and two games out of the round-robin title.

Antigua finished with a solid 2012 minor league campaign. Between Peoria and Tennessee, the Dominican native had a 3.22 ERA in 81.0 innings. He struck out 78 and walked 24.

Winter League Highlights: Lake’s bat does the work


(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: 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


(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.

Winter League Highlights: Dolis fans three


(Photo by Stephen Green)

The 2012 regular season was a wild one for Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis. Things got off to a fast start in Spring Training when the 24-year-old earned a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen. After a combination of his own early-season success and teammate Carlos Marmol’s early struggles, the righty moved into the closer role.

But Dolis had a rough May. He blew two saves, earned two losses, and surrendered two runs or more in two other games, leading to a demotion. After spending much of June at Triple-A Iowa, he got called back up in early July, where he wasn’t much better. After a stint on the DL and another trip to Iowa, Dolis was solid in his late-September chances for the Cubs, holding opponents scoreless in five out of six appearances. Overall, he posted a 6.39 ERA in 38.0 innings pitched.

Though his opportunities have been limited for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league this winter, the DR native has been mostly effective. In 7.1 innings, Dolis has a 2.45 ERA and has struck out 11 batters. He’s only been roughed up once (Nov. 26) in eight appearances.

On Wednesday, Dolis was firing on all cylinders, going 1.1 innings, striking out three and surrendering just one hit in an Estrellas win.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Luis Valbuena recorded a hit for the Cardenales of the Venezuelan league. He is batting .299/.416/.494 (AVG/OBP/SLG) on the winter.

Winter League Highlights: Boscan making strides

Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Most baseball people don’t invest a ton of stock in a player’s winter stats. But if nothing else, a solid offseason should give the player a boost of confidence heading into Spring Training.

The Cubs took a flyer by signing free agent catcher J.C. Boscan from the Braves organization on Nov. 14. The 32-year-old’s 2012 Triple-A season wasn’t much to get excited about. He hit .189/.264/.284 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 222 at-bats with 23 RBI. Of his 42 hits, 12 were doubles and three were home runs. Defensively, he threw out 40 percent of baserunners.

But Boscan’s stats in his native Venezuela have been significantly better. In 78 at-bats for the Leones del Caracas, he carries a .269/.321/.295 line. With a slew of catchers on the roster, Boscan only sees action once every few days. What’s interesting about his stats is that the right-handed hitter is significantly better vs. right-handed pitching than against southpaws (.302 AVG vs. .133). He also fares better at home, hitting .333 vs. .205 on the road.

Boscan was a Double-A Southern League Midseason All-Star in 2009.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Junior Lake made a start in center field and recorded a single for the Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican league.

Jay Jackson gave up seven earned runs in 4.2 innings for the Venados of Mexico. He struck out five.

Dave Sappelt had a hit and scored a run for the Bravos of Venezuela.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Christian Villanueva prospect profile


(Photo by Scott Jontes, Daytona Cubs)

For hundreds of professional baseball players, the season doesn’t end when the Wrigley Field ivy turns red.

In the Sonoran desert, nearly 2,000 miles southwest of Chicago, Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva is manning the infield for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. Villanueva, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, was acquired from the Rangers in July as the main return for Ryan Dempster and finished the 2012 season at High-A Daytona. Baseball Prospectus recently named the 21-year-old the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect in a front-loaded system they believe now easily ranks in the top half of baseball.

“Villa’s a great kid,” said Jason Parks, who heads prospect coverage for BP. “The Rangers were absolutely heartbroken to see that kid go. This wasn’t, ‘Let’s look at a list because Texas is calling.’ The Cubs scouted Villa. They knew what they were getting.”

What they got was a player who commands the hot corner at a young age, and has the offensive potential and makeup of a future big leaguer—even though he’s not expected to be a prototypical power-hitting third baseman.

“The kid can really, really play third base. I think he has—some people are afraid to say it, but I’ll say it—a seven [out of eight], plus-plus glove,” said Parks, specifically noting Villanueva’s quick reactions and strong, accurate arm.

Villanueva, who was recently added to the Cubs 40-man roster, has struggled at the plate in Mexico. In 51 at-bats, he’s hit only .176 with two home runs and 25 strikeouts. But he posted solid numbers between Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League and Daytona in 2012, hitting .279/.353/.427 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs.

The extra experience Villanueva is getting this winter may be particularly valuable as he prepares to make the large leap to Double-A. He’s already shown he can square up velocity inside, but in the high minors, he’ll be tested by advanced pitchers with quality offspeed stuff.

That’s what Cubs farm director Brandon Hyde says Villanueva is seeing right now in Mexico.

It’s a real advantage, from a player development standpoint, to be playing more competitive games,” Hyde said. “A lot of those teams—like the one Jae-Hoon Ha is on [in Venezuela]—they’re looking to win.”

Villanueva’s Obregon team has been at the center of many of the league’s—and the Caribbean’s—best games in recent years. After a 26-year title drought, the Yaquis have won three league championships in five years and the 2011 Caribbean Series crown. The team’s stadium can hold up to 13,000 fans—more than almost any minor league venue—and tends to play to raucous crowds.

Parks said Villanueva has the mature demeanor to thrive in that kind of environment. He gets along socially with teammates across cultures and has proved a quiet leader whose work ethic rubs off on teammates.

It also seems to leave an impression on talent evaluators. Parks last saw Villanueva in October, when Obregon played several exhibitions in the Arizona instructional league. Because the jerseys bore no names, one MLB team scout approached Parks to ask who the third baseman was. Parks told the scout it was Villanueva.

“And he goes, ‘Oh, that makes sense. That kid’s good,’” Parks said. “[And I said] ‘Yeah, he’s good. He’s a major leaguer.’”

—Sean Ahmed

Winter League Highlights: Cabrera strong in first winter start


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Despite Alberto Cabrera‘s impressive finish to the 2012 season, the Cubs have said they plan to start him in Triple-A this season to see if they can stretch him out as a starter. The 24-year-old pitcher, who complements a mid-90s fastball with an effective slider, showed a promising arm in his first stint with the Cubs last year, posting a 5.40 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.

Cabrera turned some heads Sunday in his first winter start in his native Dominican. The 6-foot-4 right-hander logged four hitless innings, racking up 10 strikeouts and six walks, as the Toros del Este beat the Leones del Escogido 8-6 to snap a six-game losing streak. In six appearances this winter, five in relief, Cabrera has posted a 3.14 ERA with 20 strikeouts and 13 walks in 14.1 innings.

Cubs lefty Jeffry Antigua struggled for the Toros in the same game, giving up two earned runs in one-third of an inning. His ERA now stands at 5.24 in 22.1 innings.

Other highlights around the Caribbean:

Cubs infielder Junior Lake continued to crush the ball this winter, powering the Estrellas past the Gigantes 5-3 with a fifth-inning grand slam. Lake is hitting .324/.394/.493 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in the Dominican with five home runs and 23 RBI.

Right-handed reliever Ty’Relle Harris pitched a scoreless inning with one srikeout and no walks for the Gigantes de Carolina in Puerto Rico. In two appearances (2.0 IP), Harris has a 0.00 ERA with three strikeouts and no walks.