Results tagged ‘ Winter Leagues ’

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: 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.

Winter League Highlights: Dolis fans three

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(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

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(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

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(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.

Winter League Highlights: Negrin powers Leones to victory

Right-handed starter Yoanner Negrin has had a solid 2012 winter ball campaign for the Leones del Caracas of Venezuela. He’s been tough all year, posting a 2.61 ERA in 12 starts, fourth-best of all starters in the league. The 28-year-old also has a 4-1 record, which is tied for third in the league. Over his last 20 innings, he’s allowed just two earned runs and struck out 10 batters.

Negrin continued his consistent ways Thursday, allowing three hits over five innings and surrendering one unearned run in a Leones victory. He was awarded the win for his efforts.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Rafael Dolis pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Estrellas of the Dominican league, striking out a batter in the loss. Dominican teammate Nelson Perez had a pair of hits.

Justin Bour had a two-RBI double and scored a run for Carolina of the Puerto Rican league.

Tony Campana had a pair of hits and a walk for Leones. He also scored a run.

Dave Sappelt had a base hit for the Bravos de Margarita of the Venezuelan league.

Winter League Highlights: Bour pours it on

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(Photo by Rodger Wood)

As Vine Line noted on Wednesday, Justin Bour didn’t arrive in Puerto Rico until Dec. 6, so his totals thus far are limited. But he made a big impact Wednesday afternoon for his Gigantes de Carolina team.

Batting third and playing left field, the 6-foot-4 slugger went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI, a run scored and two walks. His RBI came in the first on a single to center, and he was left stranded after ripping a double in the third. He grounded out in the fifth, and his next two at-bats resulted in walks.

Bour had a successful year in Double-A Tennessee this season. The natural first baseman finished with a .283/.360/.455 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line and had a franchise record 110 RBI. He hit 36 doubles and 17 home runs, good for third and seventh best, respectively, in the Southern League.

The Cubs’ 25th round pick in 2009 was also a Southern League midseason and postseason All-Star this year.

Other notes around the Caribbean:

Jay Jackson got the start for the Venados de Mazatlan of the Mexican league. He went 4.1 innings, giving up four earned runs on eight hits.

Dave Sappelt led off and had a pair of hits for the Bravos of Venezuela. He drove in a run, scored a run and recorded a walk.

Johermyn Chavez recorded a pinch-hit, two-RBI triple in his lone at-bat for the Caribes of Venezuela.

Winter League Highlights: Lake represents Cubs in All-Star game

While the rest of the players in the Dominican and Venezuelan leagues were resting during the midseason All-Star break, the best players from both leagues squared off in a Tuesday night showdown. While the game wasn’t studded with Cubs prospects, Junior Lake represented both the Cubs and his Dominican side well.

Batting fifth and playing center field, Lake finished the night 1-for-3 with an RBI in an 8-2 Dominican win. In the top of the third with Dodgers star Hanley Ramirez on third base, the Cubs lone All-Star representative beat out a soft ground ball to short, scoring Ramirez to make the game 4-2.

Other highlights around the Caribbean:

Justin Bour went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk for the Gigantes in the Puerto Rican league. It was his first hit in nine winter at-bats.

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