Other Winter Leagues Starting Soon
Winter ball has started, and while we’re all presently reading as much into Hultzen’s Arizona Fall League debut as we reasonably can, there are a few other leagues that will be starting up soon here that will also be worthy of some attention or at the very least, something to get you through a panged winter of baseball withdrawal. Larry Stone got a preliminary list of who will be playing where, and while it doesn’t include the lesser leagues like Nicaragua and Colombia, it does give us a good idea of who will be playing in the Caribbean Leagues and Australia.
As usual, Venezuela got assigned the bulk of our players, and Stone highlights Alex Liddi and Michael Saunders as being the big ones while adding Vicente Campos, Edilio Colina, Jarrett Grube, Moises Hernandez, Cesar Jimenez, Jose Jimenez, Luis Jimenez, Johan Limonta, Mario Martinez, Yoervis Medina, Scott Patterson (currently with Team USA for World Cup/Pan Am), Stephen Pryor, Mauricio Robles, and Nate Tenbrink as other players scheduled to see time with just the Cardenales, who are turning into the Mariners South. Yohermyn Chavez, Francisco Martinez, Luis Rodriguez, and Jesus Sucre will play for other teams in the league.
I’ll start out by touching on the two names that Stone mentioned. The mind will probably drawn to Saunders’ name because he’s carried with him certain expectations as he’s moved up and we’re still waiting on him to make good on any of them, or maybe he’s become less of a figure in our fan consciousness thanks to the addition of all sorts of new shiny outfield toys. On one hand, I could point to him having another season that had him post interesting-looking numbers in Tacoma (a 71/50 K/BB in 291 PAs) and then flopping at the major league level, but on the other, we can’t undersell the personal issues he’s had either. It’s been a bad year for Mariners fans and Mariners players. Liddi had impressive power numbers in his limited time with the M’s, with two-thirds of his hits going for extras, but that 17/3 K/BB in 44 PAs was pretty horrific. I suppose what we’d be looking for him is some semblance of discipline and a reasonable level of hitting beyond that. I find it curious that he would be getting additional playing time this winter while Seager, the guy who more people are projecting to take the third base job, is not, but most would claim that Liddi needs more time to help even out his game.
The other names are probably not so relevant for a lot of people, so I’ll only touch on a few. Grube has pitched well for us since coming over from the independent leagues and could be a short-term pitching solution, but he’s also going to be thirty in November. Cesar Jimenez would be continuing his bullpen audition and hoping that he’s found a way of getting left-handers out. After going down with that elbow thing in spring training, Robles needs to get innings in as he only logged 32.1 all season and walked ten more than he struck out. Another player in similar straights would be Tenbrink, who didn’t play at all after late June. The dark horse is probably Pryor, who has an outside shot of pitching his way into a seventh-inning role out of spring training and has the stuff to hold up in higher leverage situations. It will also be worth seeing if Francisco Martinez can help to redeem the Fister trade, which isn’t looking so hot at the moment, or if Chavez could re-establish himself in anyway.
While going over the Cardenales site, I came across a few other news items that would probably be of some interest. One is that Tenbrink wasn’t the Mariners’ first choice to fill an outfield spot, and that they had originally wanted to send Casper Wells down there, but Wells is still ailing in some way or another and they decided to let him sit. The other is that the manager of Lara this season will be Pedro Grifol, who used to head the Aquasox teams in the Junes of yore. We’ll be grasping at whatever straws are available to us, but Pedro should be in position to be making better evaluations. Games for them will be starting up Wednesday.
Moving around to the other leagues, Stone has Leury Bonilla, Edward Paredes, Carlos Peguero, and Carlos Triunfel in the Dominican League. This is one of those times where I’d say “look elsewhere”, because unless you’re really curious to see if Peguero can fake some plate discipline for a while or if Triunfel will work to justify his seemingly inevitable placement on the 40-man, there are better options. Paredes still hasn’t developed command and Bonilla, bless his little heart, is mostly interesting when he tries to play every position on the field in a single game. Similarly, you should be able to pass up on the Puerto Rican Winter League. Sure, Daniel Carroll will be there, and he had a breakout season in the Cal League this year, remaining healthy for a full year for the first time ever, but even though he walked eighty-eight times (EIGHTY-EIGHT TIMES) he struck out in over a quarter of his plate appearances. I’m waiting on him doing something interesting in double-A. The Dominican League will start up next Friday and Puerto Rico has usually kicked off about a week after that.
The only other league we have information on yet is that starting in November, we’ll have Denny Almonte, Steve Baron, James Jones, and Jandy Sena in Australia playing for the Adelaide Bite. This season, Almonte cut thirty Ks off his 2010 total, which sounds great except that the drop from 192 to 161 is less impressive in a larger context of him striking out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances. Baron didn’t do much after spring training, being injured much of the time, but his overall line was pretty close to his 2010 line anyway, just with slightly improved peripherals. Jones has another season where he was abysmal in the first half (.617 OPS) and pretty amazing in the second (.931) with the improvements again coming at the expense of patience. Sena split his time mainly between Clinton and High desert this season and was mostly interesting in that his season K/9 was around four.
The overall picture looks pretty similar to a lot of winter league seasons you’ll see. There aren’t a lot of lower level top prospects that you want to keep tabs on, but there are plenty of nearer-term contributors that could be worth tracking. After a certain point in the winter, you take what you can get.