Winter League Roundup: Caribbean Playoffs Heating Up
We’re back for another edition of the Winter Hot Stove report. Things may be getting a bit colder here in the Northeast, but the weather remains perfect for baseball down in the Caribbean. With the flip of the calendar, all four primary winter ball leagues (Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic) have begun their postseason. A pair of leagues have a traditional style of playoffs, while the other two go with a round robin format before their championship. Let’s take a look at where each country stands currently in the postseason and which former Ducks and Atlantic Leaguers are involved:
The Puerto Rican Winter League, officially known as the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, employs a round robin format. Three of the league’s four teams qualified for the postseason: Indios de Mayaguez, Criollos de Caguas and Cangrejeros de Santurce. Currently, Mayaguez has the best record of all three in the playoffs at 6-2 and is coming off of an incredible 7-5 win over Caguas in 16 innings on Wednesday. This wild contest saw Caguas score single runs in the eighth and ninth to force extra innings and saw Mayaguez score three runs in the 13th, only for Caguas to match them in the bottom half of the frame. After six hours and 14 minutes, Mayaguez finally reigned supreme. This contest also featured a plethora of former Ducks and Atlantic Leaguers on both sides.
John Brownell started the game for Caguas and turned in a magnificent performance. Like the big-game pitcher Ducks fans have frequently seen, the righty tossed six innings of shutout baseball, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out six. He left with the game scoreless, but one of his former Ducks teammates helped put Mayaguez on top. Following a sacrifice fly, Elmer Reyes delivered a two-out RBI single to increase the lead to 2-0. Caguas began their comeback in the eighth on a solo homer by Jeff Dominguez, who spent time with the Somerset Patriots and Sugar Land Skeeters last season.
In the 13th inning, Ducks infielder Randy Ruiz had one of the most controversial at-bats of the game. As a pinch-hitter with runners at second and third and one out, he grounded a ball towards short. Interference ended up being called on Kennys Vargas, who was running at second. No run ended up being scored, Ruiz reached at first, and according to the box score, Mayaguez manager Pat Kelly and Caguas second baseman David Vidal (of the Somerset Patriots) were ejected. Three runs eventually scored later that inning for Mayaguez. Then in the 16th, Reyes came up big again. He singled for his third hit of the game and later scored the game’s final run on a double by Vargas, which was allowed by former Duck and Skeeter Derek Blacksher. In the end, former Bluefish pitcher Kanekoa Texeira closed out the game to earn the save.
Looking at the postseason as a whole, Mayaguez has also been led by former Duck Andrew Barbosa, who recently signed with the New York Mets. He’s won both of his playoff starts, allowing no runs in 11 innings. The southpaw has yielded just three hits and three walks while striking out eight. 2010 Duck Ivan Maldonado has given up just two runs in 10 and two-thirds innings over two playoff starts. Reyes is batting .265 over eight games with one RBI and three runs, while Ruiz has struggled, collecting one hit in 15 at-bats with one RBI and one run. However, he did lead the league with 24 RBI during the regular season. For Caguas, who is 3-4 in the postseason, Brownell has made three starts and pitched well. Despite an 0-1 record, he has a 2.25 ERA, surrendering four runs on 15 hits and two walks in 16 innings with 11 strikeouts. Santurce is just 2-5 to this point but has a pair of Ducks relievers from this past season. Ricardo Gomez has collected two playoff saves, but he has also allowed two runs and three hits in two and two-thirds innings. J.C. Romero has pitched twice, taking one loss and giving up a run on two walks and a hit batter in one inning of work. They are also joined by former Patriot Robert Andino.
Shifting over to Venezuela, we find that four teams remain in the hunt for the championship following the first round of the postseason. Both of the semifinal series are also tied at one apiece (best of seven), with today being the off-day between Games Two and Three. One series features Tiburones de La Guaira against Tigres de Aragua. La Guaira took the opener 8-1 before Aragua answered back with a 7-0 shutout in Game Two. Ryan Kussmaul is the lone Ducks representative in the series, and he closed out Game One with a scoreless inning of relief, allowing a run on two hits. Kussmaul pitched in four games during the first round of the postseason and gave up four runs (three earned) in two and two-thirds innings. Darin Downs also had some earlier action in the playoffs for Aragua, throwing three and two-thirds innings over two games, yielding one unearned run on four hits while striking out two. Among the others who have played this postseason are Jose Constanza (York; Aragua), Daniel Sattler (Somerset; Aragua), Marcus Walden (Lancaster; Aragua), Ildemaro Vargas (Bridgeport; Aragua), and Edwin Quirarte (Somerset; La Guaira)
The other series pits Navegantes del Magallanes against Caribes de Anzoategui. Magallanes won Game One 8-4, and Caribes responded with a 10-3 win in Game Two. Unfortunately, the series and postseason has not featured any former Ducks on either side. However, there have been a few former Atlantic Leaguers. They include Juan Apodaca (Lancaster; Magallanes), Mike DeMark (York; Magallanes), Daryl Thompson (Southern Maryland; Caribes), Joe Testa (Somerset; Caribes), Sam Gervacio (Bridgeport; Caribes) and Jose Gil (Camden; Caribes).
South of the border in Mexico, there are a pair of semifinal series that feature a team leading two games to one. The first has Aguilas de Mexicali up on Mayos de Navojoa after they took the first two games before seeing Navojoa earn a win. Former Duck and Bluefish C.J. Retherford is with Aguilas and is 5-for-11 with a double, a homer four RBI, and two runs scored in the series. In fact, the infielder is batting .370 with three doubles, two homers, six RBI and five runs in seven playoff games. 2015 Atlantic League Player of the Year Welington Dotel is also with Aguilas but is just 1-for-10 with two RBI, two runs and three walks. Dotel is batting .273 in seven playoff games with two doubles, four RBI, six runs and five walks. Former Ducks Spring Training signee Quincy Latimore is playing for Navojoa but is just 1-for-11 with a run scored and a walk in the series. He has played nine games thus far in the postseason and is hitting .250 with two doubles, three RBI and three runs. Daniel Moskos, a reliever for Lancaster in 2015, earned the save for Navojoa in Game Three with a scoreless ninth inning.
The other series currently has Yaquis de Obregon up 2-1 on Venados de Mazatlan. Obregon currently has former Skeeter Dustin Martin on the roster. He is 2-for-10 thus far in the series with one RBI, one run and two walks. In addition, former Revolution pitcher Josh Judy is their closer and has two saves in the series, allowing just two hits in two scoreless innings. Martin has been fantastic this postseason, batting .343 in nine games with three doubles, three homers, eight RBI and eight runs. Southern Maryland slugger Cyle Hankerd is playing for Mazatlan and was 0-for-3 in both Games One and Three of the series. However, he had a big game in between, going 2-for-5 with a homer, three RBI and two runs. He’s been a .324 hitter this postseason with a homer, nine RBI and three runs over nine games. Joining him on the squad are former Barnstormer Olmo Rosario (1-11, RBI, BB in the series) and former Patriot Yunesky Sanchez (4-11, 2 2B, 2 R, BB in the series).
Our final stop is in the Dominican Republic where, like Puerto Rico, it’s a round robin style. Four of the six teams in the league made the playoffs: Tigres del Licey, Leones del Escogido, Toros del Este and Estrellas de Oriente. Licey has dominated the postseason with a 12-2 mark thus far. However, their roster only features one Atlantic Leaguer currently. That would be former Revolution and Blue Crabs relief pitcher Leyson Septimo. The southpaw has made three appearances and has thrown one scoreless inning, allowing just a walk.
Leones del Escogido and Toros del Este are both tied for second with 6-8 records in the playoffs. Lew Ford has played in nine playoff games for Escogido and is batting .250 with two doubles, one homer, eight RBI and two runs scored. On the mound, former Skeeter Kelvin Villa is 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA in three games (two starts). Former Revolution starter Shawn Hill is 1-0 in four games but has a 5.63 ERA, surrendering five runs on nine hits in eight innings while striking out seven. Another former Revs pitcher, Edward Paredes, has appeared in five games out of the bullpen. During that span, he has allowed a run on three hits and four walks while striking out two in two innings. As for Toros, they currently have former Ducks reliever Donnie Veal, who signed with the Texas Rangers earlier this offseason. However, the lefty has struggled in the playoffs, giving up four runs on five hits and six walks in four games of action. Former Barnstormer Bryan Evans is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in four starts, striking out 13 batters in 19 innings.
Bringing up the rear right now is Estrellas de Oriente at 4-10, which is a bit surprising since they were tied with Licey for the best regular season record at 29-21. Former Duck and Bluefish infielder Sean Burroughs is currently with Estrellas but is hitting just .154 with a pair of walks in five games. Earlier this winter, he hit .297 in 10 games with La Guaira in Venezuela and .343 in nine games with Obregon in Mexico. On the mound, a pair of former Patriots are struggling with Estrellas. Randy Boone is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two games (one start), while Kramer Sneed, who joined Somerset late in the season and for the playoffs, is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts. Former Bluefish and New York Met Robert Carson has pitched in eight games of relief, yielding just two runs (one earned) while striking out five in four and two-thirds innings.
That will wrap things up for the latest edition of the winter hot stove report. We’ll be checking back in with each of the leagues as they get into the championships, and eventually, the Caribbean Series. If we are missing any players that you’ve seen playing for these teams in the Caribbean or playing in other leagues this winter, please send us a note and tell us about them! As the Atlantic League season approaches, we’ll continue to have exclusive interviews with players signing with the Ducks and additional feature articles.
Posted on January 14, 2016, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged 2016, Andrew Barbosa, Atlantic League, C.J. Retherford, Caribbean Winter Leagues, Darin Downs, Dominican Republic, Donnie Veal, Elmer Reyes, Lew Ford, Long Island Ducks, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Randy Ruiz, Ryan Kussmaul, Sean Burroughs, Venezuela. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.