Caribbean Winter Leagues Full of Atlantic League Talent
It’s been a little over a month since the end of the 2016 Atlantic League season, but there is still plenty of baseball being played. Down south, several members of the Liberty Division champion Ducks are playing on rosters in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. Teams in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic are home to several Atlantic Leaguers from this past season and recent years, as guys play in hopes of catching a scout’s eye and earning an invite to spring training by one of Major League Baseball’s 30 organizations.
Let’s check in with each country to see which Ducks alumni are playing baseball this offseason and which fellow Atlantic Leaguers are also playing there:
It has been quite the exciting start to the Mexican Winter League season! Through about 30 games entering Wednesday, three teams are all within one game of each other for first place and seven of the eight teams are all within four games of each other. Tomateros de Culiacan are currently in first place at 18-12, but Mayos de Navojoa and Naranjeros de Hermosillo are right behind them at 17-13. The only former Duck on either of the them is Quincy Latimore, who plays with Navojoa. The outfielder was part of the Ducks during spring training in 2014 before having his contract purchased by the Nationals. Thus far, he is batting .241 with five homers, 13 RBI and 13 runs in 15 games. Other 2016 Atlantic Leaguers on the roster are outfielder Cole Garner (New Britain) and pitcher Connor Little (Somerset). Culiacan features a trio of Skeeters pitchers from 2016 in Sean Gallagher, Derrick Loop and Aaron Thompson, along with Patriots first baseman Bryan LaHair.
After those three, four teams make up the middle of the pack, separated by just two and a half games. Two of those teams feature players that wore a Ducks uniform in 2016. Charros de Jalisco is currently home to pitcher Bruce Kern, who dazzled again for the Flock with a 4-1 record and a 2.17 ERA before having his contract purchased by Brother Elephants of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. The righty has made six starts for Jalisco and is 3-2 with a 2.50 ERA and 21 strikeouts. He has not allowed an earned run in his past two starts, spanning a total of 14 innings. He’s joined on the roster by pitcher Kyle Simon (New Britain), infielder Josh Mazzola (Somerset) and former Met Lastings Milledge. The other team with a 2016 Duck is Aguilas de Mexicali. Scott Shuman, who was acquired by the Ducks from Bridgeport during the year and went 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA before suffering a season-ending oblique strain, has struggled through two appearances thus far. Prior to joining Aguilas, he was with Tigres de Aragua in Venezuela. Shuman is joined on Mexicali by another former Duck, infielder C.J. Retherford, who has a .257 average with five homers and 17 RBI in 29 games. Other Atlantic League alumni on the four squads in the middle of the league currently are:
RHP Michael Nix (Sugar Land – Aguilas de Mexicali)
LHP Roy Merritt (Sugar Land – Caneros de los Mochis)
RHP Blake Beavan (Bridgeport – Yaquis de Obregon)
RHP Craig Stem (New Britain – Yaquis de Obregon)
INF K.C. Hobson (Lancaster – Yaquis de Obregon)
Finally, we turn to Venados de Mazatlan, who brings up the rear in the league at 8-22. One of the struggling squad’s bright spots has been Nick Struck. The right-handed pitcher struggled out of the gate for Long Island this year but turned things around and posted an impressive 3.35 ERA in 39 games (nine starts) for the Ducks in 2016. Thus far, he has allowed just five runs (four earned) in 16 and one-third innings over three starts for Mazatlan. He’s currently teammates with Mickey Storey (Somerset) and former Southern Maryland slugger Cyle Hankerd.
Although Puerto Rico has the fewest teams of any Caribbean Winter League (five), they have easily the most Ducks alumni. A total of five 2016 Ducks as well as five others who have previously played for Long Island are currently on rosters in the league. Things are still in the early stages, but Cangrejeros de Santurce currently holds first place at 9-3. Their roster features pitcher J.C. Romero, a member of the 2015 Ducks who is continuing to play the game he loves. The southpaw has been brilliant in eight games thus far, throwing six and two-thirds scoreless innings while striking out six batters. He is joined by pitcher Jon Velasquez (Sugar Land), catcher Wilfredo Rodriguez (Sugar Land) and infielder Robert Andino, who played for Somerset on their 2015 championship team before returning to the Major Leagues with the Marlins this past season.
Right behind Santurce at 7-4 is Criollos de Caguas. Returning to the team is familiar face John Brownell, who has pitched for Caguas in 2015 and 2013. He made his debut with the team this past Saturday and fired five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. Long Island resident Anthony Vega, who showcased a strong combination of speed, power and defense with the Ducks in 2016, also calls Caguas home this winter. The outfielder has played in seven games thus far, compiling three RBI and six runs scored. Also on the club is pitcher Ricardo Gomez, who has previously pitched with the Ducks in 2010 and 2015 but called York home in 2016. He has thrown seven and two-thirds scoreless innings thus far, striking out 12 in seven games and recording five saves. Other former Atlantic Leaguers include pitchers Jose De La Torre (Somerset) and Brian Moran (Bridgeport) along with infielders Luis Mateo (Somerset), Angel Sanchez (Southern Maryland) and David Vidal (Somerset).
Indios de Mayaguez is currently third in the league at 7-5 and features plenty of Atlantic League talent. Their roster currently includes Andrew Barbosa, who has impressed with the Mets organization after having his contract purchased by the Braves from the Ducks in 2015. The tall left-hander, who battled injuries this year but still went 3-0 with a 1.51 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) in the Mets system, has yet to pitch in a game. He’s joined on the roster though by 2016 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Jonathan Albaladejo (Bridgeport), pitcher Ross Seaton (Bridgeport) along with catchers Raffy Lopez (Bridgeport) and Alex Marquez (York/Bridgeport). In addition, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is with the club.
Gigantes de Carolina sits fourth in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Right-handed pitcher Freddie Cabrera, a second half signing for the Ducks in 2016, is now pitching for them. In five games, he has compiled a 2.70 ERA. Former Ducks catcher Jan Vazquez (2014) is also on the roster but is just 1-for-19 with two runs scored at the plate in nine games. Pitcher Andrew Johnston (Sugar Land) and infielder Jeff Dominguez (Sugar Land) are also with the team, as well as Major League veteran catcher Yadier Molina.
Finally, Tiburones de Aguadilla may have a 1-12 record to begin the season, but they boast a lot of talented players on the roster. Pitcher Jarret Leverett started the year strong for New Britain before coming to Long Island and going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in four regular season starts and tossing seven shutout innings to win his lone postseason outing. The lefty has struggled though for Aguadilla, going 0-3 with a 5.02 ERA in three starts. Infielder Ruben Gotay was a key signing for the Ducks at second base, as he batted .275 with seven homers and 63 RBI for the Flock. The former Met has also impressed this winter, batting .300 with three homers and 10 RBI through 13 games. The home runs and runs batted in are both currently league-best totals. 2013 Duck Ian Snell is continuing to play baseball and also is part of the club. The righty has allowed just one run in six games out of the bullpen thus far. Other 2016 ALPB alumni on the team include pitchers Efrain Nieves (Somerset) and Chris Rearick (Bridgeport/Sugar Land), catcher Yovan Gonzalez (Somerset) and infielder Jovan Rosa (New Britain). We also can’t forget that the manager is former Duck and Met Carlos Baerga.
The Dominican Republic is home to six different teams and also features some tight standings in early going. The top three teams in the league are separated by just three and a half games. One of those is Leones del Escogido, who is 10-10 thus far and features the only Duck currently playing in the league. That man is outfielder and bench coach Lew Ford, who is trying to repeat his success from a year ago when he won the Dominican Winter League championship and was named Championship Series MVP with Escogido. Thus far, the Ducks’ all-time batting leader is off to a slow start at 8-for-41 with five RBI and six runs in 14 games. Other 2016 Atlantic Leaguers on the roster include pitcher Jose Veras (Bridgeport) and outfielder Ruben Sosa (Bridgeport).
Here are the other recent ALPB alumni that are playing in the Dominican Republic this winter:
C Salvador Paniagua (York – Aguilas Cibaenas)
OF Alfredo Marte (York/Southern Maryland – Aguilas Cibaenas)
RHP Alexis Candelario (Somerset – Estrellas de Oriente)
RHP Terry Doyle (Lancaster – Gigantes del Cibao)
LHP Jeremy Horst (Somerset – Gigantes del Cibao)
LHP Josh Outman (New Britain – Tigres del Licey)
RHP Bryan Evans (Lancaster – Toros del Este)
RHP Jim Miller (Somerset – Toros del Este)
LHP Rudy Owens (Somerset – Toros del Este)
INF Angelys Nina (Bridgeport – Toros del Este)
Finally, we head to Venezuela and check in on their eight-team league. There are currently five Ducks alumni playing in the league, two of which were part of the 2016 roster, two that were on Long Island in 2015 and one that played for the Ducks several years ago. Navegantes del Magallanes has seen several Ducks players don the uniform, and this winter, pitcher Amalio Diaz is part of the roster. The right-hander, who went 5-2 with a 2.09 ERA and five saves in 52 games this past season, has pitched in 13 games thus far. Unfortunately, he has gone 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA, but he does have eight strikeouts in nine and two-thirds innings of work. The Venezuela native has also pitched seven scoreless outings in the month of November. Pitcher Jack Snodgrass has also just joined the team. He was terrific for the Ducks in the first half of 2016, going 6-6 with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts before his contract was purchased by the Texas Rangers organization. On the roster with them both is former Met and member of the 2016 Bridgeport Bluefish, Endy Chavez.
Reegie Corona quickly became Long Island’s second baseman during the 2015 season and posted an impressive first half, batting .331 before having his contract purchased by the Washington Nationals organization. He is now with Tiburones de La Guaira but is off to a slow start with five hits in 26 at-bats, one homer and three RBI in 17 games. Ryan Kussmaul served primarily as the Ducks’ closer in 2015 and then had his contract purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in 2016. He was recently added to the roster of La Guaira but has yet to pitch in a game. He is joined on the roster though by several 2016 Atlantic League players. They include pitchers Mike Antonini (Bridgeport), Kelvin De La Cruz (Lancaster/York), Sam Gervacio (Bridgeport) and Jake Hale (Sugar Land) along with catcher Jose Gil (Bridgeport).
The other team with a Ducks alumnus is Caribes de Anzoategui. Another squad that has also previously featured former Atlantic Leaguers is now home to former Ducks pitcher Shane Youman. The left-hander, who dazzled in 2011 before his contract was purchased by the Lamigo Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, has made seven starts thus far and is 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 21 strikeouts. He has allowed just one earned run in each of his past four starts. Fun fact about Youman: he holds the Ducks franchise record for single season ERA at 0.66 (minimum 50 innings pitched). Also on the roster with him are pitchers Donovan Hand (Somerset), David Kubiak (Bridgeport), Kyler Newby (Somerset) and Daryl Thompson (Southern Maryland), catcher Rossmel Perez (Bridgeport) and infielders Luis Domoromo (Bridgeport) and Luis Hernandez (Bridgeport).
Other 2016 Atlantic League alumni currently playing in Venezuela include:
RHP Julio DePaula (York – Aguilas de Zulia)
INF Darwin Perez (York/Somerset – Aguilas de Zulia)
OF Trayvon Robinson (Somerset/Lancaster – Aguilas de Zulia)
RHP Jose Arredondo (York – Bravos de Margarita)
RHP Manny Corpas (York – Bravos de Margarita)
LHP Nick Greenwood (New Britain – Bravos de Margarita)
RHP Mike DeMark (York – Cardenales de Lara)
RHP Jorge Martinez (York – Cardenales de Lara)
C Gustavo Molina (Southern Maryland – Cardenales de Lara)
OF Welington Dotel (Bridgeport – Cardenales de Lara)
RHP Joe Gardner (Lancaster – Leones del Caracas)
RHP Brian Grening (Southern Maryland – Leones del Caracas)
LHP Jim Patterson (Bridgeport – Leones del Caracas)
OF Aharon Eggleston (Somerset – Leones del Caracas)
RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Lancaster – Tigres de Aragua)
Stay tuned throughout the offseason for more updates on members of the Ducks and other Atlantic League alumni who are playing baseball this winter. If you know of someone who we did not mention in this post, please feel free to let us know in the comments section of the story. In addition, here are links to some different websites to help you following along with your favorite players this winter:
Posted on November 16, 2016, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged 2016, Amalio Diaz, Andrew Barbosa, Anthony Vega, Atlantic League, Bruce Kern, Caribbean Winter Leagues, Dominican Republic, Freddie Cabrera, J.C. Romero, Jack Snodgrass, Jarret Leverett, John Brownell, Lew Ford, Mexico, Nick Struck, Puerto Rico, Quincy Latimore, Reegie Corona, Ricardo Gomez, Ruben Gotay, Ryan Kussmaul, Scott Shuman, Venezuela, Winter Leagues. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.