Category Archives: Winter Hot Stove

Puerto Rican Championship Features Atlantic League Flair

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The Caribbean Winter Leagues are now deep into the playoffs, and the competition has become increasingly tense as the Caribbean Series draws closer. As we have documented previously, there are a host of Atlantic League alumni playing down in countries like Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Many spent time in the ALPB as recently as this past season, but several others have played in the league prior to that point.

Throughout the coming weeks, we will break down the performances of many of these alumni throughout each of the four main leagues. However, this post will focus solely on the excitement taking place in Puerto Rico. The five-team winter league has now been whittled down to the final two, with Cangrejeros de Santurce battling Criollos de Caguas for the championship.

Santurce, who posted the league’s best record during the season at 28-12, reached the finals thanks to a dominant 4-1 series victory over Gigantes de Carolina in the seminfinals. The series saw Santurce outscore Carolina 20-8, including a pair of shutout victories and two games where Carolina was held to one run. Among the pitchers that shined for Santurce in the victory was Ducks alumni Darin Downs, who threw four innings of two-hit, shutout baseball and struck out three as the starter in Game Three.

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Although his team was defeated, another Ducks alumnus also pitched well. That would be Jarret Leverett, who earned the win in Game Two with three and one-third innings of scoreless relief. Other ALPB alumni who joined Leverett on Carolina were former Skeeters pitchers Michael Nix and Andrew Johnston and outfielder Jeff Dominguez.

Caguas finished third during the season at 19-21, but they found a way to triumph over an Indios de Mayaguez team that was 26-14. Although Caguas found themselves trailing the series two games to none, their pitching staff turned things around with a dominant performance of their own, limiting Mayaguez to just six runs over the final four games (compared to nine in the first two games). Caguas won all four of those games to secure a place in the championship.

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Leading the way in the comeback was Ducks fan favorite John Brownell. The righty pitched five and two-thirds innings of two-run ball in Game Three to earn Caguas its first win of the series and then turned in a vintage effort in the clincher, firing seven innings of three hit, shutout baseball and striking out four to earn another victory. Closing out both of his wins was former Ducks and York Revolution reliever Ricardo Gomez, who collected three saves in the series overall and pitched in five games, allowing just three hits while striking out seven over six innings. Although he took the loss in Game One, former Somerset Patriots pitcher Will Oliver also posted strong numbers. He allowed only one unearned run in seven and one-third innings of relief, yielding six hits while striking out two. Former Ducks pitchers Patrick Crider and J.C. Romero also pitched for Caguas in the series.

Offensively, Ruben Gotay led the charge for Caguas. The former Ducks infielder batted .400 for the series (8-for-20) and drew four walks as well. He collected a pair of doubles as part of a three-hit performance in Game Two, drove in both of Caguas’ runs in Game Five on RBI singles and picked up the lone RBI in the Game Six clincher on a bases loaded walk. Former Duck Randy Ruiz also performed well in the series, batting .333 (7-for-21) with seven RBI and two runs. His big performances came in Game Three, when he picked up an RBI double and a three-run home run, and Game Four, where he collected three hits and one RBI.

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Despite suffering the series loss, former Ducks pitcher Andrew Barbosa impressed for Mayaguez. The southpaw tossed three scoreless innings in relief during his team’s win in Game One and then started Game Four, pitching five and one-third innings of one-run ball while striking out four. Teammates of his included 2015 Atlantic League Player of the Year Welington Dotel and former Patriots pitchers Connor Little and Efrain Nieves.

That brings us to the Puerto Rican Winter League Championship Series, which is already off to an exciting start. Game One, which took place on Saturday, featured a terrific pitcher’s duel that saw the teams combine for just 11 hits. Caguas took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a two-out RBI infield single in the first inning from Ruiz, who finished with two hits on the night. Orlando Roman started and threw four and two-thirds scoreless innings, but Oliver collected the eventual win with two scoreless and hitless innings of relief. Gomez ended up nailing down the save with a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the 1-0 victory.

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Game Two featured a matchup of Atlantic League alumni on the mound. Downs took the ball for Santurce, while Barbosa got the nod for Caguas. Barbosa was picked up by Caguas in a draft held following the semifinals where the winning teams are permitted to draft two players from the teams they had eliminated. Caguas built an early lead against the former Ducks southpaw, scoring single runs in the second and fourth innings. Ruiz walked and scored on a double in the second, while former Patriots infielder David Vidal walked and scored on a double in the fourth. Meanwhile, Barbosa dominated on the rubber with six scoreless innings, surrendering just one hit and two walks while striking out four. However, Santurce’s offense exploded against the Caguas bullpen, scoring six runs over the final three innings to earn a 6-3 win.

Following a day off, the series resumed on Tuesday night for Game Three. Once again, Caguas jumped in front against Santurce with a pair of runs in the first inning. The eventual game-winning run was tacked on in the fifth when Vidal led off the frame with a solo home run. Former big leaguer and Patriots pitcher Jose De La Torre started for Caguas and was strong for the first five innings. However, he ran into some trouble with a 3-0 lead in the sixth, as a fielding error prevented another scoreless frame. After one run scored on a force out, Oliver entered the game and allowed an RBI double. Fortunately for him, the tying run was thrown out at the plate to keep Caguas in front 3-2. Caguas added an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI double from Ruiz, and Gomez picked up another save with two scoreless innings of relief despite allowing a pair of hits and a pair of walks.

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Caguas maintains a 2-1 series lead, but there is still plenty of baseball to be played. Puerto Rico’s Championship Series is a best-of-nine, meaning that a team must win five games to claim the title. Here is the remaining schedule for the series:

Game Four: Wednesday, January 18 – 6:15 p.m. EST at Caguas
Game Five: Thursday, January 19 – 6:15 p.m. EST at Santurce
Game Six: Saturday, January 21 – 6:15 p.m. EST at Caguas
Game Seven: Sunday, January 22 – 3:15 p.m. EST at Santurce (if necessary)
Game Eight: Wednesday, January 25 – 6:15 p.m. EST at Caguas (if necessary)
Game Nine: Thursday, January 26 – 6:15 p.m. EST at Santurce (if necessary)

Brownell is currently scheduled to pitch on Wednesday in Game Four, while Barbosa and Downs are slated to start again in Game Six on Saturday. Fans wishing to follow along can do so via MLB’s Gameday by CLICKING HERE. Best of luck to both teams as they bid for the Puerto Rican League championship!

Winter Hot Stove Roundup

We all can now begin to feel the crisp, cold weather making its way into the northeast. After what has been a fairly mild offseason thus far, the air is beginning to turn cooler as the holidays approach. Despite that, baseball news has begun to break left and right again with the Winter Meetings taking place this week at National Harbor in Washington D.C. Many Major League players were on the move and/or signed big contracts. Former Ducks pitcher Rich Hill was one of the most notable names, as he inked a 3-year, $48 million deal to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other Ducks alumni were also in the news recently, so let’s check in on some of the latest updates from this offseason:

Barbosa to Brewers
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While no official confirmation has been given by the team just yet, 2015 Long Island Ducks pitcher Andrew Barbosa announced on Thursday morning that he has been signed by the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Included with the agreement is an invitation to the team’s Major League spring training, held in Maryvale, Arizona. The Brewers become his third MLB organization since pitching with Long Island two seasons ago, and it keeps his dream of reaching the Major Leagues alive.

Barbosa spent the 2016 season with the Mets organization and posted strong numbers despite two stints on the disabled list. Though limited to just 16 appearances (15 starts), the southpaw went 3-0 with a 1.51 ERA and 71 strikeouts to just 19 walks over 71 and two-thirds innings. He spent time in Rookie-Level, Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A during the year. In August, he tossed seven no-hit innings and struck out 11 batters with only one walk while pitching for Advanced-A St. Lucie. Six days later, he threw eight scoreless innings and yielded just one hit and two walks while striking out five for Double-A Binghamton.

Despite the success, the Mets did not offer Barbosa a contract for the 2017 season and he elected free agency on November 7. The 29-year-old joined Indios de Mayaguez to pitch in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and he is expected to start sometime next week. According to the lefty, his goal is “to break camp with the big league team” in the spring.

Shawn Soars to Clearwater
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2012 Atlantic League champion Shawn Williams continues to climb up the managerial ranks in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. The former Ducks infielder has been promoted to the club’s Advanced-A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers, of the Florida State League. It marks the third different club he has managed in the Phillies organization after spending 2014 with the Williamsport Crosscutters (A-) and the past two seasons with the Lakewood BlueClaws (A).

Williams had a successful two seasons at the helm of Lakewood. He combined to post a 147-130 record during the regular season, including a 45-25 mark in the second half of the 2016 campaign. That was good enough to win the Second Half North Division title in the South Atlantic League, and he eventually led the BlueClaws to an appearance in the South Atlantic League Championship Series. Unfortunately, they fell short of their championship goal, losing in four games to the Rome Braves. Despite not reaching the playoffs in 2015, he did help the BlueClaws to an overall record of 73-65 that year.

The Florida resident was a key contributor to the Ducks’ championship run in 2012. Serving as the team’s utility infielder, he posted strong numbers during his playing time in the regular season. The switch-hitter batted .272 with six homers, 46 RBI and 47 runs in 102 games. Williams provided strong value too in his speed, stealing 18 bases while being caught just five times, and in his versatility. He played six different positions during the regular season — catcher, first base, second base, third base, left field and right field – and combined to make just seven errors.

Ducks Down Under
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We have previously focused on several Ducks and Atlantic League alumni who are playing winter baseball down in the Caribbean this offseason. However, that’s not the only place you can find members of the 2016 Flock. Two have recently joined teams in the Australian Baseball League to keep playing the game before the 2017 season begins.

Right-handed pitcher Zac Treece, a late addition to the Ducks roster in 2016, is currently pitching in the six-team league for the Brisbane Bandits. The team has gotten off to a bit of a slow start at 5-7, currently fifth in the league, but three games out of first place. Treece did well in his first two outings, both in long relief, combining to pitch four scoreless innings and yielding just one hit while striking out six. However, he has surrendered nine runs in just one and one-third innings over three appearances since that point.

The 27-year-old put together a phenomenal campaign in 2016, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.86 ERA and 22 saves in 41 games for the River City Rascals of the Frontier League. He struck out 75 batters in just 48 and one-third innings while walking only 15 as well. The Ducks took notice and acquired him for a player to be named later prior to the start of the postseason. Treece went on to make four appearances in the playoffs for Long Island, throwing three and two-thirds scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk with six strikeouts.

The second Ducks alumnus playing in Australia is catcher Mike Blanke. He has joined the roster of the Perth Heat, who are currently last in the league with a 4-9 record. The backstop has yet to get into a game, but with three coming up in the next two days, it certainly seems possible he might get some action. The team does list three other catchers on their roster though.

The Canada native posted some strong numbers during his second season with the Ducks in 2016. Blanke clubbed 10 home runs and drove in 50 runs, both of which equaled career-highs he previously set in 2012 with Winston-Salem (A+, White Sox). He also played in 113 games, the most of his career with one team and second-most overall, just two games shy of the 115 he played in 2011 with Kannapolis (A, White Sox) and Winston-Salem.

Other Atlantic League alumni that are currently playing in Australia include:

RHP Chris Oxspring (Somerset, 2011) – Sydney Blue Sox
RHP Virgil Vasquez (Southern Maryland, 2011-12) – Melbourne Aces
C Allan de San Miguel (Southern Maryland, 2014) – Melbourne Aces
INF Luke Hughes (Lancaster, 2015) – Perth Heath

Stay tuned for more updates as the offseason continues! With the Caribbean Winter Leagues regular season winding down, we’ll be sure to keep you aware of which Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have stood out among the rest and which will be playing postseason baseball down south.

Caribbean Winter Leagues Full of Atlantic League Talent

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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:

MEXICO
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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.

PUERTO RICO
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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.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
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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)

VENEZUELA
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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:

Caribbean Winter Leagues
Mexican Winter League
Puerto Rican Winter League
Dominican Winter League
Venezuelan Winter League

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:

Puerto Rico
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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.

Venezuela
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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).

Mexico
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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).

Dominican Republic
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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.

Wednesday Winter League Roundup

As we have done many times in the past here on the blog, we like to provide an update to what some of the most recent Ducks (and Atlantic Leaguers) are doing during the offseason. For many, the term ‘offseason’ does not include just sitting at home and preparing for next year. Rather, they use this time to continue playing in hopes of improving aspects of their game or being seen by the many Major League scouts that watch winter league games. The biggest hotbed of winter baseball is in the Caribbean, where Atlantic League players can be found across the rosters of teams in four different countries.

Puerto Rico
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We’ll start our roundup by taking a look first at Puerto Rico, where a total of six players who spent time with the Ducks in 2015 are currently playing. Two teams are currently tied for first place in the four-team league with a record of 14-10: Criollos de Caguas and Indios de Mayaguez. On Caguas is Ducks pitcher John Brownell, the 2015 Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year. He has continued his success this winter, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.33 ERA and 16 strikeouts in five starts. Most recently, he threw five scoreless innings on Tuesday night in a 3-1 win at Mayaguez. Teammates of Brownell include pitcher Derek Blacksher, who had a strong season with Sugar Land in 2015 just two years after joining the Ducks for their 2013 championship run, and infielder Sergio Miranda, who spent the 2014 season with Long Island. Blacksher has also been pitching well with a 1-0 record and a 0.73 ERA in five games (four starts). Somerset Patriots infielder David Vidal is also with Caguas.

Randy-Ruiz

As for Mayaguez, their roster features Ducks designated hitter Randy Ruiz and infielder Elmer Reyes. Both players are off to slow starts, with Ruiz batting .185 and Reyes batting .193. However, they have combined for three homers, 18 RBI and 11 runs in 18 games. They are joined on the Mayaguez roster former Patriots pitcher Tyler Herron and former Ducks pitcher Ivan Maldonado, who was with the Flock in 2010. Former Bluefish pitcher Kanekoa Texeira is also with the team.

Gigantes de Carolina features a plethora of Atlantic League talent, including four players with ties to the Ducks. Two member of the 2015 squad, relief pitchers J.C. Romero and Frank DeJiulio, Jr., are among the four. Both pitchers are in the bullpen for Carolina but have not been as strong as they were for Long Island. DeJiulio, Jr. is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in eight games, but he does have eight strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings. Romero has a 6.35 ERA in seven appearances but did collect a save in his second outing with the club. Joining them are two former Ducks in catcher Jan Vazquez and pitcher Ian Snell. Vazquez, who spent all of 2015 with the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats in the Colorado Rockies organization, has five hits in 21 at-bats with a homer and three RBI over seven games for Carolina. Snell has been strong out of the bullpen, compiling a 2.08 ERA and seven strikeouts in eight and two-thirds innings. Also on the roster are Jobduan Morales, who was a catcher with the Bluefish in 2015, and Jeff Dominguez, who spent this past season with the Skeeters and has also spent time with the Patriots.

The fourth and final team in Puerto Rico is Cangrejeros de Santurce, and the club feature three 2015 Atlantic Leaguers. Relief pitcher Ricardo Gomez, who joined the Ducks late this past year, has earned two saves in 12 appearances while going 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA and 13 strikeouts. Joining Gomez with Santurce are Somerset Patriots pitcher Matt Zielinski and Patriots shortstop Robert Andino. Former Atlantic Leaguers Benny Cepeda (Long Island, ‘10; Road Warriors, ‘11), Jon Velasquez (Camden, ‘12-13) and Pete Parise (Lancaster and Southern Maryland, ‘14) also play with the team.

Venezuela
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Head south from Puerto Rico, and you will eventually hit Venezuela. The South American country features an eight-team winter baseball league that is filled with Ducks and Atlantic Leaguers from the 2015 season. One of the best teams in the season’s first half was Tiburones de La Guaira, as they went 19-13 to finish in first place. The team features three recent members of the Ducks, including infielders Sean Burroughs and Reegie Corona as well as relief pitcher Ryan Kussmaul. Corona has played the most of the three, a total of 23 games, and is batting .215 with three RBI, 10 runs and three doubles. Burroughs has appeared in just five games thus far and has five hits in 19 at-bats with three RBI. Finally, Kussmaul has pitched in six games, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks in six and two-thirds innings while striking out six. The three are also teammates with Somerset pitcher Kyler Newby and former Riversharks/Skeeters outfielder Brian Burgamy.

Bobby-Blevins-abridor.jpg

Another Venezuelan team featuring some former Ducks is Navegantes del Magallanes, who we talked about recently when they played in the Serie de las Americas in Miami. Starting pitcher Bobby Blevins and outfielder/bench coach Lew Ford both call Magallanes home currently and both played there last year as well. Blevins has made four starts thus far and is 1-2 with a 7.47 ERA, pitching pretty well in his first two starts before suffering a pair of setbacks. Ford has yet to appear in a game this winter, but should be getting some playing time soon. They are joined in Magallanes by catcher Juan Apodaca, who spent 2015 with Lancaster, and infielder Renny Osuna, who played this past season with Southern Maryland and Sugar Land.

Two other players with Ducks ties are also playing winter ball in Venezuela. Starting pitcher Sergio Perez is a member of Bravos de Margarita, and although he currently sports a 1-3 record, he has pitched to a 2.60 ERA in 10 starts. The righty, who ended the 2015 season with Southern Maryland, has struck out 32 batters in 52 innings of work. Perez is teammates with former Patriots outfielder Chris Marrero. Outfielder Trayvon Robinson, who was signed by the Ducks and reported to Spring Training last year before receiving a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is playing with Leones del Caracas. In four games, he has four hits in 15 at-bats with two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. He is joined on the club by four members of last year’s Patriots team (pitchers Mickey Storey, Buddy Boshers and Andrew Carignan along with outfielder Aharon Eggleston) as well as Bluefish pitcher Cory Riordan and Barnstormers pitcher Joe Gardner.

Here are the other recent Atlantic Leaguers playing winter ball this year in Venzuela:

Aguilas de Zulia – Sean Gallagher (Sugar Land), Zach Jackson (Lancaster), Edwin Quirarte (Somerset)

Cardenales de Lara – Rob Bryson (Camden), Carlos Guzman (Camden), Ildemaro Vargas (Bridgeport),

Caribes de Anzoategui – Cody Eppley (Lancaster/Southern Maryland), Sam Gervacio (Bridgeport), Daryl Thompson (Southern Maryland), Michael Burgess (Somerset), Jose Gil (Camden), Joe Testa (Somerset)

Tigres de Aragua – Marcus Walden (Lancaster)

Mexico
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The next stop on our Caribbean journey will be to Mexico, where we find another eight-team league. There are less Ducks connections currently playing in the country but still plenty of Atlantic Leaguers to talk about. The only member of the 2015 Ducks continuing their season south of the border is outfielder Delta Cleary, Jr. He is now playing with Yaquis de Obregon and has four hits and one RBI in 23 at-bats over seven games. Three other 2015 Atlantic Leaguers are teammates with him there, including Daryle Ward (Southern Maryland/Sugar Land), Dustin Martin (Sugar Land) and Ramon Delgado (Sugar Land).

Three other teams in Mexico have a player with a Ducks connection. The first team is Aguilas de Mexicali, who won the first half this year at 22-13. Infielder C.J. Retherford, who joined the Ducks late in 2014 and did the same with Bridgeport in 2015, is off to a hot start. He is batting .325 over 43 games with five homers, 25 RBI, 28 runs and nine doubles. Joining him on the squad are 2015 Atlantic League Player of the Year Welington Dotel, who is now leading the Mexican Pacific League with a .376 batting average, and Patriots pitcher Daniel Sattler.

Mayos de Navojoa is tied for first place in the second half and is currently has outfielder Quincy Latimore on the roster. Latimore signed with the Ducks in 2014 but was offered a contract with the Washington Nationals just prior to Spring Training. He has played in 45 games thus far and is batting .277 with seven home runs, 33 RBI, 20 runs and 12 doubles. Latimore is teammates currently with former Barnstormers Blake Gailen and Daniel Moskos.

Finally, relief pitcher David Kopp is currently with Caneros de los Mochis, who finished a game out of first place in the first half of the season and sits tied for first in the second half. However, the 2014 Duck has yet to appear in a game. Joining him on the squad are three guys who played with the Patriots last year: starting pitcher Lucas Irvine, starting pitcher Roy Merritt (who also pitched with Sugar Land), and infielder Matt Fields.

Here are the other 2015 Atlantic Leaguers playing right now in Mexico:

Charros de Jalisco – Michael Nix (Sugar Land), Will Oliver (Somerset), Amadeo Zazueta (Sugar Land)

Naranjeros de Hermosillo – Nate Reed (Lancaster), Jason Urquidez (Lancaster), Jerry Owens (Lancaster)

Tomateros de Culiacan – Nick Van Stratten (Bridgeport)

Venados de Mazatlan – Cyle Hankerd (Southern Maryland), Jon Weber (Sugar Land)

Dominican Republic
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Our final stop on this tour will be in the Dominican Winter League, which features six teams. Five of the six have an Atlantic League veteran on the roster. Like Navegantes de Magallanes, we talked about one previously on the blog. That was Aguilas Cibaenas, who ended up winning the inaugural Serie de las Americas. The roster features the only former Duck playing in the Dominican, and that is relief pitcher Donnie Veal. The southpaw and former big leaguer is currently being used as a situational reliever and is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four and two-thirds innings over 15 games. He is teammates there with four members of the Atlantic League from 2015: Sean Bierman (Patriots), Kameron Loe (Bridgeport), Kelvin Villa (Sugar Land) and Luis De La Cruz (York).

Tigres del Licey is in first place right now at 21-14. The team features two members of the York Revolution in shortstop Wilson Valdez and relief pitcher Leyson Septimo, the latter of which has a 1.69 ERA in 12 games. Estrellas de Oriente is in second place and has two Patriots pitchers on the roster in Randy Boone and Kramer Sneed. Sneed has thrown seven scoreless innings over two starts thus far. The only other team with multiple Atlantic Leaguers on the roster is Leones del Escogido. The roster there includes a pair of York Revolution pitchers in Edward Paredes and Julio DePaula. Paredes is pitching to a 0.96 ERA in 14 games. A couple of other former Atlantic Leaguers are also on the roster in Yunior Novoa (Lancaster, ‘11; York, ‘12-13) and Jarrett Grube (Southern Maryland, ‘09-10). The final two teams with 2015 Atlantic League players on the roster are Gigantes del Cibao, who have former Bluefish pitcher Robert Carson, and Toros del Este, who have former Patriots pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz.

That will do it for this week’s edition of the Wednesday Winter League Roundup. If there is anyone that you know of who is playing for a winter league team, please feel free to let us know. You can either note it in the comments section of this post or fill out a contact form on the blog. We hope to have some comments from some of the Ducks who are playing in the Caribbean in our winter roundup post.

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