Although baseball season has come to a close here in the United States, there is still plenty of news and action on the diamond around the world. Several Ducks alumni have been featured and spotlighted in various other leagues throughout the Far East and the Caribbean. Regular seasons have recently wrapped up over in Korea and Taiwan, while winter leagues are getting underway in countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Let’s catch up on what some former Ducks players have been up to in recent weeks:
KERN WINS THE CROWN
Long Island native Bruce Kern spent the 2018 season in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, marking his second full season and third year overall in Taiwan. The right-handed pitcher turned in outstanding numbers with the Flock in 2015 and 2016, combining to go 13-7 with a 3.02 ERA in 58 appearances (24 starts). In 170 innings of work, he struck out 163 batters and walked just 49. That performance earned him the opportunity to pitch in Taiwan with Brothers Baseball Club. He struggled initially in two starts at the end of 2016 and then battled injury in 2017 to go 8-5 with a 5.16 ERA. He returned to Long Island late last year but was limited to just one and two-thirds innings due to arm troubles.
Looking to bounce back in a big way during the 2018 season, Kern was signed by the Lamigo Monkeys, a club that has been home to several Ducks alumni in recent years. The Yaphank native did not disappoint, making 25 starts during the regular season and putting together a dazzling 13-3 record, ranking second in the league in wins, with a 3.28 ERA, good for third in the league. In 156.1 innings of work, a career-high, he struck out 110 batters. Kern’s efforts helped lead Lamigo all the way to the CPBL title, earning a 4-2 series victory over the Uni-President Lions. The championship marked Lamigo’s second title in a row and fourth in the past five years.
He also played some stellar defense:
Kern pitched Game One of the Taiwan Series against the Uni-President Lions, with his team leading 1-0 from the get-go after they won both halves of the regular season. Lamigo earned a 15-6 victory in a high-scoring series opener, with Kern tossing the first four innings of the game, yielding three earned runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts. The Lions were able to even up the series, thanks in part to two scoreless innings in Game Two by former New Britain Bees pitcher Andy Van Hekken. One of Kern’s teammates was former Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher Michael Nix, who threw six scoreless innings in Game Two but could not get the win. Lamigo would go on to win the series with victories in Games Four and Five, with Nix giving up just two runs (one earned) in five and two-thirds innings, picking up the win. Van Hekken contributed to the Lions’ loss, surrendering four runs in one-third of an inning out of the bullpen.
Here was Bruce addressing the fans after Lamigo’s win:
Congratulations to Bruce and the rest of the Lamigo Monkeys! Included in the group was former Duck Darin Downs, who made 10 starts with the club earlier in the season but struggled, going 4-3 with a 7.08 ERA. However…
DOWNS AND STRUCK CLAIM MEXICAN TITLE
Downs would come away with a title of his own after he signed south of the border with Sultanes de Monterrey in the Mexican League. The southpaw joined the team during the second half of their season and turned in a 3.42 ERA along with one save in 12 appearances (five starts). He pitched 26.1 innings, striking out 28 batters while walking seven. He was reunited on the team with another former Ducks pitcher in right-hander Nick Struck. The two hurlers were teammates together with the Flock in 2015 and 2016 and now had the opportunity to pitch together once again in Mexico. Struck posted a phenomenal season in 2018, making 41 appearances out of the bullpen for Monterrey. The righty compiled a miniscule 1.50 ERA, striking out 45 batters in 42 innings, walking just 14 and conceding only seven earned runs.
Despite a strong first half of the season, Monterrey would lose the first half championship to Leones de Yucatan in a thrilling seven-game series. However, Monterrey came back with a 4-2 series victory in the second half championship over Guerreros de Oaxaca. After dropping the series opener, the pair of Downs and Struck helped even the series in Game Two. Downs pitched two and one-third innings of one-run ball in relief, while Struck tossed back-to-back scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth innings. Struck threw another scoreless inning in the eighth of Game Three along with an inning and two-thirds of scoreless baseball in Game Four to put Monterrey up 3-1 in the series. The pair dazzled again in Game Five, with Downs pitching two and two-thirds hitless and scoreless innings before Struck threw two more innings of shutout ball, but Monterrey would drop the game in 10 innings. The series ended one game later with a walk-off victory at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey.
VALDESPIN TAKES MOUND IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
After an MVP season and a Liberty Division Championship in his first year with the Flock, Jordany Valdespin is not taking any time to sit back and catch his breath. The infielder is right back on the baseball diamond in his native country of the Dominican Republic, playing with Toros del Este in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. His bat remains hot, as Valdespin has posted a .333 batting average through 19 games. After leading the Atlantic League in hits (154) and runs scored (94) during the 2018 regular season, he is doing the same in winter ball, collecting 25 hits and 15 runs thus far to go along with a homer, eight RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .405 on-base percentage.
However, one of his more bizarre moments came early on in the winter season. In the team’s fourth game, they played an epic 19-inning contest against Tigres del Licey that saw Licey come away with a 7-5 victory. The game, which lasted eight hours and seven minutes, saw neither team score from the eighth inning through the 18th inning. Valdespin started the game in right field and went 2-for-5 at the plate with a double, an RBI and two walks. However, after his club had used 12 pitchers without being able to secure the win, Valdespin took the mound for the start of the 15th inning. Having pitched just one before in his professional career, allowing a run in two-thirds of an inning with Triple-A Toledo in 2016, no one knew what to expect.
All the right-hander would do was toss four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to keep the ballgame tied. He surrendered four hits and two walks while hitting a batter in that span but struck out three and failed to concede the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, his offense was unable to get him a victory, and Ruben Sosa allowed two runs in the 19th inning to give Licey the win. 2018 Ducks teammate Fernando Abad also pitched in the game for Toros del Este, throwing one and two-thirds perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts. Former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia started the game for Toros and pitched three innings of two-run ball. Current Met Dominic Smith is also on the team and was 0-for-8 with a walk in the game.
MIKE LOREE RE-UPS IN TAIWAN
Heading back over to the far east, we also wanted to give a quick shout-out to former Duck starting pitcher Mike Loree. The righty, who was selected by fans to the 15th Anniversary Ducks team in 2014, has become a staple while pitching in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. He just signed another contract with the Fubon Guardians for the 2019 season, which will be his seventh in the CPBL.
After his Triple Crown year of 2011 with the Ducks, in which he led the Atlantic League in wins (14), ERA (1.98) and strikeouts (131), Loree departed Long Island for Taiwan during the 2012 season. He has since pitched two seasons with the Lamigo Monkeys, two with the EDA Rhinos and two with Fubon. In his six seasons combined, he has accrued a 72-41 record, a 3.26 ERA, 797 strikeouts and just 189 walks over 970.2 innings of work. He has made 154 appearances (150 starts) in that span, winning a championship in 2016 with the Rhinos and 2012 with Lamigo. His only break from the CPBL was in 2014 when he spent the season with KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization.
This past season, Loree helped Fubon to the semifinals of the postseason before they were defeated. During the regular season, he led the Chinese Professional Baseball League in strikeouts with 157. His 3.47 ERA was good for fourth in the league, while his 10 wins ranked fifth. Loree was 10-8 overall in 26 starts and walked only 16 batters in 161 innings of work according to the league site. That stat might be the most impressive of all.
Congratulations to all of those who claimed championships during the 2018 season, and best of luck to those currently playing winter baseball around the world!
You won’t find too many ballplayers stepping on a baseball diamond this time of year in the northeast. Even with temperatures still reaching into the 50’s as we reach late-November, the weather is simply not favorable for those looking to stay in shape during baseball’s offseason. With that in mind, several Long Island Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have received opportunities to make the trek south and play ball outside of the United States this winter.
The Caribbean Winter Leagues have begun in three of the four countries thus far: Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Due to the impact of Hurricane Maria earlier this year, Puerto Rico has yet to see the start of winter baseball. The league, which was slated to begin on November 15, has elected to delay the start of its campaign until January 6 and will hold an abbreviated schedule for this year. In addition, this past week marked the beginning of play “down under” in the Australian Baseball League, where several 2017 Atlantic Leaguers are participating.
Let’s go country by country to highlight those who are taking part in this year’s winter baseball leagues:
Venezuela features eight teams spread out across the country. Since the league opened play back on October 10, each team has played between 30 and 35 games thus far. Leones del Caracas currently maintains a three-and-a-half game lead for first place at 23-12, which can be partially attributed to a terrific pitching staff. 2008 Long Island Duck Jason Simontacchi is the team’s pitching coach, and among those he is watching over are three members of the 2017 Somerset Patriots. They are right-handed pitchers Lucas Irvine and David Kubiak, along with left-hander Efrain Nieves. In addition, outfielder Trayvon Robinson is also on the squad after having spent this past year with the Lancaster Barnstormers. Robinson previously was with the Ducks in spring training prior to the 2015 season before being signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would go on to play with Somerset and Lancaster in 2016.
Two other former Ducks are also coaching in Venezuela. Tiburones de La Guaira features Luis Rodriguez as its bench coach under manager Ozzie Guillen. Rodriguez was part of Long Island’s 2004 championship team and most recently served as manager of the Bridgeport Bluefish. York Revolution alumnus Liu Rodriguez is also on the staff as the third base coach. The roster includes eight players who were in the Atlantic League during the 2017 season. Henderson Alvarez, a starting pitcher for the Ducks before making his way back to the Major Leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, is one of them. The others include Atlantic League Player of the Year Alonzo Harris and Post-Season All-Star Isaias Tejeda (York), 2016 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Jonathan Albaladejo and Ozney Guillen (Bridgeport), 2017 All-Defensive Team selection Jake Hale (Sugar Land), Dustin Antolin (Somerset) and Brad Bergesen (Lancaster). The other squad is Navegantes del Magallanes, which currently has 2008 Duck Richard Hidalgo on staff as an assistant hitting coach. Their roster includes Hassan Pena (Somerset), who leads the league right now with 11 saves, and Jerome Williams (Somerset), who previously went from Lancaster to the big leagues.
Only one other 2017 Duck is playing in the league currently. Right-handed pitcher Wanel Mesa, who made a brief appearance with Long Island in August, is on the roster for Tigres de Aragua. He is teammates with infielder Alberto Callaspo, who began 2017 with Bridgeport and whose rights are now owned by Somerset.
The Venezuelan Winter League’s other four teams combine to include 18 players who spent time in the Atlantic League during the 2017 campaign. Here is a list of those players:
|Aguilas de Zulia||Bravos de Margarita|
|Julio DePaula (York, Sugar Land)||Manny Corpas (York, Sugar Land)|
|Cody Hall (Lancaster)||Logan Darnell (Somerset)|
|Reinier Roibal (Bridgeport)||Jay Gause (York)|
|David Vidal (Somerset)||Scott Maine (Sugar Land)|
|Dayron Varona (York)||Anthony Marzi (New Britain)|
|Felipe Paulino (Sugar Land)|
|Cardenales de Lara|
|Ricardo Gomez (York)||Caribes de Anzoategui|
|Chase Huchingson (York)||Daryl Thompson (Southern Maryland)|
|Ryan Kelly (Somerset)||Edwin Garcia (Southern Maryland)|
|Gustavo Molina (Bridgeport)||Michael Crouse (New Britain)|
The Dominican Republic has a league that is a bit smaller than Venezuela, hosting just six teams in total. However, the decrease in teams does not represent a major off in terms of Atlantic League talent. A total of 17 Atlantic League alumni from the 2017 season are now playing baseball this winter in the Dominican. The league began play back on October 13, and with approximately 25 games played thus far, the race is tight at the top of the league. Estrellas de Oriente sits in first at 16-9, but they are only ahead by a half-game.
Right behind Estrellas is Gigantes del Cibao at 16-10 thus far. Much of their success thus far has been due to a sparkling team ERA of 2.76 and a league-high 189 strikeouts. Sure enough, their roster includes two members of the 2017 Long Island Ducks. Former Major League pitchers Rafael Perez and Alfredo Simon, who were both in Long Island’s starting rotation, are off to strong starts with the team. Perez has been pitching out of the bullpen and has made nine scoreless appearances, spanning six and one-third innings of work. Simon has pitched in three games (two starts) and has a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA over nine innings of action. Also on the club is pitcher Patrick Johnson (Somerset).
Leones del Escogido currently has a member of the 2017 Ducks on its roster along with another pitcher that could potentially be on next year’s roster. Lefty pitcher Dustin Richardson, who began the year with Sugar Land before eventually signing with the Flock, is included on the roster but has yet to appear in a game. Another southpaw, Wander Perez, spent time last year with the Bluefish but now has his rights owned by the Ducks following the Bluefish Player Dispersal Draft. He has walked the only batter than he has faced thus far. Among their teammates are former York Revolution pitcher Edward Paredes, who reached the big leagues with the Dodgers this past year, Yankees outfielder Tyler Austin and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The following are the remaining 2017 Atlantic Leaguers who are playing in the Dominican Republic:
|Aguilas Cibaenas||Toros del Este|
|Angel Franco (York)||Bryan Evans (Lancaster)|
|Pat McCoy (Southern Maryland)|
|Estrellas de Oriente||Elvin Ramirez (Bridgeport)|
|Dustin Molleken (Somerset)||Cory Riordan (Bridgeport)|
|Luis Cruz (York)|
|Tigres del Licey||Jonathan Galvez (Bridgeport)|
|Keith Hessler (Somerset)||Sean Halton (Lancaster)|
|Kevin Munson (Lancaster)|
|Angelys Nina (Bridgeport)|
Our last stop in the Caribbean takes us south of the border to Mexico. Just like Venezuela, the league features eight teams across the nation. Only nine members of the Atlantic League’s 2017 rosters are currently down in Mexico, but there are four Ducks alumni from previous years playing and two others that are coaching. A three-way tie exists for first place 35 games into the season, which began back on October 10.
Tomateros de Culiacan are one of the three squads sitting at 20-15 thus far. Among their coaching staff is Robinson Cancel, the former big league catcher who put together an excellent season offensively with the Flock in 2010. The roster also includes two players who were in the Atlantic League this past season. Outfielder D’Arby Myers, who ended the year with the league’s highest batting average at .337, is joined in the outfield by Andy Wilkins. Wilkins began the year with Sugar Land before having his contract purchased by the Minnesota Twins in June.
The other two teams tied with Tomateros are Venados de Mazatlan and Naranjeros de Hermosillo. The roster for Venados currently includes former Ducks pitcher Nick Struck. After spending two seasons with Long Island, the righty pitched in Mexico during the 2017 campaign for Sultanes de Monterrey and went 3-0 with a 2.09 ERA in 41 relief appearances. He has a 1.17 ERA and one save thus far in seven relief appearances with Venados. Naranjeros currently has former Bees pitcher Casey Coleman, who began the season with New Britain before having his contract purchased by the Houston Astros in May.
One game out of first place with a 19-16 record is Charros de Jalisco. Their staff includes 2010 and 2011 Duck Javier Colina as hitting coach. Their roster also includes three Atlantic League alumni from this past season. Joining 2017 ALPB Pitcher of the Year Gaby Hernandez (Southern Maryland) are pitcher Will Oliver (Somerset) and infielder Rico Noel (Lancaster).
Aguilas de Mexicali does not have any players from this past ALPB season but does have two former Ducks on the roster. Right-handed pitcher Ryan Kussmaul, a 2015 Duck who nearly won a championship with the Wichita Wingnuts this past year, has a 1.72 ERA and 10 saves in 16 games thus far. Infielder C.J. Retherford, a 2014 Duck that played in Mexico and for the Sussex County Miners in 2017, has five homers and 18 RBI in 35 games.
Mayos de Navojoa has a roster which includes outfielder Quincy Latimore, who joined the Ducks for spring training back in 2014 before his contract was purchased by the Washington Nationals. Also on the club are infielder Jovan Rosa (New Britain) and pitcher Daniel Moskos (Lancaster). Rounding out the Atlantic League alumni playing in Mexico is infielder Olmo Rosario. He is currently on Caneros de los Mochis, joined by former Patriot and Skeeter Roy Merritt, who pitched in Mexico this past regular season.
We’ll close out our first look at this year’s winter baseball roster by heading around the world to Australia. The league has just begun for the six teams that make up the circuit, and two squads are out to perfect starts. The Sydney Blue Sox lead the way at 4-0, and although they do not feature any ALPB alumni, the defending champion Brisbane Bandits do. Among the squad, which has started out 3-0, is right-handed pitcher Zac Treece. He won a championship with the club last year and has gone to the Atlantic League Championship Series with the Ducks in each of the past two seasons as well. The side-armer has recorded a strikeout and a walk to this point with Brisbane.
Right behind Brisbane in the standings is the Perth Heat, who jumped out a 3-1 start this year. Their roster includes right-handed pitcher Kyle Simon, who led the Atlantic League with six complete games as a member of the New Britain Bees in 2017. He allowed four runs (two earned) in two and two-thirds innings of relief but struck out five during his only outing thus far.
The roster featuring the most ALPB alumni is that of the Canberra Cavalry. Three players on that squad were in the Atlantic League last year. They include pitchers Frank Gailey and Michael Click, who won a championship with York, and pitcher Brian Grening, who collected the win for the Freedom Division at the Atlantic League All-Star Game while representing Southern Maryland. Finally, pitcher Mark Hamburger is currently with the Melbourne Aces in Australia. The right-hander joined Somerset late in the year and earned the win in Game One of the Liberty Division Championship Series.
That will do it for this look around the winter baseball leagues currently taking place. If you know of any player currently playing abroad that we may have missed in this report, please let us know in the comments section or by filling out a contact form. As the seasons all progress, we will be sure to provide further updates here on the blog. Stay tuned!
Just two more great memories remain on our Top Moments of 2016 countdown! It has been a fun countdown thus far with all of the outstanding achievements and exciting wins that took place throughout the year. Most recently, we unveiled our #3 moment: the 6-1 win over the Skeeters on July 2 that saw the Ducks clinch the First Half Liberty Division title and John Brownell become the winningest pitcher in franchise history. Before we can drink some egg nog, light candles and flip the calendar to 2017, we must find out our final two moments on the list.
The Ducks have attracted more fans to their games than any other team in the Atlantic League. In fact, they have been one of the most successful franchises in all of professional baseball, filling the ballpark to near-100% capacity since the inaugural 2000 season. As the 2016 season began, the team was approximately 350,000 fans away from reaching the magical 7 million fan milestone, knowing that if it would be reached during the regular season, it would likely come in one of the final few games. Sure enough, fate would have it that the moment would come during home game #70.
A Fanatical Finale – September 11, 2016
With a postseason berth wrapped up and a first round rematch with the Somerset Patriots set, there was no too much that needed to be determined in the final weeks of the 2016 season. With several team records achieved and plenty of wins accumulated, many in the Ducks organization hoped to be able to celebrate another accomplishment with their fans who made it possible. Entering the final three home games of the season, Long Island sat just over 16,077 fans away from reaching the magical 7 million fan mark. That meant the team would need to average over 5,300 fans per game during the final home series to achieve the milestone.
Not only were the Ducks eager to reach the mark, but the fans showed a great desire to see the team reach the mark as well. Past-capacity crowds of 6,802 on September 9 and 7,220 on September 10 put the Ducks just about 2,000 fans shy of the mark entering the home season finale. It was undoubtedly clear that the moment would indeed come in 2016. As the gates opened on a beautiful Sunday for Fan Appreciation Day, folks began streaming through the gates in hopes of being the lucky one to push the Ducks over the brink. As the counter kept clicking, it finally reached the milestone number when Victoria Sardegna passed through the turnstiles. The Riverhead resident, attending the game with her son, T.J., and his dad, Tim, was overjoyed upon learning the news.
The family received a day at the ballpark they would never forget. As the lucky 7 millionth fan, Victoria was presented with a commemorative team jersey with the words “7 Million” displayed on the back and the number “16” to represent 2016, in which the milestone was achieved. All three received the opportunity to enjoy the “Best Seat in the House” for the entire game, and Victoria’s name was displayed on the scoreboard. Finally, she received an autographed bat from the entire team, a $250 gift card from Bethpage Federal Credit Union and a luxury suite for her and 19 of her closest friends for Opening Night of the 2017 season on Long Island.
To top it all off, the Ducks gave her a victory to celebrate the day. Long Island opened up the game with an RBI double by Dan Lyons and a sac fly by Lew Ford in the first inning. They increased the lead to 4-0 in the fourth thanks to a two-run home run by Cody Puckett. Nick Struck also was strong on the mound, striking out eight batters in six and two-thirds innings and not allowing a run through the first six innings. York threatened to ruin the day when Bryan Pounds hit a three-run homer in the seventh, but that was as close as they would come. Lyons’ triple in the eighth pushed the lead back to two, and Amalio Diaz sealed the game in dramatic fashion, striking out three consecutive batters with the tying runs in scoring position. It was a thrilling end to a memorable day at the ballpark in Central Islip.
President and General Manager Michael Pfaff commented after welcoming the lucky fan, “There is truly no better day to reach this milestone and recognize the tremendous support of Long Islanders than on Fan Appreciation Day. We are proud to have welcomed 7 million fans since our inaugural season and eternally grateful for all that have shared this experience with us.”
Tomorrow, we unveil our Top Moment of 2016! You won’t want to miss it, as it was one of the greatest days in franchise history and a memory that fans, players, coaches and front office staffers will never forget. Come back and visit “Quack of the Bat” on Friday afternoon as we look back at our #1 moment from this past year.
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:
GAME TIME/LOCATION: 6:35 p.m. at Bethpage Ballpark (Central Islip, NY)
TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Long Island Ducks return home looking to experience déjà vu all over again, needing a repeat of their miraculous performance in the Liberty Division Championship Series in order to claim the Atlantic League trophy. The Ducks trail the Sugar Land Skeeters two games to none just as they did against the Somerset Patriots. Down 2-0 last weekend, the Ducks topped the Patriots in three straight games to win the series. Against Sugar Land at home, the Ducks have posted a 6-4 record, outscoring the Skeeters 47-30 in 2016.
GAME TWO RESULT: With a late-inning home run, the Skeeters escaped the Ducks to win Game Two, 2-0.
Both starting pitchers had tremendous outings. Sugar Land’s Michael Nix fired six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Matt Larkins followed suit, pitching five scoreless innings as well.
However, with two outs in the sixth, Larkins hit Skeeters batter Jeremy Barfield. The Ducks starter was lifted for left-handed reliever Patrick Crider, who came on to face Sugar Land lefty Travis Scott. Crider’s first pitch was cranked over the right-field wall. Scott’s home run gave the Skeeters a 2-0 lead.
Nix grabbed the win, while Larkins suffered the tough-luck loss for Long Island. He yielded just two hits and one run over five and two-thirds innings.
Delta Cleary Jr.’s three hits, along with Tyler Colvin’s double, led the Flock offensively.
ON THE MOUND: Nick Struck finds himself in a familiar situation, looking to pitch well in a must-win playoff game for the Ducks. Struck beat the Somerset Patriots six days ago in the Liberty Division Championship Series, facing an 0-2 hole. The Oregon native tossed seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in a 4-1 Long Island victory. The right-hander faced the Skeeters on August 20 at Constellation Field, a game in which the Ducks won in extra innings, 5-4. In that contest, he worked five and one-third innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
Sean Gallagher makes his second postseason appearance for Sugar Land. Gallagher started Game One of the Freedom Division Championship Series but did not factor into the decision. He surrendered one earned run over five innings, striking out two. Against Long Island on September 14, his most recent meeting against the Flock, Gallagher yielded three runs on four hits and two walks, fanning five over five innings in a 4-3 Skeeters loss. Overall, the Texas native has faced Long Island five times, posting a 1-2 record but a strong ERA of 2.03.
FOLLOW ALONG: Fans can watch live via the Ducks’ official YouTube channel. Streaming video and audio will be available online below. In addition to updates in this post, fans can follow a pitch-by-pitch account of tonight’s game via Pointstreak’s Game Live application by CLICKING HERE.
#23 Fehlandt Lentini – RF
#12 Dan Lyons – SS
#5 Delta Cleary Jr. – CF
#20 Lew Ford – DH
#2 Cody Puckett – 3B
#32 Tyler Colvin – 1B
#15 Ruben Gotay – 2B
#29 Mike Dowd – C
#27 Anthony Vega – LF
#24 Nick Struck – RHP
#7 Josh Prince – 2B
#9 Rene Tosoni – CF
#29 Jeremy Barfield – RF
#16 Travis Scott – DH
#24 Delwyn Young – 1B
#14 Lance Zawadski – SS
#5 Wilfredo Rodriguez – C
#26 Jeff Dominguez – LF
#10 Juan Martinez – 3B
#36 Sean Gallagher – RHP
UPDATE (7:00): BOT 1: The Ducks strike first with a double steal! Fehlandt Lentini scores from third base, giving Long Island a 1-0 lead over the Sugar Land Skeeters.
UPDATE (7:29): END 3: Cody Puckett flies out to center field, stranding the bases loaded. Long Island still leads Sugar Land 1-0.
UPDATE (7:39): TOP 4: Lance Zawadski’s two-run double gives Sugar Land a 2-1 lead over Long Island.
UPDATE (8:00): BOT 5: Long Island takes the lead! Ford doubles in a run and then scores on a Skeeters error! The Ducks have a 3-2 advantage.
UPDATE (8:09): TOP 6: HUGE! After a Skeeters leadoff triple by Rene Tosoni, Nick Struck gets the next three to keep the Ducks in front 3-2!
UPDATE (8:26): TOP 7: Sugar Land plates three runs, taking a 5-3 lead over Long Island. Prince’s two-run single highlights the inning.
UPDATE (9:19): FINAL: The Ducks fall 5-3 to the Skeeters in Game Three. Congrats to the Sugar Land Skeeters organization on winning the Atlantic League Championship!