Now that all four leagues are underway, I can provide a more complete look at how our Tigers are doing. First, a brief look at the standings. The current league leaders are the Estrellas de Oriente (Dominican Republic, 18-9), the Algodoneros de Guasave/Tomateros de Culiacan (Mexico, both with a 19-13 record), the Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico, 6-3), and the Navegantes del Magallanes (Venezuela, 20-11). However, as I’ve said before, most teams are pretty bunched together in terms of record, and with the constant turnover of players, big surges and collapses are not uncommon.
Second, you may notice that there might be some names missing from the list that were there last time. Like last year, anytime a player has not appeared in a game since my last update, I will not include him in the current update, and oftentimes, I will not know why he has not played, so usually I won’t provide an explanation (If I do find one, I will include it at the bottom with the rest of the news). Also, some of the players listed may be officially minor league free agents (I’ve noticed some guys are no longer listed on MLB.com’s roster pages as being affiliated with Detroit). However, I’m going to keep updating them unless I get word that they’ve signed with another team, because that is a lot easier than taking them off the list now and then having to add them back if they re-sign with the Tigers.
And with those two points out of the way, it’s time to get to the updates. All stats are current to November 19th.
Kelvin de la Cruz (LHP, Aguilas Cibaenas)- 6 G, 0-1, 3.60 ERA, 10.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 15 K: De la Cruz is still striking guys out at a respectable rate, but his last two outings have been a little shaky. His last outing (on the 14th) was the one in which he took the loss, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning.
Audy Ciriaco (SS, Aguilas Cibaenas)- 12 G, 31 AB, .226 AVG, .278 OBP, 3 RBI: Ciriaco seems to have been given more of a reserve role, since he’s only appeared in three games since the last update, and none since November 11th. He’s only managed one hit in that span, although he does also have three walks (and this is not a guy who walks very often).
Ramon Lebron (RHP, Gigantes del Cibao)- 1 G, 0-0, -.– ERA, 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K: Lebron is a new addition to this list since last time. He split time this year between Connecticut and West Michigan, compiling a 1-1 record and a 5.36 ERA in 48.2 innings between the two leagues. He has only appeared in one game for the Gigantes, which was on November 8th, and from the looks of things, it did not go well. He gave up one run on one hit and two walks while failing to retire a single batter.
Ramon Garcia (LHP, Leones del Escogido)- 11 G, 2-1, 4.19 ERA, 19.1 IP, 17 H, 9 ER, 7 BB, 19 K: Garcia has appeared in four games since the last update and has given up runs in three of the four. Granted, one involved 3.2 innings of relief where he gave up two runs (only one earned) and got the win, and that’s generally a satisfactory job for a long reliever. His scoreless appearance involved 3 innings of 3-hit ball. However, his last outing (on the 16th) only lasted one-third of an inning and he gave up two earned runs.
Melvin Mercedes (RHP, Toros del Este)- 3 G, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K: The Tigers are limiting Mercedes’ innings, but he has appeared in two games since the last update. The first was a scoreless inning on November 6th. The second was on the 12th and didn’t go so well. He gave up three runs (two earned) on two hits and a walk in one inning.
James Avery (RHP, Algodoneros de Guasave)- 4 G, 2-0, 4.66 ERA, 19.1 IP, 20 H, 10 ER, 8 BB, 15 K: Avery has only appeared in one game since the last update, and it was on November 8th (He’s also listed on the MLB.com roster as “reserve” and I’m not quite sure what they mean by that, since it’s the first time I’ve ever seen that and there are players in other leagues listed as “active” that I know for a fact are not on their team’s active roster). It was a decent start for a winter ball game. He went five innings and gave up two runs on two hits and a walk, ending up with a no-decision.
Efrain Nieves (LHP, Criollos de Caguas)- 4 G, 0-2, 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 2 K: Nieves pitched 42 innings of relief at Connecticut this year, compiling a 4-1 record and a 2.79 ERA. It’s worth noting that he had 42 strikeouts against only eight walks. That control has not been there for him so far in Puerto Rico. His only scoreless outing included two walks. Since then, he’s had one outing where he gave up two home runs (and three earned runs total), and another where he gave up two earned runs on four hits and three walks in 2.1 innings. His last outing was only a third of an inning and again it resulted in a run scoring, although this was unearned.
Alex Burgos (LHP, Indios de Mayaguez)- 2 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K: Burgos was a starter for Lakeland this year (with two relief appearances thrown in). He had an 8-10 record with a 4.90 ERA in 121.1 innings for the Flying Tigers. He’s pitching out of the bullpen for the Indios and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s under an inning limit, because he’s only appeared in two games and only for one inning each. As such, it’s hard to really gauge anything at this point. Walks seem to be a bit of an issue, and although it’s a small sample size in terms of winter ball, I will point out that he walked 88 batters (and struck out 78) in Lakeland this year, so it appears that command is still a work in progress.
Justin Henry (OF, Aguilas del Zulia)- 26 G, 86 AB, .267 AVG, 5 2B, .402 OBP, 11 RBI: This will probably be the last update on Justin Henry, as he had only planned to play about half a season in Venezuela, and that time is up, although he’s considering returning for the playoffs if the Aguilas qualify. He kind of slowed down at the plate near the end. He only went 4 for his last 18 (3 singles and a triple), although he still took his walks (for the season, he had 20 walks against 8 strikeouts).
Jose Alvarez (LHP, Caribes de Anzoategui)- 11 G, 0-3, 2.84 ERA, 25.1 IP, 20 H, 8 ER, 12 BB, 18 K: The Tigers signed Alvarez to a minor league deal the day after my last update. He spent this season as a starting pitcher in the Marlins system and had a 6-9 record with a 4.22 ERA for Double A Jacksonville. He’s expected to pitch for the Mud Hens next year. He began the winter ball season as a reliever but three of his last four appearances have been starts. There’s nothing eye-popping about his numbers but he’s been doing a decent job in the starter/long-relief role once you consider that he’s still being stretched out.
Niuman Romero (IF, Caribes de Anzoategui)- 31 G, 119 AB, .235 AVG, 7 2B, .303 OBP, 15 RBI: Romero started off the season well enough, but he has gotten into a big-time slump that has seen his average plummet significantly. He is 6 for his last 38 with only one run scored and 2 RBIs in that span. He also has ten strikeouts and only three walks in that time. This is someone that was a key part of the Caribes’ offense, especially in the postseason last year, so they’re going to need him to step up (although help may be on the way; details later).
Victor Larez (RHP, Leones del Caracas)- 18 G, 1-0, 0.44 ERA, 20.1 IP, 13 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 17 K: I know that Bruce Rondon is probably the Tigers pitcher currently in winter ball that fans in the United States are paying the most attention to (and with good reason), but one could make a solid case for Victor Larez having the most impressive season so far. In his 20.1 innings pitched (mostly as a long reliever), he has given up one run. One. And he gets used a lot, because the Leones have had issues with their starting pitchers not giving them many innings. Apparently, he’s featuring a much-improved slider, and he’s crediting that with his success (and unfortunately, I foolishly did not bookmark the article about this and now I can’t find it). I don’t really consider him a darkhorse candidate for making the Tigers out of spring training or anything like that, but I’m starting to think it’ll be worth keeping an eye on him.
Wilsen Palacios (RHP, Leones del Caracas)- 9 G, 0-1, 7.45 ERA, 9.2 IP, 14 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 8 K: Palacios has been struggling of late. He’s given up runs in three of his last four outings (including a four-run outing on November 6th). Walks are a bit of an issue, but he’s also given up 8 hits in that span. However, he did pitch a scoreless inning his last time out, on the 17th, so we’ll have to see what happens.
Hernan Perez (IF, Leones del Caracas)- 22 G, 59 AB, .254 AVG, 15 H, .279 OBP, 11 RBI: Perez’s average has dropped off quite a bit since the last update, but it is now closer to what it was in Lakeland, and he’s more valued for his glove than his bat anyways. However, he did play a big part in yesterday’s win for the Leones, knocking in the tying run with a single to cap a comeback from a 5-0 deficit in the sixth inning.
Bruce Rondon (RHP, Navegantes del Magallanes)- 10 G, 4-0, 0.90 ERA, 4 SV, 10.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 13 K: I’m still not sure what the Tigers’ motivations are in constantly bringing his name up in closer talk (one would think this might backfire in that if he keeps getting hyped like this, fans will be likely to accept nothing less than perfection from him), but odds are he’ll be added to the 40-man roster tomorrow in preparation for the Rule 5 draft. At any rate, he’s gone on a strikeout binge since the last update (mostly thanks to a pair of outings where he struck out the side). He finally made an appearance on the road on the 16th (in which he picked up the save while giving up a hit and a walk). I was puzzled by his lack of road appearances, but his team’s record may have something to do with it. Magallanes has an insanely good 13-2 home record, but on the road, they’re 7-9. Also, I’m starting to think they’re not allowing him to throw in back-to-back games. On November 15th, Magallanes went into the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead, but they didn’t use Rondon (who had pitched the night before; the guy they did use ended up blowing the save and giving up a walk-off home run, for what it’s worth). In fact, he has not pitched on back-to-back days yet. I’m not sure if that’s a mandate from the Tigers or if Magallanes are trying to be economical with him given his 20-inning limit, or if I’m reading too much into it. The save opportunities should increase. Magallanes is set to have the strongest roster in terms of major league talent, with Carlos Zambrano, Jose Altuve, Elvis Andrus, and Pablo Sandoval all expected to participate in December.
Jose Ortega (RHP, Navegantes del Magallanes)- 7 G, 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 12.0 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 13 K: Like Rondon, Ortega has had a strikeout binge since the last update, although he’s only appeared in two games in that time. Most of that came in an appearance on the 7th, where he pitched 2.2 innings, gave up a solo home run and a walk, and struck out five (and got the win). His other outing since the last update was on the 14th. He pitched two innings, giving up one run on one hit and a walk with one strikeout.
Argenis Diaz (SS, Navegantes del Magallanes)- 10 G, 20 AB, .150 AVG, 3 H, .250 OBP, 2 RBI: I mentioned last time that Diaz had been taken off the roster and I doubted I would ever find out why. As it turns out, he was dealing with a foot injury and was put back on the roster last week. However, he was still listed as day-to-day (I’m not sure whether it was the same injury or not) and did not appear in a game until yesterday. As such, there’s not a whole lot to report on. He did have a hit, a run, and 2 RBIs, so hopefully his offensive woes were related to the injury.
Yorfrank Lopez (RHP, Tiburones de La Guaira)- 5 G, 0-0, 3.14 ERA, 14.1 IP, 15 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 10 K: Lopez has made three starts for the Tiburones since the last update, but he hasn’t pitched more than three innings in any of them. He’s had to deal with quite a few baserunners in his starts, although his defense hasn’t helped him. He gave up three unearned runs in 2.2 innings in his last start. However, he’s also given up quite a few hits in his starts.
And now for some other news from the LVBP:
-Luis Angel Sanz has been recovering from an oblique injury. He was added back to the Leones del Caracas roster today.
-Brayan Villarreal is expected to join the Caribes in the next few days to begin training and getting game-ready (He was originally set to debut on December 1st, but it may happen sooner than that). The Tigers are limiting him to 15 innings, but the big news is that he will be the closer for the Caribes during that time.
-This should not be surprising, but Omar Infante (who wanted to play winter ball if he was named to the World Baseball Classic roster) will not participate in the LVBP this year due to breaking his hand in the World Series. Another unsurprising piece of news is that Victor Martinez also will not play (that comes from Carlos Rios, who is part of the front office for the Caribes de Anzoategui).