As we head into the final weeks of the regular season, your current league leaders are the Aguilas Cibaeñas/Estrellas de Oriente (Dominican Republic, both 30-17), the Tomateros de Culiacan (Mexico, 13-7), the Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico, 18-10), and the Leones del Caracas/Navegantes del Magallanes (Venezuela, 30-24). Also, I must bid farewell to two players that I’ve been providing updates on, as they are no longer in the Tigers organization. Efrain Nieves was taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft (though for some reason, the roster still lists him as being with Detroit) and Niuman Romero has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles. However, there are still seventeen players to give updates on, plus a few news stories, so let’s get going. Updates are current to December 16th.
Audy Ciriaco (SS, Aguilas Cibaeñas)- 15 G, 38 AB, .211 AVG, .256 OBP, 3 RBI: After almost a month with no game action (again, I don’t really have news resources in the Dominican Republic, so I have no idea why), Ciriaco appeared in three games spanning about a week, but has not played since December 8th. However, he only got one hit in that span, and only made one start, in which he went 0-for-5.
Ramon Garcia (LHP, Leones del Escogido)- 23 G, 3-2, 3.42 ERA, 26.1 IP, 22 H, 15 R, 10 ER, 14 BB, 24 K: Garcia has only given up one unearned run since the last update. The Leones are continuing to use him as a lefty specialist, although he did have a two-inning appearance on December 5th. All of his outings since then have been one inning or less.
Ramon Santiago (IF, Leones del Escogido)- 17 G, 67 AB, .358 AVG, 24 H, 1 HR, 5 SB, .434 OBP, 9 RBI: Santiago’s hot hitting hasn’t slowed down. If anything, it’s gotten hotter. He’s only gone hitless in two of his last ten games, and six of those were two-hit games. His lone home run came on December 7th, and he’s had three doubles in that span. Hopefully, this winter ball stint will help him the way Leyland expects it to, and he can take this into the MLB season. As a side note, why does his player page have a picture of him in a Mud Hens uniform? He hasn’t played for the Mud Hens since 2008 (and that was a rehab assignment). I know for a fact that there are plenty of player pages with head shots from this year, so I’m not sure why his hasn’t been updated.
Melvin Mercedes (RHP, Toros del Este)- 4 G, 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 3.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K: I missed this in my last update, but Mercedes did make an appearance on December 1st. He hasn’t made an appearance since then, but for the sake of completeness, I will report that it was a scoreless inning that included a strikeout.
James Avery (RHP, Algodoneros de Guasave)- 7 G, 4-0, 3.79 ERA, 38.0 IP, 40 H, 16 ER, 10 BB, 28 K: After a period of time on the “reserve” list (and it seems as though the Mexican league is the only one that uses this designation), Avery is back in action. He’s made three starts since the last update, and they’ve all been decent (1 run in 5 innings, 3 runs in 6.2 innings, and 2 runs in 7 innings). He’s kept walks to a minimum, although he has given up five home runs this season (though he seems to be pretty good at limiting the damage).
Jamie Johnson (OF, Caneros de los Mochis)- 20 G, 71 AB, .268 AVG, 19 H, 3 2B, .373 OBP, 3 RBI: Johnson has not appeared in a game since December 9th, but prior to that, he was in a big slump. His last hit was on December 4th, and then went hitless for five games.
Alex Burgos (LHP, Indios de Mayaguez)- 7 G, 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 8.0 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4 K: After a good start, Burgos has hit a little bit of a rough patch recently. His team has started to use him as a long reliever, and his appearances are very widely spread out. As a matter of fact, he’s only made two appearances since the last update. One was on December 4th, where he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. His last appearance was December 15th. He gave up one run on four hits in 2.1 innings (and got the win).
Carlos Monasterios (RHP, Bravos de Margarita)- 5 G, 0-3, 7.50 ERA, 18.0 IP, 27 H, 15 ER, 9 BB, 7 K: The LVBP had a really light schedule last week. Monday and Tuesday was their All-Star Break (more on that later), and there were no games yesterday because it was Election Day in Venezuela. The Bravos de Margarita have a particularly messed-up schedule. They’ve had several games postponed by rain, only to have their makeup doubleheaders also be postponed by rain or travel difficulties for their opponents (Their ballpark is on an island). At any rate, Monasterios has only made one start since the last update. On December 13th, he went six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits and a walk with two strikeouts (and, for the record, it seems like the entirety of LVBP position players have become very good at fouling off pitches and not striking out, because strikeout numbers seem to be down for the majority of pitchers I’ve been looking at).
Jose Alvarez (LHP, Caribes de Anzoategui)- 15 G, 1-4, 2.60 ERA, 45.0 IP, 35 H, 16 R, 13 ER, 14 BB, 26 K: Alvarez finally got his first win of the season on December 7th, and it was a gem. He carried a no-hitter for 6.2 innings (I believe Pablo Sandoval was the one who hit the single to break it up) and ended up pitching seven innings of 1-hit ball. His follow-up on December 14th was unfortunately not as strong. He only lasted 1.1 innings and gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk.
Brayan Villarreal (RHP, Caribes de Anzoategui)- 3 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K: Ah, fun times. As far as I know, they still plan for Villarreal to close for the Caribes, although for his first two appearances (December 6th and December 8th), he was brought in for the 8th inning and earned two holds in the process (and the one thing that did disappoint me is that I REALLY wanted him to get Pablo Sandoval out because of what happened in the World Series, but he walked him; this may have been semi-intentional on his part, because he did not have trouble throwing strikes to anyone else and he got the next guy out easily). Since then, there hasn’t been a save opportunity for him or anyone else on the team. I know for a fact that he warmed up for the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game, but the other team’s first baseman made an error with two out in the top of the ninth and the Caribes scored three runs, turning what had been a 4-1 game into a 7-1 game and once it wasn’t a save situation, they had someone else pitch the ninth (The TV broadcasters sounded rather disappointed at this development). The Caribes then lost their next three games. He pitched the eighth inning on Friday when his team was down 5-4, presumably to get some work in. I can’t really analyze a small sample of three innings (especially since I’ve only seen one of them), but it seems like things are going well so far. He did give up a single and the aforementioned walk in his first outing, but the other two were 1-2-3 innings. UPDATE 12/18: Bad news. Apparently, after his last outing on Friday, Villarreal reported discomfort in his elbow and that was enough for the Tigers to bring him back to Detroit for further testing. His manager in Venezuela is hopeful that it’s nothing major and that he can continue pitching for the Caribes once he returns.
Avisail Garcia (OF, Caribes de Anzoategui)- 14 G, 51 AB, .196 AVG, 10 H, 7 R, .281 OBP, 1 RBI: I’ve said several times since September that I like Garcia, but I think he could really benefit from some time in Triple A, because while it’s clear that he’s talented, his swing still looks a little unfinished. His winter ball performance so far would seem to reinforce that belief. I have seen him a little bit, and his play pretty much looks the same as it did in October. However, he’s been striking out quite a bit recently, more than he did in the big leagues. As far as defense goes, he’s mostly been playing right field. He did play left field for one game a few days ago, and you can tell that he’s still learning left field. He took a couple strange routes to fly balls and it looked a bit awkward (to his credit, he made the catch every time). He missed Saturday’s game with soreness in his left hand, but it’s not thought to be serious and he’s expected to play tonight (UPDATE: He’s not in the starting lineup, but I don’t know about his availability). SECOND UPDATE (12/18): Garcia was out of the lineup again tonight. I caught a glimpse of him in the dugout during the television broadcast, and he didn’t even have a jersey on, just a t-shirt, so I’m guessing that he’s not available right now.
Victor Larez (RHP, Leones del Caracas)- 28 G, 1-0, 0.87 ERA, 31.0 IP, 18 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 24 K: Larez is continuing his extremely strong season. Not only are his own numbers impressive, but he’s inherited 21 runners and only four have scored. He has had to deal with a few more baserunners in his recent outings, but so far, he’s handled it.
Wilsen Palacios (RHP, Leones del Caracas)- 15 G, 1-1, 5.82 ERA, 17.0 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 7 BB, 11 K: Palacios has only made two appearances since the last update. On December 7th, he gave up 3 runs on 1 hit and a walk in 1.1 innings. He had a 1-2-3 inning on December 13th.
Ramon Cabrera (C, Leones del Caracas)- 24 G, 62 AB, .242 AVG, 15 H, 3 2B, .299 OBP, 9 RBI: The Tigers acquired Ramon Cabrera when they traded Andy Oliver to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent most of this season at Double A Altoona, but did have one game with Indianapolis. He hit .278 with 3 home runs and 50 RBIs. He is the son of first baseman Alex Cabrera, who, from what I can tell, is a well-known longtime fixture in the LVBP. He plays for the Tiburones de La Guaira, and last weekend, there was a bizarre scene during a Tiburones-Leones game. Alex Cabrera hit a home run while his son was catching. Once he made his trot around the bases, he took his jersey off, tossed it to his son (who didn’t look particularly pleased about it), and declared his intention to retire (The writers seemed extremely confused by this, and though he was quoted as saying he couldn’t see any bigger honor for him than hitting a home run with his son behind the plate, but it seems he’ll at least play out the season). Anyways, Ramon Cabrera hasn’t been hitting as well as he did in the minor leagues, but he’s picked it up a bit recently, hitting .333 over his last ten games.
Hernan Perez (IF, Leones del Caracas)- 36 G, 86 AB, .221 AVG, 19 H, .247 OBP, 11 RBI: Perez’s average has picked up a little bit, but not much. He was in the lineup a fair amount two weeks ago (and had hits in three games). However, he’s only appeared in one game in the past week (Granted, it was a shorter week than usual), and it was only as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Bruce Rondon (RHP, Navegantes del Magallanes)- 15 G, 4-1, 5.14 ERA, 7 SV, 14.0 IP, 15 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 15 K: Rondon has only made two appearances since the last update. Like with Villarreal, there haven’t been many save opportunities for him. Magallanes has either been winning big or losing. He did pick up a save on December 12th when his team came back from behind and won in extra innings. He walked one, but got a double play to face the minimum. He suffered a blown save on the 14th, giving up two runs in 0.1 innings (and unlike the last meltdown he had, he was removed as soon as the tying run scored). He was pretty much singled to death in that outing, with the run-scoring singles being provided by Luis Valbuena and Jose Lopez. However, he did not walk anyone.
Jose Ortega (RHP, Navegantes del Magallanes)- 12 G, 1-0, 5.40 ERA, 20.0 IP, 25 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 9 BB, 17 K: Ortega only had one outing since the last update. On December 7th, he gave up one run on two hits in 1.1 innings against the Caribes de Anzoategui. He was taken off the roster last Monday (though I don’t know why).
Odds and Ends
-I haven’t paid real close attention to big leaguers from other teams in winter ball, but one player that deserves mention is Salvador Perez, who will likely be the starting catcher for Kansas City next year. He is having a crazy good season so far with the Tiburones de La Guaira. In 24 games, he is hitting .392 with 8 home runs and 35 RBIs. The 8 home runs are a rookie record, and right now he’s the runaway favorite for the LVBP Rookie of the Year award. Do I sense a Tiger-killer in the making? (For the record, of the Tigers pitchers who are in Venezuela who have at least a reasonable chance of facing Perez next year, they’ve each faced him once. Jose Ortega gave up a double to him, Bruce Rondon got him out on a fly ball to the wall, and Brayan Villarreal got him to ground out to short).
-Miguel Cabrera is not playing in the LVBP, but he did participate in their home run derby during the All-Star Break. And he won.