Winter Leagues: Sam Kennelly Makes Debut in Australia, Julio Vivas Impressing in Venezuela

In Australia on Friday, Sam Kennelly made his season debut and went 0-for-2 before being pinch-hit for in the eighth inning. He played second base and handled all three chances in the field cleanly. Kennelly signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 for $225,000 and at 18 years old, he is one of the youngest players in the Australian Baseball League. What stands out about that is that this is his third year playing in the league. Last year in the ABL, he saw time at all four infield positions. Kennelly looked good in the Gulf Coast League this year, posting a .284/.388/.343 slash line in 30 games. He reached base safely via walk/hit/HBP in 28 of those games and in one of the other two games, he scored a run after reaching on a fielder’s choice.

On Thursday night in the Dominican, Willy Garcia went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and a run scored. He has hits in eight of his last nine games. Prior to the streak, he had the lowest OBP in the Dominican League among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders. A .400 average over the last nine games has helped raise his OBP to .315 through 35 games.

Nate Baker faced one batter and issued a walk. In four appearances, he has thrown 1.2 innings, giving up one run.

Gustavo Nunez went 2-for-5 with two singles. He still hasn’t collected an extra-base hit in 13 games since signing with the Pirates. In his previous 22 games, he had nine doubles and two homers. Nunez is hitting .259, but has only walked four times, so his .279 OBP actually ranks him last in the league, the spot recently held by Willy Garcia.

Carlos Paulino went 1-for-4 with a run scored. The free agent catcher is hitting .300 through 24 games.

In Venezuela, Elias Diaz went 1-for-4 with a single and run scored in his team’s 12-0 win. He raised his average to .200 through eight games.

Junior Sosa was 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored.

Julio Vivas is perhaps having the most impressive winter of any Pirates player. On Thursday, he retired the side in order, picking up one strikeout. Vivas has pitched 11 times, giving up one run on five hits and no walks in ten innings. The impressive part is that he spent the season in the Gulf Coast League, so he is facing competition well above what he saw during the regular season. Also he is seeing sporadic action over two months now, which usually doesn’t lead to success for young pitchers, but he hasn’t had one bad outing. Finally, one scoreless inning might not seem like much, but his team lost 19-7 on Thursday, so he shut down a team that was putting runs on the board all night.

Back in late July, we posted video of Vivas pitching in the GCL, which can be found here. In that article, I mentioned that he was in Venezuela last winter, but he never pitched. Coming off a season in the DSL, that isn’t a surprise, but it shows the progress he has made since last year. Pitchers usually don’t see as much time as he has until they at least reach High-A ball and a large majority(90% would be a safe estimate) in the league have experience ranging from AA to the Majors. It will be interesting to see how the Pirates handle him in 2015, where he ends up pitching and if he returns to a starting role. At his size, he should be able to handle the workload, but he is having tremendous success as a reliever.

In Mexico, Sebastian Valle had a quiet game by his recent standards. He went 1-for-4 with a single. In his last ten games, he has a .406/.486/.750 slash line. After a very slow start this winter, his season stats are .294/.376/.471 through 36 games. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders, Valle would rank 7th in the league in OPS.

  • William Wallace
    December 12, 2014 1:47 pm

    I think Pirate Prospects needs to buy a Gulf Stream G 600 for your sole use during winter league ball.

  • add aussie to your resume, totally awesome googling skills, i think. you are in nj right not scouring the globe? as always thanks for the updates.

    • I have a list of nine winter leagues to follow that I check daily. A little less frequent if no Pirates players are currently in the league, though I still check to see if any show up. Dominican, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Australia, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Veracruz, which is a lower-level league in Mexico. Then I do occasional player searches as well.

      • lonleylibertarian
        December 12, 2014 11:56 am

        Any chance we could get a list of links for winter leagues added to the Resources section 😉

        • Now why would you want that when I save you the trouble and do all the work each night!

          • lonleylibertarian
            December 12, 2014 1:19 pm

            And I really appreciate what you do – one of my reasons to come to the site more than once a day.
            Just a thought – I have spent some time on the Australian site – think it is affiliated with MLB. Find it interesting at times – and keeps me into baseball before spring training. Seems like there is an interesting mix of players in the league – how would you rate the competition overall – A or high A?

            • It’s probably on par with High-A, maybe AA in a good year. They occasionally have a guy with MLB experience, but most are low level minor league players mixed in with a lot of players from Australia. The ABL is actually one of the best sites for coverage among the winter leagues, although it’s a bit odd calling it the winter league when it is middle of summer there. Some of the other leagues are real rough with coverage, and that’s not even taking into consideration they are all in Spanish