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.