Monday was a very slow day in winter ball, but there were a couple players in action and a note about another to mention.
The Panama winter league started play on Monday night. Edgar Munoz batted lead-off and played third base. He went 0-for-3 with a walk. Munoz hit .259/.304/.343 in 31 games for Bristol this year. Due to power problems, only two of the four Panama league teams played on Opening Day.
In Venezuela, Deolis Guerra retired all three batters he faced, one by strikeout. Through 15 appearances, he has thrown 13 innings, posting a 5.54 ERA, with a .234 BAA and 16 strikeouts.
Carlos Esqueda has started playing in the Veracruz league. In five games, he is 1-for-11 at the plate, with a double and two runs scored. Esqueda was with the Pirates in Extended Spring Training this year until early April when they loaned him to a team in the Mexican League. They retained his rights, but it is unknown if he will return to the organization in the future. His brother Jherson Esqueda pitched for the DSL Pirates this year.
In the Dominican on Tuesday, Willy Garcia had a chance to be the hero of the game, but he ended the ninth inning rally for his team. After two runs in the ninth, Garcia came up with his team down by one run with runners on the corners and two outs. He grounded out to second base to end the game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a run scored, yet there was some good that came from this game. Garcia walked for the second game in a row, something that doesn’t happen often(just five times during the entire 2014 season). He had a six game hitting streak prior to Tuesday.
Gustavo Nunez hit his third homer. He went 2-for-4, scoring twice and driving in two runs. He is hitting .282 through 35 games, with 13 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases in eight attempts. The downside is his 4:29 BB/SO ratio in 131 at-bats. Nunez went three weeks without an extra-base hit after signing with the Pirates back in November. On Sunday, he broke that streak with a double. Nunez put up decent numbers this year in the minors for the Braves, though they came with the caveat that he was a 26-year-old in AA. He batted .301/.353/.373 in 97 games and saw action at six different positions. Nunez was the Pirates Rule 5 pick in December 2011 and came back to the team as a minor league free agent.
Pedro Florimon went 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and a run scored. He had just one double in his first 88 at-bats. Florimon committed his sixth error of the season and third in his last two games. He is hitting .353 in his last ten games. In 27 winter games, he has a .253/.299/.341 slash line. Just like Willy Garcia and Gustavo Nunez, Florimon is having trouble in the BB/SO area, posting a 6:25 ratio. That is something that has followed him his whole career. While he does seem to have a great chance at the backup infield spot on Opening Day due to defense, his hitting in the majors has never been strong. In 214 games over the last four seasons, he has a .204/.266/.300 slash line.
Carlos Paulino went 0-for-4, dropping his average down to .262 through 26 games. He is 3-for-23 in his last seven games.
In Mexico, it was announced that Sebastian Valle would miss at least a few games with a finger injury. He hurt his hand during the third inning of Sunday’s game and had to leave early. He is hitting .303/.379/.477 in 39 games. He is expected to return to action later this week.
In Panama, Edgar Munoz went 2-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI.
Ashley Ponce made his season debut and went 0-for-4. He played second base and batted second.
One transaction of note. Ramon Cabrera signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates released him back in late November to make room on the 40-man roster to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Nothing against Latin players, but most of them seem to have trouble with patience. They are very aggressive IMO.
Leadoff, thanks, man. The breadth of knowledge, especially regarding the impact of a players heritage on his performance that glides from your brain, to the fingers, and into our minds is outstanding.
@ You are a moron [sic]
That was a wicked backhand. But I would like to expand on what “leadoff” said. In the context of a very poor, baseball mad population such as exists in the Dominican Republic, and in view of the adage John Drecker notes about having to hit your way off the island, I think there is room for some baseball talk that does not insinuate an insensitive tone.
(Worn down already from being so delicate.)
(Yesterday I was all over the place wanting to do violence to pitchers in a robust beanball debate and today my meds are balancing… balancing…)
From what I have seen and read, a comparison of the crucible that young players endure in the Dominican might be akin to some soccer tryouts I’ve seen over the years.
When I’ve taken players to a college for a tryout camp you inevitably see how the eyes of a trained talent evaluator (say, the head coach at the college) and the context of a tryout type camp, the possibility of an athletic scholarship, gets into the players’ heads. For instance, it is common – really common – in a tryout camp for a player to kind of “play wrong” in a tryout. The kid is trying to show off every ounce of skill he has so that he stands out from the crowd in the evaluator’s eyes. So he puts on dazzling moves and takes players on in the dribble when there are six or seven good passes available that would be quieter, better soccer plays.
I would suggest the pressure in the Dominican, having seen films that dealt with Rene Gayo and others and the player mill that these sand lots can be, is immense for young players. Thus, I think it possible that you might see a higher percentage of players in such a group not taking a quiet walk but instead going for the big, noisy hit, the better to be noticed.
I don’t think leadoff was trying to be insensitive…
Now. About your handle. It is really hard to correspond with you without first saying “You are a moron.” (again [sic]) Perhaps we could just use your initials… YAM… Tasty and sweet. Good when baked with butter and brown sugar…
“I guess I should ask this fella in the fancy knickerbockers if he knows the way to the Coachella Valley.”
I find satire and irony among the most low forms of art. I can assure you that my words are sincere.
Well in the interest of knowledge…
That is a common theme with a lot of the Latin players and the old saying is that you can’t walk your way off the island. There are still plenty of players in the Dominican league with decent-strong walk rates though. Mel Rojas Jr. has a 14:26 BB/SO ratio in 120 at-bats, which is much better than the performance he put up last year. Also last year, Polanco had 28 walks, so that was part of the good sign with him. I think the real good hitters tend to get pitched around in big spots during the winter leagues because the #1 objection is winning, not development.
Your last point is what makes me wonder why the Pirates continue sending, or trying to send, players to Winter Ball with the intent of working on something.
Game competition in general is a terrible atmosphere for making adjustments, the regular baseball season is already grueling enough, and you cannot tell me that players can’t get better instruction in the States.
Very rarely are players sent there, more it’s they are allowed to go and in some cases, not allowed to go. I think the level of competition is good for players that are in AA or lower and it also helps guys that missed time during the season or a pitcher like Stolmy Pimentel, who didn’t get many innings during the regular season. It’s good for players working on new positions. I know I was looking forward to Alen Hanson getting in time at second base.
The play isn’t as grueling in the winter leagues. There are more off-days in a month than minor leagues see in a season. For many of the players, they are going to their house after the game. I don’t buy into the players wearing down from it(I’m sure some do, but not a majority). They take some time off between the season and starting to play, extra days off, some time between the end and Spring Training and no one that doesn’t play really just sits around and relaxes for three months, they workout hard to stay in shape. The guys that are playing winter ball aren’t working out as hard as the other players have to do to keep up. They are putting their time in on the field instead of the gym.
If you go down to Pirate City right now, there are at least 20-30 guys there staying in shape or rehabbing. I just don’t buy that playing winter ball is as bad as some people make it out to be. Some guys improve with it. There are also some great coaches in the main leagues. You have to remember that this is their regular season so these teams have the best coaches available to help them win. You won’t get the roving instructors minor league teams have, but the coaches can provide input there. If you have a good player, you can find the right fit for him so he gets the right help. It’s basically like the majors here, they expect you to know how to play when you get there, but if they can spot a flaw that helps the team, they will provide help.
I appreciate the reply, John.
I do think you’re talking apples and oranges with your winter ball vs off season workout comparison. Most players will tell you they work out in the winter to build themselves up while regular playing breaks them down.
And again, I still question just how effective the leagues can be for actual player development when, as you just said, the teams are out to win. If coaches are out to win, they’re simply not going to think of a kid’s long term development. They’re going to do what helps them win now.
Not sure I’ve witnessed folks saying winter ball is terrible, as you say, and I definitely think it has it’s place. I guess I just haven’t seen actual results that tell me it’s something worthwhile outside of those specific circumstances.
When I say it’s not for developing talent, I mean that they won’t allow players to struggle and stay in the lineup. They also won’t leave a guy at a position to learn it. You either have to be ready to play or you don’t play, but that’s for the top league. In Venezuela and the Dominican, they have a minor league for the lesser players, so they can still see game action and in those leagues, winning isn’t everything. The object of the minor league there(called the Parallel League) is to keep players in game shape if they need to be called up. That is really for the lesser players though because someone like Tony Sanchez was getting paid well(compared to the minors here) so they didn’t want to keep paying him to not play.
Particularly key for young guys already playing all year, as at times it appears they get worn down after playing a regular season+winter ball+another regular season. Polanco all but admitted he may have been simply exhausted from playing baseball 10+ months straight as he struggled down the stretch.
Fyi: there’s an excellent read on fangraphs about the availability of difference makers in free agency. In short there’s on average just a couple a year so those who wish the front office acquire one should look to do so thru trade.. sorry, I don’t know how to provide a link using my phone
Oops. Sorry john. I meant to post on the pedro to marlins thread.. no disrespect intended
John, at this point who do you think is the best candidate to take Barmes spot as the backup SS, Florimon or Sellers? Or is there a third candidate that you like better than those two?
I would hope that neither would be necessary, as Sean Rodriguez is a competent SS who can also hit some…..
I have my doubts about Rodriguez playing shortstop more than a handful of times. His defensive numbers are getting progressively worse and the Rays used him for a total of 37 innings the last two years at shortstop. There was a reason for that, he’s emergency use only there.
Clint Barmes is arguably a better hitter over the last 3-5 years than Rodriguez, and we spent 1/3rd of the time Barmes spent with us calling him the worst hitter ever seen. Rodriguez is rather clearly here to fill the Harrison utility man role. Pirates havent shown much of a want to carry just 1 middle IF type on the bench.
I’d say out of those two, Florimon has the better shot. Neither has hit much, but he has put up the better defensive numbers and there is a little pop in his bat, plus he can run better. Sellers advantage is being able to play more positions, but I have a feeling they go with the tools, plus Sellers has an option left. I wouldn’t rule out them signing anyone, still have nearly two months until pitchers and catchers report. They also have Jake Elmore, who has one option left.