Winter Leagues: Lambo and Rojas Homer, Big Night For Osuna

In the Dominican on Friday night, Alen Hanson went 2-for-5 with two singles and two runs scored. He was coming off a game in which he reached base four times. He has raised his average 89 points in the last two games. On defense, Hanson committed his second error of the winter.

Andrew Lambo homered for the first time this winter, connecting on a solo shot off former Pirate farmhand Rudy Owens. He also drew two walks and scored two runs. In his first five games before Friday, Lambo had a .111/.111/.111 slash line.

Mel Rojas Jr. also homered, his second of the winter(see video below). He went 1-for-4 and drove in two runs. Rojas is 8-for-33 in eight games.

Edwin Espinal has been seeing regular time recently after homering in his first at-bat earlier this week. You usually don’t see players below AA get much playing time in the Dominican unless they are old for the level and Espinal is only 21 years old. On Friday, he went 0-for-2 before being pinch-hit for in the seventh inning.

Josh Wall allowed a run on two walks and a hit, recording two outs. He’s given up a run in each of his last two games, after starting off the winter with four straight scoreless appearances.

Gustavo Nunez went 0-for-3 with a walk.

In Venezuela, Jose Osuna continued his terrific winter. His team played a doubleheader on Friday, starting with a game postponed earlier in the season, and Osuna went 1-for-3 with a single in game one. In the regularly scheduled game for Friday, he doubled in the first inning to extend his on base streak to 19 games. He has hits in 17 of those games, reaching on a HBP and a walk in the other two games. Osuna wasn’t done after one hit in the second game. He went on to double again in the third inning, then he would add a walk and a single before his night was through, ending his day with a .391 average.

Junior Sosa started both games along with Osuna. In the first game, Sosa went 0-for-2 with a walk, getting thrown out attempting to steal. He went 0-for-4 with an RBI in the second game.

Francisco Diaz played the second game for Bravos de Margarita, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

Elvis Escobar was used as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning with his team down 2-1. He moved to second base on a wild pitch, but was left stranded when former Pirate Cesar Izturis grounded out to end the game. Escobar has now played 11 games, mostly off the bench, going 1-for-7 with a walk.

Gorkys Hernandez went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. He’s hitting.300 through 18 games.

Action started in Puerto Rico on Friday night, but none of the four teams had any players from the Pirates’ organization. As we have seen in the past, you could see players join the league later, or the Pirates could sign a free agent currently playing there. So you may see some coverage still in Puerto Rico this winter.

  • John, how much do the players in these winter leagues receive for playing there? I would assume the more established the player is the higher the salary.

    • Salaries are all over the map down there, sort of like the spread in the majors, just a much smaller scale. I’ve read where import players can get $5,000 a month and that was from a few years ago, and not really two top players saying it, both AAA vets. It also matters which league you are in. The top three(Mexico, Dominican, Venezuela) can pay more than the other leagues because they get bigger crowds, longer schedules, more sponsors. If you’re playing winter ball in Colombia, Panama or Nicaragua, you’re basically there to keep in shape, where as the bigger leagues allow players to make enough money to continue to play minor league ball in pursuit of their goal. I’ve never heard any numbers, but I assume a star player from the Dominican, playing in the Dominican, probably gets a decent wage based on their drawing power.

  • Hey you guys. I thought Gorkys was no longer a Pirate?

    • They cover them until they sign elsewhere.

    • From the winter preview, which is something we have done now for four years:

      “If a player finished the year in the Pirates’ system, then he will be covered over the winter. That will include some minor league free agents, who we will mention until they sign elsewhere. As we saw last year with a couple players, they could end up signing back with the Pirates.”

      • Sorry John.

        I was just messing. I did that and came back the next day to see how many nibbles I got. Mostly I was messing with Lee, who asked the question last week… I didn’t mean for you to actually give this a thought at your job.

        You guys are the best at what you do and I thought the sharp eyes of John Dreker would have spotted me for the wascally wabbit I am.


    • Wabbit…don’t go there. lol.

  • Is Osuna starting to put himself on the prospect list and where does he play next year? I remember reading Tim’s article when he first came to the states, along with Polanco and Garcia I believe, and he was described as someone with a decent ceiling but high risk if I remember correctly.

    • He’s a tweener prospect because he doesn’t have any standout tools except a strong arm and if he’s playing first base, that doesn’t really matter. His placement could be decided by his position. If they put him in the outfield, then I could see him going to Indianapolis, but if he’s a first baseman, then he will be back at Altoona due to Josh Bell.

      Osuna could use a little more plate patience, to help get his walks up, his average/on base higher and probably help his power numbers if he’s picking better pitches to hit. In 85 games at Altoona, he had a .763 OPS, so that’s not really a great number from a first baseman, at least one that would be called a top prospect.

      So right now, he has the upside of a bench player in the majors, but at 23 next year, he’s still young enough to improve on that. His winter numbers are definitely encouraging, especially compared to how poorly he did his first two seasons in Venezuela. It shows he’s improved a lot since last winter.

      • John, I hate to ask this but who is a good comp for Osuna?

        • I really don’t like doing comps because even with a comp, people can pick and choose from their career. This isn’t a comp, but just an example. If you said someone hits like Pedro Alvarez, one person will say I’ll take 36 homers every year, while another person will look at 2014 when he hit 18 homers and think it’s a bad comp and another person will talk about his atrocious defense even though I said he HITS like Pedro Alvarez.

          Osuna could max out being a .280 hitter with 10-15 home run power, low walks, no speed and average defense at 1B, slightly below average in a corner OF spot, with a strong arm. His low walks and all around average at best tools could also make him a player who never sees the majors, or gets a shot like Jaff Decker has been the last three years

  • Owens gave him a meatball to hit!

  • Johnny D: I noticed that Hanson committed his second error. Are the fields down there on a par with AA, AAA or the Majors?

    • The lighting isn’t as good as Major League games, but at the top levels of winter ball, the fields are good. Part of errors are also the players around you too

      • Thank you, Mr Dreker.


        (seriously…good info…). I remember watching some Winter League Night action and it DID seem a little dark to me.

        Would that bad lighting affect the hitters, then?

  • Let’s go Andrew. I am one of 4 fans who haven’t given up on you!!! (besides, you have the hottest GF this side of David DeJesus).