The final game of winter ball will be played today in the Caribbean Series, as Mexico takes on Venezuela. The team from Mexico included Carlos Munoz, Harold Ramirez and Luis Heredia during the regular season, though none of them were around for the Caribbean Series.
The only Pirates’ player in the series was Danny Ortiz, who played for Puerto Rico. His team actually lost during the finals in Puerto Rico, but he was added to the winning team’s roster for the Caribbean Series. Ortiz ended up having a nice series, going 5-for-13, with a walk and an RBI. Despite a nice finish, there was one glaring omission from his stat line this winter. He hit 17 homers during the 2015 regular season, but he finished with zero in 62 total games this winter.
He was one of the top targets among minor league free agents for the Pirates, as they were aggressive in signing him as soon as he became a free agent. Except for racking up outfield assists this off-season, he had a very poor winter, finishing with an average right around the Mendoza Line to go along with his lack of power. It’s possible he could compete for the fourth outfield job this spring, and his goal this season is to be in the majors when the Pirates play in his home country of Puerto Rico at the end of May. The 26-year-old Ortiz has yet to make his Major League debut.
WBC News and Notes
There will be some baseball on television this upcoming week on MLB Network and you could possibly see Gift Ngoepe play. The World Baseball Classic qualifiers start on February 11th in Sydney, Australia. Teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Philippines will compete in an elimination tournament to see which team will go the the 2017 WBC. The teams will be announced later(based on previous day results) for three of the four televised games. Here is the schedule, which will require help from the DVR for most people due to the time difference:
Feb 11th: Philippines vs Australia 3:30am EST
Feb 12th: Australia vs TBD 3:30am
Feb 13th: TBD vs TBD 2:30am
Feb 13th: TBD vs TBD 10pm
The last game is the finals and will decide which team goes to the 2017 WBC. Ngoepe needed to wait for permission from the Pirates before he was a late addition to the roster, finally receiving that permission early this week.
One final WBC note and it’s for the qualifiers in Colombia, which will be held March 17-20. Team Panama announced that Dario Agrazal Jr. will play for them. He pitched for Morgantown this year, posting a 2.72 ERA in 76 innings, with a 1.08 WHIP and 2.07 GO/AO ratio. Other teams in that qualifier bracket include Colombia, France and Spain. Harold Ramirez and Tito Polo could be two players considered for the Colombian roster. Both will require permission from the Pirates, though both were able to leave during the regular season in 2015 to play for Colombia in the Pan-Am Games.+ posts
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.