Winter Leagues: Edwin Espinal Drives in Six Runs; Starling Marte Leaves Game Early

The game between Escogido and Cibaenas in the Dominican on Saturday night was not kind to the Pittsburgh Pirates. On one side, you had Starling Marte going 0-for-3 with a strikeout, before getting hit by a pitch and leaving the game early. On the other side, you have Edwin Espinal, who just reached minor league free agency this week, driving in six runs with a two-run single in the first inning and a grand slam in the eighth inning (see video at the end of this article). He accounted for all of the offense in a 6-3 victory.

There was no update as of late last night for Marte. From eyewitness accounts on Twitter, it sounded like he got hit in the helmet and it looked bad to some, but he also ran the bases briefly, getting forced out at second base one batter later. He did not come back out on defense during a 2-2 game in the eighth inning. This happened one day after he hit his first winter home run. I’ll post an update if there is one.

It wasn’t completely bad for the Pirates on Saturday and they could still end up re-signing Espinal, who has likely drawn some extra attention with his strong winter (.878 OPS through 19 games). Pablo Reyes was also in the same game and he went 2-for-4 with a run scored.  He hasn’t hit his stride yet this winter, now owning a .228/.297/.281 slash line through 19 games.

Anderson Feliz had a tough night, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He still has a .986 OPS through 15 games, so he was due for an off-day.

Jung-Ho Kang had his second night off this week.

In Venezuela, Elvis Escobar went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He was thrown out attempting to steal, leaving him 2-for-5 in that department this winter. He’s hitting .287/.336/.347 through 26 games.

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt, a hit-by-pitch and he committed his fourth error. He has a .284 average through 26 games.

In Australia, the league is playing exhibition games this weekend, then the real games begin on Thursday. Four Pirates are expected to participate in the league. Michael Suchy and Arden Pabst will be with Sydney, a team managed by Tony Harris, who has been an international scout for the Pirates for many years. Robbie Glendinning, a 2017 draft pick, will also play in the league, though his original plans indicated he would get a late start. Reliever Sam Street should also pitch in the league.

The Espinal homer:

  • It just boggles my mind that the Pirates have not placed Espinal on the 40 man roster. He received an award for fielding this past season, and it would appear he can hit fairly well. Maybe they feel he is too bulky, but the Red Sox did okay with Big Papi. I will be very disappointed if the Bucs lose Espinal in the Rule V draft in December.

    • He would need to sign with them as a minor league free agent to be Rule V eligible. I think he’s looking for a 40-man slot right now, as he should be. It can’t hurt to wait because his fallback is also his second best scenario, whereas some players need to jump on an open spot to make sure they have a job. A 23-year-old who can hit like him and play defense, won’t have trouble finding a spot.

      • A 23 year old who can hit like him and play defense should be placed on the roster ASAP. They are going to let him walk and regret that decision.

        • He’s showing some skills with the bat, but he’s a first baseman. Even if the Pirates resign him…he’s not going to supplant Josh Bell. That, pretty much, leaves him as a man without a position and with, probably, less value to the team than Osuna.

    • He wouldn’t be the first decent hitting 1B to get left off a 40 man. His defense might be ok but with his frame and size it is really hard to see him as better than a mediocre range player down the road. He is a big, bulky dude and that won’t improve at 26,27,28. He doesn’t hit a bunch of HR or walk much so all of these things work against him. I like him and he probably has an MLB future but he just has the look of so many 1B types before him that are fringe to back up types.

  • It seems like it would be doubtful Espinal resigns with Bell blocking him and Osuna and Freese on roster too plus Sean Rodriguez as a defensive type replacement at 1B.

    • He should have better options elsewhere, which is why I believe he hasn’t been re-signed. I could see the Pirates not wanting to give him a 40-man spot, but I can’t see him just settling for a minor league deal at this point.

      • I see Espinal as a right handed version of a player like Randall Simon. Although I don’t think Espinal will ever club an Italian sausage in the head with a bat…but there is still time.

        • Speaking of Randall, last year I played in an over 40 baseball league. The organizer provides some community bats. “I bought this one at a thrift store for 2 bucks”, pointing to a very large bat. It was a 34 1/2″ Randal Simon bat. Looked it up. It was an authentic. Since it was authentic, I further inspected it. No evidence of striking a costume character on that bat.

  • video unavailable.

    • sad trumpet…it was up for awhile. It wasn’t the league that posted it, but it was the best quality one I could find, so those things happen when you’re dealing with YouTube

  • The childlike exuberance displayed in this video made me smile. It’s no wonder there’s such a disproportionate number of Dominicans in MLB. Some complain about the grind of playing daily, while these guys choose to celebrate the joy of being able to play a child’s game as an adult every day.

    • Sort of…They do have more brawls in winter ball than you see in the majors and that’s with a much smaller schedule. Those brawls usually start because of something like that celebration and then escalate. I’ve seen some wild ones over the years too. For as much as you hear the foreign players in the majors talk about enjoying the game more and that leads to extreme bat flips and wild celebrations, they don’t always accept that kind of behavior in the winter leagues.

      It’s an odd double standard. Don’t get mad when the foreign players show emotion…unless you have a winter league jersey on, then it’s okay. Then it’s also odd when there is a fight in the U.S. or a hit batter because that’s what happens much more often in the winter leagues, so you think they would be used to getting a negative reaction.

      Basically, what you consider a positive in this video, sometimes ends up negative in winter ball.

      • Sunday night’s game in the Dominican: Brawl in the sixth after a HBP, then another almost fight in the 9th after a home run. Pitcher hit the next batter and got ejected after words were exchanged. Literally took hours for an example to pop up.

        EDIT: Make that two pitchers ejected in the ninth, another HBP

        • I guess I see a distinction between celebrating a big moment, and acting like a jerk by talking smack/directing antics towards an opponent. One is ok, the other deserves a retaliation.

          This particular HR looked to be the former and not the latter.

  • Pretty awesome video