Cards Winter League Notebook 1: DR, PR, NIC

Winter ball results from St. Louis Cardinals prospects competing in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua. Justin Wright is off to a fast start in Puerto Rico.

Welcome to The Cardinal Nation’s first report covering the Dominican (Winter), Puerto Rican and Nicaraguan Leagues for the 2014-2015 season.

Dominican (Winter) League

The Dominican League is comprised of six teams with a season that runs from mid-October through mid-December. One of the highlights of the season is the All-Star Game, which will take place in December.

While 11 Cardinals minor leaguers are tentatively scheduled to be split among six squads, only two are currently active: Audry Perez with Aguilas Cibaenas (Eagles) and Xavier Scruggs with the Gigantes (Giants) de Cibao. Some of the rest may be participating in the instructional league for which information is nonexistent. Others may be activated as the season progresses.

Aguilas Cibaenas –
Overall Record: 6-6, two postponements.
Aguilas is in the midst of a four-game losing skid after starting the season 6-2. They are the team for whom the late Oscar Taveras was slated to play. Cibaenas held a tribute to him before their game on Thursday in which Francisco Taveras, Oscar’s father, threw out the first pitch, with Carlos Martinez one of two in the batter’s box and Audry Perez catching.

Here is the link to an article from Aguilas’ team site about the event.

- Audry Perez (Memphis): Perez got off to a cold start, going 1-for-10 in his first three games before bouncing back for a cumulative line of .316/.316/.368/.684, 12-for-38 in 11 games. However, one 3-for-4 day plus two 2-for-4 outings pumped up his numbers which featured a whole lot of 1-for-4 performances, all at or near the bottom of the order. Aguilas’ starting catcher in 10 games has scored twice with three driven in and six strikeouts.

Gigantes de Cibao -
Overall Record: 7-5
Cibao had an early four-game winning streak but has played .500 ball recently.
- Xavier Scruggs (Memphis): Like Perez, Scruggs faced early challenges offensively, hitting .200 in his first four games. The 27-year-old adjusted rapidly, compiling a .360/.441/.640/1.081 mark in 50 at bats over 13 games, all starts. Speaking of starts, Scruggs has been Cibao’s starting left fielder 11 times so far which is more than a bit interesting considering he played left once in 739 games over his entire minor league career. Scruggs has five doubles, three bombs, 13 RBIs, six runs scored, seven walks and 13 strikeouts, batting mainly clean up.

Puerto Rico League

Puerto Rico’s baseball season began October 30th and runs through the end of December with the play-offs stretching into January. Seven Cardinals are spread among five teams, two on the reserve list: Johnson City outfielder Chris Rivera (Mayaguez) and Palm Beach lefty Iden Nazario (San Juan).

Criollos de Caguas –
Overall Record: 1-2
- Luis Mateo (Memphis): A starter at short in all three games, Mateo singled three times in nine at bats with a walk and one strikeout. Batting at the bottom of the order, the 24-year-old has scored once. Defensively he has made two miscues, both fielding and both in the season opener on October 30th.

- Justin Wright (Memphis): The lefty is off to an excellent start for Caguas, retiring all eight batters faced, three righties and five lefties. Wright entered the sixth on Friday with runners at the corners, two outs and his team down by a run and ended the threat on a fly out. He tossed a clean seventh, fanning one swinging. The stakes were even higher on Monday when Wright inherited a runner at first in a tie game. He sent down four in a row, two on strikeouts.

Gigantes de Carolina –
Overall Record: 2-1
- Juan Caballero (Johnson City): The 22-year-old righty did not appear in the first three games. Hopefully, we will see him more often than last season when he saw action in just four of Carolina’s 40 games.

- Anthony Garcia (Palm Beach): Carolina’s clean-up batter is swinging a hot bat in the early going, 3-for-9 with a two-run home run, four runs scored and three knocked in. Garcia’s two free passes along with being hit twice gives him a whopping .538 on-base-percentage so far. All three of his starts have been in right, where he has been charged with one error.

Cangrejeros de Santurce –
Overall Record: 2-0, one postponed
- Jonathan Rodriguez (Memphis): Rodriguez has started at the hot corner in both games and is still looking for his first hit. Batting third for Santurce, he has worked two bases-on-balls, struck out three times and crossed once. Note that Rodriguez had played just one game at third base over the last two regular seasons, so working there in the winter may be another versatility action.

Nicaraguan League

This season, the Nicaraguan League runs from October 24th through January 4, 2015 with the play-offs following. The St. Louis organization is represented again this winter by pitcher Jhonny Polanco.

Indios del Boer -
Overall Record: 5-3
- Jhonny Polanco (Peoria): Polanco is Boer’s closer this season, saving all three opportunities, including the season opener on October 24th. The righty has tossed four innings in four games, all in the ninth, giving up three hits while walking two, one intentional, and striking out five. Polanco yielded single scores in each of his first two appearances but in unscored upon since then. He has a 4.50 ERA, 2.96 FIP and 1.25 WHIP.

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