Welcome back to The Cardinal Nation’s weekly summary of St. Louis Cardinals players competing in winter leagues around the world.
As you probably know from our daily game notebooks, the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase has moved into its second week of action.
Two of the four leagues which join Cuba in the annual Caribbean Series in February have already gotten underway – in Mexico (LMP) and Venezuela (LVBP). The Dominican League opens on Thursday, October 20 and play in Puerto Rico follows on October 27.
In addition, there is a minor winter league in Venezuela called Liga Paralela or Parallel League. At times, players move up to the LVBP temporarily and many times right back down.
Other winter leagues yet to open, which typically feature lower level players from those nations, include Panama (November 3) and Colombia (November 4).
In addition to the one starter, Austin Gomber, the Cardinals have three relievers assigned to the Glendale Desert Dogs of the AFL – Corey Littrell, Ryan Sherriff and Rowan Wick.
Three Cardinals farmhands are pitching in the LVBP and another in Liga Paralela – starter Kurt Heyer and relievers Pedro Echemendia and David Oca. Silfredo Garcia is relieving in the Parallel League.
Finally, Palm Beach reliever Kyle Grana is closing for Navojoa in Mexico.
Following are pitching stats through October 19, ordered by ERA.
Of the AFL hurlers, lefty Corey Littrell has performed best in early action, allowing just one baserunner in four scoreless innings over two relief outings.
Grana has two saves in two opportunities and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander has walked more batters (three) than hits allowed (two) and has yielded just one earned run (1.93 ERA).
Reliever Pedro Echemendia is pitching well in Venezuela. The Cuban has allowed four baserunners and just one run in 3 1/3 innings.
If early indications are accurate, Garcia is a man among boys in the Parallel League. In 6 1/3 innings of relief over three contests, the right-hander has given up just one hit and no walks to go with six strikeouts. Perhaps Silfredo will be called up to the LVBP.
In the AFL, the Cardinals position player contingent includes catcher Carson Kelly, Paul DeJong, who is playing shortstop, and outfielder Harrison Bader.
In Mexico, the player to watch is Cuban center fielder Randy Arozarena, Grana’s winter ball teammate. Mexican native and league veteran Efren Navarro is also back as is young catcher Irving Wilson.
Four hitters are suiting up in Venezuela, two regulars and two part-timers. Outfielder Jose Martinez, who finished in St. Louis, played his first game Wednesday and went 3-for-4 including a home run. His Memphis teammate, second sacker Breyvic Valera is also competing. Catchers Jose Godoy and Joshua Lopez are also active.
Though Leobaldo Pina was pushed to third base at Peoria due to the presence of other prospects, he is back at shortstop in Liga Paralela.
Following are hitting stats through October 19, sorted by batting average.
Bader is leading the way among Cardinals in the AFL, with a .400 batting average through 15 at-bats and two walks. The outfielder has a home run, a stolen base and five runs scored in just four games.
Arozarena, playing in center daily, has eight hits in 22 at-bats (.364), though all are singles. The Cuban is running wild, but has just three successful steals in seven attempts over six games.
Also in Mexico, Navarro is hitting .400 over his first 25 at-bats. The 30-year-old last played winter ball in 2011-2013. At this point, it is unclear whether Navarro is returning to the Cardinals in 2017.
Valera is having good results early in Venezuela, with a .313 average and four of his 10 hits having gone for extra bases. The second baseman also has seven runs scored and five RBI in nine games.
Also of note is Pina’s hot start in Liga Paralela. The shortstop is leading the league with five doubles, has driven in five, scored seven runs and stole two bases to go with a .333 average in seven games.
What is next
Our week two reports will include the first week of Dominican Winter League action. Among Cardinals prospects making final rosters are TCN's 2016 Player of the Year Eliezer Alvarez and prospect center fielder Magneuris Sierra.
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