Welcome back to The Cardinal Nation’s weekly summary of St. Louis Cardinals players competing in winter leagues around the world. As I mentioned last week, as more leagues open play, I will be breaking the hitters and pitchers into separate reports. We start today with the offense.
The Arizona Fall League prospect showcase is in its third week of action.
The main change from last week is that the Dominican League (LIDOM) opened on Thursday, October 20 so is included for the first time. Now, three of the four leagues which join Cuba in the annual Caribbean Series in February are underway – including Mexico (LMP) and Venezuela (LVBP). 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).
So far, two top prospect hitters are playing in the Dominican - 2016 Peoria teammates outfielder Magneuris Sierra and second baseman Eliezer Alvarez. In addition, a player added as depth at Palm Beach during August, utility man Jose Fernandez, is suiting up. (I will carry Fernandez, Efren Navarro and other prospective free agents in these reports until they are officially granted free agency.)
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 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.
Hitting stats - season
Following are hitting stats for the winter ball season through October 25, sorted by OPS.
Hitting standouts - season
The performance of the first five hitters in the tables above stand out with the most encouraging results coming from Valera in Venezuela, Bader in Arizona and Arozarena in Mexico.
Also of note is Martinez’ play as he also looked good with the bat for St. Louis in September. Martinez could be protecting his 40-man roster spot this winter, a spot Valera would surely covet.
The other player in my top five is the 20-year-old catcher Wilson, who is earning more playing time in Mexico. It is encouraging to see a young player who suited up this summer in the rookie level Gulf Coast League doing well against much more experienced competition.
Following are hitting stats for the last week, sorted by batting average.
Hitting standouts – week
Though in a different order, the same five hitting standouts for the season to date also lead the hot list for the last week. Arozarena collected his first three extra-base hits this fall, all doubles.
But Valera is my Hitter of the Week, going 8-for-18 (.444) including two doubles and a triple. He also drew three free passes, plated a run, stole a base and scored five runs in five games.
Note that DeJong is getting his feet on the ground in Arizona as Kelly is slumping with the bat.
Though it is very early in the Dominican, I really like that Sierra has drawn two walks in his first four games. I am hoping we see a bit of gap power this winter, too.
Alvarez is off to a rough start with three strikeouts and a walk in six plate appearances, but of course, one good game could turn that around quickly. Both he and Sierra are up for 40-man roster consideration this fall, so keep that in mind when evaluating their performances.
Look for the Week 2 Pitching Report coming on Thursday.
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