Welcome back to The Cardinal Nation’s weekly summary of St. Louis Cardinals players competing in winter leagues around the world. Here in Week 3, 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 Puerto Rico League (PWL) opened play on October 27. Now, the four leagues which join Cuba in the annual Caribbean Series in February are underway – including the Dominican League (LIDOM), Mexico (LMP) and Venezuela (LVBP).
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 Puerto Rico, four Cardinals hitters are participating – Anthony Garcia, Yariel Gonzalez, Jonathan Rodriguez and Luke Voit – appearing in this report for the first time this winter.
In the Dominican, catchers Luis Cruz and Alberto Rosario made their initial appearances. Also in the league are 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.
A seventh new hitter appears in the report this week for the first time. David Washington has joined the Hermosillo club in Mexico. The player in Mexico to watch is Cuban center fielder Randy Arozarena. Mexican native and league veteran Efren Navarro is also back as is young catcher Irving Wilson.
(I will carry Fernandez, 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.
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 last summer 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 November 1, sorted by OPS. (Note that stats from the Liga Paralela website were unavailable so Leobaldo Pina’s numbers are unchanged from last week.)
Hitting standouts - season
Six hitters are at or near the .800 OPS mark. However, Rodriguez and Wilson have just 16 at-bats each. Arozarena’s OPS is just under .800, primarily due to a shortage of power.
Valera and Martinez in Venezuela and Bader in Arizona continue to deliver the best performances with a larger number of at-bats.
Following are hitting stats for the last week only, sorted by batting average.
Hitting standouts – week
Not only are Valera and Martinez among the hottest hitters, they have posted the highest OPS among the Cardinals in winter ball and are among the Venezuelan League leaders in batting average. (Valera is fourth in both categories, but Martinez apparently has not yet accrued enough at-bats to appear on the leaderboard.) The Cards have upcoming 40-man roster decisions on both – whether to add Valera and/or remove Martinez to make room for others.
Though Valera had the slightly better week average-wise, it is impossible to ignore Martinez’ production – eight RBI in just six games! Everyone else together had just 10.
Therefore, Jose Martinez is our Hitter of the Week. Of course, this is the outfielder who finished the regular season playing well in his debut for St. Louis.
In other performances of note for the week, Bader remains consistent in Arizona as Paul DeJong’s recent surge after a bad start continues. Palm Beach's Jose Fernandez went 8-for-18 for the best batting average of the week. The only mild criticism is all eight were singles.
On the other side of the stat sheet, Washington is off to a very slow start with a .111 average and 37% strikeout rate, but true to form, he still managed a home run. Washington is the only Cardinals winter ball player to go deep this past week.
Sierra is also mired in a slump that dropped his overall winter batting average to .185.
Look for the Week 3 Pitching Report coming on Thursday.
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