Cardinals Winter Ball Update – December 30

Since our last report three weeks ago, John Rodriguez has continued to hit very well in Puerto Rico but Yadier Molina is slumping. We also check in on 16 other Cardinals players in winter league action.

Welcome to our fourth update on Cardinals playing winter ball in the Caribbean this offseason as we visit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela plus Colombia.


Puerto Rico


The regular season is nearing its close, as both the Carolina Giants and Manati Athenians are preparing for the playoffs, leading up to the Caribbean Series.


Yadier Molina, Carolina Giants – Looks to be tiring

The Cardinals catcher's hitting has slipped dramatically over the last few weeks. Since my last report, Molina's average dropped from .356 to .299. After opening his winter campaign at a 26-for-73 clip, Molina is hitting just .229 (14 for his last 61) since December 7. Still, overall Yadi's on-base-plus-slugging mark of .767 is respectable.


While Molina is shown on the first-place Giants' roster as a designated hitter, the fact is that Molina has continued to have some action behind the plate, a decision that is likely not sitting well with the Cardinals' brass. Earlier in the winter, Cardinals' assistant general manager John Mozeliak told me the team wanted Molina to take it easy in winter ball.


To make matters worse, Molina accepted an invitation from Cardinals coach and Puerto Rican manager Jose Oquendo to play in the World Baseball Classic in March. This will not only potentially increase Molina's fatigue factor, but also take him away from the team for up to three weeks of spring training. With over half a dozen new pitchers on the staff or vying for roles this year, not having Molina in-house for most of March could become an issue.


John Rodriguez, Manati Athenians – Still ripping the ball

The veteran minor league outfielder who made a brief splash in St. Louis this past summer continues to make a point for increased playing time with the Cardinals this coming season.


With Manati, J-Rod is tied for second in the league with six home runs and just one RBI out of the league lead with 25, accomplished in just 69 at-bats. His OPS is an out-of-this-world 1.142. Rodriguez' batting average of .362 would be second-highest in the league except that he is about 20 plate appearances short of the minimum.


Domincan Republic


In preparation for the Caribbean Series, the playoffs have begun. Games continue until January 16 for the four of the six league teams who made the round-robin tournament.


Carmen Cali, Licey Tigres – Still smoking

The left-handed reliever continues his excellent campaign. Cali has allowed just two runs in 20-1/3 innings over 22 appearances for a stellar 0.89 ERA. The lefty has fanned 18, while walking only five. Cali has not appeared in any of the first three games of the postseason.


With no radar readings available from the Dominican, the nagging question is whether or not Cali rediscovered his lost velocity and whether he will bring it to Florida with him come March. Still, it has been an impressive campaign in the Dominican.


Hector Luna, Las Aguilas Cibaenas  - Season over

Luna ended his winter tuneup in November. He appeared in just six games, hitting .333 (8-for-24) including a double and a stolen base, while driving in four runs.


Julian Tavarez (free agent), Las Aguilas Cibenas – Season over?

The right-handed reliever has only made one appearance early in the season. Going four innings, Tavarez allowed two runs while fanning four.


Tavarez may be back for the playoffs, as many stars tend to wait until then to appear. However, he may also be being asked to lay low until agent Scott Boras can finalize a new multi-year MLB contract for Tavarez, who is rumored to be looking for a four-year deal.


Ramon Nivar, Escogido Leones – Season over

The Cardinals recent free-agent signee second baseman-outfielder also ended his play in November. Overall, Nivar hit just .226 with three doubles and a triple. Nivar stole five bases and took five walks, with an on-base percentage of .309.




The Mazatlan Deer are one game out of first place with the second half of the regular season still underway.


Mark Worrell, Mazatlan Deer – Pitched well

The right handed reliever saw limited action south of the border, but was very effective when doing so against a higher level of competition. Palm Beach's 2005 closer allowed 13 hits and just one run in 11-2/3 innings of work for a sparkling 0.77 ERA. Worrell fanned ten and walked one. Opposing hitters managed a .271 average against him.


Situationally, Worrell shined. In 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position, he allowed just two hits for a .125 mark. Worrell allowed just five hits in 22 at-bats with any runners on base (.227). Somewhat concerning is his ground ball to fly ball ratio, though, which was just 11-to-14.


Chris Duncan, Mazatlan Deer – Season over

In early action, Duncan showed impressive clutch hitting, with a .333 average and 13 RBI in 45 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Overall, he hit .254.


In 97 at-bats against right-handers, the lefty hitter had seven doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI. Against lefties, he hit only .238 with a double and three RBI. Overall, Duncan earned 20 walks, but fanned 34 times in 118 total at-bats.


In his new role as an outfielder, the former first baseman was not charged with a fielding error in his 34 games of action.


Iker Franco, Hermosillo Naranjeros – Not hitting

The catching pickup by the Cardinals from the Atlanta Braves in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft earlier this month is struggling with the lumber. Franco is hitting just .185 in 146 at-bats. With just six walks, his on-base-percentage is .226. Franco has also been charged with three errors in 43 games. On the positive side, 11 of his 27 hits went for extra bases.




As the regular season nears its end, the Tigres are in the playoffs with the best record in the league (38-23), while the 30-30 Tiburones are still in contention.


Victor Moreno, Aragua Tigres – Lotsa cheap wins

The recent free-agent signee continues to rack up wins with an 11-3 record and a 3.60 ERA in just 35 innings pitched. Moreno has fanned 30, but also walked 17, signifying there is more work to be done.


Jackson Paz, Aragua Tigres – Season over

The left-hander only played a bit in early action. He allowed a hit and a walk in 1-1/3 scoreless innings in two appearances. The 23-year-old joined the Cardinals organization via the Double-A Rule 5 draft two years ago.


Juan Lucena, Aragua Tigres – Minimal action

The 21-year-old shortstop who won the Appalachian League batting title in 2004 has just seven at-bats, with two hits and a run scored.


Milko Jaramillo, Aragua Tigres - Struggling

Jaramillo, who recently re-signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals, is not seeing much action for good reason. He is hitting just 6-for-43 (.140) with one double and two RBI.


Rayner Laya, La Guaira Tiburones – Limited play

In limited action, the shortstop picked up in the Triple-A Rule 5 draft in 2003 is batting .259 (7-for-27) with two doubles, a stolen base and eight runs scored.




Former Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria, one of the handful of natives from his country to make the majors, has been instrumental in re-establishing league play in Colombia. While the Colombians do not participate in the Caribbean Series as do the four nations above, there are Cardinals farmhands playing ball there this winter in the four-team league. Games continue until January 19.


Donovan Solano, Barranquilla Caimanes – Playing well

The shortstop who split his time between Johnson City and New Jersey last season is third in the league in batting with a .375 mark and is fifth in hits with 15. Among them are a pair of doubles and the 18-year-old has contributed six RBI. Solano is ranked #20 in our Top 40 prospects list.


Luis Gomez, Barranquilla Tigres – Good start

The right-handed pitcher is sporting a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings pitched. Gomez has fanned ten, but walked eight.


Gustavo Martinez, Sincelejo Toros – Limited action

Martinez, a 17-year-old right-handed pitcher, has yielded one run on four hits in two innings on the mound, while striking out two and walking one.


Andres Rosales, Sincelejo Toros – Limited action

The 17-year-old right-handed pitcher allowed a single run in his only inning of work to date. Both Rosales and Martinez are expected to compete next season in the Dominican Summer League.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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