Cards Winter Ball Update – December 29

Among the news in our latest Winter Ball Update are reports from Colombia and Nicaragua, along with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. Newcomers Miguel Negron and Mike Smith are hot, while Yadier Molina and Edwin Conde are among those who remain ice cold.

In this report, we'll focus on Cardinals system players competing in Winter Ball action across the four Latin American baseball hotbeds of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela, along with new reports from Nicaragua and Colombia, too.

The four-team round-robin tourney that leads to the selection of the club to represent the Dominican Republic in February's Caribbean Series has begun, though all of the Cardinals prospects there have completed their play.

The other three nations are still finishing up their regular season schedules before their playoffs begin. Mexico and Venezuela end on the 30th while Puerto Rico plays through January 5.

This year's Caribbean Series will be played from February 2-5 in Carolina, Puerto Rico, a suburb of San Juan and home of Yadier Molina's winter ball club. Interestingly, both Nicaragua and Colombia also petitioned to join, which if approved, would make it a six-team tournament.

If any of the Cardinals players see post-season action, it will be included in our next report right here.

Puerto Rico

Catcher Yadier Molina. The catcher's decision to not heed the advice of the Cardinals and report to his hometown Carolina Giants to play Winter Ball is not looking to be a good one.

After 35 at-bats, Yadi is struggling mightily, batting just .143, with a single extra-base hit, a double and a lone RBI.

Since our last report, Carolina has been playing better baseball, going on a 9-5 stretch to improve their fourth-place record to 17-19 overall.

Outfielder Miguel "Mickey" Negron. The Cards' recent minor league signee is continuing to tear up the competition, hitting .464 in 84 at bats. Negron leads the league by almost 100 points in batting average. He also is tops in on-base percentage (.511) and slugging percentage (.643).

He has two home runs and 14 RBI to go along with six stolen bases (fourth-best in the league) for second-place Caguas Criollos. Negron's nine doubles are second-highest in the circuit and his 19 runs scored are third-best.

The former Blue Jays (and briefly Cubs) prospect is highly-regarded by some scouts. This dominant showing in winter ball will increase interest in seeing where he fits in a crowded Cardinals outfield at the upper levels of the system in 2007.

Outfielder John Rodriguez. Rodriguez returned to the same club for which he played in 2005, last-place Manati. He has just 11 at-bats in limited playing time, batting .364 with a double and an RBI. Rodriguez also walked three times.

Dominican Republic

Right-handed Pitcher Gustavo Martinez. The 18-year old Colombian joined the Escogido Lions this winter after playing in the Dominican Summer League in 2006. Martinez allowed 13 runs, of which 12 were earned, in his 13-2/3 innings on the mound, but only one run in his last three. Control remains a problem with nine walks to go along with ten strikeouts.

Right-handed Pitcher Mike Smith. The Cards' recent minor league signee finished his strong campaign for the Azucareros del Este. In 39-1/3 innings, Smith posted a 1.83 ERA, second-best in the league, to go along with 22 strikeouts and just five walks.

The 29-year old Massachusetts native came to the Cardinals organization as a minor league free agent from the Minnesota Twins, for whom he won a career-high 11 games at Triple-A in 2006.

Right-handed Pitcher Mark Worrell. Springfield's 2007 closer joined the Cibao Gigantes (Giants) on a second-half contract, but didn't pitch much at all. In just 1-2/3 innings over two games, Worrell allowed one run, with three walks to go along with two strikeouts.


Left-handed Pitcher Troy Cate. The 26-year old joined the Mazatlan Venados (Deer) in late November and continues to pitch well as a starter for the first-place club (18-11).

Overall, he has fanned 24 and walked nine in 29-2/3 innings of action over three outings for a 1.21 ERA. Cate is holding opposing hitters to a .200 batting mark.

Cate has averaged between six and seven innings over his last four outings, allowing just four runs total, which definitely adds to the reasons for making him someone to watch in Spring Training 2007.

Right-handed Pitcher Andy Cavazos. Cavazos pitched in the first half of the winter season only and completed his assignment on November 15. Overall, he posted a 2-0 record with a 4.20 ERA and three saves in 14 appearances.

Cavazos struck out eight and walked eight in 14 innings for the Guasave Algodoneros while holding opposing hitters to a paltry .140 batting average.

Outfielder Ian Church. In limited action for Guasave back in October, the Independent Leagues' Player of the Year in 2006 hit .250 in 12 at-bats. Church recently agreed to his first non-independent league contract with the Cardinals.

Left-handed Pitcher Jaime Garcia. The 20-year-old left-hander and one of the Cardinals organization's top prospects has improved his numbers slightly since our last report.

Garcia posted a 4.26 ERA over eight relief appearances for the Hermosillo Naranjeros. He struggled a bit with his control, walking nine in 12-2/3 innings, while fanning nine. Since Garcia hasn't pitched in two weeks, his winter ball time may be up.


Shortstop Jose Contreras. The 21-year old shortstop joined the Cardinals organization after being selected from the Washington Nationals in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. For the third-place La Guaira Tiburones, Contreras has scored a run, has two walks and a sacrifice fly RBI without any official plate appearances. Very efficient!

Right-handed Pitcher Jose Garcia. The 25-year old has also improved his totals a bit with a 5.02 ERA over 19 relief appearances and 28-2/3 innings for the last-place Oriente Caribes. Earlier he had considerable control problems, with 16 walks to go with 17 strikeouts in all.

Shortstop Rayner Laya. The 26-year-old is batting .169 in part-time duty for the second-place Zulia Aguilas. Overall, he has just one extra-base hit, a double, in 59 at-bats. Laya has two stolen bases and six RBI.

Shortstop Juan Lucena. The 22-year old shortstop played in just two games in the last two months for the first-place Aragua Tigres. He hit .267 with no extra-base hits and four RBI in 30 at-bats overall.

Second Baseman Jose Martinez. The 20-year old Venezuelan has 20 hits in 76 at-bats for the Aragua Tigres for a .263 batting average. Martinez added his first extra-base hits, one double and one home run, since the last report. Martinez played for Quad Cities in 2006, during his second season of play in the US and ranks #30 among our Top 40 Cardinals prospects here at


Outfielder Edwin Conde. After completing his disappointing stint in the Venezuelan winter minor league, the Liga Paralela, the Nicaraguan native returned home. Suiting up for the second-place and two-time league champion Chinandega Tigres (17-15), Conde is 0-for-10 with five strikeouts. The 19-year old does have a stolen base and a run scored.


Shortstop Donovan Solano. The #36 prospect in our Cardinals Top 40 countdown this off-season joined his home team Barranquilla Caimanes for winter ball. Solano is hitting 31-for-120 (.258), with a pair of doubles, two triples and ten RBI.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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