Cards Venezuelan Parallel League: Aragua

Josh Jones looks at St. Louis Cardinals prospects' winter player performances on the Aragua team in the recently-completed Venezuelan Liga Paralela.

Editor's note: This is the fifth report in a series digging into the details of the Venezuelan winter minor league, called the Liga Paralela, or Parallel League. The Cardinals sponsored their own club of teenage prospects as well as supplied a number of older and more advanced players to another team, Aragua, the subject of this report.

In each capsule that follows, the player's age and regular season 2007 team are noted in parentheses following his position and name.

Links to earlier articles in this series:
"Cards Venezuelan Parallel League Starters"
"Cards Venezuelan Parallel League Relievers"
"Cards Venezuelan Parallel League Hitters"
"Cards Venezuelan Parallel League Reserves"



Along with the Cardinals sponsoring their own team in Parallel League play, they shared another team with several other MLB organizations. Tigres de Aragua were made up of players from the Cardinals, Twins, Nationals, Phillies and Astros.

Aragua finished 2nd overall in the league with a 39-14 record and only 1 game out of 1st place. Their hitting was ranked 1st in mostly all stats and middle of the pack in pitching stats. Aragua took the Parallel League title when they defeated Caracas in the final playoff series (best 2 of 3 games). Aragua won the 1st game 4-1 (Eleazer Jimenez had the save) and 2nd game 4-3 (Jose Rada had the win and Juan Lucena had a HR).

We received a glance at a couple up-and-coming position players in Jose Ramirez and Juan Lucena, maybe a couple future starters in Jose Rada and Reynier Gonzalez, and last but not least several solid arms out of the bullpen in Omar Diaz, Jorge Rondon and Eleazer Jimenez.

Jose Rada (19-GCL) started 9 of his 10 games for Aragua, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.27 ERA. Rada was tied for 1st on the team with wins, led the team (among starters) with ERA, 2nd with game starts (9), 2nd in innings pitched (43.2 ), 3rd with hits allowed (43), tied for 1st with HR's allowed (3), and led the team in strike outs (43). He also managed to give up only 11 runs (all earned) and walk only 5 batters.

Rada should have at least 3 more wins, but it seems the hitting and bullpen fell apart in the later innings. He only had 2 really bad outings, but through all that he was a solid starter. His best outing came November 13th when he pitched 5 innings, giving up 4 hits, 1 run (earned), striking out 8 batters and no walks, en route to his 1st win in Parallel League play. Other than striking out a lot of batters, he kept the ball down on the ground with a 42-29 ground out-fly out ratio.

Rada might not have got a big push this last year in GCL as a starter, but hopefully the Cardinals rethink that after this past winter.

Reynier Gonzalez (19-Johnson City) started 10 of 11 games for Aragua, posting a 4-3 record with a 4.81 ERA. Gonzalez was also tied for 1st in wins, was 2nd to worst (among starters) in ERA, lead the team in game starts, 4th in innings pitched (43.0), 2nd in hits allowed (45), 1st in runs allowed (29), 2nd in earned runs (23)tied for 1st with HR's allowed (3), 5th with walks (15), and 2nd in strike outs (42).

Gonzalez did have some control problems throughout the winter season as he had 10 wild pitches, 15 walks, and 4 hit by pitches. He also kept the ball down on the ground with a 46-32 ground out-fly out ratio. His best outing came on October 19th when he pitched 5 strong innings, giving up 1 hit, 1 run (earned), 2 walks, 1 wild pitch, and struck out 8.

Gonzalez didn't get many starts while at GCL, but was bumped up to Johnson City and made a few starts. I look at this winter season a way to prepare him for a starting job at Johnson City for next season.

Fabian Marquez (21-GCL) started 5 of his 14 games for Aragua, posting a 2-0 record with 7.76 ERA and 2 saves. Marquez pitched 29 innings (5th on team), giving up 50 hits (1st), 26 (2nd) runs (25 earned, 1st), 1 HR, 16 walks (4th), and striking out 25 (5th). His ERA was 3rd worst among starters and relievers. Marquez started the winter season a closer somewhat, then middle relief, then later on in the season was moved to the rotation.

He would have a couple good games, then get rocked in the next 1 or 2 outings. As a starter (4 games), he pitched 15 innings, giving up 22 hits, 13 runs (all earned), 1 HR, 5 walks, 3 HBP's, and striking out 13. His best outing came December 11th, when he started and pitched 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, no runs, 2 walks, and striking out 1. Marquez also made 3 relief appearances with the Cardinals Parallel League team, going 3.1 innings, giving up 6 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), 1 HR, 1 walk, and striking out 4.

Omar Diaz (19-VSL) started 3 of his 10 games for Aragua, posting a 3-0 record with a 4.24 ERA. Diaz pitched 23.1 innings, giving up 23 hits, 13 runs (11 earned), 21 walks, and striking out 23. Diaz was mainly a reliever, making just a couple spot starts for the Aragua team. Diaz' best outing came as a starter, when he started 3.2 innings, giving up 5 hits, no runs, 3 walks, and striking out 3.

Diaz could be another arm for the rotation for the VSL squad with how well he strikes guys out. I'm really surprised that he didn't make more starts while in Parallel League because he was mainly a starter in the VSL this past season.

Jorge Rondon (19-VSL) made 17 relief appearances for the Aragua team, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.63 ERA and 2 saves. Rondon pitched 17.1 innings, giving up 19 hits, 7 runs (all earned), 4 walks, and striking out 14. Rondon was a solid arm out of the bullpen with his strike outs and low walks, he also kept the ball down on the ground with a 24-11 ground out-fly out ratio. He only had 2 bad outings in which his ERA was jacked up. His best outing came on November 12th when he pitched 1.1 innings, giving up 1 hit, no runs, and striking out 2 for his 1st save in Parallel League play. Rondon's stats are improved compared to his numbers at VSL.

Eleazer Jimenez (19-VSL) made 12 relief appearances for Aragua team, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.70 ERA and 2 saves. Jimenez pitched 16.2 innings, giving up 12 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), 1 HR, 6 walks, and striking out 12. Jimenez was also another solid arm out of the bullpen with his strikeouts and low walks. He only had 2 bad outings which bumped his ERA up. Jimenez best outing came November 7th, when he pitched 1 inning, giving 1 hit, no runs, and striking out 2, en route to his 1st save in Parallel League play. His inherited runners-scored ratio was 5-1.

Jimenez is much improved compared to his VSL season, and could be looking to be a future closer.

Senger Peralta (20-Johnson City) made 8 relief appearances for the Aragua team, posting a 1-1 record with 5.25 ERA. Peralta pitched 12 innings, giving up 17 hits, 10 runs (7 earned), 1 HR, 5 walks, and struck out 10. Peralta spent most his time in middle relief and only pitched once in December. Peralta had some control issues in his last 3 outings (4.1 innings) giving up 3 wild pitches in each game. His best outing came on October 15th, when he pitched 2 innings, giving up 2 hits, no runs, and striking out 2. Peralta's inherited runners-scored ratio was 5-3.

He was listed on Aragua's Venezuelan League roster, but never made an appearance. Peralta's stats were similar to his stats at Johnson City, just without the starts.

Wladimir Mendoza (21-GCL) made 9 relief appearances for the Aragua team, posting a 0-0 record with a 10.61 ERA. Mendoza pitched 9.1 innings, giving up 8 hits, 12 runs (11 earned), 1 HR, 16 walks, and striking out 13. Mendoza struggled all around as he had 4 hit by pitches, 4 wild pitches and 1 error over his 9.1 innings, but still could strike guys out.

His numbers ballooned compared to his GCL numbers and not in a good way. Like Peralta, he also was listed on Aragua's Venezuelan League roster but did not appear for them. If he doesn't get some control on his pitches, he may not make it too far in the farm system.

OF Jose Ramirez (22-Quad Cities) played in 34 games for the Aragua team, batting .330 with a .424 OBP and .500 SLG. Ramirez was 9th on the team in AVG (70+ at bats), 4th in runs (30), 7th in hits (37), 7th in doubles (8), had 1 triple, tied for 4th in HR's (3), 10th in RBI's (14), 4th in total bases (56), 8th in walks (12), 9th in strike outs (10), and 2nd in stolen bases (6). Ramirez only struck out 9% of the time, was 100% when it came to stolen bases, and had no errors.

He spent most his time in CF, but was also used in LF and RF. He had 2 six-game hitting streaks. In his 2nd hitting streak in December, he went 12-for-25 (.480) with 2 doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBI's, 5 runs, and 1 strike out. Ramirez's best came December 12th when he hit 4-for-6 with 2 doubles, 1 HR, 2 RBI's, and 2 runs. He also had 10 multiple hit games.

Ramirez demonstrated a great deal of progress he didn't show at Quad Cities or the year before at VSL/Johnson City. Maybe this winter season was to get him prepared for a starting spot in the outfield at Quad Cities next season. (runners left in scoring position, 2-outs: 14-4, 8 RBI's)

2B Juan Lucena (23-Springfield) played in 17 games for the Aragua team, batting .338 with a .347 OBP and .493 SLG. Lucena went 24-for-71 with 11 runs, 4 doubles, 2 triples (tied for 1st on team), 1 HR, 11 RBI's, 38 total bases, and 1 walk. Lucena only struck out 3% (2) of the time and had only 1 error. Lucena played a majority of his games at 2B, but also had stints at 1B, SS, 3B, LF, and DH.

He had a 13-game hitting streak in the middle of his winter season (between November 8th and December 12th). Lucena's best game came on November 9th when he went 3-for-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI's, and 2 runs. He also had 7 multiple hit games. Lucena did play 1 game for the Cardinals Parallel team at 1B, hitting 1-for-4 with 1 double on November 24th.

Lucena started out the winter season with the Aragua team in Venezuelan League play, but struggled (2-for-14 with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and 3 RBI's in 4 games) and I would imagine that is why he ended up in Parallel League play. This winter was a way to get Lucena prepared for the starting job at Springfield, since it seems a lot of players could get bumped up to Memphis. (runners left in scoring position, 2-outs: 8-4, 5 RBI's)

IF-OF Billys Bolivar (19-VSL) played in 10 games for the Aragua team, batting .125 with a .276 OBP and .125 SLG. Bolivar was 3-for-24 with 2 runs, 1 RBI, 3 total bases, and 5 walks. He struck out 17% (4) of the time, was caught stealing in his only attempt, and had 1 error. Bolivar's playing time was split up among DH, 3B, LF, RF, and 2B. Bolivar really struggled at the plate, and never arned a starting job on the team. His best game came on October 12th when he went 1-for-2 with 1 run, 2 walks, and 1 strike out.

Bolivar showed no real progress in Parallel League play compared to his VSL season; more of a drop off. Bolivar could be looking for another organization if he has another slow summer next season. (runners left in scoring position, 2-outs: 5-0, 0 RBI's)

C Roberto Espinoza (18-Johnson City) played in 5 games for the Aragua team, batting .364 with a .500 OBP and .727 SLG. Espinoza was 4-for-11 with 4 runs, 1 double, 1 HR, 2 RBI's, 8 total bases, and 2 walks. He struck out 18% (2) of the time and had no errors or passed balls. Espinoza spent his time as a back up catcher. His best game came October 17th when he hit 1-for-1 with 1 HR, 2 RBI's, and 1 run.

Can't really comment on him since he didn't play enough. Could he be competing for the starting catcher position at Johnson City next season?



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