Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

A look at Cubs players in Winter League action as well as other news around the minors

Armando Rivero helped Aragua’s to a first round win in the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs. A look around the winter leagues, P.J. Francescon suspended 50 games, and 2015 draft profile on Sutton Whiting

Venezuelan Winter League

After not pitching since Nov. 29,  Armando Rivero returned to the mound and figured prominently in Aragua’s seven-game win over Margarita in the opening round of the playoffs. The Cuban right-hander earned the save in Game 2, working a scoreless ninth in the 4-3 win. Rivero took the loss in Game 3, allowing the winning run to score in the bottom of the 10th in a 12-11 defeat. He retired the side in the 9th but gave up three singles in the 10th, two with two outs. Rivero tossed a shutout inning in the Game 6 win and then recorded the save with a scoreless ninth in the deciding Game 7. In the series, Rivero allowed a run on six hits and a walk in 4.2 IP to go along with 4 K.

Dominican Republic Winter League

Licey clinched a berth in the finals for the 34th time since 1951 with a 8-0 win over Escogido on Sunday. 2B  Arismendy Alcantara smacked a solo homer and ended the game 1-for-3 with two runs scored. DH Juan Perez went 1-for-2, walked once and scored a run in the win. Perez has hit .286 in round-robin play out of the leadoff spot for the Tigers. Licey (11-1) will wait for an opponent as Toros (5-6), Escogido (4-8) and Estrellas (3-8) battle it for second with round-robin play continuing until Jan. 17. LHP Luis Parra, a former Rangers farmhand who signed a free agent deal, is pitching for Estrellas in the playoffs. He appeared in 10 games this winter and didn’t allow an earned run in 8 IP (9 K, 2 BB)

Mexican Winter League

3B Christian Villanueva and Obregon advanced in the playoffs with a 4-2 series win over Los Mochis. Villanueva hit .200 during the series with a homer. RHP Spencer Patton tossed six innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit while striking out five and walking one for Los Mochis. Patton will be in the mix for a bullpen spot during spring training. Obregon won the first game in the best-of-seven semi-finals against Mazatlan 4-1. Villanueva was 0-for-3 as the DH.

Puerto Rican Winter League

Javier Baez' winter season looks like its over as the Cubs infielder was back in Florida on Monday for Marcus Stroman’s  charity golf tournament. Baez hit .250/.339/.762 with 2 HR and 10 RBI in 15 games, three in centerfield. He batted .214 in four round-robin games during the playoffs. Relief pitcher Fernando Cruz, resigned by the Cubs, threw 26.2 innings of relief in 21 games and posted a 1.01 ERA with 24 K and 13 BB. He’s still on the Santurce roster......Mayaguez leads round-robin action with a 4-2 mark while Santurce and Caguas are both 2-3. Play continues until Jan. 20.

Francescon suspended for 50 games

Cubs AAA relief pitcher P.J. Francescon has been suspended 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy. Francescon, the Cubs 40th round pick in 2011, failed a second drug test for a drug of abuse. The right-hander recorded 25 saves for AA Tennessee (4-2, 1.69 ERA, 61.1 IP, 21 BB, 57 K) before earning a late season promotion to AAA for the first time in his career. In eight scoreless AAA innings, Francescon allowed four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He pitched for Magallanes this winter in Venezuela, recording six saves in eight chances and appeared in 14 games (1-1, 2.84 ERA, 12.2 IP, 6 BB 11 K). 

2015 Draft Profile

Sutton Whiting, SS, 24th Round Pick, University of Louisville

Whiting made his professional debut on June 25 for Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League, delivering a pinch-hit single and then stealing second in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Angles. His career was off and running and it would be a sign of things to come. Whiting’s stay in Arizona lasted five games before promoted to Eugene. After his Northwest League debut on July 6, Whiting was shipped to Tennessee as the Cubs needed middle infield help at the AA level. Whiting was up to the task, hitting .438/.609/.563 in eight games with the Smokies. Whiting was then moved to Myrtle Beach for three games and finished the season back in Eugene, hitting .235/.297/.294 in 14 games.  With 185 starts under his belt in college, Whiting gives the Cubs a versatile infielder that provides quality depth across the minors. A two-year team captain at Louisville and an All-Big East first-team selection in 2015, Whiting hit .302/.407/.369 with 39 runs scored, 13 doubles, 27 RBI, 38 walks and 15 stolen bases during his senior season. After being Selected in the 44th round by the Braves in 2011, Whiting headed to Louisville and was used primarily as a pinch-runner his freshman year, earned second-team All-Big East honors as a sophomore, and was fifth in NCAA with 37 steals as a junior with an OBP of 390 despite only hitting .216. Depending on spring training, Whiting could find himself in a starting role at short in South Bend and may serve as the backup to Gleyber Torres (Myrtle Beach) or Carlos Penalver (Tennessee) before the end of the 2016 season.

Northsiders Report Top Stories