Welcome to the first of many winter league reports that will continue until the conclusion of the Caribbean World Series. If you are a reader of NSR, you’re well aware of my fandom for Javier Baez and his ability to play baseball. He’s the best base runner and the best defender in the organization. I still say he has the most raw power but cutting down on his swing and taking the ball up the middle and to the opposite field has really improved his overall game at the plate. Should be an enjoyable NLCS. Cubs have now won more playoff series under the Ricketts ownership than they did during the entire Wrigley (0) and Tribune (1) eras.
Arizona Fall League
AFL got underway on Tuesday with seven Cubs prospects playing for the Mesa Solar Sox. In the opener, Mesa fell to Surprise 11-2. Ian Happ was the only Cubs to see any action, getting the start at second and going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
On Wednesday at Sloan Park, Mesa lost the home opener 7-1 to Glendale. RH Duane Underwood got the start and was the losing pitcher, surrendering four runs on three hits with three strikeouts in 2.2 innings. Stephen Perakslis fanned three over 1.1 innings and James Farris recorded a pair of punchouts in a scoreless frame. RH Ryan McNeil got tagged for a pair of runs in the ninth on a hit and walk. RF Eloy Jimenez, 19, went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored the only run for Mesa while Ian Happ double and walked in four plate appearances. C Victor Caratini got the start and was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Venezuelan Winter League
Dominican Winter League
The season beings on Oct. 20 and several Cubs are expected to play this winter but roster have yet to be released.
Mexican Pacific Winter League
The season got underway on Tuesday and currently 3B Christian Villanueva, Obregon, is the only Cubs player on a roster. Villanueva missed all of 2016 with a broken leg he suffered in spring training. In the season opener on Wednesday night, Villanueva went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. A couple of former Cubs also played in the game OF Dave Sappelt, Obregon, was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored and RH Casey Coleman tossed five innings of one run ball with four strikeouts for Hermosillo and earned the win.
Puerto Rican Winter League
RH Corey Black will play this winter in Puerto Rico when the season begins on Oct. 27. Black started the season in AA (0-3, 3.18 ERA, 20 G, 8 SV, 22.2 IP, 25 K, 1.46 WHIP) and ended the year in Iowa (0-3, 5.04 ERA, 30.1 IP, 37 K, 1.68 WHIP). Black was acquired by the Cubs in a trade for Alfonso Soriano with the Yankees in 2013 and is Rule 5 eligible.