Tigers Getting Underway in Winter Leagues

While the Arizona Fall League got underway about two weeks ago, the Caribbean winter leagues weren’t far behind, as winter ball in Venezuela and the Dominican is underway. Which Tigers players are on rosters and have appeared in games so far, and who hasn’t yet but might be taking the field soon?

The Tigers as usual have a number of players competing in the winter leagues, and it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of those players are in the Venezuelan winter league, or Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional to be more precise, given the organization’s continued focus in the country. In fact, only one member of the Tigers organization is involved in winter ball outside of Venezuela so far.

That one individual is right-hander Jose Valdez, who is getting in some winter work with Gigantes in his native Dominican Republic in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano. Valdez has made just one appearance in the young season and given up two hits, including a home run, while recording two outs for a 27.00 ERA in this young season. He also had a strikeout in his lone appearance.

Moving down to Venezuela, the Tigers have 13 organizational members currently on rosters. A few of those players might not be members of the organization when spring rolls around, like outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, but they’re well represented nevertheless. It’s also important to remember that winter ball participation is not a static team, with many rosters cycling through a number of players who join the team for short periods of time to get a bit of work in, and then take the rest of the winter off to rest and recover in anticipation of next spring training.

The full list of Tigers on rosters in Venezuela is second baseman Harold Castro, third basemen Francisco Martinez and Mike Hessman, shortstop David Gonzalez, Carrera, lefty Eudis Idrogo, and right-handers Alfred Gutierrez, Anthony Castro, Wilsen Palacios, Bruce Rondon, Endrys Briceno, and Yorfrank Lopez.

Gutierrez and Gonzalez are both native Venezuelans, and both suiting up this winter for Margarita. Gonzalez has appeared in three games so far, with one hit in five at-bats along with a walk. He also scored a run and drove in another. Gutierrez meanwhile has tossed two scoreless innings of relief, with two walks and a strikeout.

Hessman, who set the International League home run record earlier this season, is now getting in work for Tigres de Aragua, and is off to an unusual start. In eight games (23 at-bats), he’s hitting just .174 with one extra base hit (a home run), but he’s walked ten times while striking out 11, leaving him with an uncommon .174/.457/.304 triple slash line, good still for a respectable .761 OPS, just not getting there in a typical fashion.

Heading to the Leones del Caracas, where the Tigers have both Castro’s (Harold and Anthony), along with Wilsen Palacios. However, Harold Castro has yet to appear in a game, so it’s just the two pitchers seeing action thus far. Neither pitcher has had a great start, with Anthony Castro yielding a pair of runs in two innings of work with two walks and no strikeouts. Palacios has an ERA of 40.50 after allowing three runs on three hits in his only appearance in which he recorded two outs.

Next up in Venezuela, we move on to Magallanes, where Rondon, Carrera and Martinez are all on the roster. Optimism remains high within the organization on Rondon, but he has not pitched yet in Venezuela. While not injured, Carrera also has yet to appear in a game. Martinez though has and is off to a chilly start, with just one single in 13 at-bats while striking out four times. It’s worth noting that Magallanes in particular has a big roster, with approximately 50 members currently listed, obviously all of whom can’t play, so it’s possible we could see either Carrera or Rondon later in the season.

Finally we come to La Guaira, where like Magallanes, they have a massive roster without nearly enough at-bats or innings for everyone. The final three members of the organization mentioned up front are on La Guaira, however one of the higher rated prospects in Briceno has yet to pitch. (Ed. note: Briceno underwent Tommy John surgery in July and it's unlikely he'll be able to pitch in a game, but can still work out with the team) Idrogo has been used as a situational lefty mostly thus far, giving up two hits and allowing an unearned run, but recording five outs and not yet allowing an earned run. Like Idrogo, Lopez has made four appearances, but in his case, he started one game over last weekend, tossing two scoreless innings with a walk and a strikeout. Unfortunately, his other few appearances hadn’t gone as well, giving up a combined four runs (all earned) on three hits in 3 2/3 innings. He’s also walked five and struck out five.

That covers it in the initial roundup in the winter leagues. Stay tuned in future updates as more organizational members take the field for their cameo this fall.

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