Robinson Chirinos is back behind the plate this off-season - Al Messerschmidt
The AFL gets all the attention, but what's been happening in Central America this off-season?
While plenty of attention is paid to the Arizona Fall League, a little less is paid to the Caribbean winter leagues, at least in the U.S. The AFL is known for its impressive annual collection of prospects, but the Caribbean leagues generate a lot of excitement for fans too. A wide array of major and minor league players get some off-season work in these leagues, and that includes a handful of notable players in the Rays organization.
RHP Joel Peralta, Aguilas Cibaenas: After signing a new contract with the Rays, Peralta went home to the Dominican Republic and made several appearances for two teams before the Rays shut him down for the off-season. After making five solid appearances with Gigantes del Cibao, he was acquired by Aguilas Cibaenas, one of the league's most historic franchises, for the postseason where he made three appearances.
Gigantes del Cibao: 4 IP 4 H 2 ER 2 BB 5 K
Aguilas Cibaenas: 2.2 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 3 K
LHP Frank De Los Santos, Leones del Escogido: The small lefty was added to the 40 man roster after the 2012 season, and he'll join a handful of players competing for a spot in the Rays' bullpen in 2013. His addition to the roster didn't receive as much attention as some of the high profile additions, and his winter league stint was equally uninteresting.
Leones del Escogido: .2 IP 2 H 1 ER 0 BB 0 K
LHP Alex Torres, Aguilas del Zulia: After the "season" Torres just completed, his stint in winter ball would be highly scrutinized. He pitched well, especially compared to his regular season before being shut down as the Venezuelan playoffs began. With the recent news that he has a fourth option year, his positive winter is certainly something to build on for 2013. Perhaps his career as a starter is not done yet.
Aguilas del Zulia: 60.1 IP 57 H 30 ER 27 BB 86 K
C Robinson Chirinos, Navegantes del Magallanes: After missing the entire season due to a nasty concussion sustained in spring training, Chirinos was back in action in Venezuela this winter, but it's clear that he's being eased back in. He appeared in just six games in October, but now that the postseason has begun, he's back in action. Due to injuries to two other catchers on the Navegantes del Magallanes roster, he could be seeing more time behind the plate as they look for their first championship since 2002. Chirinos is hitless in five at-bats with a strikeout in the playoffs.
Navegantes del Magallanes: 23 PA, 1 R, .158/.304/.158
LHP Enny Romero, Leones del Escogido: Romero joined De Los Santos pitching for Leones del Escogido, and he's also not pitching in their postseason. After a season with Charlotte that could best be described as a mix bag, he pitched in relief this winter and continued to have mixed results. On the plus side, albeit in a very small sample size, he only walked two in 8.2 innings. It's certainly not indicative of any future performance, but it is a nice note for him to end the season on.
Leones del Escogido: 8.2 IP 10 H 3 ER 2 BB 6 K
LHP Braulio Lara, Tigres del Licey: Although he's temporarily not in the Rays organization, fans should still keep an eye on Lara in Marlins camp to see if he's returned during spring training. His career has been inconsistent to say the least, and in winter league action, he's been, well... Braulio Lara. Working out of the bullpen, he walked seven batters in 5.1 innings and isn't pitching in the postseason. His stuff is still great, but he's pretty clearly not ready for the majors. The Marlins would probably trade him after accumulating a month of service time anyway.
Tigres del Licey: 5.1 IP 3 H 3 ER 7 BB 4 K
And just for fun...
LHP Scott Kazmir, Gigantes de Carolina: After not pitching affiliated ball at all in 2012, the Rays' former ace will be reporting to spring training with Cleveland to try and get back into the bigs. It still seems like a long shot for him to be a factor in the majors again, but he's just 28 years old. Statistically, his stuff appeared to be there this winter. He struck out 27 batters in 22.2 innings, and more surprisingly, only walked eight. Throwing strikes always seemed to be optional with him, and it probably won't be long until he's out of the strike zone again.
Gigantes de Carolina: 22.2 IP 28 H 11 ER 8 BB 27 K
Can't mention Kazmir without...
RHP Victor Zambrano, Leones del Caracas: Sure, he hasn't pitched in affiliated baseball since 2008, but Zambrano is still giving it a go in Venezuela. He wasn't very successful, and the phone probably won't be ringing from a major league club again.
Leones del Caracas: 20 IP 23 H 10 ER 12 BB 15 K