Cubs Down on the Farm Report – 02/07/11

Winter League Wrap-up

The Winter Leagues were a mixed bag of results for players from the Cubs’ organization. Some well known prospects, such as Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair, Junior Lake, Brad Snyder, Ty Wright, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx had limited appearances. Others, such as Matt Camp, Welington Castillo, Marquez Smith, and Ryan Searle didn’t have the best seasons. However, the organization’s relief pitching looks in good shape.

Luke Sommer, Marcos Mateo, and Eduardo Figueroa all posted an ERA under 3.00, with Mateo, Polin Trinidad, and Marco Carrillo all having great playoff runs. And while Cubs fans were sorting out their feelings over the team trading a promising 20-year old shortstop, another young prospect in Marwin Gonzalez emerged at the position.

In all, 10 of the organization’s 26 prospects involved in the Caribbean Leagues ended up on the rosters of teams participating in their respective league’s championships. Five made it to the Caribbean World Series. Not a bad percentage.

Organizational Player of the Winter
Marwin Gonzalez: If someone were to tell you that a Cubs’ shortstop would hit .324 with 12 doubles, two home runs, and 38 RBI in the winter leagues, you might say “Boy, Starlin Castro had a good winter”. However, it was Marwin Gonzalez who put up these numbers.

The soon to be 22-year old switch hitter was fourth in the Venezuelan League in hitting and third in hits, runs scored, and RBI. He followed that up by hitting .295 with five doubles, two triples, seven runs scored, and 11 RBI in the playoffs. He was also valuable defensively for Leones de Caracas, playing third base as well as shortstop.

Organizational Pitcher of the Winter
Marcos Mateo: Marcos Mateo was only used sparingly by Estrellas de Oriente during the regular season, tossing only 15 innings in 12 games. He sported a 2-0 record with a 2.40 ERA, and had 19 strikeouts versus 9 walks. Opponents batted only .179 against him during the season. However, in the playoffs, it was Mateo’s turn to shine.

In 11.1 innings, he allowed only two unearned runs and had a 0.00 ERA. He struck out 17 while walking only three batters, earning two saves for The Stars.

Best Game of the Winter
Puerto Rican League: Criollos de Caguas 7 – Leones de Ponce 6
In the third game of the best-of-seven Championship Series, the Creoles and the Lions played a seven-hour, 15-inning marathon. The game saw seven lead changes as well as four scoreless extra innings.

In the top of the 15th inning, Ponce manager and current Cubs’ Bench Coach Pat Listach was ejected by home plate umpire Kelvin Bultron. Luis Montanez, a former first round pick of the Cubs in 2000 who was recently re-signed by the organization, stroked a bases loaded, walk-off single in the bottom of the 15th to secure a 7-6 victory for Caguas. Click Here for Box Score

Player to Watch
Nelson Perez: Although the 23-year old left-hander only played in 19 games with 34 at bats for Dominican Champion Toros del Este, he was valuable in their playoff run. Nelson Perez hit .294 during the regular season, but his at bats tell the real tale.

Perez was mainly used as a pinch hitter and late inning outfield replacement. His average shows that he was able to deliver several times in the clutch for the Bulls. Perez batted .289 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI in 82 games for Class A Peoria last season. While Perez may never be a starter in the big leagues, having a left-handed pinch hitter that can succeed under pressure is a nice thing to have on your bench.

New Favorite Team
Yaquis de Obregon: While the Mexican Pacific League team had only one Cubs prospect, pitcher Marco Carrillo, they were fun to watch. My wife and daughter say that they have the cutest logo of any sports team. They may be right!

Caribbean World Series
While the rest of us were digging out from the blizzard on February 2, it was sunny and 84 degrees in Puerto Rico for the series opener. In a game for the ages, Mexico rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the Dominican Republic in the ninth inning.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the 15th, when Iker Franco singled in Richard Nanita from second to secure the victory. Cubs prospect Marco Carrillo induced a groundout in the top of the 15th and was credited with the win.

On February 3, Marco Carrillo recorded two strikeouts in 3.1 innings with no earned runs as Mexico lost to Puerto Rico 7-3. Luis Montanez was 1-for-5 in the game for Puerto Rico. Eduardo Figueroa pitched 0.1 inning and allowed an earned run in Venezuela’s 6-5 loss to the Dominican Republic. He was credited with the loss.

The Dominican Republic rallied for three runs in the top of the 9th to defeat Puerto Rico 4-3 on February 4. Luis Martinez was 2-for-4 with an RBI for Puerto Rico.

Welington Castillo got a rare start for the Dominican Republic on February 5 and went 0-for-4 in a 6-3 loss to Mexico.

The current standings in round robin play are, Mexico 3-1, Dominican Republic 2-2, Puerto Rico 2-2, and Venezuela 1-3. The tournament concludes on Monday, February 7.

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Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver
  • Tony

    Tom – Thanks for the updates over the Winter. It has been great staying up to date on what our guys are doing during the offseason. I hope to see a few more of these guys roaming around Wrigley this year.

  • JayBird2020

    Nice updates Tom. Thanks for the informative work.

  • Richard Hood

    It has been said that the Venezuelan Winter League is about like AA in the states. If that is the case at what point will Marwin Gonzalez be starting out at this spring? Will he be at AA where he seems to have a good understanding of how to hit there or will he be pushed up higher? I think if he keeps improving peoples ideas on the Garza trade may have to be reevaluated.

    • paulcatanese

      Richard ,personaly I would think the have to push him up higher to continue to challenge him,but that is if as you say the league in Venezuela is truly equal to AA. I was impressed what Tom posted about him,hope he keeps popping up in the reports.

    • Agustin

      I would have to say its more like triple A only that you have a mixture of AAA veterans that are not going to make it and some mayor leaguers. I think a fair comparison with latin leagues would be like spring trainning. One thing is true…it was really good up until the early 90’s

    • Tom U

      Sorry to be responding to you so late, Richard.

      Where Marwin Gonzalez plays this season might be the biggest hot potato in the organization, inspiring a lot of heated debate.

      To recap, Gonzalez opened last season at High A Daytona as their second baseman. When Starlin Castro was promoted to the majors, the organization moved Gonzalez to AA Tennessee, where he shared shortstop with Nate Samsen. He ended up hitting only .246 for the Smokies, but did drive in 41 runs in only 86 games. In winter ball, he played both short and third, and he has limited outfield experience.

      After his eye opening performance in winter ball, it will depend on how he performs in spring training. From an organizational point of view, I believe he would be best served playing the year ar AAA Iowa. The I-Cubs have minor league veteran Matt Camp to ease Gonzalez in. This would open up the shortstop and third base position at Tennesse, where a three man rotation with Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, and Samsen at those positions might be best.

  • paulcatanese

    Thanks tom,good updates,Mateo did well. Hope he gets a spot. And is Castro looking over his shoulder?

    • Tom U

      Not likely for Castro. I believe that the Cubs’ commitment to Castro was one of the main reasons they parted with Hak-Ju Lee in the off-season. Having Gonzalez around helps ease matters.

  • paulcatanese

    Tom,Ijust read on BR that white sox fans defaced Harry Carey’s statue outside Wrigley. Can that be? It proves what JERKS they really are. Cub fans could retaliate if there was anything worth it on the South Side but there is not.

  • Andy9turner

    I love being kept this up to date being a Cub fan from Texas! Go Cubs!

  • Joenp3

    Forbes (BTW who cares…) named Chicago as the 7th most miserable city in the country. They mentioned that The Cubs have gone from “The Lovable Losers” to a huge payroll joke. At least somebody gets it, unlike posters on this bored…excuse me board. Between Hendry and the way they screwed Sandberg, I think they are being kind.

    • Jason

      Funny I have been in Chicago all my life and everyone i have ever met in and out of this City says it is a great place to live. It is much nicer and cleaner that any of the big cities. Fortunately the Cubs don’t define Chicago so if you are that shallow you should probably just stay away.

  • Tom U

    Thanks to everyone for all of your nice comments. I’ve really enjoyed covering the winter leagues, and look forward to the regular season.

    • Richard Hood

      Thanks for your information this winter Tom and if it is I can get the travel time to see all the winter leagues I would love that beat.

      • Tom U

        You and me both. Maybe Neil could wrangle us a sponsorship!

  • Tom U

    Congratulations to Mexican champions Yaquis de Obregon on winning the Caribbean World Series. With today’s 3-2 victory over Venezuela and Puerto Rico’s 3-0 loss to the Dominican Republic, the Tribe wins the title with a 4-2 record in round robin play.