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.
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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