As a new era dawns for the Cubs organization, business goes on in the Winter Leagues. Bryan LaHair is terrorizing Venezuelan League pitching, while Chris Rusin had a great debut in the Dominican League. Blake Parker, Hung-Wen Chen, and Oswaldo Martinez each put up good relief performances, while Marco Carrillo continues to dazzle hitters in the Mexican League.
In the AFL, the Solar Sox got back into the thick of things, while Team USA flexed their muscles in the Pan-Am games.
Along with a recap of the Instructional League, welcome to this week’s Down on the Farm Report. Dominican Winter League
In the Eagles loss to Escogido on Wednesday, Frank Batista allowed his first earned run in an inning pitched.
Gigantes del Cibao
The Giants have recently signed catcher Mario Mercedes, who hasn’t seen any action yet.
Leones de Escogido
Suiting up for the first time this season for the Lions, recently signed lefty Chris Rusin started on Tuesday and gave up only one earned run in four innings. Rusin struck out three as Escogido topped Cibao 5-3. Rusin had a familiar receiver in Steve Clevenger, who was 1-for-2 with two walks.
Steve Clevenger wasn’t as good on Friday, as he went 0-for-4 in the Cats’ 5-3 win over Cibaenas.
Left-handed reliever John Gaub got in for Escogido on Wednesday, striking out three but allowed an earned run in an inning pitched as the Lions beat Cibaenas 13-3.
Estrellas de Oriente
It was a tough time for the organization’s relievers with the Stars. On Monday, Scott Maine allowed an earned run in a third of an inning as Oriente lost to Este 5-4. Rafael Dolis didn’t record an out on Wednesday, giving up a hit to the only batter he faced as the Stars defeated Licey 6-2.
Mexican Pacific League
Naranjeros de Hermosillo
The Orange Growers continue to rely on Blake Parker, as he went two scoreless innings with two strikeouts on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Obregon. Parker then picked up his second hold on Thursday with another scoreless inning, aiding Hermosillo in a 4-3 victory against Obregon.
Venados de Mazatlan
Taiwan native Hung-Wen Chen experienced the ups and downs of being a closer for Mazatlan this week. Chen was called on to close out the Deers’ 9-6 victory over Mexicali on Wednesday, striking out a batter to pick up his second save.
Hung-Wen Chen then struck out two on Thursday, but allowed an earned run to blow a save in a 5-3 loss to Mexicali.
Yaquis de Obregon
Mexico native Marco Carrillo continues to impress in a starters role for Obregon, striking out four while blanking Hermosillo for five innings in a 4-3 loss on Thursday.
In a 17-inning marathon on Tuesday, Oswaldo Martinez ate up two scoreless innings, striking out two as the Yaquis edged out Hermosillo 3-2.
Venezuelan Winter League
Caribes de Anzoategui
Continuing his struggles this winter, Eduardo Figueroa saw no action for the Indians this week.
Tigres de Aragua
Jonathan Mota continues to struggle, seeing action on only one game and going 0-2 in the Tigers’ 6-3 loss to Margarita on Wednesday.
Leones de Caracas
Marwin Gonzalez had a tough week for the Lions, going 2-for-16 to lower his batting average to .256. He was 1-for-3 in a 9-3 loss to Anzoategui on Sunday. Gonzalez had his best game of the week on Wednesday. Gonzalez was 1-for-5 with three RBI against Anzoategui in a 12-3 victory.
Marwin Gonzalez ended the week on an 0-for-8 slump in losses to Margarita and Aragua.
Tiburones de La Guaira
The Sharks’ Hector Mayora was roughed up a little on Wednesday, allowing three earned runs in 0.2 innings, as La Guaira lost 13-4 to Magallenas.
Navegantes del Magallanes
Robert Coello is taking to his new role in relief as he held La Guaira in check for 1.1 innings in a 13-4 win on Wednesday. In that game, Bryan LaHair was 1-for-4 with two walks, a home run, and two RBI.
Bryan LaHair continued to strike fear in VBP pitchers this week, going 1-3 with walk, a home run and in Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to La Guaira. The big first baseman was 1-for-2 and three walks as the Navs defeated Lara 5-0 on Friday.
Aguilas del Zulia
Fire-balling righty Austin Bibens-Dirkx redeemed himself in a relief effort on Wednesday, tossing 2.1 innings of scoreless ball to lower his ERA to 3.38. He also added two strikeouts in the Eagles’ 7-3 loss to Lara.
Arizona Fall League
Mesa Solar Sox
The Solar Sox are now putting things together, going 5-1 this week to improve their record to 8-9. As talk of compensation for soon-to-be executive Theo Epstein has swirled, you can’t help but wonder whether it has affected some performances. At the center of the rumors is Josh Vitters, who saw his average drop to .375 from .405. Vitters played right field for the first time on Saturday. D.J. LeMahieu continues to maintain himself with a .271 average while tying for third on the team with 11 RBI. He also continues to see action at third and first base. Shortstop Junior Lake hasn’t seemed to be phased, now second on the team with 14 RBI while hitting .379. He also has four homers and leads the league with 11 stole bases. However, he added his fourth fielding error.
While starter Trey McNutt claims that he had no knowledge of his involvement in the Epstein talks, his performance on Wednesday may have been affected. McNutt allowed two earned runs in 1.2 innings to increase his ERA to 4.05. He did record his first strikeout of the AFL. Reliever Marcus Hatley continues to struggle, giving up five earned runs in an inning on Tuesday and suffered his third loss. However, he rebounded to throw a scoreless inning on Saturday. Chris Carpenter has tossed two innings in the past week and allowed an earned run to move his ERA to 2.35 and increase his strikeout total to 11. Andrew Cashner hasn’t seen any work since last Friday.
Team USA has been mowing down the competition at the Pan-Am games. The United States opened with a 20-2 victory over the Dominican Republic and an 11-0 defeat of Panama. However, they fell to Mexico 3-2 on Saturday, with Brett Jackson and Jeffrey Beliveau seeing their first action. Jackson failed to reach in a pinch-hitting appearance, while Beliveau struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief. The US now meets Cuba in the semifinals on Monday.
The Fall Instructional League was completed last weekend. It turned out to be a little disappointing because many of the more exciting prospects were out with injuries. Those missing time included Javier Baez,Taiwan Easterling, Dustin Geiger, Reggie Golden, and Rafael Lopez. However, injuries created opportunities for other players.
Those benefitting the most were Rubi Silva and 18-year old Venezuelan Mark Malave. Sliva not only saw action at second and right field, but also lined up a short for a game. He would end up hitting an “unofficial” (no official scorers are present) .317 in 12 games with a triple, three RBI and three stolen bases. The burly Malave is being looked at primarily as a catcher, but also impressed with his defense at third base. Young infielders Danny Lockhart and Carlos Penalver saw time at third, short, and second.
Among the most impressive hitters was 17-year old Jeimer Candelario. The switching -hitting Dominican batting .297 in 14 games with five extra-base hits and five RBI. He didn’t show as much patience as he did in the DSL this past summer, but did draw four walks in thirty-seven at bats. Before his injury, 19-year old Dustin Geiger hit .333 with two doubles, a home run, and six RBI in nine games (24 at bats).
Several players also took advantage of their experience to post good numbers. Yaniel Cabeza hit .357 with three RBI in eleven games, while Micah Gibbs was .448 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, and eight RBI in thirteen games. Rafael Lopez batted .278 with two doubles and three RBI in eight games before injury.
The catching position received a further boost from 17-year old Justin Marra, who had a double and three RBI with a .261 average in eleven games, while 17-year old Alberto Mineo went 4-for-8 with two RBI in four games.
The organization’s young pitching also had some good moments, with 20-year old Dominican Jose Arias leading the way. In five appearances (two starts), the right-hander posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.82 WHIP while striking out twelve against two walks. Twenty-year old Starling Peralta appeared in four games (two starts) and struck out eight with three walks and a 2.16 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Making his professional debut, 21-year old righty Ian Dickson had a 1.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in four appearances (two starts).
Leading the staff in ERA was Luis Liria. In six appearances (one start), the 21-year old right- handed pitcher had both a 0.82 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. He’ll have to work more on his command, with five walks to four strikeouts. Lefty Frank Del Valle struck out 14 with only two walks, and had a 1.80 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in ten innings of work. Another left-hander, Kyler Burke, was able to post a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 6.2 innings, striking out eight and walking three batters. Nineteen year-old Austin Reed and 20-year old Michael Jensen each had a 0.00 ERA.
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