The cream began to rise to the top as the playoffs neared their end in the Caribbean Leagues. As the Caribbean World Series nears, one of the hottest players has to be Luis Valbuena. Valbuena has almost single-handedly lifted Cardenales de Lara to the top spot in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Meanwhile “Down Under”, Ryan Searle continued to mow them down in the Australian Baseball League while Brisbane fought for a playoff slot.
As a note to readers, please stay with us until the very end, as a special announcement from the CCO follows the article.
Note: Coverage of the winter leagues will be by calendar week, Sunday through Saturday
Dominican Winter League
Toros del Este
The Toros made a game of it in round-robin play but wound up with an 8-9 record and three games out of the championship. The Bulls’ stumble down the stretch began last Sunday when they lost to Cibaenas 5-4. Diory Hernandez was 1-for-4 with an RBI, while Jeffry Antigua gave up the game winning hit in bottom of ninth.
The Bulls’ only win was on Monday as Diory Hernandez went 0-for-2 with a walk, a stolen base, and run scored in a 5-4 win over Escogido.
It was a carbon copy of Sunday’s game for the Toros on Tuesday as they lost for a second time to Cibaenas 5-4. Diory Hernandez was 2-for-4 with an RBI in the game.
Alberto Cabrera started on Wednesday and provided four scoreless innings, while striking out seven, but the rest of the Bulls could not support him as they ended up losing 4-3 to Escogido.
Estrellas de Oriente
Oriente tried to play spoiler down the stretch but they finished the round-robin a disappointing 5-12. Things started well for the Stars last week as Junior Lake went 1-for-4 with a triple, a run scored and a RBI as they defeated Cibaenas 4-3 on Monday.
It was a huge game on Tuesday as Estrellas weathered a late rally by the Lions to defeat Escogido 7-6. Nelson Perez (1-for-3) blasted a solo home run, walked and scored a pair of runs. Junior Lake went 1-for-4 and also drove in a run. Reliever Luis Liria allowed an earned run with a pair of walks and a strikeout in an inning of work. Rafael Dolis earned the victory by striking out a batter in a scoreless inning.
In what proved to be their final game of the DWL season, Junior Lake went 0-for-4 as the Stars lost 2-0 to Cibaenas on Wednesday.
Mexican Pacific League
Yaquis de Obregon
In a quirk of the LMP playoff system, Obregon advanced to the second round even though they lost their opening round series with Guasave. Mazatlan and Hermosillo were eliminated. Facing top seeded Culiacan the 2011 Caribbean Champions drew on their experience and smashed the Tomato Pickers four games to one in a seven game series.
Reliever Esmailin Caridad had a hand in the process and picked up a hold on Tuesday as he pitched 0.1 innings. Caridad gave up an earned run while walking two as the Yaquis won 6-5 over Culiacan.
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Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League
Gigantes de Carolina
After barely making the playoffs, the Giants were pretty much a pushover in round-robin play and they were eliminated on Thursday after going only 4-8.
Ty’Relle Harris was roughed up last Sunday in his final start for Carolina. Harris lasted only two innings and surrendered three earned runs in a 14-7 loss to Mayaguez.
Venezuelan Winter League
Cardenales de Lara
Making a push for the next round, the Cardinals won five out of six this past week. They were led by infielder Luis Valbuena, who batted .458 with two home runs and 13 RBI for the week. Lara started things out with an 11-3 win over Anzoategui last Sunday and Valbuena went 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI.
Monday saw the Cards post their only loss of the week as Luis Valbuena was 1-for-3 with a RBI as Lara fell 4-3 to Magallanes.
The Redbirds went back to their winning ways on Tuesday. Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and two RBI as they defeated Anzoategui 11-5.
Luis Valbuena kept rolling and drove in three runs on Thursday as Lara thrashed Caracas 9-2 on Thursday. Valbuena was 2-for-3 with a walk and a double.
There was just no stopping Luis Valbuena on Friday. Valbuena posted another three RBI night. This time, Valbuena doubled and homered as he was 2-for-4 with a walk in Lara’s 6-2 victory over Zulia.
Luis Valbuena then capped his week by going deep for the second consecutive game in the Cardinals’ 6-3 win over top rated Magallanes. Valbuena was 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI.
Leones de Caracas
Catcher J.C. Boscan made a pinch-hit appearance on Thursday. Boscan was 0-for-1 as the Lions lost to Lara 9-2.
Australian Baseball League
Ryan Searle may be the ABL’s hottest pitcher. After being named to Team Australia for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Searle returned to a starting role and has a 2.93 ERA this winter with 26 strikeouts and two walks in 27.2 innings.
With the Bandits fighting for a playoff spot, Ryan Searle pitched an absolute gem on Saturday. Searle went eight innings, allowed only an earned run, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. Searle picked up third win as Brisbane defeated Perth 8-5.
A New Feature on the CCO
For all the readers that follow the CCO on Facebook, the CCO will begin a Tuesday’s with Tom U. Chat from 7:00pm CST until 8:00pm CST (that’s 2:00pm to 3:00pm GMT for our international followers). Join us on Facebook tomorrow, January 22, for our first Q & A session.
The CCO has a new Twitter feed dedicated to the Cubs minor league teams, prospects and players @TheCCO_Minors … and now, minor league coverage has been included on the CCO’s Facebook page. Stay up to date with all minor league happenings by following Chicago Cubs Online on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Attention CCO Readers
The Down on the Farm reader’s poll continues this week. You can cast your votes on Twitter, Facebook and on the CCO. The current leaders are 3B Christian Villanueva and RHP Dillon Maples, with RHP Juan Carlos Paniagua close behind. Please post the names of the minor league players you would like the Down on the Farm Report to follow next season. The CCO will track the progress of ten players throughout the entire season and a representative sample of positions and levels of play is optimal. You can name as many players as you like, but remember, only ten will be chosen. So from Luis Acosta to Tony Zych, all nominations will be accepted and given equal weight. Once a list is compiled of the top 20 vote getters, a poll will be placed on the site to cut the list in half.