It’s Caribbean World Series time again, and the CCO provides a preview of all the participants.
Making an appearance in the tournament will pitchers Fernando Cruz and Andres Santiago, who helped propel Santurce to an upset victory in the Mexican Pacific League playoffs.
For all the other “Cubs Connections,” take a look at today’s Down on the Farm Report.
Note: Coverage of the Winter Leagues runs from Sunday to Saturday
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League
Cangrejeros de Santurce
Santurce allowed Mayaguez to get the upper hand in their Championship series last Sunday by losing 1-0. Andres Santiago struggled to get the final out of the sixth inning. Santiago gave up a hit and walked two, allowing what would be the winning run to come in. The Indians led two games to one in the best-of-seven series.
The Cangrejeros evened things up on Tuesday by going 13 innings to beat Mayaguez 4-3. Fernando Cruz played a pivotal role down the stretch, blanking the Tribe in the eighth inning.
It was another exciting contest on Wednesday as the Crabbers came from behind to defeat Mayaguez 3-2 and take a three-games-to-two lead in the series. Fernando Cruz once again was crucial in holding off Mayaguez, striking out a batter in a scoreless eighth inning.
Venezuelan Winter League
Navegantes de Magallanes
Magallanes dropped their second straight game last Monday, as their championship series with Aragua was tied at two-games-to-two with a 6-2 loss. Jean Machi gave up a hit in a scoreless eighth inning.
Caribbean World Series Preview
On Monday, the Caribbean World Series begins with a round-robin schedule through Friday, with the semifinals on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday. It should be a wide open tournament as all of the best regular season teams from all of the Major League affiliated winter leagues were eliminated in their respective county’s playoffs, while defections have diminished the Cuban team. Here is an overview of the national teams involved.
Cuba – While not as weak as two years ago, the Cuban national team will not be as strong as their championship team last year. Third baseman Yulieski Gurriel may be the best player in the entire tournament, as he hit a ridiculous .494 in 215 plate appearance in the Serie Nacional. The team will also include Gurriel’s younger brother, Lourdes Gurriel, in the outfield, while OF/DH Alfredo Despaigne may be the best power hitter on the planet not playing in the Major Leagues. However, Cuba’s soft spot is pitching, where the best they have to offer are relievers Yunier Cano and Livan Moinelo. Cubs connection: None at this time.
Dominican Republic – Traditional powerhouse Escogido was able to top regular season champs Licey in the DWL playoffs, bringing a wealth of experience. The Dominicans have a lot of familiar names in pitchers Nick Additon, Alex Colome, and Fernando Rodney; catcher Wilkin Castillo; along with top outfield prospect Joey Rickard on their roster. But it is not clear how many of them will be playing instead of preparing for Spring Training. The DWL has also been idle since January 18, which has traditionally had a negative effect on the team. However, the Dominicans will have an advantage as the host country. Cubs connection: Pitcher Andury Acevedo is on the roster, but has not pitched since November. Rodney and Carlos Pimentel are also former Cubs.
Mexico – When Obregon, the team with the best record in the regular season, fell in the semifinals, there are some that felt the chances for the Mexican team in The Series were doomed. But eventual Mexican Pacific League winner Mazatlan’s overall record was only one game behind the Yaquis. The Venados are loaded with stars from the Mexican League, and are led by outfielder Quincy Latimore, who ranked in the league top five in both home runs and RBI. Lefty Amilcar Gaxiola heads up the pitching staff. Due to the structure of the Mexican League, the LMP is seen as an extension of the regular season, so Team Mexico will be the freshest participant coming into the tournament. Cubs connection: None at this time.
Puerto Rico – After dominating the regular season, Mayaguez was beaten in six games by Santurce, a team with a losing record heading into the playoffs. The Cangrejeros have the league’s top three hitters in outfielders Raymond Fuentes and Ruben Sosa, along with shortstop Jose Lozado. Right-handers Joseph Colon, Reinier Roibal, and Adalberto Flores finished 1-2-3 in ERA, with Flores tops in strikeouts. While considered the weakest of the winter leagues, Puerto Rico enters the series as the hottest team, and has had the shortest layoff of all competitors. Cubs connection: While infielder Javier Baez has left to prepare for Spring Training, the Cubs are still well represented on Team Puerto Rico. Pitchers Fernando Cruz and Andres Santiago, along with former Cubs prospect Frank Del Valle form the backbone of a very solid bullpen.
Venezuela – In yet another upset, league leader Magallanes was humbled by Aragua, a team that finished one game under .500 for the season. Third baseman Carlos Rivero was among the league leaders in both home runs and RBI, while shortstop Juniel Querecuto was fourth in the league with a .352 average. The Tigers also have several Major League veterans, including infielder Alberto Callaspo and pitchers Eduardo Sanchez and Tony Pena Jr. Pitching is not a strong suit, but Venezuela will also be coming off of a very short layoff prior to the series. Cubs connection: Infielder/catcher Gioskar Amaya saw some early action, but has not played since November. Reliever Armando Rivero was a vital cog for Aragua in the playoffs, but was absent for the championship series after calling it a winter to prepare for Spring Training. Former pitching prospect Austin Bibens-Dirkx is a mainstay in the rotation.
Prediction: While Puerto Rico may be the surprise of the tournament, the set of evenly matched squads should favor the most experienced teams. That should mean home team Dominican Republic would face Cuba in the finals, with Team Cuba repeating as champions.
News and Notes
The Cubs signed LHP Nick Greenwood and RHP Jonathan Pettibone to minor league contracts.