Second Dominican Winter League Update

The Caribbean World Series should be interesting. Puerto Rico has not started their winter league yet, struggling to get power back to the island. They hope to start in January on a shortened schedule. Venezuela needed an influx of cash from the government to get their winter league started. Chaos prevails over there and players are staying away because of perceived dangers. Cuba has lost the best of their league to the United States and is a mixture of veterans and youth. Only the Dominican Republic and Mexico remain stead fast in the normalcy of the league. Below is an update of the Dominican Winter League. It has been more than a month since our last real update.

The 50 game regular season is complete and an 18 game playoff will begin today, with four teams battling to play for the final two spots, and a best of nine championship series.

Gigantes del Cibao (29-21)

They are one of the four playoff teams. They always seem to finish atop the regular season play and then falter in the round robin. The fairly new team has represented the Dominican Republic once in the Series del Caribe, back in 2015, a series won by Cuba. It will be interesting to see who they will have for the round robin.

Eloy Jimenez was their top hitter. He played for them early, hit .368 with 4 homeruns and 21 RBIs in 19 games and then departed November 15. Despite the paucity of games he is still second on the team in RBIs and tied for first in homeruns. The veteran Moises Sierra has been their most consistent bat with a .353 average and 22 RBIs. Jose Siri arrived after the departure of Jimenez and produced (.321, 2, 13) sharing the outfield with Sierra. His 11 stolen bases were second on the team to Abiatal Avelino (.309, 22 runs scored) who stole 19 bases. Disappointments were Rafael Bautista (.174), Richard Urena (.190), Miguel Andujar (.185) and Sam Travis (.156), proving this league can be a challenge to youngsters.

Patrick Johnson (0-1, 3.59) ate up innings in the rotation, getting 10 starts and leading the team in innings pitched (42.2). It did not account for any wins, but he only reached the fifth inning in three of his 10 starts. Carlos Frias (3-0, 0.66) was the big winner on the team and he got all his 19 appearances in relief. Ramon Ramirez (2-1, 3.04, 17 saves) was the closer. Joely Rodriguez (1-1, 0.82), recently signed by the Orioles struggled with command but was effective in relief, limiting lefties to a .100 average.

Aguilas Cibaenas (27-23)

Another playoff qualifier, they have not represented the Dominican in the Series del Caribe since 2007. They have finished in second place three times since then, including last year.

Pitching has been their strength with Brewers prospect Jorge Lopez (3-2, 2.49), Cuban Yunesky Maya (2-2, 3.88) and Francisley Bueno (2-5, 3.06) accounting for most of their starts. Another Cuban Roenis Elias (1-1, 3.09) arrived later in the year and gave them four starts. Myworld would be surprised if Lopez returns to the rotation because of the 68.2 innings he has already eaten. The Brewers will need to save some of those for the minor league regular season. Josh Judy (4-1, 1.37, 8 saves) was their closer but Aguilas did not need to go to him often. Abel de los Santos (2-2, 3.72) got in some work to prepare him for the regular season, finishing second on the team in appearances.

Johan Camargo (.324, 2, 12) and Wilmer Difo (.317,2,10) got some late work in playing up the middle. Edwin Espinal (.287, 2, 25) led the team in RBIs while Zolio Almonte (.258, 5, 20) was the big homerun bat. Juan Perez (.257, 3, 23) led the team in stolen bases (7) and runs scored (28). Jung Ho Kang (.143, 1, 10) was released after 10 games. Aguilas was gunning for a playoff spot and did not have the patience for his bat to come around.

Leones del Escogido (27-23)

Escogido is the third team to make the round robin. They last represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe in 2015. They are also the last team to win the Series del Caribe for the Dominican Republic (2012). Escogido is one of two teams who will be playing in Santo Domingo.

Padre prospect Franhcy Cordero (.323, 5, 25) carried the big bat for the Leones. He played all 50 games, leading the team in runs scored (30) triples (5) doubles (7), homeruns and RBIs. If not for Starling Marte (.277,3, 13) he would have led the team in stolen bases. Starling was a perfect 9 for 9 while Franchy was 6 for 9. Ronny Paulino (.336, 2, 25) also had 25 RBIs in fewer games played (28). The power bat of Aristedes Aquino (.214, 0, 5) was absent with a .238 slugging. Vladimir Guerrero Jr (.211, 0, 6) also had no impact with a .278 slugging and six errors in 26 games.

Kelvin Marte (1-1, 4.05) was the work horse, leading the team with 11 starts. Mike Mayers (2-1, 2.63) got a rare complete game victory and led the team in whiffs (37) with his seven starts. The opposition hit him at a .168 clip. Relievers Henry Martinez (4-2, 4.24) and Juan Sandoval (4-1, 3.98) led the team in wins. Rob Scahill and Paul Voelker each contributed six saves. Casey Kelly, one of the last two way players continues his struggles (0-2, 7.16) and may never make an impact in the major leagues. He did only walk one hitter in his 16 innings of work.

Tigres del Licey (25-25)

Licey was the last team to qualify. They are the second team located in Santo Domingo. They represented the Dominican Republic last season in the Series del Caribe and were a big disappointment, not even qualifying for the final four.

Yamaico Navarro (.322, 3, 32) is the top RBI man in the league and leads the team in runs scored (29). The Cuban has played in 49 of the 50 games. Emilio Bonafacio (.284, 0, 8) and Julio Borbon (.333, 3, 21) get the offense started at the top of the order. Emilio still shows his speed leading the team in stolen bases with 12. Emilio is joined by his younger brother Jorge (.266, 2, 16). Rymer Liriano (.194) did not help himself.

Onelki Garcia (3-2, 3.23) earned a spot for a Japanese team, the Chunichi Dragons. His 37 whiffs led the team. Jair Jurrgens (3-4, 3.60) was the work horse, leading the team in innings (50) with 11 starts to the 10 for Onelki. Jairo Asencio led the team in saves with 14, giving up just one unearned run in 19 innings of work. Tyler Kinley (2-1, 0.48) had some dominating 14 relief appearances, striking out 31 hitters in 18.2 innings. He also struggled finding the strike zone walking 11. The Marlins reliever could earn a spot in the bullpen if he limits the opposition to a .085 average in spring training. Last year in High A and AA he struck out 72 hitters in 53 innings.

Estellas Orientales (23-27)

They will sit out the round robin. The last time they represented the Dominican Republic in the Series del Caribe was in 1968. Their fans have to wait one more year.

They had Gabriel Guerrero (.287, 4, 26) the nephew of Vladimir. He led the team in homeruns and RBIs. Socrates Brito (.301, 3, 12) was his outfield mate. He hopes to fit in the Diamondbacks outfield after injuries have set him back. He played in 42 of the 50 games. His 23 runs scored led the team. Fernando Tatis Jr (.246, 1, 3) was respectable with the bat but committed 7 errors in 17 games at short. Raimel Tapia (.184) and Mike Ford (.158) were big disappointments with the bat.

They may have had the best starting pitcher in the league in Evan MacLane (3-2, 1.72). He gave up a lot of hits (53 in 47 innings) and struck out only 18 but kept the other team from scoring. Radhames Liz (2-0, 0.50) was dominant in his seven starts, convincing the Brewers to sign the 34 year old to a minor league contract. He had success in Japan pitching out of the bullpen, which could be his role with the Brewers. Jose Valverde (0-2, 5.63) could not find anyone to sign him to a contract.

Toros del Este (19-31)

Not a good season for Toros. At least they were in the Series del Caribe in 2011. Manuel Margot (.467) made a nice impression in his 7 games. Jeimer Candelario (.289, 1, 8) warmed up his bat for his first full season Detroit Tiger appearance. Jorge Mateo (.217, 3, 8) did not make much of an impression except for his 10 for 10 success rate in stolen bases. Further disappointments were Steven Moya (.203), Teoscar Hernandez (.195), Magneuris Sierra (.179) and Roman Quinn (.125).

Raul Valdes (1-7, 2.74) pitched well but got little support, giving up 10 unearned runs. He led the league with two complete games. Elih Villaanueva (3-2,2.54) fared a little better in the won/loss record with his 10 starts. After these two pitchers there is not much to brag about.

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