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November 20, 2012

Minor League Update

Games of November 19

by Jason Martinez

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Only a few baseball games going on around the world on Monday so some of the prospects on this list are fringier than usual. The most interesting game was in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round as Brazil knocked off Panama, a team with major leaguers Carlos LeeCarlos Ruiz, and Ruben Tejada, and former big leaguers Ruben Rivera and Ramiro Mendoza. Twenty-six year-old Rafael Fernandes, who allowed 10 ER in 12.2 innings with nine walks and four strikeouts for the Yakult Swallows in Japan last season, tossed two-hit ball over six shutout innings for the Brazilians while their lone big leaguer, Yan Gomes, knocked in Royals minor leaguer Paulo Orlando with an RBI single to account for the only run scored in the 1-0 victory. One other note of importance -- Brazil is being managed by Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. Who says baseball season is over?

  • Angel Cuan, LHP, Mets (Panama-WBC): 4 IP, ER, 8 H, 0 BB, 6 K. His WBC outing seems to match what you'd already know about Cuan by looking at his career minor league stats. The 23 year-old gives up slightly more hits than innings pitched throughout his career (9.4 H/9), doesn't walk many batters (1.8 BB/9), and keeps the damage to a minimum (3.53 ERA in 462 career innings in Hi-A and below). He's likely to reach Double-A at some point next season.
  • Darren Ford, OF, Pirates (Caracas-VWL): 1-for-4, HR (1), 4 RBI, BB, SB (10). The former San Francisco Giants pinch-running specialist is tuning up for a spring competition for a backup outfielder job with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ford delivered a grand slam on Monday, his first homer of the season, but his value lies in his speed. In eight minor league seasons, the 27 year-old has 332 stolen bases.
  • Juan Gutierrez, RHP, Royals (Caracas-VWL): IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K, Sv (8). The former Diamondbacks closer is healthy once again after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2011. The 29 year-old signed a minor league deal with the Royals last offseason and returned to the mound in mid-2012. While he wasn't very effective (24 ER in 20.2 innings between Triple-A, Double-A, AZL), he's been very good in Venezuela and, after re-signing to another minor league deal, gives the Royals a hard-throwing veteran who could possibly help at some point in 2013.
  • Victor Larez, RHP, Tigers (Caracas-VWL): IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, 0 K. Although he's 25 years of age and has yet to pitch above Hi-A ball in seven minor league seasons, Larez has been really good out of the bullpen in 2012. After posting a 1.72 ERA while holding opponents to a .200 batting average in 68 innings with Hi-A Lakeland, he's been even better in Venezuela. Another scoreless inning on Monday lowered his ERA to 0.42 with 6 walks and 17 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
  • Junior Lake, 3B, Cubs (Oriente-DWL): 3-for-4, SB (6). Lake continues to rake down in the DWL, boosting his batting average to .363  with a three-hit game on Monday and extending his lead in the batting race. If the 22 year-old can improve his plate discipline in 2013 -- he has a career 4.01 K/BB ratio in the minors and in 25 games with Oriente -- maybe he could be the Cubs' "Third Baseman of the Future" after all.
  • Leonardo Reginatto, 3B/SS, Rays (Brazil-WBC): 3-for-4. He may be a fringe prospect in the Rays' farm system, having posted a .653 OPS in the New York-Penn League as a 22 year-old last season, but he's a hero in his homeland after a three-hit performance in Monday's victory over Panama. Reginatto also had three hits in Saturday's win versus Colombia.
  • Jean Segura, SS, Brewers (Cibao-DWL): 2-for-5, RBI. It's still early in the offseason and the Brewers could very well land a starting shortstop in the next few weeks. But Segura is giving them something to think about after another two-hit game, a very common occurrence for the 22 year-old down in the Dominican Winter League. At the least, the Brewers have to feel comfortable knowing Segura could probably hold his own in the majors if they fail to bring in a veteran stopgap.  
  • Thyago Vieira, RHP, Mariners (Brazil-WBC): 0.2 IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, 2 K, Sv (2). After allowing a single to Ruiz to put runners at the corners with just one out in the ninth inning, the 19 year-old struck out Lee and Rivera to seal the 1-0 victory and put Brazil into the WBC. Vieira posted a 6.05 ERA in 13 Venezuelan Summer League starts with unimpressive peripherals last season. He'll never make it stateside with those types of numbers but the kid definitely showed something on Monday that's not easily measured by statistics. Here at Baseball Prospectus, we call it "want". Combine that with a low-to-mid 90's fastball, and I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of Vieira. 

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