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December 14, 2012

Minor League Update

Former Big Leaguers Auditioning In the Winter Leagues

by Jason Martinez

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There are several former big leaguers playing ball in the Caribbean Winter Leagues -- some who have had just a short stint or two in the big leagues, some former All-Stars -- as they try and prove that they still have something left in the tank in order to earn at least a minor league deal with some team. Here are a few that could garner interest over the next several weeks as teams finalize their rosters before Spring Training.

  • Javier Vazquez, RHP (Puerto Rico): 11.1 IP, 4 ER, 13 H, BB, 12 K. The 36 year-old is undecided on whether he wants to come out of retirement and is not expected to make his decision until after he pitches for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. So far, he's showing no signs of rust in his three starts. If he chooses to return, his agent will most certainly remind interested teams of his strong finish to the 2011 season with the Marlins (2.16 ERA, 96.1 IP, 16 BB, 96 K in 2nd half) and very likely land his client a big league deal. 
  • Pedro Feliciano, LHP (Puerto Rico): 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K. It's only been two innings but the 36 year-old is back on the mound after missing the past two seasons with a bum shoulder. The veteran lefty had averaged 82 relief appearances per season with the Mets between 2006-2010, including a career-high 92 in his last before hitting free agency, so it was no surprise that he was damaged goods by the time the Yankees signed him to a two-year deal prior to the 2011 season. He'll get plenty of interest from teams wondering if he could return to his old form when he was one of the better situational lefties in the game.
  • Manny Ramirez, DH (Dominican Republic): .257 BA, HR, 10 RBI, 2 2B, 10 BB, 13 K. At this point, who even knows if the 40 year-old wants to give it another go. You just never know with Manny. He's not hitting for much power but he's reached base in 18 of his last 47 at-bats. It wouldn't surprise me if plays in the Dominican Winter League through his mid-40's. On the other hand, are there any major league teams that would be interested in Manny? Probably on a minor league deal. Maybe he could even get an invite to big league camp from a team with a need for a right-handed hitting designated hitter.
  • Jose Lopez, IF (Venezuela): .295 BA, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 9 2B, 17 BB, 18 K. If you can believe it, Lopez is still only 29 years old. He was an All-Star second baseman with the Mariners in 2006 and had his last good season in 2009 when he hit .272 with 25 homers, 42 doubles, and 96 RBIs. Mediocre big league stints in each of the last three seasons won't help in his job search, but he'll likely get a shot to compete for a bench job with some team looking for some right-handed power from the corner infield spots.
  • Marlon Byrd, OF (Mexico): .342 BA, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 10 2B, 21 BB, 47 K. From 2007-2010, Byrd was a very productive major leaguer with the Rangers and Cubs, averaging an .800+ OPS with solid center field defense. He dropped off slightly in 2011 (.719 OPS) and then completely went in the tank in 2012 (.488 OPS in 47 games). Sure, the 35 year-old is putting up huge numbers in the Mexican League but that doesn't prove that he's once again capable of helping out a major league team in some capacity. Then again, it should at least get him a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
  • Kelvim Escobar, RHP (Venezuela): 2.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 2 K. After an 18-win season with the Angels in 2007, Escobar's career was derailed by shoulder problems. Aside from one big league start and three minor league starts in 2009, he's been unable to return to the mound. He signed a one-year deal with the Mets before the 2010 season only to injure his shoulder again before the season started. The 36 year-old refuses to give up and has reportedly drawing interest from teams. First, he'll have to show that he can stay healthy in Venezuela -- he's made appearances on 12/1, 12/4, and 12/12 -- and then show that he still has the arm strength to get big league hitters out.

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<< Previous Article
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