The winter leagues are over, but their winners live on. The Caribbean Series began on Saturday, which offers perhaps the greatest spectacle of pure baseball passion left in the world. While we focus on prospects here at the Minor League Update, the Caribbean Series is a combination of young players on the way up, veteran players hanging on after their days playing domestically are over, and names you may not know who never made their mark in the states, but who share iconic status in their native lands.
The Caribbean Series features the winner of each of the Caribbean winter leagues (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, and Cuba) and rotates venues every year, with this year’s taking place in Venezuela. It even inexplicably took place in Miami for two years before professional baseball had a team there (1990-91).
The Caribbean Series runs this entire week (and potentially into the weekend), giving us another week of MLU fun. After that, we'll hold our collective breath for a few weeks until the exhale of spring training. Let’s dive in!
Saturday, February 1st
- It’s hard to believe that a team with Eddie Rosario (2B/CF, Twins) batting third all winter would have won anything, given the prospect’s struggles, but the Puerto Rican champion Indios de Mayaguez did just that, and managed to win their first CS game despite an 0-for-4 from Rosario. He was also caught stealing and grounded into a double play, making a total of six outs on the day.
- As a leadoff hitter, Leury Garcia’s (SS, White Sox) Tigres del Licey were depending on him to be a catalyst as much as the Indios needed Rosario, but Garcia went hitless as well. Unlike Rosario (who walked once), Garcia walked twice and managed to make half as many outs while also scoring a run. Garcia won’t be a top-of-the-order hitter in the majors, but his speed and defense could warrant a regular spot in the bottom of the White Sox lineup.
- Alfredo Despaigne (RF, Cuba) isn’t a prospect at 27 years old, but he is the most widely renowned slugger from Cuba that has yet to defect, and he showed off his home run hitting chops on Saturday night with a solo shot in a loss.
Sunday, February, 2nd
- Mexican Winter League rosters don’t typically feature nearly the number of prospects as the other Caribbean Leagues, but occasionally a fringe prospect like Sebastian Valle (C, Phillies) lands a regular spot. The Los Mochis native has been catching for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo all winter, trying to prove to the Phillies that they made a mistake when they removed him from their 40-man roster earlier this winter (and to the rest of the league for not claiming him). He went 1-for-4 with a strikeout on Sunday, and has failed to translate his tools into on-field success in domestic leagues the past few years.
- Zelous Wheeler (Yankees, 3B), now 27, has never been able to work his way to the majors, in either the Brewers or Orioles organization, despite decent production and a utility profile in the minors. Now with the Yankees as a minor-league free agent, he’s probably no more than depth, but doing things like going 2-for-5 with two home runs could catch the eye of his new team.
- The Venezuelan champion Navegantes del Magallanes are using Eduardo Escobar (SS, Twins) in the way that most major-league organizations have pictured him—batting ninth and playing shortstop. As a glove-first player, anytime he can record a multi-hit game like he did on Sunday night, it’s a bonus.
- Despite the end of the Venezuelan League, the clock has yet to strike midnight on Deolis Guerra (RHP, Twins) joined the Navegantes towards the end of the VWL season after missing most of the 2014 minor league season with a shoulder injury. He was virtually perfect in the VWL playoffs and still has yet to allow a run, striking out two more in yet another scoreless inning.