Winter League Roundup
Many baseball fans are curious about winter league ball, what it is, and why players would leave the comforts of an off-season at home to go play. It is a chance for players to continue their development into Major League players. Teams usually send young players, someone who need more work because he didn’t get a full season in the minors, needs a little more experience, or a player coming off an injury who needs more playing time. MLB.com has a comprehensive list with statistics from most of the Mariners farmhands that participated in Winter Leagues this off-season.
The Arizona Fall League provides all Major League organizations the opportunity to continue the development of their top prospects. Each club contributes players to make up the league, which consists of six teams, each stocked by five Big League clubs. The Mariners top prospects play for the Peoria Javelinas, along with players from the Brewers, Mets, Padres and Cardinals.
LHP Danny Hultzen, the Mariners first-round selection in the 2011 June draft, made his professional debut in the AFL. Hultzen was joined on the Peoria roster by right-handed pitchers Steven Hensley and Forrest Snow, left-handed pitcher Brian Moran, catcher Adam Moore, infielder Nick Franklin and outfielder Chi-Hsien Chiang.
Snow led the AFL in ERA (1.10), while finishing second in opponent average (.167) and WHIP (0.80). Snow, Moran (1.32) and Hultzen (1.40) finished 1-2-3 on the Peoria Javelinas in ERA. Hultzen and Franklin helped lead the West Division All-Stars to an 11-2 win over the East Division in the 6th-annual AFL Rising Stars Game. Hultzen earned the win after tossing 2.0 shutout innings. Franklin went 4-for-5 with 3 runs scored, 2 doubles, 1 home run and 4 RBI to earn MVP honors. He became the first player in AFL Rising Stars game history to record 4 hits, 4 RBI, 3 extra base hits or 2 doubles in the game. Hultzen was also named to the Arizona Fall League 2011 Top Prospects Team, going 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA (3 ER, 19.1 IP) in 6 starts.
Winter ball is also played in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico. At the end of the season, the champions of each league play each other in the Caribbean Series. The Mariners have a working agreement with teams in each league and send minor league players and coaches to help teams. It is also an opportunity for the Mariners organization scout talent from those countries as well as American players playing in Latin America. Some of the Mariners top prospects participated the winter leagues, including pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Stephen Pryor, infielders Alex Liddi, Carlos Triunfel and Francisco Martinez and outfielders Johermyn Chavez and Carlos Peguero.
Peguero led the Dominican Winter League in home runs (11), extra-base hits (20), total bases (85), runs scored (29), intentional walks (9) and HR/AB ratio (1/15.09), while ranking 2nd in slugging percentage (.512) and 3rd in RBI (26). Overall he hit .259 (43×166) with 29 runs scored 9 doubles, 11 home runs and 29 RBI in 45 games with Gigantes del Cibao.
Ramirez went 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA (5 ER, 30.1 IP) in 6 starts with Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League before being shut down due to number of starts.
Down under, Mate! If it is snowing in Seattle it is likely warm and sunny in Australia. The Australian Baseball League is another popular destination with Mariners farmhands. Right-handed pitcher Jandy Sena, outfielders Denny Almonte, James Jones and James McOwen and catcher Carlton Tanabe are currently wrapping up the ABL.
Almonte (1×4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB) and McOwen (3×4, R, 2B, BB) represented Team World in the inaugural Australian Baseball League All-Star Game, where the country’s best homegrown talent, Team Australia, took on the best international players in the ABL in Perth on December 21. Almonte was also named Australian Baseball League Round 5 Player of the Week (Dec. 1-3 – .563/9×16, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 G), while McOwen was named Round 6 Player of the Week (Dec. 8-10, .533/8×15, 3 R, 3 2B, 3B, 3 RBI).
Almonte ranks amongst the league leaders in home runs (T5th, 10), total bases (6th, 90), runs scored (4th, 33), RBI (T3rd, 35), extra base hits (5th, 21) and at-bats (3rd, 171). McOwen currently leads the league in stolen bases (14) and tied for the lead in triples (2).
Looks like everyone will arrive in Arizona for Spring Training ready to compete for a roster spot. We look forward to seeing these young prospects in a Mariners uniform very soon.