Winter Leagues Update: Howard Wins Player of the Week

Justin Howard has been named the Player of the Week by the Australian Baseball League for his performance during his team’s four-game sweep last week against Melbourne. Howard went 9-for-14, with three walks, six runs scored and four RBI’s. He finished the week with two three-hit games. Howard started the year off very slow, but has pushed his totals to respectable levels, now owning a .274/.410/.419 line over 18 games.

Other Winter League Notes

There were no games played last night. Only two were scheduled, both in the Venezuelan Winter League and they were rained out.

The VWL and DWL will both hold their all-star games today.

The Puerto Rican and Mexican League will both resume their normal schedule tonight.

The ABL resumes play on Thursday this week. Adelaide has a four game series, played over three days, on the road in Brisbane. Zac Fuesser will get the start on Thursday night. The ABL schedule was moved up a day this week due to the league’s All-Star game, which will take place on Sunday. Fuesser and Stefan Welch will both participate.

If you missed it from yesterday, there was an interview posted here with 16-year-old Sam Kennelly, the Australian shortstop signed by the Pirates this Summer. He is currently playing for the Perth Heat of the ABL. That interview can be read here.

As mentioned here yesterday, Starling Marte will join the Pirates Winter Caravan, thus ending his Winter League season. He had a .304/.381/.464 line in 29 games.

Gregory Polanco got his first start since November 24th on Sunday. He should see more time in center field now that Marte has finished his season. Polanco has a .171/.171/.229 line in 13 games, with no walks and 11 strikeouts. In an interview prior to the season, he mentioned his goal was to work on plate patience, no so much as drawing more walks, but waiting for the right pitch to hit.

Alen Hanson remains on the Toros del Estes roster, though he has not appeared in a game since a pinch-running appearance on November 30th. As usual with the Winter Leagues, the rosters get better as time goes on, with major league players joining the team after the start of the season. Hanson has played just seven games so far, going 0-for-5 at the plate.

Nate Baker has pitched three times since joining the VWL two weeks ago. He has pitched a total of three innings, giving up four hits, one walk and one home run, resulting in the only earned run he has allowed.

Kris Johnson also made his debut in the last two weeks. He has pitched three times, combining for nine shutout innings. Johnson has allowed just three hits so far, while walking three and striking out six batters.

Ryan Reid has made more appearances than any other Pirates farmhand, pitching 15 times. He has a 2.30 ERA, with 15 strikeouts in 15.2 innings and a spectacular 5.00 GO/AO ratio. Reid has also picked up five saves.

Willy Garcia made his DWL debut for Aguilas this past week, hitting an RBI single in his lone AB on December 2nd. That has been his only game to this point.

Anderson Hernandez has played 42 games this year, tops among all Pirates players. He has hit .281 with 18 RBI’s and 17 walks. Over his last ten games, he is batting .359

Felix Pie isn’t far behind Anderson in playing time. Over 37 games, he has hit .246 with 24 walks and eight stolen bases. He drew just 23 walks in 96 games at AAA this year.

Alex Valdez leads all Pirates players with his .310 average, five homers and his .912 OPS. In 32 games, he has 19 RBI’s.

Other Pirates players who have appeared in at least one game and remain on Winter League rosters include: Jackson Lodge, Dylan Child and Wilson Lee in the ABL. Benji Gonzalez in the Puerto Rican League. Ali Solis and Jovany Lopez in the Mexican League. Oscar Tejeda and Andy Vasquez in the DWL and Luis Sanz and Jhonathan Ramos in the VWL.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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