Winter Leagues: Harold Ramirez Hits First Homer

From Colombia on Monday night, Harold Ramirez hit his first home run of the season, as his team swept a doubleheader. Ramirez was in a slump since the All-Star break, seeing his average drop over 50 points in an eight game stretch. His team however, is in first place with a four game lead and just seven games left in the season. If his team finishes in first place, they will get a first round bye in the playoffs, as the second and third place teams play a best-of-five series to determine their opponent.

Harold Ramirez connected on his first Winter home run (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Harold Ramirez connected on his first Winter home run (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The schedule will be light for the next few days. The Dominican League is off until Thursday, as well as the Venezuelan League, which starts it’s playoffs tomorrow night(see below). Puerto Rico starts their playoffs on Friday night. The leagues in Australia and Colombia also resume play on Thursday, though both are still playing their regular season schedule.

Playoffs in Venezuela

The Venezuelan League wrapped up it’s regular season on Monday night. Five teams make the playoffs and they play two games a day for the next 3 1/2 weeks. The teams that made the playoffs are light on Pittsburgh Pirates players. In fact, only three Pirates players are on the rosters of the teams in the playoffs and none of them were regulars.

The best prospect that is on a playoff roster is Jose Osuna, who saw some time early in the season, but he hasn’t played since November 13th. Pitcher Carlos Ruiz pitched twice in relief, but he hasn’t played in over three weeks. Finally, Julio Vivas has been on the Aguilas de Zulia roster all year, but has not appeared in a game.

One or more of these players could play in the playoffs despite the inactivity. They have been playing in the Venezuelan League equivalent of the minor leagues. You also can’t rule out a player joining one of these teams during the playoffs. We heard early in the Winter season that Jose Tabata would play Winter ball for the Caribes de Anzoategui team, but he has yet to make an appearance. Caribes finished first in the regular season, so Tabata could still join them at some time, though nothing has been announced.

These Winter leagues also hold drafts immediately following the season, where the playoff teams can choose players from the teams that didn’t make the playoffs. The draft was held on Monday night and no Pirates players were selected, officially ending the season for Andrew Lambo, Andy Oliver, Elvis Escobar, Francisco Diaz, Jhonathan Ramos, Jhondaniel Medina and Elias Diaz.

Lambo finished with a disappointing .228/.311/.337 slash line, though he did hit well at the end of the season and he drove in 17 runs in 27 games. In 92 at-bats, he had 11 walks and 28 strikeouts.

The big surprise of the Venezuelan season had to be the play of Junior Sosa. He was barely getting playing time early in the year, but he finished the season as his team’s lead-off hitter, putting up a .338 average and .921 OPS in 20 games. His average would have placed him fifth in the league and his OPS would have been sixth if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

Elias Diaz saw a decent amount of time behind the plate, splitting his playing time with two catchers that have major league experience. Diaz hit well in limited time with Bradenton this season and his defense has been praised. During Winter, he hit .256 in 20 games, with a .698 OPS and he made just one error.

Elvis Escobar was just as much of a surprise as Sosa, though the numbers pale in comparison. Escobar turned 19-years-old in September, making him one of the younger players in Venezuela, a league where most of the talent is AA/AAA range, plus you will see a handful of major leaguers on each roster. Escobar still got in ten games in the advanced league, saw time in center field and hit a triple and homer in his 16 at-bats.

Andy Oliver had two starts and both were disasters as he displayed the same control issues he has had during his entire career. Francisco Diaz didn’t play until the last two games of the season. Jhondaniel Medina made seven early season appearances and gave up two runs over 5.1 innings. Jhonathan Ramos put up a 2.30 ERA in 22 appearances, though he finished the year with 12 straight scoreless outings. He had a 2.56 GO/AO ratio and the lefty held right-handed batters to a .174 average.