Winter Leagues: Elvis Escobar Could Be One to Watch This Off-Season

On Wednesday night, as the season ended in Pittsburgh, a new season began down in the Caribbean. You can read the winter league preview here, with a look at all the confirmed winter league players from the Pirates’ system. Venezuela kicked off the action with a full schedule on the first day. Below is a recap of the first two days from that league.

The league in Mexico begins tonight, though it’s only one game and neither team has any players from the Pirates’ system. The first games of note in Mexico will take place tomorrow, as Venados de Mazatlan has Harold Ramirez, Luis Heredia, Carlos Munoz and Felipe Gonzalez on the roster.

As for Wednesday’s action in Venezuela…

A.J. Morris started on Opening Day for Navegantes del Magallanes and went 4.1 innings, giving up three runs, though they were all unearned. He allowed four hits, a walk, struck out three and hit two batters. Morris threw 64 pitches, 40 for strikes. He threw 84.2 innings for Indianapolis this year, making three starts and 41 relief appearances. Morris reaches minor league free agency this off-season(2009 draft pick), though that doesn’t kick in until after the postseason ends.

Gorkys Hernandez went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his team’s first game. He too will be a minor league free agent soon. Just a reminder that these minor league free agents will be covered until they sign elsewhere. Players looking for a job usually get to winter ball earlier in the year so they get in front of scouts. Last winter, three of them re-signed with the organization, so it’s worth keeping tabs on them, especially early on when the Pirates can bring them back before they actually hit the market.

Speaking of a player they brought back as a minor league free agent, Junior Sosa was the third player from the system to see action Wednesday. He went 1-for-4 and drove in a run during his team’s 2-1 win. Sosa originally signed with the Pirates in March of 2008 and he will be a free agent for a second time this off-season.

On Thursday, one of the games was canceled due to a power outage so only six teams played, leaving it a light night. Elvis Escobar got the start for Cardenales de Lara, batting ninth and playing left field. He will be one of the more interesting players to follow this winter. He signed for $570,000 back in 2011, so he still ranks as one of the Pirates’ biggest international signings. Escobar just turned 21 last month and he had a solid season for West Virginia, except for his troubles stealing bases. He hit .296/.326/.407 in 124 games, with 28 doubles, five triples and five homers.

He should see more playing time this winter and could be a possible breakout player next year. Escobar batted just 19 times in 15 games during his first two years of winter ball combined. He could see most of his playing time this year early on, as some of the better players usually arrive later in the off-season. Escobar is young for the league, so when the veterans come in he will likely lose playing time. On Thursday night, he went 1-for-2 with a single and he dropped down a sacrifice bunt.

Gorkys Hernandez went 1-for-3 with a double, walk and run scored in his second game.

Zack Dodson is scheduled to pitch tonight for Caribes de Anzoategui. As a 2009 draft pick, he has reached minor league free agency and he’s now pitching winter ball for the first time in his career. Dodson led all Pirates’ minor league players with 162 innings pitched this season. He was called up to Indianapolis for the playoffs, but never got into a game.

  • “he had a solid season for West Virginia, except for his troubles stealing bases”

    That’s an understatement. 15/36 on the basepaths.

  • John…my apologies for going off topic…I was commenting on the international signing part of your article, that’s all.

    I didn’t think it was THAT off topic. It seemed to be more about him than the Winter Leagues.

    • I can’t wait to discuss meaningless winter league stats. Thrilling discussion.

      • Much better to bring up Sano a few times and have arguments about why its was PGH fault on that one and how we lack in the international area strategy wise.

        At least winter league discussion might involve something fresh, the international signing discussion just always devolves into the same argument repeated.

        • You project so many false arguments out of defensiveness it’s not even funny, Luke.

          “…and have arguments about why its was PGH fault on that one…”

          Once again, you completely made this up out of thin air. You took an argument you’ve had in the past and applied it to a situation where it wasn’t even mentioned.

          • I pointed out that an argument about Sano inherently devolves into that. Yes, its taking the many many times i’ve seen the argument begin and assume it’ll happen as it has every single time.

            Anytime we start the discussion of spending more in that area and someone mentions Sano, the two sides always form and entrench. So i’d very much love to talk about boring old winter league stuff than re hash a clearly worn out topic like why we should spend more in that area and how Sano was whoever’s fault. Im not defensive, im pointing out that its not “better” to avoid offseason discussion of winter league stuff for topics that get us nowhere.

  • We’re watching Elvis Escobar and the Cubs swoop in and sign Eddie Julio Martinez for $3 mil.

    Oh the pain.

    • Ladies and gentlemen, the first comment for winter league coverage might be enough to rain out the entire season. At minimum, the parade is ruined. If you want to get technical with this signing, they will pay $6M for Martinez because they are already in the penalty, so hopefully that makes you feel better that they paid a $3M tax just to sign him

      • Doesn’t feel better to me. Just a reminder the Cubs have plenty of money to spend and Bucs do not.

      • Pirates’ fans (and most sports fans) are great at spotting rain clouds, and when it is raining they’ll be back around to tell you that they were right.

        • Well right after I answered Lee, I decided that I’m not answering any other non-winter related comments in any winter league articles.Winter ball is four months long, and there will be plenty of other articles dealing with the other topics. I was going to erase my comment altogether, but I didn’t want that other one to look out of place. That was my bad for answering, should have just moved on, so I take the blame. If anyone has any actual winter league questions, I’ll check back later for them

      • My point is that WE could’ve had him for $3 mil. I know about the Cubs having to pay double.

    • Because Signing bonus is the measure of a good international. I am sure Oakland is glad they shelled out big money for Michael Ynoa instead of scraping the bottom of the barrel for guys like Polanco, Marte, and Alen Hansen

      • Have you ever heard of this Miguel Sano guy? Somebody told me he’s pretty OK at baseball.

        Just as some can’t fathom that you can walk and chew gum at the same time, some also can’t comprehend that the low-dollar international signings inherently allow teams to target premium prospects. All it takes is a small amount of money.

        This isn’t an either/or situation.

        • Can you imagine him ending the year at the hot corner? What if the Bucs signed Sano and Taillon never needed TJ?

        • Sano was primarily a DH this year. We already had one of those and no where to put him. He might be a very fine player but until we see him actually play the field I’m not sure your point has much validity.

      • While I agree that we can get value for low dollar signings, at some point, we might need to play in the higher $$ market. He IS highly rated. While he COULD fail, $3 mil is nothing for a good prospect.

      • That’s like saying draft rounds don’t matter because of Tony Sanchez and Matt Carpenter….

        Its all probabilities at this stage.

      • …or heredia.