In Venezuela on Sunday, Elias Diaz and Jose Osuna both had big games in a 12-0 victory for Bravos de Margarita. Diaz had three hits, including his second homer of the winter. He drove in five runs, including three on a bases loaded double. Osuna had a single and four walks, reaching base in all five plate appearances. He scored three runs and drove in a pair. The impressive part about the four walks is that none of them were intentional walks and the opposing pitchers only walked two other batters all game. Osuna now has a .338/.405/.469 slash line in 37 games. Diaz is hitting .303/.351/.545 in nine games.

Not all of the Bravos had big games on Sunday. Junior Sosa went 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. He has a .437 OPS in 24 games

Believe it or not, the best game by a 2015 Pirates’ player on Sunday in Venezuela didn’t come from Osuna or Diaz. Gorkys Hernandez went 3-for-4 with three doubles, two runs scored, a walk, and he matched Diaz with five RBIs. His team put up 15 runs on 22 hits.

In the Dominican, Alen Hanson went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .301 through 22 games. He committed his third error of the winter, but handled seven other chances cleanly, including three double plays.

Gustavo Nunez went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. He committed his seventh error.

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout. He is hitting .303 through 35 games.

Felipe Gonzalez had a second straight poor outing, allowing a run on three hits, while retiring just two batters. He did however strand an inherited runner in the sixth inning, before falling apart in the seventh.

In Colombia on Saturday, Harold Ramirez went 1-for-4 with a single and Tito Polo went 0-for-4. Ramirez is hitting .320/.400/.400 in 25 at-bats.

The Dominican and Venezuelan leagues both sent two teams to Marlins Park this weekend, home of the Miami Marlins. On Saturday, two teams from the same league played each other, with the Dominican game counting as an exhibition game, while the Venezuelan game was a regular season game. On Sunday, they played two exhibition games featuring one team from each league. In game one, Deolis Guerra made his first appearance of the winter, though obviously stats won’t count. He threw a scoreless inning for Navegantes del Magallanes, retiring the side in order.

The second game was televised on MLB Network and featured Willy Garcia starting in center field for his Dominican team and Elvis Escobar starting in right field for his Venezuelan squad. The stats won’t count for these games, but since I watched, I’ll cover each at-bat here. Garcia struck out looking in his first at-bat. In the bottom of the first inning, he showed off his arm, making a strong, accurate throw from center field to second base. In the fourth inning, he struck out swinging, looking bad on a check swing. In the sixth, Garcia reached on an infield single, though the ball was hit well and the third baseman made a nice stop, but couldn’t make the play. He was pinch-hit for in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and a 2-2 tie.

Escobar grounded into what looked like a sure double play in his first at-bat, but he showed good speed to beat out the play. That led to a delayed steal with a man on third, who scored on the play before Escobar was tagged out for the third out. It was set up to work out that way, giving up an out to let the run score and Escobar did his job well.

In his next at-bat, Escobar tripled to the right-center gap on the first pitch. Again, he showed off good speed on the play. Escobar also showed off a strong arm on a single to right field in which he kept the runner at first base from advancing to third base. In the eighth, he grounded out to first base off former Pirate Donnie Veal. It was an impressive display of tools  by Escobar, especially when you factor in that he’s a Low-A player against advanced opposition.

Jhondaniel Medina pitched the seventh inning for Cardenales de Lara(Venezuela) and allowed an infield single, but had a strong inning, getting three ground balls. He threw 14 pitches, ten for strikes.

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  1. Total speculation but I would guess that his improvement at 2b should mean he will be more sound at SS too when he needs to play there. Him being able to play average mlb ss 10-20 games a year would be huge.

    • He was taking grounders off and on at shortstop while with Indianapolis. Only got into one game though and handled all three chances. He did fine at third base according to the stats, handling all 16 chances clean, but I’m not sure if his arm strength is ideal for the position

      • I think back to Omar Vizquel playing 3B a bunch late in his career. Not what you want arm-wise but the range and catching pretty much everything hit at him still made him a plus 3B.

        • Vizquel had an incredible season his one year in Texas. Playing second base and third base for the first time(except one inning 18 years earlier) he didn’t make an error all season at any of the three positions, handling a total of 207 chances cleanly. Just the fact he’s playing two new positions, plus spending a lot of time on the bench and he pulled that off was incredible. Oh yeah, he was 42 at the time! He was also playing sporadically at shortstop over his last four seasons, but he ended up with zero errors there during the time. Truly an amazing fielder

          • He was fun to watch. I’m interested to see how HOF voters perceive him when he is eligible in 2018. His WAR numbers aren’t great but I think he gets shortchanged on offense because he played in a high offense time for most of his career. I think he’s the type of guy who would put up about the same offensive numbers in just about any era. The fact that he was still a plus player at 43 says so much about how good he was. A lot of guys he is similar to are HOF’ers. I’m guessing he starts low, maybe 20-30% and has a slow build and quite possibly never makes it. I would put him in there. Did what a SS was supposed to do and was one of the most durable ever.

            • I don’t think WAR does him any justice as you said because of the other players at the position. How does WAR help someone who was consistently voted one of the smartest base runners, best bunters, best hit and run player? Vizquel was the master of getting runners over and in the case of Kenny Lofton, taking pitches so he could steal, then getting him to 3b with a bunt or grounder. That was his job and he did it tremendously. Many people refer to him as future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel and I think it’s because they know how well he did his job. I think he eventually gets in, just not sure how quick it happens

              • Agreed. He was one of the best bunters I’ve seen along with Jay Bell. Together they had over 400 sac bunts. Pirates dealt Felix Fermin for Bell and then the Indians flipped Fermin for Vizquel. Some very interesting SS for SS swaps. The Fermin/Vizquel deal would have been Seattle’s Templeton for Ozzie equivalent if ARod hadn’t fallen into their lap. Fermin did hit just about the most improbable .317 ever his first year with Seattle though.

  2. John, I’d love to read an article by you or Tim on the pluses/minuses of choosing Diaz over C. Stewart as back up catcher this upcoming year. Certainly that change will happen by 2017. But I would be happy to do it now. Stewart was an adequate back up last year. But Diaz might be an upgrade defensively and I would like to see him have a full year of MLB action to allow his hitting to adjust to MLB pitching before becoming the primary candidate for the #1 catcher in 2017. What are your thoughts? I should say that I am not a proponent for extending Cervelli due to age, expected size of contract and injury history even though he was a pleasant surprise in 2015.

    • At this time last year, I would have said Diaz will be the backup in 2016, but just by going on how they handled him in September, I’d say the trust wasn’t there from Hurdle and he will want the veteran Stewart back for another season. Diaz was up for five weeks and never caught, plus he only PH in a 10-2 and 11-1 game. I think they will want him to catch everyday at AAA in case he is needed before September

      • If I were in the mood to be generous to Hurdle I’d say I can see not experimenting with a rookie in the heart of a pennant race in September makes sense. But I am not and I think that for the long range development of the team that Hurdle should have played Diaz a little bit. Clint was slow to initially play Mercer also. I don’t see how that helped Mercer.

        • He could have found time to use Diaz, especially if he used Sanchez at the beginning of the year. I didn’t expect him to play much, but two at-bats during blowouts doesn’t show much faith over a five-week period

  3. Miggy Tejeda was managing one of those teams last night. Bunch of older guys floating around on those rosters it seems.

    Cant say enough about how different the atmosphere was. Very neat. Marlins should be trying to get that place like that every home game.

  4. Was Guerra just a great story about perseverance…or could he actually have found the light and be a viable option in 2016? He looked so bad in a few of those games for the Buccos last year…but at times, looked like a future piece. Such is the way of a bullpen piece I suppose.

    • While I can’t rule out re-signing him as a minor league free agent, you have to consider the other players the Pirates have on their 40-man roster right now for the bullpen. There are some marginal names there and they still DFA’d Guerra.

  5. What type of error is being committed by Hanson? Throwing, gloving, position? Obvious he has more range than Walker but is he making errors on routine plays or covering too much space and being out of position with throws or glove positioning?

    • I haven’t seen any of the errors, but Hanson played great defense this year in the International League, getting voted the best defensive second baseman. He played about 75% of the innings at 2B for Indianapolis and made nine errors. The fill-ins made 14. Pedro Florimon is a defensive wizard and he committed nine errors with Indianapolis in half the playing time. Gift Ngoepe made 16 errors last year and he could step right in to a Major League game and look like a Gold Glover.

      I think people who follow the majors are thrown by nine errors, but in the minors that’s an excellent number because you’re playing on minor league fields, under minor league lights, throwing to minor league players. Three errors in 22 winter ball games isn’t anything to be concerned about.

      • Thanks – I have only seen him play once after he returned from the “in-house” sit down and he seemed like he could cover the entire infield. Be nice to see him at the top of the order this year.

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