Winter Leagues: News and Notes from the Dominican, Venezuela, Mexico and Australia

Three days worth of notes in today’s recap, with news from the Dominican, Venezuela, Australia and Mexico.

Sunday

In Venezuela, Jose Osuna went 1-for-2 with a single. His team waved the white flag in the sixth inning as they trailed 10-2, replacing most of the lineup, including Osuna. In nine games, he is hitting .290/.389/.484, with three doubles and a home run.

Elvis Escobar went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 1-for-5 with a single. While we won’t be covering him because he was traded away, I’ll note that Tito Polo joined Mazatlan on Sunday. So if you following the one team with Pirates in Mexico, you can see how Polo does in a step up in competition from Colombia, where he usually plays winter ball.

In Australia, both Sam Kennelly and Nick Hutchings were named to the U23 team, which will be playing a tournament at the end of the month in Mexico. The season in Australia doesn’t begin until after the tournament ends, so they won’t miss any time with their ABL clubs. This is the first time since 2013 that Hutchings has been allowed to play winter ball. In 2014, he injured his shoulder during the instructional league, which kept him out of action. The following winter, the Pirates wanted to limit his use after he returned late during the 2015 season from his injury.

Monday

There was only one winter league game on Monday night, but it involved two players from the Pirates. Elvis Escobar went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. It was his second double of the season. On the other side of the field, Julio Vivas threw 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing two hits, with no walks or strikeouts. In the seventh inning, Vivas came on with Escobar already on first base and he picked him off for the final out of the inning.

Escobar is hitting .378/.395/.541 in ten games.

Tuesday

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI. He has reached base in all five games he has played, though he only has a .627 OPS. He has been on base once each game and all four hits have been singles.

**Recently, Willy Garcia was traded in winter ball. It has been suggested that due to his lack of progress in Triple-A, his 40-man roster spot with the Pirates might be in trouble. We will find out about that in a month or so, but it’s interesting (not really comparable though) to note that his winter value was a straight up trade for 28-year-old third baseman Luis Jimenez. He has spent parts of three seasons in the majors with little success, then played the 2016 season in Korea. Here’s his Baseball-Reference page so you can see what two teams in the Dominican thought about Garcia’s value.

  • Is Escobar breaking out or is this early production and playing time an illusion?

  • Jose Osuna has been a favorite of mine for a number of years. Given the increased attention to OBP, does he have any chance at all to make the Pirates next year?

    • The Pirates need to sign him or add him to the 40-man roster this off-season as he will become a minor league free agent. Osuna said recently that he didn’t know if he would be back with the Pirates, but that just means they haven’t made a decision yet.

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