Winter Leagues: Escobar and Munoz Off to Hot Starts; Granberry Makes Debut

It’s still slow early in the winter season, so we have games from the last two days listed below. If you missed it from Monday, Australia is going to be a bit busier this year than usual.

On Tuesday night in the Dominican, Pablo Reyes went 0-for-2 off of the bench, coming into the game in the bottom of the fourth as a defensive replacement at second base.

In Venezuela, Elvis Escobar went 1-for-5 with a single and an RBI.

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Wednesday’s Action

In the Dominican, Jung-Ho Kang played his fourth game. His team had the previous two days off. Kang went 0-for-3, with a fly out, a strikeout and a ground out to shortstop. He faced Marcus Walden, a 29-year-old, who has three years of Triple-A pitching experience. On a side note, Walden was actually with the Blue Jays for four days in 2014 and never pitched, which is his only MLB experience. Kang’s grounder came against Luis Santos, a one-time Pirates prospect, who made his MLB debut in 2017 with the Blue Jays (and he actually pitched, unlike Walden). Kang is now 1-for-14 at the plate. He handled three plays in the field at third base.

Pablo Reyes was used again as a defensive replacement at second base, although this time it was in the ninth and he didn’t get a chance to bat.

In Venezuela, Elvis Escobar went 1-for-4 with a single. That gives him a seven-game hitting streak to start the season. He has a .345 average, with a double and three walks.

In Mexico, Yoandy Fernandez made his second start of the season. The Cuban right-hander, who was signed by the Pirates in April, allowed six runs over 4.2 innings in his debut. He threw 101 pitches, which is a lot under normal circumstances, but even harder to believe when it comes from someone who pitched in relief all season and topped 45 pitches just two times with Morgantown. On Wednesday night, he had a much better outing, allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out four batters, matching his total from his debut. He was limited to 78 pitches in this game.

Carlos Munoz went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk. He is hitting .348 through seven games.

Mikell Granberry made his debut as a pinch-runner. This is his actual winter debut, as he has been property of a winter team in Mexico since before he signed with the Pirates in late 2013, but he’s never been on the active roster. Rules in Mexico mandate that amateur players sign with winter and summer teams before signing a pro deal, otherwise the player will likely get blackballed from playing pro ball in his home country. Granberry, who spent this season in the GCL (with a late promotion to Bristol) ran in the seventh and remained in the game as a catcher. He struck out in his only at-bat.

Johnny Hellweg made his second appearance and allowed a run on a walk and a wild pitch, while recording one out. He also allowed an inherited run to score. His debut was very rocky, leaving him with a 36.00 ERA in two games. Hellweg threw 11 pitches on Wednesday, four for strikes.

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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