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SoxProspects News

January 6, 2009 at 9:58 AM

Fall & winter league roundup

For most major league players, the final pitch of the World Series marks the end of the baseball season. However, for hundreds of prospects, post-prospects, and veterans, a new season begins when the regular season ends. Each off-season, dozens of Red Sox minor leaguers play in a variety of Fall and Winter leagues that take place in Arizona, Hawaii, and throughout Latin America. Some of these players are assigned by the organization in order to get more at bats or innings, or to rehab from injury, or to learn a new pitch or pick up a new position. Others join leagues voluntarily, whether it be to shore up their talents, play in front of their home crowds, or showcase their skills (in the case of free agents to be). With the conclusion of the Puerto Rican Winter League regular season on Monday, the Red Sox minor leaguers have finished their respective regular seasons, so it’s time to take a look back at their performances.

Puerto Rican Winter League: The Red Sox were represented by four prospects in this six-team league, which ran from November 6 through January 5. Righthander Jose Vaquedano (4-0, 1.96 ERA in 18.1 IP) tied for the league lead in appearances, pitching in 24 games for the Leones de Ponce (Ponce Lions). The Lions went 27-15, taking home the regular season title by four games over the Arecibo Lobos. Vaquedano was joined by first baseman Aaron Bates (.271/.358/.356, 0 HR in 59 AB), who transferred to the PRWL after playing in the Arizona Fall League, and shortstop Iggy Suarez (.247/.330/.278, 0 HR in 97 AB). Third baseman Jorge Jiménez (pictured) did his work for the Indios de Mayguez (Mayaguez Indians), putting up an impressive .319/.388/.462 line with 2 home runs in 91 at bats. He would have finished eighth in the league batting race, but was about a dozen plate appearances short of qualifying. Former Sox farmhands Joe Thurston and Craig Molldrem also competed in the league. Thurston signed with St. Louis earlier in the off-season and Molldrem is presently a minor league free agent.

Venezuelan Winter League: The eight-team Venezuelan Winter League ran from October 14 through December 30, and featured fourteen players from the Red Sox organization. Of those players, only righthander Yeiper Castillo (1-0, 4.50 ERA, 17 K in 14 IP), recently-signed Enrique Gonzalez (5-2, 4.55, 41 K in 59.1 IP), and shortstop Argenis Diaz (.184/.205/.184 in 38 AB) saw any significant playing time. Outfielder Zach Daeges (pictured) accumulated a 207./258/.207 line in 29 at bats while playing for the Leones de Caracas (Caracas Lions) during the first two weeks of the season, but he did not play again after that. Other Sox in the league included lefthander Hunter Jones (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 K in 4.2 IP), Marcus McBeth (0-1, 23.62 ERA, 0 K in 2.2 IP), Jose Alvarez (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 K in 9.0 IP), Armando Zerpa (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 K in 3.0 IP), Leandro Marin (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 K in 2.0 IP), Javier García (1-0, 3.60 ERA, 2 K in 5.0 IP), Nestor Lastreto (0.1 IP), Carlos Fernandez (.222/.200/.222, 0 HR in 9 AB), Juan Apodaca (two walks in four plate appearances), and Heiker Menses (a double in two at bats).

Dominican Winter League: Six teams featuring a combined six Red Sox players competed in the DWL from October 15 through December 21. Last season's Pawtucket catching tandem of Dusty Brown (220/.369/.283, 1 HR in 127 AB) and George Kottaras (pictured, .308/.419/.462 in 26 AB) were joined by Sandy Madera (.269/.259/.308, 0 HR in 26 AB) and lefty Jose Capellan (2-1, 5.00 ERA, 11 K in 18 IP) in playing for the Azucareros del Este (Este Bulls). Brown was the team's starting catcher for most of the season before Kottaras took over the reins for the season's final three weeks. Hunter Jones also saw brief action (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 K in 4.0 IP) for the Leones del Escogido (Escogido Lions) before moving on to play in Venezuela. Former Sox minor leaguer and current minor league free agent Miguel Asencio tossed 4 innings, striking out 3 and walking 1 for the Estrellas de Oriente (Oriente Stars).

In other Caribbean action, recent Red Sox Rule 5 Draft selection
Miguel Gonzalez impressed for Mazatlan of the Mexican Pacific League, going 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. However, Gonzalez only pitched in one game after being selected by the Sox, despite that first-place Mazatlan’s playoff run will continue through at least January 9. Also, righthander Randy Consuegra (0-1, 5.68 ERA, 2 K in 6.1 IP) saw limited playing time for Caimanes of the Colombian Winter League, and the recently-released Jorge Rodriguez (1-3, 6.15 ERA, 25 K and 18 BB) racked up 26.1 innings on the mound for Monteria.

Earlier this off season, a number of Red Sox farmhands played for teams in the Arizona Fall League and Hawaii Winter Baseball League.

Arizona Fall League: The Red Sox sent eight players to compete in this six-team league that ran from October 7 to November 22. The AFL is generally reserved for highly-regarded AAA and AA prospects. Headlining this year's Sox contingent was Clay Buchholz (pictured), who went 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched. Buchholz was limited to five starts per the direction of the Sox front office. Ultimately, he was fairly dominant in his first two starts (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 K and 2 BB in 8 IP), and somewhat pedestrian in his final three (0-2, 6.23 ERA, 10 K and 7 BB in 13.0 IP). Buchholz was replaced on the roster by righty Eammon Portice, fresh off being named Pitcher of the Camp at the Sox’ Fall Instructional League. Portice pitched to an 0-1 record with a 6.14 ERA and 8 strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Catcher Mark Wagner also had a strong performance, putting together a .288/.373/.542 line with 4 home runs in 59 at bats. Other Sox participants included Bates (.200/.310/.360, 1 HR in 25 AB), outfielder Josh Reddick (.189/.210/.389, 5 HR in 98 AB), and righthanders TJ Large (0-2, 6.00 ERA, 15 K in 18 IP), Ryne Lawson (0-3, 6.43 ERA, 6 K in 14 IP), and Beau Vaughan (1-2, 3.52 ERA, 18 K and 1 BB in 15.1 IP). Vaughan has since been sent to Texas in a trade for reliever Wes Littleton.

Hawaii Winter Baseball: Five players from the Red Sox organization took part in Hawaii Winter Baseball, a four-team league that ran from September 27 to November 16. Big lefthander Dustin Richardson, making the transition from the rotation to the bullpen for 2009, had a very strong showing, going 0-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched. Outfielder Ryan Kalish also put up solid numbers, generating a .282/.446/.366 line with 1 home run in 71 at bats and a league-leading 13 stolen bases. Kalish was limited to designated hitter duty for most of the season after experiencing some discomfort in his elbow that affected his ability to throw from the outfield, but he was able to play in the field in a few games toward the end of the season. Highly-regarded shortstop Yamaico Navarro struggled a bit, putting up a .207/.283/.253 line in 87 at bats. Capellan (0-1, 4.74, 22 K in 24.2 IP) also pitched for North Shore before moving on to the DWL. Hawaii native Jon Hee appeared in 4 games while serving as an alternate, racking up a single in 9 at bats. The HWB won’t be back next season, as Major League Baseball has opted to consolidate its winter off-season developmental leagues to Arizona. A second tier of the AFL will reportedly be created next year for A-Ball level talent.

The Sox also sent
thirty-eight players to the Fall Instructional League in Fort Myers in September and October. Among the notable developments at the camp, 2008 draftee Carson Blair saw some time at catcher, Chih-Hsien Chiang played some outfield, and Jered Stanley played some first base. Boston also sent young prospects Bryan Peterson, Pete Hissey, Casey Kelly, Derrik Gibson, David Mailman, and Ryan Westmoreland to the Dominican Instructional League for two weeks in October, to give these players some time to gel as teammates. In addition, thirteen players are participating in the two-week long Red Sox Rookie Development Program in Boston.

While the “off-season” for the minor leagues technically runs from mid-September until Spring Training, a lot of these players will have found little “off” time, as the Red Sox’ voluntary winter workout program begins in Ft. Myers this upcoming Monday, January 12, and many players will be reporting to Florida by February 1.