Luis Valbuena is tearing up the Venezuelan League. - Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE
A few Cubs players are shining in the off-season leagues while a few others have struggled. But it's the work and not that stats that are really important.
I got caught up in the World Baseball Classic and the Thanksgiving holiday, so I never got around to giving a recap of the Mesa Solar Sox and how the Cubs did in the Arizona Fall League. It's also time to do an update on the Caribbean Leagues.
Arizona Fall League:
There's no way to sugarcoat this: This Mesa Solar Sox were lousy this year, finishing with a 10-20 record. The one mitigating factor for the Cubs was that the Cub prospects on the team had lots of help from the Dodgers, Astros, Orioles and Tigers prospects in finishing with the worst record in the AFL.
Javier Baez: The top Cubs prospect had his AFL season cut short when he broke his hand giving someone a high-five, so there are no new stats since the last time I updated these numbers. Baez played in 14 games and hit .211/.250/.456. He struck out 14 times and walked only twice. He did tie for the Solar Sox lead in home runs with four.
Overall, this experience was probably a good one for Baez. He got to face upper-level pitching for the first time and he realized that what was working in the lower levels wouldn't work in the upper levels. He seems to realize that he's going to have to make adjustments in his swing and his approach. Now it's just a matter of whether he actually does make those adjustments. He still has tremendous power and the 70 that scouts have put on that tool might actually turn out to be a little low. But he'll have to be more selective to turn that raw power into usable power.
Logan Watkins: The Cubs Minor League Player of the Year was named to the team to replace Baez and he came to Arizona exhausted by his own admission. Watkins had 32 at-bats in nine games and hit .219/.375/.344. He walked eight times, as opposed to only three strikeouts, in those nine games and he did hit one home run, although that was one of only two extra-base hits he had. I don't think that anything he did in the AFL played a role in it, but the Cubs did add him to the 40-man roster after the season.
Matt Szczur: Szczur got the most playing time of any Cub in the AFL, with 91 at-bats in 24 games. Szczur finished with a .264/.368/.364 line with nine steals in twelve attempts. He walked more times than he walked, fourteen to ten, which is always good. But he only had five extra-base hits, two doubles, two triples and a home run, which is not so good. People who like Szczur as a prospect can find plenty to like in his performance down in Arizona. People who don't like him as a prospect can find a lot to back up their opinion as well.
Rubi Silva: Silva was mostly a utility player for the Solar Sox and he finished at .206/.260/.265. He wasn't even close to being the worst player on the Solar Sox though.
Nick Struck: If people wanted to know why the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, his performance in the AFL might help to explain it. Struck threw 16.1 innings over 12 relief appearances and finished with a 5.51 ERA and more walks than strikeouts, twelve to eleven.
Dae-Eun Rhee: Rhee made six starts in the AFL and finished 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA. At least he struck out more than he walked, as he fanned 12 in 18.2 innings while walking eight.
Tony Zych: The Cubs lone AFL all-star didn't strike out many batters in the AFL, but was otherwise very good. He pitched 14 innings in 13 games and went 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA. He also had one save. Zych only stuck out four batters, which is poor, but he also only walked two batters, which is excellent.
Kevin Rhoderick: Rhoderick pitched well in the AFL, but one ugly outing gave him a lousy ERA of 4.82. That kind of stuff will happen when you only pitch 9.1 innings. Rhoderick struck out 14 batters and walked only two, which is why I think he's someone to keep an eye on in 2013.
I'm not going to report on every player who was with the Cubs in 2012 in the Caribbean Leagues, since in many cases these guys are not going to be back in 2013, or they've played so little that it's not worth reporting. But here are the numbers you need to know.
Junior Lake: My "favorite" prospect is having a great season down in the DR. He's currently third in the league in batting average with a .330 average, only three points off the leaders. Playing 29 games for Estrellas de Oriente, Lake has two home runs, seven doubles and six steals in seven attempts. He's got a .389 OBP and a .464 SLG. The downside, as always, is that he's fanned 30 times in 97 at-bats. He's walked eight times.
Nelson Perez: Lake's teammate with Estrellas and the Smokies is hitting only .245 in 23 games, but he has three home runs and fifteen walks, which gives him a .415 OBP and a .448 slugging percentage.
Rafael Dolis: Dolis has pitched one scoreless inning for Estrellas.
Michael Bowden: Bowden has pitched four times for Aguilas Cibaenas and has allowed nine runs, eight earned, in 15.1 innings. He's struck out nine and walked five.
Lendy Castillo: Castillo has thrown 6.2 innings over nine appearances for Leones del Escogido. He has a 2.70 ERA and four walks and eight strikeouts.
Arismendy Alcantara: Alcantara only has four at-bats for Tigres del Licey.
Jeffry Antigua: Antigua has thrown 15.2 innings for Toros del Este. He's 4-1 with a 4.60 ERA and a very nice 14-2 K/BB ratio.
Alberto Cabrera: Cabrera's only pitched 3.2 innings for the Toros.
Dave Sappelt: "Mighty Mouse" has played 11 games for Bravos de Margarita. In 41 at bats, Sappelt is hitting .171/.240/.326. Three of his nine hits are for extra-bases, with one double, one triple and one home run.
Luis Valbuena: Valbuena is hitting .330 for Cardenales de Lara, which puts him in a tie for fourth in the league. Valbuena has 100 at-bats in 28 games. Almost half of his 33 hits are for extra bases with ten doubles, one triple and four home runs giving him a 570 SLG. He's walked 22 times for a .456 OBP. His 1.026 OPS is second in the league.
Yoanner Negrin: Negrin has started nine games for Leones del Caracas. Negrin is 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA over 43.2 innings. Negrin has fanned 31 and walked only 13.
Josh Vitters: Vitters is 0 for 7 in two games for Caracas.
Tony Campana: Two for sixteen in five games for Caracas. Has stolen to bases.
Eduardo Figueroa: Figueroa has thrown 23.1 innings for two different teams in Venezuela. He's allowed fifteen runs and has walked 18 and struck out 15.
Jae-Hoon Ha: Ha is struggling a bit in 26 games for Tigres de Aragua. Ha is hitting .224/.280/.303 with 25 strikeouts in 76 at-bats. Ha does have one home run and six steals in six attempts.
Ty Wright: Wright is Ha's teammate for Tigres de Aragua and is hitting .247/.257/.384 in 73 at bats over 20 games. Wright also has a home run but has struck out 13 times and has yet to walk.