On Friday, February 1st, the 2013 Caribbean Leagues playoffs commence. The Mets had ten players from their 40-man roster who participated, and have now concluded their regular seasons. Two players in particular, infielder Wilmer Flores and reliever-closer Greg Burke, enjoyed extensive playing time and provided quality results for their respective clubs.
Well regarded prospect Wilmer Flores played in the Venezuelan Baseball League for Los Bravos de Margarita. He played in fifty two of the team’s sixty two games. In 195 at-bats, he tied for the team lead in home runs with five, ranked second in doubles and runs scored, and placed third on the team with twenty runs batted in. Wilmer’s winter in the Caribbean comes on the heels of a fine split season he spent playing between St. Lucie and Binghamton. The results of his sixty four games at St. Lucie nearly mirror the sixty six game season he posted at Binghamton. In 130 combined games and 493 at-bats, he batted exactly .300 for the season. Wilmer Flores scored sixty eight times, had thirty doubles, hit eighteen home runs, and drove in seventy five runs.
Back in November, Sandy Alderson quietly signed free agent reliever Greg Burke, who pitched in the Baltimore Orioles system last season. He made twenty three appearances at double-A, and twenty one more in triple-A. In 2012, Burke posted a 3-1 record and saved seventeen games. He impressed with a 1.53 era, and a 0.943 WHIP. In 64.2 innings pitched, he struck out fifty batters, while issuing fifteen walks. This winter, Burke played for Los Yaquis de Obregon of the Pacific Mexican League. As their closer, he appeared in thirty one of Obregon’s sixty seven games. He posted a 3-1 record, and converted eleven of eleven save opportunities. He topped Yaquis pitching with a 2.23 era, and led them as well with a 1.08 WHIP. In 32.1 innings pitched, he allowed thirty hits, issued five bases on balls, and struck out twenty five batters. Burke has been extended an invitation to Spring Training. Last season represented somewhat of a breakout season for Greg, and now this under-the-radar signing appears to have a lot of potential. This thirty-year old pitcher and Sandy Alderson are quite familiar with each other from their days in San Diego.
Elsewhere around the Caribbean, Jordany Valdespin spent the winter with Los Tigres de Licey in the Dominican Baseball League. He appeared in thirty one of the Tigers fifty regular season games. If Jordany did anything, he got on base and scored runs. In ninety three at-bats, he hit safely twenty six times, good for a .280 average. Valdespin drew eighteen walks, which ranked second on the team, and boosted his OBP to a .402 mark. He scored sixteen runs. Jordany played second base for the Tigers and committed no errors in the field.
Jordany Valdespin’s teammate in Licey was pitcher, Jenrry Mejia. The uncertainty regarding his potential role in the upcoming Mets season continues. He began the 2012 season (minors) by making two starts in St. Lucie. The Mets promoted Jenrry to Binghamton where he made two more starts. Then in Buffalo, he appeared in twenty six games, but only made ten starts. When the Mets summoned him to Flushing, Jenrry made five appearances, and started three games. Jenrry Mejia’s winter ball participation was brief, and unspectacular. He appeared in seven games for the Licey Tigers – all starts. Jenrry posted a 1-2 record. In 25.2 innings pitched, Mejia allowed twenty two hits and issued an unsettling ten bases on balls which translated into a 1.25 WHIP. He also posted a somewhat lofty 4.21 ERA. On the positive side of his ledger, he struck out nineteen batters, and limited opposing batters to a .232 batting average. Thing is, unless the plan changes in Flushing, Jenrry Mejia still remains unlikely to win a spot in the Mets 2013 starting rotation. By all indications, meaning Sandy Alderson, Mejia still seems destined for the bullpen.
With so much turmoil surrounding the Mets outfield lately, I have some good news Mets fans. Over the last season and a half, outfielder Juan Lagares has been turning a few eyes in Binghamton. He continued wielding an impressive bat in the Caribbean. Playing right field for the Aguilas Cibaenas club in the Dominican Republic, Juan batted .315 in fifty four at-bats. For his part, he played in twenty four of Aguilas’ fifty games, helping them to a first place finish. Juan is twenty-three years old with five years of minor league service. Without protection on the 40-man roster, Juan would be sure to become a savvy Rule-V acquisition for another club.
After a six year minor league career and finding favor on the 40-man roster, the clock started ticking on Elvin Ramirez’ MLB career last season. Pressed into relief duty, he struggled mightily with his control, walking twenty batters in 21.1 innings pitched. He also surrendered twenty four hits. But considering the Mets overall bullpen problems last season, it is hard to hold a 5.48 ERA against him. On a better note, he struck out twenty two batters. Elvin spent last year at Binghamton and Buffalo before being summoned to Flushing. Playing in the Dominican League with Los Gigantes del Cibao, Elvin made sixteen appearances, and struggled. In 14.1 innings pitched, he surrendered fifteen hits and nine runs, for a 5.65 ERA. Contributing to his 1.60 WHiP were eight walks allowed. However, he did strikeout sixteen batters.
In my opinion, Gonzalez Germen finds himself on the Mets 40-man roster because A) – he has five years of minor league service under his belt, B) – to his credit, he has maintained proficient strikeout totals, and C) – like Juan Lagares, he would be an attractive pitcher in the Rule-V draft. This winter he also played in the Dominican League for Los Toros del Este. Gonzalez was limited to 8.2 innings in twelve appearances and did not perform well. He allowed six earned runs, fourteen hits and walked five batters. He also uncorked three wild pitches, but managed eight strikeouts.
Every body’s favorite player, Justin Turner also played winter ball. However, he may not want news of his stats to get off the island. Playing for Los Leones del Escogido of the Dominican circuit, Justin was involved in twenty one games. In eighty at-bats he struggled to collect fifteen hits and therefore finished below (.188) el Mendoza Line. He hit one double, one home run, drew five walks, and struck out fifteen times. Ay! caramba Justin. ?Que paso contigo?
Last year, in his fifth minor league season, Wilfredo Tovar finally cracked double-A. He is a middle infielder with a relatively high and consistent OBP. He is an interesting specimen to have on the 40-man roster. In light of his service time and the Rule -V draft, I guess the argument to maintain him readily exists. His name is Sandy Alderson and his love of OBP are all we need to know. Wilfredo only participated in three games for the Navegantes del Magellanes of the Venezuelan Baseball League. In six at-bats, he managed a hit, a run scored, and one walk.
The last of ten players on the Mets 40-man roster to appear in Caribbean league play is Cesar Puello. Primarily an outfielder after five minor league seasons, once again, you can look to Casar’s continually high OBP from rookie ball through St. Lucie, to find why Sandy Alderson finds favor with this still only twenty-one year old ball player. He split time this winter playing for los Toros del Este in the Dominican Republic, and the Surprise Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League. In Dominican circuit play, he appeared in fifteen games. Cesar struck out twelve times in twenty seven at-bats. He hit a double and triple among his five total hits. Along with three walks, he did score nine runs.
On a side note, in the last December 2012 Rule-V Draft, the Mets picked-off Kyle Lobstein with the 10th selection from the Tampa Bay Rays, then traded him to the Detroit Tigers for cash.
January is at its end. Pitchers and catchers report in twelve more days. Enjoy the rest of the winter.