Examining Indians Players in the Venezuelan Winter League
By David Roberts
This week we’ll cover the nine Tribe players listed on the rosters of the Venezuelan Winter League Teams. The Venezuelan Winter League is made up of eight teams, which consists of minor league players and the top native players of Venezuela for a 63 game season. The league is one of several international Caribbean Leagues that allow the baseball season to be extended for the development of minor league ballplayers.
The 26-year-old lefty was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the eighth round of the 2008 draft out of the University of Arizona. Berger has steadily climbed the ranks of the Indians minor league system through his five years of professional ball, most recently finishing the 2012 campaign in Triple A Columbus. He has been named an All-Star in both 2008 and 2009 while playing for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the New York Penn-League and Kinston Indians in the Carolina League posting a sub 3.00 ERA as a starter.
After a relatively down year between Akron and Columbus where he posted a record of 2-9 with a 5.27 ERA over 111 innings, the young starter looks to put together a solid winter league campaign. So far, in four starts for the Bravos de Margarita he is 0-3 but boasts a 3.26 ERA over 19.1 innings in which he has struck out 17 and only walked two.
The 21-year-old righty was a non-drafted free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 2009. He has spent all three years in the Dominican Summer League as a reliever. His first year, in 2009, the youngster showed promise earning a 2.83 ERA in 41.1 innings but only managed to toss 4.1 innings the following year. This year he managed to make 13 appearances working 13.1 innings but earned rough 5.27 ERA.
The hope is for the righty to gain some innings in the winter league since he really hasn’t logged many innings in the last two years. He has yet to appear in a game for the Caribes de Anzoategui.
The 25-year-old righty was one of the key pieces of the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Phillies in 2009. Carrasco since his acquisition has been up and down between the minors and Cleveland. In 2011, he spent the majority of the season in Cleveland, going 8-9 over 21 starts earning 4.62 ERA over 124.2 innings. Things were starting to straighten out for the righty. Unfortunately, during the 2011 season Carrasco went down with an injury and required Tommy John surgery.
Carrasco looks to rebound in 2013 and become an option for the major league rotation. He has yet to appear in a game for the Leones del Caracas.
The Cleveland Indians signed the 24-year-old righty as a non-drafted free agent in 2004. He ascended through the Tribe’s minor leagues as a starter through his first four professional seasons starting in 2006. In 2007, he was named a South Atlantic League All-Star while with the Lake County Captains and then in 2008 he was named to the Futures Game. In 2009 while playing the Akron Aeros, he received a nomination on the Eastern League All-Star team. He was named the Indians Minor League Pitcher of the Year that year after leading the organization in strikeouts with 137, third in wins with 11 and fourth in innings at 146.1. He opened the 2010 season with the Columbus Clippers but went down with an injury that required elbow surgery keeping him out the rest of 2010 and the majority of 2011. The following year while making a comeback from the previous elbow surgery, he reinjured while on rehab assignment with Short Season-A Mahoning Valley requiring another elbow surgery. He pitched briefly down the stretch in 2012 with the Rookie league and then the Aeros, making four appearance–two of those starts–for seven innings allowing just one run.
The Indians are not sure if his arm can handle the duties of a starter anymore after two elbow surgeries so moving him to relief is a strong possibility. Thus far, with the Leones del Caracas, Rondon has made nine appearances all out of the pen for 7.2 innings; he is 0-1 with a 7.29 ERA.
The Cleveland Indians signed the 27-year-old righty out of Japan as a non-drafted free agent in 2010. Murata spent the entire 2011 campaign playing for the Kinston Indians where he put up solid numbers working as a starter and reliever. In 2012, he split the season between the Carolina, Akron, and finished the year with Columbus. On the year, he went 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 27 appearances, 10 of which were starts, in 74.2 innings.
Murata had a bit of rough time while in Columbus so he’s looking to sharpen his numbers to put the Tribe’s mind at ease whether he is good enough to handle Triple-A or beyond next season. So far, with the Navegantes Del Magallanes, Murata has started three games with a 5.25 ERA over 12 innings but has managed to strike out seven and walk only two.
The Cleveland Indians signed the 20-year-old righty as a non-drafted free agent in 2010. In his two years in the organization, he has spent a year pitching mostly a starter with the Dominican Summer League and as a reliever this past season in rookie ball. His numbers so far in his young career have been solid, including his 4-1 record with a 3.60 ERA in 35 innings of relief this season to go along with 35 strikeouts in Arizona.
Puerta looks to continue to show the Indians scout he has the stuff to be a power reliever in the organization. Thus far, for Tiburones de La Guaira he has appeared in one game working an inning where he allowed two walks and a hit but did not allow a run to score.
The 22-year-old first baseman was a non-drafted free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 2007. After spending his first two professional years in the Dominican Summer League, he has steadily risen through the organization showing pop along the way. In 2011 between Lake County and Kinston, his offensive numbers exploded as he lead the Indians organization in RBIs with 82, second in home runs with 23, and third in hits with 131. The accolades arrived for Aguilar as he was named Midwest League All-Star and Milb.com Organization All-Star. 2012 was more of the same for Aguilar between Carolina and Akron he posted a slash line of .280/.372/.461 to go along with 15 home runs and 71 runs batted in. He was given the honor of being named to the Futures Game.
The young first baseman is a top prospect for the Indians and rightfully so with the minor league numbers he has posted already and only at the age of 22. So far while playing for the Leones del Caracas he is hitting .229 with a home run and three RBI’s in 12 games.
The 26-year-old shortstop was acquired from the Seattle Mariners for Eduardo Perez in 2006 and has been a spark in the middle of the infield for the Cleveland Indians since 2007. Especially in the last two years where he has emerged as a run producing bat with power Cabrera has been an important cog to the Tribe offense. He has received the honor of being an All-Star in both 2011 and 2012 along with a AL Silver Slugger award for his career high numbers in 2011 when he posted a slash line of .273/.332/.460 while clubbing 25 home runs and driving in 92. He was just as important in 2012 although he saw a slight drop in numbers with a slash line of .270/.338/.423 with 16 homers and 68 driven in.
Trade rumors swirl around the Tribe’s shortstop especially after the acquisition of Mike Aviles from Toronto but GM Chris Antonetti has consistently stated he absolutely expects Cabrera to suit up for the Indians opening day. He has yet to appear in a game for the Leones del Caracas.
The Cleveland Indians picked up the 27-year-old utility infielder as a minor league free agent prior to the 2012 season. He spent the entire year playing in Columbus where he posted a slash line of .260/.320/.403 while hitting 10 home runs and driving in 45.
Petit has spent limited time in the big leagues with previous teams but he looks to continue to stick in the Indians organization as a possible utility infielder option. So far while playing for the Leones del Caracas he is batting .188 in 11 games with five runs scored.