When you are looking to make a name for yourself professionally, there is no such thing as an offseason, especially in Major League Baseball. Such is the case for a number of farmhands of the Cleveland Indians from this most recently completed season whom are active in league activities in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Venezuela.
In addition to the seven Indians minor leaguers who are in Glendale, Arizona, participating in the Arizona Fall League (position players Yu Chang, Li-Jen Chu, and Connor Marabell and pitchers Justin Garza, Rob Kaminsky, Jared Robinson, and Dalbert Siri), four members of their farm system are getting in work in the six-team Dominican Professional Baseball League, two are in the eight-team Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, and one is working in the eight-team Mexican Pacific League, running up and down the Gulf of California.
Josh Martin and Henry Martinez, a pair of right-handers, are getting in their work with the Leones del Escogido team of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana. Situated in the Dominican capital city of Santo Domingo, the Leones share the Estadio Quisqueya ball park with the Tigres del Licey.
Martin, who turns 29 at the end of December, spent his seventh season in the Indians organziation in 2018. A tenth round pick of the 2012 draft out of Samford University, he was limited to just 23 games on the minor league slate this season after spending the first three months of the year on the disabled list. When healthy, he spent the majority of his time at Triple-A Columbus, posting a 4-0 record in 19 relief appearances with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in two months of action, beginning the first week of July. He struck out 24 batters in 21 2/3 innings with the Clippers. He additionally added in six appearances for the Indians in rookie league play in Goodyear during the final weeks of June.
Martin was a Rule 5 pick by the San Diego Padres in December of 2015, but he was returned to the Indians at the start of the season before appearing in any official games for the Padres.
Martinez, 24, is a Dominican native of Cabral. The 6’1” righty pitched at three different levels of the Indians farm system in 2018, making 48 total appearances. He spent the bulk of his time at Double-A Akron, working in 32 games there while posting a 2-1 record, a 2.76 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP. He added in ten games with Columbus (1-0, 10.64 ERA, 2.00 WHIP) in his first work at that level, and six games at High-A Lynchburg (0-0, 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP).
Martinez also spent last season as a member of the Leones del Escogido club. He could be a candidate for addition to the Indians’ 40-man roster in the offseason.
Claiborne, 30, joined the Indians last January on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. A right elbow strain in April limited him to just ten games of action over the course of the year (including two at Columbus, three at Akron, and five in the rookie league). He previously pitched in the Dominican Winter League during the 2016-17 season and also threw in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 2012-13. He entered the pro game in 2010 with the New York Yankees and pitched for the parent club in 2013 and 2014 before later returning to the Majors with the Texas Rangers in 2017.
The 35-year-old Ogando is another Dominican native who hails from San Pedro de Macoris. He signed with the Indians in December on a minor league contract with a spring training invitation and worked in Goodyear, but he spent his season at Columbus, making six starts and eight relief appearances for the Clippers during the campaign (around one trip to the Indians roster in May). His Triple-A season came to an end on July 24 when he was placed on the restricted list by the club, and he was declared a free agent on October 5. Ogando has previously played for the Toros in 2009, 2016, and 2017.
The pair are teammates on the Toros with former Indians outfielder Abraham Almonte.
Angulo, 24, was born in Araure, Venezuela, in 1994. A 19th round pick by the Indians in the 2014 draft out of Ranger College in Texas, he concluded his fifth year in the organization with 47 games of work in relief for the Akron RubberDucks. He struggled for the first time in a full season of work, posting a hit rate more than double that of his previous season, leading to a 5.23 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP for the year. His strikeout rate remained promising, however, as he averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings (to drop his career rate to 11.2). This marks his first season of work in offseason foreign play after spending last fall in the Arizona Fall League. He is suiting up for the Cardenales de Lara.
Valladares, who returned home to Venezuela to pitch for the Bravos de Margarita, wrapped up his fifth season in the Indians organization and his third campaign at short-season Mahoning Valley this year. The Caracas product and 24-year-old southpaw made 19 relief appearances with encouraging results, including a 5-0 record, a 2.29 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP with 44 strikeouts and eleven walks in 39 1/3 innings of work. He was named a midseason All-Star for the first time in his career this season by the New York-Penn League. This is his second season of activity in the Venezuelan Winter League, following 14 games of work for the Bravos in 2016.
After spending a portion of the season in the Majors with the Indians, right-hander Evan Marshall is participating in the Liga Mexicana del Pacífico with the Venados de Mazatlan.
Marshall, 28, was a fourth round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft class. He reached the Majors in 2014 and spent parts of three seasons bouncing back and forth between the parent club and their Triple-A Reno affiliate. A freak injury led to a short schedule of games for him in 2017 while working with the Seattle Mariners organization. He signed with the Indians last November and was on the I-71 shuttle throughout the season until right elbow inflammation shut him down in mid-June. He was a 40-man roster casualty on September 1 and was declared a free agent on October 2 after the season. He was 1-1 in 20 games for the Clippers with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP and 0-0 with a 7.71 ERA and a 2.29 WHIP in ten games for the Indians.
Activity in the Puerto Rican Winter League (Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente) is expected to resume and return to normal after play was altered last winter due to the devastation from Hurricane Maria in the summer. A one month schedule was implemented so that the league could attempt to defend its Caribbean Series championship from the year before, something it did when the Criollos de Caguas repeated as Caribbean champs.
Indians’ 2018 first round pick, 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Lenny Torres, is expected to be one of the first players selected in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League Rookie Draft on October 24. Los Gigantes de Carolina have the first two picks in the draft and may look to add the young pitcher after he appeared in six games in rookie league action for the Indians. Cleveland’s 21st round pick in 2018, catcher Eric Rodriguez (20), is also expected to be taken after playing in 23 games in the rookie league and two with the Class-A Lake County Captains, as is shortstop Richard Palacios (21), the team’s third rounder this year out of Towson who played 20 games at both Mahoning Valley and Lake County and five in the rookie league.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)’s U-23 Baseball World Cup is also under way, with three Indians minor leaguers at work in the third edition of the tournament that started in 2014. Set to run from October 19 to 28, the professional level national contest allows teams to select rosters of players aged 23 and younger. The 12-team list of participating nations this year includes Australia, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, and Venezuela.
Jorma Rodriguez, 22, is representing Venezuela in the tournament. He made three stops in the Indians minor league system this season, working at Lake County, Lynchburg, and Akron. He hit a combined .278 in his longest season (113 games) to date in his career. He played four different positions during the 2018 season.
Both Gianpaul Gonzalez and Alexis Pantoja (both 22) are on the Puerto Rican team. The pair were 2014 draft picks by the Indians (Pantoja in the 9th round, Gonzalez in the 20th round) out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Gonzalez played 30 games across four different levels in his fifth year in the organization, working at every stop from short-season Mahoning Valley to Double-A Akron. Pantoja hit .201 in 100 games between Lynchburg and Akron this season in his first year in the middle portion of the farm system.
Photo: Twitter (@VenadosBase)