Winter Ball Wrap-Up: Dominican Republic

Ed. note: Promoted to the front page. Nice wrap-up of Tigers players in the DR this winter. - allikazoo

As a lot of you are aware by now, I am no longer affiliated with Aerys Sports at this time. I am currently in the process of constructing a new website which I hope to have up and running before spring training starts. In the meantime, their loss is your gain, as I would really like to conclude my series on the players in the Tigers organization who played in the Dominican and Venezuelan winter leagues this offseason. And I'll start with the home country of the 2012 Caribbean Series champions: The Dominican Republic.

First, a little bit of a winter ball primer. The Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League (Liga de Beisbol Profesional de la Republica Dominicana, or LIDOM) is made up of six teams: Aguilas Cibaeñas, Estrellas Orientales, Gigantes del Cibao, Leones del Escogido, Tigres del Licey, and Toros del Este. The teams play a 50-game regular season from mid-October to about mid-to-late December (And it's a balanced schedule; they don't have divisions). The top four teams in the standings after the regular season advance to the playoffs, which is an 18-game round robin. The top two teams play a best-of-nine final, and the winner of that advances to the Caribbean Series. Between each round (regular season to round robin, round robin to final, and final to Caribbean Series), they hold a selection draft where the teams that have advanced recruit a certain number of players from the teams who didn't advance (This sounds weird, but it's necessary because the MLB teams often won't let their players participate in the playoffs). It's important to note that this is not like a trade or a free agent signing. In a sense, the player is only being "borrowed." He'll go back to playing for his original team the next season (I'm told that they do this in Little League, too). The Caribbean Series itself is a 6-game round robin with no best-of-nine or best-of seven final. It's simply that the team with the best record after the round robin is the champion, so it can be somewhat anticlimactic (like this year, when the Dominican Republic raced out to a 4-0 start and clinched the championship once Mexico lost a game to Puerto Rico; the Dominican Republic lost their remaining two games). This year, the final between the Leones del Escogido and the Aguilas Cibaeñas went the full nine games and it was pretty much a back-and-forth affair. The Leones won Game 9 on a walk-off single from Andy Dirks (oddly enough, Fernando Rodney got the win in that game after blowing a save). Dirks and minor leaguer Ramon Garcia were the only two from the Tigers organization that participated in the Caribbean Series.

So how did Dirks, Garcia, and the rest of the Tiger peeps do in the Dominican Republic fare this season? Let's find out! A few notes: I'm using combined stats from the regular season and the postseason, but I'm leaving out the Caribbean Series (I'll mention those separately). Second, some of the blurbs may be brief because I don't have a lot of Dominican resources and I didn't see any of these games. It's hard to really analyze something you didn't see (my Venezuelan wrap-up should be more detailed; probably a little too detailed in some cases). Third, keep in mind that I'm not an expert on prospects, especially when the prospect hasn't reached Toledo yet. Now, with all that out of the way, let's get to the wrap-ups:

Al Alburquerque-RHP, Aguilas Cibaeñas (1 G, 0-0, -.-- ERA, 0.0 IP): We all know what happened to Alburquerque. They discovered he had a stress fracture in his elbow and he's since had surgery to stabilize it. He's slated to be back around the All-Star Break. However, I've included him for the sake of completeness. His winter ball stint consisted of facing one batter and walking him. That's it.

Audy Ciriaco-3B, Aguilas Cibaeñas (40 G, 151 AB, .298 AVG, 18 RBI): It seems like there's more infielders and pitchers ticketed for Triple A than there are spots for them in Toledo. Ciriaco is one of those infielders. He mostly played at Erie last season and came to Toledo very late in order to see if he could be an everyday shortstop. He played almost exclusively third base for the Aguilas, and actually had quite a nice season, as you can see. Patience at the plate is apparently not his thing, as he only walked nine times in the regular season and only once in six postseason games (and struck out 31 times in the process), but he did hit his way on. He was in a slump during the postseason, only hitting .240 and striking out 8 times, but that's only a sample of six games.

Andy Dirks-OF, Toros del Este/Leones del Escogido (37 G, 145 AB, .262 AVG, 22 RBI): Remember when I talked about the substitution draft? Here's a good example of it. Andy Dirks played for the Toros del Este in the regular season. The Toros did not make the postseason, and so the Leones del Escogido recruited him. He's become quite beloved in the Dominican Republic. He was also remarkably consistent. He hit .262 in the regular season, .263 in the postseason, and .250 in the Caribbean Series. However, he became known for getting big hits, especially in the postseason, where he racked up 18 RBIs (He only had four in the regular season). And as most of you are well aware, he got the biggest hit of all for the Leones: A walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth of Game 9 of the final against the Aguilas Cibaeñas, sending his team to the Caribbean Series (which just happened to be in the Dominican Republic this year). He continued to come up big time in the Caribbean Series. He produced the go-ahead RBI in two different games, and he had an OBP of .292. There was some talk that he might be named MVP of the Caribbean Series, but that ultimately went to their closer, Braves prospect Jairo Ascencio.

Ramon Garcia-LHP, Leones del Escogido (16 G, 2-1, 2.50 ERA, 18 IP): Garcia spent most of last season as a long man out of the bullpen for Erie but did occasionally make an emergency start for Toledo. The Leones used him as a long man out of their bullpen as well, and he did a good job. He only appeared in eight games during the regular season, but only gave up one earned run (three runs total) in that span of eleven innings. He was used a lot more often in the postseason (8 games, 7 innings). He had a couple rough patches there, including a game where he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits, a walk, and an error (only one run was earned, and he ended up with the win in what eventually was a 12-10 game), and another outing where he gave up three runs in one inning, but other than that, he was very steady for them. He appeared in three games during the Caribbean Series, racking up 6.2 innings and earning a hold, a three-inning save, and a loss. He also had eight strikeouts in the Caribbean Series. While I'm not sure he has a chance of making it to the big leagues, at least not in 2012, he looks like a valuable guy to have in the minor league system.

Jerad Head-OF, Tigres del Licey (24 G, 88 AB, .239 AVG, .292 OBP): This was a minor league signing for the Tigers early on in the offseason. Head was in the Indians system and spent last season with Columbus (though he did have 10 games in the big leagues). He hit .284 for the Clippers with 24 home runs, so he does have power, although he struck out 99 times. It was more of a struggle for him in the Dominican Republic. He did hit two home runs and he had 10 RBIs in 24 games (not bad, considering the low average), but he also had 22 strikeouts.

Bobby Korecky-RHP, Toros del Este (14 G, 1-0, 4.85 ERA, 13.0 IP): The Tigers signed this guy out of the Blue Jays organization. He had a 2.04 ERA between Double A and Triple A (mostly Double A) last year, but I have no idea where the Tigers intend on putting him. His stint in winter ball was kind of strange. He started out really well, but over his final five or six games, he tended to alternate good outings and bad outings. Either he'd pitch a scoreless inning, or he'd give up multiple runs. There really wasn't an in-between outing.

Luis Marte-RHP, Tigres del Licey (16 G, 2-0, 2.38 ERA, 22.2 IP): I would not be surprised if Marte made the Opening Day roster for the Tigers. In fact, I believe he has a really strong chance of winning that last spot in the bullpen as long as he pitches decently in spring training (I am NOT saying that this is a good idea; it just seems like something the Tigers would do). He certainly made a case for it in winter ball. In the regular season, he gave up only three runs (two of which came on solo home runs) in twenty innings with sixteen strikeouts against six walks. He finally had a rough outing in the first of his two postseason appearances, giving up three earned runs on one hit, two walks, and a hit batter in one inning. He bounced back from that in his last outing, striking out three in 1.2 innings.

Steven Moya-OF, Toros del Este (2 G, 4 AB, .000 AVG): I don't know where Moya ranks in the prospect lists (then again, the only thing anyone seems to agree on are the top two or three prospects), but he only hit .204 at West Michigan last year. His season in the Dominican Republic consisted only of four at-bats with no hits and three strikeouts.

Ryan Strieby-1B, Gigantes del Cibao (6 G, 18 AB, .222 AVG, .333 OBP): Strieby just hasn't been able to live up to that potential that so many people (both in the Tigers organization and in the blogging community) saw in him. It's gotten to the point where he's not even on the 40-man roster anymore (although quite a few fans were willing to give him as try as Victor Martinez's replacement). He's only 26, so he may yet get it together, but his season in the Dominican Republic wasn't promising. He had no home runs, although he did draw a few walks, and he was hitless in his last three games. However, he only appeared in six games total, so don't take TOO much from it.

Jay Voss-LHP, Aguilas Cibaeñas (4 G, 0-3, 7.27 ERA, 8.2 IP): You may remember Voss as the guy the Tigers got from the Marlins when they traded away Nate Robertson, and actually, there's quite a few who think he can be successful. There was even speculation that he might have been put on the 40-man roster earlier this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. While that didn't happen, he still had quite a decent year, compiling a 3.56 ERA between Lakeland and Erie, mostly as a starting pitcher. However, he didn't fare as well in the Dominican Republic. Over his four-start stretch, he gave up eight runs (seven earned). Walks were a problem, as he ended up issuing seven, although he did have eleven strikeouts.

That'll do it for the Tigers in the Dominican Republic. Next time, I'll cover Venezuela (and it's a good bet that it'll be even longer than this post).

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.

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