There is more to offseason baseball than just the Arizona Fall League. “Winter” leagues, which have already started, are featuring many Cardinals players.
We’ve already written our guide to the AFL, a league that undoubtedly features the best prospect crop the Cardinals are offering. However, you can’t look past Winter Leagues. Taking place in countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, the leagues provide an extended period of time for players to hone and develop their skills. You’ll find lower level prospects, as well as players who lost significant time to injury during the regular season.
These leagues are no joke. Often managed by former MLB players, these leagues have been crucial to the development of many MLB stars, such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and Edgar Martinez, to name a few. Realize that the AFL is not the only place to get true development as a player.
The Cardinals have ten players spread across two leagues: Liga Mexicana del Pacfico (LMP) and Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional (LVBP):
- C Jose Godoy (LVBP)
- C Joshua Lopez (LVBP)
- OF Jose Martinez (LVBP)
- OF Efren Navarro (LMP)
- 2B Breyvic Valera (LVBP)
- C Irving Wilson (LMP)
- RHP Pedro Echemendia (LVBP)
- RHP Kyle Grana (LMP)
- RHP Kurt Heyer (LVBP)
- LHP David Oca (LVBP)
You probably recognize Jose Martinez, who provided a spark off of the bench during September call-ups this year, both on the field and off:
Coming off an impressive trial in the big leagues, although only with a 16 AB sample size, he can provide the Cardinals with more time to make a judgment on his skills. Since he only had a few ABs in September, he will have a chance to make up on that lost time as well.
You won’t find any of the players on the Cardinals Top 30 prospect list playing in the Winter Leagues. The crop participating consists of borderline players. Godoy hit .293 in Peoria this year, while lacking any power, hitting 1 HR in 287 ABs. Lopez put together a career best year, batting .305. He’s out to prove that this year was not a fluke. Most of the players have similar stories. Kyle Grana, for example, has done nothing but dominate since he joined the Cardinals. Although he remains unranked, he will look to continue his success. With his 6’4, 245 frame, he is definitely a prospect to watch, who probably deserves more recognition than he’s received.
Some, however, are trying to show that they still belong in the organization. Kurt Heyer, for example, is a 25 year old RHP, who struggled in AAA this year. He will be looking to show that he is better than what he showed. David Oca had a down year, after he was only able to throw 40 innings. He’ll look to get back into form. At only 21 years old, he still has plenty of development time left.
All in all, these leagues are designed to give an opportunity for players to have some good competition, learn from veterans, and show their organizations that they are worth investing in. To follow along with these players’ stats, check out the MLB.com Offseason Stat Tracker.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Wierzbicki