Hicks off to a fast start in Venezuela
The story lines at Twins Daily and in most Minnesota media circles on Wednesday was the performance of Kyle Gibson so far in the Arizona Fall League. Simply stated, through two starts, he has been remarkable and given Twins fans reason to hope. As you know, Gibson is joined in the AFL by pitchers Logan Darnell, Caleb Thielbar and Michael Tonkin as well as hitters Chris Herrmann, Evan Bigley and Nate Roberts.
To this point, the focus has been on the Fall League, but there is plenty of Winter League baseball for us to watch, at least through box scores. There are leagues in the Carribbean, and the Australian Baseball League continues to improve.
Aaron Hicks has been the story to follow early in the Winter League seasons.
The recently-turned 23-year-old is off to a fast start in Venezuela. He is hitting .412 with two doubles and two stolen bases through the first five games. His team, Bravos de Margarita, is 5-0. He’s been the team’s leadoff hitter and centerfielder.
Other Twins players currently on rosters in Venezuela include:
- Aguilas de Zulia (OF Darin Mastroianni)
- Caribes de Anzoategui (RHP Lester Oliveros, who had Tommy John surgery in September so won’t play)
- Tigres de Aragua (RHP David Bromberg, LHP Jose Gonzalez, LHP Edgar Ibarra, RHP Angel Mata, RHP Miguel Munoz, C Josmil Pinto, OF Oswaldo Arcia)
Arcia went 0-8 with five strikeouts in his first three games before going 2-3 with a walk and a double in the team’s fourth game.
There are also several Twins players in the Dominican Winter League this year:
- Estrellas de Oriente (C Drew Butera, C Jhonatan Arias)
- Gigantes del Cibao (RHP Adrian Salcedo, IF Alexi Casilla, IF Estarlin de Los Santos)
- Leones del Escogido (SS Pedro Florimon,
- Toros del Estes (Wilkin Ramirez)
Twins top prospect Miguel Sano was the first overall pick in the Dominican Winter League draft (Which took place in mid-August) by the Estrellas de Oriente. He’s not yet listed on the roster, but that could be for a couple of reasons. Twins Instructional League just finished up last Friday, and he could get a break for a bit. I also wouldn’t expect him to get a lot of playing time at this stage of his career.
Anthony Slama is one of several Twins minor leaguers playing in the Mexican League. The others are:
- Algodoneros de Guasave (1B Chris Colabello)
- Tomateros de Calican (RHP Gonzalo Sanudo)
Several of the Twins prospects from Australia are playing in the Australian Baseball League, as well as a couple of US players:
- Brisbane Bandits (LHP Aaron Thompson, 1B Rory Rhodes)
- Canberra Cavalry (RHP Tim Atherton)
- Sydney Blue Sox (IF Jacob Younis) - (Hat tip to former Twins pitching prospect Todd Van Steensel who informed me that RHP Tyler Herr and OF JD Williams arrived yesterday and will play for Sydney.)
- Melbourne Aces (RHP Sam Gibbons, RHP Markus Solbach, 1B Josh Hendricks)
- Perth Heat (RHP Brendan Wise)
I have heard that RHP Tyler Herr is also playing in Australia, but he is not currently listed on a roster. That is likely the case for any of these leagues. Particularly in Venezuela, it is about producing, and quickly. If not, players are released and replaced by others.
There are several reasons that players go to these leagues. First, often times their teams encourage it. They want players to get additional at bats in an intense environment. A pitcher like David Bromberg is going to get extra innings in Venezuela that he lost in 2012 due to injury. Some players understand that they don’t make much money in the US during the regular season, and they need to take advantage of the years that they can get additional pay in these leagues. For young players from those countries, it is a pretty neat opportunity to play in front of their friends and families.
If nothing else, it can certainly be fun to follow box scores throughout the winter!