Monday, November 23, 2009

Report from the Caribbean

Monday November 23, 2009

The annual whirlwind Caribbean trip is over.

4 countries, 9 games, more than 24,000 air and road miles and 16 days later and finally back to San Diego.

This year we were accompanied by some old friends from college. Go Lobos!

As usual we got to see some great talent, fun baseball with fanatic fans, and a great swath of beautiful third world countries.

Here is a short list of players I was impressed with and some names to remember.

From Liga Mexicana del Pacifico

- Thomas Diamond of Aguilas de Mexicali. On our first stop we saw this absolutely dominant reliever . A low to mid 90's fastball with tremendous movement and a devastating curve. He's a 26 year old former 1st round pick and uber prospect who is a minor league free agent after pitching for Frisco and OKC in the Rangers system last season. Tommy John surgery in 2007 cost him the entire 2007 and a part of the 2008 season and it looks like he's back.

- Local boy Mike McCoy. He just may be the fastest white boy I have ever seen. He went 1st to 3rd on an infield single. Let me say that again. He is so fast he went from 1st to 3rd on an infield single to the right side. Amazing! He is a SS and not a great fielder so we may never see him in a Blue Jays uniform, but he is sure fast.

Padres farm hand Jesus Lopez is really not getting any playing time on the veteran laden Algodoneros de Guasave. I don't know if that is by design, Padres wishes or because of injury. Wanted to see him play and then he was not in the lineup. Instead we saw Luis Borges who cannot hit his way out of a wet paper bag.

Another Padres farm hand, Gabe Dehoyos, has continued to be the best closer in the Pacific league this season. He leads the league with 11 saves and a 2.25 era in 15 appearances, He has 17 SO in 16 IP while walking just 3. DeHoyos will be 30 early in the 2010 season and he doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he just seems to miss bats consistently.

From our sleepless stay in the land of Catchers, the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional

- Catcher Josh Thole of the New York Mets farm system and the league leading Leones de Caracas. Not only did he hit for average, he had a .508 OBP with a 8/23 K/bb rate. Thats right, nearly 3 times as many walks as strike outs.

- Catcher Wilson Ramos of the Twins farm system and the Tigres de Aragua. While Thole has been the quintessential contact hitting catcher Ramos has shows incredible power hitting 6 home runs while having a .374/.434/.635/1.069 line. Ramos did allow 2 steals in two attempts in the two games we saw him catch, but drove in 3 runs.

Love to see the Padres trade for either of those two.

We didn't get to see Sean Gallagher play, but from what we heard he has not gained his control. walking as many as he struck out. Padre utility man Oscar Salazar is also playing in Venezuela this winter as well but he plays for the Tiburones de La Guaira. He is hitting .298/.358.

Welcome to the Rep├║blica Dominicana. Our longest stop and the only one in which we took a day off from baseball when we weren't flying from place to place. What incredibly warm and beautiful beaches and people this place has!

- Conor Jackson of the Arizona Diamondbacks has seemed to overcome Valley fever, a disease frm fungus in dust, while playing for the Leones del Escogido in the decidedly un-dusty Liga Beisbol Dominicano. He has completely dominated the league hitting more than 50 points higher than the next highest batter with a .425/.561/.589/1.150.

- Wesley Wright is a 5'10" (maybe 5'11" in cleats) whisp of a pitcher who can bring it. He mowed down 10 in 5 innings for the Toros del Este in the game we saw him pitch while allowing just 2 hits. He should find a starting spot on the Astros club next season.

- Carlos Gomez was part of the trade from the Twins for JJ Hardy. If what we saw was any indication of his skills, this is a totally one sided trade in the Brewers favor. This 24 year old kid can cover some serious ground in the outfield. WOW!

We came here hoping to see Simon Castro and Jackson Quezada of the Padres pitch, but only Castro has seen any time on the mound here and he has had only one appearance all season. Another Padre we also expected to see play, Felix Carrasco, has not seen an time either. Felix has had the misfortune of playing behind the hottest player in the league, Conor Jackson.

The only Padres farm hand we did get to see was Luis Durango. In the game we saw he went 1 for 3 with a BB and a SO and he played CF. I think he will get a shot at being a platoon player in the Padres outfield.

Our last stop was Puerto Rico. 2 days, 2 games and on to Miami and San Diego. We got there just a couple of games into the season so we did get to see most of the kids we were looking to see.

- Remember this name. Giovany Soto. No not the catcher. This kid is a lefty pitcher for Lobos de Arecibo and the Detroit Lions farm system and he is good. He is a beanstalk (6'4" and 150 lbs dripping wet), but at just 18 years old he showed poise and great stuff. As he begins to put some meat on his bones his low to mid 90's velocity should improve and time in professional ball should improve his control. Look for him to be pushing for a starting spot in the Tigers rotation in 3-4 years.

- Brian Bogusevic of Indios de Mayaguez and the Houston Astros can rake. Not only that, but he is a VERY good in centerfield. It does not seem that he will have the power to break the starting lineup for the Astros, but a combination of a good eye, a high BA and real good speed should give him the chance to be a platoon player. At 26, he is a little old for a top prospect, but expect him to get some time in the Astros roster in 2010.

- Nate Schierholtz of the Gigantes de Carolina will probably start the 2010 season as the starting RF for the SF Giants. He was really hot in the game we saw and the scouts we sat with said he was working on staying back on pitches to gain a little more time to hit the ball the other way.

We did get to see one Padres farm hand play her, Emmanuel Quiles of the Lobos de Arecibo who came in to pinch run late in the game and then took his place behind the plate for the final 1/2 inning. Can't really say much about his play. Talked to his manager, long time minor league catcher Pat Kelly, and several scouts about him and they say he is a great kid with a real passion and head for the game. I would not be surprised at all to see him make the Padres lineup in 2012-2013.

I know that I have been neglecting this blog while I was gone, but any trip through 4 countries and 8 cities over 16 days is by necessity a hectic event.

You will see more posts over the coming days including several I wrote on the road. So if you see something that seems a little dated, it is. I probably wrote it in some hotel in Caracas or Ponce or whatever airport we were in at the moment.

I feel very lucky to be able to make the annual pilgrimage to the Caribbean and glad to be back in the paradise we call home - San Diego.

- Web