A number of Padres players, major and minor leaguers as well, are participating in some sort of winter league. mlb.com was kind enough to provide a list, although they still have Dean Anna listed as a member of the San Diego organization, which we all know he is not. There are a number of offseason leagues, including the Arizona Fall League which already took place. Others that are taking place right now are the Australian Baseball League, Dominican Winter League, Mexican Pacific League, and the Puerto Rican League, but for the time being I'm going to focus on the Venezuelan Winter League. One of us will get to the others at a later date or maybe even later this date. You never know. Life is full of little surprises.
Major league multi-positional Padres Alexi Amarista and Jesus Guzman are joined in Venezuela by a handful of youngsters yet to make the jump. Outfielder Alberth Martinez, who spent last season with Fort Wayne, and third baseman Jesus Merchan, most recently a member of the Tucson Padres, have received minimal playing time as teammates with Navegantes del Magallanes. Both are veteran non-prospects, unlike the other three Friar farmhands in the league. Speedy outfielder Rico Noel has struggled in 21 games, as has pitcher Brandon Kloess in eight. Adys Portillo, who also participated in the Arizona Fall League, has pitched decently in his two appearances.
Amarista has appeared in half of the 44 games Caribes de Anzoategui has played so far. In 78 at-bats for the league-leaders Alexi has hit at a .282 clip while reaching base 40.4% of the time. That, combined with his less-than-stellar slugging percentage of .397 (by way of four doubles, a triple, and a home run), gives him an OPS of .802- considerably better than his 2013 regular season mark of .619. He's listed as a second baseman but there are no defensive statistics available, so I had to dig through old box scores to see if he's been getting any work in the outfield. I mean, I love the guy, but if the Padres are going to continue using him in the outfield I'd like him to get better at it. Mostly because it makes me sad when gyorks on Twitter say mean things every time he takes a weird route, but also, you know, for the sake of the team.
Box scores and play-by-play of Amarista's last ten games paint a picture of versatility. His starts have been nearly equally divided between second base and left field and he usually switches positions at least once a game. In one 13-inning win, he even started in left and played all nine scheduled innings, shifted to second for two innings, and then went back to left field for two more innings. He also served as the designated hitter for one game and played two innings at shortstop in another.
Another player who has gotten starts in left field for Caribes is former Padres bench-rocker Oscar Salazar whose bright yellow batting gloves you may recall. He has been hitting decently this VWL season, putting up a .291/ .392/ .483 slash line over 151 at-bats in 42 games. Salazar has nine doubles and a triple to go with his six homers and 29 runs batted in. He has 23 walks to 20 strikeouts; the ratio has always skewed the other direction throughout his career, both in his days in affiliated ball and last year in the Mexican League.
Speaking of guys on the Padres bench who can play several positions but make you terrified any time a ball is hit to them at any of them, Jesus Guzman has been raking in 11 games with Leones del Caracas. He has a .366 average along with four doubles, four home runs, and a dozen of each runs scored and driven in. His 13 walks boost his on base percentage to .527, which combines with his .756 slugging percentage for a ridiculous 1.283 OPS. Small sample size, sure, but it looks nice for now.
Another player with Padres ties is spending his winter in Venezuela. Free agent shortstop Ronny Cedeno spent 38 games with the team last season, filling in for the suspended Everth Cabrera after the failed Pedro Ciriaco experiment. Cedeno hit better than expected for the Padres, and is swinging the bat even better than that for Tigres de Aragua. The Venezuela native has a .312 average over 77 at-bats in 22 games. His on-base and slugging numbers are .404 and .416, respectively. Those aren't mind-blowing numbers but they definitely help his job hunt.
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