Fernando Perez INF
The 23-year-old spent 2016 with the Lake Elsinore Storm. Perez struggled, batting just .213 in 169 at bats. The young infielder, who went to Otay Ranch High School, is really breaking out with the Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League. The Baja California native is batting an impressive .425 with a home run and seven RBI in 18 games. Fernando is joined by some familiar names, including current Friar Cesar Vargas and former Friars prospect Mallex Smith. It will be interesting to see if the young Perez can keep it up going forward in the LMP.
Jose Pirela INF, OF
The former Yankee had a few stints with the Padres throughout the 2016 season. He really didn’t look good, getting just six hits in 39 at bats. Pirela now looks like a completely different player in the Venezuelan League with Aguilas de Zulia. Pirela is hitting out of this world with a .483 BA in seven games. His OPS is also ridiculous at 1.240. Of course these numbers are in just 29 at bats so far. Hopefully, the utility player can continue to perform throughout the winter and come back strong in spring training and possibly earn a roster spot.
Jose Rondon SS
The 22-year-old shortstop really made his mark in the minors in 2016. Rondon made some heads turn in both Double-A with San Antonio and in Triple-A with El Paso. Rondon batted .279 with five home runs and 13 stolen bases with the San Antonio Missions. Then, in EL Paso Rondon, batted .300 in 24 games. The Venezuelan infielder did make the majors, but it wouldn’t really work out for him. Rondon only manged to get himself three hits in eight games for the San Diego Padres. Rondon is currently in the Venezuelan League looking to progress and come back strong in 2017. So far, Jose has looked great, batting .280 in 26 games for Navegantes del Magallanes. His OBP is also looking really nice at .359.
There are currently nine relief pitchers from the Padres organization who are playing winter ball. Six of the nine have posted an ERA of 0.00 so far in their respective leagues. The six who have done so are Yimmi Brasoban, Jose Castillo, Rafael De Paula, Wilmer Torres, Bryan Rodriguez, and Gerardo Reyes. These six have combined for zero earned runs in 16 and a half innings.
The most impressive of the lot has been Mexican right-hander, Gerardo Reyes. Reyes is playing in the Mexican Pacific league with Yaquis de Obregon. The 23-year-old has thrown seven and a half scoreless innings out of the pen. Rafael De Paula could turn out to be a good option for the Padres pen in 2017. De Paula, 25, has thrown three scoreless innings in the Dominican League with Manuel Margot’s team, Toros del Este. If he can keep up the great work and translate it into spring training, we could be seeing a new arm in the Padres bullpen.
The other three relievers playing winter ball are Jose Ruiz, Leonel Campos, and…Keith Hessler. Ruiz has only pitched an inning so far in which he allowed two runs. Campos seems to continue to have the struggles he had in the 2016 MLB season, allowing two runs in four innings so far in the Venezuelan League. Then we go to Keith Hessler. The 27 year-old from Washington D.C. is one of the last guys I expected to see playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. The lefty has looked impressive so far for Gigantes del Cibao. Hessler has tossed eight and two-thirds and has posted an impressive 2.08 ERA. Keith is joined by some former Friars and Americans Jeremy Hefner and Chad Gaudin. He is also joined by some young Padres prospects in Bryan Rodriguez and Yimmi Brasoban. It is great that Hessler has done this. The truth is that many players are not willing to dedicate this much to the game. Hessler actually did alright for the Friars in 2016, posting a 3.38 ERA in 15 games. Hopefully, the lefty’s hard work pays off and he can land himself a spot in the Padres pen in the Spring.
Cesar Vargas RHP
Vargas is, of course, a starter, however he is currently doing relief work. Vargas was finally completely back from injury on November 9. He is currently pitching with the Naranjeros de Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League. Slowly but surely, Cesar is making progress to be back in the Padres rotation in 2017. So far, Vargas has pitched three innings and has allowed two runs. Those two runs were conceded in his first outing back from injury on November 9. Since then, Vargas has thrown two scoreless innings. Vargas has tweeted many positive things, indicating that he is making progress from the injury. Just the other day the right-hander tweeted out” Regresando a nivel.#pocoapoco” which translates into ” Coming back to my playing level #OneStepAtATime”. I have no doubt that we will see Vargas start a few games before the Mexican Pacific League wraps up. Hopefully, Vargas can keep up his progression and we can see him a take another step in the right direction.
That wraps up the first Winter League report, Friar Faithful. Tune in weekly to see how the Friars are shaping up in the top baseball leagues of Latin America.