The Chicago Cubs, with one of the better minor league systems in the league (especially for position players), have quite a few players active in winter ball although very few of them could be considered true prospects.
Our first player, 22-year-old Arismendy Alcantara got some cuts in with the Tigres del Licey in his home country of the Dominican Republic. He hit .200/.231/.280 with a home run in 50 at bats in the Dominican and it looks like he’s done for the season, not having played since November 27. The young second baseman is coming off an breakout season with the Tennessee Smokies in the Double-A Southern League, hitting .271/.352/.451 with a career-high 15 home runs and 36 doubles. Alcantara was added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster this offseason, showing that his strong season forced the issue a little bit.
Shortstop Walter Ibarra, 26, who signed a minor league contract with the Cubs this offseason, is playing in the Mexican Winter League and is hitting only .192/.228/.256 in 172 at bats. Ibarra had a strong season with the Yankees’ system in 2013, playing for Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .276/.308/.367 in just under 200 at bats.
23-year-old Junior Lake is certainly not taking it easy this offseason after making his major league debut with the Cubs in 2013. After an impressive ML debut that had him hit .284/.332/.428 in 236 major league at bats, the young Dominican has put in another 105 at bats in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .343/.386/.457 with four doubles, a triple and two home runs. Despite coming up as an infielder (even playing mostly third base in Triple-A Iowa this year), the Cubs have Lake playing the outfield which is likely the reason for his getting extra reps in winter ball.
Three players are playing for Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. 26-year-old Venezuelan Jonathan Mota has already accumulated 126 at bats and is hitting .262/.352/.405 after a strong season with Double-A Tennessee. The first baseman is more of a gap hitter and is not a huge power threat that many prefer in that position.
27-year-old third-baseman Greg Rohan has joined Leones recently after a season that saw him get only 57 at bats between some rehab time in the Arizona League and 36 at bats with Triple-A Iowa. Needless to say that Rohan is slightly rusty and has only hit .143/.231/.171 in Puerto Rico.
Rubi Silva, 24, is doing better in 91 Puerto Rican at bats. He’s hitting .242/.266/.286 with four doubles but just three walks and 27 strikeouts. The Cuban outfielder had a very strong season with 54 extra-base hits (including 15 home runs) in Double-A Tennessee but his aggressiveness at the plate only had him taking 18 walks all season.
27-year-old veteran infielder Luis Valbuena has been playing in his native Venezuela, getting 122 at bats for the Cardenales de Lara so far this season. He’s hitting .311/.440/.467 with seven doubles and four home runs after a major league season that saw him miss most of August with an injury. Valbuena hit .218/.331/.378 with 12 home runs in 331 at bats with the Cubs in what could be considered his best major league season.
Second baseman Jeudy Valdez only had 17 at bats over eight games early in the Dominican season, hitting .235/.278/.353. The 24 year old signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent in the offseason after a .251/.300/.406 season with Double-A San Antonio in the Padres’ system.
Mexican third-baseman Christian Villanueva continued to show off his power in the Southern League for the Cubs and has been playing in his home country this winter. In 97 at bats (his last coming on December 12), the 22 year old hit .227/.312/.381 with three home runs.
The much-traveled Casper Wells, 29, who was a part of five organizations in 2013 (Seattle, Toronto, Oakland, Chicago and Philadelphia), signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in the offseason and played a little in the Venezuelan league prior to signing that contract. He hit only .178/.339/.237 with Caracas with a double and one home run in 45 at bats.
23-year-old reliever Jeffry Antigua who pitched in four different minor leagues in 2013 not only re-signed with the Cubs after becoming minor league free agent but he has pitched in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. The Santo Domingo-born lefty has thrown only five and two-thirds innings and has given up four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
Another reliever, Frank Batista, 24, has been dominant in small stretches in the Dominican Winter League. He’s thrown ten innings without allowing a run and just four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. In Double-A Tennessee, the righty had an excellent season with a 2.60 ERA, 55 hits against, 28 walks and 52 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.
Righty Alberto Cabrera, 25, has only thrown six innings in the Dominican after a long season that included six major league innings. Cabrera racked up most of his 133 minor league innings as a starter in Tennessee posting a great 3.20 ERA (in 112 2/3 Double-A innings) although he got hit hard when he came up to Iowa. Cabrera has also been getting hit hard in the Dominican, surrendering six runs in six innings on nine hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
24-year-old Cuban Frank Del Valle had a strong season closing games for the High-A Daytona Cubs and added 29 strong innings (mostly in a starting role) for the Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela. He hasn’t pitched since December 27 and could be done for the year but he had a strong campaign despite too many walks (23 in 29 innings). The lefty had a 2.17 ERA and gave up only 18 hits and struck out 24.
After a solid season spread over Double-A and Triple-A for the Indians’ organization, righty Paolo Espino, 26, signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and has been starting in the Venezuelan League (although his last start was December 4). He had a 5.15 ERA over 43 2/3 innings but walked just 11 batters and struck out 45. His high ERA can be traced to the nine home runs he allowed.
At 25, Eduardo Figueroa probably doesn’t have major league stuff, reaching only Double-A Tennessee and striking out only 4.5 batters per nine innings. He’s recently joined the Venezuelan League and has been hit hard, giving up eight runs on 11 hits and four walks with just one strikeout in six innings.
Hawaiian-born Marcus Hatley, 25, went down to Mexico for some winter ball and threw 17 innings (his last appearances was November 26) with a 3.94 ERA, 16 hits and nine walks against and 19 strikeouts, earning six saves. The 6’5″ righty spent most of the season in Triple-A Iowa with the Cubs and showed similar prowess, striking out a lot of batters but walking almost 4.5 per nine innings.
Righty Yoanner Negrin, a 29-year-old veteran from Cuba, has been starting in Venezuela after a season split between the bullpen and the rotation in Iowa. His strikeouts are way down in the winter, with only 38 in 62 innings in Venezuela (along with 22 walks) and a 4.06 ERA. In Iowa, Negrin had a 4.17 ERA in 108 innings with 118 strikeouts and only 31 walks.
22-year-old righty Loiger Padron, a Venezuelan native, only pitched nine and a third innings at home in the winter, giving up five runs on 12 hits but just one walk and he struck out six. He had a rough season in Boise in the Short-Season A Northwest League with a 5.87 ERA in 38 1/3 innings with 20 walks and 32 strikeouts.
Dominican righty Carlos Pimentel came over to the Cubs as a minor free agent from the Rangers and has been outstanding in the Dominican Winter League. He threw 37 2/3 innings with a 1.67 ERA, 1.09 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 14 walks. Pimentel,24, was a starter for the Rangers’ Double-A team in Frisco and he made six appearances out of the bullpen for Triple-A Round Rock.
Venezuelan Hector Rondon made just thirteen appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League, throwing 12 1/3 innings, and giving up five runs (3.65 ERA) on 16 hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts. Rondon, 25, made his major league debut in 2013 and pitched exclusively for the Cubs, throwing 54 2/3 innings with a 4.77 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 44 strikeouts and 25 walks (five were intentional).
Australian native Ryan Searle spent a good chunk of his season on the DL but played mostly with the Daytona Cubs, where he was shelled for a 5.67 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in just 27 innings. Searle has played as high as Triple-A with the Cubs and is trying to recapture his form, pitching in the Australian Baseball League. He’s 3-1 for Brisbane as a starter, throwing 29 innings and having an outstanding 1.24 ERA and 0.72 WHIP with just four walks and 26 strikeouts. Searle is still just 24 and could very well take a step forward in 2014.
21-year-old Mexican lefty David Villegas spent his first season in the US with the Cubs’ Arizona League team throwing 22 innings, mostly out of the bullpen as a closer. He had a 3.68 ERA with 19 strikeouts and seven walks and made just a few appearances in the Mexican Winter League in October. He threw only one and two-thirds innings over four games to the tune of a 32.40 ERA (six runs allowed) on six hits and two walks without a strikeout.