The Los Angeles Angels didn’t have nearly as many players head down to winter leagues as some other teams.
First-base prospect C.J. Cron followed up an Arizona Fall League season that saw him dominate, winning the batting title by hitting .413 with five home runs, with some December time in the Dominican Winter League where he didn’t fare as well. He hit only .185/.229/.308. Whether or not it was a comfort level issue remains to be seen but it’s certainly curious for a player to dominate in one league filled with prospects and flounder in another filled with a lot of veteran players.
Outfielder Roberto Lopez, 28, followed up a solid Triple-A season in Salt Lake City with some mediocre numbers in the Mexican Winter League. Lopez, a San Diego native, hit .235/.319/.314, posting a similar walks to strikeouts ratio as he did in the regular season but with less contact and less power.
27-year-old first baseman Efren Navarro had an outstanding, if atypical, season in Salt Lake City, hitting .326/.404/.454 with 39 doubles, three triples and seven home runs. It’s atypical because he lacks the over-the-fence power common in first basemen despite his very good gap power. Navarro, born in Las Vegas, struggled in Mexico, hitting only .158/.259/.233 with two home runs in 120 at bats.
Right-handed pitcher Orangel Arenas continued to have a tough time with his control playing at home in the Venezuelan league. He threw twelve innings and gave up six earned runs but walked 11 and struck out eight. In his first attempt at Triple-A, Arenas, 24, walked 14 and struck out eight in 24 2/3 innings before being sent down to Inland Empire in the California League where he put up much better numbers.
Another Venezuelan, 25-year-0ld Yeiper Castillo, made 25 appearances in Venzuela, posting a 3.52 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP with 11 walks and 38 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. Castillo, who signed with the Angels in the offseason after spending 2013 in the Cubs’ organization, pitched at High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, mostly as a swing man and racked up 88 2/3 innings with a 3.35 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, 35 walks and 80 strikeouts.
Jairo Diaz, 22, went back home to Venezuela as well, throwing 16 innings and posting a 5.06 ERA, 1.38 WHIP with just six walks and 13 strikeouts. He spent 2013 pitching out of the bullpen for the High-A Inland Empire 66ers and the Class-A Burlington Bees, having much greater success at the lower level.
32-year-old starter Jarrett Grube followed up a strong 2013 season (split between Double-A and Triple-A) with an excellent stint in the Dominican Republic, making six starts and posting a stellar 0.98 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings with just six walks and 22 strikeouts.
Venezuelan righty Daniel Hurtado had a very solid season spent mostly with Class-A Burlington and was fairly solid (considering his age and experience) at home in the Venezuelan Winter League. Hurtado, 21, threw 16 2/3 innings with a 4.86 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, six walks and six strikeouts.
Mexican righty Fernando Salas went home to the Mexican Winter League and threw 10 2/3 innings with a 2.53 ERA, 0.66 WHIP (with just five hits and two walks) and ten strikeouts. Salas, who split 2013 between the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals and the minors, with the Cards’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis, was traded to the Angels along with infielder David Freese in the deal that sent prospect Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos to St. Louis.
Several other pitchers only got into a few games in the winter leagues. Jeremy Berg, 27, posted a 5.63 ERA in eight innings in the Dominican Winter League but that number tells a story somewhat skewed by the small sample size as he only gave u six hits (including one home run) and three walks with nine strikeouts.
Fernando Cabrera was the club’s sole representative in the Puerto Rican winter league, giving up a run on four hits and four walks in four and two-thirds innings.
Also in Venezuela, Robert Carson threw four and a third innings, giving up two runs on six hits and no walks and struck out six while Andres Perez and Michael Piazza (no, not that one) each threw four and a third innings at different effectiveness. Perez gave up two earned and two unearned runs on six hits and five walks with just two strikeouts while Piazza surrendered four earned runs (and one unearned) on eight hits and five walks with five strikeouts.