The Liga Paralela winter league in Venezuela ended a few days ago. Unlike the Venezuelan Winter league which features many major leaguers, the Liga Paralela has young players from the lower levels of the minors. The Tampa Bay team finished at 9-31, 25 games out of first and dead last among the 15 teams. There were a few highlights:
Cesar Perez - In his second go around with the GCL Rays the 18 year-old third baseman only hit .147/.207/.147 in 150 at-bats while committing 15 errors in 42 games. His 2011 numbers regressed across the board from 2010, dropping him from every Rays prospect list I've seen. Last fall we ranked him at #35, but after going 150 at-bats without an extra-base hit in his second time through the GCL it's understandable he didn't warrant a mention this year. He may be out to prove us wrong after finishing second in the Liga Paralela in home runs with nine (behind Segovia) and seventh in league in slugging at .594 (Segovia didn't bat enough to qualify). Overall he was .292/.333/.594 in 106 at-bats. His defense remains a questions after committing 13 errors in 30 games, a .919 fielding percentage. If he's moved up to Princeton next year I doubt he'll be the primary 3B. I'd expect Brandon Martin as the primary SS with Johnny Eierman splitting time between short and third, leaving Perez some 3B and DH.
Leonardo Reginatto - As Hudson Valley's primary third baseman in 2011 he hit only .198/.254/.251 in 207 at-bats. He improved in the Liga Paralela to .242/.288/.355 in 62 at-bats. Heading into his fourth year in the organization, and despite the improvement this winter, I'm not sure the 21 year-old will have a roster spot after spring training.
Felix Gonzalez - The switch hitting 21 year-old played 5 positions (3B, SS, 2B, LF, RF) for Princeton in 2011, hitting .289/.319/.344 in 90 at-bats. In limited action in the Liga Paralela he hit .267/.267/.400 in 15 at-bats. Expect him in a utility role for Bowling Green or Hudson Valley in 2012.
Ismel Antunez - The 20 year-old outfielder split time between the VSL and GCL Rays in 2011, batting .241/.346/.319 in 257 at-bats with 29 stolen bases overall. Like Gonzalez he barely played in the Liga Paralela, hitting .200/.368/.267 in 15 at-bats. Listed at 5'7", 166 pounds, he really only projects as a CF. Expect him to compete for time with James Harris in Princeton.
Eli Echarry - The 19 year-old righthander was 0-5 with a 7.05 ERA in 12 games (six starts) for the GCL Rays in 2011. He struck out 38 and walked 19 in 44.2 innings. In the Liga Paralela he had a 4.22 ERA in 10.2 innings over four games (two starts). I'm guessing we'll see him in the Princeton bullpen in 2012.
Hugo Duarte - After four seasons in the VSL Duarte made his stateside debut for the GCL Rays in 2011. In 12 games (six starts) the 21 year-old righty posted a 3.33 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 17 walks in 54.0 innings. In the Liga Paralela he had a 5.14 ERA in 7.0 innings. He should join Echarry in the mix at Princeton next year.
Most of the rest of the Tampa Bay team was made up of VSL players, including one of note, Oscar Hernandez - After posting the greatest offensive season in the history of the Rays organization for the VSL Rays in 2011, he pretended to be a mere mortal in the Liga Paralela this winter. In order not to destroy the confidence of his young opponents he limited himself to a .185/.267/.333 line with only one home run in 27 at-bats. Behind the plate he threw out three of five basestealers. He doesn't turn 19 until July 9th, so I would expect him to make his American debut catching for the GCL Rays this June.
One last note on a personal favorite, Omar Bencomo - Omar was released this fall after posting a 3.97 ERA in 38 games for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2011. Over his five years in the Rays organization he struck out 208 batters and walked only 34 in 270.0 innings. This winter, pitching for the Magallanes team, he led the Liga Paralela in walks (three in 38.0 innings) and was ninth in ERA at 2.13. Here's wishing Omar all the best in his future baseball career.