Winter Ball Update: Pitchers


It’s been over two months since we looked at which Blue Jays prospects are playing winter ball in the Caribbean leagues, so here’s an update on the six pitchers still in action down south. Players come and go in the Caribbean Leagues, and there shouldn’t be too much stock put into the numbers that are recorded.

There are three prospects pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL), two in the Dominican Winter League (DWL), and one in the Liga Mexicano del Pacifico (LMP). Three players who were previously mentioned on this list have been removed, as Double-A New Hampshire arms Yohan Pino and Reidier Gonzalez are no longer playing and although Vancouver Canadians reliever Aleson Escalante is listed on the winter leagues website, he hasn’t pitched since October 15.

Jesse Chavez | 2011 club: Triple-A Omaha (Kansas City Royals)

Claimed off waivers by the Jays near the end of October, Chavez was designated for assignment when the club acquired Ben Francisco from the Phillies on December 12, so he’ll open the year with Triple-A Las Vegas. Chavez was roughed up in a brief 7.2 inning stint with the Royals in 2011, and spent the majority of the season with their Triple-A affliate, the Omaha Royals. Chavez, 28, held his own there and will likely do so for the Jays in 2012 with the 51s.

In a small, 16-inning winter ball sample size, Chavez has averaged more than one hit per inning just like he has during his entire minor league career, but he has improved his walk rate while upping his strikeouts to 21 in 16 innings. There’s not much to get excited about in Chavez, though, as he’s purely a depth reliever and won’t likely ever spend any time with the Jays next year.

Robert Coello | 2011 club: Triple-A Lowa (Chicago Cubs)

Another offseason addition by the Jays, Coello was signed to a minor league contract on December 9.  He last pitched in the Majors for the Red Sox in 2010 and spent the entire 2011 campaign in the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system, where he managed a 4.19 ERA in 116 innings split between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

While it’s unlikely that Coello, like Chavez, will make it out of Triple-A next season, he’ll be able to step in and make the occasional start if required. He has no problems striking guys out, but struggles with his command a lot of the time and that is demonstrated once again in his winter league stats. While he has 25 strikeouts in 23.2 innings and has the second-lowest opponent average amongst Jays prospects in winter ball, his 19 walks are obviously a concern.

Wes Etheridge | 2011 club: Hi-A Dunedin & Double-A New Hampshire

After thriving as Dunedin’s closer this past season, Etheridge earned a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire and finished the year having thrown 63.2 innings. Then, after appearing in a handful of Arizona Fall League games and signing a new contract to remain part of the Jays organization, the 27-year-old is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. His line in just 4.2 innings isn’t the prettiest, but surely he has to be exhausted and is looking forward to some time off before spring training.

Jerry Gil | 2011 club: Triple-A Louisville (Cincinnati Reds)

Signed completely “under the radar” last month, Gil was a shortstop prospect with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being converted to a reliever. He posted a 3.59 ERA (3.30 FIP) in 54 games this past season for the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, the Louisville Bats, while also posting the best strikeout rate of his career. Gil will give up his fair share of walks and fly balls, though, and throws a low 90s fastball along with a slider and changeup.

Gil has looked good in the Dominican Winter League so far, as he’s managed a 1.46 ERA in 24.2 frames with a .113 opponent average –lowest among Jays winter league pitchers. While his control is still a work in progress, Gil improved his walk rate this past season and has marginally continued that trend in winter ball with a 3.96 BB/9.

Bobby Korecky | 2011 club: Triple-A Las Vegas & Double-A New Hampshire

Having last pitched in the Dominican Winter League on December 7, Korecky has been tagged for 11 runs (seven earned, 6.52 ERA) on 17 hits in his last 10 outings (9.2 innings), good for a .415 opponent average. That’s quite a contrast from the 2.04 ERA he put up in 53 innings split between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas, but he’ll be just fine when spring training comes around. Look for Korecky to come primarily out of Las Vegas’ bullpen next season.

Ronald Uviedo | 2011 club: Triple-A Las Vegas & Double-A New Hampshire

After making two Venezuelan Winter League starts in October, Uviedo didn’t pitch again until December 8. He’s made one start and three relief appearances since then, with his most recent outing coming on December 21 when he tossed 2.2 scoreless innings. Uviedo, the pitcher the Jays acquired when they traded Dana Eveland to the Pirates in June 2010, has improved his strikeout rate since becoming part of the Jays organization and has 16 strikeouts in 14 winter ball frames. The 25-year-old managed 10 strikeouts per nine innings in 50 appearances between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas this past season.

-JM

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Tags: Bobby Korecky Jerry Gil Jesse Chavez Robert Coello Ronald Uviedo Toronto Blue Jays Wes Etheridge