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Checking in on the Cardinals in the Winter Leagues

Multiple Cardinals are playing in the various winter leagues this offseason, including a few that are likely to have an impact on the big league club in 2015.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Winter baseball is full of crazy batting lines, incredibly small samples, and just a whole lot of statistical noise from which one can draw very few relevant conclusions. It's more an exercise of keeping players in playing shape as well as serving as instructional baseball for players who need to work on skills or who are recovering from injury.

The 2014 crop of Cardinals playing winter baseball in various places around the globe (ok, mostly in the Caribbean) is a good mix of players who are working on specific skills for the upcoming season or trying to recover a bit from injuries that short circuited their 2014 minor league season.

Carlos Martinez

League: Dominican

Team: Aguilas Cibaenas

3 12.1 2.19 12


Ostensibly allowed to pitch in the Dominican this winter to work on stretching out as a starter, the results are about what you'd expect from a big league starting pitcher in a winter league: Utter domination.  El Gallo allowed just 10 hits in his 12.1 innings of work and has a 2.14 GO/AO ratio, which is what the Cardinals are looking for from him as their fifth starter in 2015. Unfortunately, there's no pitch count info on Dominican League games (at least there's no any that I can find) so while Martinez worked 3.1, 6, and 3 IP respectively in his starts, there's no record of how many pitches he threw in each of them.

No red flags, but nothing to really celebrate about other than the fact that he didn't get hurt.

Boone Whiting

League: Venezuela

Team: Leones del Caracas

8 30 5.40 21


Either the hitters in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional get to call their own balls and strikes or ol' Boone has some serious control problems that he needs to get sorted out. He walked 44 in 96.2 innings with Memphis this year as well, so this isn't just a problem that has manifested itself in winter ball, but it sure has gotten a lot worse in South America.  The 29 hits he gave up isn't so bad, but in three of his eight starts he walked 4 or more batsmen in the same game.

Given all the pitching talent in the Cardinals farm system, this is not encouraging for the continuation of Whiting's career with the organization. It also might indicate that something isn't right with him physically as his control has gotten worse in every month since the beginning of the 2014 season.

Anthony Garcia

League: Roberto Clemente (PWL)

Team: Gigantes de Carolina

139 .333 .434 .667 1.100 10 19 23

noted last February that I thought Anthony Garcia would have a big comeback this season, it turns out that he was just waiting for the Clemente league to really turn it on. Named the Comeback Player of the Year after leading the PWL in homers, RBI, and OPS, Garcia just might get himself back on the prospect track yet.  He'll turn 23 in a couple of weeks, which would be about the same age that someone like James Ramsey entered the farm system, so there's still a little time for him as a prospect and considering the lack of big bats in the Cardinal farm system, it's likely that he'll continue to get opportunities if he can stay healthy and continue hitting like this into the spring.

I haven't removed my flag from the Garcia bandwagon just yet, but let's just say it's flying at half mast until he puts up these kind of numbers in 140 PA's at Springfield in April.

Dean Anna

League: Mexicana del Pacifico

Team: Yaquis de Obregon

59 .322 .487 .390 .877 0 15 12

Anna's OBP would have led the league had he secured enough plate appearances to qualify; his OPS would have been third. I have to say I'm quite interested in how his skill set is going to translate to the big league level as a utility player. The David Letterman University alum has excellent walk rates throughout the minors and has good line drive power that generally manifests itself in the form of doubles. Those skills are certainly things the Cardinals value and for good reason: They often translate to big league success.

Breyvic Valera

League: Venezuela

Team: Bravos de Margarita

78 .346 .414 .410 .824 0 8 8

I'm 99% certain that I would enjoy any and all food and beverage promotions from the Bravos de Margarita ballclub, especially if I can sit back and watch Mr. Consistent slap cowhide all over the park while enjoying them. Hitting in front of potential Mets opening day SS Wilmer Flores, Valera continued to do what he did for most of the season in the minors: Crank out base hits.  I was shocked that he was not selected in the Rule 5 draft after being left unprotected, especially given that he has nearly the same skill set as someone like Delino DeShields Jr., although not the base stealing instincts or the pedigree.

Valera is younger, though, and at the same level of the minors with a similar amount of position flexibility and better bat-to-ball skills. Given his speed and solid defense at nearly every position you place him, it's hard to see how he's not as valuable as someone like Dean Anna if he can continue to hit for average and limit his strikeouts.