Led by Joaquin Arias, Wilin Rosario and Shane Youman, the Aguilas Cibaeñas wrapped up first place as the Dominican League’s regular season drew to a close with a four-team semifinal round-robin set to begin on Dec. 26.
Arias’ .387 average was enough to earn him the regular-season batting title while Rosario led the league with 26 RBIs in 43 games.
The surprise of the season for the Aguilas, however, was Youman, who ended up leading the league with a 0.88 ERA and a 5-1 record in 41.0 innings. Youman, who last saw action in the majors in 2007 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, combined in the starting rotation with veteran Lorenzo Barcelo and journeyman minor leaguer Angel Castro for 16 of the Aguilas’ 30 victories.
The Aguilas will take on the Licey Tigres, Escogido Leones and Cibao Gigantes, who reinforced their rotation with Edinson Volquez, in the semifinal round-robin.
Binick leading Navojoa’s playoff run
Kraig Binick, the Baltimore Orioles’ 27th-round draft pick in the June 2007 draft, has been leading the Navojoa Mayos’ unexpected charge into the Mexican Pacific League’s playoffs, which are set to begin on Jan. 2.
Binick, an outfielder who has yet to make his big league debut, is batting .366 in 49 games with Navojoa with an OPS of .901. The Mayos have counted on Binick and fellow minor league veteran Steve Moss, who has a .330 average in 37 games, for the bulk of their offense to slip into the final playoff berth.
Meanwhile, former Cuban national team first baseman Barbaro Canizares continues to punish opposing pitchers as he belted his 19th homer to take the league lead in that department to help the Ciudad Obregon Yaquis clinch a playoff berth.
Elsewhere in the MPL, Los Mochis Cañeros first baseman Sandy Madera continues to impress with his .364 average in 52 games with 42 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 25 tries. Madera, an 11-year minor league veteran with the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies organizations, has spent the past two summers between the Mexican summer league and the top tier independent leagues in the United States in hopes of landing a steady gig.
K-Rod back in action
Milwaukee Brewers set-up man Francisco Rodriguez made his debut in the Venezuelan league this week with the La Guaira Tiburones and has been perfect in two outings thus far, recording four strikeouts in two innings pitched and his first Venezuelan League save in two years.
Rodríguez, who had been one of the most intriguing stories in MLB’s free agent market this offseason, instead accepted an arbitration offer from the Brewers rather pushing his value in the market.
The addition of Rodriguez has only helped the first-place Tiburones as they head into the playoffs with the league’s leading hitter in Gregor Blanco, who is batting .353 in 54 games, and Oscar Salazar, who leads the Venezuelan league in RBI with 40.
Meanwhile, the Zulia Aguilas inched into the playoffs late Friday with a victory over the Lara Cardenales thanks in part to an eight-inning outing from Dwayne Pollok, a former Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand who has had a particularly solid winter in the Venezuelan League. Teaming up with Chicago Cubs minor leaguer Austin Biebens-Dirkx, the duo is 12-5 with a combined ERA of 2.63, making them the most efficient starters in the league.
Caguas sails into regular season title
The defending champion Caguas Criollos in the Puerto Rican Winter League have clinched the regular-season title and will now have to wait to see who they will face in the finals as the Mayaguez Indios and Ponce Leones duke it out for a berth in the finals.
The Criollos, led by Jorge Padilla’s .410 average and Saul Rivera’s seven saves, were the runner-ups in the 2011 Caribbean Series, which was won by Mexico’s Ciudad Obregon Yaquis.