by Bruce Baskin
January 18, 2021 - Mexican League (ML)
HERMOSILLO, CULIACAN BOTH ONE WIN AWAY FROM MEX PAC FINALS
Hermosillo has been able to overcome the loss of seven players due to positive tests for the Wuhan virus to come to within a win of reaching the LMP championship series. The Naranjeros topped Monterrey, 8-6, Sunday night by overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the first inning to build a 6-3 lead in the top of the sixth before holding on over the final three frames for the win to go up 3 games to 2 in the semifinal series. Julian Leon and Yadiel Hernandez each poked their first playoff homers (Leon's was a two-run blast) to help key the Orangemen triumph while Isaac Paredes, Niko Vasquez and Alex Robles combined for six singles, three runs and two RBIs. Game Six is scheduled for Tuesday at Estadio Sonora in Hermosillo.
The Naranjeros suffered a blow with the loss of both Pitcher of the Year Juan Pablo Oramas and reliever of the Year Fernando Salas when the team was leading the Sultanes, 2 games to 0, in the series. Also taken off the roster were pitchers Kenneth Sigman, Wilmer Rios and Anlan Rangel, catcher Cesae Salazar and shortstop Walter Ibarra. All are expected to be lost to manager Juan Navarrete for at least the rest of the series. Neither Rangel nor Ibarra had appeared in the postseason prior to the time of testing.
Centerfielder Jose Cardona has been solid in the playoffs for Hermosillo, leading the team with a .357 average and seven RBIs over both stages while Paredes is hitting .368 in five games since being picked up as a reinforcement from Mazatlan. Ryan Verdugo lost a game to Monterrey after winning twice in the first round but his 2.70 ERA tops all Naranjeros starters.
Among the Sultanes batters, shortstop Roberto Valenzuela leads starters with a .368 average while third baseman Ricardo Serrano's three homers and seven ribbies are tops to augment his .310 BA. Serrano, Culiacan's Jesse Castillo and Victor Mendoza of Obregon are tied for the most playoff homers while Castillo and Mendoza are knotted up for the RBI leadership with eleven apiece. The Sultanes bullpen has carried the day in the postseason, with relievers Francisco Moreno and Norman Elenes combining for five of Monterrey's first six playoff victories. Moreno and Elenes have each won a game in the Sultanes semi set with Hermosillo and the only starter to break through for a win in their first round series with Mexicali was Edgar Gonzalez.
In the other Final Four matchup, Obregon stayed alive in their series with Culiacan with help from a seemingly unlikely source Sunday. Pitcher Hector Velazquez, a mainstay with the Navojoa Mayos for several winters, tossed 5.1 good innings against the Tomateros and allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four in the Yaquis' 6-2 win in Culiacan. The Tomateros still lead the series, 3 games to 2, and are a win away from the championship series, but they'll have to win on the road Tuesday or Wednesday at Estadio Yaquis for a chance to defend their title. Carlos Sepulveda had four hits in the Obregon win, scoring once, while Dariel Alvarez added another four safeties, including an RBI double that plated Sepulveda in a Yaquis' three-run fifth inning that gave them a 5-0 lead that they never relinquished.
Jesse Castillo was red-hot for Culiacan over their first four games against Obregon after being picked up from Guasave as a reinforcement, going 9-for-14 (.638) with four doubles and a pair of roundtrippers while driving in eight runs to give notice that his physical miseries of the past two years may be behind him. Five other Tomateros regulars were batting over .300 for the playoffs, with Efren Navarro (.368), Sebastian Elizalde (.359) and Michael Wing (.343) combining with Castillo to form the most-feared offense left in the LMP playoffs since Jalisco's first-round ouster. Culiacan's pitching has come through for skipper Benji Gil as well, with nine relievers combining for a remarkable 0.00 ERA through the first ten games. The starters haven't done badly either, as Edgar Arredondo (1.42) and Manny Barreda (2.29) are among seven pitchers with one win apiece through the weekend.
Not that Obregon have been slouches at the plate. Four Yaquis regulars are hitting north of .300 in the postseason, with Leandro Castro (.378) and Alonzo Harris (.316) leading the way. After missing a stretch of the second half, apparently due to an unspecified suspension, Harris has made up for his absence in the playoffs. The 2019 Mexican League MVP has gone 12-for-38 in batting with a double and two homers, staling four bases, scoring
nine runs with five RBIs while playing a flawless leftfield. Dallas Martinez has been one of the better postseason starting pitchers, going 2-0 with 13 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA (although his seven walks over 15 innings are a bit worrisome). A concern for Yaquis manager Sergio Gastelum has been Brazilian Andre Rienzo, who's lost all three of his playoff decisions while seeing his ERA balloon to 14.00 after nine innings of work. Rienzo was 3-0 in the regular season with a 3.15 ERA over six starts and Gastelum would love to see him return to that form ASAP.
A pair of the Mex Pac's most notable hitters have taken their talents elsewhere for playoff ball. Outfielder Yadir Drake, who was among the LMP batting leaders during the regular season with a .321 average for Guasave (his eight homers and 40 RBIs also ranked in the top ten) begged out of the second reinforcement draft after his Algodoneros were knocked out in the first round so he could return home and play for Matanzas in the Cuban National Series, although he hadn't played for the Cocodrilos through six games as of Sunday night.
Another LMP veteran, Mexicali first baseman Luis Juarez, signed on with Cibaenas of the Domincan League after he wasn't chosen as a reinforcement despite batting .333 with a homer and a MexPac-leading nine RBIs in the first round. Juarez was picked up by the Aguilas as a reinforcement heading into their LiDom championship series against the Cibao Gigantes but (like Drake) hadn't appeared for his new team as of Sunday.
ORAMAS CHOSEN AS LMP PITCHER OF THE YEAR
The Mexican Pacific League announced last week that Hermosillo left-hander Juan Pablo Oramas was chosen by the specialized press (any definition of "specialized" welcome) as the LMP's 2020-21 Pitcher of the Year, winning the Vicente "Huevo" Romo Trophy.
Oramas finished with an 8-2 record and a 2.80 ERA in 12 starts, throwing 70.2 innings in his rotation role. The native of Villahermosa, Tabasco ended up sharing the lead of victories with Luis Miranda of Guasave, who took the Rookie of the Year award. Oramas was also the second-best in strikeouts with 57, trailing only the 64 whiffs of Culiacan's Manny Barreda.
The 30-year-old portsider was signed in 2007 as a free agent by San Diego and went 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA for the Padres' Dominican Summer League rookie team that year. He returned to the Santo Domingo-based outfit in 2009 and was 3-2 with a microscopic 1.02 ERA in 19 games (including five starts), but he spent most of that season with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and was named the Mexican League's Rookie of the Year after going 9-1 and posting a 2.31 earned-run average over 89.2 innings, appearing in the LMB All-Star Game. Oramas had a rocky winterball season for Mex Pac champion Hermosillo (2-3, 4.59) but made a couple of relief appearances for the Naranjeros at the Caribbean Series.
Oramas went on to spend five more summers in the Padres system, earning California League Pitcher of the Week honors once with Lake Elsinore in 2010 and pitching in a game for AAA Tucson one year later, before San Diego waived him in December 2014. Toronto signed him five days later but he was cut in the Jays' 2015 training camp. Since then, he's been one of the more solid pitchers in Mexican baseball, pitching in both the 2015 and 2018 All-Star Games along the way. Through seven Liga seasons, Oramas has a 39-30 with a 4.17 ERA. Over 12 Mex Pac campaigns, he's gone 44-28 and registered 3.55 on the ERA meter.
Oramas, who becomes the first Hermosillo hurler to be named Pitcher of the Year since Edgar Gonzalez did it in 2002-03, garnered 57 percent of the votes to easily beat out Jalisco's Luis Ivan Rodriguez (17%), Javier Solano of Mexicali (12%), Solano's Aguilas moundmate Miguel Pena (6%), Guasave's Luis Miranda (5%) and Dallas Martinez of Oaxaca (3%).
Winners of Mexican Pacific League awards thus far:
Rookie of the Year (Baldomero "Melo" Almada Trophy): Luis Miranda, Guasave.
Reliever of the Year (Isidro MÃ¡rquez Trophy): Fernando Salas, Hermosillo.
Pitcher of the Year (Vicente "Huevo" Romo Trophy): Juan Pablo Oramas, Hermosillo.
SIXTEEN MEXICANS AMONG TOP PROSPECTS IN 30 MLB SYSTEMS
A total of 16 Mexican players were placed in the lists of the top 30 best prospects in each of the 30 different Major League organizations, according to the most recent listing on MLB.com.
Nick GonzÃ¡lez, born in the United States to Mexican parents, was chosen seventh overall by Pittsburgh in the 2020 Draft out of New Mexico State University and is regarded as the top prospect of the Pirates and the # 32 prospect of all the Major Leagues, being the only Mexican in the MLB top 100. Called the "best all-around hitter in college baseball" by the Fansided website, Gonzalez hit .399 with 37 homers and 152 RBIs in 128 games over three seasons for the Aggies (including .448/12/36 numbers in 16 games last spring before the schedule was canceled due to the pandemic) while playing second base, shortstop and centerfield.
Other players such as Luis GonzÃ¡lez (Chicago White Sox), Gerardo Carrillo (Los Angeles Dodgers), Tirso Ornelas (San Padres de San Diego) and Chihuahua pitcher EfraÃn Contreras (San Diego Padres) rose in their respective team rankings while the newcomers on the list are Milan Tolentino (Cleveland Indians), Mateo Gil (San Luis Cardinals) and Omar Cruz (San Diego Padres). Second baseman Nick Madrigal is rated #3 in the White Sox system, catcher Alejandro Kirk is Toronto's sixth-ranked prospect, as is Detroit infielder Isaac Paredes, while pitcher Seth Romero rates seventh among Washington's youngsters and first baseman Drew Mendoza (a fellow Nats hopeful) is ninth in that organization.
Both Kirk and Paredes remain in the same positions in their organizational rankings and continue to be considered as "prospects" although, like Luis GonzÃ¡lez, they already debuted in the Major Leagues in 2020. Kirk hit .375 with a homer in nine games for the Jays, Paredes hit .220 with a grand slam over 33 games for the Tigers and started 30 games at third base last season (most among Detroit players) while Hermosillo product Gonzalez appeared in three games for the White Sox in 2020. Three of the top 30 Chisox prospects hail from south of the border, as do three players in the Padres and Nationals organizations.
Among the remaining prospects, Padres #10 prospect Ornelas hit .273 in 18 Mexican Pacific League games for Obregon and Navojoa this winter before being shelved with an arm injury in November while the Cardinals' #22 prospect Gil, the son of Culiacan manager Benji Gil, batted .186 for the Tomateros in 16 regular season games and has gone 0-for-1 in his lone playoff appearance thus far.
THE 16 MEXICANS IN THE TOP 30 OF THEIR ORGANIZATIONS
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: 2B Nick Madrigal (#3), OF Luis GonzÃ¡lez (#11), P Bernardo Flores (#16).
CLEVELAND INDIANS: SS Milan Tolentino (#23).
-DETROIT TIGERS: 3B Isaac Paredes (#6).
-LOS ANGELES DODGERS: P Gerardo Carrillo (#16).
-PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES : P JoJo Romero (#14).
-PITTSBURGH PIRATES: 2B Nick GonzÃ¡les (#1).
-SAN DIEGO PADRES: OF Tirso Ornelas (#10), P Omar Cruz (#17), P EfraÃn Contreras (#29).
-ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: IF Mateo Gil (#22).
-TORONTO BLUE JAYS: C Alejandro Kirk (#6).
• Discuss this story on the Mexican League message board...
Mexican League Stories from January 18, 2021
- Baseball Mexico - OSC Original by Bruce Baskin
- Baseball Mexico - OSC Original by Bruce Baskin
- Baseball Mexico - OSC Original by Bruce Baskin
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.