The Puerto Rico Winter League (LBPRC) has reached its midway point, and a group of prospects are making great strides as they look to help their teams have a final push to reach the postseason. Pitchers Ricardo Velez, Ruben Ramirez, and catcher Sammy Hernández are among the players who had a very distinguished part of the season.
Ricardo Velez, 24, who played in different levels of MiLB for the Minnesota Twins organization last year, has contributed significantly to the success of Criollos de Caguas during the first half of the season. The twenty-time champions are currently in first place in the standings, and Velez has been a leading force for the Criollos pitching staff as a critical piece of their bullpen. Velez has appeared in 10 games, totaling 13.1 innings, during which he has compiled a 1.35 ERA and 0.600 WHIP and has struck out 18 batters while only walking five. Last year, during the MiLB season for the Twins, Velez pitched a combined 39.2 innings in which he had a 6-3 record, a 2.95 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.109. These numbers are vast improvements from his performance from last year in the Winter league. Velez also has experience pitching in the Caribbean Series, having pitched in 5 Caribbean Series games for the teams representing the Puerto Rico league in the last two years. These numbers have positioned Velez as a leading candidate for the Luis «Mambo» de Leon Award, given to the best reliever in the Puerto Rico League.
Ramirez is currently playing for RA12, the newest Winter League team, and a Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar project for the development of Puerto Rico’s players. Ramirez is currently leading the league in innings pitched with 35.2 and is second in wins with three. Among qualified pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings, Ramirez is leading the league in ERA (1.26) and WHIP (0.729). He has also not allowed a Home Run in his innings of work. Ramirez is one of many Independent Baseball League players having great seasons in the Puerto Rico League. After spending two MiLB seasons with the Kansas City Royals organization, he spent 2023 playing for Capitales de Quebec of the Frontier League. In 92 innings, he had an ERA of 4.52 last year.
Hernandez, the 19-year-old catching prospect of the St Louis Cardinals organization, is currently leading the league in hitting with a batting average of .324, having collected 11 hits in 34 at-bats. He is also second among qualified players in OBP (.452) and OPS (.835). Defensively, Sammy has thrown out three of the nine runners who have attempted to steal a base off him for a caught-stealing percentage of 33%. He also has committed only one error in 62.1 innings caught. During last year’s trading deadline, the St. Louis Cardinals received Sammy’s services in a trade that sent reliever Genesis Cabrera to Toronto. The Blue Jays initially selected Rodriguez in the 14th round of the 2022 draft out of Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida.
The second half of the season got underway last night in the Puerto Rico league, and it promises to be very competitive as all teams are currently fighting for the four playoff spots. Fans of the MLB organizations to which these young prospects belong should be encouraged by the experience in the highly competitive environment the Winter League is providing these players. Their development is sure to benefit from it.
Photos: LBPRC redaccion.
Inter News Service