The winter baseball season always gets somewhat tricky since players may report early and not stay for the full schedule or they may be working on a certain phase of their game. Many also are free agents trying to impress organizations. This year has the added element of Puerto Rican League players transferring to another league because of the continued recovery from the hurricane although an abbreviate schedule without benefit of imports is going on this month to get ready for defending the Caribbean Series championship the first week of February.
Versatile infielder Ryan Court (Sioux City ’15) looked like a possibility to one day end up as at least a backup for the Boston Red Sox after a full season (including one injury) in Triple-A (.263-10-44 with a career .365 on-base percentage) before becoming a free agent in the fall and signing with the Chicago Cubs. He is still producing in the Dominican Republic, leading off and playing first base daily for Escogido in that league’s elaborate playoff season.
Tyler Alexander (Fargo-Moorhead ’15-’17) has continued his standout pitching in the Mexican League playoffs although he was a tough-luck loser, 2-1, in the opener of the best-of-seven series against top-seeded Culiacan. His sixth-seeded Jalisco team, trails two games to one. Alexander allowed only one hit and one walk in seven innings with one of the two runs against him being unearned. The lefty struck out eight. Alexander finished the regular season seventh in the earned run average race (3.28) and won his last four decisions (one in relief) to finish at 5-1. He walked only 13 in 71.1 innings while striking out 66.
First baseman Balbino Fuenmayor, at Laredo for a time in ’13 before becoming Baseball America’s choice as the top player in all of the Independent game a year later after a monster season, hit .341 to finish fourth in the Venezuelan League. His 18 doubles (53 games) led the league, he was second in total bases at 111, and he tied for sixth with 40 RBI.
Former Pitcher of the Year Patrick Johnson (Sioux City ’14-’15) had a strange season in the Dominican Republic with the eighth best earned run average (3.59) but lost his only decision in 10 starts.
Chris Roberson (Winnipeg ’12) finished sixth in the Mexican League batting race at .317, tied for second with 11 homers and drove in 32 runs. C. J. Retherford (Fargo-Moorhead ’11, ’14) shared sixth with his nine round-trippers while hitting .241.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at www.WirzandAssociates.com.