Freddy Galvis, who last spring played his way onto the Philadelphia Phillies' Opening Day starting lineup, is off to an eye-opening start in Venezuela as he tries to come back from back surgery and his suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
In his first 19 games with the Zulia Aguilas, Galvis is hitting .342 with three homers and nine RBIs, a sign that he is recovered from his season-ending injury that kept him from returning from his 50-day suspension last August. Galvis hit just .226 for the Phillies in April and May as he filled in for the injured Chase Utley at second base.
Meanwhile, Dodgers outfield prospect Scott Van Slyke is finding his power stroke with the La Guaira Tiburones, hitting seven homers in his first 18 games. While that may be impressive, teammate Darin Ruf, a legitimate candidate for an outfield job with the Phillies after a 2012 season in which he hit 38 homers at Double-A Reading, has nine homers and 18 RBIs through 19 games with La Guaira.
Another Phillies prospect enjoying his winter in Venezuela is relief pitcher Justin Friend, who is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 11 games for La Guaira thus far this season.
Gordon, Marte, Luna start hot in the Dominican
A slew of veteran Dominican players seeking to revive their careers, led by Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Tejada, have flooded the Dominican Winter League this season, but it is the upstart youngsters who are thrilling the crowds.
Dee Gordon, Starling Marte and Hector Luna are off to flying starts offensively while Colorado Rockies pitcher Josh Outman has been the surprise of the league, yielding just two runs in his first 15 innings as a starter with the Toros del Este in a rotation that also includes Atlanta Braves pitcher Jairo Asencio.
Luna, who played 28 games for the Phillies in 2012, is off to a 17-for-44 start with the Aguilas Cibaeñas while Gordon is batting .326 in his first three games with the Licey Tigres. After a disappointing season with the Dodgers, Gordon is trying to impress the club with a strong winter ball season.
Marte, who dazzled in his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates this summer, made his debut with the defending champion Escogido Leones and went 5-for-13 in his first three games.
The league this year is also serving as a refresher course for some prospects who didn’t perform as expected over the summer. Atlanta’s Tyler Pastornicky, Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon and Cincinnati’s Denis Phipps were on opening day rosters and are looking to hone skills for spring training as they’re projected to compete for major league roster spots.
Cañizares leads Obregón’s attack in Mexican Pacific League
Former Cuban national team member and Atlanta Braves prospect Barbaro Cañizares, who last winter set a new single-season home run record, is on pace to break his own record having belted seven through his first 19 games with the defending champion Ciudad Obregon Yaquis.
Cañizares, 32, had hoped his revamped power stroke earned him a spring training invite last winter but since it did not materialize, he played in the Mexican Summer League with the Oaxaca Guerreros, batting .348 with 28 homers and 103 RBIs in 107 games, primarily as a first baseman.
Meanwhile, Marlon Byrd, trying to salvage his career after getting released by the Red Sox in June, is off and running through 19 games with the Culiacán Tomateros. Byrd is hitting .386 with a 1.213 OPS while teammate Cory Aldridge is batting .338 with a league-leading 11 homers and 22 RBIs. Aldridge joined the Angels’ Triple-A team in Salt Lake after starting the season in Mexico and was unproductive, hitting only .215 in 73 games.
Puerto Rican League getting ready for opening day
The Puerto Rican League, which last season was pared down to just four teams, will return to its six-team format when the season opens on Nov. 8.
The Santurce Cangrejeros, once an iconic franchise that saw legends Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Satchel Paige don its uniform, will return to play, even if general manager Carlos Baerga can’t finalize negotiations to use San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium as their home field.
Baerga told media that they have "different options," one of them being sharing a stadium with the Carolina Gigantes. The other team that will return is the Manati Atenienses, a franchise once owned by former major leaguer Jose Valentin. Santurce and Manati will join Carolina, Ponce, Arecibo and the defending champion Mayagüez Indios for this season.