Monday, June 24, 2019

OLMECAS' ORAMAS ENJOYS LIGHTS-OUT OUTING

Tabasco pitcher Juan Pablo Oramas
Juan Pablo Oramas has been one of the many pitchers in Mexican baseball who've crossed back and forth over the border during their careers.  After signing with San Diego as a 16-year-old international free agent from Tabasco, Oramas toiled two summers for the Padres' Dominican Summer League team in 2007 and 2008 prior to a spectacular Mexican League debut in 2009. Pitching for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, the 5'10" lefty went 9-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 25 games (14 starts) and was named Rookie of the Year.

Oramas went back to the Padres and pitched another five years in their system and reached the AAA Pacific Coast League with Tucson and El Paso before his release following the 2014 campaign.  He signed with Toronto and attended spring training with the Jays before being let go in early April and returning south of the border for good with the Diablos in 2015.  Oramas went 15-8 over his first two summers back in Mexico City before a 1-6 record and 6.68 ERA over 15 starts in 2017 resulted in his offseason trade to Tabasco for veteran reliever Sergio Valenzuela.

He had a good Spring 2018 season for the Olmecas, going 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 outings, but fell to 2-3 and 5.09 last Fall.  Oramas was off to a rocky start in 2019 under new Tabasco manager Ramon Orantes at 2-6 and 4.97 this spring and there was nothing to indicate what would happen when he took the mound for the Olmecas to open the second half of the schedule against Durango in Villahermosa last Friday.

Oramas shut out Durango on 4 hits with 15 K's
Oramas turned in one of the most dominant performances of his 13-year career, blanking the Generales by a 1-0 count and scattering four singles.  He struck out 15 batters and walked two as 85 of his 118 pitches went for strikes. In an almost-prescient moment, the lights at Parque Centenario 27 de Febrero went out just after Oramas whiffed Durango leadoff batter Aneury Tavarez to start the game.

After the 20-minute delay, the 210-pounder went on to paint a nine-inning masterpiece in front of an intimate announced gathering of 1,234 spectators in the gallery. His Olmecas teammates would only score once, in the bottom of the first when Cuban newcomer Roel Santos led off with a triple and scored on a Gerson Manzanillo sacrifice fly to left, but that was all the support Oramas would need. His complete-game shutout was the Liga's third this season, following two Campeche hurlers, Francisco Rodriguez (April 27 vs. Oaxaca) and Manuel Flores (June 4 at Tabasco).

Tabasco dropped their next two games to the Generales to fall to open the second half at 1-2 (with a 22-39 season record).  The Olmecas are not without talent and definitely have a Cuban flavor: Besides recent-arivee Santos, outfielder Ronnier Mustelier is batting .407 with nine homers in 55 games while fellow gardener Daniel Carbonell has a .338 average with 11 homers and 12 steals.  Another import, Puerto Rican third baseman Jovan Rosa, is hitting .346 with seven homers and 33 RBIs in 36 contests as the entire Tabasco team has a .303 average to tie for ninth with Saltillo and Yucatan, which tells you how things have gone for pitchers with the new Franklin ball this year.  Orantes' mound staff has had it worse than most with a team ERA of 6.39 (and that's with FOUR shutouts, including Oramas' gem last Friday).

We say "worse than most" because Laguna (7.30), Aguascalientes (7.55) and Leon (7.88) pitchers may be forgiven for taking on nervous tics a la Herbert Lom's Inspector Dreyfus character in the Pink Panther movie series.   Rieleros pitchers in particular might be in a state of collective shellshock after serving up the most homers (138) and walks (297) while their 713 hits allowed and 490 runs allowed rank second.  Somehow amid the carnage surrounding him, Aguascalientes reliever Anthony Carter is 7-2 with seven saves and a 3.06 ERA over 25 appearances. Carter HAS given up eight homers in 32.1 innings so he's not exactly been unscathed.


MAYOS NAME ADAN MUNOZ MANAGER FOR 2019-20
New Navojoa Mayos manager Adan Munoz

A familiar figure among longtime Mexican baseball observers has been signed as the Navojoa Mayos' new manager.  Former catcher Adan Munoz will take the reins of the Mexican Pacific League team from Willie Romero. A combustible personality who won two Manager of the Year awards with Yucatan in the Mexican League and led the Mayos to the Mex Pac championship series in 2017-18, the 44-year-old Romero's contract was not renewed after Navojoa finished with a 26-31 overall record and missed the LMP playoffs last winter.  Prior to managing, the Venezuelan spent six years as an outfielder in the Dodgers organization and played another 14 summers in the Mexican League for Saltillo and Yucatan, batting .334 with 147 homers before his 2012 retirement. Romero hit .331 for the 2006 Liga champion Leones, collecting 24 of his 300 career stolen bases (eighth all-time in the LMB).

While Romero earned his playing reputation as a flamboyant centerfielder and baserunner, Munoz has been known as a tough, no-nonsense catcher over two decades in the Mexican League.  A career .279 hitter with 303 doubles and 162 homers among his 1,522 Liga hits, Munoz was named manager of the Quintana Roo Tigres on May 9, replacing Salon de la Fama member Jesus Sommers (the only man in LMB history with over 3,000 hits) at the helm with the Cancun club showing an 11-18 record.  Since then, the Tigres have gone 11-17 under Munoz. While not as visibly demonstrative as Romero, the 6'2", 215-pound Munoz is not without a boiling point and (like Walter Alston with the Dodgers years ago) the Empalme, Sonora native is tough enough to back up orders issued to his charges.

Adan Munoz batting earlier during his career
Munoz will take over a Navojoa team that had some talent in the dugout last season.  First baseman Victor Mendoza hit a team-high .323 with six homers and 30 RBIs and has since performed in the Caribbean Series and for the Mexican National Team in Japan, Alonzo Harris played second base and batted .302 with seven homers, scoring 51 runs, while third baseman Jovan Rosa clubbed 15 longballs with 45 RBIs to augment a .275 average.  Other Mayos vets last winter included shortstop Paul Leon, outfielder Alan Sanchez and catcher Fernando Flores, all former LMB All-Stars. Top Navojoa pitchers included Jaime Lugo (5-3 with a 2.75 ERA), Marco Carrillo (5-4, 3.08) and closer Jesus Pirela (3.22, 16 saves).



SEARCH CONTINUES FOR INVESTORS IN GUASAVE

Juan Navarrete to manage Guasave in 2019-20
          The search continues for investors in the Guasave's new Mexican Pacific League ballclub.  The Algodoneros were hastily established over the winter as fulfillment of an earlier campaign promise to voters in the Sinaloa city by then-candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, now president of Mexico.  Guasave re-enters the LMP next season along with Monterrey and while the Sultanes will bring one of the country's top baseball organizations and its largest ballpark into winterball with them, Guasave holds no such advantage in either history, facilities or resources.

The Algodoneros will play in the LMP's smallest market and in one of its oldest ballparks, although 49-year-old Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon is getting a major facelift thanks to billionaire Alfredo Harp Helu, who owns both the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Oaxaca Guerreros.  Harp was induced by AMLO to put some pesos into the reborn Cottoneers and is largely footing the bill for stadium renovations (the 8,000-seat venue is expected to be ready when the Mex Pac opens play October 12), but has indicated he has no desire to own a third baseball team at this time.  

As a result, efforts are being made to find new investment money to maintain the fledgling franchise. Among the names being bandied about is Francisco Ochoa, a Guasave resident and founder of the El Pollo Loco chain of restaurants. Another is Guadalupe Miranda, called the "King of Beans" for his role as director of agribusiness giant Grupo Cintar in Los Mochis.

Veteran GM Gabriel Low, who has run teams in Leon and Guadalajara and been an MLB scout, announced the hiring of Salon de la Fama member Juan Navarrete as Guasave manager.  One of the greatest second basemen in Mexican League history (a .327 average on 1,979 hits with 236 steals over 16 seasons), the 65-year-old Durango native led the final iteration of the old Algodoneros in 2013-14. New owner Armando Navarro moved the team to Guadalajara, where Navarrete led the Jalisco Charros to the LMP Championship Series against eventual champion Culiacan in 2014-15. He's also in his third decade coaching in the Oakland minor league system. Son Juan, Jr. was an infielder at Grays Harbor College near the Washington coast last year.

Guasave shortstop Marco Jaime
A special mini-draft between the two LMP newcomers was held last week during which each team selected four players with dual citizenship (thus not counting against the six-foreigner limit).  The Algodoneros took shortstop Marco Jaime and pitchers Mark Serrano, Geno Encina and Adam Quintana. Jaime represented Leon at last week's All-Star Game in Mexico City while the three pitchers are all Monclova moundsmen in the LMB. For their part, the Sultanes selected pitcher Mario Morales (Monclova), first baseman Eric Aguilera (Union Laguna), utilityman Alex Mejia (Monclova) and third baseman Michael Wing (Aguascalientes).  Like Jaime, Wing performed in the recent LMB All-Star game and also took part in the Home Run Derby.

Between the expansion draft and last week's special draft, both Guasave and Monterrey each own the rights to 36 players with the July 3 LMP draft of unprotected players next in the roster-building process.

Monday, June 17, 2019

OAXACA WINS LMB SOUTH FIRST HALF TITLE


The Oaxaca Guerreros and manager Sergio Gastelum have at least suggested that last Fall's Serie del Rey appearance against eventual Mexican League champion Monterrey was no fluke. Ruddy Acosta allowed one run in five innings as the Guerreros topped Puebla, 7-2, Wednesday night to reach the midway point of the 2019 season with a 37-23 record going into the All-Star Break. Oaxaca thus wins the LMB South first-half title by two games over 32-24 Mexico City, who went into the final day one game out of the lead but lost 8-4 at Leon as Bravos third baseman Carlos Rivero doubled, singled twice and drove in four runs. The Diablos Rojos tied for second with the 34-26 Pericos, who likewise had a chance to tie for the South lead going into their last game at Oaxaca. Leon finished fourth at 27-32 to lead a group of five sub-.500 teams.


Oaxaca pitcher Ruddy Acosta
 Unlike the Guerreros' close-but-clear-cut triumph in the LMB South, things are far from certain in the LMB North.  Tijuana scored three runs in the top of the ninth at Monterrey Wednesday as Logan Watkins contributed a bases-loaded single and the Toros went on to beat the Sultanes, 10-7, pulling into a final-day tie with the Sultanes for the division crown at 40-22 apiece.  The teams played six times in the half (all since June 4), with Monterrey winning two of three games in Tijuana and the Toros returning the favor last week. The Toros outscored the defending champions by an aggregate 29-23 margin in head-to-head competition. Monclova won their last game Wednesday over Dos Laredos, 5-2, at Uni-Trade Stadium in Laredo as Rudy Amador had three singles and three RBIs for the winners. The Acereros finished in third (one game behind the co-leaders) at 39-21 while the Tecolotes came in fourth with a 33-27 showing.

Leon outfielder Felix Pie
Felix Pie of Leon continues to dominate the batting race with a .461 average, comfortably ahead (for now) of Tabasco's Ronnier Mustelier, who's hitting a mere .415.  Aguascalientes' Jose Vargas homered against Durango last Monday to bring his season total to 29 (four more than Chris Carter of Monclova and Puebla's Danny Ortiz) before sitting the final two games of the series with the Generales.  Vargas, who also leads Leon's Matt Clark in RBIs (69-68), is batting .372 with an LMB-best .814 slugging percentage. Dos Laredos' Johnny Davis stole two bases in Wednesday's loss to Monclova and now has 40 steals, twice as many as Oaxaca's Alonzo Harris.

Yucatan's Cesar Valdez did not pitch during the Leones' final series against Quintana Roo in Cancun, but his 9-0 record, 2.71 ERA and 1.16 WHIP were enough to lead the Liga in all three categories.  Valdez had 43 strikeouts and just six walks over 69.2 innings over the first half. Like Valdez, Monclova's Josh Lowey (8-0/3.91/1.17 WHIP) sat out his team's last series before the All-Star Break but Monterrey's 8-1 Edgar Gonzalez lost his first decision, 3-2, last Tuesday against Tijuana.  Gonzalez scattered five hits over as many innings, but two of them were solo homers by Carlos Peguero and Junior Lake. Monterrey closer Wirfin Obispo, who got tossed in Wednesday's home loss to Tijuana, has otherwise stayed in enough games to save 19 of them, tops by four over Carlos Bustamante of Monclova.  Tijuana's Jesus Pirela leads with 19 holds and was recognized with a berth on the LMB North roster in Sunday's All-Star Game.

When second half action opens this Friday, the most interesting series may be in Monclova, where the Acereros will host Oaxaca for a three-game series.  Another set worth keeping an eye on next weekend should be when Mexico City visits Tijuana for a trio of games.


NORTH DRUBS SOUTH, 11-6, AS CAMPOS MAKES 10TH ALL-STAR START

The Mexican League held its annual All-Star Game on Sunday evening at Mexico City’s Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu and while a living legend started the contest for the home LMB South team, the North racked up an 11-6 win.  Ramiro Pena of Monterrey had three hits for the winners as only two of the North’s 21 hits were sent to the left side of the field. Attendance for the four-hour game was 13,514 at Mexico’s newest ballpark.

The North took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Chris Carter singled in Victor Mendoza but the South knotted the score in the bottom of the frame on Japhet Amador's single to plate Danny Ortiz.  The North regained the lead in the top of the second after Yamaico Navarro scored on an Amadeo Zazueta double to left. The score stood until the top of the fourth, when Junior Lake's two-run homer to left off Casey Harman to make it a 4-1 contest.  The South fought back with a counter in the bottom of the fourth as David Vidal scored on a Carlos Lopez double but back-to-back run-scoring singles by Leandro Castro and Juan Apodaca in the top of the fifth opened the North's lead to 6-2 and things were looking rather grim for the host Southerners.

Still, this WAS an All-Star Game, meaning no lead is truly safe, especially in a league where a new ball has led to an abundance of offense.  Hector Hernandez' two-run single in the bottom of the sixth brought the South to within a pair of tallies and when Marco Jaime scored from third on Felipe Gonzalez' strike-three wild pitch to Emmanuel Avila it became a one-run game.  

Campeche's Francisco Campos
The North bounced back with one run in the seventh on a Ramiro Pena singleton and another score one inning later when Francisco Ferreira crossed the plate on a throwing error by South shortstop Jaime on a Castro grounder to open their lead to 8-5, then really poured gas on the fire with three more runs in the ninth on six consecutive singles (including RBI safeties from Jon Kemmer, Saul Soto and Rudy Amador) to open their lead to 11-5.  The North did push a run across in the bottom of the ninth when Jorge Cantu came in on Sebastian Valle’s single, but Jake Sanchez was able to get Jay Austin to fly out to left to complete the win. Frankie de la Cruz got the victory for the North while Yoanner Negrin absorbed the defeat for the South as a total of 23 pitchers took the mound for the two teams...did we mention this game went four hours?

Longtime Campeche Piratas pitcher Francisco "Pancho Ponches" Campos, who was honored before the contest, started the game for the South and recorded the first two outs before being replaced by Ruddy Acosta.  Now in his 25th season, Campos (a converted catcher) is one win away from becoming the 14th pitcher in the LMB's 95-year history to win 200 games, ranks fourth in career strikeouts with 2,173 and won the Pitching Triple Crown in 2004, the only Liga hurler to do so in the past 50 years.  Sunday marked his tenth All-Star Game start (a record) and 16th appearance overall. Campos, who'll turn 47 on August 12, will retire at the end of the season.

PUEBLA'S ORTIZ WINS HR DERBY; ZAZUETA, PENA KINGS OF DP

Puebla outfielder Danny Ortiz
Puebla's first-year slugger Danny Ortiz won the Mexican League Home Run Derby in Mexico City Saturday as part of the Liga's All-Star Weekend festivities.  A Pittsburgh outfielder in 2017, the Puerto Rico-born Ortiz outlasted seven competitors (four from each division) through three rounds to win the circuit clout crown and the 20,000 pesos that go with it.

Ortiz led all eight batsmen with 12 first-round homers to advance to the semifinals along with Mexico City's Japhet Amador and Aguascalientes' Jose Vargas (11 each) plus Yamaico Navarro of Monterrey (6).  Leon's Felix Pie (5), Oaxaca's Alonzo Harris (4), Aguascalientes' Michael Wing and Monclova's Chris Carter (3 apiece) were eliminated. Ortiz, Vargas and Navarro all hit five homers in the semis but Navarro was knocked out along with Amador (4) because Ortiz and Vargas had more total homers over two rounds.  That left Ortiz to fend off Vargas, 10-9, in the final round for the title and paycheck. The former Twins fourth-rounder deposited a total of 27 homers over three rounds while Vargas went deep 25 times. Yucatan powerhouse Luis Juarez won last year's Home Run Derby in Merida.

Monterrey's Amadeo Zazueta and Ramiro Pena
Earlier Saturday, the Monterrey Sultanes' keystone combo of shortstop Amadeo Zazueta and second baseman Ramiro Pena beat out four similar duos win the Double Play Derby.  In its second year (Yucatan's Everth Cabrera and Diego Madero won in last year's debut), this event includes middle infielders facing a preset number of line drives or grounders hit in certain situations with a countdown clock running while judges evaluate the fielding using various criteria.  Other twosomes at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu Saturday included second-place finishers Marco Jaime and Luis Medina (Leon), Moises Gutierrez and Javier Salazar (Durango), Juan Carlos Gamboa and David Vidal (Mexico City) and Union Laguna's Ciro Morzagaray and Daniel Hinojosa.

Saturday's festivities also included a celebrity softball game, in which a team of actors, singers, comedians, athletes and YouTubers from the South defeated a team of actors, singers, comedians, athletes and YouTubers from the North, 1-0, with the game's lone run scoring on a wild pitch.  Further details are unavailable and/or unnecessary.

Monday, June 10, 2019

RACES TIGHTEN AS ALL-STAR WEEKEND APPROACHES

Tecos OF Johnny "The Compton Comet" Davis

With three games to play before next weekend's All-Star break, two games separate the top three teams in both Mexican League divisions.  In the LMB North, defending champion Monterrey won their fifth straight Sunday at Monclova, 7-4, in a vital matchup between two pennant contenders.  The 39-18 Sultanes have the best record in the Liga after knocking the 37-20 Acereros down from first place to third. Monclova entered the series with a home record of 22-5 before being swept by the visitors.  Tijuana nipped Union Laguna, 20-11, in a pitcher's duel Sunday to slip past the Steelers into second with a 38-19 mark. The Toros' number nine batter, second baseman Maxwell Leon, belted two homers and four runs while newcomer Carlos Peguero (a former MLBer and NPBer) went 4-for-6 with two doubles and four ribbies.

In the LMB South, Oaxaca completed a three-game sweep of Tabasco Sunday with a 10-0 shutout in Villahermosa.  Andres Meza scattered three hits over seven innings for the Guerreros, striking out five and walking one. An Alejandro Gonzalez triple to right that scored Alonzo Harris from second to give Meza all the support he'd need as Oaxaca improved to a division-leading 35-22.  Mexico City sits two games back in second at 31-22 after drubbing Quintana Roo, 10-2, in the nation's capital. Diablos Rojos starter David Reyes entered the eighth with a shutout and left with two out and a 9-1 lead. One inning earlier, Emmanuel Avila socked a grand slam for the winner.  Puebla kept pace with Mexico City at 31-22 by winning for a fifth straight time, an 8-5 sweep-clincher over Leon at home. Herlis Rodriguez and Danny Ortiz both homered to key the Pericos' four-run first inning, but the Bravos fought back and tied the game at 4-4 before Puebla had another four-run clouburst in the fourth to essentially salt the game away. Jesus Arredondo's bases-loaded single to right and an errant throw by Felix Pie resulted in three runners crossing the plate and Arrendono standing safely on third.

Despite the defensive miscue, Pie continues to enjoy a comfortable lead in the LMB batting derby with a .459 average, well ahead of Tabasco’s Ronnier Mustelier (.410).  Pie's Bravos teammate Matt Clark is tied with Jose Vargas of Aguascalientes for the RBI lead at 68 each. Vargas remains atop the home run table with 28 longballs in 55 games for the Rieleros.  Monclova’s Chris Carter (25) and Puebla’s Danny Ortiz (24) are also on a pace to top 50 home runs this season, thanks in part to the livelier Franklin ball that replaced a Rawlings ball in the off-season.  Ortiz spent eight years in the Twins system and was MVP in the Puerto Rican League in 2017 while playing for Santurce. Dos Laredos outfielder Johnny Davis stole ten bases over his last eleven games to run his season steals total to 38.  The Compton, California product has twice as many swipes as his nearest Liga competitor (Tigres OF Alonzo Harris has 19).

Yucatan RHP Cesar Valdez is 9-0 with 2.71 ERA
Yucatan righthander Cesar Valdez' 6-1 win over Campeche Sunday in Merida brought his record to 9-0, edging him ahead him of 8-0 Josh Lowey (Monclova) and Edgar Gonzalez (Monterrey) for the Mexican League wins lead among pitchers.  The 34-year-old Valdez, who made his MLB debut with Oakland in 2017 after toiling 12 seasons in the minors, has allowed just six walks in 69.2 innings while striking out 43 batters en route to a 2.71 ERA (and an LMB-best 1.16 WHIP).  The only moundsman in the league with a lower ERA is Leones teammate Yoanner Negrin at 2.63. Yasutomo Kubo of Leon has 80 strikeouts to lead Oaxaca’s Alex Delgado (74) by six Ks after Delgado whiffed nine Tabasco batters in 6.2 innings during the Guerreros' 3-1 road win. Monterrey closer Wirfin Obispo recorded saves in his last ten outings dating beginning May 23 to take the Liga lead with 17 while Tijuana’s Jesus Pirela’s 16 holds is tops for that underrated stat (a Save being little more than a Hold with better timing).

A Mexican baseball legend’s birthday was marked last Thursday when all Liga ballparks hosting games celebrated Hector Espino Day.  Espino is widely regarded as Mexico’s best-ever ballplayer, a dignified hero who rewrote record books and never sold himself short as either a player or a man.  The Superman of Chihuahua represents a blend of Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson with a dash of Roberto Clemente to Mexican fans and his number 21 has been retired by all 26 LMB and LMP teams.

Mexican League teams will play one midweek series before taking a break for All-Star Weekend, scheduled for June 15-16 at Mexico City’s new Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu and including a Double Play Derby and Home Run Derby.  Rosters for both North and South teams were announced last week:


LMB NORTH ALL-STAR TEAM
Pitchers (12): Manny Barreda (Tijuana), Carlos Bustamante (Monclova), Frankie de la Cruz (Union Laguna), Jumbo Diaz (Tijuana), Romario Gil (Monclova), Edgar Gonzalez (Monterrey), Felipe Gonzalez (Monterrey), Wirfin Obispo (Monterrey), Jesus Pirela (Tijuana), James Russell (Tijuana), Jake Sanchez (Tijuana), Ivan Zavala (Dos Laredos).
Catchers (2): Juan Apodaca (Saltillo), Bruce Maxwell (Monclova).
Infielders (8): Rodolfo Amador (Monclova), Erick Aybar (Monclova), Chris Carter (Monclova), Victor Mendoza (Monterrey), Ramiro Pena (Monterrey), Jose Vargas (Aguascalientes), Michael Wing (Aguascalientes), Amadeo Zazueta (Monterrey).
Outfielders (6): Domonic Brown (Dos Laredos), Francisco Ferreiro (Union Laguna), Jon Kemmer (Durango), Junior Lake (Tijuana), Francisco Peguero (Monclova), Juan Perez (Saltillo).
Designated Hitters (2): Yamaico Navarro (Monterrey), Saul Soto (Aguascalientes).
Manager: Roberto Kelly (Monterrey).

LMB SOUTH ALL-STAR TEAM
Pitchers (12): Ruddy Acosta (Oaxaca), Francisco Campos (Campeche), Erick Casillas (Oaxaca), Casey Harman (Campeche), Francisco Haro (Campeche), Yasutomo Kubo (Leon), Arturo Lopez (Mexico City), Yoanner Negrin (Yucatan), Jose Samayoa (Yucatan), Nathanael Santiago (Mexico City), Cesar Valdez (Yucatan), Fabian Williamson (Quintana Roo).
Catchers (2): Erik Rodriguez (Oaxaca), Sebastian Valle (Yucatan).
Infielders (8): Jesus Arredondo (Puebla), Emmanuel Avila (Mexico City), Jorge Cantu (Mexico City), Juan Carlos Gamboa (Mexico City), Hector Hernandez (Yucatan), Marco Jaime (Leon), Ronnier Mustelier (Tabasco), David Vidal (Mexico City).
Outfielders (6): Jay Austin (Campeche), Jesus Fabela (Mexico City), Carlos Lopez (Leon), Felix Pie (Leon), Nick Torres (Puebla), Ruben Sosa (Quintana Roo).
Designated Hitters (2): Japhet Amador (Mexico City), Matt Clark (Leon).
Manager: Sergio Gastelum (Oaxaca).

LMP EXPANSION DRAFT: GUASAVE, SULTANES SPLIT 64 PLAYERS

Arturo Rodriguez bats in a 2012 Liga Norte game
The Mexican Pacific League has held its expansion draft, during which the newly-minted Guasave Algodoneros and Monterrey Sultanes each picked the rights to 32 Mexican national players.  The draft was held over eight rounds with Guasave and Monterrey picking four players each per cycle, one from each existing LMP team.

Guasave had the first pick of the first round and chose Los Mochis catcher Arturo Rodriguez.  The Algodoneros' selection of the 31-year-old Monterrey native is a rather curious one. Rodriguez, who spent parts of four summers in the Marlins organization, has been a decent enough player in the Mexican League (batting .313 with 33 homers in 262 games over six Liga seasons) but his career numbers of .252 with 9 homers and 60 RBIs over five LMP campaigns hardly shout "First overall expansion pick."  Rodriguez, who can also play first base or the outfield, split last winter between Obregon and the Caneros and batted below .190 in both stops over a combined 38 games.

Monterrey snapped up former MLB pitcher Edgar Gonzalez from Culiacan with their first pick.  The 36-year-old righty may be getting a little long in the tooth by most baseball standards, but his 8-0 start this summer with the LMB Sultanes suggests a little more petrol in the tank.  Gonzalez went 0-4 with a 6.29 ERA in nine starts for the Tomateros in 2018-19 but he'll give the Mex Pac version of the Sultanes a veteran hurler who was a starter in Arizona, Oakland and Houston (plus a 2010 stint in Korea) before settling in Monterrey during the 2015 LMB season. Gonzalez was 0-4 in nine starts for Culiacan last winter before pitching for the Acayucan Tobis as one of Mexico's two teams co-hosting the Latin American Series at Veracruz in late January.

Edgar Gonzalez pitching for Acayucan
The old adage "You can't have enough pitching" was adhered to in the May 21 draft.  Of the 64 players chosen, 39 were hurlers: Monterrey took 21 pitchers while Guasave tabbed 18.  The arms buildups led to uneven rosters. The Cottoneers have just three infielders in tow (the rules suggest four) while the Sultanes show two outfielders when three are preferred.  Expect much trading.

Both teams came away with recognizable veterans on their rosters.  Guasave took two Mazatlan pitching products, longtime starter Walter Silva and onetime wunderkind Luis Heredia, as well as first baseman Maxwell Leon, shortstop Emmanuel Avila, outfielder Jon Del Campo and middle reliever Luis de la O.  Besides Gonzalez, Monterrey selected Mexican baseball notables like versatile infielders Niki Vasquez and Issmael Salas, hard-hitting outfielder Roberto Lopez and starting pitcher Jose Oyervides, who could form a solid 1-2 top of the rotation with Gonzalez for Monterrey.

GUASAVE ALGODONEROS
Pitchers (18):  Edgar Acosta, Filiberto Baez, Jesus Barraza, Octavio Becerra, Felipe Castaneda, Hector Galvan, Francisco Garcia, William Gonzalez, Luis Heredia, Jeffrey Ibarra, Isaac Jimenez, Jovani Lopez, Luis de la O, Jonathan Partida, Dalton Rodriguez, Oscar Rojas, Walter Silva, Joakim Soria.
Catchers (3):  Luis Barajas, Jose Maciel, Arturo Rodriguez.
Infielders (3):  Emmanuel Avila, Maxwell Leon, Jose Lizarraga.
Outfielders (6): Bryan Arraiza, Luis Cossio, Jon Del Campo, Jose Orozco, Alejandro Ortiz, Marco Valenzuela.

MONTERREY SULTANES
Pitchers (21):  Hector Ambriz, Oscar Arzaga, Gerardo Bojorquez, Jason Carmona, Erick Casillas, Oliver Cervantes, Jesus Garcia, Adrian Garza, Roberto Garza, Edgar Gonzalez, Demetrio Gutierrez, Jorge Leo, Thomas Melgarejo, Jose Oyervides, Marco Ramirez, Jorge Reyes, Jorge Rivera, Carlos Rodriguez, Rolando Valdez, Jorge Vazquez, Ernesto Zaragoza.
Catchers (3):  Jose Felix, Samuel Favela, Humberto Sosa.
Infielders (6):  Gilberto Carrera, Miguel Gamboa, Jose Luna, Manuel Partida, Issmael Salas, Niko Vasquez.
Outfielders (2):  Roberto Lopez, Duilio Ochoa.

The LMP also announced their schedule for the 2019-20 season.  The Mexicali Aguilas will welcome Monterrey to El Nido on October 11, followed by a full slate of five games on October 12.  Teams will play a traditional 68-game Mex Pac regular season spread over two halves from mid-October through the end of 2019.  Playoffs will begin the first week of January, when an expanded eight-team field eliminates the "lucky loser" system, and the Winterball season will end in early February with the Caribbean Series (scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico).


CuartoBat.com WRITER'S TOP SIX MEXICAN BALLPARKS (PART 6)

A writer for Mexican baseball website CuartoBat.com, Yasser Trujillo, posted a column in April naming his picks for the top six ballparks in the Mexican and Mexican Pacific leagues, showing a definite preference for venues in the west.  This is the final part of a series in which we’ve brought you a translated version. It was reported in BBM shortly after our series began that CuartoBat's site had apparently been suspended (as per a Google search), but we're glad to report that it’s back online and that you can download a free copy of their February magazine.  In a short time, CuartoBat has already become a good, entertaining source for news and commentary on Mexican baseball.

1.  ESTADIO TOMATEROS, CULIACAN

Located in the heart of Culiac├ín, a few streets from its historic center, sits the most spectacular baseball stadium in all of Latin America.  It is a property that not only any fan of the sport dreams of but even boasts better facilities than at least three major league parks: Oakland, Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox. Estadio Tomateros has all the attributes to be the best stadium in Mexican baseball.

External screens and colorful LED lighting are on its facade and roof. The lighting is coordinated to the rhythm of the audio equipment. It has an internal corridor of 360 degrees with which you do not need to take your eyes off the playing field to go to the bathroom or the food area or wherever you want.

Estadio Tomateros has televisions in each column, automated turnstiles to enter through your physical ticket or on your cell phone. It has an interactive team hall of fame, a time capsule and a giant official store with a baseball concept. It has several memorabilia stands throughout the park, luxury boxes, resting areas in free use chairs, photographic spots. It also has entertaining family dynamics in all its interior, allusive details to the sport in banisters, stairs and walls, ramps and elevators and ATMs.

It has a food area consisting of around 40 vendors with varied offer, a la carte bars, restaurants with a diamond view and three of the largest screens in all of Latin America with 4K definition.

Estadio Tomateros also has one of the best animation teams in the country. They squeeze all the juice out of this tool to entertain young and old for more than three hours in a park endorsed and inaugurated in a personal way by the very commissioner of the Major Leagues. I challenge anyone to mention a stadium in Mexico with more amenities.

The directors of Tomateros have understood the concept of sports tourism and have implemented it successfully. They have turned the visit to the stadium into a unique, special and very touristic experience. They have promotions, such as discounts to students, office workers, half-price drinks, free women, family packages, gifts to their assistants on key days or fireworks nights.

It is a ballpark that, even out of season, opens its doors so you can enjoy its restaurants or tours behind closed doors.  "Your stadium is 360, walk wherever you want, Welcome!" and "Go up and take the picture wherever it is, this is your stadium" are two slogans that the park proudly boasts on its screens and advertisements. And it is with a place that promotes the use of cameras and free access. For me, Estadio Tomateros in Culiacan is the best stadium in Mexican baseball.

YASSER TRUJILLO’S TOP 6 MEXICAN BALLPARKS
1.  Estadio Tomateros, Culiacan Tomateros (LMP)
2.  Nuevo Estadio Yaquis, Obregon Yaquis (LMP)
3.  Estadio Sonora, Hermosillo Naranjeros (LMP)
4.  Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, Mexico City Diablos Rojos (LMB)
5.  Estadio Teodoro Mariscal, Mazatlan Venados (LMP)
6.  Estadio Monterrey, Monterrey Sultanes (LMB/LMP)