Mexican Winter League Preview

By Christopher Soto

October 11, 2018 No comments

Juan Uriarte/Photo by Ed Delany

The Mexican Pacific League is one of the four Caribbean World Series participating independent baseball leagues that run during the MLB off-season. The eight-team league’s regular season, the longest running schedule in the Caribbean Leagues, consists of 68 Games (broken up into two halves) between October and December.

Games begin on Friday and the season runs through December 30 with the playoffs starting on January 2.

While the LMP is tied for the largest in the Caribbean series, the talent pool that participates in the league generally lags behind the other three countries. While a handful of talented players have come from Mexico, the quantity of international signings severely lags behind that of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

This combined with an foreign player import restriction of eight players per team (as well as a strange affinity for using those imports slots on players from the Atlantic independent baseball league) generally keeps the LMP at the bottom of the 4 Caribbean Leagues.

If I had to personally measure it, I would say the average LMP team is probably on par with most MiLB (A+) teams, as evidenced by the fact that, the University of Arizona Wildcats actually played the Naranjeros de Hermosillo to a 2-2 tie last week.

The New York Mets presence in the Mexican Pacific League is generally small as the club has not had much of an emphasis on scouting international free agents from the country in a few years. That said, there are four players who’s names have popped up during pre-season camps.

Should note that I track players that played in Mets system during 2018 even if they are now a free agent.

Rigoberto Terrazas – 3B
Team: Charros de Jalisco
2018 Stats
: (A) .176 AVG, .458 OPS, 0 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB, 17.7% K, 9.2% BB

After a career year in 2017 with the (Rk+) Kingsport Mets, Terrazas was promoted to a full season league after four straight years in the short season leagues. The talent in the South Atlantic League was not kind to him though as he was regularly overpowered and posted the worst stat line of his career. This led to the club releasing him on September 27, 2018.

With his Mets career now over, Terrazas will head back to his home country of Mexico to play in his first winter league season with the Charros de Jalisco (who have actually owned his winter league rights since 2012). He is expected to primarily be a bench player with imported 3B Kevin Medrano (Arizona Diamondbacks) getting most of the starts at third base.

Marbin Montijo – RHP
Team: Charros de Jalisco
2018 Stats
: (Rk+) 1-4 Record, 0 Saves, 22.2 IP, 8.34 ERA, 2.118 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 9.0 BB/9

Pitching in the Appalachian League for the 2nd time in his career, Montijo struggled mightily to throw strikes in 2018 posting a strike thrown rate of only 52%. When he did find the strike zone, he usually got clobbered allowing a .273 AVG against him with a .954 OPS including four home runs.

After five seasons in the Mets organization, his time was up as the organization released him on September 21st. Just like Terrazas, Montijo is now heading back to Mexico to also play for the Charros de Jalisco for the first time in his career despite the team owning his rights since 2013. Montijo got some work early in camp but hasn’t made an appearance in the last week, so I’m guessing that he will likely remain on the reserves squad in case an injury occurs.

Scott Copeland – RHP
Team:
 Naranjeros de Hermosillo
2018 Stats
: (AA/AAA) 9-7 Record, 0 Saves, 126.0 IP, 3.43 ERA, 1.389 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9

Even when a club pitching depth takes as many hits as the Mets did in multiple levels of its organization, you still need to field a team for all the games at all the levels which means, someone has to pitch. Enter Scott Copeland, who signed a one year minor league contract with the Mets on April 17, 2018 and provided 126 innings of work for the organization.

Despite his strong performance, as is the case with these minor league contracts, Copeland is back on the free agent market and has decided to showcase himself a bit more in the LMP. This will actually be Copeland’s third appearance in the Caribbean Winter Leagues having participated twice in the LIDOM back in 2014-15 and again last season for the Estrellas de Oriente. Since he is one of the limited imports allowed by the team, I would expect Copeland to be a constant presence in the Naranjeros rotation.

Juan Uriarte – C
Team:
 Caneros de los Mochis
2018 Stats
: (SS-A) 0 for 1, 1 K (Injured)

After posted a career best season in Kingsport in 2017, Uriarte was expected to have a big role for the Brooklyn Cyclones as the primary starting catcher in 2018. Unfortunately, his season ended after only one at-bat after he sustained a leg injury during the at-bat. Now fully recovered, Uriarte will look to make an impact in his third season with the Caneros de los Mochis.

Unfortunately, his stint with the club may not be anything more than a training venue as the other two catchers from last season, the starter Juan Camacho (Seattle Mariners) and reserve Marco Chicuate, have also returned for another season.