Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional just started the first round of their playoffs. That made it feel like a good time to check-in and see what’s been happening in Venezuela’s pro league so far this winter.
Vicente Campos – Relief Pitcher for Cardenales de Lara
In order to make this list as a relief pitcher, the player in question has to be either extremely bad or good. There’s no in-between when it comes to relief pitchers, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles as far as that specific role on the baseball field is concerned. The reason that Campos made the list is pretty simple, an ERA of 0.33 and WHIP of 0.951 in 27.1 innings pitched. Campos isn’t the closer for the Cardenales, but he is their lights out set-up man. How Campos is doing it is even more impressive, mainly through weak contact. His K/9 is a measly 3.0, but batter after batter Campos uses a deceptive slider to get weak grounders and flyouts.
Denis Phipps – Designated Hitter/Outfielder for Caribes de Anzoátegui
Phipps is one of the names you should be familiar with if you have been watching unaffiliated baseball for any amount of time. He was given one shot at the big leagues back in 2012 and he was quite good in the small amount of time he played. Then, he was back in the minors and out of affiliated baseball a year later following one bad season in the minors. Fast forward to today and Phipps has made the strongest case for taking home the LVBP’s Most Valuable Player award. Hitting .306/.449/.581 with 9 home runs and 7 doubles across 156 plate appearances will put one into MVP consideration. Phipps has almost as many walks as strikeouts and has been a monster presence in the middle of the Caribes batting order.
Ronny Cedeño – Second Baseman for Navegantes del Magallanes
The former Chicago Cubs farmhand has been a steady hand for Magallanes all over the diamond for years now. Prior to the 2019-2020 season, he could be counted on for good defense at a variety of positions and an all-around offensive game. That has changed this year as age has finally caught up to Cedeño. The now 36-year-old has struggled mightily this year. His sudden lack of range has seen him confined mainly to second base. He’s reverted to what most Cubs fans will remember Cedeño as; a groundball hitter with little patience and even less power. You have to wonder if a season with a slash line of .230/.298/.341 might mean the end of Cedeño’s long run of prominence in the LVBP.
Cade Gotta – Center Fielder for Navegantes del Magallanes
Gotta is Phipp’s only real competition for the MVP title. The San Diego native has put together a great season for a Magallanes ball club that had to claw their way into the postseason. The Acereros de Monclova standout is hitting .386/.495/.557 and playing a really good center field as evidenced by his RF/9 of 2.20. Gotta doesn’t have much over the fence pop, only 1 home run, but a combination of 6 doubles and 3 triples demonstrates his ability to drive the ball into the gaps. Where Gotta hurts himself the most is on the basepaths. He’s stolen 8 bases, but been caught stealing 7 times. That equates to an abysmal 53.3 SB% and really, there’s no reason Gotta should still be trying to steal any bases this year or in the future.
Henry Centeno – Starting Pitcher for Bravos de Margarita
The Bravos were the worst team during the LVBP regular season. They went 15-27 and finished 10 games out of first place. In no way was that due to a lack of effort from their staff ace Centeno. In 47.0 innings pitched Centeno posted an ERA of 1.34 and RA/9 of 1.91. Centeno likes to pitch to contact, as is common in the LVBP, and he does not have the best control which resulted in him missing his spot too many times and accumulating a WHIP of 1.213. Still, Centeno didn’t allow a single home run all season and went from someone fighting for his spot in the Bravos rotation to a legitimate ace in the league. Centeno has carried over his splendid regular season work into the playoffs with the Cardenales.
The level of play in the LVBP is slightly down in the 2019-2020 season. That’s thanks entirely to imperialist United States sanctions being enforced by the equally imperialist Major League Baseball. Still, don’t believe everything you’ve heard about Venezuela’s premier professional baseball league. The overall quality is slightly down, but the dip isn’t so much that it’s actually impacted the actual play to a great level. The LVBP is still a top league, and that’s why Denis Phipps taking home the LVBP MVP award will be legitimate. I’ve watched plenty of LVBP the past couple of weeks, and I’m glad I did because the league remains just as fun as ever.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – enlaraya.com