The Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season is now far enough along that we can look at some performances and either ooh or wail. One thing to be quite sad about with the latest LBPRC season is the continued low attendance numbers. The island is still recovering from Hurricane Maria and it makes sense that a place that is still struggling with running water and electricity would not make baseball attendance a priority. Of course, it doesn’t help that the commonwealth has been abandoned by its own American government. Still, Puerto Rican baseball is amazing and while the games remain top-notch I can’t wait for the days when the fans are back in the stadiums.
Back to the actual performances and what has been a pretty lopsided year in the LBPRC. There aren’t many mid-tier players taking part in LBPRC this season. The results bear out that there are players having great seasons and awful seasons with very few players falling in between those two poles. On the whole, these five players have stood out the most in my 2019-2020 LBPRC viewing and research,
Vimael Machín – First/Second Baseman for Criollos de Caguas
Machín was recently selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft and then shipped off in a trade to the Oakland Athletics. Based on his career trajectory and how easily Machín has turned it up even one more notch this season with Caguas the Athletics should he really happy with the production they get from the utility man. Slashing .339/.381/.492 in 63 plate appearances Machín shows both a good contact-oriented bat and an ability to get on base regularly. The Criollos have found themselves in the middle of the LBPRC pack, but Machín has become perhaps the most important bat in their lineup.
Rusney Castillo – Right Fielder for Criollos de Caguas
The Caguas were hoping for much more from the once heralded Castillo. This is the second year in a row that the former top prospect has looked less than top during his winter in Puerto Rico. His power has all but disappeared as he’s only mustered 1 extra-base hit in 33 plate appearances. The talent is always present for Castillo, but against the better competition of the LBPRC he needs to show more than a .219/.212/.250 line. Not only does his current performance hurt his chances of future winter ball contracts, but it also comes during the time when he needs to show scouts that he would be a good pickup as soon as his Boston Red Sox contract expires.
Héctor Santiago – Starting Pitcher for Gigantes de Carolina
Santiago has been lights out during the 2019-2020 campaign. In 36.0 innings he’s amassed an ERA of 0.50 and WHIP of 0.833. A SO/W of 5.33 is really impressive for a guy who has been less than stellar at the AAA level in the past few years. Santiago has been the Gigantes’ ace and a key reason why they’ve managed to keep pace with Cangrejeros de Santurce for tops in the league. He’s not overpowering batters, rather he’s attacking more and not nibbling anywhere near as much as he has in past seasons.
Edwin Gomez – First Baseman/Outfielder for Gigantes de Carolina
There comes a point in every player’s career where they either need to change things up or accept that they are who they have become. 2019-2020 has been that year for Gomez. The LBPRC vet returned to the league after not having played any summer ball. His bad numbers could initially be chalked up to some rust, but the deeper he gets into the season the worse his numbers become. As of this writing, Gomez has had 43 plate appearances to the tune of a .088/.279/.118 slash line. He still takes his walks, but it’s clear at this point in his career that Gomez can’t control his bat and is too easy of an out for opposing pitchers. One has to wonder if this may be the last LBPRC hurrah for the Caguas native?
José Sermo – First Baseman/Third Baseman/Outfielder for the Atenienses de Manatí
The Atenienses are an expansion team and as such, they have been less than up to the task in their inaugural LBPRC season. The brightest spot on the roster has clearly been Sermo. The 28-year-old has spent the past five years in unaffiliated ball where he never moved the needle all that much until his 2018 campaign with the American Association’s Sioux City Explorers. He regressed a bit for them in 2019, but was still quite good and has carried over that level of play to the LBPRC. In 81 plate appearances, he has 4 home runs and 4 doubles. The power production would be good on its own, but he’s also walked a decent amount, 9 times. A slash line of .314/.395/.543 certainly plays and puts Sermo in the running for LBPRC Most Valuable Player and a likely draft pick by an actual contender once the playoffs start.
I could write about so many more LBPRC players, but these are the ones who have stood out the most to me for one reason or another. Who knows what league, player, or team we’ll take a gander at next time, but there will be a next time.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Jose Sermo’s Twitter