The Undercards: Willy Aybar Is Alive (And Out of Jail)
By Robbie Knopf
You have go back to 2010 in the majors with the Rays to find Willy Aybar playing affiliated baseball. But apparently the ex-Ray is still around, making his Dominican Winter League debut in a Saturday doubleheader. The Rays missed Aybar while he was gone and definitely could have used him as a spare infielder last season. But a couple arrests and a jail sentence nixed that and it was surprising just to see Aybar’s name in the boxscore on Saturday.
Arizona Fall League: Salt River Rafters 11, Phoenix Desert Dogs 5
Seven of the 15 Desert Dogs who appeared in Saturday’s game were Rays prospects. Unfortunately, that was not a winning formula this time around. The trio of Rays pitching prospects who appeared, C.J. Riefenhauser, Chris Rearick, and Lenny Linsky, particularly struggled. Riefenhauser allowed 3 runs on 2 hits in 2 walks in just two-thirds of an inning, one of his few bad appearances this fall as he’s been lights out, pitching to a 2.19 ERA even after this blow-up. Rearick allowed 2 runs, 1 earned, on 3 hits in two-thirds of an inning while Lenny Linsky allowed an unearned run in an inning of work. Two non-Rays pitching prospects gave up multiple runs for Phoenix, but the Rays’ poor pitching certainly paid a huge role in the Desert Dogs loss. The hitters were a little better. Kevin Kiermaier went 2 for 3 with a triple, a walk, and a run scored, Richie Shaffer went 1 for 3 with a triple, a walk, and a run scored, although he made an error at first base, Tim Beckham went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored, while Hak-Ju Lee went 1 for 4 with a run scored and a rare error on his part. Net negative day for the Rays prospects, but nice to see Kiermaier hitting and Shaffer starting to find his stroke.
Aybar has watched his career get completely derailed. (Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison)
Dominican Winter League: Game 1: Estrellas de Oriente 5, Leones de Escogido 2
Game 2: Estrellas de Oriente 1, Leones de Escogido 0
The story in these games was Aybar, who went 1 for 3 with a walk starting at DH in the opener before going 0 for 3 playing first base in the nightcap. Rust was definitely a factor for Aybar considering that these were his first DWL games and that he has played just 20 pro games the last two seasons, 13 with the Yuma Scorpions in 2011, hitting .302, and 7 with the Delfines de Ciudad Del Carmen, hitting .167. A series of arrests for abusing his wife in the US and the Dominican Republic will do that. Pretty sad to see a player with Aybar’s talent throw it all away. Aybar posted a .246/.323/.392 line (92 OPS+) with the Rays from 2008 to 2010, slamming double-digit home runs in 2008 and 2009 and also hitting .421 with 2 home runs in the 2008 ALCS.
Gigantes del Cibao 5, Tigres del Licey 4
Ex-Rays played big roles in this one, receiving the win and the loss and driving in 3 runs. Juan Miranda had a pinch-hit 2-run double in the 6th that gave Licey a 3-1 lead and scored a run to make it 4-1. The Gigantes tied the game with 3 runs of their own an inning later. Rhyne Hughes hit a game-tying single back in the 4th inning for Cibao and went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI in the game. And on the pitching side, Jhonny Nunez tossed a perfect top of the 9th for Cibao, striking out 1, before Jesus Colome, who had pitched a scoreless 8th, was victimized by a pair of errors as Cibao won 5-4.
Toros del Este 4, Aguilas Cibaenas 1
Omar Luna is firmly out of his hot streak as he went 0 for 4 with an error at shortstop in this one. The Aguilas tried moving him from leadoff to second in the order, but it didn’t help. Luna is now hitting just .224 in 19 DWL games.
Mexican Pacific League: Yaquis de Obregon 6, Mayos de Navojoa 2
Whether the Mayos win or lose, the one constant is Wes Bankston. Bankston went 2 for 5 in this one and has a .338/.415/.550 line in 22 games on the MPL season including a .389/.467/.667 line in his last 10 games. Wow. Appearing as a pinch-hitting for Obregon in this one was catcher Iker Franco, who played in the Rays system from 2000-2002 along with 2004. In 2001 at Low-A Charleston, he actually threw out 37% of opposing basestealers- but allowed 19 passed balls.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico): Indios de Mayaguez 4, Cangrejeros de Santurce 0
Felipe Lopez, who did not appear in affiliated baseball in 2012 after failed stints with the Rays and Brewers in 2011, is back playing in Puerto Rico and went 1 for 2 with 2 walks. Lopez went from a .300 hitter to out of baseball in under two years, and good luck to him trying to make it back. He has gone just 1 for 7 so far for Santurce but has walked 4 times against 2 walks.
Venezuelan Winter League: Tiburones de La Guaira 7, Leones del Caracas 3
If you haven’t noticed, Rays players were just 1-6 in their games entering this one. Make it 2-7 only because La Guaira had a random ex-Rays minor leaguer. Henry Wrigley had a nice day at the plate in this one, going 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored for Caracas, and he’s hitting .327 so far in the VWL. He also had two errors at first base, which is inexcusable. Victor Zambrano went 2 innings for Caracas and allowed an unearned run on one of the Wrigley errors. Daniel Mayora went 0 for 3 for Caracas but somehow managed 2 RBI. In terms of the forgettable ex-Ray, second baseman Cesar Suarez went 1 for 5 for La Guaira. Suarez, who turned 29 in August, was a Rays prospect from 2006 to 2009 and had his best season at Low-A Columbus in 2006, posting a a .306/.361/.454 line with 42 doubles, 11 homers, 87 RBI, and 31 stolen bases in 133 games. He has bounced from Independent Ball to a brief stint in the Dodgers system to the Mexican League since leaving the Rays. Suarez has torn up the VWL so far, hitting .370 on the year including .489 in his last 10 games, collecting at least 1 hit in each one and notching at least 3 hits in 4 out of 10.
Navegantes del Magallanes 9, Cardelanes de Lara 5
The good guys did came out ahead in this one as three current and former Rays are on the victorious Magallanes squad. Chris Nowak went 1 for 2 with a double, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. He’s hitting .333 on the VWL season including .438 in his last 10 games, and he’s on a walk tear if such a thing exists, walking 4 times versus no strikeouts in his last 2 games and 7 times versus just 1 strikeout in his last 7 games. Leslie Anderson went 1 for 4 with a walk and an RBI while Erold Andrus went 0 for 3 with yet another walk.