A last-minute change has the Caribbean World Series taking place in Panama this year, as teams are preparing for a ten-game round-robin to begin on Monday. With the change in venue, Toros de Herrera from Panama have been invited to participate. Here is a preview of the tournament, with the finals on February 10.
Always the mystery team, Cuba seems to be eyeing a CWS championship. Last year, Cuba went young with their squad and were knocked out in the second round. This time around, Lenadores de Las Tunas will have at least 16 players age thirty or over. Fourteen of the 28-man squad are reinforcements from the other Serie Nacional clubs and foreign leagues. Pitching prospects include a pair of 23 year-old's in RHP Dariel Gongora and LHP Livan Moinelo. Manager Pablo Civil will have plenty of experience to draw on, as Las Tunas was led by veterans such as INF's Alexander Alaya and Daniel Castro, along with OF Jorge Jhonson. And any team with power hitter Alfredo Despaigne can not be counted out.
For the first time since 1968, Estrellas Orientales will represent the Dominican Republic in the CWS. Managed by Fernando Tatis, the Eastern Stars look like they will be without star Reds prospect OF Jose Siri, who batted .591 in the DWL playoffs. But like Cuba, the Dominican Republic will be long on experience. With 19 players age 30 or older, Dominica will try to use their savvy to bring home a championship. Former Cubs prospects in RHP Paolo Espino and OF Junior Lake are part of the roster.
Charros de Jalisco won the Mexican Pacific League championship this past Monday, and will be the team in the CWS that has competitively played most recently. Former Orioles farmhand Dariel Alvarez was named the series MVP, as the first baseman hit .370 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI in the playoffs. In a team that draws heavily on Major League and Mexican League veterans, manager Roberto Vizcarra with have catcher Sebastian Valle and closer Sergio Romo to rely on.
Not much is known about the Panamanian team, as MLB.com does not even have an official roster. Toros de Herrera were the champions of the Professional Baseball League of Panama, and were eliminated from the Latin American Baseball Series by Nicaragua on January 31.
Puerto Rico will be seeking to win their third straight corona going into this year’s CWS. In a league that features a lot of major league players, Puerto Rico will have the most affiliated prospects in the tournament. Roberto Clemente League champions Cangrejeros de Santurce are managed by former Cub Carmelo Martinez, a manager of one of the rookie league teams in the Cubs’system. Martinez is relying on a number of former Cubs prospects for his pitching staff, including RHP’s Fernando Cruz, Stephen Perakslis, James Pugliese, and Armando Rivero along with LHP Geovanni Soto. Puerto Rico will have another name familiar to Cubs’ fans in INF Ivan DeJesus Jr.
Venezuelan champion Cardenales de Lara had the least resistance in securing their spot in the CWS, but may have had the most overcome. Whether losing their host status will provide the chip on their shoulders that manager Jose Moreno can use remains to be seen. The Redbirds will have the hottest bat going into the series in Diamondbacks INF Juniel Querecuto. Venezuela will also have the only active Cubs prospect in LHP Luis Lugo.