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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:56 pm 
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Despite Moves, Outlook the Same in San Juan

Box office receipts say fans are optimistic in San Juan this season but it wasn’t long ago pessimism prevailed. While player comings and goings have given fickle fans a roller coaster ride, a more sober view could reveal the Coqui may be about the same as last year.

The team had hoped to splurge in free agency but wound up more or less breaking even. Alexander O’Neal (.305, 28 HR) in at DH and Richie Norman (.299, 25 HR) out is pretty much an even swap, even if O’Neal is more likely to repeat those numbers. On paper bringing in starting pitcher Domingo Rodriguez to replace the traded Hollywood Hernandez may seem a lesser move but Hernandez is 47-41 in his career and Rodriguez 45-42 so the Coqui are comfortable with the exchange; particularly with the net of 2nd and 6th round picks coming in the Hernandez deal.

However, the team’s biggest concern is failing to bring in another slugger; particularly with a gaping hole in right field. After a year in which San Juan was merely pesky on offense, the goal was to find a legitimate 3rd and 4th hitter. O’Neal will replace Norman in the 3rd spot but the team still has reservations about the streaky Dean Walden, who finished at .309, 21 HRs but mixed his torrid streaks with slumps that at one point got so bad he was benched. The 24-year old's strong finish gave the team confidence he could adjust to whatever weakness opposing pitchers had found but the team would still prefer more power in the cleanup spot.

Bringing in catcher Jesus Negrete is the one clear gain, although it is primarily an offensive upgrade and, even at that, per at bat, Darwin Boyer had more home run power last season with a knack for his 16 dingers coming with men on base.

The Coqui’s one hope for improvement comes from the weakest link last year – the bullpen – and the team made no changes there. While deep in promising prospects, none have as yet emerged. San Juan did hire a former standout pitching coach, Keiji Hagi, as bench coach and brought in a trainer, Greg Royal, who is much better at keeping arms healthy; the amount of injuries being the main factor Katsumi Mirua was let go.

The infield defense should once again be superb if not tops in the league which should keep the starting pitching among the better staffs in the league. Duane Higgins is back at first, Shigekazu Shimizu is an All-Leather consideration at second, 40-year old Jose Rivera is still superb at short and Bob Vollmer is a glove upgrade at third, where the Coqui got little of anything from the disappointing Richard Kelly last year. If the pitching staff can keep the ball on the ground, it should be a solid unit. Ace To-Wai Zhou(13-7, 2.91) has yet to put it together for a full season but did lead the Imperial League in strikeouts (220); Rodriguez, Atilio Gaivo (12-7, 3.73) and Felix Romano (9-13, 3.96, with the team’s only no-hitter) are solid options; and the hope is hometown favorite Alfredo Velazquez (134-85, 3.14 in his career) will bounce back from injuries the past two seasons. If not, the once-steady Dave Parkinson remains on the roster although he struggled with the deep ball last year.

While the infield defense is strong, if the team feels the need for an extra bat in right, the outfield corners could be below average defensively and PRTC Park has a lot of gaps to hit to. Leadoff hitter Flint Butler (.290, 27-33 in SBs) will hold down left field again but Ed Lee (.313, .501 slugging pct. in AAA), a DH most of his minor league career, and the soft hitting Michael Drew (.280) are currently the only options in right.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 1:48 am 
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GUARDED OPTIMISM FOR SAN JUAN’S PITCHING PROSPECTS


If one is to believe the OOTP Scouting Association, San Juan is flush with minor league stars but short on big league talent. Team insiders admit that while there is considerable finger crossing in General Manager Mike Best’s office, due to conflicting reports and being only one and a half years into the job, the GM isn’t really certain what he has.

San Juan’s four minor league affiliates have been on fire the past three seasons, collecting nine division titles out of a possible 12. Santa Domingo (AAA) has actually won four straight including the Global Baseball Brotherhood championship last year. The other squads have won two each with Santurce (AA) and Kingston (A) also garnering second place finishes with impressive 80-60 and 70-55 marks respectively. Homer (SA) dropped to fourth last year despite a 55-36 record.

The teams have largely been carried by pitching. Kingston posted identical 84-44 records the last two seasons largely due to the hurlers who will be in AAA and AA ball this year. The predominant conversation in San Juan’s front office is whether the organization is loaded or is major disappointment looming when these lads reach the Big Show?
The sun has been smiling in Kingston




Leading Santurce this year will be Steve “Jackpot” Jackson, a 2024 2nd rounder who is considered a long shot by most prognosticators but has been largely unhittable in SA and A ball, putting together scoreless streaks of 37 and 19 innings. “The statistical odds of a player doing that in professional ball and it being a harbinger of things to come is very high,” Best once said of the 37 inning streak.

Jackson’s teammate, Senichi Kaneko, taken in the 3rd round of the same draft, has been equally impressive at 19-5 as a pro with an all-star appearance and a no-hitter in his accomplishments. Incidentally, it was Kaneko who gave Jackson his nickname. Jackson hails from Las Vegas but is oddly awful at poker. Kaneko, who generally cleans up at the games, often does at Jackson’s expense as the Vegas native has a penchant for going all in with bad hands. Kingston Manager Jesús Gonzáles picked up on the name last year for Jackson’s more positive abilities on the field.

Joining them at Santurce will be Fernando Castro, the NAFTA Amber Waves Outstanding Pitcher last year with a 13-3, 1.72 mark, and John Sullivan, who was taken in the 6th round of Best’s only draft so far. Sullivan pitched no-hitters in both SA and A ball in 2025 and hasn’t had an era over 2.00 since his junior year in college. Almost overlooked is 21-year old Dean Sweet who is 16-10, 2.50, in four pro seasons.

Nearer on the horizon, slated for Santo Domingo this year, is 25-year old Cory Wood, who pitched like a staff ace in AA and AAA last year going a combined 16-5. Invited to spring training, Wood has given up just one hit in four innings. He will be joined by 25-year old Jon Dalton (17-4 the last two seasons with an 1.83 e.r.a. out of the pen in 2025 plus a perfect game in 2024) and Pedro Alfaro (12-2, 2.28 in AA last year before struggling after being promoted). Alfaro, a two time minor league all-star, still finished second in the Outstanding Pitcher voting in the Great Northern Atlantic Alliance and had 164 strikeouts in 134 innings.

None of the prospects made the Annual Top 100 Prospects List this year. Best has been mum about his own scouting department’s current assessment on the players but has remarked the previous regime would not have drafted the talent if they didn’t think highly of them at the time.

The hope is that at least one surprises the "experts."

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:05 am 
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TOUGH ROSTER DECISIONS A GOOD PROBLEM

With San Juan winning seven straight to close spring training, some surprising performances made roster decisions difficult, particularly in the bullpen where most of the jobs were up for grabs. There is plenty of reason for optimism.

Bullpen
Locks: Closer and 2025 all-star Jorge Núñez is in of course. Veteran junkballer Seon-Keun Yi also enamored himself last season as a setup man and didn’t hurt his cause with 14 scoreless innings this spring. Shawn Marshall (1.70 e.r.a. in 2025), coming back from a torn rotator cuff, also was a certainly.

Surprises: Long shot 23-year old Carlos Macías, who has been a decent setup guy through the minors, turned heads at camp, allowing one run in 11 innings, striking out 13. Twenty-seven year old Jaguar Suzuki, who has impressed every step since being signed out of the WIL in 2024, allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings.

The rest: Otis Pearson (1.64 in 11 innings), Mito Nomura (2.45 in 11 innings), Luis Reyes (3.00 in three starts), José Gómez (3.21 in 14 innings, the last six scoreless), Dan Field (3.46 in 13 innings) and Naoki Hayashi (3.07 in 14 2/3 innings, including shutout ball after getting two spot starts).

With the exception of Reyes, the only one out of option years, deciding three cuts from among the rest was difficult. Suzuki and Macías were two of the unfortunate ones although the team will be watching both closer in the future. Field was the other as the team chose Hayashi as the lefty specialist. Expect the team to entertain trade offers for someone.

Starting Pitcher
The expected demise of Dave Parkinson after a rough 2025 is premature, at least for the moment. The 30-year old hurler made the squad with four solid starts this spring. The spot comes at the expense of Atilio Gaivo, whose second poor spring in as many seasons sent him to Santo Domingo (AAA). Last year the stint only lasted two starts though and it is safe to say, with an abundance of options, most of the San Juan pitching staff will be on a short string for a while.

Outfield
Another contested hot spot. With his second great spring in a row Michael Drew (.353) held off contenders for right field as Ed Lee (.176) struggled. Clyde Johnson (.462) made a case. And disappointing Juan Ayala (.310, .394 OBP) turned heads for the first time in two years. But the real story was Chris Jensen (.455, .865 slugging).
Lee (.313, .501 slugging in AAA last season) was sent down with the better glove Ayala staying up. Johnson was also sent down but put himself back on the radar.

Catcher
With the addition of Jesús Negrete, one of Darwin Boyer or Ju-Chan Park had to go. That Boyer had option years, despite being 32, made that decision easier. While the team is likely to consider a trade, word is it is also fine with depth in case of injury Boyer and Park being inexpensive.

Infield
Despite 180 career minor league home runs and hitting .360 this spring, beleaguered first baseman Jon Lange gets sent down yet again. At third Bob Vollmer (.325) beat out winter ball attendee Antonio Correa (.145).

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:29 pm 
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NORMAN TO RETURN WITH HIGGINS OUT

Rumor has it that the Coqui have reached a one-year deal with former first baseman Richie Norman, who hit .295 with 25 home runs for the team last year. The change of heart came after regular first baseman Duane Higgins was lost for four months with a broken kneecap. If Norman can perform as he did last season he should be an upgrade offensively. The key to the deal was the one year. The belief in the San Juan organization is that the 32-year old Norman’s only two standout seasons in his career came in contract years and had no intention of offering a longer deal during free agency.

The team faced its first slew of injuries in the midst of a five-game losing streak which saw good pitching and little offense, the team’s long time issues returning to the surface. Forty-year old shortstop José Rivera, who could reach the 2,000 hit plateau with a solid season is out for a week after a .429 start. Rookie Chris Jensen struggled with a hand injury and was sent down after it hindered his hitting. Reliever Carlos Macías (AAA) who was looking promising also was lost for two months.

Despite some good performances on the mound – opponents are hitting just .200 with a .226 OBP both tops in the IL - San Juan is looking almost as anemic at the plate

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Last edited by Coqui on Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:31 pm 
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VETERAN RIVERA SHOWING HE STILL HAS IT AT AGE 40


At age 40, José Rivera is showing he still has something left in the tank. Rivera has proven himself a consistent and versatile player for 17 PEBA seasons and, if he stays healthy, should pass the 2,000-hit and 400-double mark by season’s end. The 2021 batting title winner had mostly been contributing with high walk totals since coming to San Juan from Aurora three years ago. But this season he ended April with a .412 average. An 0-for-9 outing on April 1 dropped that but he has since gone 3-for-5 since with home runs in his last two games.

Rivera may be making a bid at extending his career as he is in the last year of his contract and it is unlikely Coqui will resign him. Or he could be looking to go out on a strong note.

“Rivera has had a knack for consistently getting on base day to day with few slumps,” noted GM Mike Best. “But this year he has been our only bright offensive spot after leadoff hitter, Flint Butler, who was hitting .294 before getting hurt last week.”

The three-time all-star also is a sturdy fielder at all four infield positions although the Coqui have moved him to second base from shortstop this year, likely due to scouting reports indicating his arm strength isn’t what it used to be.

Offense needing injection of some kind

Manager Sergio Manetti this week expressed the need to start manufacturing runs. Last year when was bench coach, Manager [http://www.pebabaseball.com/reports/news/html/coaches/coach_1425.html]Jesus Gilbert had the team running wild on the base paths. Even the slow-footed Rivera was 7-for-7 in stolen bases last year. With the team hitting .234 with little power, it might be time to step up that aggressiveness.

Was season lost in the offseason?

There is some grumbling among fans about Best’s inability to get the prime free agents. The Coqui’s went hard after James Heard and Dave Nash, both of whom signed elsewhere and are having outstanding seasons. Not obtaining either, Best instead spent the owner’s money on Jesús Negrete, a solid option at catcher, and Alexander O’Neal, who is floundering at .206 with just four extra base hits.

With the Coqui pitching staff looking outstanding early, including the young relievers throwing well, that offense could have pushed the team into the playoff discussion.

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Last edited by Coqui on Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:07 am 
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SAN JUAN HANGING TOUGH DESPITE STRUGGLING OFFENSE

The Coqui righted the ship to some degree in May with a 16-13 mark. However, the offense remains anemic. The team, lacking hitting depth, has decided to go with players who offer defensive help but with injuries mounting Min-u Yi (.165), Juan Ayala (.173) and António Correa (.114) are simply not the answer when a pinch hitter is needed.

At third base, the team has settled with Kwan Cheol-Kang (.228) simply because he at least gets on base (.319 OBP). Bob Vollmer (.197) coming off the disabled list isn't like to change that.

Right field also remains a problem. Ed Lee has three home runs in 46 at bats, which is on pace to what San Juan wished, but his .174 batting average and .224 OBP is keeping him from getting the at bats to show that power stroke. Meanwhile, Michael Drew, who missed a month with a back issue, appears to be having his now customary off year on even years, hitting just .191.

At his press conference this week, General Manager Mike Best expressed that patience is a virtue, a statement that didn’t go down well with restless fans. Attendance has dipped from last season, a crucial issue considering the team’s finances. “June is when the weather warms and the bats heat up,” he added. “We were also fortunate this week to catch up on some home games after spending the start of the season mostly on the road.”

San Juan is now in the midst of a 12- game home stand and the first eight games the temperatures ranged between 52 to 62 degrees with rain on a couple days.

Last season the offense was pesky enough to get the job done but this year the team has fallen from 4th in the league to 9th in on base percentage. There was a positive sign in that area though after drawing eight walks against Yukinaga Kikuchi in a game last week.

“We’ll take anything anyone gives us,” said Best.

FROM THE MINORS – Pitcher Julian Alaniz, a 23-year old former 2021 12th round draft pick, was promoted to AA ball. Alaniz is 22-7 with a 2.40 e.r.a. over three A ball seasons at Kingston. While Alaniz is the Amber Waves League leader in wins at 6-1 and second in e.r.a. at 1.19 the bigger surprise has been 19-year old Bryan Scott, a 5th rounder last year. Scott (pictured right) impressed the coaching staff with three hitless innings in relief and got a shot at a job in the starting rotation. Since then he is 2-0, 1.66, in four starts. Scott, in his last two years of high school, only gave up three earned runs in 53 1/3 innings although he somehow managed to post just a 2-4 record. The youngster told reporters he is glad these days to have a pro infield playing behind him.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:56 pm 
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HIGH SCHOOLERS DOMINATE COQUI DRAFT CLASS

Inside sources say there was no shortage of frustration in the GM’s office having to weed through what seemed like a weak draft and ultimately the Coqui settled on two high schoolers who throw in the sub-90s with their first two picks. Cuban António Ávila isn’t going to wow people with his 88-mph heater but, utilizing his curveball and changeup, he struck out 206 in 177 innings over his prep career. Team scouts did have him rated among the top five pitchers in the draft. The second pick, Dutch-born Marcel Osterhout, has four pitches to work with but scouting reports note his changeup is his weakest, not surprising in that his fastball isn’t blazing enough to set it up. He was the championship sereis MVP during Island High's run to the 2026 IHS title.

Overall high schoolers were the theme of the draft for San Juan, believing it more likely to find a hidden gem in a weak draft class of underperforming college players.

Also taken day one was Chris Owens, an infielder who was among the best glove man in the draft. The challenge will be to teach him to hit.

The remaining first days picks went unsigned. Centerfielder Reese McLaughlin refused his offer. Pitchers Ken Inoue and Jorge Lopes and catcher Buddy Miner were difficult to impossible and contract talks never got far.

San Juan had a much better second day, landing its top three guys on the board. First up was Yusushi Murata in the fourth round. A fifth round pick by Kentucky who didn’t sign in 2024, Murata was a stellar hitter at Oxford (COL). He earned all-star honors in 2023 and hit .448 in 2024 before injuring his thumb. He has not played since rejecting Kentucky's offer. He has an abundance of character issues one would not expect from such an esteemed university but is a proven hitter. In the fifth round, the team took Ray Miller, a player very much in the same mould as Owens. And, with its first of two picks in the sixth round, the team landed Ren Yosida, another who lacks velocity on his fastball but scouts felt had big upside.

“We basically had six guys in our top tier to start the second day and we got the top three of those,” Best said. “We also were pleased with the way the rest of the day went as well.”

The remainder in order of selection:

Carlos Dixon – A slick fielder who hit .305 at Central Florida (COL) last year was taken with the extra sixth round pick. Dixon should have a decent minor league career at least, able to play several positions.

Glenn Hunt - A high school all-star last spring, Hunt’s ceiling is likely as a minor league starter.

Martin Arrington - A DH who didn’t hit much in high school, scouts nonetheless believe he has long ball ability and, in a weak draft, that looked better than it generally would.

Manny Salazar - Should have a big league cutter and curveball someday but whether he gets them across the plate and not hang too many is in question.

Eugene Quintela - Pitched well in high school, with 116 strikeouts in 93 innings, but one has to wonder why he was only used sparingly in relief despite being starter material.

Cole Kent - Listed as a first baseman, Kent has the aptitude to play seven positions, which, along with his high character traits, should make him a useful addition to any minor league roster. He is just one of five collegians in the Coqui draft class.

Connor Burrell -Another 1B-DH, Burrell failed to get into a game in high school. Nonetheless scouts believe he could be one of the better hitters in the San Juan draft class. A lefty, he will platoon with the right-handed Arrington at Homer (SA).

Teika Moira - A speedy, stellar infield glove man who hit a respectable .252 his last year in college, Moira should find a career in the minors.

David Oleson -A 2022 15th round pick by Canton, Oleson pitched SA ball for four seasons before being released and spending a year in college. Thus far known as much for his fielding as his pitching.

Jack Troxell - A pitcher that brings more to the clubhouse than the diamond.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:08 pm 
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SAN JUAN SIGNS HAMADA; ACTIVATES HIGGINS


In what might fall into either the bit-too-late category or the why-bother, San Juan signed veteran infielder Matsusuke Hamada to attempt to fill a gaping hole at third base that dates back two seasons. The move comes just as first baseman Duane Higgins returns from a broken kneecap, giving the team two new bats. Counting one year in the LRS-JPN and five in the PEBA, the 36-year old Hamada is a career .297 hitter with a .497 lifetime slugging percentage.

The team waived first baseman Richie Norman to make room. Norman is one of the many Coqui poster boys for regression this season. His .299, .334, .494 of 2025 have turned into .228,.279, .333.

While attendance remains solid, thanks to lower priced tickets, fans have had little to celebrate after an exciting campaign last year. Although waiver pickup Johnny Dand has hit .298 for the team, local pundits have lost faith in GM Mike Best, particularly in his free agent signings the past two offseasons. Although Flint Butler is among the team’s top players and Higgins has been productive when healthy, at season’s end the team will have paid out $40 million for two starters who will have pitched in just 20 games. And the boos have already begun to follow $19 million Alexander O’Neal, who after showing signs of life in June has regressed to an even deeper slump than the one he started the season in.

Despite the dreadful 49-62 record though, the Coqui are just eight games out of first in mid-August. The front office might just be hoping a little run might be enough to keep ticket sales steady for the team.

FROM THE MINORS – While the Coqui remain short on prospects, the minor league teams continue to win for another season; or at least two of them atop their divisions anyway.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:38 pm 
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SHORT HOPS

San Juan’s 10-3 victory over London Aug. 24th was the highest offensive output for the Coqui since opening day when the squad defeated Havana, 10-2. The Coqui are averaging 3.35 runs a game this season. Unfortunately, five of the six starters who have seen the most action have earned run averages between 3.55 and 3.81. On a better scoring team, the 56-74 record would likely be reversed. San Juan is 16-26 in one-run games this season, the third worst mark in the PEBA.

Alfredo Velázquez’s healthy return to the roster lasted just one start before a minor strain. The 37-year old hurler has just 12 starts over two seasons since San Juan signed him as a free agent.

Matsusuke Hamada is the latest veteran bat to go to San Juan to die. The 36-year old Hamada, who went unsigned until August this year, hit 29 home runs the last two years for Shin Seiki but has just a .343 slugging percentage for San Juan in 17 games. The Coqui signed him to just a one-year deal. With José Rivera coming off the disabled list, it is likely Hamada will have lost his chance at a starting job. Tyson Cameron (.302, .388, .465) has been a pleasant surprise since being called up in mid-August.

"It just goes to show with guys like Tyson and other guys I will not mention that we really have no idea who is going to show up on this team from week to week," General Manager Mike Best remarked at his most recent press conference.

FROM THE MINORS:

Santa Domingo (AAA) is poised to win its fifth straight division title with a 16 ½ game lead on first. The Tourists, who won the Global Baseball Brotherhood championship last year, are mostly a ragtag group of veterans offensively. However, three young pitchers have shown they can pitch at the AAA level this year: 22-year old Fernando Castro (3-1, 1.79), 25-year old Juan Santana (9-4, 2.78) and 25-year old Pedro Alfaro (7-4, 3.36).

Santurce (AA) has clinched its third division title in four years. The only year in that stretch that it failed was a franchise high 95-win season in 2024. The Castillos have been led by 22-year old hurler Dean Sweet (12-5. 2.93) and more recently 25-year old Elvis Carter (7-2, 1.99). Offensively, 27-year old catcher Yoriie Oka and 24-year old first baseman César Herrera have been vying for the league home run title with 29 and 27 respectively. Herrera hit his 100th career minor league homer on Aug. 30.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:42 pm 
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Tough for Alfredo. Shoulder issue in 2025 and then a tear in 2026. Might be the end of the road for him at 37.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:06 pm 
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“A MESS OF MEDIOCRITY”


A dreadful season came to an end for San Juan last week although it largely went unnoticed on the island as fans tuned out quite some time ago. Scoring was down by 139 runs from a year ago. Attendance failed to improve despite it being a priority of ownership. Pitching ace To-Wai Zhou, who once looked like he might be a Golden Arm contender, instead led the league in losses at 9-17 and his 4.35 e.r.a. was the worst of the team’s starters. Prize free agent Alexander O’Neil hit a meager .238, down 67 points, and worse, slugged just .372 after being a top ten performer in that category in 2025. The other top free agent signee, Domingo Rodríguez, spent most of the year on the disabled list logging just 10 starts. Also having an injury plagued year was first baseman Duane Higgins, a lifetime .275 hitter who hit just .202. The team did post the best bullpen e.r.a. in the league but it mattered little with no offensive firepower to come from behind. Closer Jorge Núñez notched a career-high 40 saves but he refused to negotiate an extension on his contract and the team will lose him to free agency. Not that it would have mattered. The franchise finished $26 million in the red for the year and doesn’t have the money to sign him anyway.

A source inside the front office said General Manager Mike Best is often frustrated about evaluating the team’s talent as the performance of individual players varies month to month and year to year. “We are a mess of mediocrity and inconsistency,” said the employee. “Although it could just be that we are a team of third starters and eighth hitters.”

Despite the failings, Manager Sergio Manetti, who took over last year, is getting a reprieve from management for now. Players report strong relationships with him and his influence is said to be excellent for developing them. It may just be that those players aren’t any good. There are several excellent in-house candidates Best reportedly looked at as a replacement but it was determined Manetti, who won four division titles and a championship at the helm with London, probably isn’t the problem.

FROM THE MINORS – Santurce (AA) came a game short of making the Maple Leaf Classic, bowing out in game five despite a strong series from Casper Gray (.353) and César Herrera (.368) …..Santo Domingo (AAA), meanwhile, got a step closer to defending its Ambassador Cup title by moving to the Championship Series behind a complete game shutout by Juan Santana in the deciding fifth game of the Division Series. Santana has been one of those inconsistencies. After being named one of San Juan's Minor League Players of the Year in 2024 for his 14-5, 2.47 performance at Santurce, he regressed in 2025 between AA and AAA ball, before turning in a 9-4, 3.01 mark at Santo Domingo this season.

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