For many of us the arrival of November does not give us joy. The traditional baseball powers in the United States, Japan, Korea and even Europe have ended their season. Waiting the four months or so until spring training begins seems like an eternity. Football does not fill the void for many of us..
That said, there is no need to fall into a state of morose. Baseball continues in Cuba, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico, with many of the prospects that play in the summer leagues also participating in the winter leagues. Veterans who have found themselves on the way out may join a team to show that they still have something left and prospects play to enhance some of their tools that are not quite there yet.
Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies was solid in Venezuela last winter. He seems to have done pretty well in the major leagues this year. Stephen Strasburg created quite a buzz in the major leagues but many could have seen him in the Arizona Fall League parks and not fight with the crowds to watch him pitch. Josh Thole had a nice break out season in Venezuela, hitting .381, and now he is scheduled to be the starting catcher for the Mets in 2011. You can follow all the Caribbean and AFL action via MLB.com at Arizona Fall League and Caribbean Baseball.
Many of us have been amazed at the blazing fastball of Aroldis Chapman or were impressed with the season that Kendry Morales had in 2008. Yuniesky Maya will be in the Nationals starting rotation in 2011. These players just didn’t drop from the sky to play in the major leagues. They competed in one of the more competitive baseball leagues in the world, the Cuban baseball league. Pedro Luis Lazo, the winningest pitcher in Cuban baseball is retiring, and many of the current or future stars leave for the United States for the big bucks, but there still is a plethora of talent there. You can follow Cuban baseball at Baseball De Cuba and Beisbol Cubano.
A new league is starting in Australia and the many Australian prospects that are toiling in the United States minor leagues will be in their homeland enhancing their tools. Glen Williams and Dave Nillson will be managing two of the six teams there. You can follow all of the ABL action here.
Another site to keep your eye on to follow the Latin stars of today become the superstars of tomorrow is BaseballLatinAmerica.com. Perhaps you may learn a bit about the baseball that is played in Brazil.
And finally, it is not the winter league, but the Dominican Prospect league that is developing the baseball stars of tomorrow and you can follow them here: DPLBaseball.com.
There are probably other leagues that track the winter season so if anyone has any links to share, let me know and I will pass them on.
Bob, My World of Baseball