Posted on 29 January 2013.
SPRINGDALE, AR –Although the 2012 minor league season officially ended in September, 20 current and former Northwest Arkansas Naturals continued their work on the diamond as they participated in the Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Australian Winter Leagues. With pitchers and catchers set to report to Spring Training in less than two weeks, all of the former Naturals have completed their winter seasons.
Puerto Rican League Wrap-up
The Puerto Rican League welcomed five Naturals alums, but a recent Natural created the most headlines. Christian Colon was named the Puerto Rican League Rookie of the Year. The Royals first round pick (fourth overall) in 2010, Colon led the league with 13 stolen bases in 39 games for the Leones de Ponce (Ponce Lions). While at the plate, Colon batted .301 with eight doubles and 26 runs scored. In 2012, Colon played in 73 games with the Naturals, batting .289 with nine doubles and 13 stolen bases and five home runs. A Texas League Mid-Season All-Star, Colon finished the season with Triple-A Omaha. Colon has earned a non-roster invite to Spring Training with the Royals.
Infielder Rey Navarro finished second in the league with a .333 batting average in 114 at-bats and 18 RBI for league champion Criollos de Caguas (Caguas Creoles). In 2012, Navarro appeared in 109 games for the Naturals before being promoted to Omaha on August 18.
Infielder Irving Falu led the league with 30 runs scored and four triples while playing for Indios de Mayaguez (Mayaguez Indians). Falu batted .324 with eight doubles and 16 RBI in 36 games. A member of the 2008 Naturals squad, Falu spent 2012 with both Kansas City and Omaha and is on the Royals 40-man roster.
Outfielder Geraldo Valentin, another member of the Naturals’ inaugural team, drove in 10 runs while batting .277 for Cangrejeros de Santurce (Santurce Crabbers). Valentin batted .250 with 10 doubles and 19 RBI in 70 games during his lone season with the Naturals.
Pitcher Kelvin Villa went 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA in nine games for Criollos de Caguas. Villa was also named a Post-Season All-Star. Villa was 1-0 in nine appearances during his time with the Naturals in 2010.
Venezuelan League Wrap-up
2011 Naturals catcher Salvador Perez earned Rookie of the Year honors in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League as a member of Tiburones de La Guaira (La Guaira Sharks). Perez batted .371 in 32 games with eight home runs, 10 doubles and 39 RBI with a .412 On Base Percentage. As a Natural, Perez was named to the 2011 Texas League Mid and Post-Season All-Star teams. Perez, who missed the early part of the 2012 season due to injury, batted .301 in 76 games for Kansas City and is the projected starting catcher for the Royals for 2013.
Perez wasn’t the only former Natural to end the Venezuelan League campaign with an award, as Juan Gutierrez was named the Venezuelan League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Gutierrez was 1-1 with a 0.81 ERA, 14 saves and 21 strikeouts in 24 appearances for Leones del Caracas (Caracas Lions). Gutierrez recorded three saves in five games with the Naturals in 2012 after reporting to the team in July following rehab outings in the Arizona League. Gutierrez has also spent parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues, each with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Outfielder Mario Lisson batted .262 with four doubles, five home runs and 26 RBI in 43 games with Navegantes del Magallanes (Magellen’s Navigators). Lisson has worn the Naturals uniform in every season except 2010, and is the franchise leader in games played, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBI.
Paulo Orlando hit seven doubles and drove in 16 runs in 32 games with Cardenales de Lara (Lara Cardinals). Orlando’s .346 batting average would have finished second in the Venezuelan League, but Orlando didn’t have the required number of plate appearances. Orlando has spent the last three seasons with the Naturals and is the franchise leader with 18 triples.
Ernesto Mejia was named the Most Valuable Player for the Venezuelan League, batting .298 with 16 home runs and 48 RBI in 62 games as a member of Cardenales de Lara. An Opening Day starter and member of the 2010 Texas League Champion Naturals, Mejia spent 2012 in the Atlanta Braves organization at Triple-A Gwinnett (Ga.).
Pitcher Victor Marte was 2-1 with a 4.40 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 games for Navegantes del Magallanes (Magellen’s Navigators). Marte was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 games with the Naturals in 2009. Marte made his Royals debut that season, winning three of his 22 relief appearances.
Pitcher Dusty Hughes was 1-0 in 12 games for Navegantes del Magallanes. Hughes didn’t surrender a run in 9 1/3 innings pitched. Hughes was 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 20 games for the Naturals in 2008.
Dominican League Wrap-up
Catcher Julio Rodriguez appeared in one game for Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao Giants), striking out in his lone plate appearance. Rodriguez spent his first full AA season with the Naturals in 2012, with a .234 average and 17 RBI in 67 games.
Pitcher Sugar Ray Marimon pitched in two games with Leones del Escogido (Escogido Lions). In five innings of work, Marimon struck out two batters and surrendered one run. Marimon made 12 starts for the Naturals last season, posting a 3-6 record with a 4.59 ERA. Marimon was named a Carolina League Mid-Season All-Star in 2012.
Pitcher Carlos Rosa appeared in three games for league champion Gigantes del Cibao (Cibao Giants), giving up three earned runs in nine innings. Rosa went 4-2 with a 1.20 ERA in eight starts with the Naturals in 2008. Rosa pitched in two games for the Royals that season, giving up a run in 3 1/3 innings of work. Rosa’s last appearance in the Royals organization was with Triple-A Omaha in 2010.
Pitcher Roman Colon spent time in the Dominican League as a member of Gigantes as well as in the Mexican Pacific League with Yaquis de Obregon. Colon was 0-2 in 10 games with Gigantes and concluded the season with a 0-0 record in two appearances with three-time defending Mexican Pacific League champion Yaquis. Colon was 2-0 with a save in 10 games with the Naturals in 2008.
Pitcher Willy Lebron was 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 16 games for Estrellas de Oriente. Lebron was 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA in 23 games for the Naturals in 2011.
Outfielder Jamie Romak hit .280 in six games with Toros del Este (Este Bulls). Romak spent part of the 2010 season and all of the 2011 season with the Naturals, playing in 168 games with the franchise while hitting 29 home runs and driving in 87 runs. Romak spent the 2012 season with Triple-A Omaha and in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Australian League Wrap-up
Outfielder Carlo Testa was the lone player with Naturals ties in the Land Down Under this winter. Testa played in 46 games for the Melbourne Aces, batting .294 with seven doubles and six home runs with 19 RBI. Testa also stole 10 bases for the Aces. In 2012, Testa completed his first season at the Double-A level with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 113 games.
Mexican Pacific League Wrap-up
Outfielder Cory Aldridge batted .268 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI in 61 games for Tomateros de Culican (Culican Tomato Growers). A member of the inaugural Naturals team, Aldridge batted .269 with six doubles and 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 49 games for the Naturals in 2008 and was named the Texas League Player of the Week for August 25.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.