With Wednesday night’s win over los Toros del Este, las Estrellas Orientales sealed their fourth LIDOM championship and their first in 51 years.
The Eastern Stars put an end to the drought with a dominant run that saw them come out on top in all three rounds of the 2018-19 campaign on the Island of Hispaniola, finishing 29-21 in the regular season and 11-7 in the round robin before wrapping up the best-of-nine Serie Final in six games.
Winter league roster rules allow for a great amount of flux. For example, Serie Final MVP José Sirí, an exciting centerfield prospect who split the summer of 2018 with Daytona and Chattanooga in the Reds system, was drafted for the Verdes’ postseason run following the elimination of his Gigantes del Cibao.
The sinewy Sirí struggled with the bat following his midseason promotion to Double-A but should be brimming with confidence after hitting .591 in the final series with a homer and six RBI, not to mention seven steals.
Another late addition who proved pivotal to the championship run is switch-hitting first baseman Héctor Giménez, who came over from Venezuela’s LVBP mid-way through the round robin round. The veteran hit .389 with a homer and eight RBI during that campaign, adding five more ribbies in the final series.
On the pitching side, veteran Yunesky Maya joined las Estrellas from Águilas Cibaeñas after the regular season. The Cuban posted a 1.19 ERA over 22.2 round robin innings and a 0.90 mark in his ten Serie Final frames as he picked up a pair of wins.
The conquering heroes weren’t without full-season contributors, of course. The most illustrious of these, or soon to be anyway, is shortstop phenom Fernando Tatis Jr., who should begin the spring of 2019 at AAA El Paso in the Padres organization. The manager’s son tallied a combined seven homers and 21 RBI (and seventeen steals) over the three sets of games, which still doesn’t do his performance justice. Tatis is considered a top-five prospect in all of baseball, his power and hitting ability combined with silky athleticism and smooth defense containing shades of Manny Machado and Kris Bryant.
El Capitán Junior Lake led the lineup with a steady hand throughout the regular season, hitting .285 with four homers and leading the league with 24 RBI and fourteen steals.
The starting pitching was buoyed by crafty lefty Néstor Cortés and hard-throwing right-hander Radhamés Liz, the bullpen by closer Jumbo Díaz.
The norteamericano Cortés, who spent part of last season with Baltimore and is currently in Yankees system, posted a 1.71 ERA in the regular season along with 45 strikeouts in 42 innings (allowing just 26 hits) and followed it up with a 2.19 mark in the round robin and twelve shutout frames in the Serie Final to collect four postseason victories.
The 35-year-old Liz pitched to a 2.98 ERA (33 hits in 45.1 innings) in the regular season and was even more dominant in the post, posting a 2.49 mark and striking out 33 in 21.2 innings of work. Díaz, whose most recent MLB appearance came in 2017 with Tampa Bay, had a 2.70 ERA and racked up 22 K’s in 16.2 regular season innings. The big man upped the ante in the postseason, striking out 18 over fourteen and collecting eight saves without allowing a single run to score.