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How did Royals players fare in winter baseball?

Freddy Fermin is your Venezuelan League MVP!

The Royals’ season ended months ago, but some players have been playing ball all winter in leagues abroad. Winter leagues in the Caribbean and Australia provide an opportunity for more playing time for younger players, a chance to play in front of hometown fans for others, or just a fun experience playing ball in front of exuberant crowds.

The Royals had several players participating in winter ball, from minor leaguers looking to get a shot to All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. Salvy suited up Aguilas del Zulia in his native Venezuela and played just seven games for them, but he hit .318 and smacked two home runs, including this blast.

But the Royals catcher who really excelled in Venezuela was Freddy Fermín. The 27-year-old was added to the 40-man roster last fall and he illustrated why by hitting .404/.482/.566 with 25 walks and just 24 strikeouts in 45 games, leading Caracas to first place with teammates Gleyber Torres and Eugenio Suárez. For his efforts, he was named rookie of the year, and league MVP.

Fermín caught fellow Royals pitcher Carlos Hernández, who pitched in 9 13 innings with 13 strikeouts but 9 walks and a 6.75 ERA. Royals minor leaguer Emilo Marquez also pitched for Caracas and also struggled with a 7.71 ERA in 9 13 innings with 6 walks and 15 hits allowed, although it should be noted that teams score an average of one more run per game in the Venezuelan Winter League than in MLB - the average ERA is 4.86.

Shortstop Maikel Garcia also excelled in Venezuela, playing with cousin and former Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar on Tiburones de la Guaira. Garcia hit .323/.444/.498 with four home runs and 46 walks in 58 games.

Angel Zerpa also pitched for Tiburones de la Guaira, but only pitched in one game, allowing three runs in 3 13 innings, before the Royals ended his winter league season. Max Castillo pitched for rival Cardenales de Lara, and went 3-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 30 23 innings with 21 strikeouts and just 7 walks, pitching mostly as a starter. Royals farmhand Andres Sotillet pitched for Caribes de Anzoategui where he was teammates with former Royals minor league slugger Balbino Fuenmayor. Sotillet had 11 saves as closer with a 3.49 ERA and 21 strikeouts and 15 walks in 28 13 innings.

In the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League, Edward Olivares didn’t have to worry about being optioned to the minors, instead he was named a regular for Estrellas de Oriente hitting .267/.336/.408 with 2 home runs and 13 steals in 31 games. Ronald Bolaños was a starter for Toros del Este and had a 3.53 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 23 innings. Seuly Matias continued to struggle, hitting just .154/.241/.154 with 10 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances for Gigantes del Cibao, and teammate Yefri del Rosario pitched in just one inning for them.

Some new Royals also got in some work in the Dominican Republic. Steven Cruz, who the Royals acquired from the Twins in the Michael A. Taylor trade, pitched in his native country and posted a 6.14 ERA with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks in 7 13 innings for Leones del Escogido. Infielder Johan Camargo hit .328/.391/.448 with a home run in 15 games for Aguilas Cibaenas. The Royals signed him and his teammate, reliever Nick Wittgren, who tossed eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts in winter ball.

In the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico, Cuban speedster Dairon Blanco excelled with 25 steals in 30 opportunities and a line of .301/.345/.361 in 47 games. Infielder Gabriel Cancel got off to a slow 2-for-25 start with Cangrejeros de Santurce, so they traded him to Gigantes de Carolina for pitcher Giovanni Soto and he hit .175/.208/.309 with two home runs in 101 plate appearances for them.

Royals minor league pitcher Marcelo Martinez returned to his native Mexico to pitch for Hermosillo before he was traded to Mexicali. He posted a 2.08 ERA overall with 43 strikeouts in 39 innings. Speedster Tyler Tolbert traveled all the way to Australia to play for the Brisbane Bandits, swiping 15 bases in 16 tries and hitting .297/.404/.430 with two home runs as he played with Robert Moore, son of former Royals GM Dayton Moore. Minor league infielder Robbie Glendinning returned to his native Australia to hit .291/.367/.457 with six home runs in 35 games for the Melbourne Aces where he was teammates with former Royals pitcher Brian Flynn.