Three of the four Caribbean Winter Leagues announced their regular season awards, with current, former and future Major Leaguers claiming several honors.
Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez was named Venezuelan League Rookie of the Year after batting .371/.412/.629 with eight homers and 39 RBIs in 32 games for the Tiburones de La Guaira. The 22-year-old, who missed the first half of the 2012 Major League season with a torn right meniscus, hit .301/.328/.471 in 74 games with the Royals in 2012 while proving himself one of the top defensive catchers in the game. Perez caught 11 games for the Tiburones while serving as their designated hitter in 21 other contests, and would have led the league in batting, slugging and OPS had he the requisite number of at-bats.
The Rookie of the Year in the Dominican League was top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras. The No. 12 overall prospect in the Minors, Taveras followed up a torrid Double-A Texas League campaign -- he hit .321/.380/.572 and earned league MVP honors for champion Springfield -- with a winter season that was just as strong. The 20-year-old lefty hitter batted .316/.379/.507 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 39 games for Aguilas, which posted the best record on the circuit.
The Liga Mexicana del Pacifico will announce its award winners following the playoffs.
Other winners around the Caribbean included:
Liga de Beisbol Dominicano
MVP: Hector Luna (Aguilas). A veteran of 339 games with five clubs over seven big league seasons, Luna finished second in the league in on-base percentage (.408) and slugging (.514) and seventh in batting (.307) for first-place Aguilas. The 32-year-old appeared in 28 games with the Phillies last season.
Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Cabrera (Escogido). The 6-foot-7 Cabrera spent five seasons with the Orioles from 2004 to 2008, going 48-59 with a 5.05 ERA and a walk rate of 5.1 per nine innings. He's bounced around in the Minors since then, pitching in both the Pittsburgh and Arizona organizations in 2012. The 31-year-old right-hander went 5-0 with a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts for the Leones this winter, fanning 32 and walking just 16 over 58 1/3 innings.
Rookie of the Year: Oscar Tavares (Aguilas).
Manager of the Year: Dave Jauss (Estrellas). A longtime scout and coach in the Expos, Red Sox, Dodgers and Orioles systems, Jauss was the Mets' bench coach in 2010. He joined the Pirates as a scout in 2011 and will serve on manager Clint Hurdle's coaching staff in 2013. He guided the Estrellas to a 30-20 record, second-best in the league.
Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico)
MVP: Andy Gonzalez (Caguas). A 31-year-old Brewers farmhand, Gonzalez led the league with 27 RBIs, finished second in on-base percentage (.421), fifth in slugging (.489) and eighth in batting (.311) for first-place Caguas. A fifth-round pick by the White Sox in the 2001 Draft, Gonzalez hit .247 for Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville in 2012. He appeared in 91 big league games for the White Sox, Indians and Marlins between 2007 and 2009, batting .182.
Pitcher of the Year: Ricardo Gomez (Santurce). The 34-year-old Gomez appeared in 16 games for the Cangrejeros, 14 of which were save situations. He converted all 14 and earned the win in one other game while allowing two runs and fanning 22 over 17 2/3 frames for a 1.02 ERA. The right-hander last played for an affiliated club in 2001, when he pitched in 17 games for Class A Short-Season Staten Island and Class A Greensboro in the Yankees organization.
Rookie of the Year: Christian Colon (Ponce). Another Royals farmhand, Colon was the fourth overall pick out of Cal State-Fullerton in 2010 and was a teammate of Perez's at Northwest Arkansas in 2011. The second baseman hit .301 at three different levels for the Royals in 2012 and fanned just 28 times in 85 games. He hit .301 for the Leones as well, adding 13 stolen bases over 39 games in his first winter league campaign.
Comeback Player of the Year: Nick Ortiz (Ponce). Just six months shy of his 40th birthday, Ortiz batted .278 with a pair of homers and 10 RBIs in 30 games for Ponce.
Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional
MVP: Ernesto Mejia (Zulia). The Braves farmhand has proven throughout his Minor League career that he can hit, and his performance in Venezuela this winter was no different. After batting .296 with 24 homers and 94 RBIs for Gwinnett to earn Triple-A International League Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, the 27-year-old Mejia paced the Venezuelan Winter League with 16 longballs and 48 RBIs in 61 games with the Aguilas.
Rookie of the Year: Salvador Perez (La Guaira).
Pitcher of the Year: Dwayne Pollok (Zulia). Of the five best ERAs among Venezuelan League starters this winter, four belonged to Zulia hurlers. Only one of them, Pollok, won seven games, however, going 7-2 with a 2.36 mark over a league-high 72 1/3 innings. A 27th-round pick out of Texas A&M by the White Sox in 2003, the 32-year-old right-hander last pitched in affiliated ball with the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate in 2009.
Reliever of the Year: Juan Carlos Gutierrez (Caracas). Gutierrez appeared in 143 games for the Diamondbacks between 2009 and 2011, but suffered a brutal 2012 season in which he posted a 10.45 ERA over 19 games in the Kansas City farm system. After allowing a .348 average against during the regular season, the 29-year-old righty held Venezuelan League hitters to a .158 mark while recording 14 saves and a 0.81 ERA in 24 games for the Leones.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jose Castillo (Anzoategui). A veteran of five Major League seasons with Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston between 2004 and 2008, Castillo has spent the last three summers in Japan and Mexico. The 31-year-old hit .314 for Veracruz in 2012 and followed it up by batting .330 with 45 RBIs in 59 games for the Caribes over the winter.