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Aguila is thriving in winter ball


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As with other teams, the Marlins use baseball's Winter Leagues either to groom players for an impending breakthrough into the Major Leagues or as a tool to further introduce younger players to the fundamentals and rigors of the game. They're doing both this winter.


The Marlins have eight players performing right now, spread over three countries. The only one with Major League experience is Chris Aguila, an outfielder who received 78 at-bats for the Marlins last season. Aguila, playing for Gigantes in the Dominican Republic, hit .244 with four RBIs and 11 runs scored. But over his last four games, he was 5-for-11 with two RBIs.


"He was a starter all through the Minor Leagues, and all of a sudden he's in the Major Leagues and he doesn't play every day," said Jim Fleming, the Marlins' vice president of player development and scouting. "So he's not getting the 500 at-bats we were giving him in the Minors. Now we can send him down there and supplement some of those at-bats. That's the whole purpose of having him down there."


One of Aguila's Gigantes teammates is right-handed pitcher Jeff Fulchino, who was 11-7 with a 5.06 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque last season. The ERA looks a bit high, but the Marlins are mindful where Fulchino played. Albuquerque has high elevation and a hitter-friendly ballpark, similar to Denver's Coors Field.


"He had a good year," Fleming said. "He's approaching the big leagues now, so we're trying to give him more expanded experience against high quality players, to get him ready to pitch in the big leagues."


Added Brian Chattin, the Marlins' director of player development, about Fulchino: "He's a durable right-hander who may have a chance [of sticking with the Marlins next season]."


Three players are in Puerto Rico, headed by Rafael Galbizo, a right-handed reliever who is with Caguas. A Cuban defector who went through last year's draft, Galbizo is considered a promising prospect. Chattin believes it noteworthy that Caguas management had heard such good things about Galbizo that it sought him out, despite most rosters being heavily dotted with Puerto Rican natives.


"He had a good first year," Fleming said, "but he joined us late, so he didn't get a lot of innings. That's why we want to supplement that year with winter ball."


Others in Puerto Rico are right fielder Angel Molina, playing with Ponce, and first baseman-designated hitter Juan Figueroa, with Mayaguez. Molina spent most of last season in high-A ball, but played regularly for the last month in Double-A. Figueroa started at high-A, then was dropped to low-A, where he performed so well that he was promoted back to high-A.


"Angel is a nice offensive talent," Chattin said. "If you look at his career, he's always been able to produce runs."


The three players in Venezuela -- right-handed starter Carlos Faria and catcher Freddy Smolarski, both with Pastora, and right-handed reliever Mauro Zarate, with Caracas -- are all early in their pro careers.


Last season, the Marlins had a surprise late addition to their Venezuelan contingent when left fielder/third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who's developed into one of the Major Leagues' top hitters, played the last month of the season. Chattin said it hasn't yet been determined if Cabrera will play there again this season.



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A .244 average doesn't sound thriving to me.



The article is written badly - he hit .244 with the Marlins last year. The article never actually mentions his stats...


Aguila, playing for Gigantes in the Dominican Republic, hit .244 with four RBIs and 11 runs scored. But over his last four games, he was 5-for-11 with two RBIs.


I guess 5-11 constitutes thriving?

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