Ten Players Who Helped Their Stock In Winter Ball
It is never wise to read too much into what a player does in winter ball. The sample size is small, the competition level can vary significantly and sometimes players never get into a rhythm after taking time off when the minor league season ends in September.
Yet there is information that scouts can glean from how a player does in winter ball, be it a player who has only played in the low minors standing out against more advanced players than he's faced in the past. Here are 10 players who helped themselves with strong showings this winter.
1. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals:
Taveras has few doubters in the scouting community. His high-intensity swing works for him because his bat stays in the zone a long time and he has excellent hand-eye coordination, which helps him make plenty of contact. Last year his power also broke out, making him a nightmare for pitchers in the Double-A Texas League. Taveras continued to show that he's a National League rookie of the year threat—if the Cardinals give him enough playing time, that is—by hitting .316/.379/.507 in 152 at-bats for the Aguilas in the Dominican League, good for second in the league in hitting and third in slugging.
2. Eddie Rosario, of/2b, Twins:
Rosario has split time between the outfield and second base, but his bat is his calling card. He built on a strong year in the low Class A Midwest League by hitting .338/.386/.496 in 133 at-bats in the Puerto Rican League with Mayaguez, good for second in the league in hitting and fourth in slugging. Scouts have questions about whether Rosario has the defensive chops to play an up-the-middle position—he played mostly right field in Puerto Rico—but his hit tool is impressive.
3. Adonis Garcia, of, Yankees:
The Yankees signed Garcia for $400,000 last year, and while he's already 27, there's a good chance he's going to reach the big leagues. Garcia played center field and hit .292/.319/.481 playing for Mayaguez in Puerto Rico, where he outshined his teammate, $42 million Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. Garcia is a better fit on a corner outfield spot and doesn't have an impact bat, but he's shown a knack for hitting and surprising pop for his 5-foot-9 stature, as his six home runs were tied for second in the league.
4. Jean Segura, ss, Brewers:
The best player in Milwaukee's haul in the Zack Greinke deal last July, Segura's bat looked soft in 44 big league games with the Brewers last year. Still 22, Segura's hit tool is more advanced than he showed last year, and he gave a taste of that this winter for the Gigantes by leading the Dominican League in batting average while hitting .324/.379/.426 in 148 at-bats. Segura has excellent feel for the barrel, which he showed by striking out just 16 times in winter ball.
5. Jose Ramirez, 2b, Indians:
At 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Ramirez is neither physically imposing nor a threat to mash one out of the park, but he has excellent speed and seems to hit everywhere he goes. After a strong year at the plate in the Midwest League, Ramirez finished third in the Dominican League in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage by hitting .312/.389/.362 in 141 at-bats for the Toros, a stern test for the 20-year-old against pitchers far more advanced than he's usually faced.
6. Marcell Ozuna, of, Marlins:
Strikeouts are always going to be an issue for Ozuna, though he made progress in cutting down some of his swing-and-misses in 2012. He had some contact issues this winter in the Dominican League playing for the Gigantes, as his 46 strikeouts were tied for the most in the league. Yet the 22-year-old also showed off his tantalizing raw power, launching nine home runs—tied for the league lead—for a .236/.289/.460 line in 174 at-bats.
7. Evan Gattis, of/c, Braves:
Gattis is as far from typical as prospects come, so it's hard to know what to make of the 26-year-old masher at this point. In only his second year of full season ball, Gattis raked his way up through Double-A Mississippi, then hit .303/.365/.595 with 16 home runs (tied for the most in the Venezuelan League) in 195 at-bats for the Aguilas. Gattis mostly served as Zulia's DH and played occasionally in left field, but it's his bat that's so intriguing.
8. Starling Marte, of, Pirates:
Marte had a big-time season for Escogido, hitting .304/.381/.464 in 112 at-bats while playing center field, a position he has the speed and arm strength to play but doesn't have the spot open to do so in Pittsburgh thanks to Andrew McCutchen. Then Marte went bonkers in the postseason by hitting .422/.481/.756 with four home runs in 11 games. If the Pirates have hope of contending in 2013, Marte will likely be key reason.
9. Alex Torres, lhp, Rays:
Torres has been plagued by inconsistency—or just downright poor pitching—over the last year. He showed flashes of brilliance this winter in the Venezuelan League, striking out out 14 of the 22 batters he faced in one game for the Aguilas, but he also finished with a pedestrian 4.48 ERA in 60 innings. His 86 strikeouts were the most in the league by a wide margin, but Torres needs to show he can throw more strikes before he's ready to make the jump from Triple-A to Tampa Bay.
10. Deolis Guerra, rhp, Twins:
Could the Twins finally salvage something out of Guerra? With a little more than a year of experience as a full-time reliever, Guerra had his ups and downs as a 23-year-old with Triple-A Rochester last year, but he had a strong winter for the Navegantes in the Venezuelan League, posting a 31-5 K-BB mark in 25 innings with a 3.81 ERA that shot up after he got hit around in his final outing. The ceiling here is limited, but Guerra might not be a total bust after all.