Nine MLB Prospects Who Starred In Winter Ball


Image credit: (Photo Jesus Aguilar/Getty Images)

The 2023-2024 winter ball season has largely headed into the postseason. Leagues in the Dominican Republic. Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela are all now in postseason play, with only the Australian Baseball League still playing regular season games among the largest winter ball leagues.

So now that we’re in 2024, we can take a look at nine prospects who impressed in winter ball. This list is very hitter heavy, as the leagues themselves are almost completely bereft of young pitching prospects. In most cases, MLB teams are extremely reluctant to let young pitching prospects to pitch in winter ball these days.

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Junior Caminero, 3B, Escogido (Rays)

Caminero’s Dominican winter league season was a brief one. He played in 21 games, the last coming on Dec. 1. But in only 94 plate appearances, Caminero had five home runs and 11 extra-base hits while primarily playing third base. He posted a .333/.362/.575 slash line and his five home runs were tied for third most in the league.

As is usually the case for Caminero, he demonstrated all-fields power. One of his five home runs was a monster shot to center field, and another was a line drive down the right field line. Caminero was already considered one of the best prospects in baseball. His stint in winter ball just offered another reminder of why.

Julio Carreras, SS, Gigantes (Rockies)

Carreras is the wild card of this list. He’s not a prominent prospect (he’s never cracked the top 15 on the Rockies’ Top 30 Prospects list), and he’s coming off a year where he hit .238/.324/.340 between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque. But Carreras finished second in the rookie of the year voting in the Dominican winter league. Carreras hit .304/.388/.461 with 17 steals in 18 attempts in just 28 games played. Carreras has never stolen 20 bases in a MiLB season, so that was a surprising number. He also showed better power than he’s shown in the minors.

Jackson Chourio, OF, Zulia (Brewers)

All of Chourio’s games came early in the Venezuelan winter league season. He didn’t play in a game after Nov. 18. But Chourio made an impact in the 17 games he played. Chourio hit .379/.453/.530 with five doubles, a triple, a home run and three steals in 75 plate appearances.

Chourio started a little slow, with three hits in his first 15 plate appearances. But he hit .415 over his final 13 games and had as many three-hit games (five) as hitless games (five).

Rafael Marchan, C, Aragua (Phillies)

Marchan made his MLB debut for the Phillies in 2020 and played 20 games for the Phillies in 2021, but he’s spent all of the past two years in the minors when he hasn’t been battling injuries (a hamate fracture cost him two months of the 2023 season). Marchan has had much less trouble establishing himself this winter in Venezuela.

He hit .333/.436/.546 for Aragua with 15 extra-base hits and more walks (16) than strikeouts (11) in 133 plate appearances. Marchan has developed into a winter ball star. He also hit .361 for La Guaira last winter.

Brayan Rocchio, SS, La Guaira (Guardians)

Rocchio is getting ready to turn 23, but he’s already a long-term fixture up the middle for La Guaira in the Venezuelan winter league. Rocchio’s 77 plate appearances weren’t enough to qualify him for the batting title, but he hit .377/.457/.541 with seven doubles, a home run and six walks compared to eight strikeouts. Rocchio has also been a relatively reliable and smooth-fielding shortstop for La Guaira.

Hector Rodriguez, OF, Escogido (Reds)

Rodriguez was named the LIDOM rookie of the year. He hit .309/.344/.487 with 17 extra-base hits including a league-best four triples.

Rodriguez has continued to hit wherever he goes. He’s a career .304/.355/.501 minor league hitter. Once considered a speedster, Rodriguez swiped four bags in seven tries in winter ball, and he’s more and more looking like a bat-first outfielder who can run rather than a speedster who can hit a little.

Rodriguez’s approach is exceptionally aggressive. According to Synergy Sports data, Rodriguez swung at 60% of pitches in winter ball. But as of yet, Rodriguez’s swing-at-everything approach has worked for him. Maybe it will eventually derail him, but so far, it hasn’t.

Ronny Simon, 2B/SS, Toros Del Este (Rays)

Simon has played for the Toros in each of the past three winter league seasons, but this was his first extensive playing time in the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League (LIDOM). Simon led the league with a .323 batting average and also led the league with a .432 on-base percentage. His five home runs were also tied for third most in the league.

Simon made it to Triple-A Durham for the Rays in 2023. He still has some work to do to find a path to the big leagues in an organization stacked with upper-level middle infielders, but he is proving to be a relatively versatile infielder with solid power and the ability to steal a base.

Zac Veen, OF, Ponce (Rockies)

We’re dealing with the smallest of small samples with Veen. The entirety of his stint in the Puerto Rican winter league was nine games. But Veen really hit in those nine games. Playing left field, Veen hit .429/.478/.619. It’s hard to put too much weight in a nine-game sample, but it’s worth highlighting for a prospect whose 2023 season was cut short by a significant wrist injury.

Cole Winn, RHP, Caguas (Rangers)

Winn is the exceptionally rare example of a pitching prospect who got more than a couple of innings in winter ball. Coming off a best-forgotten 9-8, 7.22 season with Triple-A Round Rock, Winn made six starts in the Puerto Rican winter league, going 2-0, 2.63 with 16 hits allowed, 10 walks and 24 strikeouts in 24 innings. Winn’s 93-94 mph fastball and power slider generally worked well in his brief winter ball stint, which offers hope for a 2024 turnaround.

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