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December 11, 2012

Minor League Update

Struggling Prospects of the Caribbean Winter Leagues

by Jason Martinez

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There were no games on Monday night, so to change things up a bit, I'll take some time to let you know which notable position player prospects are struggling at the plate in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. None of these guys are going to be released by their organization because they're hitting under .200 in December, but there has to be at least a little concern that one of their top minor leaguers isn't hitting in a league devoid of many top pitching prospects. Sure, there are some crafty veterans in these leagues that can be tough on an inexperienced hitter. And many of these young prospects have been playing in games for ten months straight. Fatigue has likely set in. However, there are just as many prospects, if not more, excelling under the same circumstances and the same environment. 

  • Reymond Fuentes, CF, San Diego Padres (Puerto Rico): 8-for-46, 2 2B, 3B, 9 BB, 14 K. The truth is that Fuentes hasn't been very good since the Padres acquired him from the Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez trade two years ago. A strong performance in Puerto Rico could've at least given the organization some hope for the 21 year-old going into 2013. Barring a late-season turnaround, it doesn't look like it'll happen.
  • Avisail Garcia, OF, Detroit Tigers (Venezuela): 8-for-43, 2 2B, 5 BB, 10 K. His 159 games between Hi-A, Double-A, and an impressive stint in the major league regular and post-season probably gives the 21 year-old Garcia a pass. He might just be worn out. On the other hand, he is expected to compete for a major league job in Spring Training as the platoon partner for Andy Dirks in left field. If he continues to struggle in Venezuela, the increasing confidence level he had after the playoffs could take a hit. 
  • Jae-Hoon Ha, OF, Chicago Cubs (Venezuela): 17-for-78, HR, 3 2B, 8 BB, 26 K, 6 SB. The 22 year-old out of South Korea had a so-so season for Double-A Tennessee, posting a .737 OPS in 121 games. He also homered off Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole in the Futures Game back in July. Finishing 2012 on a strong note in Venezuela would've probably given the Cubs' front office a bit more confidence in Ha but the 26 strikeouts in 78 at-bats without any power is hard to hide from your employers, regardless of the league and the time of year.
  • Aaron Hicks, CF, Minnesota Twins (Venezuela): 11-for-54, HR, 2 2B, 8 BB, 17 K, 4 SB. After an 11-for-30 start, Hicks finished his stint with Margarita in early November with a 2-for-24 slump. The Twins must not be too worried because they traded away the top two center fielders on their depth chart weeks later, which gives the 23 year-old switch-hitter a legitimate shot to make the Opening Day roster. 
  • Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Dominican Republic): 6-for-35, 2 2B, 0 BB, 11 K, SB. A 6'4" center fielder with five-tool potential, Polanco's value skyrocketed after a terrific season with Lo-A West Virginia. The 21 year-old, who averaged 56 regular season games between 2009-11, had already played in 116 games in 2012 before heading to the Dominican Republic. After taking a couple weeks off, he returned to the lineup on Sunday and went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. It might be time to shut him down so he can rest up for Hi-A ball in 2013. 
  • Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers (Dominican Republic): 6-for-38, HR, 2B, 4 BB, 7 K. While Profar struggled in 15 games before being shut down with a mild forearm strain, his co-contender for top prospect in baseball, Oscar Taveras (.885 OPS), is having no such problems in the same league and still going strong with 14 hits in his last 37 at-bats. In all fairness, the 19 year-old Profar's season was extended with a September call-up and he even made an appearance in the one-game playoff loss to Baltimore. 
  • Sebastian Valle, C, Philadelphia Phillies (Mexico): 13-for-64, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 23 K. With Carlos Ruiz set to become a free agent after the 2013 season, Valle could be in a position to take over if he has a strong  Triple-A season. The 22 year-old has good power potential and solid defensive skills behind the plate, but his atrocious plate discipline (13 BB, 114 K between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012) might hold him back. If the Phillies were hoping to see some improvement down in Mexico, they'll likely be very disappointed. 

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