A preview of the Dominican Winter League, taking a look at the teams, stadiums, managers, and players to watch for.
A born batsman discusses what might have been, hitting behind Hank Aaron, and facing the great pitchers of the 1960s.
Our own Carlos J. Lugo is back with his first report from the Dominican, where he breaks down all the stud prospects and tired veterans. Luis Polonia, anyone?
As the Round Robin playoffs start up in the Dominican Winter League, Carlos Lugo checks in with some notable news.
Carlos Lugo checks in from the Dominican Republic with an update on the Winter League.
The ex-Reds second baseman sat down with BP last year.
Current Mets third base coach Manny Acta seemingly came out of nowhere to be a finalist for Arizona’s managerial vacancy. Carlos Lugo sat down with this successful Dominican League manager to learn a bit about his managerial philosophy, his background, and his experience in the Expos organization.
Carlos Lugo sits down with Hall of Famer Juan Marichal to discuss the art of pitching, the origins of his high leg kick, and what a pitcher needs to learn to stay effective.
The Dodgers’ shortstop prospect was BP’s #7 prospect in baseball. He sits down to talk about his career so far, and his hopes for the future.
Our correspondent on the island reviews the top performances and big trades in the Dominican this year.
Our correspondent in the Dominican checks in with updates on some top prospects, some veterans looking to catch on, and if you can believe it, a Carlos Perez sighting.
In our last report, the Round Robin playoffs were in the first week of action and the surprising Cibao Gigantes led the pack with a 4 and 1 record, with the weakening Azucareros in last place with a reversed record of 1 and 4. Meanwhile, the heavily-favored Aguilas and Licey were 3-2 and 2-3 respectively, but both were seemingly moving in opposite directions at the time. The Aguilas had won their last two games against Licey, and Licey had lost their last three, looking flat on the field and on the verge of a prolonged losing streak.
But on January 9th, second baseman Luis Castillo (Marlins) rejoined the club and D’Angelo Jimenez (Reds) was moved to shortstop for the injured Cristian Guzman (Twins), and that night Licey started a nine-game winning streak that virtually catapulted the team to the final series. The streak tied the longest in the history of the Round Robin playoffs, also established by Licey in 1998. The team had solid offensive performances from Eric Byrnes (Athletics) (.375/.434/.563, and a new playoff record 20 RBI), José Offerman (.338/.423/.500), Castillo (.442 OBP), Jimenez (.403 OBP), Timo Perez (Mets), Izzy Alcantara, and at the end of the series, Carlos Peña (Tigers) and Henry Rodriguez, each hitting key home runs in the middle of the winning streak.
On the pitching side, José Jimenez (Indians) won his four starts with a 1.13 ERA, Vladimir Nuñez (Rockies) had a 1.35 ERA in 21 innings, and veteran Rafael Roque was moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation and didn’t allow a single run in two starts. These three pitchers were key, because the Tigers lost Juan Cruz (Cubs) after just two starts with an injured non-throwing hand, and Salomón Torres (Pirates), who battled a severe case of the flu, and managed to pitch just two innings in the semifinals.
In the late 90s, D’Angelo Jiménez was considered one of the best prospects in baseball. Minor league experts ranging from ESPN.com’s John Sickels to BP’s Rany Jazayerli rated Jiménez as a better prospect than Alfonso Soriano, another young infielder in the Yankee system. But in January of 2000, Jiménez suffered severe injuries when his car collided with a bus on a highway in the Dominican. The injuries sustained robbed him the opportunity to compete for a position in the Yankees infield, as Jiménez was coming off big seasons in the Triple-A International and Dominican Winter leagues, and was expected to make the big club that season. He’s since moved through the White Sox and Padres organizations, with both clubs souring on him due to periodic struggles at the plate and on defense. His overall profile remains that of an effective hitter with moderate power and good plate discipline, making Jiménez one of the most underappreciated players in the game. In 2003 he landed in Cincinnati, putting up a solid line of .290/.365/.421 in 290 at-bats with the Reds. This winter in the Dominican the 26-year-old infielder had arguably the best offensive season for a second baseman in the history of the league, winning the batting title (.360), flirting with the single-season OBP record before finishing at .485, and also slugging an even .500, all while playing half his games in a pitcher’s park. Baseball Prospectus recently chatted with Jiménez before a game between the Azucareros del Este and the Licey Tigers.
After the first five games of the Round Robin, the surprising Cibao Giants are in first place with 4 wins and 1 loss. The Aguilas follows with 3 and 2, Licey is 2 and 3, and Azucareros is 1 and 4.
The Tigers won their first two games, but lost two consecutive against the Aguilas over the weekend, in front of full crowds at Santo Domingo and Santiago. Monday’s game at Santiago was a typical classic of these two powerhouses. The Aguilas scored seven runs in the first inning against Randy Keisler and Wilton Chavez, but Licey proceeded to score 10 unanswered runs to take a three-run lead. D’Angelo Jimenez hit a three-run homer off Brett Laxton to crown a five-run rally in the fifth inning, putting the Tigers ahead.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, their defense failed miserably in the last two innings, and the Aguilas scored five runs to win the game 12-11. Jimenez went from hero to goat when he botched a groundball for a potential game-ending double play in the ninth, and after a strike out to pinch-hitter Felix Martinez, Victor Diaz followed with a walk-off two-run double off Guillermo Mota to leave the Tigers on the field.
The Tigers have now lost their last three games while the Aguilas have won their last three.
In 2002, at the tender age of 18, Andy Marte led the Appalachian League in RBI, was second in home runs, and had a composite line of .281/.344/.492. That performance made Marte an interesting prospect to be closely followed in 2003. This past summer in the Carolina League, Marte had another solid performance and jumped to grade-A prospect status. Baseball Prospectus minor league expert David Cameron said that Marte was the player “that most amazed me” in his most recent chat.
Marte is getting regular playing time at the Dominican Winter League as the third baseman of the Azucareros del Este club, and he was kind enough to have a brief conversation with Baseball Prospectus. We interviewed Marte before his team most recent game at the Estadio Tetelo Vargas in San Pedro de Macoris.
With just eight games left on the schedule, the Dominican Winter League is entering in the final and decisive stretch to decide which four teams are going to the playoffs beginning January 2nd. Two teams are already in: the Licey Tigers and the Cibao Eagles and three others are fighting for the final two spots. Two-and-a-half games separate the Giants, Toros and Estrellas, yet the Estrellas are at a marked disadvantage.
Before the season started, there were signals that the team from San Pedro de Macoris was working with a different agenda than the other five ballclubs. Most of their foreign players were from the Japanese League (Masato Yoshii, Takahito Nomura and Brian Mallette) or the Taiwanese League (Jeff Andra). Only three played the whole summer in organized baseball: Greg Bauer, Koyie Hill and J.D. Closser. The clear motives for this curious strategy were economic, as the ballclub was not in the same financial position as the two previous seasons, when their payroll was almost at the same level of the big-market clubs in Santo Domingo and Santiago.