The ultimate showdown of premier outfield prospects in the Dominican Winter League happened on Wednesday night when Starling Marte's Leones del Escogido faced off against Oscar Taveras' Aguilas Cibaenas. Of course, neither player disappointed. The 24 year-old Marte had three hits, including a double and a three-run triple while the 20 year-old Taveras had a double, two singles, and a walk. What? You want to know who won the game? It doesn't really matter. Every fan who was in the stands wins because they got to see Marte and Taveras before they were stars on the same field as former big league greats Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejeda. Incidentally, the two veterans who have 18 All-Star selections between them, each had a pair of hits.
- â€¨Ivan De Jesus, Jr., IF, Red Sox (Manati-PRBL): 4-for-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI, K. The 25 year-old, who made it as high as #2 on the Dodgers' Future Shock Top Prospects list heading into the 2009 season, appeared to be on the fast track to the majors with his above-average plate discipline, ability to spray line drives all over the field, and a very high baseball intelligence. After missing most of the 2010 season with a fractured leg, he's returned to post three consecutive decent seasons in Triple-A but his BB/K rates haven't been as impressive and whatever stolen base ability he had prior to the injury (54 SB from 2005-2008) is all but gone (13 SB from 2010-12). He's also struggled in big league stints (15-for-73, 5 BB, 24 K) over the past two seasons and recently went unclaimed on waivers after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox. No longer on a 40-man roster, he'll once again try and prove that he belongs in a big league uniform. His .356 batting average over his first 45 at-bats in Puerto Rico is a good start.
- Gorkys Hernandez, OF, Marlins (Anzoategui-VWL): 3-for-5, RBI, SB (9). If the Marlins stand pat with a current starting outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Ruggiano, and Juan Pierre, then Hernandez has a very good chance of a regular gig as Pierre's platoon partner against left-handed pitching. OK, so his .159 BA (10-for-63) against lefties during his rookie campaign makes that statement look kind of silly. But the 25 year-old has had success against lefties in the minors and he's 8-for-16 with five walks against them so far in Venezuela. Small sample, yes. But it also helps that he covers a ton of ground in the outfield and can wreak havoc on the base paths.
- Johnny Monell, C, Giants (Caguas-PRBL): 3-for-4, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, K. Let's face it. Being a catching prospect in the San Francisco Giants' organization means you're either working towards a future gig as Buster Posey's backup or auditioning for other teams. The 26 year-old Monell just completed his second season with Double-A Richmond, where he posted a .794 OPS in 108 games and gunned down 34% of opposing base stealers. As a left-handed hitting catcher with some pop (57 HR in six seasons), on-base skills (.348 OBP), and ability to control the running game, Monell has some value. In fact, he's probably next in line behind Posey and Hector Sanchez, should the Giants need another catcher for any reason in 2013.
- Rafael Ortega, OF, Rockies (La Guaira-VWL): 2-for-3, 2 2B, BB, SB (2). The #10 prospect in the recently-released Top Prospect list for the Rockies, Ortega made the jump all the way from Hi-A when he got the call to the big leagues with only a few games left in the 2012 season. The 21 year-old wasn't overwhelmed either, reaching base four times on an infield single, bunt single, walk, and hit by pitch in his big league debut. He also flashed his plus-plus speed with his first major league stolen base. He'll likely start the 2013 season in Double-A Tulsa where he'll continue to work on his offensive game and the Rockies will find out if he can be their 'Center Fielder of the Future'.
- Kevin Slowey, RHP, Free Agent (Este-DWL): 3 IP, ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 5 K. Hey, remember this guy? Slowey was once the definition of a solid, but unspectacular starting pitcher, posting a 39-21 record and 4.41 ERA over his first four big league seasons with the Twins. He went 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA during an injury-plagued 2011 season, was traded to the Rockies the following December, and then traded to the Indians in January. He never pitched a game for the Tribe, making just eight Triple-A starts before being shut down with a lat strain. Now a free agent after being outrighted off the 40-man roster last month, you better believe teams are keeping tabs on the 28 year-old down in the Dominican Republic, where he was impressive in his debut.
- Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves (Licey-DWL): 5.2 IP, 0 R, H, BB, 4 K. Now that the Braves have landed center fielder B.J. Upton with a five-year, $75.25 million free agent deal, there are rumblings that they could be looking to acquire another outfielder via the trade route. In order to land an impact bat, guess what opposing teams will be asking for in return. If you said 'starting pitching prospects with top-of-the-rotation potential', you would be correct. Teheran is that potential top-of-the-rotation guy teams will be asking about in trade talks and the Braves have enough pitching depth to pull it off. He's been inconsistent but he's still just 21 years old and still has great stuff, which will translate into dominant performances on occasion. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Teheran is no longer an Atlanta Brave by mid-December.
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