One starting pitcher who could have significant interest if he comes out of retirement is 36 year-old Javier Vazquez, who may have been pitching as good as ever when he decided to hang it up after the 2011 season. In the second half of that season, Vazquez had a 2.15 ERA for the Marlins with 16 walks and 96 strikeouts in 96.1 innings pitched. Talk about going out on a high note. But he might not be done yet. According to Peter Gammons, Vazquez could decide if he wants to return after he pitches for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. For now, he's tuning up with his hometown Ponce, where he debuted on Saturday with two shutout innings and four strikeouts against the Atenienses de Manati.
- Enrique Hernandez, IF/OF, Astros (Carolina-PRBL): 6-for-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 SB (4): The Astros' 6th Round pick in 2009, the 21 year-old Hernandez has played primarily second base in the minors but has also spent time at shortstop, third base, and both corner outfield spots. He reached Double-A as a twenty year-old last season and while he struggled there in 23 games (.607 OPS), he's been red hot in Puerto Rico with 13 hits in his last 30 at-bats, including a pair of three-hit games this weekend. 'Kikè;', as he's known, will likely return to Double-A to continue honing his skills as a future super-utilityman.
- â€¨Rey Navarro, IF, Royals (Caguas-PRBL) 6-for-14, 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB, SB (2): Considered somewhat of a sleeper in the Royals' system after being acquired from Arizona in 2010, Navarro has struggled at the plate since reaching Double-A in mid-2011. He's still a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday so it's probably too early to write him off as a solid middle infield prospect. If his 17 Triple-A games to end the regular season (.791 OPS) and his first 16 games in Puerto Rico (.807 OPS) are signs of things to come in 2013, the switch-hitting Navarro could be knocking down the door to the big leagues sometime late in the season.
- Andre Rienzo, RHP, White Sox (La Guaira-VWL): 3 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K: Despite having his 2012 season interrupted by a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, the 24 year-old Brazilian is back on the fast track after finishing strong in Double-A (3.27 ERA, 9.0 K/9 in 13 starts), dazzling in one Triple-A start (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 10 K) and at times in the Arizona Fall League, and now in Venezuela, where he tossed three shutout innings in his debut. He'll also pitch for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic before heading to Spring Training to compete for a rotation spot with the White Sox. The 6'3" right-hander will likely start the season with Triple-A Charlotte, where he'll continue to work on refining his secondary pitches to complement his mid-90's fastball.
- Eddie Rosario, 2B/CF, Twins (Mayaguez-PRBL): 8-for-14, 2 HR, 5 RBI: The 21 year-old is one of those prospects that profiles as good enough offensively for a second baseman or center fielder, but probably not good enough defensively at either position to pencil him into a future Twins lineup. At least not yet. He also lacks the power potential to play a corner outfield spot, which makes him a bit of a 'tweener for now. Regardless, the #6 prospect on Minnesota's Top Prospect Rankings has been playing right field for Mayaguez, where he showed plenty of power, homering twice and knocking in five while collecting eight hits to boost his average to .348.
- Dave Sappelt, OF, Cubs (Margarita-VWL): 6-for-12, HR (2), 2B, 4 RBI, BB: You better believe that Sappelt knows, at least for the time being, the starting center field gig in Chicago is wide open and he's hoping the front office brass has been paying attention to his recent hot streak in Venezuela. The 25 year-old, acquired from the Reds with Travis Wood for Sean Marshall last December, had a disappointing organizational debut, posting a .690 OPS in 133 Triple-A games after putting up big numbers in the league the previous two seasons. Sappelt finished strong, however, with an .800 OPS during a late-season cup of coffee. If the Cubs can somehow go the entire offseason without acquiring a starting center fielder — for what it's worth, I think they will — Sappelt could get a shot at extended playing time early in the season.
- Santos Rodriguez, LHP, White Sox (Escogido-DWL): 2 IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, 2 K. A hard-throwing lefty who stands 6-foot-6 inches tall, Rodriguez had a hard time finding the strike zone in the Arizona Fall League (11.1 IP, 10 BB, 13 K). But there's a reason the 24 year-old reliever was recently added to the White Sox's 40-man roster. Aside from the fact that he's a left-handed pitcher who throws really hard, the 24 year-old is coming off of a stellar season, holding opposing hitters to a .164 batting average between 64 innings in Double-A and 7.1 innings in Triple-A while striking out 69 and walking 35. Nathan Jones and Donnie Veal were breakthrough performers out the bullpen last season. Rodriguez is a candidate to do so in 2013 and he's trying to finish strong in 2012 now that he's joined Escogido.
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