Aside from a fairly uneventful game between the Dominican Winter League and Venezuelan Winter League All-Stars, it was another slow night with only two games in Puerto Rico. So let's stick with yesterday's topic — struggling prospects of the Caribbean Winter Leagues — and take a look at five prospects who were terrible last winter, but eased concerns — if there were any at all — by putting up much better numbers during the 2012 regular season.
- Anthony Gose, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Venezuela): 10-for-55, 3B, 6 BB, 11 K, 2 SB. A 2nd Round draft pick by the Phillies in 2008, Gose had hit a total of six homers in 245 minor league games when he was traded in July 2010. During his first full season with the Blue Jays, he homered 16 times in 137 games for Double-A New Hampshire while also showing off the plus-speed (70 SB) he had always been known for. The 154 strikeouts was a major concern, however, and a signal that he could be exposed as he moved up the ladder. As it turns out, the crafty veteran pitchers in the Venezuela were able to take advantage of the holes in his swing and hold him to a .492 OPS over 18 games last offseason. He rebounded with a solid performance in Triple-A (.785 OPS, 34 SB in 102 games), however, earning him his first big league call-up in 2012. And while he wasn't quite ready (.622 OPS in 56 games), the 22 year-old's Venezuelan Winter League struggles are far behind him.
- Billy Hamilton, SS/CF, Cincinnati Reds (Puerto Rico): 7-for-36, 5 BB, 10 K, 6 SB. It only seems like Hamilton just arrived on the prospect radar during his magical, record-setting 2012 season. But the switch-hitting shortstop had crept up to the #3 spot in the Reds' Future Shock rankings before the 2011 season and then went on to post a .700 OPS and steal 103 bases for Lo-A Dayton. A rough offseason stint in Puerto Rico didn't slow him down, fortunately, because he continued to dazzle with his speed and on-base ability during the 2012 regular season. Now, baseball fans can't get enough of Hamilton. His arrival in the majors is highly anticipated. Unfortunately, we'll likely have to wait until 2014 before the 22 year-old, now a center fielder, is the regular leadoff man in Cincinnati.
- Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres (Domincan Republic): 4-for-26, 2B, 4 BB, 11 K. In the case of Liriano, a notorious slow starter once moved to a new league/level, he probably just didn't have enough time to get adjusted last winter. The 21 year-old went on to post a .767 OPS between Hi-A and Double-A in the 2012 regular season, far from spectacular numbers, but scouts are always impressed by the tools and the potential. Those tools were very much on display in the Arizona Fall League (.882 OPS, 6 SB in 22 games), when he finally was at his best from the get-go. Instead of going home for the winter, he joined Licey of the DWL a few weeks ago and went 1-for-14 in five games. Anyone else get the feeling that this slow start business is going to be a trend throughout his career?
- Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Minnesota Twins (Puerto Rico): 9-for-42, 2B, 3B, 5 BB, 4 K. As good as Rosario has been this year, it's hard to believe he wasn't very good in Puerto Rico last offseason. The left-handed hitter, who has bounced between second base and the outfield as the Twins try to find the right fit for him defensively, followed up his poor Puerto Rico Baseball League performance in 2011 with an .835 OPS in 95 games for Lo-A Beloit during the 2012 regular season. He's also tearing the cover off the ball in Puerto Rico this time around. The 21 year-old is third in the league with an .898 OPS in 17 games and recently had a stretch where he had 14 hits in seven games.
- Jonathan Villar, SS, Houston Astros (Dominican Republic): 4-for-36, 5 BB, 15 K, 5 SB. After a pretty good Double-A season in 2011, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the switch-hitting shortstop make the move to Triple-A in 2012. Whether his awful Dominican Winter League performance had anything to do with it is uncertain, but Villar went back to Double-A to continue honing his impressive skills. He had a very similar season to his first with Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a .732 OPS with 11 homers and 39 stolen bases. It's unlikely that three times will be the charm for Villar in Double-A. In 2013, he'll be just 21 years old at the start of his first Triple-A season.
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