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Prospects

Cristhian Adames, SS, Rockies (Toros del Este): .353/.426/.473, 4 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 18 BB/19 K in 167 AB.
Adames generally does a nice job making contact, and does so without an extremely aggressive approach, so it’s not shocking to see him go on runs like this where he strings together high averages with lots of balls in play. The lack of power in his game limits his upside, and though he’s shown more extra-base thump this winter than in his minor-league career, there’s not much reason to believe there’s a lot of punch in his bat long term. Still, his ability to put the bat on the baseball and possibly handle all three infield positions makes him a valuable bench candidate.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Gigantes del Cibao): .272/.335/.469, 8 2B, 7 HR, 14 BB/34 K in 147 AB.
We have to be careful about putting much stock in winter league numbers, but a power display from Franco is always a positive for the Phillies prospect, who is expected to take on a bigger role in the majors this season. It’s also nice to see Franco, who had a 5.4 percent walk rate in the minors this season (and one walk in 54 major-league plate appearances), be a little more patient at the plate, even if it’s in a small sample. We’ve seen Franco get scorching hot before, and his ability to do so is what makes him a top prospect, but he’s streaky and can get exposed when he’s overly aggressive. He’ll always be a flawed hitter, prone to hot and cold streaks and dogged by a low on-base percentage, but if his hot streaks last long enough and he hits for power, he’ll be plenty productive.

Domingo Santana, OF, Astros (Tigres del Licey): .284/.400/.422, 7 2B, 4 3B, 0 HR, 17 BB/44 K in 109 AB
Striking out in 14 of 18 plate appearances to start a big-league career is the epitome of a worst nightmare, but Ks are always going to be a part of Santana’s career as a major-league hitter. He’s simply going to whiff a lot. He’s tall and has holes in his swing, and pitchers will expose them. Even when he hits, he strikes out, as evidenced by 44 strikeouts in 109 at-bats this winter. The question for Santana will be whether or not he can do enough damage in between strikeouts to justify playing time.

Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins (Leones del Escogido): .326/.412/.472, 4 2B, 3 3B, HR, 12 BB/15 K in 89 AB.
Polanco was thrown to the major -eague wolves for five games this season because of 40-man roster issues, but was not ready. He was sent to Double-A (a promotion from High-A Fort Myers) upon his return to the minors, and he held his own but was still slightly overmatched. There’s not much power in his game and he’s best suited for second base, not shortstop. Still, his bat skills and plate control could be enough to let him play regularly.

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (Leones del Escogido): .265/.351/.361, 3 2B, 3B, HR, 17 BB/33 K in 83 AB.
Remember last year when Pederson played in Venezuela and walked 36 times in 34 games? That was surreal. It’s a part of Pederson’s game, and it has its pros and cons. The added value of getting on base gives him a safety net in case he doesn’t hit as well as many expect, but it also leads to high strikeout totals, which plagued him in his limited major-league playing time. Typically, the pop and plate discipline are adequate to compensate for the punch outs. With little left to prove in the minors and space being cleared for him in the Dodgers outfield, it looks like this winter is Pederson’s last opportunity to ready himself for his first real big-league test.

Notable Youngsters

Arismendy Alcantara, CF, Cubs (Tigres del Licey): .324/.395/.544, 2B, 3B, 4 HR, 7 BB/15 K in 68 AB.
Alcantara isn’t playing every day this winter and it seems he’s playing as much infield as outfield, but that may be good preparation for his future with the Cubs. Most, myself included, still believe he can play every day and will lock down center field this season, but even if he doesn’t firmly entrench himself as many expect, he’ll have a long career on a big-league roster. Given the Cubs Rubik’s Cube of potential position players, Alcantara’s versatility gives them tons of options, and he should hit enough to play regularly, perhaps at multiple positions.

Leury Garcia, 2B, White Sox (Gigantes del Cibao): .354/.455/.427 4 2B, 3B, 0 HR, 16 BB/11 K in 82 AB.
There wasn’t much blocking Garcia with the White Sox this season, yet he didn’t do anything to establish himself despite getting playing time. His track record doesn’t do much else to make us think he’ll hit enough to be an everyday player either, but his glove and speed are enough for him to have a nice big-league career.

Other

Manny Ramirez (yes, that Manny Ramirez): .313/.409/.510, 11 2B, 6 HR, 19 BB/28 K in 147 AB. No he’s not coming back (at least I don’t think he is, but it’s Manny, so who knows), but it just goes to show you how much the former star loves playing the game and just how good he once was. It also probably says something about the level of competition in winter ball, considering he hit just .222 this season as a player/coach, but I’m choosing to ignore that part because it’s fun to think about Manny playing well again and driving the crowd wild.

Thank you for reading

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sam19041
12/22
Thanks for the update, Jeff. In addition to positional versatility, it seems Arismendy Alcantara has shown some real pop beyond what people expected. Amazing given his size and frame, but it no longer looks like a fluke.
Infrancoeurgible
12/22
He is Manny Minoso
cubzrule
12/23
Love this guy. Hope and think he'll be the Cubs' starting CF for years to come. Power, speed, good glove, sweet-looking swing (at least from the left side). Struggled a little in the majors last year -- but how many 22 year olds (not to mention middle infielders/CF's) held down a regular MLB starting spot? One question: his splits last year were much better as a RH batter, but previously, consistently better from the left side. Now, in winter ball (admittedly small sample size), he's back to mashing as a LH bat. Any thoughts?
cubzrule
12/23
also, any significance to mendy playing 2B and baez playing ss in winter leagues?