Monday, December 21st
No. 10 on our Giants list, Mejia continues to plow through winter league innings like an unguarded full pot of asopao as he makes up for starting his season on the suspended list. The stuff, particularly his slider, looked flat earlier in the year after his return, but he was much better in the AFL. Despite his growing girth and the lack of a true swing-and-miss offering, he still commands three above-average pitches and should be just about on the verge of big league-ready by next summer.
The 24-year-old posted the third-worst OPS in the Florida State League last year despite being a year-and-a-half older than the average competition. So why the mention? Well, he stole 71 bases in spite of himself, and if the Marlins ever managed to finagle their way into being playoff contenders, Perez’s top-of-the-scale speed and decent baserunning acumen could find its way onto a postseason roster someday.
Ariel Pena, RHP, Brewers (DWL Tigres del Licey): 3 IP, K
The 26-year-old made his big-league debut in Milwaukee his past season, acquitting himself reasonably enough across five September starts. At his best he’ll run an average four-seamer up there at 91-93 from a high three-quarter slot, with a very good slider that shows good depth and generates swings and missed to complement it. The mechanics are sloppy, however, with a deep arm action and some over-rotation with his hips as he drives. That leads to balance and repeatability issues, and true to form he struggles to consistently command the ball down in the zone despite the nice attack angle he creates. He’ll likely enter the season on the top step of the organizational depth ladder, and should see some starts in Milwaukee as a next man up. It’s unlikely at this point that the command ever sharpens up enough for him to hold down a rotation spot over the long haul, however.
After Hernandez beasted his way through the Cal League in 2014 (I swear he must’ve posted an OPS north of 1.500 in my dozen or so looks at him), the 23-year-old’s weaknesses were exploited mightily by Double-A pitching this past season, leading to his survival of the Rule 5 draft after Houston chose to leave him exposed. There’s rigidity in his wrists as he loads, and the lack of fluidity can compromise his barrel even on pitches he appears to be on. That, coupled with still-lacking pitch recognition, has limited the hit tool development to date. If he can iron out some of the delivery kinks there’s an intriguing power-and-speed combination here, and he has shown an ability to hack it in center (though the team started giving him reps in right this year).
Tuesday, December 22nd
Dayron Varona, OF, Rays (PRWL Gigantes de Carolina): 2-3, BB, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 SB
An unheralded minor league signing by the Rays out of Cuba last May, the 28-year-old Varona offers solid defensive chops and showed at least enough ability with the stick through Double-A last year to warrant attention as organizational outfield depth next year. He boasts decent pop for his size to go along with average-or-better speed, though an aggressive approach and stiff swing may catch up with him against big-league-caliber pitching.
T.J. Rivera, IF, Mets (PRWL Indios de Mayaguez): 2-3, BB, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Have a day, kid. I wrote up the undrafted Rivera recently, and yesterday’s monster game continues to force the issue of his discussion by raising his winter tally up to .315/.390/.479. Rakers gonna rake.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Braves (VWL Leones del Caracas): 9 IP, 2 H, BB, 9 K
Chacin celebrated his recent minor-league contract with the Braves by tossing up one of the most dominant pitching lines you’ll see in the winter leagues this year. He threw 110 pitches on the night, building on a decent showing in a handful of starts down the stretch for Arizona, and further signaling a return to health for his ailing shoulder. If healthy he’ll provide nice depth for the rebuilding Braves and offers potential as a mid-season trade chip.
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