2013 Top Ten Prospects in Dominican Winter League

It is a bit slow in the baseball world other than the Caribbean, Australia and Cuba.  Myworld even went outside our comfort zone and attended a hockey game and a college basketball game last week.  It confirms myworld is not a big fan of hockey when the most exciting events that happened during the game were the three fights.  The basketball game was OK.  We’ve always kind of liked basketball.

Myworld gets a little tired of just putting together league updates so for this post we thought we’d identify the top ten prospects playing in the Dominican Winter League.  These players would still have to be considered rookies for 2013, so that would leave out Jurickson Profar and Jonathan Villar.  They would also have to have some significant playing time on their Dominican team, leaving out players like Miguel Sano.  Pitchers are tough to find in the winter leagues because teams don’t like to push their arms after a full minor league season.  Only those who need innings because of injuries are allowed to pitch in the winter leagues.

1. Gregory Polanco OF (Escogido/Pittsburgh Pirates) - The five tool outfielder had a break out season in 2012 hitting .325 with 16 homeruns.  He proved that was not a fluke in 2013 with a .285 average and 12 homeruns, rising three levels to AAA.  The Florida State league may have sapped some of his power numbers and AA may have been a bit too much for him at 22.  He did have a 36/36 walk to whiff ratio, but his .407 slugging percentage was a steep drop from last year.  He has the range for centerfield and the arm for right, but with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte currently patrolling the Pirate outfield he will probably shift to right.  It will result in one of the best defensive outfields in baseball.  In winter ball he started out strong, but his average has dropped to .296.  In the large parks they play in there he still leads Escogido in homeruns, runs scored and RBIs.  His 22 walks also give him a .409 OBA.

2. Gary Sanchez C (Toros/New York Yankees) - It is tough for young catchers to get a lot of playing time in the winter leagues since they do not consider themselves a developmental league.  Gary has only played in 12 games and gotten 28 at bats.  His struggles at the plate (.179) prevent him from getting more opportunities.  His defense has improved to the extent he won’t be another Jesus Montero, but he won’t win any gold gloves behind the plate either.  In 2013 his hitting tailed off, especially his power when compared to 2012.  Both his average (.253) and slugging percentage (.412) were down.  If he doesn’t make it as a catcher his other option is as a first baseman and his 2013 numbers won’t do offensively for that position.

3. Domingo Santana OF (licey/Houston Astros) - At 6′5″ he reminds you a lot of Dominic Brown and Justin Maxwell.  One seems to have broken out from his prospect status while the other has turned into a journeyman outfielder.  That kind of height makes scouts drool but the challenge with that length is a longer strike zone.  Pitchers can play a lot with the space they are given.  Domingo has the tools to play right field for the Astros, but the Astros have a lot of options in the minors percolating through their system.  Last year Domingo hit .302 with 23 homeruns.  This year he hit more homeruns (25) but his batting average was much lower (.252).  His strikeout rate remained the same so it was not because of a lack of contact.  In winter ball he hit .244 with 19 whiffs in 17 games.  He hit two homeruns.

4. Maikel Franco 3B (Gigantes/Philadelphia Phillies) - He showed some tremendous power last year with 31 homeruns.  For a power hitter he also showed an ability to make contact, striking out only 70 times in over 500 at bats.  Many question whether he will have the defensive chops to play third base.  The Phillies already have a young player in Cody Asche playing the position in the major leagues.  Cody is a much better defensive player than Maikel but doesn’t hit for nearly the power.  In the winter leagues Maikel has not been able to show much power.  He only has one homerun to show for his 31 games and over 100 at bats.  His .330 slugging percentage is crafted more by defensive shortstops, not slugging third baseman.  The parks in the Dominican Republic usually restrict the number of homerun balls hit in the league, but Maikel hit 16 in 65 games in the Florida State League.

5. Christian Bethancourt C (Licey/Atlanta Braves) - With his current defense, give him the bat of Gary Sanchez and he would be an All Star catcher in the National league.  His glove is gold glove caliber, though sometimes his motivation to play can make him look shoddy at times.  Last year he hit a solid .277 with 12 homeruns in 90 games, good enough to make his major league debut, though it was only one at bat.  In the Dominican his bat has softened to .188 in 50 at bats.  With starting catcher Brian McCann departed as a free agent Christian has an opportunity to take over the starting catching job.  All he has to do is beat out Evan Gattis, a player who he is much better than defensively, but far less proficient with the bat.

6. Alexander Guerrero SS (Gigantes/Los Angeles Dodgers) - He has had some trouble staying healthy in the winter league.  Playing in Cuba he usually played second fiddle when the national team was selected to recently defected Erisbel Arruebarruena, who was a much better defensive shortstop.  That may be why the Dodgers have plans to move Alexander to second base, though they may decide his glove is better than Hanley Ramirez.  At second base he would be considered an offensive secondbaseman.  It is unclear how well he can make the pivot, but he should not have any problem with the arm.  In his 14 at bats with the Gigantes he is hitting .429 with one homerun.  He should be recovering from his hamstring problems to take the field next week.

7. Leury Garcia SS (Gigantes/Texas Rangers) - With the health of Guerrero returning the playing time for Garcia may be reduced.  He has the ability to play shortstop, but he has been playing second base for Gigantes.  The Rangers have a surplus of middle infielders so at this point the best he can hope for is a utility player role, until he or one of the other middle infielders is traded.  He doesn’t hit for the power of Jurickson Profar and he could be a clone of Elvis Andrus without the experience of playing in the major leagues.  Last year he only hit .198 in a little over 100 at bats in the major leagues with just two extra base hits.  In the winter league with Gigantes he has three extra base hits in close to 100 at bats.  

8. Jorge Polanco 2B (Escogido/Minnesota Twins) - Last year he had a nice break out year hitting .308 with 32 doubles in over 500 plate appearances.  This should shoot him up in a very talented Twins top ten prospect list.  He started out as a shortstop but his range is better suited for second base where he is playing for Escogido.  As he matures some of those 32 doubles could fly over the fence, giving him potential for double digit homerun production, though he will never be considered a slugger.  He also won’t steal a lot of bases.  With his experience at shortstop if he doesn’t hit enough to play second he could always make it as a utility player.  In the winter league he is hitting .336, putting together a six game streak of getting two or more hits in a game for a 14 for 20 pace.

9. Tommy Joseph C (Estrellas/Philadelphia Phillies) - He was one of the players the Phillies acquired for Hunter Pence.  After the trade he appeared to surpass Sebastion Valle on the catching depth chart, but myworld was also impressed with Cameron Rupp.  Joseph was bothered by injuries last year, being sidelined mostly with concussion symptoms.  He barely got 100 at bats and only hit .179.  This is a far cry from his offensive potential.  His defense also suffered a bit, especially his ability to throw out runners.  The 2014 season will be an important one for him.  For Estrellas he is only hitting .192 in 26 at bats, continuing to show a lack of patience with 10 strikeouts and no walks.  Carlos Ruiz will not catch forever for the Phillies.  Either Valle, Rupp or Joseph needs to take over.

10. Allen Webster RHP (Escogido/Boston Red Sox) - He is the only pitcher considered a prospect in the Dominican League.  He also got lit up in his five starts there (6.11) with the opposition hitting him at a .319 clip.  It kind of reminds fans of his seven start performance in the major leagues (8.60) where the opposition hit him for a .308 average.  He got lit up for seven homeruns in the major leagues where in the Dominican he kept every pitch in the park.  He is a better pitcher than those showings.  A lack of command was at fault for his poor outings and the Red Sox have to hope he can recover it with a little more seasoning in AAA.             

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