Winter Ball Notebook: Ranking the top performers
The winter ball season is almost officially over for Cleveland Indians players after Navegantes del Magallanes clinched the Venezuelan Winter League Series with an 11-9 win over Cardenales de Lara on Wednesday.
The Caribbean Series is set to start today with Venezuela facing off against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico facing Mexico.
Two Indians will be competing in the series, including Jose Ramirez (Dominican Republic) and Rob Bryson (Puerto Rico). Ezequiel Carrera (Venezuela) was expected to be playing in the series, but Navegantes del Magallanes decided to basically replace their entire roster, so he will not be part of the team.
While it will be very interesting to watch these three players in the coming days, it would be difficult to devote an entire notebook next week to just three players. So, alas, this will be the final Winter Ball Notebook.
However, have no fear. Next week, a brand new Spring Training Notebook will debut in its place.
Plus, since this is the last Winter Ball Notebook of the year, that means we must go out with a bang. Everybody loves a nice countdown, so that’s exactly whet we’re going to do.
A listing of the top Indians winter performers will follow. All Indians players that competed in either the Arizona Fall League, Dominican Winter League, Venezuelan Winter League, Puerto Rican Winter League or Australian Baseball League are eligible.
So, without further ado, here is my listing of the top ten Indians performers in winter ball this season. Key statistics will be listed next to each player, but full statistics are also available for each player at the bottom of the notebook if you would like more of a reference point.
Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT A RANKING OF PROSPECTS. A player’s prospect status did not factor into the listing. The three primary pieces of information used when judging a player were: games played, overall statistics and team performance (how much did a player’s performance benefit the overall team).
Barely Missed the Cut
Edward Paredes (Aguilas Cibaenas): His ERA of 1.31 in 39 games and 20 2/3 innings is nice, but he loses points for the fact that he walked more batters (13) than he struck out (11).
Alex Monsalve (Scottsdale Scorpions): It’s hard not to love his line of .340/.360/.447, but it came in only 13 AFL games, which ultimately hurt his chances at making this list.
Asdrubal Cabrera (Leones del Caracas): He started out very hot, but he slowed down significantly toward the end of his season with his average sitting at .267 in 26 games. That number should definitely be higher in the VWL for a Major League hitter of his caliber.
Matt Langwell (Gigantes de Carolina): Langwell was great all year as evidenced by his sparkling 1.13 ERA, but he unfortunately only appeared in 13 games, which was just not enough to warrant inclusion on this list.
Giovanni Soto (Gigantes de Carolina): See Matt Langwell.
Eric Berger (Bravos de Margarita): Berger had a nice ERA of 3.00, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. He allowed 24 unearned runs as opposed to just 15 earned runs. It can be argued those runs aren’t his fault, but sometimes a pitcher has to be the one to pick his defense up.
The Top 10 Indians Performers in Winter Ball
10. Andrew Campbell (Brisbane Bandits): 42 G, .275/.355/.758, 4 HR, 12 RBI. Campbell really had a strong season in the ABL this winter and was really one of the most consistent Indians performers. He played basically every day and was one of the prime reasons as to why Brisbane almost made the postseason. The key for Campbell is to now translate that success over stateside. You would like to believe he could make the transition because this was one of the few instances that he had consistent playing time in his professional career. Although he did also have success last season in limited playing time the ABL, which did not translate to professional success stateside, so it’s hard to really draw any conclusions here.
9. Juan Diaz (Estrellas de Oriente): 44 G, .244/.272/.351, 2 HR, 14 RBI. Diaz’s numbers may not be pretty at first glance, but there is more than meets the eye here. While he will never be an offensive juggernaut, he is still an outstanding fielder that remained true this winter. Diaz provided quality shortstop play nearly every day for Estrellas de Oriente. For his efforts, he received the Gold Glove award at shortstop in the DWL. As we all know, shortstop is one of the most difficult positions to field, and Diaz continues to excel in that area. For that, he’s more than deserving of a spot on this list.
8. Paolo Espino (Caribes de Anzoategui): 1-2, 11 G, 11 GS, 3.96 ERA, 52.1 IP, 12 HR, 16 BB, 48 K. Make no mistake about it, Espino’s performance was not perfect. In fact, it’s hard to believe that he allowed 12 home runs in just over 50 innings of work. Outside of the home runs though, Espino was a very consistent performer. His innings total led all Indians pitchers in winter ball, and he also had some key starts down the stretch for Caribes de Anzoategui in VWL round-robin play. Espino has been a consistent performer in the minor leagues throughout his career, so hopefully this strong winter season carries over to spring.
7. Joseph Colon (Cangrejeros de Santurce): 2-4, 9 G, 8 GS, 3.46 ERA, 39 IP, 17 BB, 31 K. Colon had a fine season at Single-A Lake County in 2012, and he also built off that with a very solid showing in the PWL. Outside of the walks, Colon went out and consistently gave his team a chance to win. Unfortunately, the team often couldn’t come through for Colon, which is evidenced by the win-loss record. However, the poor record should not be a reason to exclude from this list as his overall performance makes him a worthy candidate.
6. Rob Bryson (Criollos de Caguas): 0-1, 0.00 ERA, 21 G, 20 IP, 11 BB, 23 K. Bryson’s placement on this list is hurt by the fact that he is a reliever and pitched only 20 innings this winter, but it’s still hard to argue with a perfect ERA. His team is also competing in the Caribbean Series, which further helps his argument. Bryson did allow one unearned run, and there were occasions where he entered a game and allowed inherited runners to score. However, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, which is why Bryson has a spot on this list.
5. Chris McGuiness (Surprise Saguaros): 25 G, .283/.370/.467, 4 HR, 27 RBI. If McGuiness had played in more games, he definitely would have been higher on this list. The first baseman dominated the AFL this past fall and was named League MVP for his efforts. Let’s hope his strong performance carries over into spring training because it appears as if he’ll have every opportunity to win the Indians Opening Day designated hitter spot.
4. Jesus Aguilar (Leones del Caracas): 29 G, .279/.340/.581, 6 HR, 17 RBI. It’s amazing how quickly things change. Aguilar got off to a horrid start as he was hitting just .205 with an OPS of .706 through Nov. 22. Yet, just two days later, Aguilar went 3-for-4 in a contest with two doubles and a home run, and the rest is history. Of his 24 base hits, 14 were either a double or a home run. His six home runs led all Indians this winter, and it’s easy to see why so many fans are excited over what the future may hold for the big first baseman.
3. Ezequiel Carrera (Navegantes del Magallanes): 53 G, .272/.354/.354, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 16 SB. At 53 games. Carrera is tied for the most games played by any Indian this winter. Carrera was a key cog for Navegantes del Magallanes’ playoff push as he provided some nice offense toward the bottom of their lineup, and his speed on the bases was also quite valuable. It's actually unfortunate that Carrera will not be a part of the Caribbean Series. He's worked exceptionally hard for Navegantes del Magallanes, and it seems as if he should get a chance to help the team clinch a series win.
2. Luis Hernandez (Tigres de Aragua): 27 G, .375/.394/.481, 11 2B, 13 RBI. Hernandez was signed to a minor league deal as organizational depth back in November. We all know what organizational depth means, but Hernandez may be different as he could be quality organizational depth. The switch-hitter led the Indians in batting average this winter by a comfortable margin. Just how good was Hernandez? Well, in 27 games played, he only failed to record a hit on five occasions. He also recorded 14 multi-hit games. Had he played in more games, he could have really competed for the top spot, but then again, he would have been facing some pretty stiff competition…
1. Jose Ramirez (Toros del Este): 53 G, .315/.384/.379, 26 RBI, 13 SB. Was there ever any doubt? Ramirez did it all this winter. He led Indians players in games played at 53, and he also served as one of the primary reasons as to why Toros del Este advanced to DWL round-robin playoffs. While he gets the most credit for his offense, his defense was pretty darn good too, which is evidenced by the fact that he was named the second base Gold Glove winner in the DWL. The rise that Ramirez has made has been remarkable. We are literally witnessing a player go from an organizational unknown to a legitimate Major League prospect. Also, let’s remember that he just turned 20-years-old in September. Think about what’s he done this year and then imagine what he is going to do in the future. This could be a special player.
Statistics as of February 1, 2013
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.