10 Top MLB Prospects to Watch During Winter Ball Season

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterNovember 26, 2012

Darin Ruf (Phillies) has now homered 48 times this season.
Darin Ruf (Phillies) has now homered 48 times this season.Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Although the Arizona Fall League is over, there are still plenty of places to get your prospect fix. The Caribbean Winter Leagues, comprised of leagues of affiliates in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, are in full swing and feature many of the game’s top prospects, as well as numerous players on the cusp of reaching the major leagues.

So, for the first time this offseason I thought I’d direct everyone’s attention to these international leagues with a look at 10 specific prospects. While some prospects are recognized based upon success in their respective winter leagues, others will be highlighted due to their struggles.

Here are 10 still active prospects to follow closely this offseason.

Junior Lake, SS, Chicago Cubs - Dominican Winter League (DWL)

.330/.389/.464, 9 XBH, 6 SB, 30/8 K/BB (29 G)

The 22-year-old shortstop was productive at the plate this past season at Double-A (.773 OPS, 10 HR, 21 SB), however, his lack of plate discipline is disconcerting (105/35 K/BB). It hasn’t been much better this offseason, as he’s posted 30/8 K/BB in 29 games.

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (DWL)

.303/.369/.485, 9 XBH (4 HR), 2 SB, 13/9 K/BB (26 G)

The purest hitter among all prospects, Taveras has continued to rake after batting .321/.380/.572 with 23 home runs and 56/42 K/BB in 124 games as a 20-year-old at Double-A.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Miami Marlins (DWL)

Twenty-two-year-old Marcell Ozuna mashed this past season at High-A Jupiter (.805 OPS, 24 HR, 27 2B), but is still an incredibly raw prospect. However, his power has carried over into the Dominican Winter League where he leads the league with eight home runs in 29 games.

Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers - Puerto Rican Winter League (PRWL)

.320/.333/.520, 5 XBH, 10 RBI, 11/1 K/BB (13 G)

One of my favorite catching prospects in the game, Jorge Alfaro is raw in all regards but has the tools to be an impact player in the big league—especially his cannon for an arm. Not to mention his raw power, as he’s already launched two home runs in 13 games after earning just five in 74 regular-season games.

Evan Gattis, OF/1B/C, Atlanta Braves - Venezuelan Winter League (VWL)

.274/.333/.496, 14 XBH (8 HR), 26 RBI, 21/10 K/BB (35 G)

A seriously underrated hitter, Gattis doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he’s 26 years old and has only played 49 games at Double-A. However, his bat is very, very real and may get him to the big leagues in 2013.

Wilmer Flores, 3B/SS, New York Mets (VWL)

.288/.252/.432, 36 H, 12 XBH (3 HR), 18/11 K/BB (32 G)

Twenty-one-year-old Wilmer Flores has enjoyed a strong season in the Venezuelan Winter League and built upon an impressive breakout campaign (.827 OPS, 18 HR) that included an .855 OPS in 66 games at Double-A.

Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves (DWL)

14 IP, 7.07 ERA, .379 BAA, 22 H, 2 HR, 9/5 K/BB (4 GS)

Julio Teheran regressed across the board in 2012 and turned in an incredibly disappointing season (5.08 ERA, .289 BAA in 131 IP) at Triple-A Gwinnett. It’s equally concerning that the right-hander has struggled this winter, as he’s only pitched beyond the third inning in one of four starts.

Alex Torres, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (VWL)

1-3, 38 IP, 4.50 ERA, .234 BAA, 1.68 GO/AO, 58/19 K/BB (9 GS)

The left-hander had an off year this past season at Triple-A, as Torres' control problems landed him in the bullpen. He still has big-time swing-and-miss stuff and will pile up strikeouts, but demonstrating improved command will ultimately determine his role with the Rays.

Darin Ruf, 1B/LF, Philadelphia Phillies (VWL)

.258/.368/.575, 26 R, 18 XBH (10 HR), 42/17 K/BB (32 G)

After leading all minor leaguers with 38 home runs this past season, Ruf has added 10 more in the Venezuelan Winter League. However, the right-handed slugger has also fanned 42 times in 32 games. It’ll be interesting to see what the Phillies plan to do with him next season.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins (VWL)

.229/.306/.413, 10 XBH (5 HR), 30/12 K/BB (34 G)

Arcia has showcased the same power that he did during the regular season (17 HR in 124 games), however, his average has fallen off after batting .320 over two levels, including Double-A.

Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins (VWL)

.204/.304/.296, 9 R, 3 XBH, 4 SB, 17/8 K/BB (16 G)

One of several highly impressive Twins outfielder prospects, Aaron Hicks has struggled this winter after a career year for Double-A New Britain. However, the 23-year-old has steadily improved in each minor-league season.


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