Ranking the 10 Best Offensive Performances of the Offseason Winter Leagues
Evan Gattis (Braves) can flat-out mash. // Courtesy of MiLB.com
The postseason in each of the four Caribbean Winter Leagues is gradually winding down, as the remaining teams vie for a berth into the Caribbean Series in February.
Over the last month, the Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues have seen a sharp decrease in active prospects—primarily pitchers, many of whom reached the innings limits imposed by their organizations.
Therefore, I thought I’d mix things up this week. Rather than highlighting the hottest and coldest prospects from the past week, I’ve composed a list of the top offensive performances from all four leagues.
10. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Dominican Winter League: .265/.373/.571, 7 XBH (4 HR), 17/8 K/BB (20 G)
Boasting arguably the best raw power in the minor leagues, Sano launched 28 home runs last year in his full-season debut at Low-A Beloit.
The right-handed hitter should always post high on-base and slugging percentages, especially as his plate discipline and pitch recognition matures.
9. Wimer Flores, 3B, New York Mets
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Venezuelan Winter League: .272/.338/.410, 16 XBH (5 HR), 30/17 K/BB (52 G)
It’s been a rough offseason for Flores. The Mets locked up David Wright with an unprecedented—at least for the organization—contract through the 2020 season. In other words, don’t be surprised if the 21-year-old gets more looks at second base next season.
The right-handed hitter’s bat finally emerged in a big way last season, as he batted .311/.361/.494 during the second half of the season, with 28 extra-base hits and 30/20 K/BB in 66 games at Double-A Binghamton.
8. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins
Venezuelan Winter League: .258/.317/.475, 21 XBH (10 HR), 49/15 K/BB (57 G)
Already on the Twins’ 40-man roster, Arcia could emerge as the team’s everyday right fielder early in the 2013 season.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout season last year, batting .320/.388/.539 with 61 extra-base hits (17 home runs) and 107/51 K/BB in 124 games between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.
It's taken him five years to finally reach Double-A, but everything he did in 2012 came against highly advanced pitching relative to his experience.
7. Christian Colon, 2B/SS, Kansas City Royals
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Puerto Rican Winter League: .301/.363/.386, 10 XBH, 13 SB, 19/13 K/BB (39 G)
The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Colon had a disappointing full-season debut in 2011 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
And although the right-handed hitter posted much better numbers this past season and ultimately reached Triple-A Omaha, he played in only 85 games due to two lengthy stints on the disabled list (foot; foul ball to face).
The 23-year-old has a mature approach with a knack for hard contact, and he should see time at second base for the Royals next season.
6. Darin Ruf, 1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies
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Venezuelan Winter League: .258/.368/.575, 18 XBH (10 HR), 42/17 K/BB (32 G)
Ruf may be an older prospect at 26, but that didn’t prevent him from reaching the major leagues late last season.
Between his 139 games at Double-A Reading, 12 in the major leagues and 32 in the Venezuelan Winter League, Ruf homered 51 times. His 38 home runs for Reading was the highest total in the minor leagues.
Ruf lacks a true defensive position, but he should be in the mix for playing at first base and in left field to open the 2013 season.
5. Junior Lake, SS, Chicago Cubs
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Dominican Winter League: .312/.382/.474, 14 XBH (5 HR), 11 SB, 46/15 K/BB (44 G)
With a strong performance in the Dominican Winter League, Lake continues to be one the game’s more confusing prospects. He has all the tools to be an impact player in the major leagues, but he lacks both maturity and consistency.
Already on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, it’ll be interesting to see whether Lake returns to Double-A to open the 2013 season.
4. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Minnesota Twins
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Puerto Rican Winter League: .338/.386/.496, 13 XBH, 27/11 K/BB (36 G)
An outfielder to begin his professional career, Rosario was moved to second base prior to the 2012 season.
He’s still rough around the edges defensively, understandably. However, the transition didn’t affect the left-handed hitter’s production, as he batted .296/.345/.490 with 48 extra-base hits in 95 games.
The 21-year-old also tore the cover off the ball this winter in the Puerto Rican Winter League, as his .338 batting average was the second-best in the league among qualified hitters.
3. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
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Dominican Winter League: .316/.379/.507, 18 XBH (5 HR), 21/14 K/BB (39 G)
I have no problem admitting it: Oscar Taveras is my favorite prospect in the game. All the guy does is hit.
As a 20-year-old at Double-A Springfield last season, the left-handed hitter batted .321/.380/.572 with 67 extra-base hits (23 home runs), 10 stolen bases and 56/42 K/BB in 124 games.
The outfielder’s insane ability to barrel the ball and drive every pitch to all fields makes him a special hitter. It’s only a matter of time until Taveras works his way into the heart of the Cardinals’ batting order.
2. Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
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Dominican Winter League: .324/.379/.426, 26 R, 9 XBH, 11 SB, 16/10 K/BB (35 G)
Although Segura technically is no longer a “prospect” after amassing 151 at-bats in the major leagues last season, I decided to include him for the sake of this article.
Acquired from the Angels as part of the prospect package for Zack Greinke, the 22-year-old has a bright future as the Brewers’ shortstop. The right-handed hitter won the Dominican Winter League’s regular season batting title with a .324 average, and he seems poised for a solid season in the major leagues.
1. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Atlanta Braves
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Venezuelan Winter League: .303/.365/.595, 25 XBH (16 HR), 44 RBI, 30/16 K/BB (53 G)
Committed to Texas Tech, Gattis opted to walk away from the game after high school due to an anxiety disorder. He spent the next four years traveling the United States, working odd jobs and living in his car. I know, it’s like something out of a Jack Kerouac novel.
Thankfully, the 6’4”, right-handed hitter ultimately found his way back onto the field, and was selected by the Braves in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft out of Texas-Permian Basin.
Since entering their system as a 23-year-old, he’s mashed at every stop, including a league-leading 16 home runs in the Venezuelan Winter League. Besides Gattis’ effortless plus power to all fields, he’s a surprisingly advanced overall hitter with advanced plate discipline and the potential for an above-average hit tool.
Drafted and developed as a catcher, Gattis actually saw more time in left field than behind the plate last season—which is only a testament to his athleticism and potential production.
His impressive bat already has the 26-year-old on the fast track to the major leagues, and don’t be surprised if he receives consideration for a spot on the Braves’ Opening Day roster.