Ranking the 5 Best Pitching Performances of the Offseason Winter Leagues
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The lengthy postseason in each of the four Caribbean Winter Leagues continued this past week, with the remaining teams in each league vying for a berth into the Caribbean Series in February.
Over the course of the last month, the Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues have featured a steady decline of active prospects—mostly pitchers who reached the innings limits imposed by their organizations.
After ranking the top hitters this season in the Caribbean Winter Leagues, I decided to compose a similar list of the top pitching performances from all four leagues.
5. Julio Rodriguez, rhp, Philadelphia Phillies (Puerto Rican Winter League): 27 IP, 3.67 ERA, .216 BAA, 30/13 K/BB (10 G; 3 GS)
Regardless of whether he’s been used as a starter or reliever, Rodriguez, 22, has always shown the ability to miss bats and induce weak contact. In his second full professional season in 2012—also his first at Double-A—the right-hander saw his walk rate spike against more advanced hitters.
The Phillies will give him another year to develop as a starter, but it’s likely that Rodriguez reaches the major leagues as a reliever.
4. Rob Bryson, rhp, Cleveland Indians (PWL): 15.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, .098 BAA, 19/7 K/BB (15 G)
Acquired by the Tribe in the deal that sent C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee in late 2008, Bryson missed most of the 2009 season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff.
Since returning, the 25-year-old right-hander has worked his way steadily back up the organizational ladder, and registered a 2.62 ERA with 76/43 K/BB in 65.1 innings last season at Double-A Akron.
Bryson built upon his success this winter in the Puerto Rican Winter League, as he held opposing hitters to a .098 batting average and fanned 19 hitters over 15.1 scoreless innings.
3. Alex Torres, lhp, Tampa Bay Rays (Venezuelan Winter League): 60.1 IP, 4.48 ERA, .250 BAA, 86/27 K/BB (14 GS)
Coming off an impressive 2011 campaign in which he thrived at Triple-A Durham and reached the major leagues for the first time, Torres experienced a painful regression last year while repeating the level.
The 25-year-old posted a career-worst 7.30 ERA and .261 BAA with 91/63 in 69 innings, and was relegated to the bullpen halfway through the season.
Although Torres’ pure stuff is excellent, his lack of control and command continues to delay a potential return to the major leagues.
2. Bruce Rondon, rhp, Detroit Tigers (VWL): 9 SV, 16.1 IP, 4.41 ERA, .262 BAA, 19/6 K/BB (18 G)
Boasting a fastball that sits between 97-102 mph, Rondon registered a 1.53 ERA and .172 BAA with 29 saves and 66 strikeouts in 53 innings across three levels.
Likely to open the 2013 season as the Tigers’ closer, the 6’3”, 265-pound right-hander notched nine more saves this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League.
1. Julio Teheran, rhp, Atlanta Braves (Dominican Winter League): 30.2 IP, 3.23 ERA, .218 BAA, 24/9 K/BB (7 GS)
Regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game headed into the 2012 season, Teheran struggled mightily while repeating Triple-A.
Constantly tweaking his delivery at the request of the organization, the right-hander never seemed comfortable on the mound, as he registered a 5.08 ERA and .289 BAA with 97/43 K/BB in 131 innings.
This offseason in the Dominican Winter League, Teheran rediscovered the mechanics that made him successful in 2011 and, as a result, was nearly unhittable over his final three starts (16.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 15/4 K/BB).
Kris Johnson, rhp, Pittsburgh Pirates (DWL): 27 IP, 0.67 ERA, .125 BAA, 22/6 K/BB (6 G; 4 GS)
A first-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2006 out of Wichita State, the 6’4” left-hander’s career never quite took off, as he struggled at Triple-A Pawtucket for three-consecutive seasons before being released in early 2011.
Signed by the Pirates last winter, Johnson had a long-overdue breakout campaign in 2012, as he registered a 3.19 ERA and .237 BAA in 101.2 innings between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
This offseason, the southpaw posted a minuscule 0.67 ERA over 27 innings in the Dominican Winter League.
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