With two playoff games scheduled for today and considerable intrigue concerning the future of a certain well-compensated Yankees third baseman abounding on the internet, there’s obviously one thing on the minds of baseball fans everywhere — namely, the early offensive performances of certain, likely obscure, participants in this year’s winter leagues.
Here’s why I, personally, like winter-league leaderboards: because, in almost every case, they represent an opportunity to learn something. While the playoffs generate narratives consumed en masse by the sporting public, the winter leagues begin quietly in mostly distant and certainly Spanish-speaking lands. And while the postseason plays host to, and showcases, a number of the game’s legitimate superstars, the winter leagues in the Dominican and Mexico and Venezuela (and, soon, Puerto Rico) feature what I, at least, consider to be a charming combination of actual prospects, minor-league filler, and aged and aging journeymen.
What follows represents, then, not only a series of three batting leaderboards, but also an opportunity to become acquainted with some new names — names which, in some cases, the reader might see on the backs of a major-league uniform within the next couple years, and which, in other cases, will never bother the reader again.
Note that all players are sorted by SCOUT+, a metric calculated using regressed defense-indepedent numbers (walks, strikeouts, and home runs), where 100 is league average and above 100 is above average. (Read more here, if you’re even interested.) All raw data courtesy Major League Baseball.
SCOUT Leaderboard: Venezuelan Winter League Hitters
The Venezuelan Winter League began play on October 11th. The teams in said league are as follows: Aguilas de Zulia, Cardenales de Lara, Caribes de Anzoategui, Leones del Caracas, Navegantes del Magallanes, Bravos de Margarita, Tiburones de La Guaira, and Tigres de Aragua.
Here’s the very premature batting leaderboard for the VWL:
• Philadelphia’s Freddy Galvis wasn’t particularly impressive in his 200 major-league appearances this season (.226/.254/.363, 64 wRC+). Thanks to strong defensive numbers, however — both in terms of positional adjustment and also in terms of runs saved — he finished with a 0.6 WAR. Also, note this: he was 22. There are a lot of players who don’t begin their major-league careers by age 22 and then go on to be pretty decent major leaguers.
• Per SCOUT, Mets prospects Wilmer Flores was one of the best hitters not only in all of High-A, but also — as a 20-year-old — in the Double-A Eastern League. Listed at shortstop, that’s not likely his future position.
• Outfielder Josh Kroeger, 30, was taken by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2000 draft out of a San Diego high school and has played affiliated baseball ever since — accruing 5,818 minor-league plate appearances against just 55 major-league ones (all of which came in 2004). He has, at points, posted decent offensive lines — and has also played some center field — but not enough of those things at the same time, it seems, to inspire a promotion over the last eight years.
SCOUT Leaderboard: Mexican Pacific League Hitters
The Mexican Pacific League began play on October 13th. The teams in said league are as follows: Aguilas de Mexicali, Algodoneros de Guasave, Caneros de los Mochis, Mayos de Navojoa, Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Tomateros de Culiacan, Venados de Mazatlan, and Yaquis de Obregon.
Here’s the very premature batting leaderboard for the MPL:
• Many of the players at the top of this list belong to older corner-types from the Mexican League. Barbaro Canizares, who played in the Atlanta system, is 31 now; Mario Valenzuela, an outfielder of some description, is 35; Sandy Madera is 31; etc.
• One player who’s fewer of the things above is Todd Cunningham, a second-round pick by the Braves out of Jacksonville State in 2010. Cunningham, just 23, played in the age-appropriate Double-A Southern League. These are some numbers which represent his performance there: 519 PA, .309/.364/.403 (.340 BABIP), 116 wRC+, 7.3% BB, 9.8% K, 24 SB, 8 CS. My sources (i.e. the internet) suggest he’s made a majority of his defensive starts in center. Other sources (i.e. my intuition) suggest that he’s the spiritual heir to Matt Young.
• Japhet Amador is a 25-year-old Mexican League first baseman whose name appears to means something not unlike “Abundant Lover.”
SCOUT Leaderboard: Dominican Winter League Hitters
The Dominican Winter League began play on October 14th. The teams in said league are as follows: Aguilas Cibaenas, Toros del Este, Estrellas de Oriente, Gigantes del Cibao, Leones del Escogido, and Tigres del Licey.
Here’s the very premature batting leaderboard for the DWL:
• With Josh Hamilton unlikely to be re-signed by the Rangers, one might expect that outfield prospect and Cuban émigré Leonys Martin, 24, will play a larger role with the club in 2013. I say that one might expect that — of course, I merely mean I, the author.
• Here some numbers from Marlins prospect Marcell Ozuna‘s 2011 season in the Class A Sally League: 552 PA, 23 HR, 8.3% BB, 21.9% K. And now here are other numbers, this time from Ozuna’s 2012 season with the Marlins’ High-A Florida State League affiliate: 539 PA, 24 HR, 8.2% BB, 21.5% K. Similarities abound, is the idea.
• Leury Garcia is yet another shortstop prospect (besides Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas, that is) in the Rangers system — one who played all of 2012 in Double-A as a 21-year-old. Baseball America named him both Fastest Baserunner and owner of Best Infield Arm in the system prior to the 2012 season. For fun, consider googling his name plus the word defense and peruse the frigging results.