With the 2012 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings taking place this week, many of us seemed to forget about the various winter leagues and all of the different Indians that are there honing their craft.
The Winter Meetings actually affected IPI’s coverage of the winter leagues to an extent as a current Indians winter baller was selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
On the positive side of things, the Indians actually acquired a player in the Rule 5 Draft who had had quite the winter ball performance earlier this season.
So, with all that being said, here are some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to winter ball participants from this past week…
— It was very tough to see Hector Rondon selected in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The right-hander was selected in the second round by the Chicago Cubs. It was especially hard to see Rondon go considering the brilliant season that he had been putting together in the Venezuelan Winter League. Overall, Rondon has gone 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 20 games and 18 innings. The ERA does not tell the whole story about his performance as it’s still inflated from a rough initial outing. His fastball has once again been clocked in the mid-90s, and it at least appears as if Rondon might finally be able to move past all the injuries that have hampered his career. He obviously is no longer the prospect that he once was, but his performances in the VWL have helped him showcase his ability once again, and that’s probably a key reason as to why the Cubs decided to select him. We often say how winter ball statistics are overrated, but Rondon’s selection in the Rule 5 Draft seems to be evidence that winter ball performances to carry some weight. Plain and simple, I would garner to guess that the Cubs do not select Rondon if not for his impressive winter showings.
— For as impressive as Rondon has been in winter ball, unfortunately Carlos Santana has basically been the opposite. In nine games, Santana has now gone 5-for-32. Unfortunately, I have to be hypocritical here and say that we cannot buy into these numbers too much. It is only nine games, which is an absurdly small sample size for any hitter. Though, Santana’s struggles are a little more frustrating because of what an accomplished hitter he is. This is a guy who has hit double-digit home runs in the Majors and is a career .290 hitter in the minors. He is facing pitching that is nothing compared to what he faces on a daily basis, so it’s surprising that he has only managed five hits in 32 at-bats. It’s fine and completely understandable that he might be in a post-season slump, but I just expected a tad more production.
— Luis Hernandez has been a great story so far this winter. The recent minor league signing has played in 17 games this winter and has only failed to record a hit in three of those games. Overall, the switch-hitter has gone 26-for-64 (.406). Hernandez is a long shot to ever make the Major League roster this upcoming season, but it is very hard to not take notice of this offensive surge that he is on. If there is a silver lining with Hernandez, it is the fact that he only has a total of 267 Major League at-bats over five seasons. That’s really not enough at-bats to determine if he could perhaps bring something to the table. However, Hernandez also has a career line of .254/.300/.337 in the minors, so it’s probably very unlikely that Hernandez is anything more than organizational depth. Still, his winter season has been something special.
— Indians right-hander Jeanmar Gomez made his winter ball debut last Friday in the VWL. Overall, Gomez pitched 2 2/3 innings and allowed three hits and no runs. It was a pleasant surprise to see Gomez make an appearance in the winter league. A number of Indians fans soured on Gomez this past season because of his inconsistent performances, but he still is able to generate plenty of ground balls when he hits his spots, and he could be an option again in the future. At the very least, it’s good to see him getting some work in this winter as that will likely only help him come spring training.
— Catcher Roberto Perez has been quite good so far this winter. In 12 games in the Puerto Rican Winter League, the right-handed hitter has gone 11-for-40 with three RBI. Perez has really not hit in the Majors since his 2009 stint with the AZL Indians, so it’s nice to see him have some early success in the PWL. Perez is an interesting player because he certainly has the defensive skills that are needed of a Major League catcher. However, his offense has often been a liability, so it’s been difficult to really project him as a future Major Leaguer. One thing is for sure: for an offensive-challenged player like Perez, this winter season has to be considered a major positive.
— Left-hander Giovanni Soto has really been outstanding this winter. Overall, in seven games and 10 1/3 innings of work, Soto has a 1.74 ERA. Soto has not allowed an earned run since his second appearance on Nov. 14 where he allowed two. Since he spent a whole season last year in Double-A Akron, it will be interesting to see if the Indians decide to push Soto and have him start the 2013 season in Triple-A Columbus. Soto definitely has time on his side as he does not turn 21 until next May, so the Indians really have no reason to rush him along. However, with that being said, it’d be nice to see him in Columbus just for the simple fact that he is then closer to Cleveland.
— While the Indians unfortunately lost two players in yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft, they also gained one. The player that they acquired was former Rangers first base prospect Chris McGuiness. The reason that McGuiness is being mentioned in this Winter Ball Notebook is because he actually played earlier this season in the Arizona Fall League and took home league MVP honors. Overall, McGuiness went 26-for-92 in 25 games while hitting four home runs and driving in 27 runs. McGuiness also drew 13 walks and struck out only 16 times. We know it’s irrational to buy into minor league numbers too much, but McGuiness certainly boasts a nice résumé, so hopefully he has a chance to stick with the team during the 2013 season.
— It would not be a Winter Ball Notebook without mention of everybody’s favorite 20-year-old second baseman, Jose Ramirez. Ramirez is currently riding a four-game hit streak and overall, the switch-hitter has gone 33-for-97 (.340) this winter. He also still has more walks (15) than strikeouts (13). Ramirez has been so consistent throughout the 2012 season and into winter ball. It will be interesting to see how the national media regards him as a prospect once organizations like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus release its team prospect rankings.
Stats as of 12/07/12