Down on the Pond: Off-season blues?

I spent a couple of posts talking about the Twins prospects who are getting a shot in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), but aside from those lucky 7 (8 including Chris Herrmann) guys spending the winter in Arizona, there are a whole host of other Twins players getting in some work this off-season playing elsewhere. I’ll take a look at a few of the guys playing around the world this winter. I’d be hard pressed to write about all of them as there are currently 32 Twins players (make that 31, Alexi Casilla is GONE) getting work in warmer climates this winter.

Twins related news and notes from the minor leagues

Oswaldo Arcia who really came into his own this past season between A+ and AA is playing down in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL). He’s not tearing the leather off the ball the way he did this summer, but he’s currently sporting a slash line of .250/.321/.438 (AVG/OBP/SLG) which includes 2 home runs in 19 games of action.
Both Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Florimon are playing ball this winter, Escobar in the VWL and Florimon in the Dominican Winter League (DWL). Both players need to work on their approach at the plate if they hope to garner a job with the Twins big league club next season. Escobar is hitting .184/.244/.211 after 12 games, WOOF! Florimon is having a better season, but is still doing nothing to write home about at .238/.324/.254. Word came out from Brian Dozier on Twitter on election night that he too would be headed down south to get some work in playing winter ball. Which one of them will be the starting shortstop when the Twins head north after Spring Training next year? At this point your guess is as good as mine, but I think Dozier has the most upside of the three.
Twins uber prospect Miguel Sano is down in the DWL too, although he’s only played 3 games so far. The future is bring for Sano if he can become a little more patient at the plate and improves his defense at the hot corner. I’m excited to see where Sano is at when he reports for Spring Training down in Ft Myers.
Catcher Jhonatan Arias who played for the Elizabethan Twins this past season is one of only two Twins players who are currently hitting over .300 this winter and not playing in the AFL. Arias is hitting .500/.571/.500 but has only played 4 games, so those numbers are nothing but small sample size. Arias did, however, hit .301 this past season in Rookie ball, so while I expect regression from his current numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does well in the DWL. The other Twin over .300 this winter is Chris Colabello who is hitting .306/.354/.583 through 20 games in the Mexican league. Colabello played first base for the AA New Britain Rock Cats this past season and hit .284 with 19 HR, but he’s an organizational guy (he’s 29 playing double-A) and it’s unlikely that even a monster winter league will do anything for him within the Twins organization.
Things are a little bit better when you look at OBP, as there are 8 guys outside of the AFL who have a .300+ OBP, including Sano, Drew ButeraJosmil Pinto and Aaron Hicks, but only 3 of those guys are above .330 (Arias, Butera, Colabello). Hicks has played in 16 games this winter and has struck out 17 times to go with 8 walks and only 3 extra-base hits. The guys in the AFL are playing in a league with inflated offense and are, for the most part, doing quite well (except for Evan Bigley who continues to struggle).
What about the pitchers? It’s a bit better on the pitching side. Edgar Ibarra leads all non-AFL pitchers in the organization w/ 17 K’s in just over 18 innings pitched. Ibarra had a 4.69 ERA between A+ and AA last season, although he did post a 3.60 ERA before getting moved up to AA mid-season. Although he’s striking out almost a batter an inning, Ibarra is 1-3 after 5 starts with a 7.23ERA and has walked 12 batters.
David Bromberg, pitching in the VWL has 11 K’s but has also struggled putting men on base; he’s given up 11 walks and 18 hits in just 16 innings of work. He started all 4 games he’s played but is 0-1 w/ a 5.06 ERA. Batters are hitting .316 against him. Not good.Bromberg posted a 3.75 ERA at AA last season and held his own in 17 innings at AAA where he pitched 17 innings and struck out 16. Walks will haunt, however, and in those same 17 innings he walked 10 and gave up 17 hits. How his AAA ERA is only at 2.75 is a mystery (Okay, it’s not actually a mystery, but I’m not going to go looking through game lots to find out. It is safe to say he got lucky and that many of those K’s helped him get out of trouble.).
Angel Mata is having himself a nice start to the winter. He’s pitched 10.1 innings and has 12 K’s to his name to go with only 4 walks and 1 run scored (a HR) and a flashy .087 ERA in the VWL. Anthony Slama is also having success, he’s pitching in the Mexican league and has 11 K’s in 9 innings of work but has already blown 1 of his 3 save opportunities.

All of these numbers are based on small sample sizes. Even the guys getting the most opportunities this fall have less than 75 plate appearances and no pitched has logged even 20 innings. Many minor league players play winter league ball for the money or to work on a defect in their game. The numbers won’t tell you much about what’s going on with a player as they may be working on a particular skill or set of skills this winter to thedegradation of overall numbers, or they may never get enough time to really draw any meaningful connection from the numbers.

Without getting into the specifics of each player it’s hard to do anything aside from write a narrative to fit the numbers. Of course this spring/summer I will surely draw some sort of silly overblown conclusion between a players work in the winter league and a hot start or two next season, but with the wide range of talent they players are facing around the globe it’s nothing more than a fantasy to draw those correlations.

Make sure to check back next Thursday for another look Down on the Pond.


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