Winter Ball Notebook: Is the Santana third base experiment over?
Carlos Santana moves to first base as the Dominican Winter League playoffs heat up
The Dominican Winter League playoffs began this past week, and one of the biggest surprises was the participation of the Indians’ Carlos Santana.
Many were unsure as to how long Santana would remain with his Dominican team, but it does at least appear as if he will be remaining with Leones del Escogido for the time being.
In other news, the regular seasons in both the Puerto Rican Winter League and the Venezuelan Winter League come to an end after today. The playoffs will then begin shortly after, and it will be interesting to see what ultimately happens to the Tribe’s Jesus Aguilar, who has arguably been the MVP of the VWL this winter.
His season was initially supposed to end on December 28, and he also has not played since that date. We will probably soon have an update on the status of that issue.
Nonetheless, here are some notes, both deep and shallow from this last week’s action of winter ball…
News & Notes
— Carlos Santana played in three playoff games this past week and combined to go 3-for-11 with a home run, two RBI and two walks. The offensive numbers are pretty solid, but it’s hardly the most important thing that can be taken away from last week’s performance. Midway through the first playoff game, Santana was moved from third base to first base. This also occurred after Santana committed an error while manning the hot corner. There is no telling exactly what this means, but could it be that Santana’s third base experiment is coming to an end? It could be that that’s the case for now as his team, Leones del Escogido, probably wants to maximize its chances of winning in the playoffs. The reality is that Santana probably helps the team out a lot more at first base than he does at third base, and you cannot blame them for making the move. Of course, what happens now after the winter season comes to a close? Will the Indians still try Santana out at third base come spring training? Those will be the questions to monitor in the weeks moving forward, but it does at least appear as if Santana will now be playing first base in the DWL playoffs. There’s a chance that he could always slide back over to third base, but it seems telling that he has not played there at all since committing the error in the first playoff game.
— Roberto Perez has been somewhat underwhelming in the PWL and currently has a .167/.333/.167 line in 16 games with Indios de Mayaguez. This type of performance is similar to Perez’s 2013 line at Triple-A Columbus, which was .176/.269/.241 in 67 games. I have always liked Perez because he has shown himself to be a more-than-capable defensive catcher, and I even thought he could break into the Majors as a Lou Marson-type player. However, the reality is that Perez has never been able to hit at really any level, and even Marson w as able to do that in the minors. As a five-year minor league veteran who has reached the Triple-A level, one would expect that Perez would be able to dominate the competition in the PWL, but he has unfortunately struggled greatly. The thing to remember with Perez is that 2014 could be the year that he’s able to reach the big leagues. With Yan Gomes now entrenched at the Major League level as catcher and Carlos Santana’s positional future in a state of flux, one would think that the door is wide open for Perez to become a backup catcher should a need arise. Still, it’s hard to be all that encouraged by the prospect of that if he continues to hit like this.
— Right-hander Ramon Rodriguez appeared in his second game for the Caribes de Anzoategui this past week, and he proceeded to throw a perfect shutout performance. This follows his winter debut on December 20 where he threw 1 2/3 innings of shutout baseball. Rodriguez is somewhat intriguing simply because so little is known about him. He is a former prospect of the New York Yankees, but he has not pitched since 2012 in the Dominican Summer League. In fact, his entire minor league resume is less than extensive as he’s pitched a total of 43 innings across parts of three seasons, and all of the innings were thrown at the rookie level. Yet, Rodriguez is now 22-years-old, and is having early success in the VWL. In his first outing, he came on in a high-pressure situation with two inherited runners, yet neither of them scored, and Rodriguez was able to record five outs. Who knows exactly how Rodriguez performs from here on out, but it’s interesting how the unknown can often be so exciting. Less than two weeks ago, most Indians fans likely had never even heard about Rodriguez, but he’s now become one of the more interesting players to follow this winter season.
— A player I have always enjoyed is right-hander Toru Murata. Murata made one start this past week for Caribes de Anzoategui and allowed four earned runs across five innings of work. It was definitely Murata’s worst outing of the winter season as he’s been very productive overall and sports a 2.38 ERA in five starts and 22 2/3 innings of work. Morata may never be much of a factor at the Major League level, but he still fills an invaluable role for the Indians. Over the past few seasons, he’s moved up and down the system and is able to fill in whenever a need arises. He’s not a flashy performer by any means, but in a pinch, he might be able to make a start in Cleveland, and that’s all you can ask for from a pitcher in his mold. Murata is already 28-years-old, and there’s a good chance that he will start off the season at Triple-A Columbus for the first time in his career. He’s not going to likely be earning a chance overTrevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin, but you never know what can happen, so it’s good to have a player like him in the fold. Let’s hope he continues his strong winter and ends the season on a high note.
— He only played in two games this past week, but Jesus Aguilar continues to make an impact. In those two games, the big right-handed slugger went 3-for-8 with two walks and a strikeout. So much of the talk this winter has focused on Aguilar and his power surge, and that’s obviously for good reason. It’s always impressive when a player launches 17 home runs during a winter campaign. However, Aguilar’s improved plate discipline has almost been equally impressive. In 57 games and 221 at-bats, Aguilar has drawn 27 walks and struck out just 41 times. That is a noticeable improvement from any other point in his career, and you have to hope that those type of numbers translate to this coming season. Yes, it is the power that will ultimately get Aguilar to the big leagues, but plate discipline may be the factor that determines if he’ll stay in the big leagues. So far, Aguilar is making huge strides in both departments
Here are the winter ball stats through December 29th:
Steve can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.