Winter Ball Notebook: Playoffs rage on
With 2013 now upon us, that means that winter baseball is almost officially done. Round robin playoffs are currently taking place in the Dominican Winter League, Venezuelan Winter League and Puerto Rican Winter League.
A slew of Indians players are still in action, and that will remain the case for most of the month as the teams complete round robin play.
So, at least for the next couple weeks, the Winter Ball Notebook will remain and should provide readers with a nice opportunity to follow some players while the start of spring training looms. While it may not be as enticing as spring training, it’s about as close to baseball we can get in January.
So, with that being said, here are some thoughts deep and shallow in regard to winter ball participants from this past week…
— Shortstop Juan Diaz has basically done what one would expect him to this winter. In 44 games, he has gone 32-for-131 (.244), which is in line with recent regular season performances from the switch-hitting shortstop. Probably the most impressive aspect about Diaz this offseason is the fact that his legs have not yet fallen off. Between Double-A Akron, Triple-A Columbus and Cleveland, Diaz played 120 games this past season. He really did not have much of a break, and his off days this winter have been few and far between. Many have suspected that Diaz would be a likely candidate to be designated for assignment this offseason, but that has yet to occur. Perhaps the Indians just want a depth option at shortstop to protect Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles in case of injury. Nonetheless, the durability of Diaz has been very impressive and could be one reason why he's still a member of the 40-man roster.
— Another name that comes up when fans mention candidates to be DFAed is outfielder Ezequiel Carrera. Carrera, even more so than Diaz, has really shown his durability this offseason. After playing a total of 145 games with Columbus and Cleveland this past season, Carrera has continued to play with much regularity and has appeared in 31 games in the VWL. In that span, he has gone 34-for-119. Carrera's winter statistics likely don't factor much into how the Indians gauge his value as he has already spent part of the past two seasons in Cleveland, and the team's front office clearly has an idea of what skills he brings to the table. However, Carrera has certainly shown his value to his VWL team, Magallanes del Navegantes, as he has been one of the team's most consistent performers and a key reason as to why the team posted the best regular season mark in the league with a 36-27 record.
— Outfielder Andrew Campbell started his new year off with a bang as he collected two hits on Thursday in what was the first game he had played in so far in 2013. Campbell overall has been hot in his last two games as he has gone 5-for-8 with a home run and two RBI. It's been a very strong winter season for Campbell who has hit from the start, as indicated by his .309 average in 27 games. Though, for Campbell, the real test is going to come this fall. His numbers have been nice as he has shown some enticing power, which is evidenced by his slugging percentage of .447. However, the competition in the Australian Baseball League is somewhat suspect. Yet, if Campbell can indeed put up similar numbers in the states during the 2013 season, well, then he may just become someone to watch moving forward. It's a big if, but you have to like what he's done so far this winter.
— Starting pitcher Paolo Espino made his first start of the VWL postseason on Thursday, and he put together a solid performance as he pitched 5 1/3 innings of work and allowed eight hits and two earned runs. Espino has been one of the more consistent performers over the years in the Tribe's system, and aside from a seven-run blowup in mid-December, he really has pitched pretty well this winter. However, Espino has always pitched relatively well, and it's still not done much in regards to getting him noticed. Espino is any easy player to like as he’s a hard worker, and he’s got that bulldog mentality that’s such a desirable trait for a pitcher. Perhaps he can continue to pitch well this postseason to position himself to start out the year at Columbus. Then maybe, just maybe, he may be in line for a call-up to Cleveland sometime next year.
— Like his Brisbane teammate Andrew Campbell, Ryan Battaglia had been having a pretty solid winter campaign. Unfortunately, Battaglia seems to have hit a bit of a roadblock as of late. In his last five games, Battaglia has gone 2-for-16 and his average now sits at .241. It was nice to see Battaglia get some regular playing time this winter because, like Campbell, he only played sparingly in the United States this past season, and his numbers were far from impressive. However, it appears as if Battaglia's performance seems to be trending toward what he showed during this past season. Because he's a catcher and has some pop, it would be great to see Battaglia make some positive strides within the organization. However, the unfortunate reality is that he may just not have the hitting ability to make it out of the lower levels of the minors. 2013 will certainly be a big year for the left-handed hitter, but he unfortunately has not started it on the right foot.
— Carlos Santana has now not played in the last two playoff games for Leones del Escogido. It’s a shame too as Santana seemed to be settling in at the plate as he had actually brought his average all the way up to .235 (20-for-85). It’s unknown as to whether or not Santana’s winter season is actually over or if he is just getting some well-deserved rest. That answer may present itself in the coming days, though Leones del Escogido probably hopes Santana will be around for the rest of the postseason as the switch-hitter could play a major role in how far the team ultimately goes.
— On Wednesday, we saw right-hander Jeanmar Gomez designated for assignment by the Major League club. It almost seems to be a foregone conclusion that Gomez will be claimed by another club, but his winter league statistics certainly do him no favors. In five starts and 14 1/3 innings, Gomez has posted a 5.65 ERA. The struggles from the regular season clearly seemed to follow him to the VWL. Since he really has not pitched consistently well since the beginning of the 2012 season, one has to think there could be a slight chance that he goes unclaimed. However, he’s still an MLB-experienced pitcher with three solid offerings, so he probably does get snatched.
Stats as of January 4, 2013
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.