The Caribbean Winter Leagues allow prospects to build their resumes, veterans to keep in shape and 2009 disappointments to improve. Heading into 2010 fantasy baseball drafts, what must roto owners learn from winter ball?
Those skeptical of the value of the San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval now that he's exclusively a third baseman, note: He hit .395 and slugged .605 in 81 regular-season Venezuelan Winter League at-bats before shredding it in the VWL playoffs. The Panda is losing weight, gaining agility and eating up doubt, slowly but surely.
Alcides Escobar (Milwaukee Brewers) batted .393 and stole 16 bases in 173 at-bats this winter. As long as the hype machine doesn't get a hold of the youngster, he's a legit sleeper - more so in mixed leagues, though. In NL factions, the lack of depth and his upside may drive up his price.
It's not certain that Ian Desmond will begin the season in the minors, but he still needs better command of the strike zone to have a shot. In 61 at-bats this winter, he struck out 17 times and walked just two while hitting .213. Desmond has a little pop and can run, but he desperately needs the BA.
Juan Francisco will contend for an outfield spot with the Cincinnati Reds this spring. He began his case with 12 homers in 205 at-bats. Francisco struck out 52 times, though, and walked a mere 13. With that kind of approach, it'll be harder to hit .298 in the bigs like he did this winter.
Fernando Martinez was 9-for-47 with one extra-base hit in the Dominican Winter League. The Mets are expected to send him to Triple-A Buffalo to begin the season. Perhaps he heard; in the Caribbean Series, he went 8-for-23 with two jacks and won MVP honors. Inconsistency remains a huge obstacle.
Gerardo Parra (fourth outfielder, D-backs) suffered a leg injury early in the Venezuelan Winter League season. He appears fine after hitting .333 and a 10-to-5 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 72 at-bats.
New York's No. 5 front-runner, Fernando Nieve, is building on last year's showing in an attempt to reward his club's faith. In 26 offseason innings, he struck out 26 and walked just three while giving up seven earned runs.
Deep sleeper? The Fish should give the advancing Rick VandenHurk a serious look. In 25 innings the righty allowed 17 hits. More importantly, he struck out 18 and walked a single batter.
The Colorado Rockies' Franklin Morales seems to have solved his control problems with the 10 free passes he issued in 14 innings. Jhoulys Chacin, 22, posted a dull 2.00 command rate in 32 1/3 innings.
Potential closer-in-waiting Samuel Gervacio, 25, struck out seven but walked five in 6 2/3 winter frames. He should lock down a bullpen spot with the Houston Astros, but he really has to prove himself in pressure situations.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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