Caribbean Leagues fantasy baseball players
by Tim Heaney
on January 23, 2009 @ 01:00:01
The Arizona Fall League receives most of the hype in the months between the end of the World Series and Spring Training. Major League Baseball's Winter Leagues ditch the snow while keeping the heat on scouting reports and rumors, though.
These stages allow prospects to build their resumes, veterans to show they still have something left and 2008 disappointments to start on the path to an improvement in the new year. Which fantasy-relevant players - present and future - made headlines on the Caribbean diamonds?
- Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Matt Joyce (Aguilas) has helped his cause in the battle for right-field time in 2009. The masher went 36-for-122 (.295) with eight dingers and 28 RBIs. Don't expect that average to return with him to the States, though.
- Atlanta Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer (Mayos) is trying to restore his image after a 50-game suspension last season for use of performance enhancers. His stat line wasn't anything to highlight: .276-1-9 in 105 at-bats. He should enter the Atlanta outfield picture sometime in 2009 if the current cluster lives down to its reputation.
Puerto Rican League
- Washington Nationals outfield prospect Justin Maxwell (Caguas) clubbed seven homers (third in the league) in 132 at-bats but hit just .220 in the process. It was a promising sign since he missed much of 2008 with a broken wrist. The crowded Nationals outfield may still give Maxwell time for a September stint this year.
- Free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez (Ponce) continues his search for a suitor, and he ended up with a .320-1-3 line through 23 at-bats in the PR postseason.
- The Los Angeles Dodgers' heir apparent at shortstop, Ivan De Jesus (Carolinas), hit .309-5-16 in 149 at-bats. However, Dodgers shortie Rafael Furcal is locked in for three more years, so barring a position change or MLB roster injury, don't expect De Jesus to surface for long - if at all - in 2009.
- On the heels of a disappointing stint in the New York Yankees' rotation, starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (Mayaguez) went 2-2 with a league-best 1.56 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 34 2/3 frames. He'll probably be stuck behind Phil Hughes in the fight for the fifth spot if they don't bring in another arm.
- Remember the name of Milwaukee Brewers reliever Eduardo Morlan (Caguas). The strikeout machine fanned 17 in 16 2/3 frames with a 2.16 ERA. He's a future sleeper for saves, especially if closer Trevor Hoffman migrates from Milwaukee after this year.
- Texas Rangers catcher Max Ramirez (La Guaira) won the league's Rookie of the Year award, hitting .298 and leading the pack with 15 homers. His abilities behind the plate are improving, but it's too soon to tell when he'll break into a big league starting role, in Texas or elsewhere....
- San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (Magallanes) ran away with the batting title (.396), but he did so as a catcher. He plans to play in the World Baseball Classic at the same position, stalling his progress as a third baseman - his intended spot with the Giants. His multi-positional qualification remains a plus, though.
- Twenty-year-old Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (Magallanes) is slated to start the 2009 season in Arlington if ready. In 179 Dominican at-bats, he managed a .257 average with 15 RBIs and six stolen bases. Unless an overzealous owner in deep mixed leagues reaches for the rook, you can wait until the last few rounds to take a flier on him, especially if you need steals.
- New York Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez (Caracas) gained YouTube fame with a stadium-clearing home run. The Mets' top prospect started off hot in the Dominican League (.314-6-26 at Escogido) but went just 4-for-22 after his arrival in Venezuela. Regarding Martinez, the Mets are biding their time; be prepared for the 20-year-old's MLB arrival, which will probably come in 2010 but could be in the form of a cup of java this September.
- With raw athleticism abound, Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (Zulia) hasn't fully harnessed his baseball skills, but he hit .292 in 89 at-bats. His place in the Rockies' convoluted outfield may leave this as a moot point for 2009.
- A cringe-worthy .164-2-15 stat line in 67 at-bats scarred Cleveland Indians outfielder Matt LaPorta's (Caracas) offseason. Still, a prolonged return to earth from either Ben Francisco or Shin-Soo Choo would give LaPorta a chance for 2009. Consider this output an example of a bump in the road, but be prepared for more.
- Seattle Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez (Caracas) has a nearly guaranteed starting job in the Northwest and hit .277-5-19 in 119 at-bats. He'll try to do more with his playing time this year than what he mustered in 2008.
- The Philadelphia Phillies have been trying to determine a fifth starter this offseason. It might soon be time to give Carlos Carrasco his shot. The electric righty struck out 45 in 47 frames with a 2.11 ERA and should be acquired in all leagues if he arrives in 2009.
- The downward spiral for Chicago Cubs lefty Rich Hill (Aragua) continues after he spewed a 9.86 ERA in nine appearances (six starts).
- Texas Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Escogido) matched Ramirez's intensity. Salty smashed nine homers in just 66 at-bats, doing his best to pad his resume before staving off Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez for backstop time in 2009.
- It was a productive winter for Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim first baseman Kendry Morales (Gigantes), who was tied for first with six homers and ranked fourth in the league with a .357 clip through 21 postseason games. He ended up at .404 with 29 RBIs in 26 regular season contests. The Angels' first base job is his to lose, but will the promise hold up?
- After hitting .310 with 12 RBIs and just three whiffs in his first 58 at-bats, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (Estrellas) finished at just .276 with one dinger and 15 RBIs. Now for the upside: He did some extensive work on his hitting in his native country outside of league action. Cano has reduced movement in his stance while losing body fat and putting on muscle.
- Washington Nationals second baseman Anderson Hernandez (Licey) finished second in the DR league by hitting .365 while also driving in 29 runs.
- The stock of Cincinnati Reds third base prospect Juan Francisco (Gigantes) is rising after a .370-7-29 December. He finished second with 12 regular season homers and is tied for first with six dingers through 83 postseason at-bats. Could the 21-year-old earn a roster spot when he travels to Cincy's spring training?
- There was more playing time for Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim infielder Brandon Wood (Estrellas), but there was also more of the same Brandon Wood: a .167 clip, one homer and five RBIs, along with 16 strikeouts in 48 at-bats. Though he should be worked into the lineup somehow in 2009, you have to wonder if he'll ever learn to compensate for his nearly blind batting eye.
- Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz is slated to hit in the heart of Texas' order this year, and he doesn't seem to have slowed down as shown in his .362-8-30 Dominican campaign.
- Houston Astros outfielder Michael Bourn (Aguilas) struggled to make contact in his first full major league season. He had no such qualms this winter: .314, 11 RBIs, .402 on-base percentage and four stolen bases in 102 at-bats. He had a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 0.63 - not great, but an improvement that could help him to eventually regain the leadoff spot in the majors this year.
- Rangers outfield prospect Julio Borbon (Aguilas) hit .366 with a .422 on-base percentage in 71 regular season at-bats. Expect the speedster to be in the majors in some fashion in 2010.
- Let the Andruw Jones jokes resume. The free-agent outfielder's rock-bottom value won't be helped by his performance for Aguilas: 3-for-16 (.188) with an RBI. The eight walks and .409 on-base percentage were encouraging - slightly.
- Cleveland Indians pitcher Adam Miller (Aguilas) headlined the otherwise weak Dominican League pitching class. Despite registering a 4.34 ERA, the highly touted human injury posted a 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio there, and his fastball touched the high 90s. His recovery from a finger injury should help his cause for a bullpen spot - and maybe even a place at the end of a relatively Indians' unsettled rotation.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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