The regular season in the Dominican Winter League came to a close Sunday, which now means that the playoffs are nearly upon us.
However, this is only slightly newsworthy for the Tribe as most of the Indians that were playing in the DWL will not be advancing to the postseason. We already know that Jose Ramirez’s season came to an end due to injury, and Ronny Rodriguez and Colt Hynes will not be playing in the playoffs because their team, Estrellas de Oriente, did not qualify for the postseason.
Something could change and a player may be picked up by a Dominican team that did qualify for the postseason, but as of now, it appears as if Leones del Escogido might be the team for Indians fans to follow this postseason.
Erik Gonzalez is a member of the team, and hopefully he will get an opportunity to continue his torrid winter season throughout the playoffs. Also, Carlos Santana has been playing at third base for the team, and we all that’s been one of the more noteworthy items to come from the winter leagues this season.
Nonetheless, here are some thoughts, both deep and shallow, from this past week’s winter ball action…
Player of the Week
Carlos Santana — Third base, Leones del Escogido
5 G, 7-for-20, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 E
It’s still somewhat strange to write Santana’s name and then have “third base” proceed it. Nonetheless, this was really a pretty good week for Santana. He did, unfortunately, commit two errors in the game on December 17, which ultimately led to an unearned run. However, he did not make an error in any of the other four games this week, and he now has a total of four errors in eight games this winter. Okay, I get what you’re thinking: that’s a lot. We also need to somewhat temper our expectations though. Santana is not going to become even a serviceable third baseman over night. This may not work when it’s all said and done, but it’s good they get an opportunity to do this now when the games really do not matter. Also, Santana’s experience now will put him ahead of the curve should the Indians decide they want to continue this experiment come Spring Training. On a side note, it’s good to see that Santana does not seem to be rusty as the plate as the switch-hitter has a .313 average (10-for-32) in eight games.
News & Notes
— How can you not love what Joseph Colon is doing this winter? The right-hander had another strong start this past week as he pitched five no-hit innings while walking two and striking out three. In seven games, Colon now has a 1.93 ERA in 32 2/3 innings of work. He also has walked eight and struck out 22. Most of us knew that Colon had some promise as a back-of-the-rotation type, but it seems unlikely that anyone expected him to perform this well in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Given his performance, it seems as if he is almost a lock to open the season at Double-A Akron, and that’s a very good thing. We often hear how the Indians have no starting pitching depth in their farm system but keep an eye on Colon. While the Tribe does have intriguing options in Trevor Bauer and Cody Anderson, Colon also offers significant upside, albeit of the back-of-the-rotation variety. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. He clearly already knows how to pitch and just get outs, which could really help him move quickly through the team’s system. If he continues to exceed expectations, it would not be crazy to think that he could not find himself in Cleveland by September.
— Carlos Moncrief did not play at all during the past week, so his season in the PWL has probably come to a close. Moncrief went 23-for-100 (.230) in 26 games with Gigantes de Carolina this winter. He also only mustered a total of three extra-base hits (two doubles, one home run) during that span. To be honest, his performance was a tad underwhelming, especially since he was coming off such a strong 2013 season at Akron. Many had hoped that he would use his winter season to further his prospect stock, but it appears as if his winter performance had the exact opposite effect. Unfortunately, that’s often how it goes in winter ball. For every Jesus Aguilar or Jose Ramirez-like performance, there are many more performances just like Moncrief’s. The good thing is that winter ball statistics really are not valued all too much, so Moncrief likely has not hurt his standing. I know that sounds somewhat hypocritical as we often praise a player when he performs well in winter ball, but that’s really just how it is. The beauty of winter ball is that a player never really hurts his stock by participating in it, but he can always help it if he performs well. Let’s hope that Moncrief’s poor showing was just the result of a long season. That usually is the case.
— Tyler Sturdevant had a solid showing this past week as he appeared in two games and allowed one run and two hits in a total of 1 2/3 innings of work. Sturdevant is the only Indian who participated in the Arizona Fall League and is also participating in one of the Caribbean leagues. So far, he’s allowed five hits and just one run in seven combined innings between the two leagues. This performance has really been a positive for Sturdevant as he missed the entire 2013 season due to shoulder surgery. He just turned 28-years-old this past week, so time is not on his side, yet he is still a player with significant upside. When he was healthy, his fastball routinely hit the upper 90s and could even flash triple digits. Even at 28-years-old, it’s hard to give up on an arm like that, which is exactly why it will be interesting to see how he progresses. Sturdevant also had Tommy John surgery when he was younger, so if he ever makes it to a Major League mound, then it has to be considered one of the better comeback stories in recent memory.
— I suppose it would not be fair to have a Winter Ball Notebook and not at least make mention of Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar continues to perform well and he went 5-for-17 this past week with one double and four walks. Aguilar has not homered since December 13, but his performance has still been dominant as he owns a .324 (69-for-213) average in 55 games. It will be interesting to see what happens next with Aguilar as there remains some debate as to when his actual winter season will end. As you may recall, Aguilar informed Leones del Caracas that his winter season would be ending on December 28 so he could participate in a development program with the Indians, but Leones wants to have him on the team should they make the playoffs. Well, it is now December 23, so that benchmark date is quickly approaching. Aguilar ultimately will make the final call on if he stays or goes, so it will be interesting to see what happens. It has to be a tough spot for him as he has to weigh his priorities. Should he stay and represent his home country? Or should he try to improve his standing with the Major League club that signed him? It’s certainly not an enviable position to be in.
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.