Need a fix? Here’s what’s happening in the winter leagues (NL Central)
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With the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League (AFL) over the weekend, all the focus is on baseball in other countries. We now shift our focus to the NL Central, which will be without the Houston Astros this year.
You can read reviews from other divisions at the bottom of this page.
In this article, I’m going to focus on prospects and some major league players who are spending their offseasons playing winter league baseball. Many of these players are top prospects or could be potential trade pieces during this offseason.
Junior Lake — A 22-year-old shortstop who spent 2012 in double-A where he batted .279, Lake is currently hitting .342 in 76 Dominican League at-bats with five stolen bases. With Starlin Castro signed through 2020, Lake will either need to move positions or be traded.
Matt Szczur — Szczur was a fifth-round pick by the Cubs in the 2010 draft and has put together two solid, full seasons of minor league baseball, ending 2012 in double-A. The 23-year-old outfielder hit .264 in the AFL with 14 walks and only 10 strikeouts in 91 at-bats, while swiping nine bases.
Esmailin Caridad — The right handed reliever is looking impressive in the Mexican League in 20.1 innings. He’s given up four earned runs and six walks, while striking out 27. He had a decent season with the Cubs triple-A affiliate in 2012 striking out a batter an inning and could vie for a bullpen spot in 2013.
Donald Lutz — Lutz hit 20 and 22 home runs in his last two minor league seasons and earned a trip to the AFL where he hit .395 in 43 at-bats. The 23-year-old first baseman could be ready for the big leagues this year, as a backup, or traded.
Billy Hamilton — The 22-year-old outfielder created quite the buzz in minor league baseball when he stole 155 bases. But Hamilton struggled to get on base in the AFL batting .234 in 64 at-bats. He walked seven times and stole 10 bases. There is no doubt his speed belongs in the majors, but after finishing the season in double-A, I think it would be wise for the Reds to let him continue developing. He’s definitely in their future outfield plans. It’s also important to note Hamilton was injured during the championship game of the AFL after crashing into a wall, but reports say he is just having back spasms and should be fine.
Didi Gregorius — The 22-year-old shortstop registered six hits in 20 major league at-bats in 2012. With Gregorius hitting .284 in 74 AFL at-bats, I expect either him or Cozart to be traded soon with so many teams looking for shortstop help.
Josh Prince — A third-round draft pick in 2009, Prince hit over .400 in the AFL with eight doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He also walked 15 times and only struck out 14 times. The 24-year-old shortstop finished the season at double-A and could be ready for the majors soon, but probably needs more time in the minors. With Jean Segura emerging as the Brewers shortstop of the future, I expect a position change or a utility label to be placed on Prince.
Jean Segura — Speaking of Segura, the 22-year-old shortstop is hoping to defend his position in the lineup by freshening up in the Dominican League. In 90 at-bats, he’s batting .333 with 19 runs scored, 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases. I fully expect Segura to be the Brewers starting shortstop in 2013 and for years to come.
Taylor Green — Listed as the Brewers back-up third baseman, Green is hitting .300 in 40 Dominican League at-bats. He hasn’t been overly impressive in 140 major league at-bats, but he should be a serviceable back up for Aramis Ramirez.
Johnny Hellweg — The 16th-round draft pick was used mostly as a starter before being moved up to double-A in 2012. He threw 13 innings in the AFL, recorded two saves and struck out eight, while posting a 2.08 ERA.
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