We’ll continue the trip around winter league baseball action with the AL West, which takes on a new look this year with the addition of the Houston Astros.
If you haven’t read the first two installments of this series, I’ll be highlighting some prospects and major league players who are spending their offseason playing winter league baseball either in another country or in the Arizona Fall League (AFL).
Jose Altuve — One of my favorite players from 2012, and someone I think we’ll become a superstar in this league, Altuve is staying fresh in the Venezuelan league after batting .296 in his second season in the majors. In only 27 at-bats this offseason, he’s gathered eight hits, including two doubles and a triple, while walking four times.
Jiovanni Mier — The 22-year-old shortstop was a first-round draft pick in 2009 but failed to show much improvement in his first two seasons before batting .292 in high-A ball this year. In the AFL, he’s hitting .317 in 60 at-bats with eight doubles. Could be the Astros future shortstop.
Jose Martinez — A possible solution at shortstop even sooner, Martinez is 26 and finished the season at triple-A. He is batting .333 in the Venezuelan League with three home runs and 17 RBIs. More likely to be a utility guy or trade bait.
Brandon Barnes — Listed as the Astros starting center fielder on the team depth chart, Barnes tore it up in triple-A this season before getting promoted. He struggled in the majors, but hopefully that experience and some time in the Venezuelan League will prepare him for the role. Through 103 at-bats this winter, he’s hitting .291 with 20 RBIs, four home runs and three triples.
George Springer — Possibly the center fielder of the future, this former first-round draft pick his trying to make his case in the AFL. He’s batting .288 in 66 at-bats with three triples, four home runs, 17 runs scored, 13 walks and five stolen bases. He’s 23 and ended the year in triple-A, so his time may be sooner rather than later.
Chia-Jen Lo — An undrafted signee, this 26-year-old righty is pitching effectively in the AFL, posting a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings of relief, while striking out 11 and walking three.
Nick Tropeano — Used mainly as a starter in high-A ball this year, where he struck out 69 in 70.2 innings with a 3.31 ERA, Tropeano has mostly been used in a reliving role in the AFL. In his 15 innings of work, he’s struck out 18 batters and only allowed 10 hits.
Luis Jimenez — The Angels are in need of a long-term solution at third base, and Jimenez is hoping to fill that role. After hitting .309 in triple-A this season, he’s staying fresh in the Dominican League, where he’s currently hitting .269 in 52 at bats. At 24, he could get his shot in the majors this year.
Ryan Brasier — This 25-year-old righty is looking to make the Angels roster this year after spending the 2012 season in triple-A, where he struck out 54 batters in 59.2 innings. In the Mexican League this winter, he’s struck out 13 in 13.2 innings, allowing 11 hits and four earned runs.
Eliezer Mesa — This 24-year-old center fielder moved through three levels of the A’s system last year, not hitting particularly well at any stop. He’s off to a good start in the Dominican League, though, hitting .385 in 26 at-bats.
Grant Green — The 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Green is ready to prove he’s prepared for the big leagues after hitting .296 in triple-A this past season. In the AFL, he’s batting .273 in 66 at-bats with two home runs, 11 RBIs and 10 walks. Could be trade bait with that crowded A’s outfield, or if he improves enough, he could force someone on the major league roster to be traded to open up a spot for him.
Arnold Leon — Leon was signed by the A’s in 2008 and finished the 2012 season in triple-A, posting a 1.77 ERA in 35.2 innings. This winter in the Mexican League, the 24-year-old righty has struck out 12 in eight innings of work, while only allowing six hits and one earned run.
James Simmons — Another right-handed bullpen arm and former first round pick, Simmons has a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings in the AFL. Amazingly, he’s only given up one hit but surrendered two earned runs, while walking three and striking out eight.
Bartolo Colon — The re-signed Colon is pitching effectively through three starts in the Dominican League. In 11.1 innings he’s given up 11 hits, three earned runs and one walk, while striking out 13.
Carlos Peguero — Peguero tore up the Pacific Coast League his last two seasons at triple-A but has been unable to translate that success into the majors. Through 28 at-bats in the Dominican League this winter, he’s hitting .357 with three home runs and six walks.
Stefen Romero — The 24-year-old former sixth-round draft pick hit .347 in double-A this year and is batting .333 in the AFL. Possible third baseman of the future or trade piece.
Nick Franklin — A first round draft pick in 2009, this 21-year-old shortstop is turning heads in the AFL league. He was named MVP of the AFL Rising Stars game. Through 73 at-bats he’s hitting .315 with two home runs and 22 RBIs. He’s walked 12 times and whiffed 15 times. He finished 2012 in triple-A and could be ready for the majors soon.
Mike Zunino — Taken third overall in the 2012 draft, this catcher is on the fast track to the majors after finishing the year in double-A and now posting good numbers in the AFL. In 76 at-bats he’s hitting .289. I plan on seeing him in the majors this year.
Danny Farquhar — This 25-year-old righty is looking to earn a bullpen spot in 2013. Pitching in the Venzuelan League, he’s struck out 15 batters in 12.2 innings with a 1.42 ERA.
Hanser Alberto — The Rangers are loaded at the shortstop position as Alberto has emerged as a legitimate prospect, batting .356 in 59 AFL at-bats. He’s only 20 and finished the season at high-A ball, but he could be a factor soon in a trade.
Mike Olt — His name has been swirling in trade rumors lately as Olt tries to prepare himself for the majors by playing in the Dominican league. He hasn’t been all that impressive, hitting .256 with one home run in 43 at-bats. He didn’t look good in his debut in the majors either, but at 24, he’s still viewed as one of the top prospects in the game.
Jurickson Profar — Another Rangers shortstop and another player mentioned in trade rumors, Profar hasn’t been all that impressive in the Dominican League either, hitting just .250 in 16 at-bats. He also didn’t impress in his debut in the majors, but he’ll turn 20 in February and is a prime piece of the Rangers future.
Chris McGuiness — The 24-year-old first baseman put up impressive power numbers for the Rangers double-A affiliate in 2012 and has continued that trend in the AFL. In 88 at-bats, he’s hit four home runs and driven in 26, while showing patience at the plate by walking 13 times. Could be a decent power bat at first for the Rangers or an enticing trade piece.
Wilfredo Boscan — Boscan worked mainly out of the bullpen in 2012 for the Rangers double-A affiliate but has thrived in his six starts in the Venezuelan League. In 27.2 innings, he’s given up only 23 hits and two earned runs, while striking out 19. He’s 23 and could be a long-relief/back-of-the-rotation arm.
Jimmy Reyes — The 23-year-old left-hander has been impressive in the AFL, allowing only one run in 13.1 innings. He’s given up seven hits and two walks, while striking out nine. He spent the entire 2012 season in high-A but could soon be a part of the Rangers bullpen.