Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Winter League Action

Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm waist deep in draft guide projections and writeups, so these next couple of columns won't be quite as wordy as usual. Up this week is a look at how players are performing in winter ball.

Dominican Winter League

Erick Aybar - SS Angels
.246/.289/.342, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 15/6 K/BB, 7 SB in 114 AB

One very important thing to remember about these stats is that the DWL as a whole has a 650 OPS right now. MLB teams were about 110 points better last season. Aybar isn't far short of average for his league. That said, he's done little to help his case as the favorite to replace Orlando Cabrera as the Angels' shortstop. Maicer Izturis is the better player right now.

Willy Aybar - 3B Braves
.269/.356/.333, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 7/11 K/BB, 1 SB in 78 AB

The Aybars were teammates on the Licey Tigers, but Willy hasn't played in a couple of weeks. It remains unclear what the Braves will do with him after he missed most of last season due to substance abuse troubles and a fractured hamate. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him come available on waivers during March.

Angel Berroa - SS Royals
.257/.333/.321, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 15/11 K/BB, 2 SB in 109 AB

Berroa isn't inspiring anyone to take a flier on him. He'll have little chance of making the Royals in the final year of his four-year, $11 million contract, and the team might finally release him in spring training.

Billy Butler - 1B/DH Royals
.234/.308/.298, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 11/5 K/BB, 0 SB in 47 AB

Butler took a scheduled leave of absence early last month to get married. He was supposed to return after Thanksgiving, but it still hasn't happened, suggesting that his winter is over. Since he didn't get much of a chance to work on his defense at first base, the Royals are probably going to use him as a designated hitter.

Jose Capellan - RHP Rockies
3-2, 2.73 ERA, 33 H, 27/12 K/BB in 33 IP

Although he's pitching quite well as a starter, the Rockies figure to keep Capellan in the pen after picking him up from the Tigers this month.

Alexi Casilla - 2B Twins
.285/.363/.323, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 18/14 K/BB, 11 SB in 130 AB

The Twins' pickups of Adam Everett and Mike Lamb mean that Casilla is due for some additional Triple-A team. He'll have only a slight chance of beating out Brendan Harris and Nick Punto for the second-base job.

Francisco Cruceta - RHP Tigers
1-1, 0.87 ERA, 13 H, 27/10 K/BB in 20 2/3 IP

Cruceta's showing recently earned him a major league deal. He'll make the Tigers as a middle reliever with a strong spring.

Nelson Cruz - OF Rangers
.326/.406/.477, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 16/10 K/BB, 1 SB in 86 AB

Cruz falls a little short of qualifying for the batting title, but if he did, he'd rank second in the league in average and first in OPS. Fortunately or unfortunately, most of his production has come versus lefties (11-for-17, four walks). On the plus side, he can still have a meaningful career as a lefty killer. However, he's going to need to do a better job versus righties in order to force the Rangers to give him another chance as a regular.

Johnny Cueto - RHP Reds
4-1, 2.84 ERA, 31 H, 37/7 K/BB in 31 2/3 IP

Over 190 innings for the year, Cueto was shut down after his sixth start on Nov. 28. He's due to open 2008 in the minors, but he's more polished than Homer Bailey and is a definite sleeper for next year.

Kyle Davies - RHP Royals
1-1, 3.76 ERA, 20 H, 22/12 K/BB in 26 1/3 IP

Davies also was shut down last month. He projects as the Royals' fourth or fifth starter at the moment, but the team shouldn't be afraid to bump him if better solutions come along.

Alejandro De Aza - OF Marlins
.195/.259/.325, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 17/5 K/BB, 2 SB in 77 AB

De Aza won't be opening a second straight year as the Marlins' center fielder. He's a long-term reserve at best, and he could use a full year in Triple-A.

Victor Diaz - OF Free Agent
.183/.244/.383, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 32/9 K/BB, 1 SB in 120 AB

Diaz has hit 7 percent of the DWL's homers while claiming 1.8 percent of its at-bats, but no one is going to care when he's batting just .183.

Elijah Dukes - OF Nationals
.236/.408/.436, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 21/11 K/BB, 3 SB in 55 AB

Dukes was one of the league's best players before his temper flared up, leading to an ejection that made news in the U.S. It turned out to be his last appearance in the league and his last on-field act as Rays property. The change of scenery can't hurt.

Joel Guzman - 3B Rays
.239/.345/.543, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 14/6 K/BB, 0 SB in 46 AB

Guzman was a late arrival, but he's been very good since debuting last month. Remember, he just turned 23 in late November. There's still plenty of time left for him to harness his power potential and become a force.

Jose Lima - RHP Free Agent
2-2, 2.41 ERA, 47 H, 18/12 K/BB in 41 IP

Still trying. Lima spent last season pitching in Mexico and went 13-4 with a 3.60 ERA in 22 starts.

Radhames Liz - RHP Orioles
0-0, 0.52 ERA, 10 H, 14/10 K/BB in 17 1/3 IP

Liz has been starting games with success in the Dominican Republic and figures to remain in the rotation in Triple-A to begin 2008. He'd be more interesting for fantasy purposes with a move to the pen, as he'd be a candidate to quickly assume the closer's role in Baltimore.

Andy Marte - 3B Indians
.216/.324/.284, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 25/13 K/BB, 0 SB in 88 AB

The Indians insist they won't be quick to give up on Marte after what happened with Brandon Phillips. Still, little he's done the last two years suggests he's ready to contribute. Because he's out of options, he'll probably stick as a backup to Casey Blake and Ryan Garko.

Julio Mateo - RHP Free Agent
3-3, 2.10 ERA, 51 H, 35/8 K/BB in 51 1/3 IP

Dropped by the Mariners and Phillies after last season's domestic abuse allegations, Matao may be one of the better deals out there in free agency right now. A team in a big ballpark would be smart to grab him and use him in middle relief.

Kendry Morales - 1B Angels
.257/.288/.358, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 21/6 K/BB, 0 SB in 109 AB

Sure, the line makes him an average player in the DWL, but Morales needs to do better if he has any hope of carving out a role for himself in Anaheim. Casey Kotchman's emergence last season may make him expendable.

Oneli Perez - RHP White Sox
1-0, 12 Sv, 0.55 ERA, 8 H, 17/5 K/BB in 16 1/3 IP

The White Sox tried a bunch of relievers last year, but never looked at Perez even though he ended up with a 2.10 ERA and an 89/20 K/BB ratio in 77 IP at Double-A. Maybe the team will begin to take him seriously next season.

Felix Pie - OF Cubs
.239/.308/.385, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 28/10 K/BB, 6 SB in 109 AB

Pie cut back on the strikeouts in Triple-A last season, but it didn't carry over to the majors and he's fanned 28 times in 31 games in the DWL. The Cubs want him to be their center fielder, but they should keep Matt Murton as an insurance policy. Kosuke Fukudome should prove adequate in center if needed.

Danny Richar - 2B White Sox
.224/.265/.254, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 17/3 K/BB, 2 SB in 67 AB

Richar hardly embarrassed himself with a .230/.289/.406 line in 187 at-bats for the White Sox, but neither did he do a lot to solidify his status as a regular. The team needs to invest in a legitimate alternative.

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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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