Time to take a quick spin around the winter leagues and check in on some of our prospects.
Grabbing the headlines today was Danny Dorn, who ripped 3 homeruns and drove in 6 runs for Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezuelan Winter League. He now has a slash line of .293/.408/.610/1.018 with an 8/5 K/BB ratio. I still love Dorn's swing and his approach at the plate, but sadly he may never get a legitimate look at the MLB level with the Reds. It's unfortunate that he got off to such a slow start last year, as there was an opportunity for playing time in the Reds outfield. Professional sports careers are frequently determined by timing. For the superstars, timing really doesn't matter, as they'll push their way to the majors. They have the ability to make their own opportunity. However, for the fringe players or even the potential solid regulars, it often comes down to opportunity and timing. The window can close in a hurry and never open again. Over the course of MLB history, how many All Star caliber players have withered on the vine for want of an opportunity? I would imagine more than a few. Unfortunately, last season may have been both the opening and closing of Dorn's window into the Reds organization. Ultimately, I think he'll get a shot at the MLB level, but it will probably be with another organization.
Yonder Alonso continues to struggle in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Saguaros. In 36 ABs, Yonder is hitting a paltry .222/.262/.389 and frankly it couldn't matter less. At this point, Yonder just needs more playing time to recover from the hamate bone injury and regain his timing and confidence. He's getting the swings he needs, which is what's truly important, regardless of what he does with them.
At the opposite end of the spectrum you have Chris Heisey, who simply continues to pound the ball. He's hitting a robust .396/.473/.771/1.244. He's certainly turning heads and earning more and more respect, but you have to wonder if that's a good thing. Heisey has thrived on proving people wrong and maybe he needs the extra motivation that a chip-on-the-shoulder provides. His constant need to push back against the weight of low expectations has elevated him above Danny Dorn and others.
Juan Francisco hasn't carried over his 2009 level of performance into the winter leagues. He is currently scuffling along at .185/.290/.296/.587, so maybe he's tired after a long season. He actually has 4 walks on the season, but the small sample eliminates any importance that might be placed on that walk rate. I still remain deeply concerned about his approach at the plate and his strikeout rate. Still, he's the type of player the Dusty covets, so he will likely play a significant role in Cincy in 2010.
Finally, on to the newbies in the organization. Mike Leake is pitching for Peoria Saguaros in his professional debut. So far, his performance has been uneven, but traditionally the Arizona Fall League tilts heavily in favor of hitters. In 3 starts, Leake has worked 8.2 innings with a 1.04 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, and a 6/2 K/BB rate. The ERA is strong, but not supported by his peripherals. He has given up 13 hits in only 8.2 innings and his K/9 rate of 6.3 leaves a bit to be desired. Again, small sample size and a tough environment, so no conclusions to be drawn until 2010.
Brad Boxberger has worked 6.0 innings for the Saguaros in 3 two inning relief appearances. In his 6.0 innings, Boxberger has a 7/1 K/BB ratio and a 1.75 GB/FB, but a 6.00 ERA. His peripherals are stronger than Leake and his performance so far has been encouraging.
Overall, some interesting and encouraging performances around the Winter Leagues. No definitive conclusions to be drawn, but perhaps a bit of additional support for those already drawn.