Put down the turkey leg and up your bandwidth. This is the part where we all huddle around the warm glow of our computer screens to watch streaming video from countries not buried in seven feet of snow. Dust off your Spanish dictionary – it’s time for the winter leagues. Granted there will be names you’ve never heard of but there are cheerleaders…and prospects. There are also some major leaguers getting in the extra reps before we put a bow on 2014. Several leagues playing now will continue until the end of December, but the majority of the players we follow are concentrated in the Dominican and Venezuelan leagues, so we’ll roll with them for the most part. Just like the AFL, these are small sample sizes and the competition varies, but some performances stand out and are worth mentioning. Plus dynasty players don’t know the meaning of the word offseason. Here, in no particular order, are some of the players that have stood out to me in the winter leagues so far (stats through Friday)…

Dominican Winter League (LIDOM)

Yasmani Grandal, C | SD

In most one-catcher leagues there’s no reason to sweat the position. After the first handful of elite options, there are lots to choose from that won’t hurt your team. Grandal is a good example of why we shouldn’t sweat it again in 2015. The 26-year-old backstop hit 15 dingers and 19 doubles in 443 plate appearances in 2014, and he has continued to hit the ball very well this winter. He has slashed .328/.469/.541 with two homers and seven doubles in 61 at bats in the DWL and his OBP mark is good for second in the league. He shouldn’t cost much on draft day this season.

Maikel Franco, CI | PHI

Grey went over his Maikel Franco fantasy for 2015 already. Asche should continue to be a stopgap at the third base to start the year, with Franco coming up after some fine-tuning in Triple-A. He may even move across the diamond at some point to replace Ryan Howard. All that aside, Franco is the best fantasy prospect in a thin Phillies system and he’s currently tied for second in the DWL in homers with six bombs in 81 at bats. He’s also second in the league in runs batted in (21). His minor league journey has been a roller coaster. The 22-year-old may very well have been a sell-high after his big 2013 season, but he swung a little too far the other direction after a poor first half in 2014 and now makes for an interesting buy-low. It won’t be in 2015, but there is a 30-100 year in his bat if he reaches his potential.

Cristhian Adames, MI | COL

Adames is slashing .349/.432/.482 in 83 at bats this winter and his batting average is currently second in the league. He doesn’t have much power to speak of and he’s known more for his glove than his bat which makes him questionable for fantasy. He does have double-digit stolen base potential and is pretty much a lock to stick in the middle infield thanks to his defense. He could be a useful option in deeper NL-only leagues with the Colorado bump. Adames got a cup of coffee in 2014 and the 23-year-old shortstop should start the season in Triple-A with another call-up likely at some point in 2015, even if it’s just in a utility role.

Joc Pederson, OF | LAD

Rumors are swirling about possible trades this offseason involving Dodger outfielders not named Puig (I’m looking at you Matt Kemp), and it looks like Pederson is going to get his shot in 2015. He has slashed .265/.351/.361 with a homer and three steals in 83 at bats this winter. Nothing crazy, but he brings a nice mix of power and speed to the fantasy game. One concern is the strikeouts, and so it’s worth mentioning he has struck out in almost a third of his plate appearances for Escogido (33 K/10 BB). I wouldn’t go nuts on him in redrafts since this will be his first full season, but the 22-year-old center fielder is obviously a must own in keepers and dynasties. For more on his 2015 value, check out Grey’s take here.

Randall Delgado, RHP | ARI

Sleeper alert! Delgado isn’t a lock for a spot in the rotation this spring, but he’s throwing as a starter this winter after getting only four starts in all of 2014. Two things I like about Delgado are his strikeout numbers and his age/potential for more growth. Last season he posted a 10.0 K/9 in 77+ innings pitched and his FIP was a full run lower than his ERA. He has struck out 29 batters in 21 innings this winter and he’s still just 24 years old. Keep him on the radar in deeper formats.

Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP)

Orlando Arcia, MI | MIL

Arcia is tearing it up in Venezuela. Through 34 games, he’s slashing .288/.367/.545 with seven homers, nine doubles, and two triples. I recently ranked him third in my 2015 Brewers MiLB preview, and my comment still applies: “(Arcia) has a great chance to stick at shortstop thanks to his defense…the 20-year-old infielder doesn’t strike out much and has plus speed. He was one of the youngest players in High-A this season and would make a case for ranking higher on this list if his value wasn’t as tied to his glove. Already a good contact hitter, Arcia could also develop more power as he matures. Next year will be telling as he gets away from the FSL and gets his feet wet against Double-A pitching.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF | MIN

Orlando’s big brother is playing with him in Venezuela this winter. In just 15 games, the Twins outfielder has four homers and 10 strikeouts. Last season, Arcia hit 20 homers in just over 400 plate appearances, but he also struck out at a 31% clip. If he can get those ponches under control even a little, it’s not hard to envision him as a player that runs into 30 homers. Steamer is predicting 24 dingers from him in 2015, and he’s still just 23 years old.

Avisail Garcia, OF | CWS

Garcia has three homers and two steals in 16 games so far this winter. He’s a pretty package of power and speed that makes for a valuable fantasy asset. All the positive things that were written about Garcia heading into 2014 still apply. He is just 23 years old and missed most of last season after tearing his labrum diving for a catch back in April. Still he managed to hit seven homers in just 190 plate appearances. The White Sox lineup now sports both Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche. If there’s anybody left on base, Garcia should knock them in (he’s projected to hit fifth). I’d draft with confidence in 2015 and pursue him aggressively in keepers.

Aaron Altherr, OF | PHI

It’s been mentioned already that the Phillies farm is thin, but one of the prospects flying under the radar is Altherr. While he may only be a fourth outfielder when it’s all said and done, the 23-year-old is close to the majors and gives the Phils an outfield option in house. He hit 14 homers and stole 12 bases for Double-A Reading in 2014. Through 31 games in Venezuela he has four homers, five doubles, and a pair of triples. In a dynasty trade I’d take him as a throw-in just to see if he sticks.

Erasmo Ramirez, RHP | SEA

In 18 innings pitched, Ramirez has allowed no earned runs and has struck out 14 batters while walking three. In his last outing he pitched six no-hit innings. Ramirez is still just 24 years old and the Mariners will have to make a decision with him this season since he is now out of options. That means he will have to clear waivers to be sent back down to the minors. There probably isn’t anything to see here fantasy-wise, other than yours truly getting sucked into the Erasmortex for the third year in a row. Grab some popcorn.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

 
  1. Lville Jim says:
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    I got Erasmoed three or four times last season, he never even gave a reach around.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      ha! I feel your pain

  2. Mike says:
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    Oswaldo Arcia was to streaky for me, might as well draft Carter.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Yeah, they’re both late round power guys.

  3. Big Magoo

    Big Magoo says:
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    Great stuff, Mike. I was just looking at Oswaldo the other day. In addition to that 31% K% that you mentioned, he had a .574 OPS against left handed pitching last season (.613 career). Not really usable in weekly formats until he figures that out, but makes for a nice batty call against righties in daily/RCL formats.

    I’m really interested to see if Kemp gets moved. His contract is a huge albatross in real life, but I think he might have another .280/30/12 type of season in him, which is obviously huge in fantasy (especially these days). I’d love to see what he could do in Baltimore if they are unable to resign Cruz.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks Magoo!

      Oof…I hadn’t seen that split on Oswaldo. Good call.

      I’m right there with you on Kemp. Traded for him at the the break in a couple leagues in 2014. He had 17 dingers in the second half last year, which I think is kind of wild. (only Carter and Bautista had more with 18) Baltimore would be nice. I heard Seattle rumored, which might not be ideal.

      • Big Magoo

        Big Magoo says:
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        @Mike: Yeah, Seattle would definitely ding his value a bit. I haven’t really been following the rumors too closely, just thinking about what might be a fit. An AL team would probably work best because he could be used at DH at least part of the time over there. He’s not exactly the greatest defender in the world, but his bat should be plenty useful for a few more years.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          For sure, and he’s still only 30. I know Pederson is an exciting prospect, but Kemp and Hanley are big bats to have to replace in that lineup.

  4. Ron The Vegas Trip Winner says:
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    Hanley to Boston…wow! Lineup prediction?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Nice, that’s a big one! Hmmm, hard to say with so many moving parts. For example, they might still sign Panda and trade an outfielder, etc. My guess is Hanley would find a way to hit second or third though. Perhaps right in front of Papi. Betts would make a nice leadoff hitter.

  5. goodfold2 says:
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    altherr is a guy old prospect whisperer Scott led me to in one of my later rounds (we only have 5 rounds per offseason). I at least made the Erasmortex cheaper by cutting his 6.4 per year cost in a 2 year extention. of course now if i want him i’ll have to bid on him and win, or get to him first in season on waivers (we don’t have offseason waivers, only bids, during bidding period)

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Nice. Yeah, If he’s cheap enough might be worth the lottery ticket in a super deep league like that.

  6. Hawk says:
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    In your blurb above you note that Oswaldo Arcia has 10 Ks in 15 games. That’d be 100 Ks in 150 games – definitely a livable rate in this day and age (still bad but he’s not Mark Reynolds or anything).

    That said, even if he jumped to 120, 130 Ks in the majors it’d still be so-so if the associated power came with it. 12 team or deeper, I’m not worried about those Ks at all.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      yeah, the winter league numbers are kind of a small sample to go on (31% K rate last two years in the majors). I’m right there with you though. I’ll swallow the Ks and take the power if the price is right…which it should be for a guy like Oswaldo this year.

  7. Swfcdan says:
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    Lost Oscar (very sad) in one league but still have Joc, are these strikeouts likely to put a limit on his production over the next couple years? What numbers do you foresee for him next year psychic Mike, around a 15/15/250 season? Trying to figure out how useful he’ll be in my keeper next year, might wait until he starts hitting before I consider promoting him.

    Franco fell off a bit but still has good power potential which is valuable nowadays. Have him in one keeper, where would you rank him after his rollercoaster of a year, top 40 prospect?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      15/15 sounds fair in Joc’s first year. I’d wait as long as you can with these guys before starting their clocks on your fantasy team.

      Franco’s still a T50 prospect in my mind, but I haven’t given much thought to where in that T50 he’d be.

  8. Sea says:
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    If you’re curious about any players in this year’s Australian Baseball League, let me know. I work with the Melbourne Aces and get to see all the teams.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Nice! Good to know…I’ve got friends down there, but they’re not really into baseball.

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