Last night the Caribbean World Series came to an end with the Mexican team winning the championship, officially ending the winter ball season. Now with Spring Training just around the corner, it’s time to catch up on what some Mets minor leaguers did on their winter vacation. A few did well, while others found themselves struggling. In judging winter league performances, it’s important to remember that it’s a small sample of at bats, with most guys barely getting a month’s worth of games played. It’s also important to note that the level of competition in the Caribbean Winter leagues is no where near the big league level; at best, they probably equate most closely to the AA level, perhaps slightly lower than that. Still, let’s take a look at some of the studs and duds of this past winter:
Wilmer Flores – In 31 games in Venezuela, the Mets top position prospect hit an impressive .320, with 2 home runs and 6 doubles. This of course is only a reinforcement of what we’ve known all along: this very young man can hit. If nothing else, it will keep his confidence up as he likely heads back to St. Lucie when camp breaks with Binghamton a possibility later in the year.
Manuel Alvarez – Pitching in Venezuela, Alvarez had a good winter in preparation for vying for a bullpen spot in spring. He held his ERA under three in 21 relief innings across 17 appearances. Although just 14 strikeouts, he did keep his WHIP at 1.27, which is definitely a good place to be with his control, although it will be a whole different ball game for Alvarez trying to earn a place in the majors.
Michael O’Connor – Before adding competition to the Mets wide-open LOOGY position, O’Connor spent the winter in the Dominican pitching over 13 innings in 19 appearances, clearly in prep for a lot of one and done situations. His ERA was just 1.98 to go along with a strong WHIP of 1.24. O’Connor also struck out 18 and walked only 4, and if he can keep up those types of numbers in camp, he will put himself in good position to win a bullpen spot.
Eric Campbell – After hitting .306 in the regular season, Campbell hit a disappointing .210 in Venezuela in 25 games. He struck out 21 times and slugged just .284. This is a league that Campbell should have been able to handle better, and will likely bring him back to Binghamton to start 2011.
Jose Coronado – The athletic Coronado has been okay against AA competition, where he’s been for at least part of the past four seasons. However, in Venezuela this winter he hit .163 in 32 games, with just 1 extra-base hit. This only reinforces the likelihood that Coronado has hit a wall and likely won’t progress much further.
Francisco Pena – Playing winter ball in the Dominican was crucial for Pena after injuries limited him to only 20 games in 2010. However, the 36 games he played did not work out so greatly, hitting just .182 with 24 strikeouts. However, he did hit two home runs, and considering he’s never been above A-ball and had limited at bats during the season, he’s poor numbers are understandable, but 2011 appears to be do or die time for Pena, to see if he can live up to his genes and has a chance to be a big leaguer.
Stefan Welch – This native Australian spent the winter in his homeland, where he barely kept himself above the Mendoza line. He did however hit 7 home runs and drove in 25 runs in just 40 games after hitting 8 homers and 68 RBI’s this past season. All the home runs did get his slugging percentage to a respectable level, so there was good and bad to Welch’s winter, but it’s doubtful that the league in Australia is as competitive as in the Caribbean, so it’s tough to gauge what kind of competition he faced.
Here’s how the front-runners for the second-base job did during the winter:
Brad Emaus – Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus prepped for the season in the Dominican, hitting a respectable .268, and using 4 home runs and 9 doubles to slug .449. It’s about what you’d expect for a guy who has never been above AA, and not too much should be read into this going into Spring Training.
Daniel Murphy – After only 11 games in 2010 because of injury, Murphy played 28 games in the Dominican where he was able to hit .320 with 4 home runs, 6 doubles, and 22 RBI’s. The fact that Murphy hit well is no surprise, the real question is: will the time spent playing second base this winter help his defense improve enough to claim the opening day job at second.
Justin Turner – Turner hit .313 in the Dominican in 20 games, hitting only 1 home run, but 7 doubles. He will have to substantially outshine his competitors for the second base job in Spring Training, as having options left will work to his disadvantage, but his confidence should be high after a successful stint in Buffalo last year was followed up with these solid numbers over the winter.
Check out this link for winter league stats for all players in the Mets organization: http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/org.jsp?id=nym