Top prospect performers in winter leagues

Detroit Tigers

A World Series champion has been crowned and free agency has begun, but the 2020 baseball season isn’t quite over yet. Winter leagues in Mexico and the Dominican Republic are underway and seasons in Australia and other countries are scheduled to start in the next few weeks.
While winter ball

A World Series champion has been crowned and free agency has begun, but the 2020 baseball season isn’t quite over yet. Winter leagues in Mexico and the Dominican Republic are underway and seasons in Australia and other countries are scheduled to start in the next few weeks.

While winter ball is always a good opportunity for prospects to get reps, this year may take on some added significance because the traditional Minor League Baseball season was cancelled. Prospects did see some action at alternate training sites and instructs, and some of them played in the Majors, but 2020 was far from a typical year for development.

The bulk of top prospects are playing in the Dominican, but there are a few playing in Mexico and others will see game action once the other leagues begin. It’s early, but here’s a look at how several prospects are performing internationally thus far:

Wander Franco (Rays No. 1, MLB No. 1)
There’s a reason Franco is the No. 1 prospect in baseball and he’s showing why as he stars for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. The 19-year-old is hitting .350 (7-for-20) with a homer and two RBIs. His seven hits are also tied for the league lead and he leads the league with 10 total bases as well.

While the offensive numbers jump off the screen, Franco has shown that he’s a complete player and has put together some highlight-reel defensive plays as well.

Franco hit .327 with nine homers and 53 RBIs over 114 games in 2019 and spent the 2020 campaign working out at the Rays’ alternate training site.

Julio Rodriguez (Mariners No. 2, MLB No. 15)
One of the most recognizable prospects playing winter ball this year, Rodriguez is off to a slow start at the plate, but is tied for second in the league with two stolen bases and has made some nice plays defensively. Rodriguez, 19, is hitting .217 with three RBIs through six games, but has struck out nine times over 23 at-bats. Rodriguez suffered a hairline fracture in his left wrist during Summer Camp in July, but was able to make up for lost time a bit during instructional league and is now getting additional reps with Leones del Escogido.

Albert Abreu (Yankees No. 12)
After a brief appearance in the Majors this season, Abreu is continuing his 2020 campaign in the Dominican, playing for Tigres del Licey. The hard-throwing 25-year-old appeared in two games for the Yankees this season and has made one start in the Dominican. Abreu gave up one run on two hits and tallied five strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings.

Chas McCormick (Astros No. 22)
McCormick has been a doubles machine for Leones del Escogido. The 25-year-old outfielder is tied for eighth in the Dominican Winter League with seven total bases as three of his four hits have been doubles. McCormick, who is hitting .235 through four games, spent the summer at the Astros alternate training site and was added to Houston’s roster for the Wild Card Series.

Kelvin Gutierrez (Royals No. 25)
It’s important to keep sample sizes in mind since the Dominican Winter League is still in its early stages, but Gutierrez has performed well through two games. The 26-year-old is 3-for-9 at the plate and has already driven in four runs. Gutierrez, whom the Royals acquired from the Nationals in 2018, appeared in the big leagues in both 2019 and 2020 and hit .244 over 82 at-bats (24 games).

Isaac Paredes (Tigers No. 6)
The sample size is still small, but Paredes is raking for Venados de Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League. The 21-year-old third baseman is hitting .385 (10-for-26) through eight games and has driven in eight runs, four of which came via a grand slam he hit last week. Paredes has also constantly found himself on base as he’s drawn 10 walks and has a .541 on-base percentage. Paredes made his Major League debut in August and hit .220 with a homer and six RBIs over 34 games.

Esteban Quiroz (Rays No. 30)
Quiroz, whom the Rays acquired via trade from the Padres in March, has been productive early in the Mexican Pacific League season. Playing for Caneros de los Mochis, Quiroz is second in the league with 22 RBIs and is hitting .276 (21-for-76) with three homers through 24 games. The 28-year-old spent time at the Rays alternate training site this season and set career highs for both homers (19) and RBIs (66) over 96 games with Triple-A El Paso in 2019.

Anderson Tejeda (Rangers No. 7)
After making his Major League debut earlier this year, Tejeda is continuing his 2020 campaign with Tigres del Licey in the Dominican. Through three games Tejeda is hitting .273 (3-for-11) and is tied for fifth in the league with eight total bases as all of his hits have gone for extra bases (a homer and two doubles). The 22-year-old, whom the Rangers signed for $100,000 in 2014, hit .253 over 23 games this season in his Major League debut. A switch-hitter, Tejeda has plus raw power, but his best tool is his 70-grade (on the 20-80 scouting scale) arm, which ranks as one of the best among infield prospects.

Edwin Uceta (Dodgers No. 22)
He’s only appeared in one game for Estrellas Orientales, but both Uceta and the Dodgers are likely pleased with the 22-year-old’s performance. The right-hander, whom the Dodgers added to their 40-man roster on Friday, yielded two hits, but also struck out five over three scoreless innings. Signed for $10,000 back in 2016, Uceta went 11-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 141 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings in 2019.

Here is a look at how all team Top 30 prospects are faring in winter ball.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

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