Here's how prospects are faring in winter ball

January 5th, 2021

The playoffs are now underway in several offseason leagues, and it hasn’t taken long for some prospects to make an impact.

In the Dominican Republic, Gigantes del Cibao are one win away from advancing to the LIDOM finals after taking a 3-0 lead over Estrellas de Oriente in the best-of-seven semifinals. Oneil Cruz, MLB Pipeline’s No. 59 prospect, hit an opposite-field homer for Gigantes in their Game 3 win, while José Sirí, a former Reds Top 30 prospect who recently signed a Minor League contract with Houston, connected on his third home run in two games before delivering a walk-off single.

And while postseason play also has begun in the Mexican Pacific League as well as the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League in Puerto Rico, both circuits have had their respective playoff schedules impacted by COVID-19. Elsewhere, the Venezuelan winter league’s regular season is beginning to wind down, while the Australian Baseball League season is in its early stages after a mid-December launch.

Here’s a look at some of the top prospects who have stood out this offseason:

Isaac Paredes, INF (Tigers No. 6)
Paredes, 21, won the Mexican Pacific League batting title with a .379 average this year as part of an impressive offseason campaign for Mazatlan. In addition to his league-leading average – which was 26 points above his runner-up – Paredes also paced the circuit in OPS (1.060) and doubles (17). The plate discipline that has allowed Paredes to record a career .355 on-base percentage in the Minors was on full display, as he accrued more than twice as many walks (27) as strikeouts (12) en route to a league-best .480 OBP.

Jeremy Peña, SS/2B (Astros No. 4)
A third-round pick by Houston in the 2018 Draft, Peña has some of the best all-around tools in the Astros’ system and showcased them all this offseason playing for Estrellas (D.R.). The 23-year-old infielder fared well at the plate, slashing .306/.349/.430 with seven extra-base hits including three home runs over 30 games. He finished among the league leaders in numerous categories including hits (37, 2nd), total bases (52, 2nd), runs scored (18, 3rd) and stolen bases (7, tied-3rd). In the playoffs, Peña has notched one hit in his last 15 at-bats after he homered in Game 1 of the quarterfinals against Escogido.

Oneil Cruz, SS (Pirates No. 3/MLB No. 59)
Cruz’s home run in Game 3 was his first of the season and came in his lone playoff start for Cibao. The effortless, opposite-field power that Cruz showed in the process is exactly what makes the 6-foot-7 shortstop such a tantalizing, high-ceiling prospect. Overall, the 22-year-old produced a .245/.260/.347 batting line in the D.R. during the regular season, tallying a pair of triples in 14 games.

Daniel Brito, 2B (Phillies No. 29)
While Brito has cooled off a bit offensively to begin 2021, going 2-for-9 with a pair of singles across his last three games, it should not detract from what has been a strong offseason campaign for Aguilas Del Zulia in Venezuela. Brito is batting .284/.338/.413 with three homers, five doubles and 16 RBIs through 32 games, during which the 22-year-old has improved his defensive versatility through reps at shortstop, second and third base. Originally signed by Philadelphia for $650,000 in July 2014, Brito posted a .252/.319/.341 batting line with 16 homers during his first five Minor League seasons, none of which have come at the Double-A level.

Osleivis Basabe, INF (Rays)
One of three prospects acquired from Texas in the offseason Nate Lowe trade, Basabe is a speedy infielder who has a penchant for making quality contact from the right side of the plate. That pure hitting ability enabled the 20-year-old infielder to produce a .444 average while hitting safely in 10 of his first 12 games with Aguilas Del Zulia in Venezuela, though his average has since dropped to .357 due to a recent 0-for-11 skid. Defensively, Basabe has played second base in all 15 games.

Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B (Royals No. 24)
A teammate of Cruz and Peña on Gigantes Del Cibao, Gutierrez, 26, made his mark in 17 regular-season games with the club, batting .396/.492/.604 in 63 trips to the plate. Seven of his 18 hits were for extra bases, including two home runs, and he also scored nine runs. But after finishing the regular season with four straight multihit efforts, Gutierrez has scuffled to begin the playoffs, going 1-for-11 with four strikeouts. The Royals surely hope Gutierrez’s production will carry over into 2021 after he batted .244 with a .637 OPS in 91 Major League plate appearances from 2019-20.

Luis Medina, RHP (Yankees No. 11)
Medina allowed two runs over five innings to earn the win in his first playoff start for Mayaguez (Puerto Rico). He issued three walks and gave up a pair of hits in the contest, striking out four against Atenienses De Manati. The 21-year-old right-hander was the most electric pitcher during the LBPRC regular season, leading the league in ERA (0.54), WHIP (0.78) and strikeouts (32). He also held the opposition to a .125 average (also league-best) in 16 2/3 innings, averaging 17.3 K/9 over four starts.

Luis Oviedo, RHP (Pirates No. 22)
Oviedo, 21, has not allowed an earned run in eight of his nine relief appearances for Cardenales de Lara. He’s completed at least two frames in five of those outings, pitching to a 0.63 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 12 1/3 innings overall. Acquired by Pittsburgh immediately after the Mets had selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, Oviedo, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, should pitch out of the Pirates’ bullpen in 2021 so long as he remains on the team’s active roster.

Edwin Uceta, RHP (Dodgers No. 22)
Uceta has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for Estrellas in each of the first two rounds of the Dominican postseason, including a scoreless, two-inning performance with three strikeouts in the opening round. The 22-year-old righty was sharp in his five starts (six total appearances) for Estrellas during the regular season, posting a 1.96 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings. The Dodgers added Uceta to their 40-man roster in November, after a 2019 campaign in which he went 11-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 141/49 K/BB in 123 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa. 

Miguel Amaya, C (Cubs No. 3/MLB No. 91)
Amaya, 21, made the most of his offseason campaign in Puerto Rico, as he finished the regular season with a .261/.533/.609 batting line and two home runs in 10 games for Criollos de Caguas. He led all LBPRC hitters in on-base percentage (.553), ranked second in the circuit in OPS (1.161) and finished fifth in RBIs (11).

Vidal Bruján, SS/2B (Rays No. 4/MLB No. 41)
Bruján, 22, started out hot for Toros del Este before cooling down to finish the regular season with a .254/.373/.317 batting line in 20 games. He consistently impacted games with his plus-plus speed, recording league-best 10 stolen bases and also finishing fifth in runs scored (14).