This is the second installment in our staggered previews of the Winter Leagues. Our preview of the Venezuelan and Australian leagues went up a few days ago, with Venezuela already playing and Australia opening on the 31st. With no players going to Mexico this year, this leaves two other leagues to preview: The Dominican and Puerto Rican leagues. The DR started play Friday, but the PR still doesn't have rosters up. So...
Let's take a look at who the Sox have playing in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicana (link leads to the league's scoreboard):
Toros del Este
RHP Simon Castro, a native Dominican, is on the roster for Toros del Este. Castro had some struggles this season as a starter in AAA (a repeated theme for him), but seemed to improve as a reliever, and put up decent numbers in a brief 4 game stint with the big club (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K). He's looking for a bullpen spot in 2014, but a drop in veloccity late in the year raises concerns, and hopefully he doesn't pile on too many innings.
RHP Jhan Marinez had a strong 2012 that ended with a brief appearance in the majors, but his 2013 was marred by injury and poor performance. Even in a down year at AAA though, he did strike out 26 in 28 innings. This 25 year old is likely to be in AAA Charlotte in 2014, but if he returns to 2012 form, he could see the majors. Like Castro, he is a native of the DR.
OF Alejandro De Aza is of course many years beyond the prospect realm, and he's looking at his 2nd arbitration year with a team struggling to find a new identity. His offensive numbers were above average in 2013, but his baserunning blunders and at-times shaky defense put him on the fence. This Dominican is likely just on the roster to show the flag, and it would be a surprise if he got in any significant playing time.
Gigantes del Cibao
Leury Garcia is the defensive wizard acquired from Texas in the Alex Rios trade. The Sox probably see him as a utility infielder who adds plus speed to his plus-plus defensive abilities at the skill infield spots, but there are major questions about his bat (.475 OPS in 111 MLB PA so far, minor league career OPS of .656). He's still just 22 years old, and this Dominican can use all the offensive work he can get in, so some time in the winter leagues seems like a solid idea. He'll be fighting for a job with Chicago for 2014, but may end up in AAA Charlotte.
1B Dan Black had a 2013 much like every other full season he's had in the minors: put up big offensive numbers (.290/.411/.470, 17 HR, 98 K vs 91 BB in 551 PA) while being 1-2 years old for his level. Some question why he's never been accelerated up the system to see if his numbers are real or an illusion, but for now, he's just going to have to stay sharp with some winter ball and then rake in AAA in 2014, hoping to get someone's attention.
RHP Tony Pena Jr is a converted infielder (switched from shortstop in 2009) who put up decent but unspectacular numbers pitching in AAA Charlotte as a 32 year old this past year. Not a prospect by any stretch, Tony is a native Dominican who might stay in the organization as an innings eater for Charlotte in 2014.
We'll put up a preview of the prospects in the Puerto Rican League when those rosters go up.