Dominican Winter League - Season in Review

Adrian Nieto (middle), via Impact Deportivo

Four players from the White Sox organization saw action in the Dominican Winter League regular season, which ended last week. We previewed the league from a White Sox perspective back in the fall. They are in their playoffs now, but let’s take a look at how the White Sox players (two of whom were with the big club in 2014) did during their time in the DR.

Catcher Adrian Nieto had an unusual season in 2014. The White Sox selected him in the Rule V draft, and despite never playing above Advanced A ball, the team kept him in Chicago as the backup catcher all year. His performance on both sides of the ball was uneven, but considering the huge leap in level he took, it could have been much worse. Playing against competition more in line with what he would have faced if he hadn’t been drafted, Nieto posted what appeared on the surface to be a strong .354/.408/.508 line in 18 games with Gigantes del Cibao. But that was supported by an anomolous .553 BABIP (the next highest in the entire league for anyone with as many at-bats was .477), as he struck out 25 (35.2%) times against 6 walks in 71 plate appearances. It was a small sample size to work with, but that high K rate is in line with what he did in the majors. Nieto should probably be in AA to start 2015, but given his odd developmental path, he could be in AAA or possibly even the majors again.

Infielder Leury Garcia was acquired in 2013 in the Alex Rios trade, and spent all of 2014 with the White Sox as a utility man on the bench. His numbers at the plate were dismal, and fighting with a combination of the newly-acquired Emilio Bonifacio, as well as Carlos Sanchez and Tyler Saladino for a bench role in 2015, he’s trying to make a case to return. With Gigantes he hit very well (.345 AVG) and showed very nice peripherals (16 BB vs 12 K in 106 PA), though there is still no power in his game. While the hitting is encouraging, a player with three years of AAA/MLB time should be making quick work of DWL pitching. If he’s looking as good as the numbers suggest, his performance should help his case, especially since he’s noted for his defensive abilities and not his bat. But he’s got an uphill battle for a 2015 job with the White Sox and may be auditioning more for other teams than his current one.

1B Dan Black returned to Aguilas Cibaenas for a second year, and posted some of the strongest hitting numbers in the entire league. During the regular season among qualified batters, Black finished 1st in the DWL in SLG (.552) & OPS (.976), 3rd in OBP (.424), 7th in AVG (.302) and tied for 4th in HR (6) despite missing the last couple weeks of the season. He also walked (24) more than he struck out (22) in 144 plate appearances. In the playoffs thus far (8 semi-final games) he has a 1.289 OPS. Black is making a case for a role in AAA in 2015, where he scuffled a bit in his first shot at it in 2014.

Signed to a minor league deal this offseason, 26 year old shortstop Juan Diaz will serve as AAA depth in Charlotte. He posted a .729 OPS with AAA New Orleans of the PCL this past season, including 12 homers but also a 117:22 K:BB ratio in 498 PA. With Estrellas de Oriente he put up an uninspiring .245/.294/.309 line with 23 K and 7 BB in 104 PA. Diaz does technically have MLB experience – 5 games in 2012.

Quick note: there were four players we mentioned in our preview article who played in the DWL but have since left the organization via trade or other path: 1B Rangel Ravelo (who played just one DR game before leaving with a hand injury, then was traded to Oakland), Andre Rienzo (traded to Miami), Donnie Veal (signed by Braves), and Jose Bautista (released).

RHP’s Jose Brito and Robinson Leyer were both slated to pitch (for Toros del Este and Tigres del Licey respectively), but the Sox put both on the fatigue list to protect their arms and neither one pitched.

Hat tip to for some of the stats you see here – excellent site for in-depth DWL data.

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