Red Sox: Update on how players performed in Winter Ball leagues

Sep 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Recapping the performance of players from within the Boston Red Sox organization that participated in Winter Ball leagues this offseason.

Many MLB players, including some from the Boston Red Sox organization, spend time in the offseason going to the Caribbean to play what is known as “winter ball”.  Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba are all apart of the Caribbean Series.

Each country has its own league that determines a champion. After each champion is crowned, they play in a round robin tournament to determine the champion of all the leagues.

As with every MLB team, the Red Sox have prospects that are in these leagues and participating. Some might come as a surprise, while some are no-brainers. But all of these players are continually working on their skills in order to be the best players they can be.

Position Players

After this season, there were 5 “top-level” position players that decided to play winter ball.  After Andrew Benintendi exceeds rookie status early this season, Rafael Devers will be the highest-rated prospect in Boston’s farm system. A 20 year-old third baseman who is seen to be another young talent to join this squad in the next couple of years, his power is what sets him apart. But during his 25 games in the Dominican League, he is only hitting .243 with no home runs.

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On the other hand, Marco Hernandez is someone who is making the most of his offseason playing time. In 36 games, Hernandez has a decent slash line of .286/4/16. Those four home runs make him the leader among Red Sox players in winter ball. Hernandez is playing for Tigres del Licey.

Another member of the Red Sox is also on that team, and it is someone who you wouldn’t expect going to winter ball. The 33 year-old Hanley Ramirez, who will more than likely transition to DH this season after having one of his better offensive seasons in his career, wanted to play for his hometown team.  After not playing last year due to his shoulder injury, he made the trip down this year.  In just 3 games, HanRam managed only 2 hits and struck out 3 times.

In Puerto Rico, Christian Vazquez went back to his homeland to try to polish his skills even more.  And just like 2016, he has struggled mightily.  In almost 100 AB’s, he is hitting a paltry .237 while grounding into 4 double plays.  But for all the optimists out there, Vazquez has a very good .333 on-base percentage.

Joining Vazquez in Puerto Rico is the outfielder who has been left out of Boston, Rusney Castillo. With the emergence of the killer B’s in the outfield, it seems like Castillo’s path to the majors is blocked in Boston.  So at the very least, his participation in winter ball could ignite another team to go out and make a move for him.  Castillo is taking advantage of his time there, hitting .392 (albeit in 14 games) with an .882 OPS.


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Coming off an up and down season in 2016, Eduardo Rodriguez wanted to have a successful winter ball campaign.  After just 4 appearances, E-Rod tweaked his knee in the first inning of his start, and was shut down for the rest of the season.  While it is not seen as a major injury, it is another setback for a young player who is constantly trying to stay healthy.

Roenis Elias started 9 games in the Dominican League, and has been effective so far.  Sporting a 2.47 ERA and a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio, he is showing some potential.  If Drew Pomeranz and E-Rod battle through injuries like they did in 2016, Elias might be the first man called up from Pawtucket.  At the very least, his performance could have another organization try to acquire his talent.

Young prospects Luis Ysla and Chandler Shepherd both have had positive outings in the Caribbean.  Shepard and Ysla both have an ERA under 2, with Ysla holding opponents to a .071 batting average against.  Shepherd was a bullpen piece in Pawtucket last year, and could easily get the call this season.

Next: Devers ranked top third base prospect in baseball

While this is just winter ball, this could be the start of some real advancement on many of these young players.  Whether it is to stay MLB-ready, or to try and work on new skills, winter ball helps many young players.  As long as players stay healthy, playing in the offseason can serve to be a great tool to sharpen their skills.