The Kansas City Royals had a few prospects playing around the world in winter leagues but most of them were hitters and there were several big leaguers getting reps in, trying to keep their skills sharp.
Emilio Bonifacio, acquired from the Blue Jays in mid-season for . . . well, nothing really, kicks things off as he played a little bit of winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. The 27-year-old utility man hit pretty well for Licey with a .289/.333/.355 line in 76 plate appearances after completely turning around peoples’ thoughts of him after the trade. He hit a pathetic .218/.258/.321 in 282 plate appearances in Toronto with a poor 67% stolen base rate but hit .285/.352/.348 in 179 KC plate appearances, stealing successfully in 16 of 18 attempts.
28-year-old veteran Pedro Ciriaco headed down to the Dominican and the winter league there after splitting 2013 between the Red Sox, the Padres and the Royals. The shortstop hit .292/.311/.365 in 96 at bats with Escogido after a season in which he had just over 300 plate appearances combined between the major and minor league levels.
One of the club’s better young prospects, 2B Christian Colon went down to his home in Puerto Rico to play this winter and hit .284/.326/.386 in 88 at bats. He spent 2013 putting up similar numbers over 512 at bats in Triple-A Omaha and showed a little bit of pop with the bat, hitting 12 home runs (but only 12 doubles) and stealing 15 bases.
17-year-old third base prospect Ryan Dale is playing in the Australian Baseball League and has played more than he did last year despite limited playing time. He’s hitting .259/.286/.333 in just 27 at bats but has two doubles but just one walk to ten strikeouts. In his only North American experience this past season in the Arizona League, Dale hit .237/.318/.289 and struck out over one-third of the time in 91 plate appearances.
Puerto Rican second baseman Irving Falu, 30, made his ML debut in 2012 and followed it up with an entire season in Triple-A Omaha, getting just four major league at bats. In Omaha, he hit a respectable .256/.320/.329 with 20 steals but only hit .195/.277/.276 in 123 at bats in the Puerto Rican winter league.
26-year-old center fielder Gorkys Hernandez was traded from the Marlins to the Royals mid-season and re-upped on a minor league deal with KC after the season ended. He hit a combined .263/.318/.367 with 25 stolen bases (but he was caught 12 times) in 430 Triple-A at bats in 2013. Hernandez played at home in Venezuela this winter, hitting a much better .285/.353/.434 in 221 at bats.
37-year-old catcher Ramon Hernandez (last seen with the Buffalo Bisons) signed a minor league free agent deal with the Royals early this month after hitting .328/.425/.433 in just 67 at bats in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Puerto Rican shortstop Jack Lopez played at home this winter, putting up very respectable numbers against much older competition. Lopez, 21, had a fairly poor offensive season in High-A Wilmington in the Carolina League but hit .264/.307/.395 with six doubles, a triple and three home runs in 129 at bats and stole six bases in seven attempts in the Puerto Rican winter league.
Outfielder Melky Mesa, who played in eight major league games over two years with the Yankees, signed a minor league deal with the Royals in the offseason. He hit .230/.277/.299 in 87 Dominican at bats this winter after hitting .261/.295/.452 with 15 doubles, three triples and thirteen home runs in 314 Triple-A at bats with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders.
Veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas, who struggled in 2013 for the Royals, went down to Venezuela and played in 17 games, hitting .288/.360/.515 in 66 at bats with six doubles and three home runs. He posted a fairly ugly 4/1 strikeout to walk ratio in the limited action.
28-year-old Brazilian Paulo Orlando played some winter ball in Venezuela, hitting .276/.335/.408 with seven doubles, three triples and four home runs in 174 at bats after playing with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013. He signed on to a minor league deal with the Royals in late November.
Catcher Francisco Pena, who played in the Mets’ system last year, signed a major league deal this offseason with the Royals and hit .242/.272/.404 in 99 at bats in his native Dominican Republic with seven doubles and three home runs.
Catcher Salvador Perez had an excellent season last year at the age of 23 for the Royals, getting over 500 plate appearances for the first time in his big league career. He played winter ball in his native Venezuela, hitting .289/.319/.385 with eight doubles, a triple and a home run, showing numbers that were fairly consistent with his 2013 major league production.
25-year-old first baseman Jared Schlehuber headed Down Under to Australia and is hitting .316/.378/.507 with eight doubles and seven home runs for the Melbourne Aces. In 2013, just his second year of pro ball, Schlehuber hit .299/.388/.475 with 24 doubles, a triple and eight home runs in High-A Wilmington.
South Carolinian Justin Trapp, a second baseman, is also playing with Melbourne and has a .253/.303/.309 line through 41 games in Australia. Trapp, 23, hit .257/.340/.390 with 25 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 566 plate appearances as Schlehuber’s teammate in Wilmington in 2013.
For the pitchers, only a few accrued significant innings in winter ball for the Royals. Francisley Bueno, 32, made five starts for Licey in the Dominican Republic and had a 2.25 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, five walks and twelve strikeouts in 20 innings after spending most of the season with Triple-A Omaha pitching out of the bullpen. Bueno didn’t give up a run in eight and a third innings with the Royals, allowing only four hits and two walks while striking out five.
Pitching in the Mexican Winter League, Spencer Patton made 20 appearances and logged 25 innings, only allowing two runs, ten hits and six walks while striking out 32. Patton, 25, posted a 1.86 ERA over 82 1/3 minor league innings split between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas, walking only 26 and striking out 103.
26-year-old lefty Ryan Verdugo also pitched in the Mexican Winter League and made eight starts, posting a 3.32 ERA and 1.55 WHIP while walking 25 batters and striking out 29 in 40 2/3 innings. Verdugo made three stops in the minors and posted a 4.16 ERA, 1.45 WHIP with 32 walks and 58 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings, mostly in Triple-A Omaha.
Maikel Cleto, Kelvin Herrera and Guillermo Mota all threw under ten innings apiece in the Dominican Winter League. Cleto had a 0.93 ERA with just three hits and two walks against with 13 strikeouts in nine and two-thirds innings while Herrera also had some great success with a 1.93 ERA, 6 hits and 6 walks against with 14 strikeouts in nine and a third innings. Mota rang up a 3.24 ERA in eight and a third innings but only gave up six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
In the Venezuelan Winter League, Sugar Ray Marimon threw 10 1/3 innings with a 4.35 ERA, 18 hits against, five walks and just six strikeouts.
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