The New York Yankees’ contingent in winter ball wasn’t particularly star studded but some recognizable names are to be found by reading below.
24-year-old outfielder Zoilo Almonte, who made his MLB debut in 2013, went home and got a lot of playing time in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .316/.343/.454 in 174 at bats. Almonte, a 6-foot-tall switch hitter, hit 10 doubles, a triple and four home runs and stole six bases. While his major league stats left a lot to be desired in 106 at bats, Almonte had a solid season for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
27-year-old minor league veteran Dean Anna was traded to the Yankees from the Padres this offseason to give the team some extra depth at second base. Anna has always been a solid, if unspectacular hitter in the minors but has the ability to walk as much as he strikes out and his .331/.410/.482 season in Triple-A Tuscon was very impressive. The middle infielder played in nine Dominican league games, hitting .235/.316/.294 in just 34 at bats.
Francisco Arcia, a Venezuelan backup catcher, played in the VWL this winter and hit .288/.367/.385 in 52 at bats over 20 games. Splitting the season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, Arcia, 24, hit a combined .213/.286/.305 with four home runs in 219 plate appearances.
Shortstop Ali Castillo played in 37 games for the Venezuelan winter league, hitting .267/.299/.297 with three doubles in 101 at bats. Castillo, 24, combined for 400 at bats between Trenton and Tampa and hit .228 overall.
21-year-old outfielder Jose Figueroa followed up his first North American season (after two in the Dominican Summer League) and had a solid season with a .252/.344/.327 line and stole 13 bases. At home in the Mexican winter league, Figueroa was mostly a pinch hitter and pinch runner, garnering just 44 at bats in 44 games and he hit .136/.208/.227.
A Cuban defector who signed in 2012, Adonis Garcia, 28, got a full season of Venezuelan winter ball after an injury shortened 2013 season. Garcia hit .325/.347/.502 in the winter with 15 doubles and eight home runs in 231 at bats. In Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Garcia hit .256/.312/.357 in 199 at bats with nine doubles, a triple and three home runs.
27-year-old catcher Jose Gil has hung around the Yankees organization since 2005 and returned home to Venezuela to play 37 games in the winter league there, hitting .281/.407/.456 with six doubles, a triple and four home runs in 114 at bats. Gil only got into 23 games combined between the Baltimore and New York systems and an addition seven in independent ball.
Another Cuban, 29-year-old Ronnier Mustelier, played in the Mexican league this winter, hitting .276/.392/.362, showing off an outstanding eye and hitting for gap power with seven doubles, two triples and two home runs in 196 at bats. Playing mostly in Triple-A for the Yankees, Mustlier hit .272/.319/.398 with 21 doubles and seven home runs in 334 at bats.
Second baseman Jose Pirela, 24, followed a strong 2013 campaign, mostly spent in Trenton, with an outstanding Venezuelan season. Hitting .332/.415/.514 in 247 at bats, Pirela smacked 13 doubles, seven triples and six home runs. In Trenton, he hit .272/.359/.418 and added 18 stolen bases to 27 doubles, five triples and 10 home runs.
Antoan Richardson, signed in the offseason to a minor league deal, spent 2013 in the Minnesota Twins’ organization, hitting .285/.402/.371 with 39 stolen bases split between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester. Born in the Bahamas, Richardson, 30, played in 36 Venezuelan winter league games and hit .254/.353/.336.
Gary Sanchez, one of the MLB’s top prospects, played a few games early in the Dominican Winter League season for Toros del Este. The 21-year-old catcher hit only .179/.258/.214 in 28 at bats following a solid season that saw him hit .253/.324/.412 with 15 home runs in 454 at bats, most of which were at High-A Tampa.
26-year-old Venezuelan utility infielder Yangervis Solarte signed with the Yankees in the offseason and racked up 132 at bats in 38 games at home in Venezuela. He hit .303/.418/.348 with just six doubles (his only extra-base hits) following a solid season in Triple-A Round Rock (a Texas Rangers affiliate) in which he hit .276/.323/.403 with 12 home runs.
Zelous Wheeler, 27, got some extra at bats in playing in Mexico this offseason. The Alabama-born third basemen hit .268/.363/.431 with six doubles and 11 home runs in 239 at bats. Wheeler, an off-season free agent signing, played in the Orioles’ system last season, mostly in Triple-A Norfolk.
There weren’t as many pitchers in Latin America this winter for the Yankees but the ones who did head south included 25-year-old righty Manny Barreda who reached Double-A last season. Barreda threw eight and two-thirds innings in Mexico and gave up just two runs on seven hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
Bruce Billings, a minor league free agent signing this offseason, threw 19 2/3 innings in the Dominican Winter League posting a 2.29 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP but he walked 12 and struck out 16. Billings, 28, had a strong season as a starter for the Sacramento club in 2013, Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate.
The Yankees signed 29 year old Canadian pitcher Chris Leroux to a minor league deal just before the end of January. Leroux, who has 69 2/3 major league innings under his belt with the Marlins and the Pirates, threw 16 1/3 innings in the Dominican Republic with a 2.76 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and just three walks and 16 strikeouts.
Several pitchers didn’t throw very much in winter leagues. Francisco Rondon, a 25-year-old lefty, only threw two and a third innings in the Dominican, giving up a run on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts. Giovanny Gallegos, 22, and Pat Venditte, 28, both went to the Mexican league and Gallegos threw six and a third innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts while Venditte, a lefty, threw nine and third innings with five runs against on ten hits and three walks but he struck out 13.
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