There are a myriad of reasons that players participate in foreign baseball leagues during the winter time. Many players return to their home countries after the regular season and are eager for an opportunity to suit up for the teams they grew up watching. Some head to winter ball to get extra reps if they missed time with an injury during their regular season in MLB-affiliated ball, or if they had a down year performance-wise and are trying to get back on track. Others still are simply looking for an extra paycheck to help supplement the generally poverty-level wages that they earn playing minor league ball in the States.
The Milwaukee Brewers have 31 players currently in the organization that participated in the various foreign winter leagues during the 2016-17 MLB offseason. Now that these leagues have wrapped up and spring training is in full swing, let’s take a look at the players who should be riding some positive momentum into camp:
1B Jesus Aguilar - Leones del Caracas (Venezuela)
140 AB || .314/.432/.586 || 10 HR || 0 SB || 27 BB || 27 K
Aguilar finished 4th in his league in home runs despite not having enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. Otherwise his OPS would have led the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional. He’ll battle for a bench spot with the Brewers this spring.
UTIL Hernan Perez - Tigres de Aragua (Venezuela)
169 AB || .373/.392/.503 || 3 HR || 7 SB || 6 BB || 20 K
Building off of his breakout season in 2016 with the Brewers, Perez captured the batting title and a Gold Glove at third base for the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional. He figures to play an integral role with Milwaukee during the upcoming season as their utilityman.
C Manny Pina - Cardenales de Lara (Venezuela)
98 AB || .316/.346/.469 || 2 HR || 1 SB || 4 BB || 18 K
Pina enjoyed a successful stint as catcher for the Cardenales, who posted a league-best .619 winning percentage during the regular season. He’ll battle for a spot behind the plate with Milwaukee this season and could be an intriguing breakout candidate.
UTIL Ivan De Jesus, Jr. - Cangrejeros de Santurce (Puerto Rico)
139 AB || .302/.383/.396 || 2 HR || 4 SB || 17 BB || 20 K
De Jesus, Jr. was an anchor in his team’s lineup as they produced the league’s best record, and he added a 1.242 OPS in 6 games as Puerto Rico captured the Caribbean Series title. De Jesus, Jr. saw the most extensive big league action of his career last season with the Reds and will be in camp on a non-roster invite with the Brewers.
OF Malik Collymore - Sydney Blue Sox (Australia)
152 AB || .276/.362/.382 || 3 HR || 14 SB || 20 BB || 36 K
After struggling mightily with an assignment to High-A Brevard County (where he nearly was two years younger than the league average) in 2016, Collymore acquitted himself nicely in the ABL. He figures to return to the low minors for 2017.
RHP Forrest Snow - Aguilas Cibaenas (Dominican Republic)
35.0 IP || 1.54 ERA || 36 K || 14 BB || 1 HR || 1.03 WHIP
Snow tore his way though the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano, striking out better than a batter per inning while keeping runs off the board for Aguilas. One of several pitchers acquired by David Stearns over the winter winter that throws a splitter, Snow is a non-roster invitee competing for a bullpen job in camp.
RHP Jorge Lopez - Indios de Mayaguez (Puerto Rico)
34.2 IP || 1.56 ERA || 32 K || 13 BB || 0 HR || 0.87 WHIP
After a brutal season in 2016 dropped his prospect stock precipitously, Lopez went to the Brewers fall instructional league to work out some mechanical issues. If his numbers in Puerto Rico are indicative of anything, he’s ready for a bounce back season in 2017 and should contribute to the MLB club at some point.
LHP Andrew Barbosa - Indios de Mayaguez (Puerto Rico)
10.0 IP || 1.80 ERA || 13 K || 2 BB || 0 HR || 1.00 WHIP
One of the few lefties in spring training with the Brewers this year, Barbosa may have earned himself a longer look thanks to his work this winter. He appeared only a few times during the Puerto Rican winter ball regular season but was a dynamo as a starter in the playoffs, throwing an additional 14.1 innings in three appearances with a 0.63 ERA, 10 K, and 4 BB.
RHP Paolo Espino - Toros del Este (Dominican Republic)
28.1 IP || 1.91 ERA || 31 K || 3 BB || 2 HR || 0.99 WHIP
Known as a control artist, Espino fashioned better than a 10:1 K/BB ratio during his time in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano this winter. The minor league veteran is in camp as a non-roster invitee with the Brewers but could end up starting the season in the AAA Sky Sox rotation.
RHP Hiram Burgos - Indios de Mayaguez (Puerto Rico)
48.1 IP || 2.05 ERA || 43 K || 9 BB || 2 HR || 0.92 WHIP
A veteran about to enter his ninth season of professional ball in the Brewers organization, Burgos was terrific in the rotation for Mayaguez over the winter. He pitched an inning during the Caribbean Series as well (allowing an earned run) for the victorious Puerto Rican team. Burgos is in big league camp with Milwaukee but is likely ticketed for a return trip to Colorado Springs.
Note: Statistics shown are for regular season only, playoffs are not included.
Statistics courtesy of MLB.com