There are myriad reasons why players participate in foreign baseball leagues during the winter time. Many 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 players 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.
According to MLB.com’s offseason league stats, the Milwaukee Brewers have 11 players currently in the organization that participated in the various foreign winter leagues during the 2019-20 MLB offseason. That’s quite a bit fewer than last offseason, but now that these leagues have wrapped up with position players reporting to Spring Training beginning today, let’s take a look at how those 11 fared this past winter:
2019-20 Winter Ball — Hitters
2019-20 Winter Ball — Pitchers
Now to highlight some of the notable successes:
INF Luis Urias (Yaquis de Obregon)
Urias was supposed to be Milwaukee’s biggest trade acquisition during the most recent offseason, a former top prospect who was slated to come in and challenge Orlando Arcia for the starting shortstop gig. Urias’ winter showing in Mexico did nothing to dampen those expectations, as he walked nearly as many times as he struck out while hitting for the kind of power that he failed to during his big league stint with San Diego in 2019. Unfortunately, Urias’ winter season was cut short by a broken hamate bone in his left hand. The injury required surgery and now the youngster’s status for Opening Day is up in the air.
RHP Freddy Peralta (Toros del Este)
The Dominican Winter League was quite the pitcher-friendly circuit this past season (league average ERA was 3.46), but even then Fastball Freddy’s numbers were superlative. He allowed just one earned run across two starts and 6.2 innings, walking one lone batter against 14 punchouts. He continued his dominance into the LIDOM playoffs. Peralta added a slider to his repertoire and used it liberally to generate swings-and-misses. Freddy has had issues with consistent performances in both starting and relief roles over the last two years, but perhaps the new offering in addition to his fastball and curveball will help him enjoy success more regularly.
Here’s the new slider Freddy Peralta was throwing in the Dominican winter league.— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) February 15, 2020
He was already due for some improvement (3.80 SIERA) but if he adds a legit strikeout pitch, which he currently lacks, he could be an interesting guy if he gets some starts at some point pic.twitter.com/L2tlHp7djm
RHP Miguel Sanchez (Toros del Este)
Sanchez continues to fashion himself into an intriguing prospect, from having an interesting backstory (he didn’t sign as an international free agent until age 22 after serving in the Dominican Air Force) to performing well at every stop he’s made. Sanchez spent last season in Triple-A and posted a solid 4.35 ERA with a 62:23 K/BB ratio in 60.0 innings in the juiced ball Pacific Coast League before turning in a strong performance as Freddy’s teammate with Toros del Este. Now 26, Sanchez is a non-roster invitee this spring and could eventually insert himself into the picture at the big league level if he keeps preventing runs.
RHP Matt Hardy (Atenienses de Manati)
Hardy joined the Brewers as a non-drafted free agent in 2017 and enjoyed a breakout campaign last season in Class A-Advanced Carolina. In 39 appearances and 78.2 innings for the Mudcats, Hardy authored a 3.32 ERA with terrific marks of 10.0 K/9 versus 2.2 BB/9. He started five games and recorded four or more outs in 29 of his 39 outings. Hardy carried that success over to winter ball in Puerto Rico, where run-scoring was even less than it was in LIDOM. Hardy’s 1.57 ERA nonetheless stood out, even if his peripheral performance in 23.0 IP (17:11 K/BB) didn’t quite match up.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and MLB.com