Winterball roundup: Dominican Winter League

Joaquin Arias is one of the Rangers' top prospects

Rangers Insider takes an in-depth look at how ten Rangers performed during this year's Dominican Winter League.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Joaquin Arias
Position: Shortstop
DOB: September 21, 1984
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 165
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

In his first two years in the Rangers organization, Joaquin Arias earned a reputation as a hitter who gradually improved as the season progressed. Unfortunately for Arias, the improvement never came in 2006, as the shortstop hit .268 with four home runs at Triple-A Oklahoma.

Arias played very sparingly in the Dominican Republic this winter, appearing in only twelve regular season games. He was 10-for-45 at the plate with one triple, three walks and seven strikeouts.

The 22-year-old Arias was one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League in 2006, so it is far too early to count the super-athletic shortstop out. Though it appears unlikely that Arias will ever hit for much power, his glove, speed, and ability to make contact could make him a solid Major League player in the future.

Year Team AVG AB 2B HR RBI R SB BB SO OBP SLG
06-07 Oriente (DR) .222 45 0 0 2 2 3 3 7 .271 N/A


Vital Statistics:
Name: Omar Beltre
Position: Pitcher
DOB: August 24, 1981
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Omar Beltre's situation is certainly a unique one. Due to visa troubles, the Dominican right-hander has not pitched in the U.S. since 2004, when he posted a 2.45 ERA in 46 relief appearances for High-A Stockton. Beltre threw 66 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2006, going 2-3 with a 1.23 earned run average. The righty allowed 42 hits, walked seven, and struck out 80.

Even though the 25-year-old faced much stiffer competition this winter, his numbers were still dominant. In the DWL's regular season, Beltre allowed just 17 hits in 29 innings, leading to an ERA of 2.79. The righty consistently tore through Major League-caliber hitters.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, it does not look like Beltre will be back in the United States in the near future. If he were able to play in America, there is little doubt that he would immediately turn into a top 10-15 prospect in the organization.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Este (DR) 1-1 29.0 17 14 29 2.79


Vital Statistics:
Name: Joaquin Benoit
Position: Pitcher
DOB: July 26, 1977
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Joaquin Benoit was the lone Ranger veteran to appear in a winter league game this year. Benoit has played in the Major Leagues each of the last six seasons, splitting his time between the bullpen and starting rotation.

To say that Benoit played in this year's Dominican Winter League is a bit misleading. The righty appeared in just one game for the Aguilas Cibenas. In the one game – a relief appearance – Benoit allowed no runs on one hit in 1.2 innings. Benoit walked one and fanned three.

Benoit should fill a middle-to-long relief role in the Rangers bullpen for the 2007 season, as he was recently given a one-year deal.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Cibenas (DR) 0-0 1.2 1 1 3 0.00


Vital Statistics:
Name: Francisco Cruceta
Position: Pitcher
DOB: July 4, 1981
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Rangers claimed Francisco Cruceta off of waivers shortly after their 2006 campaign ended. The 25-year-old Cruceta had a solid season with Tacoma, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, but he struggled in four Major League appearances.

Cruceta made just nine relief appearances during the DWL regular season, posting a 6.35 earned run average. The right hander was true to form, as he was tough to hit, struggled with control, and racked up the strikeouts.

The native of Rancho Viejo, Dominican Republic, will most likely play with Triple-A Oklahoma in 2007, but he could see some time with the Rangers. The organization might elect to move the hard-thrower to the bullpen, which is where many experts believe he will eventually wind up.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Cibao (DR) 1-0 11.1 11 4 9 6.35


Vital Statistics:
Name: Nelson Cruz
Position: Outfielder
DOB: July 1, 1980
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 225
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Cruz was brought to the Rangers with Carlos Lee in July of 2006. The trade came after the slugging outfielder had hit .302 with 20 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 104 games at Triple-A. Cruz was immediately called up to play for the Rangers and hit .223 with six long balls.

The outfielder immediately got into a groove over the winter and did not let up. Cruz hit .273 with a .392 on base percentage in the DWL's regular season, mashing eight home runs and driving in 24. He was also excellent during the playoffs, where he hit .283 with three homers. Cruz is currently playing for the Dominican Republic team in the Caribbean Series. He has a home run and four RBI through his first three games.

At this point, Cruz appears to be a lock to make the Rangers' 25-man roster when spring training breaks in April. The 26-year-old prospect is also the leading candidate to be the team's starting right fielder in 2007.

Year Team AVG AB 2B HR RBI R SB BB SO OBP SLG
06-07 Cibao (DR) .273 132 6 8 21 26 4 23 40 .392 N/A


Vital Statistics:
Name: Frank Francisco
Position: Pitcher
DOB: September 11, 1979
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Frank Francisco has been snake bitten with injuries since his phenomenal 2004 rookie campaign. The right hander finally made his return to the Major Leagues in September of last year, allowing four runs in 7.1 innings with the Rangers.

Francisco has worked to regain both his strength and velocity, and he came a long way this winter with Licey of the Dominican Winter League. In seven games, the hard-throwing reliever allowed no runs on three hits in 6.2 innings, fanning ten.

The righty should enter spring training near full strength for the first time since 2004. Assuming that Francisco is healthy, he should play a key role for the Rangers in 2007.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Licey (DR) 3-0 6.2 3 2 10 0.00


Vital Statistics:
Name: Franklyn German
Position: Pitcher
DOB: January 20, 1980
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 260
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Though the gigantic 27-year-old pitcher has walked six more batters than he's struck out over the past two seasons in the Majors, German has found some recent success. The righty has a 3.55 ERA over 70 relief appearances in 2005 and 2006.

German struggled in 11 winter appearances, giving up seven earned runs in 7.2 innings. The native of San Cristobal, D.R., surrendered seven hits, walked four, and struck out four.

The Rangers signed German to a Minor League deal and gave him an invitation to spring training early in the offseason. Because of his recent Major League success, German has a legitimate chance to win a middle relief job in the spring.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Escogido (DR) 0-0 7.2 7 4 4 8.21


Vital Statistics:
Name: Freddy Guzman
Position: Outfielder
DOB: January 20, 1981
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 165
Bats: Both
Throws: Right

Guzman, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres in mid-2006, has a chance to become the Rangers centerfielder of the future. One of the top prospects in the Padres organization just two seasons ago, Guzman is a speedy switch-hitter who possesses an excellent glove in the outfield.

The 26-year-old speedster scuffled with the bat this winter, hitting just .215 with three extra base hits in 93 at bats. However, Guzman flashed his speed when he was able to reach base, as he swiped 19 bases.

With the Rangers signing Kenny Lofton to a one-year deal in the fall, Guzman will receive limited playing time in centerfield this season. If the outfielder is able to make the team as Lofton's backup, it will be important for Guzman to prove that he is capable of being a Major League centerfielder.

Year Team AVG AB 2B HR RBI R SB BB SO OBP SLG
06-07 Escogido (DR) .215 93 2 0 6 17 19 12 20 .305 N/A


Vital Statistics:
Name: Robinson Tejeda
Position: Pitcher
DOB: March 24, 1982
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 230
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Robinson Tejeda's second half of the 2006 season proved to be one of the bright spots on an otherwise disappointing Rangers club. Tejeda posted a 2.29 earned run average in nine starts after getting recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma in late August.

The right-hander took most of the winter off, but he did make four appearances late in the season. Tejeda gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings.

The key for Robinson Tejeda's success is his ability to control his stuff. There is no doubt that Tejeda has Major League-caliber stuff, but his troubles come when he struggles to throw strikes. If Tejeda continues to pound the strike zone like he did in late-2006, he should have a successful 2007 season at the back of the Rangers rotation.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Cibenas (DR) 1-1 4.2 7 4 4 11.56


Vital Statistics:
Name: Edinson Volquez
Position: Pitcher
DOB: July 7, 1983
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Volquez – one of the top prospects in the Rangers organization – played his first season at the Triple-A level in 2006. The righty was difficult to hit, holding opposing hitters to a .203 average. However, Volquez also ran into control problems, as he issued 72 free passes in 120.2 innings.

In the case of Ben Harrison, Ranger fans hope that the winterball numbers are meaningful. Conversely, in the case of Edinson Volquez, Ranger fans are left hoping that they mean very little. In one DWL regular season start, the right-handed pitcher gave up six runs on two hits and five walks in two-thirds of an inning. Volquez also appeared in five playoff games, giving up 15 runs – 11 earned – in 8.1 frames.

Regardless of Volquez's winterball stats, he will go into spring training as a darkhorse to win a spot at the back of the Rangers rotation. Though Volquez is expected to begin the season with Triple-A Oklahoma, the 23-year-old will get another chance to succeed in the Major Leagues during the 2007 season.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
06-07 Este (DR) 0-2 7.0 9 4 9 10.29


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