Covering the winter leagues in the "Down on the Farm" articles, I've started to notice several players clearly performing well and raising eyebrows. Let's take a look at who I feel is standing out on a league-by-league basis.
Arizona Fall League
- RHP Brad Schreiber- Schreiber has been a pleasant surprise in Arizona for the Mesa Solar Sox. He carries an even 2.00 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. He has struck out eight batters in his nine innings of work in addition to collecting two saves in Mesa's six wins. Schreiber has continued the strong season he had between Class-A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery.
- While Daniel Robertson and Jake Bauers were both nominated for the AFL Fall Star Game, neither of them have performed extremely well. Bauers is carrying a .693 OPS and has just a .212 average. His wRC+ of 89 says he is playing a bit below average, but since he just turned 20 shortly before the AFL started, he deserves a little leeway. Robertson might be performing even worse than Bauers depending on the stats you use to compare the two. Robertson has a higher average (.242), but his OPS (.603) and wRC+ (67) are both far below where Bauers stands. Neither has performed where we are used to seeing them.
- OF Justin Williams- Through 11 games, Williams has been tearing up the Australian League with a .415 average and 1.134 OPS. His ability to get on base has been uncanny, knocking 17 hits in 41 at-bats, including three doubles and two homers. This amount of success at the plate is unsustainable, but my goodness is it fun to watch.
- C Maxx Tissenbaum- While Tissenbaum can't rival the production Williams has put up, by no means is Tissenbaum struggling. Through 10 games and 30 at-bats, he has an even .300 average and a .833 OPS. In his first nine hits, four are doubles, and he has only struck out three times.
- OF Bralin Jackson- I have no idea where this power is coming from, but by all means Bralin, feel free to keep it. Jackson has as many home runs (three) in 12 games in the ABL as he did in all of the regular season with Class-A Bowling Green. His average is sitting at .255 currently, but that's allowed if he can hit with this much power consistently.
- OF Joey Rickard- Rickard had a strong season rising through three levels, ending up at Triple-A Durham when the season was all said and done. Rickard has found the power swing he had at Montgomery, knocking four home runs, but at the cost of his average, which sits at .232. That could be the wear and tear of a full season finally getting to him, but the dip in average is something to be mindful of going into next season where he could see time in the majors.
- RHP Edwin Fierro- Fierro's clear strength through eight appearances is preventing runs, allowing one earned run through 7.2 innings out of the bullpen. His WHIP of 1.43 is below average, but it's one of the better ones among Rays pitchers in the winter leagues and he's found a way to keep those runners from getting home.
Puerto Rican League
- OF Dayron Varona- While the Puerto Rican League hasn't been underway for too long, Varona has come out of the gate swinging (literally) and has 13 hits in nine games to the tune of a .395 batting average. Varona hit at a blistering rate after signing to the Rays in May. He cooled off from Charlotte when he got to Montgomery, but he has started to heat up again. His projection as "a competent 4th OF" looks probable.
- SS Juniel Querecueto- Like Varona, Querecueto has done nothing but hit since the Venezuelan League kicked off in October. Through 67 at-bats, Querecueto has 22 hits in 23 games. Querecueto is a slap hitter as his minor league career ISO of .059 indicates, but it seems to be working for him. He does have two doubles and a triple under his belt so far, so he knows how to get the ball into the gaps.