Dominican Winter League Update
The Dominican Winter League has been under way for a while now and I’d say it’s about time we check in on the players representing the Baltimore Orioles to see how they’ve been doing. Overall, there are 17 total players on Dominican League team rosters but only two of them have acquired any regular playing time. The Dominican League team rosters and lineups are always in constant flux as it greatly depends on a players schedule, how often they make themselves available to play, and of course whether the managers want to play them or not.
Players like Ryan Flaherty and Buck Britton have a combined 32 at-bats between them, 17 for Britton and 15 for Flaherty, with them collecting just nine hits between them, four for Britton and five for Flaherty. That’s not exactly a great sample size to base anything off of, even though Flaherty’s .412 OBP is at least nice to look at on the stat sheet and start wishing.
So instead of focusing on those hopes and wishes that Flaherty would be able to put up that kind of production at second base next season, we will instead focus on the two players that have actually had substantial playing time – Alexi Casilla and Zelous Wheeler.
Casilla was picked up by the Orioles, claimed off of waivers from the Minnesota Twins, earlier this off-season with the hope that he’ll be able to produce enough at second base to warrant playing him there regularly if Brian Roberts is unable to do it. So how has Casilla done in the Dominican Winter League this off-season?
Well, he’s played in a total of 24 games and accumulated a total of 98 at-bats and has a .265/.333/.418 batting line. The one thing that stands out to me is the extra-base hits, as he has six doubles and three triples to his credit. He has three stolen bases but has also been caught twice, so you can’t really give him too much credit there. However, the extra-base hits are a good sign that his speed is still there and his hamstrings are still intact.
Other than his mediocre batting line, the only other thing of concern is the fact that he’s committed two errors at second base over the course of the 24 games he has played in. While that number may seem low, and in a way I guess it could be viewed like that, it doesn’t exactly scream out plus defender right now. His defense has been up and down throughout his career so it’s something worth monitoring.
Now, over at the hot corner we have Wheeler who has managed to get a huge amount of playing time this off-season in the DWL. He’s played in 45 games and amassed 181 total at-bats and that’s something that gives us a decent sample size to analyze. What that chunk of playing time, what that number of games and at-bats means – to me at least – is that his production is more than worth monitoring because he has been tearing the cover off of the ball.
He has a batting line of .320/.406/.541 with 16 doubles, eight homeruns, and he’s walked 22 times compared to 34 strikeouts. Wheeler has never made a top prospects list or been all that highly regarded by scouts or organizations other than thinking he has the tools to be utility type player, mostly because he has some pop in his bat and can play all around the infield, but don’t write Wheeler off just yet. He’s always shown a good command of the strikezone in the minors and has clearly improved his contact rate.
Wheeler is the one guy you definitely want to pay attention to if the Orioles decide to give him a shot in Spring Training to show what he can do. Don’t be surprised if he forces his way onto the active roster when the regular season begins because he looks like he’s finally coming into his own offensively and he’s a capable defender at third base.