The various Winter Leagues have come to a close and the Indians had quite a few players involved at all levels. There was greatness (Jesus Aguilar), weirdness (Carlos Santana playing third?), pain (Jose Ramirez) and confusion (where is Aguilar supposed to be? Wherever he wants to be). We've already covered the Arizona Fall League, so this article will be focused on Dominican Winter League, Puerto Rican League and the Venezuelan Winter League. Surprisingly, no Indians players were involved with the Mexican Pacific League this off-season and although two players are participating in the Australian Baseball League, it isn't quite over yet. The only two Major Leaguers to participate were Ramirez and Santana, so most of these players may be unknown to the casual Tribe fan.
Liga de Beisbol Dominicano (Dominican Republic)
The Indians top players continuing their season almost all played in the DWL. This includes both players who have made their MLB debuts, Carlos Santana (.313 AVG in 32 AB) and Jose Ramirez (.287 AVG, 8 2B in 101 AB) as well as top prospects Erik Gonzalez (.325 AVG, 20 RBI in 163 AB) and Ronny Rodriguez (.048 AVG in 32 AB). New addition Colt Hynes (4 IP, 0 ER, 4 K) along with Enosil Tejada (1.2 IP, 2 ER) round out the Indians' participants.
Obviously, Santana is the most interesting player to play in the league, despite just getting into eight games. He spent his time exclusively working out at third base in an effort to make himself more valuable next season. The Indians sent Mike Sarbaugh South with him to help him out and the results were variable. He committed almost an error a game, but crushed the DWL pitching, essentially playing exactly as expected. If he still wants to learn a new position, we will see this experiment continue in Spring Training.
Ramirez had the most disappointing Winter as he broke his thumb sliding head first. He may need surgery and is doubtful to start Spring Training on time. Luckily, it happened early enough in the season that he should be ready by the beginning of the regular season. Gonzalez had the most promising Winter among true minor leaguers. He is on the 40 man roster already and could be competing for a spot by 2015. The others to play in the DWL were limited in action and saw different ranges of success from Hynes at the top, to Tejada and Rodriguez who struggled.
Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico)
The Indians had six players involved in the Puerto Rican Winter League including the power hitting Carlos Moncrief and the fire-baller, Tyler Sturdevant. Sturdevant (3 IP, 3.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP) is the closest of the six to Major League readiness and he has been working like crazy this off-season to get there. After missing all of the 2013 regular season due to injury, he has played in the Arizona Fall League and now the Puerto Rican League in an effort to get back. He only pitched in four games in the PWL, but didn't do anything negative.
Most of the rest of the players were at the AA level in 2013. Moncrief (100 AB, .230 AVG, 11 RBI), Bryce Stowell, Brett Brach and catcher Roberto Perez (24 AB, .167 AVG) were the representatives from the Aeros and all three disappointed at different levels. Moncrief looked ready for a quick trip in AAA before a MLB debut in 2014, but now that doesn't seem apparent. Stowell (4.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 4 K) has been a top reliever in the Indians for a few seasons, but wasn't used much in Puerto Rico. Even Brach (21.2 IP, 4.98 ERA), who has been a decent starter since being drafted in 2009, was used in limited situations and as a regular reliever for the first time in his career.
The youngest Indian to play in Puerto Rican ended up being the best. Puerto Rican native Joseph Colon played for the Mudcats during the regular season and was able to continue his role as starting pitcher into the winter. In seven games, Colon struck out 22 batters over 32.2 innings with a 1.93 ERA. Colon was the second best pitcher in the whole league, trailing just Milwaukee's Hiram Burgos.
Liga Venezuelan Beisbol Profesional (Venezuela)
The vast majority of Indians playing this winter did so in the Venezuelan Winter League. Alex Monsalve (12 AB, .250 AVG), Manuel Boscan (1 AB, 1 K) and Jesus Aguilar were the only hitters, but there were five pitchers as well. Bryan Price (19 IP, 1.89 ERA), Ramon Rodriguez (2.2 IP, 0 RA), Toru Murata (22.2 IP, 2.38 ERA), Elvis Araujo (22.2 IP, 2.78 ERA) and Anthony Vizcaya (4 IP, 15.75 ERA) round out the pitchers.
Out of all those players, there really was only one who stuck out and that was Jesus Aguilar. As if his record breaking (105 RBI) season in AA wasn't good enough, Aguilar (.327 AVG, 226 AB) has been destroying the Venezuelan League. He finished the regular season in second in home runs with 18 and fourth in RBI with 50. This is especially impressive as the Venezuelan League tends to be the oldest of those listed, with many current and former Major Leaguers playing along with the younger players. The only player this year who was offensively superior to Aguilar was Alex Cabrera, who is 42 years old.