Winter Leagues: Perez Comes Up Big Again in the Playoffs; Acuna Impresses in Colombia

On Thursday night in Colombia, 16-year-old shortstop Francisco Acuna continued to make winter league news a few years ahead of schedule. He went 2-for-4, with a single, double, walk and drove in three runs. For comparison sake, Tito Polo saw limited action in Colombia for the first time when he was 19 years old. He also had two seasons in the DSL already, plus some time in Bradenton during the Fall Instructional League.

Acuna is hitting .292/.375/.433 through ten games and has yet to make his pro debut, which will happen in the DSL this upcoming season. The Pirates signed him for $70,000 back on July 2nd and he made enough progress between then and November, that he went first overall in the Colombian League winter draft. He wasn’t available to play early in the winter league season due to spending six weeks at the Pirates’ Dominican academy in their version of the Fall Instructional League.

Acuna is actually seeing more playing time now in Colombia than Sandy Santos, the toolsy 22-year-old center fielder, who spent the season at Morgantown this year. Santos went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter, leaving him with a .261/.320/.261 slash line through nine games.

Friday night’s game in Colombia was canceled due to rain. The season wraps up with four more games next week.

In the Dominican league playoffs on Friday, Eury Perez went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, as his team won 12-2 on Friday night. They trailed 1-0 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, then scored nine runs on seven hits and two walks. Perez reached base four times in the opening game, then went 0-for-4 in the second game.

Jason Rogers followed up his big game at the plate on Thursday, with an 0-for-1 night, which included three walks and a strikeout. The strikeout came against Nefi Ogando, who was the player the Pirates picked up off waivers when they designated Rogers for assignment. No word yet on whether Rogers had cleared waivers, so it’s possible he could end up on the Indianapolis roster soon. He would get a non-roster Spring Training invite and a chance to win a job on Opening Day if that happens. Ogando retired the side in order in the ninth to seal his team’s 6-1 victory. He picked up two strikeouts.

In Mexico, Carlos Munoz went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI. He hit .221/.302/.309 in 53 games this winter. Throughout his career, Munoz has walked more often than he has struck out. In his early years at the lowest levels, his walk rate would double his strikeout rate. Even as he moved up to full-season ball at West Virginia in 2016, he still had 51 walks and 54 strikeouts in 525 plate appearances. In that sense, it has been an odd winter for Munoz, who has 13 walks and 30 strikeouts in 170 plate appearances. The season in Mexico ended Friday night and playoffs start Monday.

In Nicaragua, Anderson Feliz is hitting .296/.377/.457 through 44 games. His regular season has two more games left, and his team has clinched a playoff spot.

In Puerto Rico, Danny Ortiz went 1-for-4 on the last day of the season and ended up winning the batting title with a .340 average and he led the league with an .813 OPS. He is still a free agent. His team will continue on in the playoffs starting on Tuesday.

All of the winter leagues are off this weekend. Have a happy New Year.

  • I know he is only 16, but it would be awesome to see Acuna and the Pirates finally hit on a SS-prodigy of their own.

    • They might have one in Rodolfo Castro, who was the youngest DSL Pirates player this year and one of their best hitters. He made a lot of errors, but he has the defensive skills of a future SS and he’s already been in the Fall Instructional League. He will get a chance to see how he can handle the GCL next year, where he again will be one of the youngest players in the league.

      • Nah, say it isn’t so. You can’t buy top end talent for low or sub-six figure bonuses. All the expert commentators on this site know that, and tell us so repeatedly.

        HNY to the PP staff and subscribers!

    • The first round picks on tucker and newman in addition to alemais, jacoby jones who started at short if I recall, though hes in the tigers system now, and acuna and castro as john stated below show that neal huntington and company are placing a higher value on shortstop prospects now than in the previous ten or so years. One of them is bound to work out.

  • John – will any of the winter league guys show up for the Pirates mini-camp or do the playoffs overlap?

    Happy New Year!

    • That’s up to the individual players. The mini-camp is voluntary, but some players choose to show up anyway in the middle of the playoffs. Baseball also holds the Rookie Career Development Program either just before or just after the Pirates mini-camp, so players could go to both and only miss a week of playoffs. That happened before with Gregory Polanco.