The Dominican winter league held it’s annual rookie draft on Thursday night. The basic idea of the draft is that teams pick players from the Dominican, with the occasional foreign-born players with Dominican heritage mixed in. The players are usually in Low-A, although they can be players who haven’t got that far in pro ball yet. The players chosen in the draft then belong to those Dominican teams if they choose to play winter ball. It doesn’t mean they will play for the team, and if they do, they may not play for the major league club in the league right away. Younger players instead play with the minor league teams, who occasionally play DSL clubs during their fall instructional league.
Most players in the Dominican league have at least some Double-A experience. As you will see with the picks below from the Pittsburgh Pirates, they are all probably 1-2 years away from playing for the club that chose them tonight.
The first player from the Pirates selected in the draft was Oneil Cruz with the 15th overall pick. He was taken by Leones del Escogido, which is the team that players like Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco played for in the past, and Marte could possibly play for this winter. Cruz came over to the Pirates in the Tony Watson trade.
One pick after Cruz, Aguilas Cibaenas took shortstop Adrian Valerio. That’s the team that signed both Jung-Ho Kang and Austin Meadows this season. Both players are expected to play winter ball this year, although Meadows became questionable when he hurt his oblique right before the season ended.
Stephen Alemais was taken 25th overall with the first pick of the fifth round. He will be with Estrellas Orientales if he decides to play winter ball, which he could with the time he missed this year.
With the 27th pick, left-handed pitcher Ronny Agustin joined Oneil Cruz on Escogido. If you didn’t see our reports on Agustin while he was with West Virginia, he flashed a plus curveball to go along with a fastball that sat around 90 MPH. He had 52 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. Agustin is the type who could play in the league this year because managers in the Dominican will go to the bullpen often for lefty/lefty match-ups.They also have daily rosters, so plenty of pitchers see action throughout the season.
Three picks after Agustin, Gigantes del Cibao took Oddy Nunez. It might seem odd that the bigger prospect was taken three picks later, but it’s more likely that Agustin is allowed to play in the league compared to a young starting pitcher like Nunez. It’s actually a bit of a gamble to take Nunez this high.
With the 51st overall pick, Escogido took their third Pirate player, selecting catcher Yoel Gonzalez. He showed a lot of improvements late this year and looked solid with West Virginia, so this could be a good pick for them this late.
The final Pirate taken on the night was Victor Fernandez, who was one of the last picks in the draft at 119th overall. Only 125 players were eligible. Fernandez played outfield for West Virginia this year and was a bit of a better prospect when he had plus-plus speed, but a couple hamstring injuries and 20 extra pounds from filling out as he got older, have slowed him down. He’s still fast, but more like a 60 runner, compared to 75-80 speed before.
Last year, seven Pirates were drafted into the Dominican winter league, including Edgar Santana.
The Colombian winter league held it’s draft yesterday and their rules are a bit different from other leagues. While the Dominican waits until players are older and/or have a few years in pro ball before they become eligible, the Colombian league drafts players right after they sign. That usually means that they don’t end up playing in the league for a couple of years, although this year’s DSL Pirates shortstop Francisco Acuna was a regular on his team last winter at 16 years old, prior to his pro debut. That’s rare for the league though, so don’t expect these players to be part of our winter coverage this year.
Three Pirates were drafted by the league this year, starting with infielder Carlos Arroyo, who was taken third overall by the Toros. That same team took right-handed pitcher Yandi Vega with the 17th overall pick. The Leones took right-handed pitcher Andres Arrieta with the seventh overall pick. All of these picks sound high, but the draft only involves four teams, 25 picks and players who have signed out of Colombia recently, so it’s not a huge pool of players who are eligible. All three of these players were signed by the Pirates this July. Andres Arrieta is not related to right-handed pitcher Luis Arrieta, who signed for six figures out of Colombia last year and starred for the DSL Pirates this season.