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Snakes Don't Hibernate: Diamondbacks In Winter Ball

It may be the off-season for the major-leagues, but there's still plenty of baseball activity which has been going on since the end of the World Series. The Fall League, featuring some of the game's top prospects, such as #1 draft pick Bryce Harper, has been going on here in Arizona, and the Caribbean and Central/South American leagues have also got under way, with a healthy quota of major-leaguers taking part there.

After the jump, we'll take a look at how the Diamondbacks taking part have done.

Let's stay local, and open with the local Arizona Fall League where the Scottsdale Scorpions, whose roster included the Diamondbacks, were crowned champions last Saturday. They finished the regular season with a 20-12 record, including going 12-3 at Scottsdale Stadium, and then beat the Peoria Javelinas 3-2 in the Championship Game on Saturday [it was shown on the MLB Network, if you were watching].

Beginning our look with the hitters. The two main Arizona players to see time were Marc Krauss and A.J. Pollock, and both performed creditably. Krauss, in particular, did well, following up an good summer in Visalia by posting a line of .298/.404/.524 for a .928 OPS - as a yardstick, Bryce Harper was also on the Scorpions, and his OPS was 1.039 in nine games [though Krauss is more than five years older than Harper, who only turned 18 last month!]. Krauss led the Scottsdale team with 23 RBI in 22 games, and hit four home-runs. Marc also had a solid strikeout-walk ratio of 22:15. He finished strong, ending the league on a 14-for-34 (.412) run, with two homers.

Pollock was one of our first-round picks in 2009, but missed all of the regular 2010 season after fracturing a growth plate in his elbow in March. He was initially expected to miss three months, but the rehab from the unusual injury meant the Fall League was his first taste of organized baseball. The outfielder performed credibly, hitting .313, though didn't go deep in 64 at-bats, leaving his OPS at .795. Catching prospects Ed Easley and Konrad Schmidt also appeared, though Schmidt was injured after a single game, opening a slot for Easley, though the latter didn't see much playing time either, appearing in only seven contests, going 5-for-21. Schmidt has a tear in the labrum of his non-throwing shoulder, but it's not seen as requiring surgery.

Onto the pitching side, where our four arms combined to post a 7-1 record with a 4.39 ERA - that's pretty good, especially given the overall Fall League ERA this year was 5.08. Bryan Shaw, Daniel Stange and Bryan Woodall all worked out of the Scorpions bullpen - Shaw picked up the only loss, despite the best ERA of the trio, at 3.48. He was hit quite often, however, with a .317 BA against in 10.1 innings. Stange struggled, giving up 16 hits, four walks and two hit batters over 11.2 frames, leading to a 7.71 ERA. Woodall appeared in a handful of games, allowing four earned runs in 6.2 innings.

But it was Josh Collmenter who led the way, going 4-0 in seven starts for Scottsdale, with a sparkling 3.04 ERA. Greg Salvatore wrote about Collmenter at the end of October saying "an appearance on the big league team in 2011 is a realistic goal", and the 15th-round pick impressed other writers too. He struck out 30 in 26.2 innings, while walking seven, holding opposing hitters to a .248 average. His last three starts were phenomenal: two runs in 13 innings, allowing nine hits, with one walk and 22 K's. Josh was added to the 40-man roster last week, so his organizational stock seems to be rising. I'm sure IHSB will be discussing Collmenter in more depth shortly.

Moving outside the United States, action is now under way in the other leagues too, though we have a number of players for whom the sample size is basically meaningless. I'm drawing an (entirely arbitrary) cut-off point at twenty at-bats or ten innings of work. Busiest among the position players is Gerardo Parra, who is hitting .260 in fifty ABs for Aguilas del Zulia in the Venezuelan League. However, his OBP is up at .393, thanks to a K:BB ratio of 5:11. On the other hand, Parra has been caught stealing all of his three attempts, and has also hit into four double-plays already, so a bit of a mixed bag.

Reno catcher Carlos Corporan is with Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican League, and is 12-for-43, giving him a respectable .279 average. That disguises an overall line that's much less impressive: he has just one extra-base hit, a double, and two walks, resulting in a weak .615 OPS. He's joined in the PR by R. Ortiz - but don't panic, this one is Roberto, a 22-year old outfielder. He has gone 6-for-26 with a .701 OPS. A surprising name to see on the list is John Hester, who is with Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, for whom he is hitting .265. He clubbed three doubles in his debut, and has added another three-hit game since then.

Of our pitchers, the number which stands out is Kyler Newby's startling 1.17 ERA after five starts and 23 innings of work for Leones in Puerto Rico. The peripherals, however, are not so good, as Newby has walked 12 while fanning only 17. His last couple of starts in particular suggest he has been phenomenally lucky: Newby has been hit at a .343 clip, allowing 12 hits and five walks over ten innings, but has given up no earned runs at all. Cesar Valdez is also starting, for Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Republic, and has recovered after being caned for seven runs on his debut and not escaping the second. In four starts since, he has conceded three runs over 24.1 frames.

Among the relievers, the best performance has come from Leo Rosales, who is the closer with Mazatlan in Mexico, despite being outrighted off the 40-man roster by the D-backs earlier this month. He has been impeccable so far, going 10-for-10 in save opportunities, and striking out almost a batter per inning, to go with his 2.45 ERA. Rafael Rodriguez has been pulled into the Gigantes rotation after a couple of bullpen outings, but has struggled, not getting through five innings, and with a 5.68 ERA in those three starts. Finally, Bryan Henry has been solid in long relief (and a spot-start) for Senadores de San Juan in the PR, with a 3.38 ERA in eight games and 16 innings.

We'll check back again next month and see how the winter ball players are performing then.