Leading the way among our winter warriors, is David Peralta, who is playing for Bravos de Margarita in his own country of Venezuela. It he seems to be enjoying home cooking, his .326 average so far putting him fifth in the league. With a K:BB ratio of 28:18, his on-base percentage goes up to .386. He only has two home-runs to date, but thirteen doubles (third in the league) give him an OPS of .838. Perhaps of note (though small sample size here), he has been torching right-handed pitching, his OPS there of .957 being 310 points higher than against lefties). But if you're going to have a split, that's the side to have it.
Next up is Walter Ibarra in the Mexican League. Probably not a name you recognize, because he's a minor-league free agent who signed with us last month. The switch-hitting 27-year-old plays mostly at short, but also has experience at second, and was part of the Mexican roster for the World Baseball Classic in 2013. He's with Aguilas de Mexicali, and is hitting .317, with a .797 OPS. He's a career .270 hitter over his eight seasons in the minors - he has yet to reach the majors - and will likely start the season with the Reno Aces.
Our other left-handed hitting Venezuelan is also home for the holidays, with Ender Inciarte part of the Aguilas de Zulia. He's putting up numbers not far short of Peralta's, batting .310, though the walks and the power are also lower, with an overall line of .310/.367/.405 for an OPS of .772. But Inciarte has been active on the base-paths, one of only three players with double-digit steals to this point - Ender has 10, in 13 attempts. Leading in power, is Nick Buss, another minor-league FA, who has five HR in 138 AB for Tomateros de Culiacan in Puerto Rico. Buss is an OF who had a cup of coffee with the Dodgers in 2013, getting his first hit off Tim Lincecum. But then, who doesn't?
Likely the most prominent AZ pitcher working this winter is Randall Delgado, who has started seven times for the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican League. He appears to have been channeling the spirit of Vidal Nuño, as he is 0-3 in seven outings, despite a respectable 3.55 ERA. His last couple of outings sum this up. In his penultimate appearance, he allowed one run over five innings, and left with a 3-1 lead, only for the Tigres' bullpen to cough it up. And in his final start, he pitched seven shutout innings of three-hit ball. with one walk and nine strikeouts, but got a no-decision. He was also winless for Tigres when he last pitched for them in 2012, going 0-4.
Left-handed prospect Andrew Barbosa had an abbreviated 2014 due to a series of injuries, throwing only 89.1 innings. To make up for that, he is getting some extra work in Puerto Rico, starting for Indios de Mayaguez. He has been even more unlucky than Delgado, his 1.84 ERA deserving a record better than 0-2. He has struck out close to a batter per inning, with five walks and 29 K's in 29.1 innings, and holding opponents to a .202 average. However, his last outing earlier this week lasted only one inning, so I'm hoping there wasn't any particularly serious reason behind this.
Finally, there's Silvino Bracho, who put up silly, video-game numbers out of the bullpen for South Bend this year, striking out 70 in 43.1 innings [a rate of 14.5 K/9; put another way, 54% of the outs he recorded, were by the whiff!]. The Venezuelan Winter League has hardly proved any tougher competition for Bracho. He has thrown 19.1 innings for Aguilas de Zulia, and given up a mere six hits - that's an opponents' average of .097 - with 29 strikeouts and six walks. His performance here gives him a WHIP of 0.62 and an ERA of 0.93. I think it's safe to say, South Bend will not be his home in 2015...
[All stats through Thursday night]