Once the MLB wraps up and crowns the World Series winner, south of the American border winter leagues start to prepare for baseball in the off-season.
The reasons to play in the winter leagues vary a lot. You have players that just want to stay in shape and visit their homes, like a Vlad Guerrero Jr., and others that desperately try to showcase themselves to get back to an MLB organization somehow, like Neftalí Feliz. And then you have those that try to get in some competitive at bats to make up for a lost season, like Steven Souza Jr. or Nate Lowe.
Whatever the reason, MLB players and prospects spread out all over the world, from the Dominican Republic to Australia, and the amount of former and current D-Backs are many.
The LIDOM (Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana / Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League) is probably the most famous competition of all winter leagues and probably the toughest one too, considering the quality of players. It is a very hectic competition because professional ball players are free to enter and leave the competition whenever they want. To give an example: in the 2019/2020 season baseball team El Escogido used 80 players to play just 50 games.
The LIDOM is full of former Diamondbacks. Recent ones, like Socrates Brito, and older ones, like Victor Capellan, who played for the Missoula Osprey, Visalia Rawhide, South Bend Silver Hawks, Yakima Bears and Reno Aces from 2008 to 2013.
For the sake of the writer and readers we’ll stick to only the Diamondbacks prospects that are currently batting and pitching in the LIDOM, but if you have any special request, I’ll be happy to look that up for you and share it in the comments.
If you think I missed someone, you can share that as well.
The most recent data I came across with was until 12/13.
Luis Castillo, RHP, Aguilas Cibaenas
In organization since: 02/16/2012
Status: Assigned to AAA (Reno Aces)
Castillo spent his first five season with the Diamondbacks in the Rookie leagues and after two he transitioned into a reliever role. In 2018 the Dominican split time between Kane County and Hillsboro. In 2019 he was assigned to Visalia in A+. He held opposing batters to a .242 batting average with a nice 9.58 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 in 78 innings. It looks like he had some troubles in several high-leverage situations though (4 blown saves in 6 save situations). He is Rule 5 eligible and not on any prospects list, so it gives some indication on what is his odds are on making it to the show. Thus, it makes sense the organization gives him the opportunity to pitch in the Dominican Winter League, something he has done so since the 2017 season.
With data on him available up till 12/13, he has pitched 9 scoreless outings in relief, 7 went hitless but he gave up multiple runs in two other outings, combining to a 3.24 ERA.
I looked into some statistics and footage that could give us some more information on his performance. The LIDOM is full of non-MLB caliber players, so giving up a hit or a run does not necessarily mean you did something bad: there are a lot of bouncers and fielding errors that might erase a good performance of a pitcher. Even statistics are not very reliable: in one game the box score mentioned Luis Castillo threw 6 strikes on 6 pitches, but on some footage I saw that he threw at least 8 pitches in the same game.
So I come to the conclusion that we would rather look at his K/9 and BB/9, which with small sample sizes is not a bad statistic. His K/9 is good with 11.11 and makes for a top 20 ranking in the LIDOM (at least 5.0 innings pitched), but his BB/9 could be much better with 4.50.
Topping off at at least 5.0 innings pitched, we could compare him to a Joel Payamps, a Dominican reliever that got claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks by the Red Sox a couple of weeks ago, who has the same WHIP (1.08), but sports a better BB/9 (1.50) and ERA (1.38), although at a less impressive 9.69 K/9.
I do not think he has any pitch limit restrictions after a lost 2020 season, but I could not find any confirmation on that, so he still has time to improve.
In November 2020 he was added to the Triple A roster. He will be 26 coming March so it makes sense for him to have an aggressive assignment in 2021.
Chester Pimentel, RHP, Estrellas de Oriente
In organization since: 10/03/2013
Status: Assigned to A+ (Visalia Rawhide)
Chester Pimentel was a starter in his first two seasons in Rookie leagues, but with abysmal results. He transitioned into a reliever role. I think he was injured in 2017, but got good results in Kane County and Hillsboro in 2018 and 2019, racking up some saves along the way. The Dominican is Rule 5 eligible as well and, just like his compatriot Luis Castillo, absent from any prospects list. He has just turned 25 and was assigned in January to A advanced. With the current realignment of the minor leagues it makes more sense for him to get an assignment in Double A (Amarillo Sod Poodles).
His results in the LIDOM are nothing to write home about. He pitched in 2 low leverage situations, giving up one run. In his third and final outing so far he blew a save and took the loss in extra innings when he faced experienced batters Wilmer Difo and Juan Lagares. It does not seem that his Dominican team sees him as a valuable member and the Diamondbacks probably do not either.
Domingo Leyba, 2B, Estrellas de Oriente
In organization since: 12/05/2014
Status: Outrighted to Reno Aces (AAA), 0 MiLB options left
Domingo Leyba could have played in the 2020 season in the MLB were it not for an 80 game suspension in March 2020 for failing a PED test. The star of Leyba has long fallen although in 2019 FanGraphs still ranked him in the Diamondbacks top 30 list.
He had a good Rookie season in 2019, batting a 108 OPS+ in 25 at bats, but given the PED use it is hard to tell how much value one should give to those numbers.
For the Estrellas de Oriente he is a fixed name in the line up and in the top of the order. He is one of the best if not the best hitter on his team, currently slashing .290./347./507. for an .854 OPS, which is a downfall after a stellar first two weeks (1.254 OPS). He will definitely not reach the big numbers of Wander Franco, Gary Sanchez or Vlad Guerrero Jr., but still a lot better than wat prospects like Vidal Bruján or Estevan Florial, although they are a couple of years younger of course, are putting up. Or take a look at Steven Souza Jr. with a .147./275./147 in 30 at bats!
Currently, his stats are similar to those of the 2020 Rangers 1B Ronald Guzman, which does not seem like an odd comparison.
Junior Garcia, LHP, Gigantes del Cibao
In organization since: 08/08/2015
Status: Assigned to AAA (Reno Aces)
Garcia joined the D-Backs in 2015 in a Oliver Perez trade with the Houston Astros. The Gigantes del Cibao are led by Diamondbacks’ bench coach Luis Urrueta who could provide some valuable feedback to the organization on the Dominican pitcher, because, unlike the previous two pitchers in this article, there is still some upside in Junior Garcia: despite being Rule 5 eligible, he has been striking out a lot of batters in the minor leagues since 2017. Last time he did so was for the Jackson Generals in Double A in 2019. He has gotten a few honorable mentions on the FanGraphs Diamondbacks’ prospects list and in 2021 he will have the chance to show his skills in Reno.
It is his first season in the LIDOM as well and despite having a D-Backs manager at the helm, he has been hardly used so far. The left hander appeared in two games: his first outing went well, in the second one he issued two walks, gave up a homerun and hit one batter afterwards before being taken out. It casts a bit of doubt over his future usage in high leverage situations.
Michael de la Cruz, C, Tigres del Licey
In organization since: 12/31/2019
Status: Assigned to AA (Jackson Generals/Amarillo Sod Poodles)
Michael de la Cruz is not much more than organizational depth for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was signed on a minor league contract in December 2019 and was amongst the minor leaguers that were released in May 2020. The Dominican was signed back again on October 6, assigned to Reno Aces and in November reassigned to Double A.
The left-handed batter was a regular for Licey in 2019, but in 2020 has seen Sandy Leon and Welington Castillo sharing the duties behind the plate. He has only gotten 9 at bats so far, although he did walk 4 times and hit a homerun.
For the Tigres del Licey is also playing first baseman Yoel Yanqui who, until last week, was assigned to the Visalia Rawhide but was claimed in the Rule 5 minor league draft by the Cincinnati Reds and assigned to the Louisville Bats (Triple A) afterwards.
Another player on the Tigres de Licey is right-handed pitcher Jose Cuas who just like Michael de la Cruz was released in May 2020 like many other organizational depth minor league players, from Visalia Rawhide, but is currently without a contract in a MLB organization.
Keury Mella, RHP, Toros del Este
In organization since: 12/31/2019
Status: 40 man roster
As a member of the 40 man roster and possibly a valuable arm in the 2021 bullpen, Keury Mella is obvious on a pitch limit account, although I could find no information on that. He is currently employed once a week by his team as a set-up man, leading to high-leverage situations in the 8th inning.
His first outing was good where he contributed to a combined shut out. In 4 at bats he allowed a hit to Joe Dunand, who has been one of the better hitters this season, but got 3 grounders for an otherwise clean inning.
In his second outing he allowed two doubles, one from another raking hitter in Junior Lake, and a hit for 2 runs and nearly blew a 6-3 lead. A grounder, an infield pop up and a liner to shortstop prevented worst.
The third outing was very clean with a strike out, fly out and a grounder to protect a 2-0 lead in a 1-2-3 inning.
His latest outing was another 1-2-3 inning on December 4, where he protected a 2-1 lead and punched out two batters, one being Welington Castillo, and got Dawel Lugo to ground out.
Mella seems to do just fine.
In general not any spectacular Diamondbacks playing in the LIDOM. Perhaps somewhere else there is one and if so, we’ll provide you that information in a follow-up article.