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The Dominican Diamondbacks in 2022: LIDOM Winter League round-up

This year Pavin Smith is playing in the LIDOM.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The past two years, in 2020 and 2021, we gave you a round-up of the LIDOM, the toughest winter league, in December. But now, with COVID “gone”, the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana has returned to its “normal” schedule of starting mid October.

If you wish to read a bit of general information on it, click on the links provided above, but just like in previous years we see many common names, because they return from injury or to showcase or improve themselves, or just to enjoy their stay at home.

This year’s crop comprehends former D-Backs and other well known players like Nick Wittgren, Neftalí Feliz, Melky Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes (Águilas Cibaeñas), Luis Campusano, Domingo Leyba (Estrellas de Oriente), Fernando Rodney, Enrique Burgos, Hanser Alberto, Liover Peguero, Wladimier Balentien (Gigantes del Cibao), Trey Wingenter, Pedro Strop, Ivan Nova, Humberto Mejía, Javy Guerra, Starlin Castro (Leones del Escogido), Dawel Lugo, Aristides Aquino (Tigres del Licey), Julio Teheran, Mike Fiers, Fernando Abad, Vidal Brujan, Jack Reinheimer, Addisson Russell, John Nogowski and Mallex Smith (Toros del Este).

Some bigger D-Backs names are on the rosters this year, so the LIDOM makes for an interesting league to follow, but before we get to those, let’s take a look where last year’s Dominican D-Backs are.

Last year Jesús Liranzo was a late minor league FA signing and he had a good showing in Reno, although in limited time. As expected he was assigned in 2022 to the Aces as well but was hit very hard and went onto the IL in July. Not much later he was traded to the Detroit Tigers but made just a handful of appearances before getting released. In this year’s LIDOM he is back with the Águilas again.

Chester Pimentel was released after a down year in 2021 and latched on with the Oakland A’s where he pitched with terrible command in both AA and AAA until being put on the IL in July. This year he is once again on the Estrellas’ roster.

By the end of last year Jeison Guzmán was a waiver pickup from the Kansas City Royals. He started the season in AA and did rather well, but had a couple of IL stints and in his second he was released and picked up by the Royals. This year he is not in the LIDOM.

Mack Lemieux has had troubles all season to keep runners off the bases and runs off the board in Reno and, after a demotion, in Amarillo. Nick Heath was released late April and looked for a new opportunity in Indy ball, Juan Graterol was released in August by the Aces. Edwin Uceta was a regular visitor of the MLB this year with the Diamondbacks although he spent most of his time with the Aces. None of them are playing in the LIDOM this year.

As we write the LIDOM is just 13 games in so take each statistic with a pinch of salt since the regular season is 50 games long.

Now let’s take a look at those Diamondbacks that are playing in the LIDOM this year.

Jose Alcantara, RHP, Águilas Cibaeñas

DOB: 08/03/1999

In organisation since: 06/15/2018

Status: Assigned to A+ (Hillsboro Hops)

Alcantara started the season in Visalia where he was wild for the Rawhide, striking out 35 over 20.1 innings of work and also walking 21 batters. Promoting people away also happens in baseball, as Alcantara was moved to a more pitcher friendly environment in Hillsboro. There his pitching wildness cooled down and the walks lowered to somewhat his minor league career average, although probably still ways too high.

With little success so far and at 22 years of age Alcantara is more of a depth option on the Águilas roster than anything else. He has pitched just 1 inning so far.

Reyes Moronta, RHP, Gigantes del Cibao

DOB: 01/06/1993

In organisation since: 08/22/2022

Status: on 40 man roster

Big Moronta has been assigned as a reserve on the Gigantes roster. This means that he might be called up if players leave the roster for whatever reason and he gets green light from the Diamondbacks to play. Last year he threw 7.2 innings for Escogido, his former team, so it isn’t out of the question the righty makes a couple of appearances.

Christian Montes de Oca, RHP, Gigantes del Cibao

DOB: 08/30/1999

In organisation since: 12/14/2021

Status: Assigned to A+ (Hillsboro Hops)

Probably the most interesting D-Backs prospect pitching in the LIDOM, if only for the fact that he signed last year, at 22 years of age. That is quite uncommon for a Dominican player, most of them join the MLB organisations right when the international market opens and at just 16 or 17 years of age.

It should make of an interesting story how he got to Arizona but I guess the Diamondbacks spotted him last year in the U23 championship in Mexico, where he had both his glory and not-so-glory moments. The player himself knows the uncommon success story, as in a short YouTube interview he mentions that he was sitting in the stands watching his team Gigantes in the LIDOM last year.

FanGraphs added Montes de Oca to their mid-season prospect board with a FV of 35+. He indeed has had his early success in the minors, where he was one of few pitchers that didn’t sh*t the bed in Visalia with an impressive 7.00 SO/BB over 13.1 innings. A quick promotion to Hillsboro confirmed the strike-out potential, and even 9 saves in 24 games, although it comes with an apparent hard hit rate leading to homers. A mid-90s fastball and a pair of secondary pitches are part of his tale that will continue in the LIDOM where the Diamondbacks, unlike with other pitchers, would rather see him getting into quite some action to see how he holds himself against some experienced batting.

That is working well so far. Just 5.1 innings has Montes de Oca pitched in the LIDOM, but he already notched a save and is confirming the strikeout potential.

Definitely a guy to follow closely and one we will probably see in Amarillo next year.

Luis Frias, RHP, Tigres de Licey

DOB: 05/23/1998

In organisation since: 11/24/2015

Status: on 40 man roster

Yet another man who should see quite some action is Luis Frias. It’s the righty’s first time in the LIDOM and an important performance evaluation lies ahead. More than to the Diamondbacks, Frias probably has to prove to himself that he is able to get tougher competition out. Less walks and more strikeouts is probably the motto after a disastrous 2022 in the MLB with the Diamondbacks.

He will have to do that for the most popular team in the Dominican Republic, the capital’s Licey. The pressure is on and so far he is not faltering. In just 4.2 innings of work he struck out 7 and walked just 1. That is probably a pace he won’t maintain, despite the kind of opposition he might face in the LIDOM, but if he can somewhat continue to pitch this way for 15-20 innings more and achieve an output similar to what he had in Hillsboro, Frias will sure tank enough confidence to show it all in a now-or-never 2023 season in the desert.

Pavin Smith, RF, Tigres de Licey

DOB: 02/06/1996

In organisation since: 06/21/2017

Status: on 40 man roster

The first position player in this list is no one else but Pavin Smith. Gotta say I had no clue he asked for permission to play in the LIDOM and that the club actually agreed to it. I don’t think his performance in the Dominican Republic will influence whatever path the Diamondbacks might take with Pavin, but the fact that he is playing in it says something about his motivation to add some at bats to his lost season, but also to the obvious doubts the team has: were he a fixed name for the 2023 roster, he surely wouldn’t be playing now.

Apart from that, then there is the question what position he is playing in the Dominican. Well, although the current 38 PA are not conclusive on his batting stats (as could be expected, many walks lead to a triple slash of .259/.447/.333), the position he is playing says it all: right field. If that is indeed still Pavin’s future, then it looks like he could be out next season with the current batch of talented kids there at the moment.

Sergio Alcantara, 3B, Tigres de Licey

DOB: 07/10/1996

In organisation since: 06/21/2013

Status: on 40 man roster

Sergio Alcantara returned to the Diamondbacks this April after spending almost 5 years in the Detroit Tigers’ and Chicago Cubs’ organisations. He was lost to and retrieved from the Padres and impressed with some good defence on the Diamondbacks.

Imagine what would happen if Alcantara would actually start to hit for average in the MLB; that’d make for a great ball player on the Diamondbacks. Well, that is what the Licey fans are accustomed to see, as Alcantara has a career .344 OBP in the LIDOM. Not weird that the switch hitter is one of the team’s most favourite players.

This year Alcantara hasn’t played for his team yet, as he hadn’t joined them until last week. The expectation is that he will play somewhere between 20-30 games or 80-100 PA, just like in previous seasons.