Teams scout the winter leagues heavily. It’s a different world, but it can be an experience that toughens some young players and lets others blossom. There are already three young players that scouts in the Dominican feel are emerging as worthy of watching in 2014.
The first is 22-year old Pirate outfielder Gregory Polanco —6-4, Devon White speed, big arm. After jumping to double-A this season, he’s leading the Dominican with four homers, has an OPS close to 1.000, and while the Pirates—whose organization is developing into one of the best in the game—feel he needs to start the season in triple-A, by August they can see this five tooler in a three center fielder outfield with Andrew McCutchen flanked by Polanco in right and Sterling Marte in left.
The second is Mets outfielder Juan Lagares. We saw the 24-year old’s defensive ability last season—1st in the National League in range factor, second in assists, fifth in defensive Wins Above Replacement. But he struggled with a .281 on base percentage. But he’s hitting .397 in the Dominican, showed improved discipline and right now the Mets are leaning towards giving him a shot at playing every day this season.
The third is 20-year old, switch-hitting Ranger Luis Sardinas, not because he’s going to get into the Elvis Andrus – Jurickson Profar debate, but because several teams have raised his name in trade talks. Sardinas reached double-A by season’s end, is getting on base at a .418 clip in the Dominican and teams see him as either a future second baseman or super utility type. His name will be appearing in another city, soon.