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Ranking the 5 Best Pitching Performances of the Offseason Winter Leagues

Julio Teheran, rhp (Atlanta Braves)
Julio Teheran, rhp (Atlanta Braves)Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 18, 2013

The lengthy postseason in each of the four Caribbean Winter Leagues continued this past week, with the remaining teams in each league vying for a berth into the Caribbean Series in February.

Over the course of the last month, the Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues have featured a steady decline of active prospects—mostly pitchers who reached the innings limits imposed by their organizations.

After ranking the top hitters this season in the Caribbean Winter Leagues, I decided to compose a similar list of the top pitching performances from all four leagues.


5. Julio Rodriguez, rhp, Philadelphia Phillies (Puerto Rican Winter League): 27 IP, 3.67 ERA, .216 BAA, 30/13 K/BB (10 G; 3 GS)

Regardless of whether he’s been used as a starter or reliever, Rodriguez, 22, has always shown the ability to miss bats and induce weak contact. In his second full professional season in 2012—also his first at Double-A—the right-hander saw his walk rate spike against more advanced hitters.

The Phillies will give him another year to develop as a starter, but it’s likely that Rodriguez reaches the major leagues as a reliever.


4. Rob Bryson, rhp, Cleveland Indians (PWL): 15.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, .098 BAA, 19/7 K/BB (15 G)

Acquired by the Tribe in the deal that sent C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee in late 2008, Bryson missed most of the 2009 season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff.

Since returning, the 25-year-old right-hander has worked his way steadily back up the organizational ladder, and registered a 2.62 ERA with 76/43 K/BB in 65.1 innings last season at Double-A Akron.

Bryson built upon his success this winter in the Puerto Rican Winter League, as he held opposing hitters to a .098 batting average and fanned 19 hitters over 15.1 scoreless innings.



3. Alex Torres, lhp, Tampa Bay Rays (Venezuelan Winter League): 60.1 IP, 4.48 ERA, .250 BAA, 86/27 K/BB (14 GS)

Coming off an impressive 2011 campaign in which he thrived at Triple-A Durham and reached the major leagues for the first time, Torres experienced a painful regression last year while repeating the level.

The 25-year-old posted a career-worst 7.30 ERA and .261 BAA with 91/63 in 69 innings, and was relegated to the bullpen halfway through the season.

Although Torres’ pure stuff is excellent, his lack of control and command continues to delay a potential return to the major leagues.



2. Bruce Rondon, rhp, Detroit Tigers (VWL): 9 SV, 16.1 IP, 4.41 ERA, .262 BAA, 19/6 K/BB (18 G)

Boasting a fastball that sits between 97-102 mph, Rondon registered a 1.53 ERA and .172 BAA with 29 saves and 66 strikeouts in 53 innings across three levels.

Likely to open the 2013 season as the Tigers’ closer, the 6’3”, 265-pound right-hander notched nine more saves this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League.


1. Julio Teheran, rhp, Atlanta Braves (Dominican Winter League): 30.2 IP, 3.23 ERA, .218 BAA, 24/9 K/BB (7 GS)

Regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game headed into the 2012 season, Teheran struggled mightily while repeating Triple-A.

Constantly tweaking his delivery at the request of the organization, the right-hander never seemed comfortable on the mound, as he registered a 5.08 ERA and .289 BAA with 97/43 K/BB in 131 innings.

This offseason in the Dominican Winter League, Teheran rediscovered the mechanics that made him successful in 2011 and, as a result, was nearly unhittable over his final three starts (16.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 15/4 K/BB).


Honorable Mention

Kris Johnson, rhp, Pittsburgh Pirates (DWL): 27 IP, 0.67 ERA, .125 BAA, 22/6 K/BB (6 G; 4 GS)

A first-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2006 out of Wichita State, the 6’4” left-hander’s career never quite took off, as he struggled at Triple-A Pawtucket for three-consecutive seasons before being released in early 2011.

Signed by the Pirates last winter, Johnson had a long-overdue breakout campaign in 2012, as he registered a 3.19 ERA and .237 BAA in 101.2 innings between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.

This offseason, the southpaw posted a minuscule 0.67 ERA over 27 innings in the Dominican Winter League.

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