Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
When the major and minor league seasons come to a close, most players welcome a break from the stiff grind that is baseball. But for some, their seasons are nowhere near over.
Young players who want/need more at-bats or more innings take their talents to winter ball, whether it’s the Arizona Fall League, Dominican Winter League, or one of many other offseason leagues.
The Milwaukee Brewers had 10 players within the organization participate in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, including three who were with the big league club in 2013.
Let’s take a look at two players who shined in the DWL this winter.
1B Sean Halton
Halton tops the list because he showed vast offensive improvement from his year with the Brewers.
He appeared in 42 games with the Brewers in 2013, serving mostly as a backup first baseman, and was nothing special. In 101 at-bats, he hit .238/.291/.396 with four home runs and 17 runs batted in, calling into question his roster spot for 2014.
But he strengthened his case in the DWL as he boosted his stats all across the board. He saw only 52 at-bats but was able to generate 17 hits (eight doubles) for a .327 average and boasted a potent .410 OBP and slugged .538.
The Brewers first base situation is still completely up in the air. As of now, it looks like Juan Francisco will be tabbed as the starter with the possibility of Halton backing him up. However, if Milwaukee trades for a first baseman, Halton will most likely be the odd-man out, especially with Hunter Morris waiting patiently in the minors.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers Triple-A affiliate, Herrera hit .282 and a career-high seven home runs in 2013. The previous season, Herrera hit .341 in the minors before being called up by the Dodgers where he posted a .251 average in 187 at-bats.
The Dodgers placed the switch-hitting Herrera, who has experience in the outfield and third base, on waivers in early November and he was claimed by the Brewers.
Herrera played for the Estrellas Orientales in the DWL and picked up right where left off. He hit .288 with three triples in just over 100 at-bats. He was most successful with runners in scoring position as he batted .333 in those situations.
Herrera is a prototypical leadoff hitter that reminds me of Norichika Aoki. Both are slap hitters with speed to burn. Herrera is on the Brewers 40-man roster but it is unclear whether he’ll make the Opening Day roster with the Brewers having a plethora of outfielders. With that being said, he is capable of manning third base and if Aramis Ramirez goes down with an injury or is traded, Herrera could step in, although his infield skills leave a lot to be desired.
If Herrera makes the roster, he’ll be an exciting player and a useful bat off the bench for Milwaukee.
Honorable Mention: Alfredo Figaro