The Dominican Winter League (LIDOM) kicks off this Sunday. COVID-19 is forcing the league to make some adjustments for the 2020-21 campaign. Players are subjected to constant testing. The regular season schedule has been pushed back a month and reduced to 30 games from the standard 50. Until further notice, fans won’t be permitted at the ballparks.
Even so, the excitement is palpable. LIDOM typically provides the highest level of competition of any professional winter ball league. Moreover, young Marlins players will have prominent roles on several teams!
I will be keeping a close eye on the following guys:
- INF José Devers and OF Jerar Encarnación (Gigantes del Cibao)—Devers and Encarnación have little in common when it comes to their physical builds and skill sets, but they’re in approximately the same spot in their career trajectories. After spending the summer at the alternate training site, expect the Marlins to protect both of them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. Most likely, they will be Double-A teammates to open the 2021 campaign, potentially debuting in the majors towards season’s end depending on the health/performance of the veterans above them on the depth chart.
Later in the inning...this graceful slide pic.twitter.com/qJo2WGoSaa— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) November 11, 2020
- 1B Lewin Díaz (Estrellas Orientales)—The reigning LIDOM Rookie of the Year! Díaz played excellent defense during his 2020 brief stint with the Marlins, but disappointed at the plate (.154/.195/.205, 11 wRC+ in 41 PA). In recent preseason games, the powerful lefty batted in the heart of the Estrellas lineup (the No. 4/No. 5 spots). Maybe a return “home” will help him get back into a groove.
- INF Joe Dunand (Leones del Escogido)—Unlike the other featured players, Dunand wasn’t born in the Dominican Republic. However, he’s familiar with how the league operates after spending about one month with the Leones in 2019-20. Developed as a shortstop throughout most of his career in the Marlins organization, the former second-round draft pick will primarily get his winter ball playing time at third base.
- OF Jesús Sánchez (Toros del Este)—The 23-year-old’s circumstances are similar to Díaz’s. A consensus top-10 Marlins prospect, he’s much better than he showed during his first taste of the big leagues, and he ought to have the opportunity to prove it with the defending LIDOM champions.
Jesús Sánchez with the opposite-field double in a Dominican Winter League preseason game pic.twitter.com/MY05Oc8ww3— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) November 6, 2020
- INF Christopher Torres (Águilas Cibaeñas)—The canceled Minor League Baseball season was particularly frustrating for somebody like Torres. He has exhibited good on-base skills at every MiLB level, but still needs to prove himself as a passable fielder. The best way to do that? Lots of reps. Unfortunately, he isn’t currently projected to get many of those this winter.
Right-hander Jorge Guzman (Gigantes) is the only Marlins pitcher whose participation I have confirmed. He’s likely to be utilized as a reliever.
I will post weekly highlights and analysis to the Fish Stripes Offseason section, focusing on active Marlins with occasional mentions of old friends.