Games in winter ball, or as it is now called the Offseason Leagues, allow us to have hope for better Phillies teams in the upcoming seasons as the old core moves on. Three players who could become keys to the new core for the Phillies very soon are still having outstanding seasons in the Caribbean Leagues: Maikel Franco and Nefi Ogando in the Dominican and Odubel Herrera in Venezuela.
Last night in the third game of the DWL playoffs and playing first base, Franco scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth after hitting a one-out triple. He has come up big after the first three games of the playoffs by going 5 for 13 with three doubles and the triple to lead his Gigantes team to an undefeated record so far.
If Franco’s team goes on to win the playoffs they would then play in the Caribbean Series. Franco could be one of the few players who simply does not get any time off before spring training. Last year that Series ended the second week of February. He might need to report to the Phillies spring training just to get some rest!
Also impressive has been reliever Nefi Ogando. Uganda who pitched in the Arizona Fall League has been outstanding in the Dominican league for Aquilas. In two playoff games he has pitched two scoreless innings striking out three to go along with 5.2 scoreless innings in five outings at the end of the DWL season.
But no player has put up more hard to believe numbers in winter ball anywhere than the Phillies first round Rule Five pick, Odubel Herrera. Last night he celebrated his 23rd birthday with a career hight sixth homer in only 197 at bats and should win the Venezuelan League batting title with a .365 average and was tops in OPS with a .975 percent. The regular season ends tonight. He also showed he can pick it and throw in centerfield by starting an 8-3 double play last night.
Herrera is probably one of the few players in professional baseball history to win two league batting titles in one year. Earlier he won the AA Texas League batting title hitting .321 but hit only 2 home runs in 368 at bats and started the season in the high A Carolina League hitting no homers in 111 at bats.
Franco, Ogando and Herrera are starting to emerge as the next core generation of Phillies players based on how they are continuing to play in winter ball.