DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE
Brandon Belt's winter campaign for the Leones del Escogido can be summed up with one word -- consistency.
The 23-year-old finished up hitting an even .300 (30-for-100) with eight doubles, three homers, 14 runs and 11 RBI. Although the numbers weren't flashy, Belt showed he can produce day-in, day-out. We've all seen the potential; we've all seen the flashy minor league numbers. If Belt can produce consistently in the Bigs, he's a 2012 All Star.
If we're to believe what's coming from manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean, Belt will be the first baseman for the big club in 2012. There are those who are concerned that he'll once again be mishandled -- perhaps even starting the season in Fresno and being given the yo-yo treatment. After Belt's handling in 2011, who can blame them for worrying?
Francisco Peguero appeared in 24 games for the Gigantes de Cibao, but was unable to establish any consistency at the plate. The toolsy outfielder hit just .264 (23-for-87) with four extra base hits. Peguero's K/BB rate of 17/5 was also alarmingly high, although he did improve on the horrendous 45/5 he posted with double-A Richmond in 2011.
Overall, Peguero did have a great year for the Flying Squirrels, however. He figures to be in the mix with Justin Christian and Tyler Graham for the center fielder job in Fresno in 2012. But if he does not find a way to refine some of his raw tools, the 23-year-old could find himself in Gary Brown's rear-view mirror pretty quickly.
Juan Perez started off hot for the Aguilas Cibaenas this winter, but cooled off a bit near the end of the campaign. The 25-year-old gathered four base hits in his final two games, but had gone hitless in five of his six prior appearances and hitting just .143 (2-for-14) over that span. Although Perez did not display any power this winter, with zero long balls in 44 games, he did steal 13 bags in just 16 attempts.
Perez, who hit .256 (117-for-457) for double-A Richmond in 2011, will need to hit for average and stay aggressive on the base paths if he is to take the next step in the pipeline. The outfield in Fresno might get crowded, and competition for jobs figures to get heated.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Tyler Graham and Justin Christian were eerily similar all winter in the MPL. Christian finished up his winter campaign hitting .265 (27-for-102) for the Caneros, while Graham ended up just a couple points higher at .267 (51-for-191) for the Tomateros.
They both continued to display the great range on defense and blazing speed on the base paths for which they have become known. Graham stole 11 bags in 16 attempts while Christian swiped four in just five tries. Christian did show a bit more pop, however, slugging three homers in just 25 games. Graham managed just two long balls over 45 appearances.
Both Graham and Christian are likely to find themselves somewhere between triple-A and a fourth or fifth outfielder spot in 2012. They are also both quickly running out of time -- with youngsters Peguero and Brown nipping at their heels for that center fielder job in Fresno.
VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE
Hector Sanchez was playing at an otherworldly level all winter for the Tiburones de La Guaira, flirting with the .400 mark through November and into December. Sanchez has cooled off of late, however, going hitless in six of his last seven games. Overall, the 22-year-old still holds a very respectable average of .339 (56-for-165), slugging 10 doubles and 8 homers while scoring 26 times and plating 35 runs.
Sanchez's hot start had many wondering, us included, if he wouldn't be the backup catcher to Buster Posey on the big club come 2012. Now that he has come back to earth a bit, and also with the recent signing of Eli Whiteside, Sanchez will start the 2012 campaign with Fresno, according to Director of Player Development Fred Stanley.
Should Sanchez continue raking at the triple-A level, though, he may yet find himself in the third-base dugout of AT&T Park before season's end.
Ehire Adrianza played somewhat sparingly for the Tiburones de La Guaira, appearing in just 28 games. Adrianza, who has become known as an excellent defensive shortstop without much of a bat, lived up to that billing this winter. The 22-year-old from Venezuela is hit just .234 (18-for-77) while whiffing 12 times.
Adrianza figures to be the shortstop in double-A Richmond to begin the 2012 campaign, but he will need to make substantial strides with the stick if he wants to continue his progression through the Giants' farm system.
Jose Flores was mostly ineffective in his 24 appearances for the Aguilas de Zulia this winter, hitting just .242 (15-for-62) with only two extra-base hits. The 24-year-old infielder, who saw time with both San Jose and Richmond in 2011, will almost certainly start 2012 with one of those two teams. Perez barely managed to crack the Mendoza Line, hitting .201 (38-for-189) in 55 games with Richmond last season.
Edwin Escobar got knocked around a bit this winter, posting a 5.73 ERA in ten appearances for the Cardenales de Lara. The young left-hander pitched without much success in low-A Augusta and the Arizona League in 2011. He will most likely find himself with the Green Jackets again in 2012.
Jean Machi shut it down all winter as the closer for the Navegantes del Magallanes, recording 11 saves and posting a paultry 1.47 ERA. The 29-year-old fanned 24 batters in 30.2 innings of work, while posting an eye-popping WHIP of 0.98.
At 29, Machi is hardly considered a prospect. He did pitch with Fresno in 2011, however, and figures to do so again in 2012.
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE
Alex Burg came out of the gates smoking for the Perth Heat this winter, putting up slow-pitch softball numbers for the first couple of weeks. Unfortunately Burg, like several others on this list, has come crashing back to reality of late, going hitless in four of his last five games. Burg's average has plummeted down to .277 (36-for-130). The 24-year-old has showed impressive pop however, slugging 10 homers and plating 23 runs in 34 appearances.
Burg burst onto the scene with high-A San Jose in 2011 following the departure of Hector Sanchez. The 24-year-old native of Washington has thrown his hat in the ring in a Giants farm system suddenly laden with quality catching prospects. The group of young backstops features the likes of Sanchez, Johnny Monell, Tommy Joseph and Andrew Susac.
PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE
Johnny Monell has seen limited action this winter for the Criollos de Caguas, appearing in just 22 games. The left-handed power hitting catcher is hitting .295 (18-for-61) with seven doubles and two dingers.
The native of the Bronx is making the most of his time in Puerto Rico, tweeting, "Playing winter ball has been nothing but a learning experience!! Learning so much from so many brilliant minds!!" Monell is also eating well, taking good care of his body.
The 25-year-old backstop put up solid numbers in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League in 2011. It's a little crowded behind the dish in Fresno, however. With Tyler LaTorre and Hector Sanchez in the mix, Fred Stanley says Monell will be a double-A guy going into the spring.