DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE UPDATE...
As if Ronnie Belliard's 2 for 4, 2 HR, 6 RBI Dominican Winter League debut last Tuesday with the Tigres del Licey wasn't impressive enough, the DC infielder, expected to come off the bench for Washington this season, let the Nationals know he can still swing the bat the next night as well with a 2 for 3, 2 run, 1 HR, 4 RBI follow up on Wednesday and an opening week with Licey that ends with 6 hits in his first 15 at bats over five games in which Belliard's collected 3 HR's and 12 RBI's.
Belliard's teammate on the Tigres and the Nationals, Anderson Hernandez, continued to make his case for the starting spot at second with Washington in '09, even after the trade of Emilio Bonifacio to Florida all but assured that, barring a spectacular Spring from Belliard, the job is his. That hasn't slowed the 25-year old infielder's roll this Winter, however, as 36 games in with Licey, Hernandez is hitting .391 with 15 doubles, 6 triples, 1 HR and 23 RBI's, 5 stolen bases, 11 walks, a .429 OBP, .589 SLG and 1.019 OPS...No wonder Washington was comfortable trading Bonifacio...
Just take a quick look at these three links...
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt's, "Top Ten Prospects: Washington Nationals", from 1/4/05.
Baseball America's Matt Meyers', "Top Ten Prospects: New York Mets", from 11/11/05.
Baseball America's Mike Berardino's, "Top Ten Prospects: Florida Marlins", from 12/23/04.
Did you notice what I did? Two players from the Nationals' list, Mike Hinckley and Collin Balester, two players from the Mets' list, Lastings Milledge and Anderson Hernandez, and two players from the Marlins' list, Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham, all of them on the DC roster this season along with the Nationals' '05 1st Round Pick Ryan Zimmerman, and the #7 prospect in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' system from 2004, (in Baseball America's Bill Ballew's eyes), Elijah Dukes...either DC's really living in the past, or the future is now.
What did Jesus Flores do this week with the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League? Not much! In fact, Flores has just 1 hit in his last 18 at bats, stretching back to November 18th, (when he went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI). Since then it's only the 1 hit, (which he made the most of, knocking in 2 runs with a double this past Saturday), for the Navegantes, and the Nationals' catcher's now hitting just .200 in 19 games and 60 at bats, with 4 doubles, 1 HR, 6 RBI's and 17 K's.
Elsewhere This Winter...
Justin Maxell's hitting just .172 in 17 games and 58 at bats for the Criollos de Caguas in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico...Did I mention that Sunday night, Maxwell also hit his 5th HR in 58 at bats, and he's connected for 3 doubles and collected 14 RBI's in 17 games...Maxwell's teammate, Garrett Guzman's 1 for 4 game Sunday left him with a .293 AVG, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR's and 8 RBI's in 17 games...
-- The Hall Of Fame Talk...is starting again. Here's a look back to the last time former Expos' Andre Dawson and Tim Raines were up for consideration, an 11/27/07 post I creatively titled, "Do Andre Dawson and Tim Raines Deserve To Be Hall Of Famers?"
-- The Washington Nationals declined to offer arbitration to either Odalis Perez or Aaron Boone, making them both free agents though DC does have a desire to see both return in '09...My Prediction - Boone comes back. Odalis Perez gets a better offer from some other pitching desperate ball club...and takes it.
-- According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Kearns ready to battle for outfield spot", Austin Kearns isn't going to take the federalbaseball.com readers' attempts to relegate him to the bench lying down, as he tells Mr. Ladson rather confidently, "I've been through that stuff before with a crowded outfield. Those things usually play themselves out." But perhaps more interesting were Kearns' comments on his fellow former Cincy Red, Adam Dunn, a purported person of interest for DC. In Kearns' opinion, as quoted by Mr. Ladson:
"'Everybody likes the power and he walks. He is just a presence in the lineup,' Kearns said. 'You know he is going knock in his runs. You don't have to worry about that. He has stayed healthy, so he is going to be in there every day.'"
Don't encourage them, Austin. Or should I just resign myself to the inevitability of Adam "A Bigger Wilkerson" Dunn becoming a National?