The Houston Astros haven’t been busy in minor-league signings this offseason, although organizations cannot negotiate major-league signings.
There aren’t any reports on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but that hasn’t stopped Astros players from continuing their progressions.
A group of Astros are continuing to play in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM), which we have highlighted this offseason. Some games have been halted due to COVID-19 positive cases, while the Puerto Rican Winter League has taken more hits on that front.
Martin Maldonado has hinted to returning to the Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican League this winter, if the team needs more players.
How have Astros players performed in the Dominican Winter League thus far?
After returning from a wrist injury late into the Triple-A season, Jeremy Pena was flashing a new stroke of power in his game. The right-hander slashed to a .944 OPS in 30 games, but Pena is now at a .774 OPS in 30 LIDOM games.
The average OPS for the Triple-A West (affected by elevation) is much higher compared to the average OPS of LIDOM (.638), which can be a factor to the difference through the same sample. LIDOM pitching shows flashes of major-league experience, which can be lacked by Triple-A clubs.
Pena’s defense hasn’t featured any issues this winter while he leads the shortstop position in Ultimate Zone Rating. His speed could lead to more stolen bases, while he has seven bags over nine attempts. This would lead the Astros in a full-season sample.
This winter, Jose Siri came onto the scene late. In only 18 games, the right-hander is struggling to find consistency with getting on base (.289 OBP). There aren’t any advanced metrics in LIDOM, so there is no chance of showing if he is getting unlucky with hard-hit balls or not.
Siri has only four extra-base hits in 69 at-bats, while striking out 19 times. The center fielder has only three errors in 45 chances, so his defense looks to be the same.
With a full major-league rotation, Bryan Abreu’s future with the Astros could remain in the backend of the bullpen. There is a blockage of arms in front of him with the rotation having seven quality options.
His time in LIDOM could display more reasons for major-league innings or build a stronger case as trade bait down the line. The 24-year-old battled a leg injury in 2021 and never found his seat back in the bullpen.
In seven starts, Abreu has totaled 26 innings and a 2.42 ERA. The right-hander is posting a 9.7 strikeout per nine innings and a 3.8 walk per nine innings, which are slightly better than his ’21 campaign.
Abreu continues to struggle on the walk-to-strikeout ratio, while more control and command would be beneficial for a major-league stay.
The second piece in the Myles Straw trade, Yanier Diaz, continued to excel at the plate in his move to the Astros’ organization. The same can’t be said in LIDOM, while the catcher has been limited to only 15 games and to a .668 OPS.
The Sugar Land Skeeters closer was the best at his job in the Triple-A West in 2021, while he has since continued his success in LIDOM. Ronel Blanco hasn’t allowed a run in 18 innings (17 games), while striking out 21 batters to his eight walks.
The LIDOM playoffs begin on Dec. 27, as all teams make the postseason. End of the season awards including Gold Gloves will be announced in the coming weeks.
Jeremy Pena was the recipient of the 2020 Rookie of the Year, while he and Jose Siri both won Gold Gloves for their respective positions.