Bautista among prospects thriving in winter leagues

Nationals outfielder showing he has recovered well from finger injury

Bautista among prospects thriving in winter leagues

There were high expectations for Rafael Bautista headed into the 2015 season.

The Nationals' No. 15 prospect showcased a promising blend of hitting ability and speed during his full-season debut the previous year, batting .290/.341/.382, with 141 hits, 30 extra-base hits and 69 stolen bases over 134 games at Class A Hagerstown. On top of that, the 22-year-old also received rave reviews for his defense in center field.

Unfortunately, Bautista's highly anticipated follow-up campaign was derailed by a broken finger during the opening week of the regular season. While the injury cost the 6-foot-2, 165-pound outfielder most of the first half, he did return to bat .291/.332/.352 in 45 games at Class A Advanced Potomac after the All-Star break.

Bautista has continued to show that the injury is no longer an issue this offseason in the Dominican Republic, where he's batting .329 (the second-highest average in the league) with 26 hits and 10 runs scored in 22 games for Leones del Escogido.

Here's a look at some of the other top prospects currently making waves in the offseason winter leagues.

Dominican Republic

Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
One of the more exciting young hitters in the Minor Leagues, Devers, Boston's No. 2 prospect and No. 13 overall, is hitting .279 with three doubles and six RBIs in 13 games for Leones del Escogido. During the regular season, the 19-year-old third baseman posted a .288/.329/.443 batting line, with 11 home runs, 38 doubles and 70 RBIs in 115 games for Class A Greenville.

Alen Hanson, 2B/SS, Pirates
Pittsburgh's No. 5 prospect has picked up the pace offensively after a slow start, hitting .407 (11-for-27) with six runs scored in his past 10 games for Toros del Este. The hot streak, which includes five hits in his past five games, has improved his offseason average to .266. During the regular season, the 23-year-old switch-hitter batted .263/.313/.387 with 35 extra-base hits and 35 steals in 117 games for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Manuel Margot, OF, Padres
Margot, 21, made headlines this past weekend as the top prospect acquired by the Padres from the Red Sox in the Craig Kimbrel deal. However, San Diego's new No. 1 prospect (No. 25 overall) also has been making noise on the field in the Dominican Republic, where he's homered in two of his past three games for Toros del Este.


Christian Villanueva, 3B, Cubs
Villanueva, the Cubs' No. 22 prospect, fared much better this past season in his second tour of the Pacific Coast League, batting .259/.313/.437 with 18 home runs and 88 RBIs in 123 games for Triple-A Iowa. The 24-year-old still lacks a path to the big leagues, but he provides the Cubs with organizational depth in the event of an injury to one of their young corner players. This offseason, Villanueva is hitting .381/.466/.558 with five home runs, five doubles and 16 RBIs in 32 games for Yaquis de Obregon.


Dixon Machado, SS, Tigers
After getting his feet wet in the Major Leagues this past season (.235 average in 24 games), the Tigers' No. 14 prospect ranks among the offensive leaders in the Venezuela Winter League with a .295/.403/.486 batting line, four home runs, eight doubles and more walks (18) than strikeouts (12) through 29 games.

Rangel Ravelo, 1B, Athletics
Ravelo, 23, suffered a wrist injury during Spring Training and subsequently underwent surgery, costing him all but 59 games during the 2015 season. The A's No. 17 prospect has looked plenty healthy this offseason in Venezuela, however, batting .420/.566/.710 with five home runs, five doubles and 23 RBIs in 24 games for Cardenales de Lara. Ravelo also has 24 walks compared to only 10 strikeouts in that span.

Puerto Rico

Hector Olivera, OF, Braves
Though technically not a prospect, it's worth noting that Olivera, whom the Braves acquired from the Dodgers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, is working out in the outfield this offseason for Criollos de Caguas in Puerto Rico, where he owns a .279 average and a .354 on-base percentage through his first 12 games. Olivera, 30, batted .253/.310/.405 in 24 games with Atlanta last season.


Alex Balog, RHP, Rockies
Selected by the Rockies with the No. 70 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Balog, the club's No. 25 prospect, held his own this past season in the hitter-friendly California League, pitching to a 3.71 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 97 innings (16 starts) for Class A Advanced Modesto. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander has been excellent for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League, going 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA in his first four starts.

Justin Williams, OF, Rays
The Rays' No. 21 prospect is coming off a strong 2015 campaign in which he tallied a career-best seven home runs and 30 doubles in 122 games between Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte. Playing this offseason in the ABL, Williams, 20, has reached base safely in each of his 15 games for the Brisbane Bandits, and he's batting .400/.468/.600 with two home runs, five doubles and 11 RBIs in that span.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.