Winter leagues roundup: Garrett, Shepherd getting work Down Under

Winter leagues roundup: Garrett, Shepherd getting work Down Under

The Arizona Fall League may be nearing its completion, but the rest of the offseason winter leagues are now in full swing. Much like the leagues in the Caribbean, the Australian Baseball League, which began Thursday, provides prospects with an opportunity to get in extra work or simply refine their game. Last year, the ABL served as a stepping stone for Rays' No. 15 prospect Justin Williams, who paced the circuit in OPS (.980), tied for second in home runs (10) and finished third in total bases (107) before reaching Double-A at age 21 in 2016.

Marlins' No. 7 prospect Stone Garrett and Zac Shepherd, Detroit's No. 18 prospect, are hoping to follow in Williams' footsteps this winter while playing for the Sydney Blue Sox. Garrett appeared in 35 games for Class A Greensboro before a practical joke by then-teammate Josh Naylor resulted in a right thumb laceration and subsequent surgery that kept the 20-year-old outfielder out of action until mid-August. Shepherd, meanwhile, is attempting to get back on track after the 21-year-old third baseman hit .186 with 159 strikeouts in 121 games for Class A Advanced Lakeland.

Highlighting the Melbourne Aces roster will be Braves' No. 17 prospect Ronald Acuna, who hit .311 with 27 runs and 14 steals in 40 games for Class A Rome but also missed more than three months after undergoing surgery. D.J. Davis (Blue Jays' No. 24) and Kevin Padlo (Rays' No. 21) will suit up for Canberra and Brisbane, respectively.

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

Dominican Republic

Manny Margot, OF, Padres -- The Padres' No. 2 prospect (No. 26 overall) excelled as a 21-year-old in Triple-A (.304/.351/.426) before getting a taste of the Major Leagues in September, when he batted .243 with five extra-base hits over 10 games with the Padres. While his .256 average and .635 OPS in 21 games for Torros del Este doesn't exactly jump off the page, Margot has swung the bat well of late, collecting at least one hit in four straight games including his first winter league homer. Overall, he ranks fourth in the circuit with 22 hits and owns a share of second place with five stolen bases.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies -- The Phillies' No. 12 prospect has gotten off to a strong start for Gigantes del Ciabo, hitting .258/.355/.470 with 14 RBIs across his first 18 games. Meanwhile, after connecting on 38 home runs during the regular season, Hoskins has gone deep four times in his last seven games to move into a tie atop the circuit's leaderboard with Dylan Cozens (Phillies' No. 7), Hoskins' teammate at Double-A Reading and the only player to out-homer him (40) in 2016.

Gabby Guerrero, OF, D-backs -- Coming off an age-22 campaign that saw him hit .234/.281/.383 in 126 games between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, Guerrero, Arizona's No. 11 prospect, has hit safely in each of his seven games for Torros del Este, during which he's produced a .407 average and five RBIs.

Mexico

Joey Wendle, 2B, Athletics -- The A's No. 28 prospect held his own in the big leagues last season, hitting .260 with a pair of extra-base hits and 11 runs scored in 28 games. Now, after logging 153 regular-season games between the Minors and Majors, the 26-year-old second baseman is getting even more work this offseason with Yaquis de Obregon in Mexico, for whom he's hit .309/.348/.528 with 17 extra-base hits -- including three home runs -- and 21 RBIs in 31 games.

Puerto Rico

Jorge Lopez, RHP, Brewers -- Lopez, Milwaukee's' No. 13 prospect, reached the big leagues as a 22 year old in 2015 but took a considerable step back this season as he received a mid-season demotion to Double-A Biloxi after going 1-7 with a 6.81 ERA and a 66-55 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs. The right-hander was able to finish his season on a positive note, however, posting a 2.49 ERA with 24 strikeouts and five walks over his final four starts in the Southern League, and he's built on that success in Puerto Rico by allowing just one earned run on four hits in his three starts for Indios de Mayaguez.

Venezuela

Carlos Tocci, OF, Phillies -- Tocci, 21, received his first taste of winter ball last offseason, when he hit .333 in 11 games for Tigres de Aragua. Back with Aragua once again this year, the Phillies' No. 22 prospect has hit .351/.415/.405 over his last 10 games to lift his overall average to .316 through 31 games.

Raudel Lazo, LHP, Marlins -- Miami's No. 25 prospect recorded a 2.68 ERA in 42 appearances across three Minor League levels only to be designated for assignment when rosters expanded on Sept. 1. The 27-year-old lefty has been solid so far with his eight scoreless appearances out the bullpen for Aragua.

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