O's Tavarez, taken in Rule 5 Draft, headlines winter league performers

O's Tavarez, taken in Rule 5 Draft, headlines winter league performers

Aneury Tavarez put himself on the map with a breakout campaign in 2016, when he finished second in the Eastern League batting race with a .335 average in 106 games for Double-A Portland. He also established career highs in on-base percentage (.379) and slugging (.506) while tallying 39 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases.

That success has followed the 24-year-old outfielder into the Dominican Winter League, and it's a big reason that the Orioles selected Tavarez -- the club's new No. 30 prospect -- in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. In 35 games for Estrellas Orientales this offseason, Tavarez has produced a .302/.359/.405 batting line in 35 games, with six extra-base hits, 16 runs scored and five steals.

While his above-average speed and defense should help Tavarez stick on the Orioles' big league roster this year, his progress at the plate in the past year suggests there might be more there than simply a reserve corner outfielder.

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


Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves' No. 17 -- Thumb surgery limited Acuna to just 40 games at Class A Rome last season, although he still managed to post an impressive .311/.387/.432 batting line, with eight extra-base hits and 14 steals in that span. Now making up for lost time by playing in the ABL, Acuna, 18, owns a .333/.358/.510 battling line, with two home runs, nine steals and 11 RBIs in his first 13 games for the Melbourne Aces.

Dominican Republic

Chesny Young, 2B/3B, Cubs' No. 28 -- Young has done nothing but hit to begin his career, winning the Carolina League batting title (.321 average) in 2015 and then hitting .303 this past season in his first taste of Double-A. Unsurprisingly, Young is currently raking in the Dominican, where he's opened his offseason with a 10-game hitting streak and a .457/.537/.486 slash line for Leones del Escogido.

Matt Koch, RHP, D-backs' No. 16 -- Acquired from the Mets in the August 2015 trade that sent Addison Reed to New York, Koch went 1-1 with one save across seven appearances (two starts) for Arizona as a September callup. More significant, he allowed nine hits in 18 innings in that span (.145 BAA) en route to a 2.00 ERA. Koch has been even tougher on opposing hitters this offseason with Tigres del Licey, for whom he's yielded just 10 hits in 22 2/3 innings (.128 BAA) to go along with a 1.19 ERA in five outings (four starts).


Brian Goodwin, OF, Nats' No. 29 -- After falling off the prospect radar from 2013-15, Goodwin resuscitated his career and ultimately reached the Major Leagues for the first time in '16, hitting .286 with five extra-base hits over parts of 22 games with the Nationals. Goodwin has continued to swing the bat well in Mexico, producing a .324 average in his first nine games as he prepares to compete for a bench spot on Washington's Opening Day roster.

Puerto Rico

Corey Black, RHP, Cubs' No. 27 -- Control problems plagued Black once again in 2016 as he issued 36 free passes against 62 strikeouts in 53 innings (48 appearances) between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs were hopeful that Black might get back on track this offseason in Puerto Rico, and, so far, the 25-year-old right-hander has done just that, posting a 0.45 ERA with a league-leading 12 saves in 20 innings (19 appearances) for Cangrejeros de Santurce.

Jorge Lopez, RHP, Brewers' No. 14 -- Lopez managed to end his otherwise disappointing 2016 campaign on a high note, posting a 2.49 ERA with 24 strikeouts and five walks over his final four starts in the Southern League. He's built on that success this offseason in Puerto Rico, where he's allowed just three earned runs on nine hits, with 23 strikeouts and eight walks, in six starts (25 2/3 innings) for Indios de Mayaguez. He's been particularly dominant in his last two turns, too, scattering just two hits and striking out eight across seven scoreless frames. Overall, Lopez is pacing the circuit in WHIP (0.66) and ranks third in ERA (1.05).


Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF, Indians' No. 10 -- Diaz turned in another strong campaign in the high Minors in 2016, hitting .318/.408/.446 with 35 extra-base hits and a 71-86 walk-to-strikeout rate in 121 games between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. The 25-year-old third baseman/outfielder has been one of the top hitters this offseason in Venezuela, where he owns a .357 average (fourth in the league) with 10 extra-base hits in 29 games for Leones del Caracas.

Raudel Lazo, LHP, Marlins' No. 28 -- Lazo 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. However, the 27-year-old lefty has made a strong case for a roster spot this offseason, as he has yet to allow an earned run while holding opposing hitters to a .173 average across his 16 appearances for Tigres de Aragua.

Renato Nunez, 3B/1B, A's No. 5 -- After getting his first taste of the big leagues in September, Nunez ranks third in the league with 10 home runs -- a total he's amassed in just 30 games for Tigres de Aragua. While the 22-year-old has gone deep just twice in his past 10 games, he's still managed to hit .308/.413/.513 in that span, with nearly as many walks (six) as strikeouts (eight). Overall, Nunez is hitting .330/.414/.626 with 21 runs scored, 25 RBIs and a 15-25 walk-to-strikeout ratio through 30 games.

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.