Dominican baseball players spotlight: AL West

Part three of the six-part Dominican baseball players spotlight marches on to the last of the three American League (AL) divisions: the AL West. Last time, the AL Central was covered, perhaps the weakest division in baseball. The focus shifts to a division containing four very strong teams and the Oakland Athletics. Hometowns from this point forward will be in parentheses.

Seattle Mariners outfielder <a rel=
Jennifer Buchanan/The Seattle Times

Houston Astros

The Houston Astros’ pitching staff alone has as many Dominican baseball players as, if not more than, several Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have in total. The Astros sent six players to the World Baseball Classic to play for the Dominican Republic.

Two of those players are starting pitchers Framber Valdez (Sabana Grande de Palenque) and Cristian Javier (Santo Domingo). Valdez has torched the MLB with 129 strikeouts and a WAR of 3.1 that’s good for fourth in the league. Three more are relief pitchers Rafael Montero (Higuerito), Hector Neris (Villa Altagracia), and Bryan Abreu (Santo Domingo). The trio has combined for 155 strikeouts in 123.2 innings of work.

Two hitters also hail from the Dominican Republic: shortstop Jeremy Peña (Santo Domingo) and catcher Yainer Diaz (Azua Province). Peña is an instrumental component of a strong Houston infield that isn’t even at full strength. Diaz has looked like a promising successor to Martin Maldonado. Overall, the Astros have a strong Dominican presence, perhaps the strongest in the league.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have two solid relief pitchers out of Santo Domingo: Jose Soriano and Carlos Estevez. Estevez and Soriano have combined for 69 strikeouts and have near-identical WHIPs of 1.30 and 1.28.

Estevez went through the Rockies system, beginning with the Colorado Dominican Summer League team. He played just one season in Lidom, playing for the Toros del Este in the 2018-19 season. Soriano spent one season on the Angels’ summer league team and has had a respectable rookie campaign.

Oakland Athletics

Like the Angels, the A’s only have two Dominican baseball players on the roster and both are pitchers. Starting pitcher Luis Medina (Nagua) and relief pitcher Angel Felipe (Villa Mella), like their team, are going through growing pains.

Medina has found himself in a role he is not yet supposed to be in, posting an ERA of 6.34 to this point. The youngster was only recently taking part in his second season of Lidon competition with the Toros, albeit in 28 innings worth of work. Felipe has yet to play in Lidom, but did play on Tampa Bay Rays-sanctioned summer league teams in 2015 and 2016.

Seattle Mariners

One of the most popular teams in the league as of late fittingly has one of the most popular Dominican players in the league: Julio Rodriguez (Loma de Cabrera). The Naruto-loving outfielder has played like the franchise face the Mariners have expected him to.

Down the Mariner ballot, though, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez (Cotui) has proven himself a quality acquisition from Toronto. Yet another Toros legend appears on this AL West spotlight, but unlike other players on the list played there six years in a row.

Former Reds standout Luis Castillo (Bani) rounds out a lights-out starting rotation featuring George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Robbie Ray, the latter of whom is on the shelf after Tommy John surgery. Castillo has struck out 122 batters and counting this season, making up for Ray’s absence and then some.

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers, with or without Jacob deGrom, appear to have finally broken free from the basement. Everything is coming together for them and they have become a force in the AL again. Three Dominican players adorn Texas’ roster: outfielder Leody Taveras (Tenares), shortstop Ezequiel Duran (San Juan de la Maguana), and relief pitcher Jose Leclerc (Esperanza).

Taveras is enjoying a career season at the plate, slicing .288 on the season with career highs in doubles (16) and home runs (10). Duran is even better, hitting .301 on the season and sending 13 balls out of the park. Leclerc has had an alright season, but notably has more blown saves (2) than saves (1).

Next time, the spotlight shifts to the National League.

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