Dominican player spotlight: NL East

Part four of the Dominican baseball player spotlight has arrived. This go-around, after wrapping up the American League (AL), the National League (NL) East gets some love. One of the richest divisions in the league boasts some of the biggest Dominican stars.

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Jim Rassol/USA Today

Atlanta Braves

Atlanta’s only Dominican player is Marcell Ozuna (Santo Domingo). The designated hitter is putting up his first positive WAR season since 2020, hitting .237 and boasting an OPS of .769.

Ozuna has also been in and out of Lidom’s Gigantes del Cibao over the past decade. He played for the San Francisco de Macorís-based team in 2012-13, 2013-14, 2015-16, then spent five seasons away from the team before returning in the 2021-22 campaign and playing this past season. Perhaps after his Major League Baseball (MLB) days are over, he becomes a full-time Gigantes player.

Miami Marlins

The Dominican presence on the Houston Astros is as strong as any team in the MLB… save for the Marlins. The Miami pitching staff has five Dominican players: last season’s NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara (Azua Province), Edward Cabrera (Santiago), Huascar Brazoban (Villa Mella), George Soriano and Johnny Cueto (San Pedro de Macorís).

As for hitters, the Marlins have three of Dominican origin. This makes them the team with the most Dominican players of the teams covered thus far with eight. The lone infielder is former Philadelphia Phillie Jean Segura (San Juan). Segura has struggled mightily since being converted to a third baseman, having his worst-ever season both at a base statistics level and an advanced statistics level.

Outfielder Bryan De La Cruz (Santo Domingo) has had a season of highs, both good and bad. De La Cruz is projected to surpass his career-high 13 home runs and has set career highs in RBIs (53), walks (27), and slugging percentage (.435). Conversely, he has struck out 93 times, already surpassing last year’s 90 Ks.

Jesus Sanchez (Higuey) has honed his plate discipline this season. He is sitting on the following career highs: batting average (.261), doubles (16), and OPS (.809). Additionally, his strikeouts per game rate is the lowest of his career, currently at 0.85 strikeouts per game.

Philadelphia Phillies

Sadly for the Phillies, their star Dominican player is sitting on the 10-day injured list. Cristian Pache (Santo Domingo) is on his third team in three seasons, but Philadelphia has brought something out of him. After failing to clear the Mendoza Line in a season in which he played double-digit games, Pache has shattered his career-highs in batting average (.327) and OPS (.957). Pache is expected to return before season’s end.

While he heals, fellow Dominican Johan Rojas (San Francisco de Macorís) has slotted into a backup role in a talented Phillies outfield. The 22-year-old had a dubious triple goose egg average playing in five games for the Tigres del Licey this past season in Lidom. It was clearly a slump, though, as Rojas has torn it up for Reading, the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate. He has hit .306 and posted an OPS of .845 for the Fightin’ Phils.

As for the pitching staff, there is a mix of established names and young guns. Gregory Soto (Bajos de Haina) is sitting on a career-low WHIP of 1.23 in what has otherwise been a year to forget. Yunior Marte (Santo Domingo) has split time between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley, their Triple-A affiliate. Es el mismo for Cristopher Sanchez (La Romana).

New York Mets

Whereas Philadelphia’s only regular Dominican hitter is on the injured list, all of New York’s Dominican players are getting some paid leave they never asked for. Longtime Pittsburgh Pirate Starling Marte (Santo Domingo) and relief pitcher Edwin Uceta (Sabaneta) are on the 10-day and 60-day injured lists, respectively.

Marte in particular will be missed while he recovers from migraines. Despite his career-low WAR of -0.4 and OPS of .640, Marte remains one of many strong veteran presences on a team whose active roster’s average age is 30.8. Uceta played just one game in Queens before injuring his ankle, then tearing his meniscus.

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals have been rebuilding ever since their 2019 World Series win. Victor Robles (Santo Domingo), one of the key components of that team, finds himself on the 10-day injured list. The outfielder, to this point, has posted a career-high batting average (.299) and on-base percentage (.385).

Though born in New York, Jeimer Candelario grew up in the Dominican Republic and took the path many a Dominican player would take to the MLB. After spending a few years with Detroit, Candelario has bounced back from an abysmal 2022. His OPS (.814) is the highest he has had since the COVID-shortened 2020 season (.872).

Washington’s lone active Dominican pitcher is Jose Ferrer (Maimon), a reliever. The rookie debuted in the show not even a month ago, getting the call from the Rochester Red Wings where he has an ERA of 3.83 and a WHIP of 1.55.

Next time: does the NL Central have better representation than its American League counterpart?

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