The Milwaukee Brewers affiliate in the Dominican Summer League will open play for the 2014 season on Saturday morning at 9:30 am CST as they play host to the Detroit Tigers DSL squad. Here is a quick look at a few things to watch for as the Dominican Summer League season gets underway.
The Brewers will play a 72 game schedule that begins on Saturday, May 31st and ends on Saturday, August 23rd. The team will play six days a week, with Sundays off and have a brief two day All-Star break on July 19th and 20th for the DSL All-Star Game which will be played on Sunday, July 20th. The Brewers will once again be playing in the San Pedro de Macoris division which consists of teams from the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. 48 of the Brewers 72 games will come against their divisional foes with another 24 games scheduled against non-divisional opponents.
Brewers history in the Dominican
Milwaukee began their affiliation with the Dominican Summer League as part of a co-op team with the Orioles and Red Sox in 1989. They remained in the league through the 2003 season, sharing a team with the Blue Jays in 1990, the Astros from 1994-1995 and the White Sox in 1996. Milwaukee left the DSL after the 2003 season, choosing to focus their attentions elsewhere. They returned in 2009, once again as part of a co-op team with the Orioles. Since 2010 the Brewers have operated their own team and in November of 2011 they moved in to their new baseball academy in San Pedro de Macoris.
The Brewers have brought at least a dozen players stateside from their DSL team over the course of the past year. Pitcher Gian Rizzo made three starts in the DSL last season before earning a promotion to the Arizona Rookie League. Pitcher Victor Diaz posted a 3.34 ERA in 14 DSL appearances last season and began 2014 at Class-A Wisconsin. In addition, pitchers Joshua Torres, Angel Ventura and Miguel Diaz, catchers Natanael Mejia and Leudi Otano, infielders Daniel Leonardo, Sthervin Matos, Jorge Quiterio and Gregory Munoz and outfielder Carlos Belonis all joined Milwaukee in Maryvale this spring for Spring Training and are slated to open the season with one of the Brewers short-season affiliates when they begin play in late June.
Jose Pena will be returning for his second season as the manager of the Brewers DSL affiliate. He spent three seasons as an assistant under Nestor Corredor from 2010-2012 before taking the reigns last year when Corredor became the manager of the AZL Brewers. In his first season at the helm, the DSL Brewers went 26-45. Pena will be joined by coaches Luis De Los Santos, Jose Antonio Nunez, Geraldo Obispo, Joan Abreu and Victor Estevez. De Los Santos, Nunez, Obispo and Estevez all return from last year’s staff, while Abreu – who played for the DSL Brewers from 2009-2011 – begins his first season as a member of the coaching staff.
Pitchers: With several members of the Brewers rotation moving up in 2014, there will be some new faces on the team’s pitching staff, but 19-year-old lefty Joan De La Cruz and 18-year-old Yosmer Leal should fill a couple of the rotation spots. De La Cruz made a team high twelve starts a season ago, working 49.1 innings while Leal made 13 appearances, starting 10 and worked 34.2 innings. Another pitcher to keep an eye on will be 17-year-old Nelson Hernandez. The Brewers signed the right-hander out of Venezuela as part of their July 2nd signing class last year and he will be making his pro debut this season. Doni Arias emerged as the Brewers closer in 2013 saving six games. He worked 16 innings in 16 appearances and could be the front-runner to close games again in 2014.
Catchers: The Brewers sent a pair of catchers stateside in Natanael Mejia and Leudi Otano but still have some depth at the position. 19-year-old Kevin Martinez hit .215 and knocked in 17 runs in 40 games for the DSL Brewers last season. He will be joined by newcomers Dilson Fernandez and Johel Atencion. The recently turned 20-year-old Fernandez signed with the Brewers this spring, while the 17-year-old Atencion was another member of the Brewers July 2nd signing class in 2013 out of Panama. Atencion suffered a wrist injury this spring so if/when he is ready to go still remains to be seen.
Infielders: The infield will be anchored by shortstop Franly Mallen who will be making his pro debut after agreeing to one of the largest international bonuses in Brewers history last season. He will be joined by returning first baseman Juan De Los Santos and 20-year-old second baseman Roosevert Chal along with 17-year-olds Henry Correa, Julio Mendez and Nicol Valderrey.
Outfielders: What should be one of the strengths of the team is in the outfield where the Brewers return Yerald Martinez, Juan Ortiz and Yunior Santana from the 2013 squad. Santana was named to the mid-season All-Star team last year, while Ortiz’s four home runs were second highest on the team. They will welcome 17-year-olds Nicolas Pierre and Joantgel Segovia in to the mix. Pierre, from the Dominican, and Segovia, from Venezuela were both signed by the Brewers last July.
Five Players to Watch
Franly Mallen: Mallen is perhaps the most high-profile international signing by Milwaukee to date after signing for a reported $800,000 last July. Having just turned 17 on May 27th, Mallen will be one of the youngest players to take part in the Dominican Summer League this season. An All-Star in the Dominican Prospect League in 2013, the 6’1″ shortstop has drawn comparisons to Jose Reyes for his quick bat and strong arm.
Nicolas Pierre: The other half of the Brewers big July 2nd signings in 2013, Pierre also signed for a reported $800,000 and will be making his pro debut in 2014. At 6’3″, reports are that Pierre makes good contact at the plate, hitting to all fields, and has enough speed to play center field.
Yosmer Leal: The 18-year-old Leal signed with the Brewers in July of 2012 for $370,000 and made his professional debut in 2013. Appearing in 13 contests and starting ten of them, Leal went 2-3 and struck out 28 batters in 34.2 innings, but struggled with his control, walking 38.
Nelson Hernandez: Though his signing didn’t get quite the attention of Mallen and Pierre, the 17-year-old Hernandez was another exciting addition for the Brewers last July 2nd. The 6’2″ Venezuelan right-hander was the top pitcher obtained by Milwaukee last July and will make his pro debut this season.
Juan De Los Santos: The 20-year-old first baseman put up solid numbers in 62 games last season, batting .281 with a pair of home runs and 31 runs batted in. He also was successful on nine of ten stolen base attempts. After spending two seasons with the Washington Nationals, 2013 marked the first season in Milwaukee’s organization for De Los Santos. In addition to playing 28 games at first base last year, he also saw time at third base, right field and left field.