Top 3 Prospects That Are Breaking Through In Winter League Ball

As we all follow the offseason pursuits of free agents and front offices, young burgeoning prospects are balling out in Winter League play in places like Puerto Rico, the Dominican, and Venezuela. 

Some of the league's future stars make their breakthroughs in these winter months. Let's have a look at three who are dominating in winter ball, giving signs of being ready to take it to the next level.

Elly De La Cruz, SS, Cincinnati Reds

De La Cruz is the Reds’ top prospect and one of the best prospects in all of baseball. In the Dominican winter league, for Tigres Del Licey, De La Cruz is tied for 4th in the highly-regarded league, with an .813 OPS; he's stolen nine bases in 24 games, and has displayed his blazing speed with regularity, including multiple triples.

As noted by Nick Groke of The Athletic, "he is on a superstar arc, with seemingly elite quickness, arm strength and bat speed."  

Jerar Encarnación OF/1B, Miami Marlins

Another Dominican playing at home this winter, Encarnacion is tearing it up with a .950 OPS for Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Professional Baseball League. 

The 25-year-old got a brief callup from the Marlins this past season and hit a game-winning 7th inning grand slam in his debut, to beat the New York Mets. He only spent 23 games with the big club, but his power also showed consistently in the minors. 

Bowden Francis, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, Francis was part of the Rowdy Tellez package the Jays got from the Milwaukee Brewers. The 26-year-old struggled mightily in the minors in 2022, but is showing what he can do this winter. 

In seven starts, he has a 1.98 ERA, and a 36:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 innings for Criollos de Caguas. 

Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK