The calendar may have turned to December, but baseball is still in the air in various parts of the world. A handful of former San Jose Giants continue their winter league seasons as players look to finish 2012 on a high note and build momentum heading into spring training. Notable performances include Roger Kieschnick's early power surge in the Dominican Republic, Ehire Adrianza's solid play in Venezuela and Johnny Monell getting off to a fast start in Puerto Rico.
Two outfielders with visions of making San Francisco's opening day roster next year in Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero have seen action in the Dominican Republic this winter league season. Kieschnick got off to a strong start as the everyday right fielder for Leones del Escogido, including a stretch of 13 games from October 21-November 7 in which he knocked out four home runs and collected 16 RBI's. Kieschnick was batting .292 after their game on November 9, but an 0-for-20 slump dropped his average to its current mark of .228. He has four home runs and 18 RBI's in 21 games and last played on November 17 (it is not uncommon for players to leave their winter league team early and return home).
Peguero didn't join his team in the Dominican until mid-November due to San Francisco's deep postseason run. Through 14 games, the former San Jose standout is batting .218 with six doubles, no home runs, six RBI's and six stolen bases. Peguero is the primary starter in center field for Gigantes del Cibao.
Both Kieschnick and Peguero are on the 40-man roster and figure to be battling for the fourth and/or fifth outfield spots in San Francisco next spring. Peguero was 3-for-16 (.188 AVG) in San Francisco this year after a September call-up.
Former San Jose Giants Jackson Williams and Justin Fitzgerald have also seen action in the Dominican Winter League. Williams, who posted career-high totals in batting average (.247), home runs (11) and RBI's (40) this year with Triple-A Fresno, began his winter league season in mid-November. Through 10 games, he's hitting at a .289 clip with three doubles, no home runs and five RBI's. Williams was a catcher on San Jose's 2008 team.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald had a five-start stint in the Dominican Republic earlier this winter league season. The former California League All-Star, who has spent the last two years with Double-A Richmond, posted a 1-1 record and a 5.00 ERA over 18 innings. Despite solid numbers with the Flying Squrriels this year (7-8, 3.22 ERA in 28 starts), Fitzgerald was left off the 40-man roster last month and thus is unprotected for the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
Over in Puerto Rico, Monell has been arguably the top hitter in the league through the first three weeks. In 15 games, the former San Jose catcher is batting .367 with three doubles, five home runs and 12 RBI's. Monell currently leads the Puerto Rican Winter League in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage (.776) and on-base percentage (.500).
With Tommy Joseph no longer in the organization, it has left a void at the catching position in the upper levels of the Giants farm system. And while both Williams and Monell were left off the 40-man roster, an opportunity should exist during the 2013 season for each to make a significant positive impression. Williams has always been regarded as an excellent defensive catcher and will be looking to build on his career-high, albeit still pedestrian, offensive totals from 2012. Monell could provide value down the road as a left-handed power bat behind the plate and will be looking to earn his first taste of Triple-A next season.
Finally, Adrianza and Hector Sanchez headline the former San Jose players in Venezuela this winter league season. Adrianza has seen action in 25 games posting a .276 batting average with six doubles, two triples, no home runs and five RBI's. Adrianza struggled offensively this year in Double-A (.220 AVG), but is a top-flight defensive shortstop and a member of the 40-man roster, so he remains a noteworthy position player prospect in the system.
Sanchez, of course, was a key contributor on San Francisco's World Series championship team this year garnering substantial time behind the dish. He has since returned to his native Venezuela and is batting .300 with a home run and eight RBI's in nine games.
Former San Jose relief pitcher Mitch Lively also had a stint in Venezuela this year as the right-hander compiled an 0-2 record with a 7.71 ERA and one save in 12 games out of the bullpen. Lively spent all of 2012 in Fresno (2.99 ERA in 47 appearances).
Regular season play in each winter league concludes in late-December.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.