We've obviously focused on the Arizona Fall League quite a bit around here lately, and with good reason - Bryce Harper is the top attraction in the league, and his first taste of pro ball is one of the big on-the-field storylines for the Nationals this winter.
But there are a number of other Nationals major and minor leaguers playing across Latin America this winter. Here's a quick roundup of some significant performances to date:
Danny Espinosa is playing for the Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and is off to a 7-for-22 start in his first five games. Most interestingly, though, he's playing shortstop on the team Nationals third-base coach Pat Listach is managing. I wouldn't read too much into that, other than the fact that the roster has a number of other second basemen; manager Jim Riggleman said at the end of the season there was no chance he would flip-flop Espinosa and Ian Desmond. But it is a little curious that a player who has minimal experience at second base isn't getting any time at a new position thus far. We'll keep an eye on that and see if it changes.
Chris Marrero, also playing in Ponce, has the same 7-for-22 mark as Espinosa in five games. He's also driven in five runs, though, and has four of his seven hits with runners in scoring position. This is a big winter for Marrero, who needs to put himself in the Nationals' first base plans in the not-too-distant future. Then again, the glove has been more of Marrero's problem than the bat.
Yunesky Maya has made two starts so far in the Dominican Winter League, allowing one run in 10 innings for the Leones de Escogido (lots of Lions, apparently, in the Caribbean). He's struck out 12 batters while only walking three, though Maya's never had much problem dominating against a level of competition that doesn't include the majors' best hitters. Still, he's pitched well in a winter before he tries to compete for a spot in the Nationals' rotation next spring.
A few other points of interest for the Nationals include: Erik Arnesen (3 ER in 9 1/3 IP in the Puerto Rican Winter League, along with a .176 batting average against and 0.86 WHIP), Jeff Mandel (three strikeouts in four shutout innings in Puerto Rico) and Alberto Gonzalez (3-for-13 start in four games in Venezuela).