Yesterday was Opening Day in the 2020-2021 Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana season. This season will be quite different, thanks of course to the Coronavirus. At first, there will be no riled up and loud fans, the season will only be 30 games long, and the round-robin format has been shelved in favor of a more traditional best of series format in the playoffs this year. While foreign rosters are still limited to ten players, every team has gone all out in bringing in new foreigners, old veterans, and just newcomers, in general, to fill out the 2020-2021 rosters. With that in mind let’s take a quick team-by-team glance of some of the bigger names you’ll likely see in LIDOM this year (remember, it’s LIDOM, and players who have committed to play may not actually end up playing).
The biggest addition to the Águilas roster is undoubtedly Melky Cabrera. At least that’s true on a sentimental level, though on a realistic note it’s possible Cabrera’s tank might be empty. Víctor Robles and Wilmer Difo haven’t played for Águilas in a couple of years, but seeing as how Difo is playing as a free agent hoping to be signed and Robles is in the Dominican Republic to continue working on his bat for the Washington Nationals I would expect both to be heavy hitters all season long. Joe Van Meter has been rock solid at every stop in his unaffiliated career, sans his lone awful appearance for my Yaquis de Obregón in Liga Mexicana del Pacífico back in 2018-2019. His stuff is still good, and he should help to anchor what appears to be a stout Águilas pitching staff.
Francisco Mejía hasn’t played for Estrellas for a couple of seasons, but he’s back to show the San Diego Padres and the rest of the baseball world that he’s much better than his 2020 for the Friars. He’ll pair with Christian Bethancourt to give Estrellas the best backstop duo in the league, and with Bethancourt likely to DH frequently Mejia should get plenty of playing time. Emmanuel Clase pitched last year for Estrellas, but he’s coming off of a Major League Baseball PED suspension, and that likely means he will be throwing his insane stuff more than he did his last run with Estrellas. Zach Reks is a top Los Angeles Dodgers prospect and Estrellas are counting on him bringing a big bat to Estadio Tetalo Vargas. He’s a Dodgers prospect, so likely he will rake.
Gigantes del Cibao
The Gigantes are relying mainly on old favorites this season. However, a quick scan of their roster does reveal two very interesting players, Steven Souza Jr. and Wilin Rosario. Souza has never played in LIDOM, and he’s making his way to LIDOM after a series of injuries turned his MLB career upside down. Souza fits into the classic aging MLBer bust or boom category, though I’m leaning more towards bust. Rosario is not new to LIDOM, but he is new to the Gigantes. He’ll continue to be poor behind the plate, but he will add some much-needed pop to a Gigantes lineup that struggled on offense last year.
Leones del Escogido
Escogido is going sup prospect heavy plus Gregory Polanco. They’ve centered their team around Wander Franco, Nate Lowe, and Julio Rodríguez to name just a few of the top-level prospects on their roster. They need to perform though, LIDOM is not a league where prospects have time to work things out. It doesn’t matter how amazing Franco can be, it only matters how good he is on a day-to-day basis. Escogido could thrive and dominate with this roster, or the prospects could struggle to heat up and it will all fall on guys trying to reclaim their careers, like Polanco.
Tigres del Licey
LIcey’s approach to roster construction is much the same as it is every year, relying on familiar faces to get them to the playoffs. While every LIDOM team cuts, trades, and carves their way to a different roster as the season progresses Licey’s approach always seems to stand out. Every year they start the season with the same basic set of players and somehow come playoff time they have augmented those players with a handful of guys having great seasons who immediately make them a contender. Outside of Anderson Tejeda there’s really no new Licey players that stand out, but that’s the Licey way.
Toros del Este
The Toros have been the class of LIDOM for a few seasons now and look to continue building on their recent success. Not only are they bringing back many of the same players that carried them all the way to a Serie del Caribe title in 2019-2020, but they have added some huge names. Gary Sánchez, Bruce Maxwell, Miguel Andújar, James Russell, and Domingo Germán are the biggest of those names. Look for Russell to dominate as he has everywhere else in unaffiliated ball. Maxwell has not performed as well in Winter Ball as he does during the summer, but perhaps that changes this season. The New York Yankees trio of Andújar, Sánchez, and Germán are the big question marks. If they play up to their best then it’s possible the Toros could run away with the title yet again. If they don’t, well, good thing the Toros have the best-constructed roster in the league even outside of their big signings.
If those names aren’t enough for you players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Jonathan Villar have hinted at possibly suiting up for their respective LIDOM teams as the season progresses. There will be other big names, both from the affiliated and unaffiliated ranks, who will find their way to the Dominican Republic this year. The 2020-2021 LIDOM season is poised to be a great one.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown