Fruto baffling hitters in winter ball

Newcomer Fruto enjoying fine winter season

Emiliano Fruto has been one of the best relief pitchers in the Venezuelan Winter League this season.

Pitching for the Cardenales de Lara, the right-hander is 2-1 with five saves and a 2.61 ERA over 19 appearances. He has struck out 26 over 20 2/3 innings and has not yielded a hit over his last six outings.

All of this is good news for the Nationals, who acquired Fruto as part of the trade that sent Jose Vidro to the Mariners on Monday. Fruto, who made his Major League debut with Seattle in May, went 2-2 with a 5.50 ERA over 23 appearances with the team.

The Columbia native is currently on the Nationals' 40-man roster, but it's unknown whether he will make the team out of Spring Training. At just 22, Fruto could benefit from spending some additional time in the Minor Leagues.

Fruto is just one of many Washington farmhands currently playing winter ball. Here is an update on National prospects in the Dominican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues:

Dominican Winter League

Nelson Figueroa, RHP -- A 32-year-old Major League veteran, he is 1-4 with a 3.97 ERA over 56 2/3 innings for the Azucareros del Este.

Anastacio Martinez, RHP -- He is 0-2 with a 4.94 ERA over 23 2/3 innings with Estrellas Orientales.

Santiago Ramirez, RHP -- A 28-year-old right-hander who allowed just three runs over 27 1/3 innings for New Orleans this past season, he is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA over 25 relief appearances for the Aguilas Cibaenas.

Venezuelan Winter League

Oscar Alvarez, LHP -- The 26-year-old is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA over 21 relief appearances with the Tiburones de La Guaira. He has walked 12 while striking out 10, and opponents are hitting .321 against him.

Wuillys Bravo, LHP -- A 19-year-old who pitched for the Nationals' Gulf Coast Rookie League team this past season, he made his VWL debut Dec. 16. The Caribes de Oriente southpaw allowed two runs on a hit and three walks over 1 2/3 frames.

Larry Broadway, 1B -- A recent addition to the Navegantes del Magallanes roster, he has appeared in four games and collected two hits in 12 at-bats while striking out seven times. The 26-year-old hit 15 homers and drove in 78 runs for Triple-A New Orleans this past season.

Alberto Castillo, RHP -- A 21-year-old right-hander, he has made five relief appearances for the Caribes de Oriente. He tossed four scoreless innings on Dec. 13 to pick up his first win of the season.

Ender Chavez, OF -- He has appeared in six games during the month of December, collecting one hit in six at-bats. Used primarily as a defensive replacement, he is batting .167 (3-for-24) as a member of the Pastora de los Llanos.

Frank Diaz, OF -- He has hit safely in five of his past six games, and is batting .257 (49-for-191) on the season. The 23-year-old, a member of Pastora de los Llanos, blasted his fifth home run on Sunday.

Oscar Lira, RHP -- He made his first appearance in over three weeks Dec. 9, allowing three runs on five hits over 2 2/3 innings, and has not appeared in a game since. He is 1-0 with a 4.85 ERA over 13 innings.

Jim Magrane, RHP -- After making his VWL debut Dec. 1, he's allowed just one hit over 8 2/3 scoreless innings spanning five appearances. The Navegantes del Magallanes right-hander has held opponents to a .037 average.

Alex Nunez, 2B -- A 25-year-old infielder with the Tigres de Aragua, he is 7-for-24 in December. He is batting .301 (28-for-93) with 16 runs scored and 12 RBIs.

Juan Ovalles, RHP -- Ovalles allowed two runs over two innings on Dec. 14 and took his first loss of the season. The 24-year-old is 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA over 17 relief appearances with the Leones del Caracas.

Marcos Yepez, OF -- Used primarily as a defensive replacement, he's 9-for-50 over 25 games with the Leones del Caracas.

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.