Young guns: It was an inspiring year for the AZL White Sox, in spite of a mediocre record. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)
The AZL is always a fun league to keep an eye on. It is filled with first-time professionals, first-timers living in the United States, and full of teenagers. So, pretty much sounds like the current federal government’s worse nightmare, but for normal folk, it is full of fun and future promise.
At 22-34, finishing 11-17 in both halves of the season, the AZL Sox were not as good a team as in 2018, but that doesn’t mean they were short on talent.
Not helping matters is that some talent started in Arizona, then left — with true promotions, not just rehab assignments. For example, Andrew Vaughn left after just a couple of games where he clobbered his first professional homer.
The other position players from the 2019 draft to get a promotion have come with much less fanfare, but it was still talent leaving Arizona for Montana. The eighth round selection, Ivan Gonzalez, left after a 1.113 OPS in 10 games. Another catcher, Jakob Goldfarb, also got a promotion, along with the a pair of draft picks from the last few rounds, Jonathan Allen and Tom Archer. Tyler Osik, the 27th round selection, received a much-deserved promotion, even skipping a level and currently still raking in Kannapolis.
On the pitching side, the big promotions were courtesy of Avery Weems and Caleb Freeman. Weems was an important promotion, because he was a sixth round selection and how well he has done in both rookie leagues. He left the AZL with a nice 0.69 ERA, and ended his rookie league season on Tuesday night with a 1.64 ERA in 49 1/3 innings.
Freeman, because of his overslot bonus, is notable. He is a reliever, which isn’t necessarily a great thing at this stage for a post-10th round selection, but the Sox paid up for him and he did well after signing. He left the AZL with a 2.63 ERA — and lowered it with Great Falls after not allowing a run in five appearances.
Other pitchers to receive promotions were Sammy Peralta (who ended the year with Great Falls); Hansen Butler (promoted twice and is still pitching in Kannapolis); Declan Cronin (still pitching in Kannapolis); and finally the catcher-turned-pitcher, Justin O’Conner, who was great in the AZL and is now with Kannapolis as he still transitions to pitching.
There were also several rehab assignments from MLB players to higher level MiLB players. There were two that finished the AZL season still on the roster in Bryce Bush and Micker Adolfo. Though they still could join another MiLB team, odds are both will be in the AFL, or their 2019 season is over.
Now, time to get to the guys that starter and ended their respective seasons with the AZL Sox.
The White Sox did a weird thing in this draft — well, weird for them. They selected quite a few high-schoolers, and gave them a whole lot of money. First, the pitchers, because they have the most draft and monetary capital. Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist were selected in the second and third rounds, respectively, and didn’t play much in their first professional stints. Thompson appeared in two games and threw a couple of innings. Dalquist did just a bit more and pitched in three games, one inning apiece. There is not much to glean from them yet, but they are going to be top prospects going forward.
Already, Thompson is rated sixth on the White Sox by Baseball America, 13th by FanGraphs, and 14th by MLB Pipeline among prospects.
For Dalquist, he is rated seventh by Baseball America, 14th by FanGraphs, and 15th by MLB Pipeline.
For the hitters, there were quite a few high school draftees. DJ Gladney led the way, starting out as hot as hot one could be. Fans even started to clamor for a Bryce Bush-type promotion schedule during his opening 2018 season. However, Gladney did not end his first pro stint well, mostly because of some plate discipline issues. He struck out 37.3% of the time and didn’t walk enough to make up for it. He showed some pop with eight homers, but he will not be on the fast track anytime soon.
On the other side of value, monetary, James Beard led the way, though he was under-slot for the 110th selection. The speed is what people and scouts know about Beard — in fact, MLB Pipeline gives him an 80 grade for speed. Beard did show some speed, with nine stolen bases, but really was not successful besides that. He hit .213 and two homers in 138 plate appearances. He will probably be back in the AZL to start his 2020 season.
The other high school draftees received around the same bonus but obviously, some are known or more highly regarded than the other. Logan Glass and Chase Krogman are among the more well known, but they also did not play that often. Glass, who was the best hitter among the high-schoolers, only had 73 plate appearances while Krogman had 22. Catcher Victor Torres and another outfielder, Misael Gonzalez, round out the high school bats, and expect all four of these batters to be back in the AZL in 2020.
International free agents
The pitching end for the AZL Sox from the international pool is none other than a DSL recap highlight, Luis Rodriguez. As already stated, he deserved the promotion but did not do well in his first stint in the U.S. On the hitting side though, a couple players did very well, including Jose Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is around the same age as the high school draftees, so he is age appropriate for the AZL, and it was sort of a breakout campaign. He slashed .293/.328/.505. The average and walk rate was fairly similar to his time in the DSL last season, but Rodriguez’s power came out. He hit nine home runs and 19 total extra-base hits for a .213 ISO. Not only was this power breakout unexpected this season, it was not really ever expected from a middle infielder who stands 5´11´´ and 175 pounds. At the very least, he should be in the Pioneer League next season and hopefully he appears in full-season ball by the end of theyear. He still has a lot to prove, mostly in terms of showing that power again in 2020.
Bryan Ramos was the youngest player on the AZL roster, and even skipped time in the DSL in favor of Arizona. He was one of the better hitters on the AZL roster this season, and showed good bat-to-ball skills with a .277 batting average. He showed an advanced batter’s eye for his age (a shade younger than 17.5 years old). He had an 8.7% BB-rate and a not too terrible K-rate. He primarily played third base this season with a few games at first, but at this time it is impossible to tell what Ramos could be in the future. All said, his first pro-ball experience was a positive one.
Just one more rookie league to look back on, but the Great Falls Voyagers are the last MiLB team to finish up their regular season. So a bit more known and definitely older players will soon have their years dissected. Also, a special thanks to our Sean Williams for all the pictures and video.