Deep Dive: Free agent right fielders

Better late than never: Nicholas Castellanos leads this list of right fielders who could still be available to the White Sox via free agency. (@NickCastellano6) 


[Ed note: After exhaustively detailing 212 prospects, the Deep Dive series comes to an end today. Wow. Tomorrow, we begin our countdown of Top 100 White Sox prospects.]

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position


With the acquisition of Nomar Mazara, the need for someone in right field isn’t quite so glaring for the White Sox. This doesn’t mean that the White Sox will totally abandon this list. Nicholas Castellanos, for example, could be the regular DH and perhaps move over to right field when the team faces southpaws. Kole Calhoun could be a better right field solution defensively, shifting Mazara to a platoon situation at DH. A couple of other bats are intriguing as well, like Yasiel Puig and former Sox outfielder Avi García. Unfortunately, there’s no solid platoon bat to team with Mazara for right field on this free agent list. If interested in other guys who can play right field and/or DH, please review the left field, center field and first base/DH Deep Dives published earlier.     

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Nicholas Castellanos
Chicago Cubs
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 2.7
Stats: .289/.337/.525, 615 AB, 58 2B, 27 HR, 73 RBI, 2 SB, 41 BB, 143 K
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 28

Kole Calhoun
B/T: L/L

2019 bWAR: 2.3
Stats: .232/.325/.467, 552 AB, 29 2B, 33 HR, 74 RBI, 4 SB, 70 BB, 162 K
Other positions played: Center field
Age: 32 

Avisaíl García
Tampa Bay Rays
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 2.0
Stats: .282/.332/.464, 489 AB, 25 2B, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 10 SB, 31 BB, 125 K
Age: 28

Cameron Maybin
New York Yankees
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 1.5
Stats: .285/.364/.494, 316 AB, 17 2B, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 9 SB, 30 BB, 72 K
Other positions played: Left field, Center field
Age: 32

Yasiel Puig
Cleveland Indians
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 1.3
Stats: .267/.327/.458, 555 AB, 30 2B, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 19 SB, 44 BB, 133 K
Age: 29

Matt Joyce
Atlanta Braves
B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: 0.9
Stats: .295/.408/.450, 200 AB, 10 2B, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 0 SB, 38 BB, 45 K
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 35

Steven Souza Jr.
Arizona Diamondbacks

B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: Injured and didn’t play in 2019
Age: 30

Lonnie Chisenhall
Pittsburgh Pirates

B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: Didn’t play in 2019
Age: 31

Jon Jay
Chicago White Sox
B/T: L/L
2019 bWAR: -0.8
Stats: .267/.311/.315, 165 AB, 8 2B, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, 8 BB, 30 K
Other positions played: Left field

Age: 35

Melky Cabrera
Pittsburgh Pirates

B/T: S/R
2019 bWAR: -1.2
Stats: .280/.313/.399, 378 AB, 22 2B, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 2 SB, 17 BB, 41 K
Other positions played: Left field

Age: 35


 

Deep Dive: Leury García’s past, present and future with the White Sox

Uber-utility: García should be a key contributor to the 2020 White Sox. (@leurygarcia1)


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

How did he get here?

Signed by the Texas Rangers from the Dominican Republic all the way back in 2007 when he was just 16, Leury García was a slick-fielding shortstop with the reputation of being a good runner but a little skimpy with the bat.

After slashing just .232/.288/.288 with A-level Hickory in 2009, García returned to the Crawdads for 2010 and hit .262 and stole 47 bases in just 89 games. His bat continued to improve in 2011 (A+ Myrtle Beach) and 2012 (Double-A Frisco) where he continued to swipe bases and hit respectably. After starting the 2013 season well with Triple-A Round Rock and scuffling a bit in his rookie season with the Rangers, García was traded to the White Sox on August 9 for outfielder Alex Rios.

John Sickels of Minor League Baseball wrote at the time, “García’s legs and glove will keep him on the fringes of the majors for several years, but bench work is his fate without unusual development with the bat. Players with this profile sometimes surprise us with hitting spikes in their late 20s, but generally that happens for guys who always made contact but just weren’t strong enough to drive the ball. In García’s case, his lack of strength in addition to shaky plate discipline and a high whiff rate augers poorly for his future.”

García did indeed hover in the periphery in the majors during the 2013-16 seasons, hitting a combined .187 in just 128 games, as he spent the majority of that time with Charlotte due primarily to his bat. The 2017 season finally saw García receive significant playing time with the White Sox and he ran with it, slashing .270/.316/.423 in 87 games with 15 doubles, two triples, nine homers, 33 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 13 walks (4.0%) and 69 strikeouts (21.2%). In 2018 playing all positions except first base and catcher, his numbers tailed off a bit as he slashed .271/.303/.376 in 82 games with seven doubles, four triples, four homers, 32 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, nine walks (3.3%) and 69 strikeouts (25.1%).      

García’s 2019 with the White Sox

With a team in dire need of production from its center fielders and right fielders in 2019, García played far more than he should have. In 140 games totaling 577 at-bats with the White Sox, he slashed .279/.310/.378 with 27 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 40 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 21 walks and 139 strikeouts. Sad as it is to believe, his offensive numbers actually topped every Sox outfielder not named Eloy Jiménez. While not great in any area, García did play solid defense at short when Tim Anderson was on the injured list and willingly played everywhere the team needed him. Actually, despite his limited walks, García did excel in one offensive category: BABIP. García ranked sixth among all qualified hitters in this category at .345 — behind only Yoan Moncada, Anderson, Bryan Reynolds, Trevor Story and Christian Yelich.  

Unsurprisingly, much of García’s offensive output came versus the fastball (.325/.344/.429). While his numbers lagged against off-speed pitches (.259/.257/.329), he struggled most of all against breaking pitches (.166/.226/.303). What may have aided in his incredibly high BABIP was his ability to hit the ball to all fields (pull 30.8%, straight 37.2% and opposite field 32.1%). One interesting note is that his hard-hit percentage (29.5%) was well below the league average of 34.5%, which goes to show that it’s not necessarily how hard you hit the ball but where you hit it. One reason why García struggles with taking walks is that he frequently swings at the first pitch (35.3%), far more than the league average of 28.3%. 

García, despite not being a power hitter, fared far better this year at Guaranteed Rate Field (.293/.311/.421) than on the road (.267/.291/.341). Also, like most hitters in the Sox lineup, García fared much better under the lights (.292/.315/.422) than the sun (.258/.302/.304). Perhaps because he played far more games than he ever had throughout his seven-year career, García seemed to tire at the end of the year (.293/.327/.395 pre All-Star break, .262/.288/.327 post All-Star break). As a switch-hitter, he performed much better as a righty (.311/.344/.443) than as a lefty (.264/.294/.348). Garcia performed much better with nobody on base (.295/.330/.407) than with men in scoring position (.206/.214/.250). As one would expect, he hit far better when ahead in the count (.336/.429/.472) than when he was behind (.234/.247/.302).   

Often when asked to play multiple positions, a player’s defensive rating goes down the gutter due to a lack of consistency at each position. In García’s case, he was a huge defensive liability in center field but certainly held his own at the corners. Baseball-Reference gave him a -0.2 defensive rating, which was much better than most other outfielders in the Sox roster not named Adam Engel. When factoring his offense and defense together, García posted a 1.7 bWAR, which was actually quite good when considering his sub-par wRC+ of 83. Considering each WAR is worth approximately $7.7 million per FanGraphs on the free agent market and he only earned $1.55 million in 2019, García provided the White Sox with a surplus value of $11.54 million.

What does the future have in store for García?

García is up for one last year of arbitration this year, and is expected to receive a pay increase to $4 million. He would be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season, and it’s unlikely the White Sox extend him, as several minor league outfielders should be ready to receive promotions prior to the 2021 campaign. In the meantime, he likely will compete for starting duties in center field to begin next year assuming that Luis Robert doesn’t make the team out of spring training. Otherwise, García could perhaps fill in as a right field platoon with recent acquisition Nomar Mazara. While it’s true that Engel could also qualify in right, García’s arm plays much better at that position. García does give the team infield flexibility as well, which comes in handy with the increased 26-man roster this season. While García may not have the blazing speed he once had, he still could be useful in pinch-running situations as well.       

 

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham right fielders

Late blooming: Blake Rutherford, ranked eighth among White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline, hit .307 for Birmingham after May 31.


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

For various reasons, 2019 was a difficult season for these three outfielders. Daniel Palka scuffled after a surprisingly good rookie season in 2018, as he couldn’t slug his weight with the Sox this year and has been removed from the 40-man roster. Blake Rutherford continued to struggle in his attempt to match his top-prospect expectations, and Micker Adolfo played fewer than 40 games. All three have a lot to prove in 2020.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Charlotte Knights

Daniel Palka
6´2´´
220 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Left field, First base
Age: 28

After smashing 24 homers in his first two seasons with Georgia Tech, Palka enjoyed his best collegiate season as a junior in 2013. That year, he slashed .324/.436/.637 for the Yellow Jackets in 62 games with 13 doubles, three triples, 17 homers, 66 RBIs, six stolen bases, 31 walks and 60 strikeouts. Trusting in his power stroke, the Minnesota Twins selected him in the third round of the MLB draft.

Palka gradually worked his way up the Twins farm system, ultimately making it to making it to Triple-A Rochester in 2016. That year, split between Double-A Chattanooga and Rochester, he slashed an impressive .254/.327/.521 in 133 games with 24 doubles, four triples, 34 homers, 90 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 56 walks (9.9%) and 186 strikeouts (32.7%). The following year was a disappointing one for Palka, as he spent much of the season on the injured list. That year in 84 games, he slashed .274/.329/.431 in 84 games with 13 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, 42 RBIs, one stolen base, 27 walks (7.5%) and 80 strikeouts (22.1%). On November 3, the White Sox claimed Palka off waivers.

After starting the 2018 season well with Charlotte, Palka received the call to Chicago in late April and fared much better than expected. In 124 games for the White Sox, he slashed .240/.294/.484 with 15 doubles, three triples, 27 homers, 67 RBIs, two stolen bases, 30 walks (6.7%) and 153 strikeouts (34.1%).

However, he struggled out of the gate in 2019 and never truly gained traction at the major league level despite three different stints with the club. In 30 games with the White Sox, he slashed just .107/.194/.179 with two homers, four RBIs, eight walks (8.6%) and 35 strikeouts (37.6%). For what it’s worth, Palka didn’t let his struggles in the majors affect his performance at Charlotte as he slashed a respectable .263/.374/.527 in 106 games with the Knights by hitting 23 doubles, 27 homers, 72 RBIs, 74 walks (15.3%) and 109 strikeouts (23.1%). Palka was outrighted off the 40-man roster in November, and because nobody claimed him, our favorite aerospace engineer likely will begin the 2020 season on the Charlotte roster. If an injury should occur to a corner outfielder or DH next season, Palka would likely be considered as an emergency call-up.  


Birmingham Barons

Blake Rutherford
6´2´´
210 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Left field, Center field
Age: 22

Baseball America noted that some scouts saw Blake Rutherford as a possible “power-hitting center fielder in the Jim Edmonds mold” prior to the 2016 MLB draft. At this point, the White Sox might be happy with Rutherford as a center fielder in the Jim Eisenreich mode.

Rutherford was selected in the first round (18th overall) by the Yankees. By 2017, the lefty was playing for the Yankees A-squad in Charleston when he was traded with Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and Tyler Clippard to the White Sox for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier on July 31. That year, combined with Charleston and Kannapolis, he slashed .260/.326/.348 in 101 games with 25 doubles, two triples, two homers, 35 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 38 walks (8.6%) and 76 strikeouts (17.3%).      

Rutherford enjoyed his best season to date in the Sox organization in 2018 with Winston-Salem, as he slashed a respectable .293/.345/.436 in 115 games with 25 doubles, nine triples, seven homers, 78 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 34 walks (7.0%) and 90 strikeouts (18.5%). However, in a far less favorable hitting environment in Birmingham in 2019, he slashed just .265/.319/.365 in 118 games with 17 doubles, three triples, seven homers, 49 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 37 walks (7.7%) and 118 strikeouts (24.6%). While those numbers admittedly weren’t all that good, it could’ve been much worse. Through the end of the May, he was slashing just .185/.228/.291. From June 1 on, something clicked and he hit a much more respectable .307/.370/.401. He did struggle versus strong competition in the Arizona Fall League this year, as he slashed .179/.281/.385 with four doubles, three triples and two homers in 21 games.

In order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, the White Sox added Rutherford to the 40-man roster in December. One thing to watch for in 2020 will be his splits, as he slashed .286/.337/.398 versus righties as opposed to just .216/.276/.291 against southpaws. He currently ranks eighth among White Sox prospects, and third among outfielders (behind only Luis Robert and Luis Basabe) per MLB Pipeline. That site gives him 50 grades in all tool categories (run, hit, fielding and arm) except power (45). In actuality, Rutherford has plenty of power; he just hits way too many balls on the ground. This year alone, he hit grounders 50.2% of the time, while hitting fly balls (30.3%) and line drives (19.6%) at much lower clips.

Rutherford will likely begin the 2020 season at Charlotte, and if he gets off to a great start, he could be considered for promotion due to his status on the 40-man roster if an outfield injury at the major league level should arise. He’s good enough defensively to play all three outfield positions. 

Micker Adolfo
6´4´´

255 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: None
Age: 23

Thanks in large part to his power bat and arm, Dominican native Adolfo received what was then the highest international signing bonus in White Sox history at $1.6 million on July 2, 2013. However, his professional career has had trouble gaining traction primarily due to his inability to stay on the field. As a result, Adolfo found himself playing for the team’s AZL squad for all of 2014 and 2015, finally earning a promotion to full-season Kannapolis in 2016. Of course, he missed significant time that year as he slashed just .219/.269/.340 in 65 games with 13 doubles, one triple, five homers, 21 RBIs, 14 walks (5.3%)and 88 strikeouts (33.2%). Adolfo played his most complete season to date (112 games) with Kannapolis in 2017 as he slashed .264/.331/.453 in 112 games with 28 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, 68 RBIs, 31 walks (6.6%) and 149 strikeouts (31.5%). To avoid the risk of losing him in the upcoming Rule 5 draft that year, the White Sox added him to the 40-man roster.

Due to elbow pain, Adolfo missed the first half of the 2018 season with Winston-Salem, and when he returned he was limited to DH duties. Despite his injury, he still posted a career-high .833 OPS by slashing .282/.369/.464 in 79 games with 18 doubles, one triple, 11 homers, 50 RBIs, 34 walks (10.1%) and 92 strikeouts (27.4%). After undergoing arthroscopic injury during the offseason, he was limited to just 36 combined games with Birmingham and AZL (rehab assignment) and produced subpar results as he tried to shake off the rust. Despite hitting four homers in 15 games in the Arizona Fall League this year, his results were still lacking as he slashed just .167/.262/.389.

Since Adolfo turned pro, he’s missed time due to injuries in each of his six seasons. Based upon his massive potential, however, he still finds himself ranked 10th among White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline. Not including 2019 due to its small sample size, Adolfo had been gradually improving his walk and strikeout rates. It’s hard to believe, but he is still just 23. MLB Pipeline gives him an impressive 70 grade for arm, which makes him an ideal right fielder and is no doubt where he’ll play in 2020. His power is graded 55 as would be expected; his running and fielding are both graded 50, however, which is actually quite good considering his size. His weakest tool is a hit tool of 45, based in part to his large strikeout totals.

Due to only playing 23 games in Birmingham last year, Adolfo likely will begin the 2020 season there; however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him promoted to Charlotte fairly quickly due to his 40-man roster status.


 

 

 

 


 

Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis right fielders

Clear-eyed for the future: Even after a difficult 2019, Bryce Bush is still considered one of the best prospects in the White Sox organization. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

Alex Destino enjoyed the best OPS in 2019 of the three farmhands listed here, while Bryce Bush is considered by many to be the best prospect of the three. Tyler Frost has shown some potential as well, and has flown pretty much under the radar in his first three years in the organization. With a big year in 2020, any of these right fielders may have a chance to rapidly rise in the organization’s prospect rankings.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Winston-Salem Dash

Tyler Frost
5´10´´
183 pounds
B/T: L/R
Other positions played: Center field
Age: 24

Frost was consistently good with Gonzaga, and while he had a solid junior season for the Bulldogs, his numbers were just a shade off his sophomore year totals. As a junior, he slashed .284/.372/.442 in 53 games with five doubles, one triple, nine homers, 38 RBIs, two stolen bases, 25 walks (10.0%) and 39 strikeouts (15.6%). The White Sox liked him enough to select him in the 15th round of the 2017 draft. Later that year with Great Falls, he slashed a respectable .261/.335/.465 in 32 games with seven doubles, five triples, four homers, 26 RBIs, two stolen bases, 13 walks (8.1%) and 33 strikeouts (20.6%).   

Frost again posted respectable numbers in 2018 with Kannapolis, as he slashed .241/.324/.445 in 124 games with 21 doubles, four triples, 18 homers, 65 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 46 walks (9.9%) and 129 strikeouts (27.8%).

This past season saw Frost hold his own despite striking out more frequently, as he slashed .247/.319/.412 for the Dash in 104 games with 26 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 35 walks (7.5%) and 146 strikeouts (31.3%). He batted leadoff frequently for the Winston-Salem squad, and was more than willing to take enough pitches. Unfortunately, he had the tendency of taking too many called third strikes in the process, which has limited his batting average throughout his career. Frost has hit for more power and stolen more bases than expected to date, but his ability to advance beyond Double-A may depend his ability to make contact going forward. He has a solid arm which plays well in both center and right, and is an asset in both positions. Expect Frost to begin the 2020 season with Birmingham.


Kannapolis Cannon Ballers

Alex Destino
6´2´´
215 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 24

After posting a nifty .882 OPS in his sophomore season, Destino struggled a bit for the University of South Carolina during his junior year. That year (2017), he slashed .255/.338/.441 for the Gamecocks with eight doubles, 10 homers, 41 RBIs, three stolen bases, 27 walks (11.5%) and 42 strikeouts (17.9%). Due in part to his power potential, the White Sox selected him in the 14th round of that year’s draft. Destino rewarded the Sox that year with a strong campaign with the AZL squad, slashing .290/.408/.432 in 49 games with 13 doubles, two triples, three homers, 23 RBIs, one stolen base, 38 walks (16.9%) and 40 strikeouts (17.8%).   

The 2018 season saw Destino split his time between Great Falls and Kannapolis, but saw his combined numbers declined a bit to .248/.298/.407 in 68 games with 18 doubles, five triples, five homers, 36 RBIs, 17 walks (5.9%) and 55 strikeouts (19.0%). Aside from a brief four-game sting with Winston-Salem, Destino spent the entire 2019 season with Kannapolis and posted rock-solid numbers despite playing in a pitching-friendly ballpark. In a combined 116 games, he slashed .293/.372/.465 with 20 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 64 RBIs, 51 walks (10.4%) and 121 strikeouts (24.6%).

Destino possesses an above-average arm ideal for right field and is considered an adequate defender. Baseball America said of him, “Plus lefthanded power is now Destino’s calling card, and he can bang hanging breaking balls and average velocity. Scouts have their doubts about his ability to hit plus fastballs.” While Destino had an All-Star season for the Intimidators, his stats should be taken in context that he performed against competition about 1.5 years younger. Destino should be a lock to begin the 2020 season with Winston-Salem, with an opportunity for promotion to Birmingham if he gets off to a great start.  

Bryce Bush
6´0´´

200 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Third base
Age: 20

Bush had a crazy route to the White Sox. Right off, it’s harder to gauge Midwestern talent (Birmingham, Mich.) due to the colder weather, which limited his De La Salle H.S. varsity baseball schedule. Nonetheless Bush was ranked by PerfectGame as the 52nd best varsity player in the country, and his commitment to SEC powerhouse Mississippi State seemed insurmountable to most teams. Not so to the White Sox, as they selected him in the 33rd round in 2018. Bush shocked many a Sox fan, not to mention many scouts, when the White Sox actually inked him to an over-slot $290,000 bonus. Combined with the AZL Sox and Great Falls, Bush proved worthy of that signing as he slashed .309/.396/.453 in 38 games with nine doubles, one triple, three homers, 18 RBIs, four stolen bases, 18 walks (11.3%) and 25 strikeouts (15.6%).

The bottom fell out of Bush’s basket in 2019, however, as he struggled facing tougher competition, and suffered injuries and vision issues. In 67 games with Kannapolis, he slashed just .201/.285/.346 with 12 doubles, five triples, five homers, 33 RBIs, four stolen bases, 27 walks (9.4%) and 92 strikeouts (31.9%). Bush also struggled defensively at third base and as a result was eventually moved to an easier position (right field) that can still take advantage of his throwing abilities. Don’t count Bush out going forward, however, as he was playing against competition typically 30 months older. He’s also owns a terrific work ethic and is devoted to getting better. For more information on Bush, read this terrific piece by South Side Hit Pen’s Dan Victor from last year. Expect Bush to return to Kannapolis to begin 2020.

 


 

Deep Dive: Rookie league right fielders

In case of emergency: Logan Glass was one of the most intriguing selections of this year’s MLB draft by the White Sox. (@BFeldo14)


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

While there aren’t a lot of household names among RF rookie leaguers, there is an incredible amount of untapped talent in this class. Five of these six players will be younger than 20 when this season starts, and there’s serious power potential in the likes of Luis Mieses, Logan Glass and Josue Guerrero. This will be a fun group to watch in 2020.  

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Great Falls Voyagers

Luis Mieses
6´3´´
180 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Left field, Center field
Age: 19

Just over a month after turning 16, Dominican native Mieses received a signing bonus from the White Sox on July 2, 2016 for $428,000, as part of a large International Signing Day class that included Josue Guerrero, Lenyn Sosa, Anderson Comas and Kleyder Sanchez among others. Mieses began professional ball with the DSL squad in 2017, and slashed .263/.302/.320 in 59 games with eight doubles, three triples, 25 RBIs, three stolen bases, 10 walks (3.8%) and 42 strikeouts (16.0%). It was enough to receive a promotion stateside for 2018, when he slashed .226/.236/.328 in 48 games with the AZL squad with 10 doubles, two triples, two homers, 26 RBIs, three stolen bases, four walks (2.0%) and 35 strikeouts (17.2%).

Mieses’ numbers improved a bit this year with Great Falls, although it could be attributed in part to the thinner air. In 59 games for the Voyagers, he slashed .241/.264/.359 with 14 doubles, four homers, 28 RBIs, seven walks (3.0%) and 46 strikeouts (19.9%). The production has been a bit disappointing, unless you consider that Mieses has been more than a year younger than his competition at every level he’s played thus far.

He currently ranks 29th among all White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline with a 60 grade on his throwing arm, 50 grades for fielding and power, 45 for hit and 40 for running. Pitch selection has been Mieses’ biggest issue, which is evidenced by his extremely low walk numbers. While Mieses really should return to Great Falls for 2020, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him promoted to Kannapolis, for two reasons: He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in 2020, so the White Sox would like to see what he can do in full-season play; also, the White Sox may want to make room in Great Falls for some of the remaining right fielders on this list. 

Bryan Connell 
6´3´´

195 pounds
B/T: R/R
Age: 21

On International Signing Day of 2015, Connell (a native of Panama) joined the Milwaukee Brewers. In his first two years (2016-17) with the Brewers DSL squad, he however, he hit just a paltry .189 and .177. In his third year for the team, he finally hit his stride and .256/.408/.512 in 27 games. With that effort, he was promoted to Helena, where he slashed .219/.288/.342 in 21 games before being traded with pitcher Johan Dominguez to the White Sox for southpaw reliever Xavier Cedeño on August 31. He remained in the Pioneer League to play three games with Great Falls before year’s end.  

The 2019 season wasn’t much to write home about for Connell. In 29 games totaling 92 at-bats, he slashed just .163/.238/.380 with two doubles, six homers, 13 RBIs, seven walks (6.9%) and 45 strikeouts (44.6%). On the plus side, he has shown impressive power when he’s been able to connect. On the down side, he’s struck out 36% of the time during his career with a lifetime .190/.298/.325 slash line. He was about six months younger than his competition this year, but that will change if asked to return to Great Falls for 2020.


Arizona League White Sox

Logan Glass
6´4´´
215 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Center field, Left field
Age: 18

With his build, Glass was quite the physical specimen for his Mustang H.S. (Okla.) varsity squad. According to Prep Baseball Report, he’s got a great arm and throws 92 mph from the mound, and his speed is better than average as he runs the 60-yard-dash in 6.65. Also, according to PBR, his exit velocity sits at 96 mph, which is quite impressive. Glass was verbally committed to Kansas, so the White Sox had to pry him from out of it after selecting him in the 22nd round of the 2019 draft. In 17 games for the AZL squad this year, Glass slashed an impressive .284/.342/.403 with five doubles, one homer, nine RBIs, one stolen base, two walks (2.7%) and 23 strikeouts (31.5%). The low walk and high strikeout rates are slightly concerning but understandable considering he played against competition 16 months older than he, in addition to factoring in his acclimation to the speed of the game. He likely will remain in the AZL to begin 2020, but should an early promotion to Great Falls if he gets off to a solid start.  

Josue Guerrero
6´2´´

190 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 20

Guerrero was the biggest and highest-profile signing of 2016’s International Signing Day for the White Sox. With more than nine players signed, his signing bonus ($1.2 million) and his pedigree (nephew of Vladimir, Sr. and cousin of Vladimir Jr.) and much had been expected of him as a result. However, his progress has been slowed due to inconsistencies at the plate. For his first professional year in 2017, Guerrero slashed .222/.290/.348 for the DSL squad in 55 games with 13 doubles, two triples, three homers, 25 RBIs, five stolen bases, 16 walks (6.9%) and 54 strikeouts (23.3%). He played for the AZL squad in 2018, but struggled immensely in part to a lack of playing time due to a crowded outfield. With the AZL Sox, he slashed just .192/.231/.288 in 23 games with five doubles, one triple, eight RBIs, three walks (3.8%) and 27 strikeouts (34.6%). 

With more consistent playing time this year, Guerrero began to find his rhythm. For the year with the AZL Sox, he slashed .240/.307/.404 in 43 games with nine doubles, five homers, 20 RBIs, 13 walks (7.8%) and 55 strikeouts (33.1%). In the final half of the year, however, he slashed a respectable .274/.333/.488 with improved walk and strikeout rates. Hopefully, something clicked for him and he can build upon that momentum for next year.

At the time of his signing three years ago, Baseball America said of him, “He is a strongly built corner outfielder whose best tool is his raw power. He’s 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with good strength now and the frame that suggests potential to become even more physical. It’s not huge raw power right now, but he has good bat speed from the right side and the ball jumps off his bat with good exit velocity when he makes contact.” Like Mieses and Glass, there’s still enough to dream on here. Expect Guerrero to begin 2020 with Great Falls, but receive a promotion to Kannapolis by year’s end if all goes well.   

Chase Krogman 
5´11´´

180 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 19

Krogman, a native of the St. Louis area, played ball for Wentzville Liberty H.S. (Mo.). He certainly may have drawn the interest of area scouts, as he played for the Chi-Town Cream last summer. According to Baseball Factory, “At the dish, he has a repeatable swing path and stays compact with the barrel. He sprays the ball to all fields and created fast bat speed with his smooth rhythm/timing.”

Krogman has a good arm, but because he doesn’t have blazing speed (he ran the 60-yard-dash in 7.02 per Perfect Game), he may be relegated to the corners. He has performed on the mound in front of scouts and posted an 83 mph fastball, along with a 72-74 mph curveball and changeup according to Prep Baseball Report. However, it’s with the bat that his future will lie. When this Missouri State commit was selected in the 34th round by the White Sox in the 34th round, it wasn’t clear whether or not he’d sign. However, with a $190,000 signing bonus, the White Sox were able to reel him in.

Krogman struggled in what little playing time he had with the AZL Sox in 2019, with four singles, a walk, and six strikeouts in 21 official at-bats. Expect him to receive much more playing time with the AZL Sox for the 2020 campaign. 


DSL White Sox

Roberth Gutierrez
6´0´´
170 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Center field, Left field
Age: 18

As a 17-year-old native of Maracay, Venezuela, Gutierrez’s first taste of professional ball came this year, and he acquitted himself relatively well by slashing .274/.365/.378 in 47 games with four doubles, five triples, 15 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 21 walks (15.6%) and 33 strikeouts (24.4%). He had nine assists as opposed to two errors, so it appears he has a solid arm. His numbers get lost when compared to the DSL squad’s other two outfielders (Benyamin Bailey and Johnabiell Laureano), but while he may not have the higher ceiling of those two guys, Gutierrez seems to fit the bill of a reserve outfielder due to his lack of power and game-changing speed. While he may return to the DSL team to begin the 2020 season, Gutierrez should earn a shot for promotion to the AZL squad before the end of the year.


 

Deep Dive: Free agent center fielders

Anger management: Brett Gardner, with a 4.0 bWAR in 2019, is easily the best of this relatively weak free agent class of center fielders.  


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position


With center field seemingly a lock long-term with Luis Robert, and two players already on the roster who can play the position in Leury García and Adam Engel, the White Sox likely won’t be looking at a center fielder in this year’s free agent class. This is a good thing, because aside from Brett Gardner (who likely will return to the Yankees) and Japanese import Shogo Akiyama, there really wasn’t much production from this group in 2019. While it’s possible the White Sox could pursue reserve depth here, it’s more likely they’d look at the outfield corners due to better overall options on the market.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Brett Gardner
New York Yankees
B/T: L/L
2019 bWAR: 4.0
Stats: .251/.325/.503, 491 AB, 26 2B, 28 HR, 74 RBI, 10 SB, 52 BB, 108 K
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 36

Jarrod Dyson
B/T: L/R

2019 bWAR: 1.3
Stats: .230/.313/.320, 400 AB, 11 2B, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 30 SB, 47 BB, 86 K
Other positions played: Right field, Left field
Age: 35 

Kevin Pillar
San Francisco Giants
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 1.0
Stats: .259/.287/.432, 611 AB, 37 2B, 21 HR, 88 RBI, 14 SB, 18 BB, 89 K
Other positions played: Right field
Age: 31

Billy Hamilton
Atlanta Braves
B/T: S/R
2019 bWAR: 0.3
Stats: .218/.289/.275, 316 AB, 14 2B, 0 HR, 15 RBI, 22 SB, 32 BB, 87 K
Age: 29

Guillermo Heredia
Tampa Bay Rays
B/T: R/L
2019 bWAR: 0.3
Stats: .225/.306/.363, 204 AB, 13 2B, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 2 SB, 18 BB, 60 K
Other positions played: Right field, Left field
Age: 29

Erick Mejia
Kansas City Royals 
B/T: S/R
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: .227/.333/.273, 22 AB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 4 BB, 7 K
Other positions played: Second base, Shortstop
Age: 25

Shogo Akiyama
Seibu Lions (Japan)

B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: .303/.392/.471, 590 AB, 31 2B, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB, 78 BB, 108 K
Age: 31

Austin Jackson
New York Mets

B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: Did not play in 2019
Age: 33 

Jacoby Ellsbury
New York Yankees
B/T: L/L
2019 bWAR: 0.0
Stats: Did not play due to injury
Age: 36

Mason Williams
Baltimore Orioles
B/T: L/R

2019 bWAR: -0.1
Stats: .267/.324/.300, 30 AB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB, 3 BB, 6 K
Age: 28

Leonys Martin
Cleveland Indians

B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: -0.3
Stats: .199/.276/.343, 236 AB, 7 2B, 9 HR, 19 RBI, 4 SB, 21 BB, 78 K
Age: 32

J.T. Riddle
Miami Marlins

B/T: L/R
2019 bWAR: -0.4
Stats: .189/.230/.371, 132 AB, 6 2B, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 5 BB, 42 K
Other positions played: Shortstop
Age: 28 

Carlos Gomez
New York Mets
B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -0.4
Stats: .198/.278/.337, 86 AB, 3 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 SB, 7 BB, 30 K
Other positions played: Right field, Left field
Age: 34

Juan Lagares
New York Mets

B/T: R/R
2019 bWAR: -0.7
Stats: .213/.279/.326, 12 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 4 SB, 22 BB, 75 K
Age: 31

 


 

Deep Dive: Adam Engel’s past, present and future with the White Sox

Steel, for real: The Man of Steal had arguably his best season with the White Sox in 2019. (@ManofSteal_15)


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

How did he get here?

Unlike most three-year college hitters, Adam Engel was unable to post any above-average year offensively with the exception of stolen bases. As a junior for the Louisville Cardinals, he slashed just .236/.367/.301 in 65 games with nine doubles, two triples, one homer, 28 RBIs, 41 stolen bases, 32 walks (10.3%) and 35 strikeouts (11.3%); he also got hit by pitches a whopping 20 times. In the summer of 2012, prior to his junior season, he didn’t distinguish himself in the Cape Cod League as he slashed just .229/.328/.299.

This is what Baseball America said of him prior to the 2013 draft: “Few players in the 2013 draft can match Engel’s physical ability. He’s a 6-foot-1, 208-pounder who can cover 60 yards in 6.4 seconds, play a major league-caliber center field and display raw power potential. His arm is close to average, which is better than many center fielders. In spite of his first-round tools, his lack of performance at the plate will drop him at least a couple of rounds. While he has some bat speed and strength, he holds his hands too low at the plate and his righthanded swing doesn’t produce enough contact.” The White Sox ended up selecting him in the 19th round of that year’s draft. 

By the end of the 2014 season, Engel had advanced to Winston-Salem, where he played in 21 games. He returned to the Dash in 2015 and slashed .251/.335/.369 in 136 games with 23 doubles, nine triples, seven homers, 43 RBIs, 65 stolen bases, 62 walks (10.2%) and 132 strikeouts (21.7%). At the end of that year, he was the Arizona Fall League MVP as he slashed an incredible .403/.523/.642 in 19 games with nine doubles, two triples, a homer, 10 stolen bases, 16 walks (18.6%) and 11 strikeouts (12.8%). Engel divided the 2016 season among Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte and combined to slash .259/.344/.406 in 129 games with 30 doubles, 12 triples, seven homers, 46 RBIs, 45 stolen bases, 56 walks (9.6%) and 131 strikeouts (22.5%).  

Engel got off to a bad start with Charlotte to begin the 2017 season, but received the ultimate promotion on May 27. Aside from a brief demotion in June, he played the remainder of the year with the White Sox. After slashing .218/.312/.461 for the Knights in 46 games, he slashed a paltry .166/.235/.282 for the White Sox in 97 games with 11 doubles, three triples, six homers, 21 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 19 walks (5.7%) and 117 strikeouts (34.8%). While he did struggle at the plate with the White Sox in 2018, he performed much better (which admittedly isn’t saying much) as he slashed .235/.279/.336 in 143 games with 17 doubles, four triples, six homers, 29 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 18 walks (3.9%) and 129 strikeouts (27.9%). He really made his name defensively, however, as he was a finalist in the Gold Glove balloting thanks in part due to homer-saving catches against the Yankees.

Engel’s 2019 with the White Sox

After receiving an early-season demotion with a .212/.268/.346 start, Engel responded favorably in thanks to the tutelage of future White Sox hitting instructor Frank Menechino. In 64 games for the Knights, Engel slashed a very respectable .270/.347/.464 with 13 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 29 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 22 walks (7.9%) and 62 strikeouts (22.4%). He returned to the White Sox on July 19 and performed much better. In his 89 games in a White Sox uniform this year, he slashed .242/.304/.383 with 10 doubles, two triples, six homers, 26 RBIs, three stolen bases, 14 walks (5.6%) and 78 strikeouts (31.5%). Granted it’s not Silver Slugger material, his 2019 slash numbers were by far the best in his young three-year career.   

Engel’s Achilles heel offensively is the off-speed pitch. This year versus such offerings, he slashed a meager .161/.216/.194. He fared a bit better against breaking pitches (.209/.238/.343), but he mashed fastballs at a .279/.347/.450 clip. His spray chart was terrific as he pulled the ball 38% of the time, with decent percentages straight-away (37.3%) and opposite-field (24.7%). Engel’s BABIP was actually .343, well above-average, despite the fact that his hard-hit rate of 30% was below the league average of 34.5%. Thus, it appears Engel may have actually hit with a little bit of good luck this year. Of course, he struggles with the strikeouts in large part due to his struggles with the off-speed and breaking pitches. Also, part of Engel’s strikeout issues deal with swinging at pitches way off the plate, as he flails at them (20%) far more frequently than league average (7%).

Surprisingly, Engel fared far better on the road (.268/.330/.433) than he did at home (.223/.284/.346) which perhaps may mean he’s trying too hard to hit the long ball at homer-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field. He also performed much better with nobody out (.296/.337/.469) than he did with two outs (.187/.274/.307). While righties handled Engel with relative ease this year (.201/.272/.326), he frustrated southpaws to the tune of .313/.360/.482. With runners in scoring position, Engel actually did quite well as he slashed .283/.328/.433 in those spots. As with nearly everyone, he hit much better when ahead in the count (.263/.408/.491) than behind (.159/.179/.244).  

All this talk dissecting Engel’s offense, and I’ve yet to touch on his defense. By all accounts, he actually enjoyed a better year defensively in 2019 than his Gold Glove-caliber season the year before. According to FanGraphs, his RAR (Runs Above Replacement) shot up from 2.3 to 8.7, which is quite incredible since he barely played more than half the season in the majors. Baseball-Reference give Engel a defensive WAR of 0.5, which nearly equaled 2018’s 0.6, which is amazing because he played in 54 fewer games. Baseball Savant ranks Engel’s Outs Above Average in the 73rd percentile, his outfield jumps in the 83rd percentile, and his sprint speed in the 99th percentile. Engel simply didn’t garner any Gold Glove balloting this year, however, due to his part-time status and because he didn’t make nearly as many headline-grabbing catches.

Despite his usual terrific defensive play, he only garnered an 0.8 bWAR thanks in large part due to his low OPS+ of 83. Engel will likely never become a true offensive force, so it’s really his defense that gives him value. Considering that each WAR point is worth approximately $7.7 million per FanGraphs on the free agent market, and he only earned $555,000 in 2019, he provided the White Sox with a value of $7.145 million.

What does the future have in store for Engel?

Engel will be eligible for arbitration at the end of 2020, so he’ll still be earning the league minimum until that time. After three years of arbitration, Engel would become a free agent for the 2024 season. He likely will compete for the center field spot on Opening Day with Leury García, unless the White Sox determine that Luis Robert will make the team. When Robert does receive his promotion, Engel would be a valuable defensive replacement for Eloy Jiménez and/or the team’s new right fielder, and his bat wouldn’t be so exposed if that were the case. He’s really best suited for left field, however, due to his below-average arm. Despite the fact that Engel hasn’t swiped nearly as many bases with the White Sox as he did in the minors, he could still be used for pinch-running duties as well. Thus, it seems his long-term role with the White Sox would be that of a fourth or fifth outfielder, limiting his arbitration earnings going forward. 


 

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham center fielders

No. 1 with a bullet: Luis Robert, with a 30-30 season under his belt, is arguably the most exciting player in the White Sox organization. (@KnightsBaseball) 


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

This list includes the three of the organization’s Top 12 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Oddly enough, they all share the first name of Luis. Should we call this group “Tres Luises?” All have plus arms, good speed and decent power, although Luis Robert is the only one to consistently shine thus far. It’ll be fun to see how these three fare in 2020.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Charlotte Knights

Luis Robert
6´3´´
185 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Right field, Left field

Age: 22

A native Cuban, Robert was easily the most sought-after player on the international market in 2017. After all, when playing for Ciego de Avila in the Cuban League earlier that year against players typically 10 years older, Robert slashed .401/.526/.687 with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 40 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 38 walks (16.4%) and 30 strikeouts (12.9%) in just 53 games. When the White Sox ultimately signed him to a $26 million bonus (the second-highest in baseball history behind only Yoán Moncada), it sent shock waves throughout the country that the recently-minted White Sox rebuild was going full speed ahead. Was it the recruiting by the likes of José Abreu, Moncada and Ricky Renteria that won him over, or was it simply cash that was just slightly more than what the St. Louis Cardinals were offering? Perhaps a little of both. Robert did play for the DSL Sox that year for tax reasons, and did quite well (he missed significant time due to injury) in slashing .310/.491/.536 in 28 games with eight doubles, one triple, three homers, 14 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, 22 walks and 23 strikeouts.

The 2018 season was a difficult one for Robert. He was primarily hampered by thumb injuries during the year, and as most players can attest, it’s hard to do much damage when that’s the case. It’s not like Robert was atrocious; he just simply couldn’t hit with the power expected of him. For the year split between the AZL Sox, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he slashed .269/.333/.360 in 50 games with 11 doubles, three triples, no homers, 17 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 12 walks (7.2%) and 52 strikeouts (25.0%). On an encouraging note to end the year, he played exceptionally well for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League as he slashed .324/.367/.432 in 18 games with two doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs, and five stolen bases.

To put it mildly, Robert played out of his mind in 2019. All he did in 19 games with Winston-Salem was slash .453/.512/.920 with five doubles, three triples, eight homers, 24 RBIs, eight stolen bases, four walks (4.8%) and 20 strikeouts (23.8%). After earning a promotion to Birmingham on April 30, all he did for the Barons (with half his games in one of the best pitching parks in the minors) in 56 games was slash .314/.362/.518 with 16 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 29 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, 13 walks (5.3%) and 54 strikeouts (22.1%). After laying waste to Double-A pitching Robert received a promotion to Charlotte, where he slashed .297/.341/.634 in 47 games with 10 doubles, five triples, 16 homers, 39 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 11 walks (4.9%) and 55 strikeouts (24.7%).

Combined with all three teams, Robert slashed an amazing .328/.376/.624 in 122 games with 31 doubles, 11 triples, 32 homers, 92 RBIs and 36 stolen bases while making fantastic defensive plays on the diamond. The only minor quibble is he walked only 28 times while striking out 129, but it’s hard to argue with that when his production was otherwise outstanding. This was Robert’s longest season to date and he seemed to only be getting stronger as the season waned. He was one of just two minor leaguers with 30-30 seasons (joining Houston’s Kyle Tucker). While I mentioned plate discipline before, it’s OK if he doesn’t walk too much provided he finds himself in good hitting counts. After all, he did slash .398/.545/.892 when he was ahead in the count this year.    

Needless to say, Robert deserved plenty of fanfare after such a terrific season. Baseball America, MLB Pipeline and MiLB.com all named him this year’s Minor League Player of the Year, and he was named the Double-A All-Star Game MVP earlier in the year as well. Now ranked third on MLB Pipeline’s top prospect list (behind only Tampa’s Wander Franco and L.A.’s Gavin Lux), Robert has all the tools to succeed at the next level. MLB Pipeline grades his running at 65, power and arm at 60, fielding and hitting at 55. His only weakness may be a lack of patience at the plate, which could be exploited in the majors; with that said, Robert is likely be the preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year in 2020. Of course, he may be held back for three weeks in April in order for the Sox to control him an extra year, but perhaps a preseason extension may resolve that issue.  


Birmingham Barons

Luis Basabe
6´0´´ 
160 pounds
B/T: S/R
Other positions played: Left field, Right field
Age: 23

For his 16th birthday on Aug. 26, 2012,  he (along with his twin brother Luis Alejandro) received a signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox as his gift. Basabe’s first two seasons in that organization were spent in the DSL, where the Venezuelan posted decent but unspectacular numbers. After playing in the New York-Penn League in 2015, Basabe started moving up the prospect charts in 2016 with Salem (A) and Greenville as he combined to slash .264/.328/.452 in 110 games with 26 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers, 53 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. Then in December of that year, Basabe was traded along with Moncada, Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz for ace hurler Chris Sale in a blockbuster deal.

In Basabe’s first year in the White Sox organization, he struggled with Winston-Salem at .221/.320/.320 in 107 games with 12 doubles, five triples, five homers, 36 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 49 walks (11.3%) and 104 strikeouts (23.9%); the struggles were due in large part to a torn meniscus. At the end of the season, Basabe was added to the 40-man roster to prevent him from being snatched from another squad via the Rule 5 draft. The 2018 season was Basabe’s most successful in the White Sox system, as he combined with Winston-Salem and Birmingham to slash .258/.354/.445 in 119 games with 21 doubles, eight triples, 15 homers, 56 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 64 walks (12.4%) and 140 strikeouts (27.2%). 

Injuries (Basabe broke the hamate bone in his left hand during spring training and lost more at-bats to a recurring quadriceps injury during the season) greatly impacted Basabe in 2019. As a result, he slashed just .246/.324/.336 in 69 games for Birmingham with 12 doubles, one triple, three homers, 30 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 29 walks (10.0%) and 85 strikeouts (29.2%).

Basabe is still ranked eighth among all White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, based more on talent than production levels at this point. If healthy, he certainly has significant tools as his running and arm are both graded 60, fielding 55, power 50 and hitting 45. Despite his low homer output (likely due to that hamate injury), Basabe does indeed have 20-homer power as evidenced by his blast off a 102-mph fastball from Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. The biggest concern is Basabe’s bat, as like earlier versions of  Moncada, he strikes out far too often after taking way too many called third strikes. Like fellow Barons outfielder Micker Adolfo, Basabe is now down to one option remaining, which means the Sox would like to see what he can do. Expect him to begin the season with Birmingham, though because of his few options left, Basabe could begin with Charlotte instead. Even if Robert is the long-term future at center, Basabe definitely has the sufficient arm to play right field. 

Luis González
6´1´´
195 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Right field, Left field
Age: 24

Born in Mexico, González payed high school ball in Arizona before playing collegiately with the University of New Mexico. He was a solid and consistent performer for the Lobos during his three years, and enjoyed arguably his best year as a junior by slashing .361/.500/.589 in 55 games with 22 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 42 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 58 walks (20.0%) and 32 strikeouts (11.0%). Due to his consistency and the fact that he did a lot of things well, González was selected in the third round of the 2017 draft by the White Sox. Combined with Great Falls and Kannapolis, he slashed .236/.351/.348 in 63 games with 14 doubles, four triples, two homers, 15 RBIs, two stolen bases, 42 walks (14.0%) and 53 strikeouts (17.7%).

González enjoyed an outstanding 2018 split evenly between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, as he combined to slash .307/.367/.498 in 117 games with 40 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 71 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 48 walks (8.9%) and 103 strikeouts (19.0%). However, like many of the other highly-rated outfielders on the Birmingham roster to begin 2019, González struggled badly out of the gate. Prior to the All-Star break, he slashed just .230/.288/.324; he did improve a bit during the second half by slashing a more respectable .266/.345/.397. For the year, González slashed .247/.316/.359 in 126 games with Birmingham with 18 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 59 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 47 walks (9.9%) and 89 strikeouts (18.8%). Likely nearly every hitter on the planet, González fared far better with a favorable count (.314/.479/.600) than when he was behind (.216/.220/.263). Unlike many lefties, he actually fared better against southpaws (.263/.342/.361) than versus righties (.241/.305/.359). 

Despite his struggles this year, Gonzalez still ranks 12th among the White Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline. His throwing arm (60 grade) is easily his best tool, and would work especially well in right field. González’s run, hit and field skills are all rated average while his power tool is weakest (40 grade) despite the fact he clubbed a respectable 14 homers in 2018. Like many of the Birmingham outfielders last year, González is a borderline choice to begin the season with Charlotte. Based in part because three of those outfielders (Basabe, Adolfo and Blake Rutherford) are now on the 40-man roster, that may mean González will be asked to repeat in Double-A. Regardless, he should get plenty of at-bats with Charlotte before the end of the year.  


 

Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis center fielders

Ascending soon: Once Luis Robert joins the White Sox, Steele Walker will become the top-ranked outfielder in the White Sox system. (@WSDashBaseball) 


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

This list includes the organization’s second-ranked outfield prospect per MLB Pipeline (Steele Walker), as well as an outfielder who’s hit for a high average throughout his young collegiate and professional careers (Ian Dawkins). Both should receive promotions to begin the 2020 season. 

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Winston-Salem Dash

Steele Walker
5´11´´
190 pounds
B/T: L/L
Other positions played: Right field

Age: 23

Walker kept improving in each of his three years with the University of Oklahoma. That’s not to say his freshman year was bad by any stretch — that year, he slashed a respectable .290/.352/.414 with three homers in 57 games. As a junior in 2018, however, he slashed .352/.441/.606 in 54 games for the Sooners with 14 doubles, 13 homers, 53 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 31 walks (12.2%) and 48 strikeouts (18.9%). Expected to be selected in the latter part of the first round that year, he was still available in the second round when the White Sox gladly snatched him up.

In his first year of professional ball, Walker slashed a combined .209/.271/.342 over 44 games with the AZL squad, Great Falls and Kannapolis with six doubles, five homers, 21 RBIs, six stolen bases, 10 walks (5.6%) and 37 strikeouts (20.9%). Obviously his numbers weren’t as good as he’d hoped they be, but that was in large part due to fatigue and playing through injuries suffered late in the season with Oklahoma.

Buoyed by a terrific start with Kannapolis (.365/.437/.581) in his first 20 games this year, Walker enjoyed a terrific bounce-back campaign in 2019. Combined with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he slashed .284/.361/.451 in 120 games with 36 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 62 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, 50 walks (9.5%) and 78 strikeouts (14.8%). While not quite Madrigalian in making contact, a strikeout rate under 15% with a walk rate hovering around 10% is actually quite impressive for a first full professional season.

It’s important to note that Walker’s numbers were far better against righties than they were against southpaws, although it’s way too early to consider him merely a platoon-type hitter. According to MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, the bat is considered Walker’s one true plus tool (graded 55 by MLB Pipeline). That’s not to say he’s overly deficient in any one area (power, run and field tools are graded 50), except perhaps for his throwing arm (graded 45 by MLB Pipeline).

Interestingly, Walker didn’t play in left field this year though his arm is perhaps better suited for that position. Walker currently ranks sixth among White Sox prospects, and second among the system’s outfielders, by MLB Pipeline. He likely will begin the 2020 season with Birmingham, and should find his way to Charlotte by the end of the year. There’s always a possibility Walker could be traded to help reel in a high-profile hitter or pitcher during this offseason, but as the best outfield performer in full-season play last year not named Luis Robert, the Sox would prefer keeping Walker if they had their druthers.


Kannapolis Cannon Ballers 

Ian Dawkins
5’11”
195 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Left field
Age: 24

Dawkins played his first two seasons of college ball with Chabot Junior College in his hometown of Heyward, Calif., where he put up terrific numbers. He transferred to Sacramento State for his junior season and continued to hit, with his senior season being arguably the better of his two years with the Hornets as he slashed .359/.415/.528 in 58 games with 18 doubles, six homers, 33 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 22 walks (8.0%) and 41 strikeouts (14.9%).

In part due to lacking leverage as a college senior, and also in part to his lack of significant power, he slipped to the White Sox in the 27th round of the 2018 draft. Dawkins immediately paid dividends that year, as he slashed a combined .303/.351/.390 in 65 games with Great Falls and Kannapolis with 13 doubles, three triples, 21 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 16 walks (5.9%) and 43 strikeouts (15.8%). 

Even more surprising than Dawkins beginning the 2019 season with Kannapolis was that he actually spent the whole year there. In part, this had to do with the lack of movement from the Birmingham outfield contingent, which ultimately stalled advancement for the likes of Walker and Dawkins. However, it may actually have just as much to do with the fact that he simply may have neither the great speed you’d like to see in a center fielder (despite his stolen base numbers) nor the power you’d like to see out of a corner outfielder. Nonetheless, Dawkins still posted a rock-solid year despite a late-season slump causing his average to dip below .300. For the year, he slashed .298/.361/.396 in 131 games with Kannapolis with 38 doubles, one triple, four homers, 36 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, 37 walks and 95 strikeouts. Walker should begin the 2020 season with Winston-Salem. 

 


 

Deep Dive: Rookie league center fielders

The Flash: James Beard, who ran the 60-yard-dash in just 6.21 seconds, may just be the fastest man in baseball. (@MLBPDP) 


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

These four prospects have yet to reach drinking age. While James Beard may be the most highly touted of these guys due in large part to his blazing speed, the other three center fielders are emerging prospects as well. All are tremendous athletes with above-average speed.

(age as of April 1, 2020)


Great Falls Voyagers

Caberea Weaver
6´3´´
180 pounds
B/T: R/R
Age: 20

Weaver was an amazing athlete out of South Gwinnett, Ga. In fact, Perfect Game ranked him as the 14th-best high school outfielder in the 2018 draft class in part due to his projectable bat and running the 60-yard dash in 6.27 seconds on a slow track. Baseball America said of him at the time of the draft, “He is an athletic, wiry outfielder with impressive athleticism that should allow him to become an above-average defender in center field. There is a lot of rawness in Weaver’s current game, both offensively and defensively. At the plate, Weaver has a whippy, quick bat and present strength that should continue to improve as he fills out.” The White Sox selected him in the seventh round, and it took a $226,200 signing bonus to pry Weaver from his commitment to the University of Georgia. 

In 2018 with the AZL squad, Weaver slashed .248/.367/.342 in 50 games with five doubles, three triples, one homer, 11 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 18 walks (10.0%) and 52 strikeouts (28.9%). This year with Great Falls, he posted similar numbers as he slashed .254/.317/.377 in 62 games with 13 doubles, five triples, two homers, 18 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 18 walks (6.9%) and 85 strikeouts (32.6%). Weaver strikes out way too much, but it doesn’t appear he’s swinging for the fences, as he does hit the ball much more frequently on the ground. Instead, it seems he has way too many moving parts which causes his swing to get too long — this is common for someone of his build. Hopefully, with a little more experience and confidence, he can reduce his strikeouts and thereby get full use of his speed.

Weaver has shown good range in the outfield, with just two errors in professional ball thus far. He was nearly 17 months younger than his competitors in the Pioneer League, so it wouldn’t be out of the question if Weaver returned to Great Falls. However, it seems likelier that he’ll begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis instead. 


Arizona League White Sox

James Beard
5´10´´
170 pounds
B/T: R/R
Age: 19

Beard dominated as an outfielder for Loyd Star High School in Brookhaven, Miss. this year. In 27 games, he slashed an impressive .429/.626/.1000 with eight doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 30 RBIs, 46 runs, 31 walks (29.0%) and 10 strikeouts (9.3%) while being perfect in 26 stolen base attempts. Flashing back to the East Pro Showcase before his senior year, Beard ran the 60-yard dash in a rapid 6.21 seconds. He was verbally committed to Meridian Community College, so when the Sox selected him in the fourth round of this year’s draft, he actually received an under-slot bonus of $350,000. Baseball America said of him at the time of the draft, “He has a chance to develop into an average hitter thanks to his speed and solid swing. Beard does not project as a power hitter by any stretch, but he has shown he’s can run into 10-12 home runs in pro ball. Defensively, Beard outruns his mistakes for now, but he has potential to be an above-average center fielder with more experience to improve his routes and reads.”

With the AZL Sox this year, Beard struggled acclimating to the speed of the game. In 31 games totaling 127 at-bats, Beard slashed just .213/.270/.307 with four doubles, two triples, one homer, 12 RBIs, nine stolen bases, eight walks (5.8%) and 54 strikeouts (39.1%). He did hit the ball on the ground (1.65 GO/FB), but he had difficulty hitting curveballs. MLB Pipeline ranks Beard 20th among all White Sox prospects and grades his running at 80, fielding at 55, and hitting, power and arm at 45.

It may take a while for Beard to show what he can do on the diamond, as he likely didn’t face much competition in varsity ball. He’s a bit raw offensively, but he’s been compared favorably to Billy Hamilton at the same stage. Beard may be best served to continue his development with the AZL squad next year (he was about 16 months younger than league average), but he likely will begin in Great Falls instead.       

Misael Gonzalez
6´0´´

175 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Left field, Right field
Age: 18

Gonzalez was a relative unknown when he was selected in the 12th round of this year’s draft by the White Sox. Shortly after the draft, then-Amateur Scouting Director Nick Hostetler called him an 80-grade runner who showed power potential at his pre-draft workout at Guaranteed Rate Field. Gonzalez unsurprisingly scuffled in his first professional season as he slashed just .195/.246/.237 in 36 games with five doubles, six RBIs, one stolen base, eight walks (6.3%) and 52 strikeouts (40.9%). Of the four center fielders listed in this group, he’s the youngest and most raw. Expect to see him return to the AZL for the 2020 season. 


DSL White Sox

Johnabiell Laureno
6´0´´
180 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Left field, Right field
Age: 19

A native of San Pedro de Macris in the Dominican Republic, which is arguably the most famous baseball community in the world, Laureano received an international signing bonus from the White Sox in February 2018. In his first taste of baseball last year, at about nine months younger than his average competitor, Laureano slashed just .220/.329/.262 in 65 games with nine doubles, 13 RBIs, four stolen bases, 31 walks (12.3%) and 54 strikeouts (21.4%).

This year was a much different story in his return to the DSL, as he slashed an impressive .357/.437/.543 in 59 games with 15 doubles, three triples, six homers, 36 RBIs, six stolen bases, 28 walks (11.4%) and 43 strikeouts (17.5%). His OPS this year was better than everyone in the Sox organization not named Luis Robert, and he did it while performing in the shadow of the highly-esteemed Benyamin Bailey.

Certainly, there are some red flags as his strikeout-to-walk ratio will likely get worse with each new competition level he encounters. Also, he was a tad bit older (three months) than his competition this year, which doesn’t sound like much but it can make a big difference in how he’s viewed by scouts. It’s quite possible that, even though Laureano may not have the blazing speed of the three guys above, he may actually be a bit more polished. We should find out more next year, as he’s expected to begin the season with the AZL Sox.