2014 DSL White Sox Season Preview

Micker Zapata - milb.com

First short-season affiliate to play

With the White Sox' continued investment in Latin America, the DSL White Sox become more and more interesting each year. Though the rosters are often subject to change, this year's roster has some names to follow as the season opens on May 31.

I'll take the background on the Dominican Summer League from my 2013 season review:

First, we need to set some baselines. The DSL is the lowest level of competition in affiliated baseball. The average hitter's triple slash line is .236/.329/.318.  The average pitcher walks 10.3% of the batters he faces while striking out just 18.9%. Other signs of lack of skill, such as HBPs (0.75/g), are plentiful and young starters rarely throw more than a handful of innings. The average player is just 18.1 years old.

By way of contrast, the next lowest level of competition of White Sox affiliates is Bristol in the Appalachian League.  There, the average triple slash is .248/.325/.361. The average pitcher's walk rate is 9% and his strikeout rate is 21.8%. There are 0.5 HBPs per game.  The average player is 20.5 years old.

Most of the players in the DSL will not even make it stateside. Very few will ever reach even the high minors, let alone MLB.  The level of play is probably lower overall than what you'd see from many travelling high school squads.

The most interesting name on the roster is OF Micker Adolfo. While it had previously been suggested that Adolfo would be making his pro debut with the White Sox' new entrant in the Arizona League (AZL), they may be trying to give him a head start in the DSL as the AZL doesn't begin play until late June. The few reports that have trickled out of extended spring training have been positive. While DSL stats can be misleading, we should at least be able to hear some better scouting reports if he does play there and whether the $1.6 million signing matches the hype of a big power prospect with very good bat speed from the right side.

Three other major signings from 2013, 3B Maiker Feliz, SS Jose Reyes and RHP Nelson Acosta, are also on the roster. What I said (with help from Baseball America) about them a few months back:

Feliz, like Adolfo, is also known by his other surname, Soto. Feliz is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-handed hitting third baseman out of the Dominican. Per BA, the White Sox "viewed him as a line-drive hitter with a short swing who hit in games, had average speed and a chance to be an above-average defender with good hands and a strong arm." The 16-year-old signed for $450K.

Reyes is a six foot, 155-pound shortstop out of Venezuela. The switch-hitting 17-year-old showed "clean and easy actions with good hands and minimal effort to his game in the field" and a "simple, contact-oriented approach" at the plate, though with minimal power. He signed for $100K.

Acosta is a 6-foot-4, 185-pound right-handed pitcher out of Venezuela. He turned 16 on August 24, making him one of the youngest players in last year's July 2 signing class. Acosta has a projectable frame and "fairly clean mechanics and an 87-89 mph fastball that comes out of his hand without much effort." He's athletic and has an advanced feel for a curveball. He signed for $50K.

3B Luis Castillo, who signed for $450,000 in 2012, will also be making his pro debut. The 17-year-old is reputed to have plus power and hit tools, though third base is likely not his long-term home.

We'll also see some of the major signings from previous years getting started on their second or third pro seasons. On the position player side, this includes OF Roger Ramos, OF Antonio Rodriguez, OF Hanleth Otano and SS Johan Cruz. What I said about them after last season:

On the position player prospect side, OF Roger Ramos led the way with a .248/.375/.359 line and 9 stolen bases in 16 attempts.  He played mostly right-field in a somewhat crowded outfield rotation. This was the 18-year-old's second season in the DSL and he showed the expected improvement, as he batted just .185/.246/.242 in 2012 (albeit while playing with a back injury of which he failed to inform the club).  He's likely to make his way stateside in 2014.

For whatever reason, the White Sox started CF Antonio Rodriguez in Bristol.  To their credit, once it became obvious that he couldn't handle it (*cough*CourtneyHawkins*cough*), he quickly went back to the DSL. The 18-year-old also showed improvement from the limited time he saw in 2012, batting .288/.315/.353 while exclusively playing center-field.  Rodriguez is certainly one to watch as he rates as plus in speed, arm and power potential.

OF Hanleth Otano was the youngest player, having turned 17 just last month. He has the prototypical right-fielder's profile, though he spent most of 2013 in left-field. His triple slash of .185/.248/.279 is typical of a first year player and he'll be spending another year on the island.

As expected, SS Johan Cruz struggled mightily in his taste of pro ball.  The 17-year-old was considered the best defensive middle infielder of last year's signing class but his bat rated well-behind. He was the club's iron man, playing in 67 of the team's 69 games, and batted .123/.216/.160, while also leading the team with 18 swipes in 25 tries.

RHP Victor Done is again on the roster. What I said about him:

The only pitcher of note was RHP Victor Done, who was the youngest pitcher at 17. His first pro season was also a difficult one.  In 12 starts, he threw 30.1 innings and gave up 34 hits while walking 28, striking out 26 and hitting 8 batters.

The season starts Saturday May 31 and ends August 23. The league plays Monday through Saturday. The DSL White Sox play their home games at the Boca Chica Baseball City complex, where their Dominican academy is located.

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