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Deep Dive: Second Base Edition, Part 1

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The White Sox depth at second base is getting better, especially in the lower levels

Seconds: Amado Nuñez was one of the White Sox system’s rising stars in 2018.
Great Falls Voyagers

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

Now, let’s focus on the second base depth in the organization by providing small bits of information on players who primarily played second base for DSL, AZL, Great Falls and Kannapolis. Player’s age as of April 1, 2019 is listed.


Kannapolis Intimidators

Tate Blackman
6´0”
195 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 24
Additional position: Third Base

Blackman, after a difficult freshman season at Ole Miss, had solid sophomore and junior seasons with the Rebels, combining for .313/.412/.477 with 12 homers, 68 RBIs, 64 walks (12.5%), 84 strikeouts (16.3%), and 12 stolen bases over 432 at-bats. While he primarily played shortstop collegiately, the White Sox drafted him in the 13th round with the idea of moving him to second base.

Blackman’s non-cumulative stats in 2018 with Kannapolis basically mirrored his performance in Great Falls in 2017. With Great Falls, he hit .245/.359/.411; at Kannapolis, .244/.344/.407. The big difference was that Blackman struck out far more often with Kannapolis (29%, just 19% with Great Falls) while taking fewer walks (12.2%, 11.8% at Great Falls).

In all, Blackman whiffed 153 times last year — but he did hit a homer in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game and also finished third in the league’s home run derby. He was quite the streaky hitter, hitting as well as .333/.387/.488 in April and plummeting down to .174/.297/.291 in July. I expect to see him move up to Winston-Salem for 2019; how much further he advances may depend upon how well he improves his average and decreases his strikeouts. If unable to do so, he could end up being ticketed as a utility infielder for organizational depth.

Ramon Beltre
5´11”
160 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 22
Additional position: Shortstop, Third Base

As a resident of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., which has been the home of dozens (seemingly hundreds) of major league superstars, Beltre signed a minor league contract with the White Sox as a 17 year old in November 2013. From the years 2014-16 Beltre had done reasonably well with the DSL White Sox, but not well enough to earn a promotion to the States.

However, that all changed last year, when Beltre slashed .335/.393/.477 over 176 at-bats. Upon winning his promotion to the AZL White Sox on July 27, he hit a robust .308/.339/.383. In all for 2017, Beltre combined to hit .325/.373/.422 over 283 at-bats, with five homers, 38 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases while striking out 22 times (7.0%) and striking out 48 (15.2%).

Starting 2018 with Great Falls he continued his hot hitting, to the tune of .290/.319/.466 with four homers and 18 RBIs, prior to being promoted to Kannapolis on August 2. Like most hitters making the transition from hitting-friendly Great Falls to pitching-friendly Kannapolis, Beltre struggled considerably. For the Intimidators, Beltre slashed just .242/.253/.330 with one homer, 13 RBIs, two walks (2.1%), and 26 strikeouts (26.8%).

While Beltre spent considerable time playing shortstop and third base this year, the majority of his playing time was at second base. For someone who doesn’t having blazing speed and has a relatively smallish build, second base seems to be Beltre’s most logical position. Although he’ll just turned 22, Beltre will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft; however, because he’s played just more than a month in full-season ball, he won’t be selected. I expect Beltre to return to Kannapolis to begin 2019, with the opportunity for early promotion if he gets off to a hot start. He seems to fit the bill of a utility middle infielder — much like Charlotte’s Bryant Flete or Eddy Alvarez.

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Great Falls Voyagers

Amado Nunez
6´2”
178 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Additional position: First Base

It seems like Nuñez has been in the White Sox organization for a long time, though he is just 20. He signed for $900,000 from the Dominican Republic as the headliner of a 2014 international signing class that also included Jhoandro Alfaro, Ricky Mota and Felix Mercedes. At the time of his signing, MiLB.com rated his tools as follows: Hit 55, Power 55, Run 55, Arm 50, Field 50. Signed initially as a shortstop, Nuñez has played all four infield positions in the White Sox organization, with 2018 primarily spent at second.

Nuñez had an injury-riddled 2015, struggling with the AZL White Sox to the tune of .145/.207/.158. He appeared to turn things around in 2016 with a slash line of .287/.320/.370, while swiping a career-high nine bases. However, he struggled badly last year upon being promoted to Great Falls, as he hit just .183/.247/.246 in the higher altitude. On the positive side last year, however, Nuñez lowered his strikeout percentage to a career-best 18.9, while increasing his walk percentage to another best, 7.79.

This year, upon returning to the Voyagers, Nuñez was in a different stratosphere. He hit .357/.394/.568, with 21 doubles, six homers, 52 RBIs, 15 walks and 71 strikeouts — easily eclipsing his career numbers in every significant stat. His walk and strikeouts surprisingly declined this year (5.8% and 27.4% respectively), but Nuñez has got plenty of time to improve, as he turned 21 just one week ago.

Nuñez is not a significant stolen base threat (14 in his four-year career), but the biggest concern with him has clearly been his defense. In just fewer than 170 career games in the minors, he’s committed 74 errors. This year alone, Nuñez suffered 17 miscues in 46 games at second base and three mishaps in just eight games at first; similar error rates have transpired during his time at the hot corner and shortstop earlier in his career. If Nuñez can keep errors to a minimum while continuing to rake, he may have quite a future with the White Sox. Otherwise, ceiling will be as an offensive-minded utility infielder. Nuñez should be a no-brainer to begin 2019 with Kannapolis.


Arizona League White Sox

Camilo Quinteiro
5´11”
180 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Additional position: Shortstop, Third Base

Camilo Quinteiro, the latest of a long line of Cubans to sign with the White Sox, inked a minor league free agent contract last September for $300,000 — the max the White Sox could offer him. Prior to signing, Quintero played for Santiago de Cuba in Cuba’s 18U national league in 2015, where he batted .304/.439/.330 in 140 plate appearances. He skipped the DSL; instead, Quinteiro produced similar stats for the AZL White Sox in 2018: .286/.426/.320 over 147 at-bats with one homer, 11 RBIs, 11-of-13 in stolen bases, 36 walks (18.95%) and 39 strikeouts (20.53%).

Quinteiro is said to be an above-average defender, and he committed only four errors in his 40 games (33 at second, six at shortstop, one at third). He has plus arm strength, so he could play more at short and third if/when needed. He has good speed coupled with solid instincts on the basepaths, as evidenced by his stolen base efficiency. Also, he’s got an excellent batter’s eye — an 18.95% walk rate is incredible for anyone, let alone anyone in his first professional season in the States.

Quinteiro has got a line drive/ground ball approach, as he doesn’t hit too many balls in the air. In fact, his ground out/air out (GO/AO) rate is an incredibly high 3.18! Right now, Quinteiro seems to profile as a utility middle infielder, but it’s way too early to say yet; he could boost his standing by supplying more extra-base hits (Quinteiro had just three with the AZL Sox). He did have three at-bats with Great Falls at the end of the year, and that’s where he should play in 2019.

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Dominican Summer League White Sox

Jerrick Francees
6´0”
188 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 18

In his first professional season, Aruba native Jerrick Francees struggled badly with the DSL White Sox in 2018. For the year, he slashed just .174/.253/.174 in 86 at-bats with no homers, seven walks (7.29%) and 35 strikeouts (36.46%). Francees has a hitch to his swing, which if corrected, would obviously improve his hitting peripherals.

Francees also was unsuccessful in all four stolen-base attempts, so he seems to be quite raw at this juncture. The youngster is said to be quite athletic (should I say “toolsy?”) and has the build to add power to his game eventually. Francees made just one error in 42 chances, so he hasn’t let his offensive struggles carry over to his defense. With his struggles and his relative youth (he won’t turn 19 until May 18), he should return to the DSL White Sox for 2019.

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Summary

The talent level at second base in the lower levels of the White Sox system is surprisingly good. Nunez made significant strides to reclaim his prospect status, Quinteiro showed exceptional plate discipline, Blackman and Beltre are looking like respectable utility infielders with the potential for more. It’s too early to say how good Francees will eventually be. This is how I’d rank their tools presently:

Hitting: Nunez, Quinteiro, Beltre, Blackman, Francees

Power: Blackman, Nunez, Beltre, Francees, Quinteiro

Speed: Quinteiro, Beltre, Nunez, Francees, Blackman

Defense: Quinteiro, Francees, Beltre, Blackman, Nunez

Overall: Nunez, Quinteiro, Beltre, Blackman, Francees