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Deep Dive: Third Base Edition, part 1

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Taking a look at the weakest position in the lower levels

Burning Up the Hot Corner: With the bat, Bush hit the ground running as an 18-year-old pro — but can he stick at third base?
Kim Contreras (@Cu_As)/South Side Sox

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


Kannapolis Intimidators

Jake Burger
6´2´´
210 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 22

Burger enjoyed a terrific collegiate career with Missouri State, having nearly identical sophomore and junior seasons with the Bears. In those final two seasons, he combined to hit .338/.433/.668, with 26 doubles, 43 homers, 66 walks and 73 strikeouts over 482 at-bats. With those results, and with the need for power-hitting third basemen in the organization, the White Sox selected him in the first round (11th overall) in the 2017 MLB Draft. In his first professional season in 2017, he combined with the AZL White Sox and Kannapolis to hit .263/.336/.412, with five homers, 29 RBIs, 14 walks (6.5%) and 30 strikeouts (13.8%) in 194 at-bats. While not great numbers, they weren’t horrible when considering he may have been deeply fatigued after an extremely long season. One thing Burger had difficulty with while in the White Sox organization in 2017 was his launch angle: He hit three ground balls for every two he hit in the air.

Saying Burger had a difficult 2018 is putting it mildly. He tore his left Achilles tendon in a late February game in Arizona trying to run out an infield grounder, and proceeded to tear it again about 10 weeks later. Obviously, this meant that his potential advance through the White Sox system took a big hit. It’s easy to root for the guy, as he grew up a White Sox fan — and has the build most guys can relate to. However, with his rehab, Burger must improve his diet and workout regimen. Scouts were split prior to his injuries as to whether Burger can remain at third base long-term. It’ll be interesting to see how fluid his lateral movement will be upon his return. In the meantime, he should begin the season on a rehab assignment in Arizona, with a possible promotion to Winston-Salem when ready — possibly as early as June.

Johan Cruz
6´2´´
188 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 23
Additional positions: shortstop, second base, left field

Much was expected of Cruz when he signed an international minor league contract with the White Sox for a $450,000 signing bonus on September 11, 2012. At the time of his signing, Cruz was noted to have a strong glove with an even better arm; it was hoped that with his build, he could develop into a solid hitter with decent power. Cruz, a native of Guananico, D.R., hasn’t made it any further than Winston-Salem in his six-year career because he hasn’t shown much progress with the bat — and his defense has slid a bit as well.

Things looked good for Cruz as recently as 2015, when he hit .312 for Great Falls with 17 doubles, six homers, and 38 RBIs. However, during the last two years, he’s combined to hit just .223/.282/.316, with seven homers, 57 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases over 561 at-bats. Cruz also committed 23 errors for the Intimidators in 2018, so although his range was still good, he wasn’t helping enough offensively to atone for his struggles defensively. Cruz’s six-year slash line reads .232/.295/.328. He still may have a future as a utility infielder, but it’s getting a bit dimmer. It’s possible that he could begin third base next year with Winston-Salem as an injury replacement for Burger, but I actually have that spot pegged for Luis Curbelo (who will be listed in my shortstop report). Cruz should get one more year to show what he can do — as a utility infielder for Winston-Salem.

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Great Falls Voyagers

Bryce Bush
6´0´´
200 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 19

Most fans, including yours truly, believed that drafting Bush in the 33rd round of this year’s MLB Draft was more or less a goodwill gesture, as opposed to believing that he’d actually bypass a scholarship with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. After all, Bush was the second-rated prep prospect in Michigan, third-ranked prep third base prospect in the country, and the 52nd-ranked prep prospect in the nation, according to PerfectGame. However, I can speak for most fans in saying that I’m glad I was wrong! Close to a week after being drafted, Bush signed for $290,000, the equivalent of sixth-round money.

Bush dominated in his brief 14-game stint with the AZL White Sox by slashing .442/.538/.605, with one homer, eight RBIs, one stolen base, eight walks (15.4%) and just four strikeouts (7.7%) in 43 at-bats. Bush was promoted to Great Falls on August 3, and while he struggled a bit, he still did relatively well considering he was 2.5 years younger than league average. In 24 games totaling 96 at-bats for the Voyagers, Bush slashed .250/.327/.385 with two homers, 10 RBIs, three stolen bases, 10 walks (9.3%) and 21 strikeouts (19.4%). Combined with both teams for 2018, Bush slashed .309/.396/.453 over 139 at-bats, with three homers, 18 RBIs, four stolen bases, 18 walks (11.3%) and 25 strikeouts (15.6%).

Third base was the only position Bush played last year in rookie ball, and in 30 games he committed 12 errors. He has a good arm and has solid speed; his difficulties at the position may be attributable to becoming acclimated to the speed of the game. Even in Arizona and Great Falls, the game is exponentially quicker than it is at the prep level.

Bush will turn 19 in December, and at 6´0´´ tall and 200 pounds, he has the projectable build to hit the ball a long way. Eventually, if he doesn’t succeed at third defensively, Bush may end up moving to a corner outfield position or first base. Ideally, he’ll stick at the hot corner since that’s arguably the position with the weakest depth in the Sox system.

Bush has tons of charisma, with the intangibles to do what it takes to advance to succeed in professional ball. While my projections are for Bush to begin 2019 with Kannapolis, there will be concern whether or not he will be ready for full-season ball. If the Sox don’t feel he’ll be quite ready, the Sox likely would promote one of Johan Cruz, Micah Coffey, Jimmy Galusky or Travis Moniot instead. But don’t expect any of them to hold Bush off for long.

Micah Coffey
6´1´´
200 pounds
Bats: Left
Age: 23
Additional positions: first base, left field, catcher

Coffey, a native of Batavia, picked a bad time to have a down year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. During his sophomore season, he slashed .333/.408/.524, with seven homers, 42 RBIs, two stolen bases, 23 walks (9.5%) and 39 strikeouts (16.1%) over 210 at-bats. His numbers dropped minutely in his junior season, to the tune of .340/.396/.493 with four homers, 46 RBIs, three stolen bases, 21 walks (8.9%) and 42 strikeouts (17.9%) over 203 at-bats. However, in Coffey’s senior season, he fell to a slash line of .278/.363/.409 over 230 at-bats, with five homers, 34 RBIs, no stolen bases, 26 walks (9.5%) and 40 strikeouts (14.6%). While his plate discipline peripherals improved a bit, his batting average and power dropped significantly — mainly attributable to a huge drop of BABIP, from .394 to .312. Because Coffey doesn’t have one glaring asset, combined with his struggles in his senior season, he fell to the 30th round in this year’s MLB Draft.

For the AZL Sox in 2018, Coffey slashed .275/.375/.333 over 19 games; upon being promoted to Great Falls, he hit .256/.340/.354. Coffey’s the type of player who is fundamentally sound and does the little things well. He committed just one error in 19 games at the hot corner, no errors in 16 games at first base, and no errors in five games at left. Coffey did commit an error in his one game at catcher, but it’s likely he’ll only be used in that role on an emergency basis. It’s safe to say that Coffey can play any position on the diamond without embarrassing himself in the process.

The problem is, Coffey doesn’t possess the power or speed to be a regular. He’s a classic utility player, and thus perfect for organizational depth. Because I have Kannapolis projected to begin the season with an infield including Corey Zangari, Amado Nunez, Lenyn Sosa, and Bryce Bush, with Ramon Beltre and Ryan Fitzpatrick as reserves, I see Coffey returning to Great Falls for 2019. However, he’ll likely be one of the first players called up when an Intimidator either gets promoted or injured.

Maiker Feliz
6´0´´
195 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Additional position: first base

If it seems like Feliz has been in the White Sox organization forever, you’re not far off. The White Sox signed the Bani, D.R. native to a $450,000 signing bonus in 2013, the same year they signed outfielder Micker Adolfo to an even heftier $1.6 million. While Adolfo may find himself in Birmingham this year, Feliz still finds himself lagging in the rookie leagues. While he hasn’t done enough to stand out to date, Feliz has shown enough flashes to still be interesting. In his five-year minor league career, he’s slashed .252/.353/.327, with a combined six homers, 92 RBIs, 100 walks and 182 strikeouts in 706 at-bats. Feliz looks bigger than his listed 195 pounds, so it’s a bit surprising he’s hit so few home runs. His mediocre production could be partly a result of sharing time with other young prospects; however, at 21, he’ll need to start producing fairly soon as he’s not far from the league-average age in Great Falls.

In 2018 with Great Falls, Feliz hit .240/.310/.333, with two homers, 14 RBIs, 12 walks (8.5%) and 35 strikeouts (24.7%) over 129 at-bats. He’s spent the vast majority of his time defensively at third base, and has suffered difficulties there: In 179 career games at the hot corner, he’s committed 62 errors. This year, Feliz made 11 errors in 29 games. Barring the White Sox drafting third basemen in the 2019 draft, he could be competing against utility men like the aforementioned Coffey, Galusky and Moniot for playing time. If Feliz is unsuccessful, it may be an even longer journey for him to win his long-awaited promotion. Felix is eligible for the Rule-5 Draft, but won’t be selected.


Arizona League White Sox

Jimmy Galusky
6´3´´
185 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 22
Additional positions: second base, shortstop

Galusky enjoyed a relatively mediocre career with the University of West Virginia. In his three years with the Mountaineers, he combined to slash .259/.330/.377 with 12 homers, 73 RBIs, 24 stolen bases, 53 walks (7.9%) and 142 strikeouts (21.2%) over 579 career at-bats. Perhaps because of his defensive versatility, Galusky was selected in the 20th round of this year’s MLB Draft.

Galusky started the season with Great Falls but struggled in 55 at-bats, with a slash line of .218/.283/.255 and no homers, four RBIs, three stolen bases, four walks (6.6%), and 13 strikeouts (21.3%). He fared much better after a demotion to the AZL White Sox, where Galusky slashed .388/.466/.510 over 49 at-bats, with one homer, seven RBIs, seven walks (12.1%) and nine strikeouts (15.5%). Galusky played 13 games at the hot corner, 10 at second base, and eight at short, and committed a total of six errors (four at third and two at short); his overall fielding percentages in small sample sizes at third and short were .846 and .857, respectively — not exactly Gold Glove material.

Despite Galusky’s nice results with the AZL Sox, Coffey has leapfrogged him as a prospect because he’s simply a better defensive player. Like Coffey, I project Galusky to begin the 2019 season with Great Falls as a utility infielder; however, it may take him longer than Coffey to earn a promotion to Kannapolis.

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Dominican Summer League White Sox

Bryan Ramos
6´2´´
190 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 17

Ramos signed a contract on this year’s International Signing Day for $300,000, the most the White Sox could offer. He’s considered a power-hitting third baseman, and will likely begin professional ball next year with the DSL White Sox as their starting third baseman.

Jorgen Rosas
5´9´´
160 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 21
Additional positions: right field, first base, second base, shortstop

Rosas was a bit of an anomaly with the DSL White Sox this year. For a team that seemingly made at least four errors a game, he committed only one error in nearly 525 innings of defensive play, covering five different positions. Unfortunately, Rosas has been playing for the DSL White Sox since signing a $380,000 signing bonus on August 29, 2014. This year, he slashed .220/.285/.273 in 245-at bats, with no homers, 15 RBIs, six stolen bases, 16 walks and 54 strikeouts. His career four-year slash line is similar: .226/.288/.297.

It’s easy to admire Rosas’ defense and his versatility; however, if he’s having difficulty hitting in the DSL, it’s difficult to fathom how he can make any kind of advancement in the system. This year, he was about 2.3 years older than the average DSL player; obviously, if he returns as expected, that differential will only increase. If he can find a way to hit better than .250 in 2019 for the DSL Sox, his defensive versatility may be enough to warrant a promotion to the States. However, since his career best of .242 occurred way back in 2015, don’t hold your breath.

Edwin Peralta
6´3´´
175 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 17
Additional position: second base, shortstop

A native of Francisco de Macoris, D.R., Peralta is another versatile, weak-hitting infielder who spent 2018 with the DSL White Sox. However, his defense isn’t quite as solid as solid as Rosas’. For the year, he committed 12 errors while playing three infield positions, with 72% of his time spent at the hot corner. This year, which was Peralta’s first season in the White Sox organization, he hit .193/.322/.234, with one homer, 18 RBIs, five stolen bases, 21 walks (12.0%) and 41 strikeouts (23.4%) in 145 at-bats. Though he struggled with the bat, he’s just 17, so he has significant time to improve. He likely will return to the DSL, but with power-hitting Bryan Ramos on the squad, most of the time spent will be via a utility role.

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Summary

The talent level at third base in the lower levels of the White Sox system is relatively weak. Burger’s progress was severely hindered due to his Achilles tears, and though Bush played well, he is still quite raw — especially defensively. Feliz hasn’t shown enough to advance in the system, Ramos has yet to play a game in the organization, and the rest are basically utility infielders until proven otherwise. In my individual rankings for these guys, it’s hard to judge Ramos (who’s yet to play, and I have no information regarding him other than he hits for power) and Burger (who didn’t play at all in 2018).

Hitting: Bush, Burger, Coffey, Galusky, Feliz, Ramos, Cruz, Rosas, Peralta

Power: Burger, Bush, Ramos, Feliz, Coffey, Cruz, Galusky, Peralta, Rosas

Speed: Bush, Cruz, Peralta, Coffey, Galusky, Rosas, Feliz, Burger, Ramos

Defense: Rosas, Coffey, Cruz, Burger, Galusky, Peralta, Feliz, Bush, Ramos

Overall: Burger, Bush, Ramos, Feliz, Cruz, Coffey, Galusky, Rosas, Peralta