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2018 Glendale Desert Dogs season recap

Luis Robert and Zach Thompson made big splashes, while a few prospects ran out of gas

Ran Out of Laz: Rivera [above, with coach Charles Poe] gutted through the AFL, but it was a tough end to his longest pro season.
Kim Contreras (@Cu_As)/South Side Sox

The Glendale Desert Dogs did not start or finish the season well, en routed to a 12-18 finish. The Chicago White Sox prospects on the roster were up and down all around, as some looked the part, others seemed gassed, and a few might be interesting names come Rule 5 draft time.

Luis Robert: .324/.367/.432, 2 HR, 5 SB, 13 K

Robert showed a little bit of everything. His power: (this video will never get old)

and speed

He looked every bit of the top prospect the Sox thought they signed for $25 million and then some because of tax (sorry, Jerry). He received rave reviews from scouts and spectators alike, as his tools proved to be very toolsy. Though he was much more “fresh” compared to teammates like Laz Rivera and Luis Basabe who played full regular seasons, a successful month in Arizona for Robert is nothing to sneeze at. He even had a 14-game hitting streak, the longest such AFL streak in four years. Robert should start next year in Winston-Salem and get up to Birmingham by the All-Star break.

Luis Basabe: .180/.333/.180, 4 SB, 16 K

Basabe had a tough time this fall, and he probably was going to anyway after playing a career-high 134 games, 27 more than in 2017. He showed no power, but his plate approach translated well. He walked 12 times in 15 games while averaging a little more than a strikeout per game. Both of those statistics translate to a higher walk rate and lower strikeout rate in 2019. Basabe’s AFL run was not as successful as Robert’s, but the arrow should still be pointing up for Basabe.

Laz Rivera: .215/.271/.246, 1 SB, 14 K

Rivera had a similar time in Arizona as he did with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. He did not walk much (only three times), and struck out less than once a game. Rivera just did not show the pop he did over the spring and summer. There were some reports, notably from Chuck Garfien, that Rivera’s fielding and arm were showing, which goes against some of MLB Pipeline’s defensive concerns. Rivera made an even bigger workload jump than Basabe, playing a career-high 141 games, after playing just 47 games in 2017, the year he was drafted. Rivera’s performance isn’t all due to fatigue, as the AFL has much better pitching overall than a normal high-A team; likely, Rivera was out of his element after his breakout 2018 year.

Zach Thompson: 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 13 13 IP, 15 K, 6 BB, 3 saves

Thompson will probably not climb onto the White Sox 40-man roster, but he went out and made the decision a little harder for the front office. One of the 29 other teams will probably have a shot at Thompson come the Rule 5 draft, and Thompson proved he deserves a 40-man slot, somewhere. After a year with a combined 1.55 ERA in A+ and AA, Thompson added a 2.70 ERA stint in Arizona. He also showed he could close down the ninth inning, as he converted all three of his save chances. The former starter relished in his time as a reliever in 2018. The walks in the AFL were still a touch high, but an ever-improving K-rate should help Thompson’s case. It will certainly be a loss for the Sox should he leave.

Tanner Banks: 4.43 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 22 13 IP, 10 K, 5 BB

Not a stellar time in the AFL for Banks. Though he did have a career high in innings pitched in 2018, it was only by nine innings. In reality, Banks is just not that good. He rarely walks hitters, but has had trouble finding a strikeout pitch and lives off of contact. Since the AFL has a better hitting crop, he got tagged by batters a little more than during the regular season. Banks’s 4.43 ERA is the second-highest of his career, and the 1.57 WHIP is the highest.

Danny Dopico: 6.57 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 12 13, 15 K, 12 BB

Dopico, a late addition to the White Sox’s AFL roster, probably wishes he wasn’t. After having a good year with Winston-Salem (mostly relieving) with a 2.98 ERA, the 24 year-old fell flat in Arizona. He seemed to lose all command, as he just about had one walk an inning. Whenever a hitter did make contact, it seemed to always land as a hit. If there were advanced stats on the AFL, they would probably look more favorably on Dopico’s time there. However, he is still a long way from any major league appearances.