The last minor league preview of the summer focuses on the Arizona League White Sox. If you want to feel old, just take a look at the roster. The team has six players that were born in 2000. Harold Baines would not be happy these guys never saw him play.
Most of the team is compromised of high school draft picks and international signees. The 2018 prep picks are Lency Delgado, Cabera Weaver, Kelvin Maldonado and Gabriel Ortiz. However, some 2018 college draft picks are sprinkled in, like Luke Shilling, Rigo Fernandez, Devon Perez, Tyrus Greene, Austin Conway, Taylor Varnell, Aaron Soto and Micah Coffey.
This preview might be a little ageist, but on a team where the best players are supposed to be teenagers or just turned 20, anybody over 21 is not a true prospect.
Promotions from Arizona to Great Falls are not out of the ordinary, but they are usually reserved for returning players, and those players almost never make it as far as Kannapolis. But without further ado, here are Chicago’s youngest (and furthest from the South Side) prospects.
Bryan Herrera is the youngest of the bunch on the pitching side. Herrera turned 20 in April, and is in his second season with the White Sox. Last season in the Dominican League, Herrera pitched in 68 2⁄3 innings, mostly as a starting pitcher. He had a 2.62 ERA, with 47 strikeouts and 17 walks. The strikeouts are not eye-popping, but his control (2.23 BB/9) is a reason why he spent only one year in the DSL.
Ramon Pineda is the next of the young pitchers. He is on the same track as Herrera, spending only one year in the Dominican. His best trait also mirrors Hererra’s, in that he is a control pitcher. In 67 innings, all as a starter, Pineda had a 3.76 ERA, with 46 strikeouts along with 18 walks. Those walks translate to a 2.42 BB/9, and for pitcher who was just 19 in 2017, that control is impressive.
Neither of these pitchers are likely to be promoted to Great Falls, since it is their first season stateside.
Well, Kleyder Sanchez was found! Baseball America seemed to believe Sanchez would play in the Dominican again, but his performance in 2017 got the White Sox’s attention. He did not show much power last year, with no home runs and only six doubles in 155 at-bats. However, he still slashed .342/.383/.381 in the DSL, with 24 strikeouts and five walks. He is in his age-18 season, so another promotion would be unexpected this year.
Catcher is a deep position on this team. Jose Colina is entering his second season in the United States. He spent two unsuccessful seasons in the Dominican, with batting averages at .187 and .188. The 20-year-old slashed .327/.367/.436 in 16 games last season. It was a small sample size, but it was positive. Like Sanchez, Colina has not shown much power (only 10 extra-base hits in 79 games in his career) but he does strike out a little less than once a game. A 2018 college draft pick, Ty Greene, may get the first chance at promotion, but Colina should be the second option should a need for a catcher arise in Great Falls.
Sam Abbott was a high school draft pick in the eighth round last year. He played first base the entire season in Arizona, but could not find success at the plate. He slashed .225/.344/.275, with no home runs in 102 at-bats. He showed good patience at the plate with 17 walks, but he did add 38 strikeouts. The lefty was much better against right-handed pitching, as he slashed .238/.356/.298 and hit all five of his extra-base knocks. Since he was in Arizona last season, if a first base option opens up in Great Falls, Abbott would be considered for a promotion.
Harvin Mendoza is a 19-year-old first baseman out of Venezuela. Like Abbott, Mendoza showed a good batting eye, without power, in his time in the DSL. In 441 at-bats in 2016 and 2017, he slashed .281/.389/.358, with two home runs and 28 extra-base hits. He did show better command of the plate, with 78 walks and just 76 strikeouts, but the lack of power at first base is concerning. He is six-foot-two and 185 pounds, so he could add to his frame for more power, but not to any relevant level. Mendoza should spend the season in Arizona.
The two notable international free-agent signings are in Arizona for their first season. Camilo Quinteiro most recently played in Cuba and is one of AZL’s older hitters, at 21, so a promotion could happen this season. The other free-agent is Sydney Pimentel, who is currently on the DL, but at just 17 a promotion does not seem likely.
The outfield is a young group. All the outfielders are 18 years old, and three of the five were born in 2000. Josue Guerrero received the biggest bonus (per Baseball America), at $1.1 million. However, his one year in the DSL was nothing to be proud of. He is only 18, so he is raw as a player; but with a bonus like that, the Sox clearly believe in Guerrero’s hitting upside. Is it because his uncle is Vladimir Guerrero? The nephew slashed .222/.290/.348, with five homers and 18 extra-base hits in 201 at-bats. He also added 16 walks with 54 strikeouts, and was five-for-five in stolen base attempts. He should stick with AZL this season.
Luis Mieses was signed in the same international period as Guerrero and was only slotted a couple spots back on Baseball America’s rankings at the time. He is left-handed and is listed as a center fielder. He is the youngest of the the bunch, as he turned 18 only three weeks ago. Right now he is six-foot-three and 180 pounds, so he should fill out and probably move to left. Last season in the DSL, Mieses slashed .263/.302/.320, with no homers and 11 extra-base hits. He was able to get more contact overall than Guerrero, with only 42 strikeouts in 59 games, but only 10 walks.
The important thing to remember about this team is that these guys are not only not yet ready as baseball players, but they also are teenagers, so some could still be growing and filling out their frame. Many are also in the U.S. for the first time, and that in itself can be an obstacle. For the kids that stay in the AZL, it is not just about baseball ability so don’t read too much into the statistics of teenagers — especially the international teenagers — at this level.