The AZL White Sox finished their season at 30-26 and ended the second half 16-12, one game back of first. And yes, they did have a game postponed by a sandstorm. For many players, AZL was a stepping stone to a promotion, whether it was a rehab assignment or a brief stint to get rookies acclimated to professional life.
Draft picks from 2018 Nick Madrigal, Steele Walker, Konnor Pilkington, Davis Martin, Jimmy Galusky, Micah Coffey, Devon Perez and Bryce Bush all had abbreviated stops in Arizona before moving on to Great Falls and, for some, even farther.
Ian Clarkin, Ryan Cordell, Luis Robert and Zack Burdi all had rehab assignments in Arizona, and Burdi even finished the season there. The closer threw just 6 1⁄3 innings, but any innings for him are progress. He did not have full command, which is expected, but look for him to take a bigger step in the Arizona Fall League.
Meanwhile, some players actually stayed in Arizona for the duration of their season.
Among the backstops were two 2018 draft picks and two international signees. Ty Greene (16th round) and Gabriel Ortiz (19th round) were the picks, and Greene took the majority of the at-bats. Ortiz rarely played compared to the other three catchers because he was drafted out of high school; for him, next year will be a big developmental year. For Greene, who was of the older players on the team, it was now or never, and he did well, slashing .313/.403/.367 and even stealing three bags. He walked (17) more than he struck out (14), but did not show much behind the plate, allowing 35 stolen bases on 42 attempts.
Kleyder Sanchez and Jose Colina were the international signees who saw time behind the plate. They did not play much either, and did not do well with their time. Sanchez had a great season in the DSL in 2017, but fell apart when he came to the States. He slashed .091/.197/.132, for a wRC+ of 9. He did walk more often and strike out less in his 63 plate appearances in Arizona, but he could not get enough good contact. Jose Colina was much of the same, as he ended his season with a 44 wRC+.
Harvin Mendoza ran the show at first base, with Sam Abbott filling in from time to time. Third base was mostly a revolving door of players who eventually were promoted, including Coffey, Galusky and Bush.
Mendoza will be 20 when the season starts next year, so he still has time to add weight, but for now, it seems the Sox have a contact first baseman on their hands. He has hit just two home runs in a career that started out in the DSL in 2016, and none came in 2018. However, Mendoza slashed .314/.381/.409. His walks were cut in half in Arizona, but so were the strikeouts, both at 7.7% of his plate appearances.
Sam Abbott, last season’s eighth round pick, provided some needed pop at first base. He had three home runs, which tied for the team lead, but those made up 30% of his hits. Abbott slashed .139/.347/.306 on the year, and simply does not make enough contact. His 18.9% walk rate is phenomenal, but his 34.7% K-rate is atrocious. But, Abbott does not even have 60 games under his professional belt and seems to have a decent eye and power — he just needs to find the ball more often.
Second and short was a mix of the same guys. Camilo Quinteiro played mostly second, but found himself at third and short as well. Kelvin Maldonado split time between the two middle infield positions, and Lency Delgado was exclusively a shortstop. Nobody’s defense can be judged this early in their careers, especially when it comes to high school draft picks, but Maldonado and Delgado both seem like they need some work in the field.
Maldonado and Delgado also had some struggles at the plate in their first season out of high school. Delgado slashed .233/.309/.301, with just one home run. The 2018 fourth round pick also had a bit of a strikeout problem, getting punched out in 26.7% of his plate appearances compared to just a 6% walk rate. Maldonado did not fare much better. He slashed .150/.184/.167, for an abysmal 6 wRC+. He barely walked, with only four in 128 plate appearances, and struck out 31 times in 38 games.
Quinteiro had a much better season, his first since being signed from Cuba. He slashed .286/.436/.320 and showed great speed as he stole 11-of-13 bases. His walk rate was very promising at 18.9%, though he should work on his 20.5% K-rate. Quinteiro is not going to hit a lot of home runs, and because he is 21, he will probably not add more to his build. He should be ready for full-season baseball next year, at 22.
The outfield was, well, very young. The three main contributors, Cabera Weaver, Luis Mieses and Anderson Comas, were all 18 this year.
Weaver and Mieses split time between center and left, and led the team in games played. Weaver had an average first half-season. He was able to show his speed, as he was 8-of-9 in stolen base attempts and had three triples. He legged out a few singles as well. He had a 10% walk rate, which is positive, but the youngster also struck out in almost 30% of his plate appearances. Luis Mieses is only three months removed from his 18th birthday, and proved to have some future in his first season in the States. He started out the season very well, with a batting average at .284 through the first three weeks, but he faltered as the season went on. He finished his season with a 57 wRC+. However, while switching off in center and left with Weaver, Mieses had eight assists — not too shabby.
Meanwhile, Comas was exclusively in right field. The reason why Comas is so interesting is because he is six-foot-three and has the hit tool already; if he can add build, he can be a hell of a lefty bat. He slashed .306/.339/.388 in the AZL this season. He did not show much pop yet, with fewer than 10 extra-base hits. He does not have as big of a strikeout problem as the other 18-year-olds, but he does not walk much, either. For what it is worth, all three outfielders are years away.
Since it is the AZL, pitchers who are older than 21 are not really prospects. For starting pitching, Brayan Herrera and Yordi Rosario stand out. Herrera is not by any means a strikeout pitcher (therefore probably not power pitcher), but he has a low walk rate, at just 2.38 BB/9. He also allows a lot of ground balls: Almost 60% of his batted balls are grounders, with only 23% fly balls. That seems to be a lot of weak contact for Herrera, helping him earn a 3.40 FIP.
Rosario has been around since 2016, and he finally got his taste of Stateside baseball after a mid-season promotion from the DSL. He only pitched in 26 1⁄3 innings in Arizona, but they were effective. He has a K/9 at 10.59 and a BB/9 at 2.73. He had a FIP of 4.11, because it seems he got hit hard. He allowed mostly fly balls (43.8%) and a career-high in home runs per nine. With that many fly balls and homers, a 43.2% pull rate does not look good, either. What Rosario has is command that most 19-year-old pitchers do not, and that can be honed in to induce weaker contact as the years go on.
Hunter Kiel and Rigo Fernandez are about the only relief pitchers in Arizona to keep an eye on for now. Fernandez was a 24th round pick in 2018, and settled in as a closer later in the season. The lefty converted all eight save chances, with a 3.71 FIP. He does walk too many batters, at 3.74 per nine, but he was able to strike out enough hitters to weather any trouble on the bases. It also helps to have a .172 batting average against.
Kiel, meanwhile, was a bit of an adventure. He had a 17.47 K/9 (wow), but a 10.59 BB/9 (equally wow). Even more surprising, both of those numbers actually improved if compared to last year. Kiel will need to take a massive step forward with his control next season to be a viable option, as he definitely has the stuff to be a big league reliever. He also induced a .076 batting average against, but still had a WHIP of 1.41. Walks are not good.
Many of the AZL White Sox will stay in short season rookie ball because of age. These guys are far from being finished products, and it will take another two years to know which ones can make a serious impact on an MLB ball club. But once the playoff window comes around for the Sox, these players here and in Great Falls will start filling in gaps by themselves, or through trades.