The Chicago White Sox were officially able to sign five international players to 2020 contracts earlier this week (with the announcements coming out on Monday), with Cuban shortstop Yolbert Sánchez and Dominican Republic third baseman Elijah Tatis the headliners. Sánchez is noted to be an excellent glove man, while Tatis is considered more advanced with the bat.
Other new White Sox prospects include third sacker Wilfred Veras (see his family connections below), along with pitchers Christian Mena and Erick Bello.
Tatis actually signed for $500,000 back in April 11, as reported by ESPN’s Jesse Sanchez, but it wasn’t official until today because at that time, the maximum bonus for the Sox was limited to $300,000 due to the restrictions imposed upon the team after signing Luis Robert.
Sanchez noted that Tatis possesses a strong and accurate arm, and has impressed scouts with the way the ball jumps off his bat, as well as his ability to square up fastballs. Tatis will likely begin his career in the Dominican Summer League, on the very White Sox affiliate his brother would’ve played on in 2016 if not for his unfortunate trade to the San Diego Padres.
A club representative told Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that ”Elijah is more like his father than his brother as a player,” and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for Elijah to be like his dad — Tatis St. hit 113 homers in an 11-year career, with his career year of 1999 for the St. Louis Cardinals saw him slash .298/.404/.553 with 31 doubles, 34 homers, 103 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and 82 walks.
Sánchez, who turned 22 in March, was eligible to sign as early as February 5 this year. But he ultimately decided to wait until International Day to sign, when more teams (like the White Sox) had more moolah to spend. This turned out to be a wise move for Sánchez, as the White Sox inked him for a cool $2.5 million.
Per the White Sox, the 5´11´´, 175-pound, right-handed-hitting shortstop hit .297 with eight doubles, four triples, one home run, 36 RBIs and 58 runs in 128 games over three seasons in the Cuba Serie Nacional from 2015-18.
Known for his elite defense, Sánchez’s polished glove might be ready for the big leagues now. According to scouts, he can spray the ball from “line to line” and is considered a line-drive hitter. He ultimately projects to hit eight to 10 home runs per season in the majors. Sanchez is also known for his average- to slightly above-average arm and running ability. Scouts also like his game instincts and track record.
Sánchez was the starting shortstop for the Havana Industriales and was projected to be the starting shortstop for the island’s national team before his defection last summer. He was the starting shortstop for Cuba’s 23U team in Panama and was a teammate of White Sox prospect Luis Robert on the country’s 18U team.
Sánchez ranked fifth among international prospects in last year’s MLB Pipeline, and was graded 65 for fielding, 55 for his run and arm tools, and 45 for his hit and power tools. Expect Sánchez to rise quickly through the White Sox system due to his age, with him very well beginning the 2020 season at Kannapolis.
Sánchez was ranked 18th in this year’s international class by FanGraphs, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become the top Sox shortstop prospect when their new rankings come out later this month.
Below is a video of some vintage Sánchez defensive highlights:
The White Sox have a total of $5,398.300 to spend on international talent through June 15 of next year — gone are the days of the $300,000 maximum imposed on them over the past couple of years after signing Luis Robert in 2017. The White Sox could also decide to trade a portion of their bonus money, as they’ve done recently in trades for Yeyson Yrizarri, Ryan Burr, Thyago Vieira and Caleb Frare. However, this is less likely now that the Sox again have free reign to spend on more premium prospects. As it is, even after today’s signings, the White Sox will have well more than $1.5 million to spend on international talent for the next 11 1⁄2 months. Perhaps another Benyamin Bailey could be found?
The Sox signed three additional players on Monday, none of whom are nearly as well known as Sanchez and Tatis.
Among them is another Dominican third base prospect, who just so happens to be the son of a former major leaguer: Wilfred Veras, son of former Boston Red Sox third baseman Wilton Veras. Veras signed for $200,000, and not only is Veras the son of a major leaguer, he also happens to be a nephew of Fernando Tatis himself. Gotta love those family connections! Francys Romero of MLB believes Veras has 55-grade power, which is quite impressive for someone who’s yet to turn 17.
Other signees include two 16-year-old right-handers, Erick Bello and the lanky Cristian Mena. Mena looks to have quite an impressive hook as seen below, courtesy of Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Mena, who already stands 6´6´´, signed for $250,000.
International scouting is an inexact science, to say the least. Most available athletes are just 16 to 18 years of age when signed, so projections are difficult. After all, it can take six or seven years to see what a player that young can accomplish. To a player, such prospects are raw, so it will take significant time for them to reach their initial projections, if ever. Many of these talented players will be leaving their homes for the very first time, forced to adjust to entirely different cultures while also trying to learn English, all in the midst of refining their baseball skills. Throw in the fact that the vast majority of international signings begin their pro careers at the very lowest possible minor league level, so to be successful they have to eventually pass through or leapfrog six different squads during their minor league careers just to taste the majors.
It’s a daunting task, which explains why only Yolmer Sánchez (2009) and Jose Abreu (2013) are the only original White Sox international signings currently on the roster.
Aside from Abreu, the most successful international signing since Marco Paddy became Chicago’s international scouting director in 2012 has been a certain NL West shortstop plying his trade with San Diego. (Insert teeth gnash here.)
The following is a list of White Sox international signings who are currently playing minor league ball stateside, with their ages as of July 1:
- Luis Robert (OF) — Birmingham (2017, from Cuba) — 21
- Micker Adolfo (OF) — Birmingham (2013, from the Dominican Republic) — 22
- Luis Martinez (RHRP) — Birmingham (2011, from Venezuela) — 24
- Carlos Perez (C) — Winston-Salem (2014, from Venezuela) — 22
- Luis Ledo (RHRP) — Winston-Salem (2012, from the Dominican Republic) — 24
- Kevin Escorcia (LHRP) — Winston-Salem (2012, from Colombia) — 24
- Lenyn Sosa (SS) — Kannapolis (2016, from Venezuela) — 19
- Jhoandro Alfaro (C) — Kannapolis (2014, from Colombia) — 21
- Amado Nuñez (1B) — Kannapolis (2014, from the Dominican Republic) — 21
- Ramon Beltre (2B) — Kannapolis (2013, from the Dominican Republic) — 22
- Johan Cruz (3B) — Kannapolis (2012, from the Dominican Republic) — 23
- Harvin Mendoza (1B) — Great Falls (2016, from Venezuela) — 20
- Camilo Quinteiro (2B) — Great Falls (2017, from the Dominican Republic) — 22
- Luis Mieses (OF) — Great Falls (2016, from the Dominican Republic) — 19
- Anderson Comas (OF) — Great Falls (2016, from the Dominican Republic) — 19
- Ramon Pineda (RHRP) — Great Falls (2016, from the Dominican Republic) — 21
- Brayan Herrera (RHRP) — Great Falls (2016, from the Dominican Republic) — 21
- Felix Mercedes (RHRP) — Great Falls (2014, from the Dominican Republic) — 22
- Kleyder Sanchez (C) — Great Falls (2016, from Venezuela) — 19
- Franklin Reyes (1B) — Great Falls (2015, from the Dominican Republic) — 20
- Brayant Nova (2B) — Great Falls (2015, from the Dominican Republic) — 20
- Jose Rodriguez (SS) — AZL White Sox — (2018, from the Dominican Republic) — 18
- Harold Diaz (2B) — AZL White Sox — (2018, from Cuba) — 19
- Josue Guerrero (OF) — AZL White Sox — (2016, from the Dominican Republic) — 19
- Anthony Coronado (OF) — AZL White Sox — (2017, from Venezuela) — 19
- Yoelvin Silven (RHRP) — AZL White Sox — (2017, from the Dominican Republic) — 20
- Samil Polanco (SS) — AZL White Sox — (2018, from the Dominican Republic) — 19
- Sidney Pimental (SS) — AZL White Sox (2017, from the Dominican Republic) — 17
- Hector Acosta (LHSP) — AZL White Sox (2016, from the Dominican Republic) — 20
- Bryan Ramos (3B) — AZL White Sox (2018, from Cuba) — 17
International players aren’t just filling out rosters on the affiliates. Many are making a nice impact (stats through June 30):
- Robert: .356/.407/.630 with 20 2B, 6 3B, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 24 SB in 281 AB — the No. 1 White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline
- Adolfo: .205/.337/.295 with 7 2B and 9 RBI; season cut short due to injury in 78 AB — No. 7 Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline
- Sosa: .234/.276/.358 with 23 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 29 RBI and 4 SB in 299 AB — No. 29 Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline and 2.5 years younger than league average
- Mieses: .341/.372/.415 with 3 2B, 7 RBI and 2 BB in 41 AB— No. 30 Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline
- Ledo: 3-1, 8 SV, 2.43 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 29.2 IP, 23 H, 26 K
- Mendoza: .250/.389/.455, 3 2B, 8 BB, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 44 AB
- Quinteiro: .355/.429/.355 with 5 RBI, 4 BB and 1 SB in 31 AB
- Pineda: 1-0, 0 SV, 1.93 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 4.2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 5 K
- Rodriguez: .325/.357/.700 with 3 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB, 2 BB in 40 AB
- Ramos: .316/.400/.500 with 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, and 6 BB in 38 AB
- Silven: 0-0, 0 SV, 2.19 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 13 K
It looks like Robert will have the opportunity to make it to the majors by early 2020 if not sooner, with Adolfo not too far behind if he can finally stay healthy. It’ll be interesting to see which of the above players (including July’s signings and the current Dominican roster) will eventually join Sánchez and Abreu in the major league fraternity.
Speaking of the Dominican roster, we should be expecting big things from such players as Bailey, Johnabiell Laureano, Jefferson Mendoza and Ronaldo Guzman next year, as they’re absolutely killing it in the early going this year.