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Deep Dive: White Sox Rookie League First Basemen

The future looks bright for at least a couple of the youngsters here.

Wilfred Veras had a monster debut in 2021.
Sean Williams/South Side Sox

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Welcome to another year of Deep Dive, where we analyze the past, present and future for each position in the White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five parts:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Arizona)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
  5. Free agent options

The White Sox are loaded at first base presently with José Abreu, Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets — not to mention other guys who could play the position, like Yasmani Grandal and Zack Collins. Presently, however, there are no organizational Top 30 prospects who man the position, at least per MLB Pipeline.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the organization is devoid of talent. Below are the first basemen who finished the year in the ACL (Arizona Complex League) and DSL (Dominican Summer League).

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

ACL White Sox

Wilfred Veras
180 pounds
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: R/R
Other positions played: Third Base

Veras, like many players in the White Sox system, is part of an athletic family. Not only is he the son of former Red Sox corner infielder Wilton Veras, he is also the nephew of former Cardinal infielder Fernando Tatís (which of course means that he’s the cousin of both Fernando Jr. and fellow Sox farmhand Elijah). Veras’ signing was relatively unheralded on 2019’s International Signing Day, as he was overshadowed by the signings of Yolbert Sánchez, Cristian Mena and the aforementioned Elijah Tatís. Several scouts gave him a power grade of 55, and he was set to begin ball in 2020, but of course, didn’t play due to Covid-19.

Veras struggled out of the gate with the AZL Sox this year, as he slashed just .195/.377/.441 in June. However, things really clicked for him once the calendar flipped to July. How does .387/.450/.632 sound the rest of the way? For the entire year, Veras slashed .322/.416/.533 with 16 doubles, two triples, four homers, 21 walks (11.8%), 42 strikeouts (23.6%) and 147 wRC+. He actually fared better against righties (.339/.424/.556) than southpaws (.250/.382/.429).

Beginning the year at third base, which is considered his more natural position, Veras switched midseason to first base to make room for newcomer Wes Kath. In 31 combined games defensively, he did commit eight errors (five at third, three at first) but he’s expected to be more fluid with additional experience.

Expect this youngster to begin the 2022 campaign with Kannapolis. In the meantime, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some prospect lists move Veras into the team’s Top 30 prospect lists during this offseason.

Sam Abbott
225 pounds
Age: 22
Bats/Throws: L/R
2020 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 88
2021 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 89

A three-time state MVP in water polo at Curtis High School in University Place, Wash., Abbott had a partial scholarship to stay on that path at Long Beach State. But in the spring of 2017 — the spring he thought would be his last for competitive baseball — he batted .438 (21-for-61) with eight doubles, two home runs and 18 RBIs to earn an eighth round draft selection by the White Sox. That year with the AZL White Sox, Abbott got off to a good start and showed good patience at the plate. However, he struggled making contact, which caused him to slash just .225/.344/.275 with 17 walks (13.8%) and 38 strikeouts (30.9%) in 102 at-bats.

Abbott got off to an extremely difficult start with the AZL White Sox in 2018, but salvaged his season somewhat as he found his power late in the season. Overall, though, he slashed just .139/.347/.306 in 72 at-bats with three doubles, three homers, nine RBIs, 18 walks (18.9%) and 33 strikeouts (34.7%) in 72 at-bats. In 2019 with Great Falls, Abbott still fanned far too frequently, but started making harder contact. In 58 games and 181 at-bats with the Voyagers, he slashed .238/.355/.459 while producing 13 doubles, nine homers, 27 RBIs, 26 walks (12.0%) and 79 strikeouts (36.4%). He hit .212/.350/.455 against lefties and fared a bit better versus righties (.243/.356/.450).

In his 14 games for Kannapolis this year after 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic, Abbott slumped badly with a .119/.339/.190 line with a homer, 14 walks (25.0%), 30 strikeouts (53.6%) and 72 wRC+. While he did fare better after the demotion to the ACL squad, the results were still mildly disappointing for Abbott, as he slashed just .171/.273/.324 with four homers, 13 walks and 58 strikeouts in 35 games. Combined with both teams, Abbott slashed .157/.293/.288 with five doubles, five homers, 27 walks (13.9%) and 88 strikeouts (47.8%).

Abbott does have a great degree of patience for someone so young, as he’s walked 14% of the time during his professional career; however, that patience has also led him to strike out nearly half of the time. He was more than two years older than the league average in Arizona, so it doesn’t make sense for him to repeat the season there again. If Abbott plays at Kannapolis next year, it would likely be as a DH, as Wilfred Veras may be manning first base. The White Sox may simply decide to let Abbott take his chances via minor league free agency, but the hope is there for great power if he could find a way to shorten his swing and/or learn to recognize pitches better.

Franklin Reyes
205 pounds
Age: 23
Bats/Throws: R/R

Reyes was an outfielder when the White Sox gave him a $1.5 million signing bonus in 2015. The Dominican native, whose brother Franmil plays for Cleveland, was actually given a 70 grade for power — higher than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the time. Unfortunately, Reyes also came with a 30 grade hit tool per MLB, while Baseball America described his approach as being “aggressive, raw, with a lot of swing-and-miss, especially against breaking pitches,” and they called his swing “long and loopy.”

Reyes’ first professional season (2016) saw him slash just .171/.189/.251 in 217 at-bats with the AZL White Sox, as he hit 10 doubles, two triples, one homer, and 16 RBIs while walking just five times (2.3%) and striking out 71 (32.7%). Reyes played in Great Falls the following year, and although his stats did improve, he still produced disappointing results: .249/.270/.361 in 241 at-bats with 12 doubles five homers, 34 RBIs, five walks (2.0%) and 68 strikeouts (27.2%).

Unfortunately, Reyes has missed the past three seasons due to back injuries (and missed 2020 due to Covid-19). If he’s healthy in 2022, expect Reyes to return to Arizona and hopefully tap into his immense potential. It’s unclear if he will return to baseball, but if he does, his best role may be as a designated hitter. Like Abbott, Reyes needs to cut down on his whiffs. Unlike Abbott, he also needs to focus on being more patient at the plate.

DSL White Sox

Dario Borrero
190 pounds
Age: 18
Bats/Throws: L/L
Other positions played: Left field, Right field

At his age (well, any age, really), Borrero is a large individual. The Venezuela native was signed by Marco Paddy to a minor league contract, and Paddy had this to say about him: “He’s going to have a lot of power. The intriguing thing about him is he can hit line-to-line. He handles pitchers, goes the other way when he has to, reads the breaking ball very well. He’s a very impressive kid. You normally don’t see Venezuelan players that tall with that kind of swing, being left-handed.”

In five games totaling 16 at-bats, Borrero slashed an impressive .357/.438/.429 with a double, two stolen bases, a walk and two strikeouts. Unfortunately, he missed the season from July 20 on due to an undisclosed injury. Providing the injury doesn’t limit his range going forward, Borrero could be a versatile first baseman who could play both corner spots. Even with the extremely small sample size, it’s easy to project Borrero onto the ACL roster next year. However, it’s possible the organization may have him return to the DSL instead.

Carlos Jiménez
220 pounds
Age: 20
Bats/Throws: L/L
Other positions played: Left field

Like the aforementioned Borrero, Carlos Jiménez is also a large man who has the versatility to play left field. However, in his first taste of professional ball this year, he struggled for the DSL squad. For the year, Jiménez slashed .206/.319/.324 despite being a year older than the league average. To give him credit, he was willing to take the free pass (13.3%) while also keeping his strikeouts down to 15%. Jiménez had the athleticism to be successful in all four of his stolen base attempts, and has the projectable build to hit for more power. His offensive production would seem to indicate a return to the DSL, while the organization may want to have its Stateside coaches work on helping Jiménez reach his potential.

Alberto Bernal
215 pounds
Age: 19
Bats/Throws: R/R

Bernal, a native of Cuba, received a $250,000 signing bonus as he was selected by the White Sox on 2018’s International Signing Day. Recognized as a young man with power potential, he received his first game action that year but scuffled to the tune of .167/.361/.270 in 43 games with five doubles, a triple, two homers, 16 RBIs, 33 walks (19.4%) and 55 strikeouts (32.4%). His high walk rate indicates a promising degree of patience for someone so young.

However, after a pandemic a year off, Bernal struggled out of the gate for the DSL squad and never fully recovered. Playing sporadically over the course of 22 games, Bernal slashed .169/.269/.305 with two doubles, two homers, five walks (7.4%), 28 strikeouts (41.2%) and a decrease in wRC+ from 95 to 65. Despite the fairly sizable signing bonus, it’s difficult to see him being promoted Stateside until he cuts down the strikeouts while also improving his average. Certainly the inconsistent playing time didn’t help, but Bernal also needs to find a way to earn it when he does receive the opportunity.

Juan Mercedes
190 pounds
Age: 21
Bats/Throws: R/R
Left field, Right field

A native of the Dominican Republic, Mercedes (no relation to Yermín) signed with the Sox on Sept. 4, 2018. He struggled a bit in his first taste of professional ball with the DSL Sox in 2019, as he slashed just .223/.316/.288 in 41 games with 16 walks (10.1,%), 33 strikeouts (20.9%) and 78 wRC+. Mercedes continued to struggle with the DSL squad in even less playing time in 2021, after the pandemic-cancelled season, as he slashed just .171/.352/.186; however, his wRC+ jumped slightly to 80 because he increased his walk ratio to 15.4% while reducing his strikeouts to 17.6%. It’s unclear what Mercedes’ role will be in 2022.