“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 five parts:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican and Arizona)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
- Free agent options
Right field has long been an area of concern — especially since the White Sox began their most recent rebuild. Many an outfielder has tried to patrol that area, but names like Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico, Nomar Mazara and Adam Eaton were at best stopgaps and at worst failures unable to produce consistently positive outcomes since that time.
Unfortunately, due to injuries or under-performance, the minor league system hasn’t produced anyone as yet to fill the hole, either. While Gavin Sheets did fill in nicely last year, he’s by no means a sure thing. The White Sox currently have three right fielders among its Top 30 — the most such players of any outfield position. Will these, or any of the under-the-radar types, be the long-term answer to a question that has long perplexed the organization?
Below are the organization’s right fielders who finished the season at either the Arizona Complex League (ACL) or Dominican League (DSL).
Ages below are as of April 1, 2022
ACL White Sox
Other positions played: LF, CF
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 65
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 62
A native of San Pedro de Macris in the Dominican Republic (arguably the most famous baseball community in the world), Laureano received an international signing bonus from the White Sox in February 2018. In his first taste of baseball later that year, at about nine months younger than his average competitor, he slashed just .220/.329/.262 in 65 games with nine doubles, 13 RBIs, four stolen bases, 31 walks (12.3%), 54 strikeouts (21.4%) and 84 wRC+.
Laureano’s 2019 was a much different story in his return to the DSL, as he hit an impressive .357/.437/.543 in 59 games with 15 doubles, three triples, six homers, 36 RBIs, six stolen bases, 28 walks (11.4%), 43 strikeouts (17.5%) and 167 wRC+. His OPS that year was better than everyone in the Sox organization not named Luis Robert, and he did it while performing in the shadow of the highly-esteemed Benyamín Bailey. Unfortunately, Laureano couldn’t build upon that success in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown.
After a two-year layoff, Laureano began this season with Kannapolis but struggled miserably, as he slashed just .158/.304/.158 in 15 games with six walks, 14 strikeouts and 50 wRC+. He did perform better after being demoted to the ACL squad, but still was nowhere close to the level he showed in 2019. For the ACL Sox this year, Laureano slashed .255/.321/.338 in 41 games with three homers and a 78 wRC+. In 56 combined games with both teams this year, he slashed just .235/.317/.301 with one double, one triple, three homers, three stolen bases, 13 walks (6.3%) and 44 strikeouts (21.5%). While his strikeouts weren’t abnormally high, Laureano’s lack of extra-base power was a bit disconcerting.
It can be quite the culture shock to move from the Dominican Republic to the United States, and this may have been part of the issue for Laureano this year. Like he did in 2019, he will likely repeat the same level in 2022 — this time for the Cannon Ballers. Laureano will be playing against competition his same age, so it should be a good test to see if he’s got the talent to succeed or if he was simply just a one-year wonder.
Other positions played: 3B (in 2019)
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 25
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 28
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 28
Bush had a crazy route to the White Sox. Right off, it’s harder to gauge Midwestern talent (Birmingham, Mich.) due to the colder weather, which limited his De La Salle H.S. varsity baseball schedule. Nonetheless Bush was ranked by Perfect Game as the 52nd-best varsity player in the country, and his commitment to SEC powerhouse Mississippi State seemed insurmountable to most teams.
Not to the White Sox, as they selected him in the 33rd round in 2018. Bush shocked many a Sox fan, not to mention many scouts, by signing for an over-slot, $290,000 bonus. Combined with the AZL Sox and Great Falls, Bush proved worthy of that signing as he slashed .309/.396/.453 in 38 games with nine doubles, one triple, three homers, 18 RBIs, four stolen bases, 18 walks (11.3%) and 25 strikeouts (15.6%).
The bottom fell out of Bush’s basket in 2019, however, as he struggled facing tougher competition, and suffered injuries and vision issues. In 67 games with Kannapolis, he slashed just .201/.285/.346 with 12 doubles, five triples, five homers, 33 RBIs, four stolen bases, 27 walks (9.4%), 92 strikeouts (31.9%). Bush also struggled defensively at third base, and as a result was eventually moved to a position (right field) that can still exploit his throwing abilities. He missed a year of valuable developmental time due to the 2020 pandemic shutdown.
Injuries were a factor again for Bush in 2021, as he didn’t even enter the field defensively. He began the year with Winston-Salem as a designated hitter, but he spent just eight games hitting just .147/.247/.235 with a homer, four walks (10.5%) and 13 strikeouts (34.2%) before being demoted to the ACL squad. In Arizona, Bush he had just three at-bats before eventually being placed on the injured list for the remainder of the year. Sadly, he’s only played a total of nine games during the past two years.
Bush has got terrific power and a solid concept of the strike zone, as evidenced by his high walk rate; he just needs to get out in the field to hone both his offensive and defensive skills.
Don’t count Bush out going forward, however, as he was playing against competition typically two years older while at Winston-Salem. He possesses a terrific work ethic and is devoted to getting better. In many ways, he’s a younger version of Jake Burger with that power, work ethic and injury history.
For more on Bush, read this terrific piece by South Side Hit Pen’s Dan Victor from 2019.
Expect Bush to return to Kannapolis to begin 2022, and eventually earn the opportunity to return to the Dash once he shakes off some rust.
DSL White Sox
Other positions played: LF, CF
Not much is known about this young Nicaraguan, but Bennett arguably produced the best season of any right fielder who finished the season in the White Sox rookie leagues. After signing after International Signing Day on March 25, he actually got off to a fairly slow start. However, once the calendar turned to September, he slashed .298/.443/.574 with two homers and seven stolen bases. For the year, Bennett slashed .235/.337/.441 in 33 games with two doubles, three triples, four homers, 15 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 18 walks (17.0%), 35 strikeouts (33.0%) and 135 wRC+.
Based upon these results, and especially because he got better as the season progressed, Bennett likely will begin next season with the ACL Sox.
Other positions played: LF, CF
Mondesi, as the son of former major leaguer Raul and younger brother of Royals shortstop Adalberto, certainly has big shoes to fill. He signed with the White Sox on February 21, and got off to a good start this year for the DSL squad as he slashed .267/.353/.300 in July, but started slumping halfway through August and ultimately spending his remaining time on the injured list beginning on September 1. It’s very likely he played hurt, which essentially watered down his overall results. In 25 games totaling 70 at-bats, Mondesi hit .229/.349/.314 with three doubles, one homer, four RBIs, six-of-seven stolen bases, 10 walks (12.0%), 26 strikeouts (31.3%) and 95 wRC+. Despite his lack of power, Mondesi has the build that seems conducive to hitting extra-base hits. Provided he’s healthy, he’ll likely begin the 2022 season with the ACL Sox.
Other positions played: LF
Signed just days before the DSL season was set to begin, Venezuela native Vargas struggled this year in his first taste of professional ball. In 35 games totaling 108 at-bats, he slashed just .204/.333/.278 with five doubles, one homer, seven RBIs, five stolen bases, 18 walks (14.0%), 34 strikeouts (26.4%) and 86 wRC+. Actually, his walk and strikeout numbers paralleled both Bennett and Mondesi, but he suffered most due to a relatively low BABIP (.288). With the exception of a couple games in left, Vargas primarily played right field, which indicates what his coaches thought of his throwing arm. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised to see Vargas return to the DSL for 2022.