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White Sox Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham Second Basemen

Yolbert easily leads this group of mostly journeymen infielders.

Yolbert Sánchez is currently the 15th-ranked White Sox prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
Tiffany Wintz/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 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 optiona

With the White Sox trade of Nick Madrigal to the Cubs, the organization surrendered its second baseman of the future. Who are the up-and-coming farmhands who could eventually take over the reins?

Below, we detail the system‘s players in the upper levels at the keystone.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

Charlotte Knights

Marco Hernández
210 pounds
Bats/Throws: L/R
Age: 29
Other positions played: 3B, SS

In the same year (2009) that the Chicago Cubs signed catcher Willson Contreras to an international bonus, they signed Hernández. His first professional ball was played in the Dominican League, and each year through 2014 he advanced to the next level — ultimately reaching High-A Daytona. During the December meetings that year, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Felix Doubront.

The 2015 season saw Hernández slash .305/.330/.454 for the top two teams (Portland and Pawtucket) of Boston’s system, with nine homers and five stolen bases. After a solid start with Pawtucket in 2016, he was promoted to the majors and performed quite well in 40 games by slashing .294/.357/.373. He got off to a good start at the beginning of the 2017 season with the Red Sox, but didn’t play past May due to shoulder surgery. After a year’s recovery, Hernández split time with Pawtucket and Boston and performed relatively well despite the long layoff.

Unable to make the Red Sox squad last year, and unable to play in the minors due to Covid, Hernandez was ultimately released on August 20. The White Sox signed him to a minor league contract in 2021. After an incredible May with Charlotte, in which he slashed .365/.375/.518, his numbers gradually slipped to more pedestrian levels. Overall in 97 games totaling 334 at-bats, Hernández slashed .266/.286/.377 with 18 doubles, two triples, five homers, one stolen base, 10 walks (2.8%) and 60 strikeouts (16.9%) for a 73 wRC+. Due to his previous major league experience, if the White Sox add him to the 40-man roster, he would be eligible for arbitration. It seems more likely that the White Sox allow him to become a free agent instead.

Birmingham Barons

Yolbert Sánchez
176 pounds
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 25
Other positions played: SS, 3B
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 21
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 25

After playing three years in the Cuban professional league, including the final two seasons with the Industriales de La Habana, Sánchez earned a $2.5 million signing bonus from the White Sox, designating him as one of the top international prospects of 2018 and 2019. After getting a surprisingly slow start in 2019 due to rustiness, Sánchez slashed .297.386/.441 in 29 games with the DSL Sox with eight doubles, one triple, two homers, 15 walks (11.8%) and 12 strikeouts (9.4%). He did enjoy a 130 wRC that year, but considering he was over four years old than the league average, that was to be expected. Of course, he missed the entire 2020 season due to the Covid shutdown.

Beginning this year with Winston-Salem, he adjusted well to the higher level of competition by slashing .286/.340/.387 in 60 games with seven doubles, five homers, two stolen bases, 18 walks (7.5%), 33 strikeouts (13.8%) and a 99 wRC+. Upon receiving a promotion to Birmingham on July 20, Sanchez definitely picked up a notch by slashing .343/.369/.469 in 29 games for the Barons with six doubles, four homers, five walks, 16 strikeouts, three stolen bases and a 132 wRC+. Sánchez spent the majority of his time defensively at second, although he also spent significant time at shortstop this year as well.

Sánchez has a reputation as an excellent fielder, with a plus throwing arm and speed; the only concerns are with the bat — at least, until this year, in Birmingham. Sánchez ranks 15th among all White Sox prospects per MLB Pipeline, and is the system’s top-ranking second baseman (since Bryan Ramos spent more time at the hot corner this year). MLB gives him a 55 grade for fielding, throwing arm and running; his hitting grade did improve from 45 to 50, while his power remained at 40.

Sánchez won’t be eligible for the Rule 5 draft until 2022, so the White Sox don’t have to add him to the 40-man roster right away. It will be interesting to see where he begins 2022, as he could either return to Birmingham (he did play fewer than 30 games there this year), begin with Charlotte, or be a dark-horse candidate for either a second base or utility infielder for the White Sox. The fact that the White Sox sent Sánchez to the Arizona Fall League for more reps indicates they may be interested in fast-tracking him.

Jagger Rusconi
165 pounds
Bats/Throws: B/R
Age: 25
Other positions played: LF, RF, 3B

Rusconi’s parents must clearly have gotten satisfaction by christening their son Jagger Stone (admittedly, it’s better than naming him Ringo Beatle). Drafted as a California prep star by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB draft, he eschewed a commitment to the University of Southern California in order to chase his baseball dream.

Thanks to a myriad of injuries including foot surgeries, Rusconi has missed development time throughout his career to date. In fact, 2019 has been the only season where he played more than 65 games. That year, which was split between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Rusconi slashed just .199/.245/.278 in 109 games with 17 doubles, three homers, 20 walks (4.9%) and 112 strikeouts (27.2). Released on April 21 by the Red Sox, the White Sox shortly afterward signed him to a minor league contract.

Rusconi began this year on an injury rehab assignment with the ACL Sox. After cups of coffee with them and Kannapolis, Rusconi played the majority of his season with Winston-Salem and Birmingham. In 43 games spanning 155 at-bats, he slashed .265/.337/.368 with nine doubles, two triples, one homer, eight walks (4.6%) and 39 strikeouts (22.2%).

If he remains in the organization for 2022, he likely would return to Birmingham to begin the season. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but will be an unlikely selection.

Mitch Roman
185 pounds
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 27
Other positions played: 3B, SS, LF
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 90

In his final two years with Wright State University, Roman was consistently good. Roman’s junior year saw him hit .336/.401/.428 for the Raiders in 62 games, with 10 doubles, five triples, one homer, 42 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, 23 walks (7.8%) and 29 strikeouts (9.8%). Based upon his speed and defensive range, the White Sox selected him in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. It just so happened that Roman’s numbers with Great Falls paralleled his numbers from his last two years with Wright State. For the Voyagers in 67 games that year, he slashed .332/.392/.418 with 10 doubles, six triples, 33 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, 21 walks (7.3%) and 42 strikeouts (14.6%).

Roman struggled to maintain that momentum with Kannapolis in 2017, as he slashed just .254/.305/.306 in 516 at-bats with 14 doubles, two triples, three homers, 45 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 31 walks (6.0%) and 120 strikeouts (23.3%). He bounced back in Winston-Salem the following year, hitting .292/.362/.377 in 297 at-bats with 14 doubles one triple, three homers, 41 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 34 walks and 70 strikeouts; Roman received a late promotion in 2018 to Birmingham, but struggled with a .530 OPS.

The 2019 season saw Roman return to Birmingham, where he struggled to the tune of .165/.266/.231 in 40 games. After being demoted to Winston-Salem on June 6, he bounced back a bit and slashed .269/.325/.328 for the Dash in 69 games. Combined with both squads, he hit .237/.306/.298 in 109 games with 14 doubles, two triples, two homers, 33 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 36 walks (8.3%) and 112 strikeouts (25.9%).

After the 2020 Covid shutdown, Roman’s offensive woes continued into 2021, as he struggled at just .206/.301/.257 in 70 games for Birmingham with six doubles, one triple, one homer, 15 walks, 28 walks (11.2%), 79 strikeouts (31.6%) and 64 wRC+. Playing against competition 18 months younger, that definitely wasn’t a good omen.

If Roman returns to the organization, he likely would report to Birmingham. He is eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 draft, although it’s highly unlikely he’ll be selected.