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White Sox Deep Dive: Rookie League Left-Handed Relievers

Garrett Schoenle leads a small cast of southpaws.

Garrett Schoenle had a promising debut in Arizona, with a 2.70 ERA in 10 games.

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican and 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 system has no southpaw relievers currently among their MLB Pipeline list of Top 30 prospects, and the system’s best lefty prospects are pitching in the higher levels. Compared to the full-season leagues, the left-handed relief cupboard is relatively bare. Below are those lefty relievers who finished the 2021 season with either of the rookie league squads.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

ACL White Sox

Garrett Schoenle
183 pounds
Age: 23

A native of Fort Wayne, Schoenle’s father played shortstop for IPFW. Garrett inherited some of that athleticism, and became the Northrop High School football’s all-time leader in passing yards and completions. However, it was as a pitcher that he attracted the most suitors. In fact, his baseball prowess was so good that he was the 2017 Gatorade Indiana High School Baseball Player of the Year. It’s no wonder that he was recruited by many Division I schools and was selected in the 30th round by the Cincinnati Reds in that year’s MLB draft. While he did opt to play ball for Cincinnati, it was not to play for the Reds but to don the uniform of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

After a nine-inning freshman campaign in 2018, Schoenle lost the concept of the strike zone, as he walked 55 in 56 innings on his way to a 5.95 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. He was off to a bad start as a junior in 2020 with an 8.76 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in four appearances (two starts) before the pandemic concluded the season prematurely. However, Schoenle bounced back somewhat in his senior season this year as he posted a 4.90 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 15 starts. Over 75 13 innings for the Bearcats, he allowed 78 hits (.264 OBA) and just 24 walks (7.3%) while fanning 89 (26.9%). After going unpicked in this year’s limited, 20-round draft, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the White Sox.

Used primarily as a starter in college, Schoenle was thrust into the bullpen for the ACL Sox. In 10 appearances totaling the same number of innings, Schoenle posted a 2.70 ERA and 1.40 WHIP by surrendering 11 hits (.297 OBA) and three walks (7.3%) while inducing 11 strikeouts (26.8%). Somewhat surprisingly in the small sample size, lefties hit him much better (.364) than righties (.269).

According to a scouting report provided by Prep Baseball Report in March, “he has a loose and quick arm, shows a fastball up to 95 mph and a good breaking ball. He controls the running game and profiles as a starting pitcher at the next level.” It remains to be seen if the relief innings this year were designed to simply keep Schoenle’s innings down, as he’d already exceeded his career high in that regard. If the White Sox consider him a starter, he likely would begin with Kannapolis; if his best future is deemed that of a reliever, he could begin 2022 with a jump to more age-appropriate Winston-Salem instead.

Dilmer Mejía
160 pounds
Age 24
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 64

Mejía, who hails from Nicaragua, started his DSL career in 2014 in the Atlanta system, at the tender age of 16. He’s also not a big guy, but his numbers have been solid throughout his six professional years — including a 2019 season with the Low-A Rome Braves (8-5, 2.66 ERA, 1.12 WHIP). He missed an important developmental year in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown. However, as is often the case with solid major league squads who also have deep minor league systems, Mejía got lost in the shuffle. As a result, the White Sox signed him as a minor league free agent last December.

Unfortunately, in a season where bigger things were expected of him, Mejía’s season was basically derailed just as it was getting started. After a very rough outing with Winston-Salem to begin the year in which he surrendered four earned runs while producing the same number of outs, he was demoted to Kannapolis. After struggling in four relief outings with the Cannon Ballers with a 5.73 ERA and 1.91 WHIP, it was clear something wasn’t quite right. He was subsequently placed on the injured list on May 27, and a return to full-season ball was not forthcoming.

Mejía, however, did enter 12 games for the ACL squad beginning on July 3. The first half of his stint was as a starter, while the latter half was spent in relief. In 50 23 innings at Arizona, he posted a 3.73 ERA and 1.34 WHIP by relinquishing 59 hits (.285 OBA) and nine walks (4.1%) while striking out 57 (26.3%). As a starter for the ACL Sox, he posted a 5.47 ERA and 1.66 WHIP while he produced a 2.08 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Clearly, he performed better in relief and seems to be a better fit there due to his smaller size, which likely couldn’t withstand the heavier workload.

The White Sox may not have another opportunity to see how Mejía can perform firsthand when healthy, as he has recently re-entered minor league free agency.

DSL White Sox

Oriel Castro
175 pounds
Age: 20

Castro, a native of Panama, signed an international contract with the White Sox in January 2018 as a 16-year-old. In his first season in the organization, he unsurprisingly struggled in his 12 appearances with a 5.23 ERA and 1.74 WHIP for the DSL Sox. In 10 13 innings, Castro allowed just five hits (.143 OBA) and 13 walks (26.0%) while striking out 14 (28.0%).

In a much more expanded role in 2019, Castro continued to struggle with his control. Over 15 appearances (six starts) encompassing 40 innings, he compiled a 4.73 ERA and 1.75 WHIP by relinquishing 30 hits (.216 OBA) and an unsightly 40 walks (21.7%) while fanning 38 (20.7%).

Returning to pitch for the DSL squad this year, Castro surprisingly produced worse results in nearly the same number of innings. In 17 appearances (four starts) totaling 38 innings, he compiled a 5.45 ERA and 1.84 WHIP by distributing 42 hits (.284 OBA) and 28 walks (15.2%) while fanning 53 (28.8%). While he did improve his walk and strikeout rates, Castro allowed far more hits. He did neutralize hitters at a .205 clip, but righties hit .317 against him.

In three years for the DSL Sox Castro’s numbers have stagnated, which clearly isn’t good as he was roughly 16 months older than his competition. Obviously, this isn’t a great recipe for future advancement. Because he at least succeeds against lefties, he could be placed in more situational roles (which, thanks to new rules, is becoming a dying breed). It remains to be seen if he’ll be given an opportunity to pitch Stateside next year.

Jose Jimenez
195 pounds
Age: 19

Jimenez, no relation to Eloy, signed an international contract with the White Sox as a 16-year-old just a month before the 2020 DSL season began. He didn’t enter many games, but in the games he did pitch in, he struggled immensely. He’s fairly big for someone so young, so mechanics (in addition to confidence) may be the culprit. In five games this year totaling 5 23 innings, Jimenez posted a 12.71 ERA and 2.29 WHIP as he allowed seven hits (.292 OBA) and six walks while striking out five.

Despite appearing on the DSL roster for the entire 2021 campaign, Jimenez made nary a pitch for the team. Thus it seems likely he missed the year due to surgery. If he does return to pitch in 2022, it would likely be with the DSL due to his poor showing the year before.