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Brandon Jenkins had a down year at two White Sox stops, and will need to harness his control moving forward.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

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White Sox Deep Dive: Rookie League Right-Handed Relievers

Not much to see here, yet.

“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 three right-handed relievers among the MLB Pipeline list of Top 30 prospects, but none are presently ranked higher than 21st and each of them finished 2021 in full-season leagues. However, there is some talent to be found here that simply needs time to develop. Aside from a couple intriguing arms on this rookie league list, most of these pitchers were significantly older than their competition.

Due to the vast amount amount of right-handed relievers that pitched for each team, and in order to conserve time for our readers, Deep Dives will be provided for just five relievers on each squad.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

ACL White Sox

Chase Plymell
205 pounds
Age: 23

Plymell, a resident of Sedalia, Mo., played junior college ball in his hometown for State Fair CC before transferring to Central Missouri University for his final two years. He struggled in relief as a junior, but got off to a great start in 2020 before the pandemic shut down his season. That year in seven relief outings totaling 8 13 innings, he surrendered just four hits and two walks while striking out 12. Due to the revised NCAA rules for that year, he was allowed to return for 2021 as a second-year senior if Plymell so wished — and he did. This year for the Mules in 25 relief outings, Plymell posted a 1.88 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 38 13 innings by allowing 41 hits (.270 OBA) and just five walks (3.1%) while fanning 49 (30.1%).

He went undrafted this year, but played ball for Williamsport Crosscutters of the newly-established MLB Development League. In 14 games totaling 19 13 innings, Plymell relinquished 17 hits and four walks while striking out 26 on the the way to a 2.75 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for the Crosscutters. This earned him the notice of several scouts, and the White Sox ultimately signed him as an undrafted free agent on September 4. In two relief outings for the ACL Sox in the same number of innings, he allowed just one walk while striking out two.

While he was successful in his abbreviated ACL stint, he was two years older than league average. Not much is known about his repertoire, but he definitely throws plenty of strikeouts and has had success striking out hitters in NCAA Division II. Because of his age, it’s likely Plymell skips Kannapolis and begins the 2022 season with Winston-Salem.

Noah Owen
200 pounds
Age: 21

Owen was one of those rare well-traveled collegians, as he played ball for different schools in each of his three years. A native of Oceanside, Calif., he participated in the Alaska Summer League and posted a 4.13 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 10 appearances for the Peninsula Oilers. He struggled as a freshman for the University of San Diego, as he posted a 5.91 ERA and 1.83 WHIP during his 13 outings (three starts). He pitched one inning for Cal-Santa Barbara as a sophomore in 2020 before the pandemic shut down his season. Finally, he pitched this year for Golden West CC (Huntington Beach, Cal.) where he pitched in seven games (six starts). In 40 innings for the Rustlers, Owen posted a 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP as he ceded 41 hits and seven walks while striking out 49. He caught the eye of some White Sox scouts and was selected in the 14th round of this year’s draft by the White Sox.

In eight outings (three starts) for the ACL Sox, Owen acquitted himself as he posted a 2.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. In his 18 innings, he surrendered just 12 hits (.176 OBA) and three walks (4.2%) while fanning an impressive 25 (35.2%). Baseball America said his fastball touches 93 but usually sits about 2-3 ticks lower. With that said, he certainly has a projectable build which could eventually lead to greater velocity. However, his big weapon is his curveball which it described as “a hammer of a pitch that approaches 3000 rpm.” Unlike Plymell, Owen was nearly a year younger than his ACL competition, which bodes well going forward. If he can establish another reliable pitch, he could be seen as a viable starter. If not, Owen has the potential to rise through the system a bit more quickly as a reliever. In the meantime, he should begin the 2022 season with Kannapolis.

Christian Edwards
205 pounds
Age: 23

Born in Columbia, SC, Edwards played prep baseball for Hartselle H.S. (Ala.) where he helped his team to an Elite 8 appearance in the Alabama High School Athletic Association State Playoffs in 2017. He remained in his home state of Alabama to pitch for Jacksonville State University in the Ohio Valley Conference. After pitching exceptionally well in the bullpen as a freshman in 2018, Edwards struggled with both control and command as a sophomore and sophomore years (2019-20), he combined to produce a 5.50 ERA and 1.39 WHIP despite hefty strikeout numbers (34.6 K%). However, after converting to a starting role as a second-year junior this year, Edwards improved his numbers dramatically. In 12 appearances (11 starts), he posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 69 innings by relinquishing just 42 hits (.175 OBA) and 27 walks (10.0%) while striking out 83 (30.6%). The White Sox liked him enough to select him in the 11th round of this year’s draft, and signed him to an over-slot $150,000 bonus.

Pitching exclusively out of the pen for the ACL Sox, Edwards entered seven games and posted a solid 3.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. In his nine innings, he allowed just six hits (.200 OBA) and five walks (13.9%) while fanning eight (22.2%). Jim Callis of MLB said of Edwards at the time of the draft that he possessed a 97 mph heater and solid slider along with a funky delivery.

Edwards performed better in college as a starter, but may be viewed as a reliever if he lacks consistency with his other pitches. He was a year older than his competition with the ACL squad, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him begin next season with Winston-Salem — especially if he’s viewed as a reliever.

Drake Nightengale
195 pounds
Age: 25

As a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Nightengale pitched primarily as reliever during his first two years of college ball for Pearl River CC (Poplarville, Miss.). After transferring to the University of South Alabama, he was converted to a starting role. In a combined 19 appearances for the Jaguars during his junior and senior seasons, Nightengale compiled a 3.41 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 95 innings by surrendering 67 hits (.165 OBA) and 48 walks (11.9%) while striking out an impressive 130 hitters (32.1%). Due to the limited five-round format in the 2020 draft, he was unselected, signing as a free agent with the New York Mets this year, on February 12.

Nightengale pitched for A-League St. Lucie and posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 25 relief appearances. In 42 innings, he surrendered 38 hits (.257 OBA) and 23 walks (12.7%) while striking out 44 (24.3%). However, he was released by the Mets on August 31 and signed with the White Sox five days later.

In four games for the ACL Sox, Nightengale posted a 4.15 ERA but 1.85 WHIP in 4 13 innings by relinquishing five hits and three walks while striking out four. A couple of years older than even Plymell and Edwards, Nightengale was old by ACL standards. Provided he returns to the Sox system in 2022, he could be promoted to either Winston-Salem or even Birmingham and may be viewed as an organizational righty going forward.

Brandon Jenkins
205 pounds
Age: 23

Jenkins, a native of Voorhees, N.J., was the third-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in New Jersey and 40th in the country as a high school senior, according to Prep Baseball Report. Opting to pitch for Campbell University, Jenkins posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.49 in 14 appearances as he allowed just 32 hits (.190 OBA) in 49 23 innings but walked 42 (19.2%) while striking out 65 (29.7%). He transferred to Central Arizona CC as a sophomore, but struggled badly with an 8.78 ERA and 2.63 WHIP by surrendering 12 hits and 23 walks while fanning 24 in 13 13 innings. Finally as a junior for Seattle University in 2020, Jenkins posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.78 in nine innings by allowing seven hits and nine walks while striking out 14. After that abbreviated season, the White Sox signed Jenkins as an undrafted free agent.

Jenkins began 2021 with Kannapolis, where in 14 relief appearances totaling 18 innings, he posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.72 WHIP by ceding 11 hits (.175 OBA) and 20 walks (23.5%) while fanning 26 (30.6%). In an effort to rein in his control, Jenkins was demoted at midseason to the ACL Sox. However, his results there weren’t pretty: In 12 appearances with a 9.82 ERA and 2.52 WHIP, as in 14 23 innings, he relinquished 21 hits (.318 OBA) and 16 walks (19.0%) while striking out 29 (34.5%).

Looking at his college and professional results to date, there are many similarities to Alec Hansen and Hunter Kiel in regard to high walk and strikeout totals. If Jenkins returns to the Sox system, it would likely be with a return to the ACL until his control can be stabilized.

Other relievers:

Adisyn Coffey (23 years old) — Fourth round selection in 2020 (and a two-way player) who missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery.

Johnny Ray (23) — Posted a 9.75 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in 12 relief innings for the ACL Sox.

Frander Veras (23) — Combined with Kannapolis and ACL Sox for 13.09 ERA and 2.55 WHIP in 11 innings.

Jake Suddreth (24) — Posted 18.00 ERA and 6.00 WHIP for ACL Sox in a tiny, one-inning sample size.

Connor O’Neil (27) — O’Neil combined with High-A Brooklyn and the ACL Sox for a 7.71 ERA and 1.79 WHIP in 25 23 innings.

DSL White Sox

Emerson Talavera
160 pounds
Age: 19

Talavera, a native of Venezuela, signed with the White Sox on March 4, 2020 but didn’t enter into any action until this year for the DSL Sox due to the pandemic. In 17 appearances (five starts) totaling 51 innings, he posted an impressive 2.47 ERA and 1.14 WHIP by surrendering just 36 hits (.197 OBA) and 22 free passes (10.3%) while striking out 47 (22.1%). He was younger than the average DSL player by more than six months. Righties struggled against him (.155 OBA) but lefties found him more to their liking (.269 OBA), so a changeup may be a way to counteract their effectiveness. He was more effective in his 33 23 innings as a reliever (0.80 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, .164 OBA) than he was as a starter (5.71 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, .254 OBA). Talavera seems like a good bet to begin next year with the ACL squad.

Carlos Hinestroza
190 pounds
Age: 19

Like Talavera, Hinestroza put together a very solid campaign for the White Sox although his strikeouts were a bit lower than what fans would expect. In 22 relief outings totaling 36 23 innings, he relinquished 30 hits (.233 OBA) and 12 walks (8.0%) while fanning 27 (18.0%) on his way to a 2.45 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. A native of Panama, Hinestroza also fared much better against same-sided hitters (.210 OBA, 1.05 WHIP) than lefties (.271 OBA, 1.54). The disparity likely suggests he’ll need to establish a changeup (or at least develop a better one) to help neutralize lefties. Hinestroza’s low strikeout ratio indicates he doesn’t have a blazing heater, but at least he helped his cause by limiting his walks and keeping the ball down (48.5& groundball rate). Like Talavera, Hinestroza likely will begin next season with the ACL squad.

Manuel Veloz
185 pounds
Age: 21

Veloz, a native Venezuelan, not only enjoyed the best year of any reliever for the DSL White Sox this year, but may have actually posted the best year of any White Sox reliever in 2020. He actually signed an international contract with the White Sox just a couple of weeks before the 2020 DSL season started. In 15 outings (one start), he posted an incredible 0.91 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 39 23 innings. In those frames, he allowed just 25 hits (.179 OBA) and seven walks (4.7%) while striking out 42 (28.2%).

As a surprise to some, Veloz returned to the DSL squad for the 2021 season and his role changed considerably. Instead of the closer role, Veloz began the year as a starter but finished primarily in long relief. In 12 appearances (four starts) totaling 46 13 innings, he relinquished 51 hits (.279 OBA) and just three walks (1.6%) and 47 strikeouts (24.6%). As compared to 2019, he was far more hittable and surrendered more fly balls (a 43.2% ground ball rate compared to 64.5% in 2019). While his strikeout rate dipped while allowing more hits, Veloz helped himself by limiting free passes to an absolute bare minimum.

While he was slightly younger than the average Dominican player in 2019, Veloz was about two years older than his competition this year. Not much about Veloz is known presently, but it is believed the White Sox organization wanted to stretch him out because his stuff is probably better suited for longer work instead of high-leverage situations.

While Talavera and Hinestroza should advance to the ACL in 2022, it’s entirely conceivable that Veloz actually pitches in Kannapolis as a long reliever due to his age and advanced ability to throw strikes while keeping the ball down.

Gabriel Rodriguez
172 pounds
Age: 19

In his first year with the White Sox, Venezuela native Rodriguez struggled with his control. In 16 appearances totaling 43 innings, he produced a 4.19 ERA and 1.74 WHIP by allowing 44 hits (.260 OBA) and 31 walks (15.1%) while striking out 44 (21.5%). Based on the high hit, and especially high walk, totals, Rodriguez was fortunate to finish the year with such a low ERA. Hitters hit the ball on the ground just 30.1% of the time. Rodriguez split his time between starting and relief, and his results were similar with the exception of ERA, where he fared much better out of the pen (2.63) than as starter (4.91). Rodriguez seems a likely bet to return to the DSL Sox to begin the 2022 season.

Francisco Benitez
187 pounds
Age: 21

Benitez has now pitched in three seasons for the DSL Sox (not including the cancelled 2020 season), but with minimal positive results. In 2018, after signing with the team as a 17-year-old, Benitez posted a 6.10 ERA and 1.80 WHIP over 38 13 innings by ceding 26 hits (.200 OBA) and 43 walks (22.9%) while striking out 43 as well (22.9%). The following year, Benitez suffered through an even worse campaign by compiling an 8.06 ERA and 1.79 WHIP over 22 13 innings by allowing 19 hits (.238 OBA) and 21 walks (19.3%) while fanning just 14 (12.8%). What’s more, his ground out rate worsened from an already low 46.3% to an abysmal 26.7%.

After the pandemic cancellation in 2020, Benitez spent 2021 in 14 relief appearances totaling 26 23 innings. The Dominican native posted a 6.08 ERA and 1.65 WHIP by relinquishing 25 hits (.245 OBA) and 19 walks (14.6%) while fanning 30 (23.1%). While casting the ERA aside for a moment, there were some positives like improved walk and strikeout percentages. However, those numbers still weren’t overwhelming considering he was two years older than his average competition.

The White Sox brass seems to like him enough to have kept him in the system for four years despite subpar results. If Benitez does return, he’d be fortunate to receive a promotion to the ACL.

Other relievers:

Erick Bello (19 years old): The Dominican native posted a 5.47 ERA and 2.32 WHIP in 26 13 innings, allowing 33 hits (.317 OBA) and 28 walks (20.6%) while striking out 30 (22.1%).

Dionicio Jimenez (21): Jimenez has now pitched three years for the DSL squad. This year, he contributed a 6.98 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 19 13 innings while compiling 20 hits (.290 OBA), 14 walks (15.6%) and 18 strikeouts (20.0%).

Keiter Perez (20): In three relief outings totaling 3 23 innings, Perez posted a 7.36 ERA and 2.18 WHIP despite allowing just one hit (.091 OBA) and five strikeouts (26.3%). So what’s the problem? Perhaps his difficulties in the tiny sample size had to do with his seven walks (36.8%).

Miguel Toribio (21): In 14 outings totaling 21 23 innings, Toribio produced a 9.55 ERA and 2.12 WHIP by coaxing 30 hits (.326 OBA), 16 walks (14.3%) and 20 strikeouts (17.9%).

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