In this day and age, the Arizona Complex League is really used to find out if good (or bad) performances in the DSL were real, and for high school pitching draftees. The jump from the DSL to the ACL is bigger than you would think, and it is an important first step for the youngest of prospects. For high school arms, it is just a place to get them in live game action against the best hitters they’ve faced in their lives. They just don’t see much action, and the Sox did not draft any this year. So, for 2023, the ACL was really about the 2022 DSL White Sox.
ACL White Sox
On the good end of the stateside rookie league is Ronny Hernández, first and foremost. He is a catcher, but they got his bat in the lineup as a DH frequently as well. Hernández played well in the DSL last year, but in slightly different way in the ACL this summer; he showed more power in the Dominican Republic than he did in Arizona, but the plate discipline did not drastically fall apart in 2023, which is great. It was worse, to be clear, as Hernández’s strikeouts rose 3% while the walks fell 2%, but that is actually a good adjustment. He rode a 13% BB-rate and a .427 BABIP to a 137 wRC+, so he still has something to prove. But he thrived in the ACL at age 18, and that is the name of the game.
Of the pitchers who did well from the 2022 DSL squad, the standout was Gabriel Rodríguez. He ended with a 3.78 ERA. The strikeouts were OK (28.4% K-rate) and the walks were a bit high (11.2%). That K-rate did help keep the ERA lower, because Rodríguez did get hit around (.259 batting average against him in 47 2⁄3 innings). Another arm to keep an eye on, maybe not fornlong because he is a reliever, is Daniel González. González really improved in the ACL vs. the DSL last year. While just small sample (19 2⁄3 innings), González’s his K-rate shot up to 36%. The issue for the lefty is his 18% BB-rate, which is pretty awful. That’s why you should just keep one eye on him.
On the bad side, and it is unfortunate, are the top guys. The best prospect to start out in the ACL was Ryan Burrowes, who was the clear, age-appropriate superstar from the 2022 DSL team. It was not a complete failure like a Benyamín Bailey, but we did expect better than an 81 wRC+ from Burrowes in the ACL. He played middle infield this year, shortstop much more often than second. The BB-rate plummeted, but more concerning was a K-rate that skyrocketed up to 28.7%. That is, in a couple of words, not great. In a similar boat, Erick Hernández saw a big increase in strikeouts as well, up to 36.4%. His issue was that he wasn’t even good in the DSL last year as a big-bonus signing ($1 million). He was raw to begin with, but has not shown much growth yet.
There was not really a top prospect or highly-touted bonus signing but there were two former position players who pitched in the ACL before getting promoted to Kannapolis. Ex-outfielder Chase Krogman showed big strikeout potential but also really wild command. The command issues should be of no surprise, because he hadn’t pitched in a professional competitive game before this season. For Anderson Comás, another ex-outfielder, it was a different story: The strikeout ability wasn’t really there, but the command was and still is fantastic this season. He is currently with the Dash in High-A, leaving the ACL with a 3.2% BB-rate and a 6.3% rate.
For the draftees, again, this is more of a stopping-off point for players at this point. They pretty much all go to Kannapolis and don’t spend much time here in Arizona. Christian Oppor is a 2023 draft choice who did stay, at least for now, in the ACL. He only pitched 7 2⁄3 innings, so not much to read there. George Wolkow has not played for Kannapolis yet, but he only had 51 plate appearances in the ACL before moving up. So it’s nice that they are healthy enough to play, and that’s probably the only thing to take away from their brief stints in the ACL.
DSL White Sox
The two biggest bonuses for the DSL this year went to Luis Reyes and Abraham Núñez Jr. Reyes, a starting pitcher, is just 17, so the control issues he showed in his debut were not surprising. He has a big arm, a mid-upper 90s fastball with a slider and change per Ben Badler of Baseball America. The good was there (27.1% K-rate), but a 16.6% BB-rate shows how far away he is from being good. Reyes’ control issues led to a 7.17 ERA.
The other $700,000 bonus man had a much better go of things. Núñez, a center fielder, walked (33) more than he struck out (22) en route to a 136 wRC+ season down in the DSL. He didn’t show pop, but obviously showed a good eye at the plate at this level. Now he will just need to show that in the ACL, and hopefully add some power to his swing.
While no other pitchers really met a high threshold for bonuses, there were some fine performances, like lefty Jeremy Gonzalez (3.75 ERA), but nothing really special. Rafael Álvarez and D’Angelo Tejada from the infield did receive healthy bonuses; Álvarez rode a 22.7% BB-rate to a 136 wRC+ but struggled to show good contact, while Tejada just did not perform well overall for a 75 wRC+. Juan Uribe Jr. was in a somewhat similar boat as Álvarez with a lot of walks, but Uribe struck out more and showed even worse contact.
The big success and more surprising success came from middle infielder Javier Mogollon. He showed huge power, with 10 homers and a .267 ISO., and the plate discipline was good as well. He is only 5´8´´ and 160 pounds, so that power might just be a product of the DSL, but it is impressive.