I'm still getting the hang of following the newest White Sox affiliate. Like other Rookie-level clubs, there's a paucity of video, my preferred method. But, with the longer-tenured affiliates, I've developed a network of sources - whether they be team personnel, journalists or simply knowledgeable fans - that I can trust to provide useful information. A month or so into the AZL White Sox season, that is most certainly still a work-in-progress.
Due to pro baseball being an (almost) year-round sport in Arizona, it attracts a lot of scouts - and wannabe scouts. Since there really aren't any journalists, fans or even team media-types for the Arizona League teams, scouts of whatever variety are pretty much the only source. And the only readily available sources are the wannabes. There are always a few of those who are legit but it can take awhile to weed out the duds.
So, with that caveat, here's a summary of what's out there about AZL White Sox players.
LHP Carlos Rodon, of course, is the name everyone wants to hear about. The #3 overall pick is slated to head to Winston-Salem this week and his two AZL appearances shouldn't give pause to anyone as he certainly looks ready for High-A. The 21-year-old has thrown three innings, giving up four hits, walking no one and striking out five. Most important, of course, is how his stuff looked. From his second outing:
Rodon's first: Fastball 92-94, missing arm side, slider flashed plus plus 85-89, change 82, cast one, spotted one. Looks slimmer.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) July 27, 2014
Much better feel for the changeup in the second for Rodon. Clearly emphasizing it here for developmental purposes.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) July 27, 2014
@FutureSox 92-94, slider flashed plus plus, change flashed average. Looks like he lost some weight— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) July 27, 2014
So not really much to complain about. Arizona Leaguers certainly should not trouble a pitcher with such excellent and advanced pitches. The White Sox intend to use him as a reliever for the rest of 2014 to keep his innings down. Hopefully he'll still approach hitters the same way he would as a starter by using all his pitches.
From that same game, we also heard about RHP Yelmison Peralta:
White Sox righty Yelmison Peralta 90-94, loose arm. But that loopy curveball isn't going to work.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) July 27, 2014
The 19-year-old Dominican is in his third pro season and this is the first time he's actually getting favorable results: 8 G, 15.2 IP, 15 H, 6 BB, 12 K. Seven wild pitches, though, tell the tale of where his development is. Excellent arm, though he's a bit undersized and likely to get tagged by (at least) people outside the organization as a reliever.
RHP Victor Done is another international signing to watch. The 18-year-old Dominican already has good size so one can put a starter label on him a bit more easily. Like most very young pitchers not named Tyler Danish, the secondary stuff isn't scintillating and the control is poor. But that fastball...
Victor Done must have something on his fastball that I couldn’t determine from my off-center viewpoint. He induced eight strikeouts despite throwing fastballs at least 80% of the time. He clocked 91-94, which I found incredible because his follow-through was completely upright. He loaded up, threw gas (compared to the league) without much effort, and walked away. The upper-70′s slider looked greasy, and Done hardly ever controlled it. He threw a few 84-85 changeups to lefties, but most missed armside. None of them really sank, and I didn’t pick up any fade, either. His release looked low in light of the relative lack of extension he got, and he short-armed a few pitches, but there appears to be some magic in that fastball.
That's from Jay Hashop. Done so far: 6 GS, 26.1 IP, 23 H, 17 BB, 34 K, 2 HBP, 6 WP.
Other pitchers to watch include RHP Luis Martinez and RHP Spencer Adams. Martinez, Marco Paddy's first major international signing in late 2011, did not play in 2012 (not unusual for recent signings) and spent all of 2013 on the disabled list (not usual). So we've been waiting to see him pitch. He was reputed to have an advanced feel for pitching when he was signed and that still seems to be the case for the 19-year-old: 6 G, 5 GS, 29 IP, 22 H, 14 BB, 35 K, 6 WP.
Adams also has pitched well: 6 GS, 22.2 IP, 27 H, 2 BB, 31 K, 3 WP. The minuscule walk rate and rather ridiculous strikeout rate suggest he's finding AZL hitters pretty easy to deal with.
On the position player side, the two headliners are obviously RF Micker Zapata and OF Antonio Rodriguez. But, for me, the most impressive performance so far has been C Jose Barraza. In 75 PA, he's batting .343/.400/.493. After being drafted in the 7th round out of California high school in 2012, he had an understandably weak pro debut for Bristol and then was injured all of last season. But the just turned 20-years-old today looks to be back on track. As you could probably glean from the pitcher lines above, it's not exactly a picnic catching in the AZL so don't even bother looking at his catching stats.
Adolfo's overall line of .226/.280/.440 is above league average, which is certainly a positive sign for a 17-year-old making his pro debut. He's struck out 37.6% of the time but that is somewhat better than I anticipated. Most important is seeing his prodigious raw power translate to games.
Rodriguez is in his third pro season, so it's a bit disappointing to see his line sit at .229/.263/.390. The 19-year-old's raw tools are not as impressive as Adolfo's but he has plus potential speed and power.
SS Johan Cruz was having a pretty easy time in his second tour of the Dominican Summer League and earned a promotion stateside. In his nine games and 43 plate appearances, the glove-first 18-year-old is finding the AZL a bit more challenging: .154/.214/.179.