Let's get the usual preface out of the way. There's almost no video of these players, most particularly from after they actually begin their pro careers in the Dominican Summer League. There aren't prospect writers who follow these teams and write reports on them. They're almost never on prospect lists. What there is on them basically amounts to their pre-signing scouting reports and, if they've debuted, their stat lines - and those two things are pretty much upon what I'm basing this preview.
Some other important info:
First, we need to set some baselines. The DSL is a short-season league and is the lowest level of competition in affiliated baseball. The average hitter's triple slash line is .245/.339/.331. Almost no home runs are hit. The average pitcher walks 10.3% of the batters he faces while striking out just 19.0%. Other signs of lack of skill, such as HBPs (0.9/g) and WPs (1.54/g), are plentiful and young starters rarely throw more than a handful of innings. The average player is just 18.6 years old.
That's from my 2014 DSL White Sox season review, which you can read here, and has more information on some of the players to be discussed. You can also take a look at my signing class reviews, which discuss most of the players mentioned and, for the most recent class, also discusses some of the guys you might start to see on the roster later on in the season: 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Opening day for the DSL was on Saturday. They play everyday except Sundays until Aug. 22.
Now let's take a look at the notables on the opening day roster, which is sure to change in some significant ways before the league wraps.
Headlining the pitching is 17-year-old RHP Nelson Acosta. Signed out of Venezuela in 2013, his August birthday meant he was one of the youngest players eligible to sign. That also made him the sixth-youngest player in the league last season. He pitched surprisingly well - and not only because of his age. The White Sox also used him as a starter, which is rare for any rookie: 14 G, 12 GS, 46 IP, 25 H, 28 BB, 36 K, 7 HBP, 7 WP, with an almost-league average 18.7% strikeout rate (though the 14.5% walk rate is obviously an area to improve).
Also out of Venezuela and right-handed, Edinxon Arias signed in 2014 for $350,000. This will be his debut season. Baseball America had this to say about the 17-year-old earlier this year:
[H]e touched 91-92 mph with good movement from his low three-quarters arm slot. Despite his low slot, he does show solid feel for a slider that’s ahead of his changeup.
LHP Josbel Coroba is one of the guys I mentioned in my season in review because - stat line scouting alert! - he put up some good numbers in his debut season and he was still 17. The Venezuelan had an elevated walk rate but a good 26.5% strikeout rate, mostly as a reliever. He pitched on opening day for the White Sox and again came on in relief, which is not a positive indication because the more important pitchers tend to start. It's very possible that he'll simply move into the rotation later this year but, if he doesn't, you can safely forget him.
Behind the plate, the White Sox have two notables. The first is Carlos Perez, who I highlighted in my season review because of his fine offensive performance in his debut season at age 17. He hit 305/.356/.326 in 104 PA with matching 6.7% strikeout and walk rates suggesting that he knew how to make contact. This was a victory for stat line scouting as, despite being just a $50,000 signing, Baseball America talked up the Venezuelan earlier this year:
Perez has a good hitting approach and a loose, fluid swing from the right side with a knack for putting the bat to the ball, mostly with gap power. He’s a good receiver for his age with an average arm.
The second comes from the same signing class and the same country but with a bigger dollar tag. Signed for $450,000, Jose Colina will be making his pro debut. He was said to have a big body (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) that needed to be watched. Well, despite just turning 17-years-old a couple months ago, he's allegedly already shrunk to 6-foot and 180 pounds according to his bio. Height is normally overstated by the buscones and their ilk but 210 lbs is not something that would've been, so it's reasonable to think that maybe the White Sox got a handle on his weight after he joined their academy. Here's what BA had to say about him:
[T]he White Sox were impressed with his defense, above-average arm and on target throws. He’s a potential power bat with loft in his swing from both sides of the plate and hit well in games in front of White Sox scouts.
Interestingly, another discrepancy in his bio is that he's listed as only a right-handed hitter.
The White Sox have quite a few infielders to watch. We'll start with a couple guys from the 2013 signing class. 3B Maiker Feliz struggled in his pro debut last year, which is the norm, particularly when one considers that he was the 10th-youngest player in the league. Though the Dominican's .198/.315/.231 line in 251 PA was not pretty, what was nice to see was the righty's 21.1% strikeout rate and 12.7% walk rate. That solid contact rate backed up his scouting report of a short, line-drive swing.
Next is 2B Jose Reyes. With a 1996 birthday, the switch-hitter was one of the older players in that signing class. Perhaps because of that, the $100,000 signing's debut was better than Feliz', though he had a lot fewer PA: .257/.297/.300 in 77 PA. His 21.8% strikeout rate is encouraging, though he obviously wasn't drawing any walks. That wasn't a surprise, however, as the Venezuelan is not expected to develop much power and his offensive game is a contact one.
From the 2014 signing class, we'll start with one of the headliners: $750,000 SS Ricky Mota. The White Sox seem to think quite highly of the Dominican because they've followed his progress since he was 14 and he not only was the opening day shortstop but also batted second. His BA scouting report:
The White Sox were drawn to his high-energy style and defense at shortstop, where he showed them quick feet and hands, a good arm, solid-average speed and some flashiness to his game. He’s a smoother defender than Nunez but he isn’t as prolific at the plate, but he has a chance to be a line-drive bat from the right side with occasional pop to the gaps.
Next is Jorgen Rosas, who signed for $380,000. The White Sox appear to be high on him, as well, starting him at second base on opening day - though he did bat lower in the order at the seventh spot. That, along with Rosas' price tag, suggest Reyes may again struggle for playing time. What BA had to say:
Rosas, 17, is 5-foot-9, 160 pounds and excited the White Sox because of his ability to hit in games from the right side of the plate, staying inside the ball to make consistent contact with a good approach and above-average speed, although power will never be a big part of his game. Rosas isn’t flashy on defense but the White Sox believe he can play shortstop with good quickness and a solid-average arm.
In what may be another win for stat line scouting, I also highlighted Ramon Beltre after last season, saying:
Beltre also had a fine debut season:.259/.360/.314 in a team-leading 287 PA. The righty also stole 22 of 30 bases, again leading the team. He had a 11.5% strikeout rate and 12.9% walk rate. Good for a middle infielder.
The 18-year-old played almost always at shortstop or second base last season but, as already noted, those positions appear to be taken. The Dominican, however, still found himself in the opening day lineup - again at the top of the order - but playing center field. The White Sox' outfield isn't exactly brimming with talent but it's a good indicator for Beltre that they want to fit him into the lineup.
Certain to be in the outfield (likely in left) is Hanleth Otano, who is beginning his third season in the DSL. Reputed to have good raw power when he signed in 2012, he's shown that can appear in games but the hit tool is making that irrelevant. He slashed .220/.279/.341 last season. This is probably the make-or-break season for the 18-year-old.