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2015 AZL White Sox season review

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Arizona League champions took home the title despite losing Micker Adolfo to a nasty ankle injury

The White Sox' Arizona League team was the second of the team's minor-league affiliates to wrap up its season. Unlike their Dominican Summer League counterparts who missed the playoffs, the AZL White Sox played all the games they could, taking home the championship on Wednesday.

Let's look at the league averages for the Arizona League, which is the second-lowest rung on the MiLB ladder. It's the most favorable stepping stone for high school players, as well as the friendliest stateside introduction for Latin players, since rosters are permitted only three players with three-plus years of minor league experience.

  • Average age: 20
  • Average line: .250/.324/.427
  • Average walk rate: 8.3 percent
  • Average strikeout rate: 21.6 percent

Also, the defense isn't great -- partially because the players are relatively new to pro ball, and also because it's Arizona in the summer, which results in some pretty firm playing surfaces. Add it all up, and experienced college players can put up pretty gaudy stats in this environment (and they helped the White Sox put up a league-best .735 OPS).

Fifth-round pick Jordan Stephens and sixth-rounder Corey Zangari continued their debut seasons in Great Falls for good reasons, so we'll catch up with them there.

Position players

Micker Adolfo: In perhaps the most frustrating development of the White Sox' minor league season, Adolfo was limited to only 22 games and 93 plate appearances due to a couple of injuries. The first was a hamstring, the second was a broken fibula suffered on a slide at home plate, which required surgery to repair the bone and ligaments around his left ankle. He hit just .253/.313/.323 in the limited playing time, although he did cut his strikeout rate to 27 percent from 43 percent in Arizona the year before. He's expected to be ready to go by spring training.

Maiker Feliz: Feliz was the DSL White Sox's biggest success story. The Dominican third baseman, who turned 18 on Aug. 17, earned a late-season promotion to Arizona after hitting .349/.455/.446 in his second try in the DSL. He drew 31 walks to just 40 strikeouts over 211 plate appearances, and while that success didn't translate immediately to the Arizona League (.161/.229/.161), he did deliver a big two-run triple in the championship game. He signed for $450,000 in 2013.

Amado Nunez: At $950,000, Nunez received the biggest bonus of the White Sox' 2014 international signing class. The Sox reinforced their belief in his talent by starting him in the Arizona League, where the 17-year-old Dominican shortstop struggled in his professional debut. He hit .145/.207/.158 with five walks and 20 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances. It isn't unusual for 17-year-olds to struggle in their first full season (Feliz did), so he'll need a second full season in the Arizona League to establish a baseline. At 6'2" and 180 pounds, the Sox see his potential as an offensive-minded shortstop with the acumen to remain at the position.

Jhoandro Alfaro: Alfaro received the second-largest bonus to Nunez ($750,000), and joined him in making his professional debut in the desert. Also like Nunez, Alfaro struggled, hitting .182/.232/.205 in 95 plate appearances, although the hits started falling with a little more frequency as the season moved along. The switch-hitting catcher is the younger brother of Phillies (formerly Rangers) catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, and is considered an advanced defensive catcher for his age.

Seby Zavala: The 12th-round pick out of San Diego State, Zavala handled a majority of the catching duties and turned in the best offensive performance of anybody to play the full season there (.326/.401/.628 over 147 PA). He just turned 22, so he's older than the league, but with eighth-rounder Casey Schroeder catching in Great Falls, the Arizona League was his best opportunity to get reps, and he did everything he could with them.

Hanleth Otano: Larry said this season was a litmus test for Otano, who already had two years of DSL experience under his belt. Known for his promising raw power when he signed for $550,000 in 2012, that still hasn't materialized. He did make strides with his hit tool -- raising his average to .264 and his OBP to .326 in the DSL while cutting his strikeout rate 6 points to 26.8 percent, but he somehow ended up with fewer extra-base hits in the DSL from last year to this one in roughly the same number of plate appearances (239). He was a late addition to the AZL team and went 2-for-19 with two walks and 11 strikeouts.

Felix Mercedes: The 18-year-old Dominican third baseman signed for $250,000 in 2014, and since he was eligible to sign in 2013, you'd expect him to be a little more advanced than his Class of '14 counterparts. Sure enough, he had the best year of the first-timers in the AZL, hitting .209/.352/.296 with 20 walks and 48 strikeouts over 142 plate apeparances. Listed at 6'2" and 185 pounds, he showcased at shortstop but played all 37 games at third. Baseball America said Mercedes impressed the Sox with his power to all fields.

Pitchers

Yosmer Solorzano: Solorzano was the revelation of the AZL team, as he pitched 62⅔ innings over 12 games (11 starts) and posted a 3.02 ERA with above-average control (5.9 percent walk rate), and an ability to keep the ball in the park (zero homers).  He also struck out 43, which isn't bad for those other qualities, and that line doesn't include an outstanding start in the postseason (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K).  He's an 18-year-old Dominican who experienced a late velocity jump into the low-90s before signing for $100,000, and it's hard to have a better pro debut considering these origins.

Christopher Comito: The White Sox drafted Comito out of Norwalk (Iowa) High School in the 15th round and lured him away from his commitment to the University of Iowa for $170,000. The BA scouting profile said the 6-foot-5-inch righty is big and projectable with high-80s velocity with "a decent breaking ball and a changeup he can locate for strikes," and his pro debut was a successful one in terms of results. He pitched in 13 games (11 starts) and showed good control (6.5 percent walk rate), although his peripherals were all a notch or two below Solorzano's.

Yelmison Peralta: The White Sox signed Peralta for $200,000 back in 2012, and BA considered him a project even by international signing standards. Things started clicking for him in the Arizona League last year, but he couldn't adjust to Kannapolis, allowing an .888 OPS over 95 innings and walking more batters (52) than he struck out (48). He had slightly better luck in a few starts after returning to the AZL. He'll turn 21 in March, so he's aged/experienced out of Arizona, but it won't be such an issue in A-ball.

Andres Sanchez: The 18-year-old native Cuban was signed out of Venezuela in 2014 for $300,000. He's a big (6'4", 200 pounds) power-armed righty with a low-90s fastball and a curve "that has its moments" according to BA. He was limited to relief-length stints in his debut, once exceeding two innings to throw three, and the results were mostly encouraging (five walks, 13 strikeouts, 14 hits allowed over 15⅓ innings).

Victor Done: Done, a Dominican righty who just turned 20 two days ago, signed for $225,000 in 2012 and was considered similar in build to Octavio Dotel (an athletic, long-armed 6-foot-3-inch frame). His future appears to be in the bullpen, too. After receiving starts in his first two pro seasons -- one in the DSL, one in the AZL -- Done appeared exclusively in relief this season, as he hasn't been able to lower the walk rate to an acceptable level. Alas, his transition didn't really help his walk rate (which remains above 14 percent), even if his already-healthy strikeout rate shot up to 25.7 percent.