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2016 AZL White Sox season review

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Fire League affiliate offered plenty of reps for international signings

The White Sox have only had an Arizona Rookie League affiliate for three years, so we’re still getting a handle on how they use it. This year, it served as an incubator for their international talent, as Latin American players — many of them signing over the last three seasons — comprised most of the lineup throughout the year.

With a college-heavy draft this past June, most of their prominent picks ended up in Great Falls, Kannapolis or Winston-Salem, which explains why this team looks so thin, especially on the pitching side (players are reviewed in the same review as the club with which they finished the season).

Some context for the level:

  • Average hitting: 19.7 years old, .255/.329/.363, 8.4% BB, 22.7% K
  • White Sox hitters: 19.7 years old, .247/.312/.358, 6.7% BB, 23.0% K
  • Average pitching: 20.6 years old, 5.00 ERA
  • White Sox pitchers: 21.0 years old, 6.04 ERA, 8.9% BB, 20.2% K
Position players

Luis Curbelo: The sixth-round pick didn’t enjoy as much immediate success in the AZL as his overslot predecessor Corey Zangari did. He hit .226/.303/.323 over 164 at-bats, but he did end it on an upswing, hitting safely in 13 of his final 14 games. More importantly, he struck out just 10 times over those 58 plate appearances, a notable decrease considering his K rate flirted with 25 percent over his first month and a half. He played mostly second base. He was a shortstop at Cocoa High in Florida, but as his 11 errors over 14 games at short show, he was expected to move from the position in short order.

Amado Nunez: A $900,000 signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, the 18-year-old Nunez made strides in his second stateside go-around, hitting .287/.320/.370 over 52 games and a team-high 232 plate appearances. Whenever he wore a glove, he played shortstop, although he committed 30 errors over those 41 games.

Maiker Feliz: After a tremendous year in the Dominican Summer League followed by a cameo in the AZL last season, Feliz played his first full year in the States, where he showed his usual batting eye, with nothing else yet standing out. He hit .214/.325/.265 with three extra-base hits and 25 strikeouts over 114 plate appearances. The 18-year-old third baseman signed for $450,000 in 2016.

Felix Mercedes: A shortstop when the White Sox signed him for $250,000 in 2014, Mercedes ended up playing a lot of first, since the more highly touted Nunez and Curbelo pushed him out of the middle of the infield. The 19-year-old hit better than his infield counterparts, posting a .275/.353/.405 line, albeit with a 27.5 percent strikeout rate. Then again, he is the oldest of the bunch.

Ricky Mota: Mota, who signed for $750,000 in 2014, took a backseat, playing in just 23 games in his year in U.S. The 18-year-old Dominican was signed for his defense at shortstop, but he played 22 games at second, perhaps because Nunez is the one getting prioritized for reps. He hit .244/.280/.385 with three homers, which was second on the team and somewhat surprising for his 5-foot-11-inch frame.

Franklin Reyes: Reyes stands out for being the youngest player and most expensive player on the AZL White Sox ($1.5 million in 2015). The inexperience won out, as the 6-foot-3-inch 17-year-old hit .171/.189/.25 over 52 games. He racked up the second-most plate appearances with 217 plate, playing 28 games in right field, but also 20 games at first. Strikeouts were a problem, but better contact started showing up toward the end of the year.

  • First 138 PA: .148/.167,/.193, 5 XBH, 38.4% K
  • Last 79 PA: .211/.228/.355, 8 XBH, 22.8% K

Michael Hickman: The White Sox thought he was so nice, they drafte him twice. They tried for him in the 36th round in 2015, but he opted for Chipola College in Florida (which Tyler Flowers also attended). The move paid off, as the White Sox signed him for $100,000 after drafting him in the 13th round. He only played in 16 games (10 behind the plate), but he hit .286/.386/.367. He’s worth tracking as the Sox sort through catchers around this level (Carlos Perez and Jhoandro Alfaro are also vying for time).

Pitchers

Andres Sanchez: Sanchez is a good example of the pitcher who is just rough enough to stay in the AZL over an entire season. The 19-year-old Cuban righty signed for $300,000 out of Venezuela in 2014, and pitched a full season in the rotation after appearing in relief at the same level last season. The results weren’t anything to write home about -- 28 walks, 42 strikeouts, seven homers, 5.10 ERA over 60 innings -- but Baseball America projected him as more of a power bullpen arm at the time of his signing.

Edinxon Arias: A fellow member of the international Class of 2014, Arias, 18, signed for $350,000 out of Venezuela. He ran hot and cold, but since he topped out at five innings in his stateside debut, his cold games bog down the overall line (6.50 ERA, 66 hits, 16 walks, 27 strikeouts over 44⅓ innings).

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