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2016 DSL White Sox season review

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Pro-ball debuts for international signings go reasonably well

Of the White Sox minor league affiliates, the club’s Dominican Summer League team is always the first to wrap up play. This year, the season was clipped even shorter than usual after its last four games were rained out.

The DSL White Sox finished with a record of 26-41, last place in the Baseball City division of the Dominican Summer League. Their offense finished in the bottom 10 in team OPS with an overall line of .234/.299/.321, with a middle-of-the-pack performance from their pitchers. Defense is a problem with most DSL teams, and the White Sox were no exception, as their pitchers had a 3.53 ERA while allowing 4.70 runs per game.

This isn’t unusual for the league, because it features the kind of adventuresome defense you’d expect from 16- and 17-year-olds. (Speaking of which, with an average age of 18.5 years, the White Sox were slightly older than the league average of 18.2.)

Going by the fielding-independent components:

  • White Sox pitchers: 19.4 K%, 11.8 BB%
  • White Sox hitters: 19.9 K%, 9.8 BB%
  • The league: 18.5 K%, 10.4 BB%

With the low average age in mind — the players walk/HBP more, make a lot of errors and don’t hit for a lot of power — let’s take a look at the key performances, whether because of production, bonus amount or both.

Pitchers

Nelson Acosta: Acosta is a familiar name for those who follow the DSL White Sox. 2016 was his third consecutive strong season down in Boca Chica, as he allowed just 51 baserunners to 45 strikeouts over 46⅔ innings, good for a 2.31 ERA. He 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound righty just turned 19, and since he cut his walk rate by more than half to just 4.2 percent, I don’t know what else he can accomplish in the DSL. He signed out of Venezuela for $50,000 in 2013.

Cristopher Batista: There wasn’t a whole lot of competition with Acosta here. Batista came closer, as he’s a few months younger and threw the second-most innings on the team (52). The peripherals have some promise -- 44 hits, 22 walks, 28 strikeouts — and assuming Acosta makes the jump, he could be the team’s No. 1 starter next year. He didn’t sign for a meaningful bonus amount, so this could be a mirage.

Position players

Jhoandro Alfaro: The younger brother of Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro, the White Sox prospect was overmatched in the Arizona Rookie League last year, so the Sox took a step back with him. He hit .238/.381/.294, showing good control of the strike zone (18 walks, 19 strikeouts) over his 157 plate appearances and throwing out 38 percent of basestealers. He signed for $750,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

Santo Vasquez: A shortstop who signed with the White Sox for $300,000 as part of the class of 2015, the 17-year-old Dominican made his pro ball debut with the DSL White Sox this year. He hit .233/.305/.300 with 13 walks and 52 strikeouts over 204 plate appearances. He stole 10 bases in 12 attempts, which is good. He committed 27 errors over 49 games at short, which isn’t, but he’s considered a project there, even by international signing standards.

Harvin Mendoza: Mendoza was a two-way player in Venezuela who received a bonus from the Sox in 2015 for his left-handed bat. The 17-year-old made an encouraging pro-ball debut, hitting .279/.394/.327 with more walks (39) than strikeouts (32) over 251 plate appearances. Baseball America said the Sox liked him for his ability to hang with left-handed pitching. BA also identified him as a corner outfielder, but he played first base in the DSL.

Brayant Nova: A shortstop in the Dominican, Nova ended up moving to second for the White Sox in the DSL instead of Vasquez after signing for $100,000 in 2015. The switch-hitter batted .279/.380/.344 with 18 walks to 33 strikeouts over 145 plate appearances, and committed a reasonable six errors over 31 games at second, where BA projected him to move all along.

Ulises Martinez: The third baseman was a low-profile $50,000 signing out of Venezula, but the 17-year-old became more intriguing when he hit .306/.370/.469 as a catcher, even if only over 56 plate appearances. BA reported that the Sox were intrigued by his arm strength, but the early numbers show some work to do (seven passed balls in 18 games, 5-for-24 kill rate).