With the passing of the Super Bowl, there’s no real indication that the current MLB lockout will be ending anytime soon. Certainly, when the lockout ends, there will be a mad dash by all teams to sign free agents and make key trades to boost their lineups and rotations prior to Opening Day — whenever it falls. And the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft may still transpire, which could mean either additions or deletions to depth.
Speaking of depth, the White Sox have made several under-the-radar acquisitions during the offseason. The most obvious additions have been free agent reliever Kendall Graveman, in addition to premier international outfield prospects Oscar Colás and Erick Hernández. Clearly there’s more to be done, as the White Sox still could pursue a right fielder, second baseman, backup catcher and another starter or reliever. There’s no such thing as too much pitching depth, right?
Below is an update of Rachael Millanta’s article from last December, detailing this year’s acquisitions since the end of the World Series — not including minor league free agents who opted to return to the franchise, like Kyle Kubat. While many will not reach the majors going forward, it is hoped that a few of them have that sort of significant upside.
The new acquisitions are listed in alphabetical order, categorized on the most likely team they’ll be starting the year with.
Chicago White Sox
Kendall Graveman (RHRP): The only major league signing to date, Graveman signed a three-year, $24 million deal in November. He saved a combined 10 games last year with the Mariners and Astros, so he could fill the closer role in a pinch. His role will be predicated upon whether or not the team trades Craig Kimbrel; if the South Siders don’t pull the trigger on a deal, Graveman likely will be featured in lower-leverage situations. He posted a 1.77 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 56 innings last year by allowing just 35 hits and 20 walks while striking out 61.
Luis Basabe (OF): Still just 25 years old, Basabe suffered through an injury-riddled season in the San Francisco farm system last year. Combined with Double-A Fresno and an injury-rehab stint in the Arizona League, he slashed .253/.393/.411 in 95 at-bats with six doubles, three homers, five stolen bases, 21 walks and 37 strikeouts. Aside from a cup of coffee with the Giants in 2020, Basabe hasn’t played above Double-A. It’s likely he signed with the Sox in hopes of taking advantage of Charlotte’s short porch. He could serve as major league outfield depth in much the was Billy Hamilton did last year.
Kyle Crick (RHRP): The 49th overall selection in the 2011 MLB draft, Crick has compiled a respectable 3.51 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over five years with the Pirates and Giants. After getting released by the Pirates the White Sox signed him to a minor league deal last July, and he excelled with Charlotte, to the tune of a 0.87 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 10 1⁄3 innings with 15 strikeouts. The Sox somewhat surprisingly released him September 1, but re-signed him during the offseason. Of all the minor league free agent deals this offseason, he and Yacksel Rios may have the best odds of making the team’s Opening Day roster.
Brandon Finnegan (LHRP): The 28-year-old southpaw spent parts of five years with the Royals and Reds. However, due to ineffectiveness, he hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018. Last year, Finnegan fought control issues as he posted a 5.53 ERA and 1.70 WHIP for Cincinnati’s Triple-A squad in Louisville. Over 55 1⁄3 innings last year, he ceded 58 hits and 36 walks while striking out 57.
Cam Hill (RHRP): Hill held his own for Cleveland in 2020, as he produced a 4.91 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 18 1⁄3 innings. Last year he pitched for the Rockies’ Triple-A team in Colorado Springs, and predictably got walloped in the high altitude (8.03 ERA, 1.99 WHIP). Now 27, Hill has posted a career 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in seven minor league seasons (including last year’s disaster). With luck, Hill could be this year’s version of Evan Marshall.
Ryder Jones (1B/3B): A second round pick of the Giants in 2013, Jones struggled in 150 at-bats with the Giants in 2017 and has had only eight major league at-bats since. The lefty slashed .288/.334/.500 in the San Francisco system last year over 264 at-bats, with 21 doubles and 11 homers. He was at his best last year with Double-A Amarillo, and will likely play first base with Jake Burger in the same lineup at Charlotte. Jones is primarily a corner infielder, and could serve as infield depth if he gets off to a particularly good start in the minors this year.
Raudy Read (C/1B): Read, frequently listed among Washington’s Top 30 prospects over the years, battled through significant injuries in 2021 and only entered 28 games. He combined with three affiliates to hit .284/.361/.589 in 95 at-bats with five doubles, eight homers and nine walks. Read has halted 36% of stolen-base attempts in his pro career, and Baseball America noted in its 2019 report that he’d made strides in terms of his footwork and receiving over the years. At 28, Read only has 22 career MLB at-bats but could be a contender for the backup backstop role at some point this year.
Yacksel Rios (RHRP): Now 28, Rios enjoyed his best year in 2021, as he posted a combined 4.28 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 23 relief outings for the Mariners and Red Sox. Because of that success, he may be given a slight edge over Crick and Hill in seeking a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. But he’ll have to win that job in spring training, whenever that will be.
Luis Amaya (LHRP): Amaya is one of Chicago’s youngest minor league acquisitions this offseason. The native Venezuelan had enjoyed success wherever he’d pitched, but 2021 with Double-A Richmond saw him post a 5.57 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He walked 33 in 55 1⁄3 innings for the year, but still showed some upside by fanning an impressive 70. If Amaya can harness his control while still maintaining a high strikeout rate, he should have an opportunity to pitch in Charlotte. After that, who knows?
D.J. Burt (2B): Burt joins his third AL Central organization, having previously played in the Royals and Twins systems. Last year in 54 games with Double-A Wichita, Burt slashed .286/.370/.388 with 19 stolen bases. He’s not a slugger, as evidenced by his paltry three homers, but Burt got on base consistently thanks to an impressive 25 walks.
Moises Castillo (SS): The only White Sox pick in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the 22-year-old had been in the Cardinals organization since 2016. A .239 career hitter with just 22 stolen bases to his credit, Castillo is likely seen as minor league depth who seems better suited at second base due to his lack of speed. He struggled badly last year during an abbreviated stint at Double-A Springfield, so Castillo will have something to prove this year.
Garrett Davila (LHRP): A fourth round Royals selection in 2015, Davila posted an impressive 2.45 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 27 High-A games in 2021, but struggled in Double-A with a 6.91 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in a short, seven-game stint. He’s not a big strikeout pitcher (285 in 363 1⁄3 career innings), and shares a similar profile as another former Royals prospect — Kyle Kubat. Davila turned 25 in January.
Matt Pobereyko (RHRP): A native of Hammond, Ind., Pobereyko, 30, had pitched for several organizations, and from 2018 to 2019, served as pitching coach for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen based in Whiting. Opting for another shot in the professional ranks, he caught on with the Marlins and pitched incredibly well in 12 games for their Double-A squad in Pensacola (1.17 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, nine hits, six walks and 21 strikeouts in 15 1⁄3 innings). It’s possible that Pobereyko begins the season in Charlotte due to his age, but it seems just as likely he’ll have to earn his shot there by getting off to a good start in Birmingham.
Felipe Tejada (RHRP): Despite being in the Astros system since 2014, Tejada is still only 23 and hasn’t pitched beyond Double-A. His numbers in 2021 (split between High-A Asheville and Double-A Corpus Christi) were extremely comparable to his career 3.76 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He fanned 68 last year while yielding just 18 walks in 51 2⁄3 innings, so there may be some hope that Tejada can advance further in the Sox organization.
Oscar Colás (OF): Easily the highest-profile minor league signing for the White Sox this offseason, Colás ranked fifth among all international prospects in this year’s International Day signing class. MLB Pipeline graded his power tool at 60, while all other tools (hitting, fielding, arm, running) were graded 55. While Alexei Ramírez was often dubbed “The Cuban Missile,” I’ve opted to dub Colás the “Cuban Missile Launcher” due to his ability to produce long bombs on offense while possessing a cannon hindering opposing base advancers on defense. Of course, he has to prove things on the diamond before that moniker can be earned. Like Yoelqui Céspedes last year, Colás likely will begin this year at Winston-Salem barring any pesky visa issues. Colás’ ability to play for the Knights this year may hinge upon his ability to maul Double-A pitchers despite the difficult hitting confines of Regions Field.
Jason Matthews (SS): Finishing his collegiate ball with the University of South Carolina-Upstate last year with a .319/.413/.400 slash line, Matthews tore up the independent league with the Great Falls (alas, no longer a White Sox affiliate, but that’s another story). The native New Zealander merely slashed .351/.448/.551 in 353 plate appearances for the Voyagers with 19 doubles, eight triples, eight homers, seven stolen bases and an impressive 45 walks. For that work, he was named the Pioneer League’s Most Valuable Player and was signed by the White Sox during the offseason. He turns 25 in April, so Matthews could begin anywhere from Kannapolis to Birmingham. I’ve simply split the difference and projected him to start the year with the Dash.
Luis Moncada (LHSP): Unrelated to Yoán, Moncada is a lanky (6´1´´, 150) lefty who went 8-1 last year with a 2.79 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with Low-A Charleston, an affiliate of the Rays. While his results were quite good, Moncada performed even better in his eight relief appearances than he did as a starter. His ability to advance further will depend upon his ability to throw strikes. At 23, Moncada will be age-appropriate for High-A ball in 2022.
Ben Norman (OF): The son of former Iowa Hawkeyes hoopster Tom Norman, the lefty slugger slashed .306/.421/.612 with 14 doubles, 10 homers and 12 stolen bases for his dad’s alma mater in 44 games last year. After somewhat surprisingly going undrafted, Norman joined Matthews at Great Falls and excelled there as well. In 40 games for the Voyagers totaling 163 at-bats, all Norman did was slash .356/.418/.675 with nine doubles, 13 homers, 59 RBIs, 18 walks and six stolen bases. He’s a year younger than Matthews, and turns 24 on February 15. Like Matthews, Norman could begin the year with Winston-Salem, though it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he starts at Kannapolis instead.
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Keegan Fish (C): It always seemed natural for a player with the name of Fish could play for the Marlins. Miami’s 13th round selection from the 2018 draft, Fish struggled to earn playing time behind Will Banfield and Bennett Hostetler. As a result, he was released mid-December and signed shortly afterward with the White Sox. It’s not Fish he posted bad numbers last year: Combined with the Florida Coast League Marlins and Low-A Jupiter Hammerheads, the switch-hitter slashed .359/.455/.406 in 64 at-bats with three doubles and eight walks. Still just 22, he threw out potential base stealers at a 29% clip.
Zachary Hammer (RHRP): A 21st round selection of the Mets in 2018, from Stony Point, NC., Hammer was released by two organizations despite posting respectable numbers the last two years he was on the diamond. He posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP for the AZL Mets in 2019, and a 2.70 ERA and 1.30 WHIP for the ACL Rockies in 2021. Admittedly his ability to wiggle out of jams has aided his ERA, as Hammer has walked 26 hitters over 41 innings in the past two years. He’s struck out a hitter per inning during that span, and since he’s still only 21, there’s hope that Hammer can succeed if given a fair opportunity. It is hoped, given his surname, he possesses an outstanding curve.
Alsander Womack (2B): If the last name sounds familiar, it should: Womack’s father Tony was a longtime second baseman and considerable stolen base threat for the Pirates and Diamondbacks. Turning 23 in March, the stocky (5´9´´, 205) second sacker slashed .358/.428/.471 for Norfolk State last year in 50 games with 12 doubles, three homers, 17 stolen bases, 24 walks and a mere 18 strikeouts. With his ability to make contact, there’s a nearly equal chance the undrafted free agent begins the year with Winston-Salem instead.
Dominican Summer League (DSL) White Sox
Angel Cruz (RHSP): This Dominican native is easily the least heralded of the three new international players announced on January 15. No information has even been made available in regards to the signing bonus Cruz will be receiving.
Erick Hernández (OF): Ranking 28th in this year’s MLB international class by MLB Pipeline, the baby-faced Hernández was compared by that site to Juan Soto at a similar age. While comparisons of that type are certainly premature, hitting was indeed Hernández’s highest-graded tool, at 60. His power was graded at 55, while all other tools were graded a respectable 50. While his signing bonus of $1 million was certainly substantial, it pales in comparison to the more experienced Colas’ $2.7 million. While many fans are hoping Hernández begins the 2022 season with the ACL Sox, it seems more likely he will start his career in his native Dominican Republic.
José Mendoza (RHSP): Mendoza, who turns 18 in mid-March, signed with the White Sox in December. At 6´2´´ and 175 pounds, Mendoza is expected to begin the 2022 season in the DSL rotation.
Ronnie Robles (RHSP): Like Mendoza, Robles signed an international contract with the White Sox in December, which meant he signed in the 2021 signing period. He’s roughly the same size as Mendoza, but is 21 months older. He also will likely be vying for a starting role in this year’s DSL rotation.