2018 AZL White Sox season review

The pitchers showed polish, but the hitters lacked solid contact

Even though it may not look like it from the players profiled in this write-up, the AZL White Sox succeeded in the bigger part of their mission by serving as a catapult to higher levels. Nick Madrigal and Steele Walker briefly tuned up at the complex, which is to be expected. Bryce Bush bursting on the scene from the 34th round and forcing a move to Great Falls? Not so much.

Most of the players who stayed in the Arizona League showed why they needed the seasoning. Still, it was a respectable season for these Sox as a team, going 30-26 and finishing a game out of the postseason. The position players were at an appropriate age for the level (19.2; league average 19.4), while they had the second-oldest crop of pitchers (21.4; 20.5).

  • White Sox pitchers: 4.90 RA/9, 24.6% K, 7.4% BB
  • White Sox hitters: .248/.331/.329, 20.6% K, 8.9% BB
  • The league: 5.15 RA/9, 23.9% K, 10.0% BB

The polish showed on the pitching side, and the rawness showed up on the hitting side mostly in terms of power. They hit just 14 homers, and slugged a fourth-worst .329.

Pitchers

*Zack Burdi started his comeback from Tommy John surgery with the AZL Sox, and health was the most important thing. He pitched in seven games on regular intervals without incident. Some outings were better than others, as he gave up five hits and four walks over 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven. The Downers Grove native will get a chance to knock off more rust in the Arizona Fall League.

*Brayan Herrera made the jump stateside after a successful pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last year. The similarity in his stat lines is uncanny:

Year Age Lg W L ERA RA9 G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
2017 19 DOSL 5 2 2.62 3.67 15 12 68.2 57 28 20 0 17 47
2018 20 ARIZ 5 2 2.70 3.02 12 11 56.2 46 19 17 0 15 43
All All 10 4 2.66 3.38 27 23 125.1 103 47 37 0 32 90

The lack of home runs is the most impressive part. He got a late start to pitching, signing for $70,000 back in 2016, so the polish shown so far is impressive.

*Ramon Pineda, a fellow 2016 signing and former position player, couldn’t follow Herrera’s lead further. He made only four appearances, with a pair of good outings bookending a pair of unsuccessful ones, including seven runs over two-thirds of an inning on June 24. However, he didn’t appear in a game after July 4.

*Yordi Rosario, the youngest pitcher on the staff, struck out 31 batters over 26⅓ innings with decent peripherals after a dominant half-season in the DSL prompted a promotion. There isn’t much known about the 19-year-old Dominican, who finished the year with nine strikeouts over seven innings of one-run ball on Aug. 27.

*Hunter Kiel, the live-armed project drafted out of LSU in the 18th round of the 2017 draft, once again stuffed the stat line. He posted a 2.65 ERA and only allowed four hits and struck out 33 over 17 innings, and that’s good. He also walked 20 batters, and that’s bad. He did avoid hitting a batter.

Position players

*Luis Mieses, a part of the trio of Dominican outfielders signed in 2016, got off to the hottest start of the bunch before cooling off dramatically. He hit .313/.319/.522 with seven doubles, two triples and a homer over his first 15 games. Over the remaining 33? .180/.194/.227. He drew just four walks compared to 35 strikeouts over 204 plate appearances. He signed for $428,000 and split time between center and left.

*Josue Guerrero, who signed for a class-leading $1.1 million in 2016, fared worse. He hit just .192/.231/.288 over 78 plate appearances. He played sparingly all season, seldom starting two games in a row. Guerrero also had trouble with the strike zone, striking out 27 times to three walks over 78 plate appearances. He and Mieses are both 18, so time is on their side.

*Anderson Comas, the third 18-year-old outfielder, had the best season of them all. He hit .306/.339/.388, and all facets of his approach improved as the season wore on.

  • June-July: .284/.309/.330, 3 BB, 18 K over 94 PA
  • August: .333/.377/.458, 4 BB, 8 K over 78 PA

The lefty signed for $425,000 in 2016, and spent most of the season in right field.

*Harvin Mendoza was one of the AZL White Sox’ most reliable bats, hitting .314/.381/.409 with an equal number of walks and strikeouts (12) over 155 plate appearances. The 19-year-old Venezuelan has a decent approach. The catch here is that he’s only played first base as a pro, and he has just two homers over 164 pro games.

*Cabera Weaver, the seventh-round picked signed away from a commitment to Georgia, had a decent pro debut, hitting .248/.367/.342 over 180 hot-and-cold plate appearances. You can find evidence of his raw approach in his team-leading strikeout total (52), and you can find evidence in his athleticism with eight steals in nine attempts. He split time in center with Mieses.

*Lency Delgado, the other high-school player taken during the draft’s second day, hit .233/.309/.301 over his first 150 plate appearances, with nine walks to 40 strikeouts. He had an intriguing start out of the gate, but it ended with a fizzle. He’s expected to be a third baseman in the long run, but he played all of his games at shortstop, committing nine errors over 34 starts.

*Sam Abbott, the lone high-school pick during Day 2 of the 2017 draft, tied for the team lead with three homers, and over just 95 plate appearances. The bad news? He hit .139/.347/.306 and struck out 33 times over those 95 plate appearances. The water polo enthusiast is still a major project.

*Kelvin Maldonado, the 11th-round pick out of Puerto Rico this past July, hit just .150/.184/.167 over his first 128 plate appearances while splitting his time evenly between short ane second. He struggled to find anything resembling traction the whole year.

*Brayant Nova showed one of the more polished approaches among the DSL White Sox the past two seasons, but the 19-year-old Dominican infielder didn’t stand out in his first taste of stateside ball. he hit just .203/.267/.297 with six walks to 28 strikeouts over 80 plate appearances. The second baseman played third for the first time in his career, and he also pitched an inning.

*Kleyder Sanchez had even bigger issues with the jump. The Venezuelan catcher grabbed everybody’s attention by hitting .342/.383/.381 as a 17-year-old with the DSL White Sox in 2017, but hit just .094.197/.132 over 63 plate appearances this season. He only struck out eight times, so there’s that.

*Ty Greene ended up leading the AZL White Sox catchers, hitting .313/.403/.367 in his pro debut. Then again, he’s a 21-year-old who was drafted out of Cal in the 16th round, so he wasn’t picking on pitchers his size, but he had nowhere to go since Gunnar Troutwine and Jhoandro Alfaro were splitting catching duties in Great Falls. But we’ll get to them in a bit.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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